Inter Press Service » Armed Conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 22 May 2017 13:06:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.18 A Grisly Tale of Children Falling Easy Prey to Ruthless Smugglershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/a-grisly-tale-of-children-falling-easy-prey-for-ruthless-smugglers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-grisly-tale-of-children-falling-easy-prey-for-ruthless-smugglers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/a-grisly-tale-of-children-falling-easy-prey-for-ruthless-smugglers/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 05:20:14 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150510 In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, three children look out of the window of a train, which was boarded by refugees primarily from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, at a reception centre for refugees and migrants, in Gevgelija. Credit: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

In the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, three children look out of the window of a train, which was boarded by refugees primarily from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, at a reception centre for refugees and migrants, in Gevgelija. Credit: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 22 2017 (IPS)

Don’t read this story if you are a parent or have children relatives. It is the bloodcurdling story of over 300,000 unaccompanied refugee and migrant children who are just a small part of millions of children that are innocent, easy prey for smugglers and human traffickers worldwide.

Among a raft of alarming statistics, a new UN report has just found that children account for around 28 per cent of trafficking victims globally. And that Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America and the Caribbean have the highest share of children among detected trafficking victims, at the rates of 64 and 62 per cent, respectively. “I’m a child, not a criminal, not a threat, not an outcast” – UNICEF

The new report, issued by the UN Children Fund (UNICEF), also informs that the number of children travelling alone has increased five–fold since 2010, warning that many young refugees and migrants are taking highly dangerous routes, often at the mercy of traffickers, to reach their destinations.

At least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were recorded in some 80 countries in the combined years of 2015 and 2016, up from 66,000 in 2010 and 2011, according to the report A Child is a Child: Protecting children on the move from violence, abuse and exploitation, which was released on May 18, and presents a global snapshot of refugee and migrant children, the motivations behind their journeys and the risks they face along the way.

“One child moving alone is one too many, and yet today, there are a staggering number of children doing just that – we as adults are failing to protect them,” commented UNICEF deputy executive director Justin Forsyth. “Ruthless smugglers and traffickers are exploiting their vulnerability for personal gain, helping children to cross borders, only to sell them into slavery and forced prostitution. It is unconscionable that we are not adequately defending children from these predators.”

A migrant gestures from behind the bars of a cell at a detention centre in Libya, Tuesday 31 January. Credit: UNICEF/Romenzi

A migrant gestures from behind the bars of a cell at a detention centre in Libya, Tuesday 31 January. Credit: UNICEF/Romenzi


First and foremost, children need protection, the UN agency reminded, while highlighting the importance of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, through which State Parties commit to respect and ensure the rights of “each child within their jurisdiction, without discrimination of any kind.”

One of World’s Deadliest Routes for Children

Few weeks earlier, a senior UNICEF official called the routes from sub-Saharan Africa into Libya and across the sea to Europe one of the “world’s deadliest and most dangerous for children and women,” as the UN agency informed that nearly half of the women and children interviewed after making the voyage were raped.

On this, its report A Deadly Journey for Children: The Central Mediterranean Migrant Route, warned that “refugee and migrant children and women are routinely suffering sexual violence, exploitation, abuse and detention along the Central Mediterranean migration route from North Africa to Italy,”

At the time of the report, which was issued end of February, 256,000 migrants were recorded in Libya, including about 54,000 included women and children. “This is a low count with actual numbers at least three times higher.”

The UN agency believes that at least 181,000 people –including more than 25,800 unaccompanied children –used smugglers in 2016 to try to reach Italy. “At the most dangerous portion– from southern Libya to Sicily – one in every 40 people is killed.”

Raped, Exploited, Left in Debt

Here, Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said that the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women. “The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life.”

An abandoned farmhouse with a mattress used by prostitutes in Palermo. “I missed ever being a child,” says [NAME CHANGED] Mary, who was helped by a lawyer after she was trafficked to Italy, aged 17. Credit: © UNICEF/UN062791/Gilbertson VII Photo

An abandoned farmhouse with a mattress used by prostitutes in Palermo. “I missed ever being a child,” says [NAME CHANGED] Mary, who was helped by a lawyer after she was trafficked to Italy, aged 17. Credit: © UNICEF/UN062791/Gilbertson VII Photo


“Nearly half the women and children interviewed had experienced sexual abuse during migration – often multiple times and in multiple locations,” with “widespread and systematic” sexual violence at crossings and checkpoints.

“In addition, about three-quarters of all the children interviewed said that they had “experienced violence, harassment or aggression at the hands of adults” including beatings, verbal and emotional abuse.”

In Western Libya, women were often held in detention centres were they reported “harsh conditions, such as poor nutrition and sanitation, significant overcrowding and a lack of access to health care and legal assistance,” the UN Children Fund informed.

What the Most Powerful Should – and Can Do

Included in the report is a six-point agenda calling for “safe and legal pathways and safeguards to protect migrating children.” UNICEF urged the European Union to adopt this agenda ahead of the Summit of the G7 (the group of the 7 most powerful countries) in Taormina, Italy, on 26-27 May.

The six-point agenda stresses the need to protect child refugees and migrants, particularly unaccompanied children, from exploitation and violence; to end the detention of children seeking refugee status or migrating by introducing a range of practical alternatives, and to keep families together as the best way to protect children and give children legal status.

It recommends, as well, to keep all refugee and migrant children learning and give them access to health and other quality services; to press for action on the underlying causes of large scale movements of refugees and migrants; and to promote measures to combat xenophobia, discrimination and marginalization in countries of transit and destination.

Such commitments would obviously be easy to take and implement by the G7 governments. The point is: will the political leaders of the world’s richest countries consider, seriously, this inhuman tragedy?

Are they aware that the number of children left alone has been soaring? UNICEF –which they created to assist millions of European refugee children, victims of their Wold War II– has just reported that 92 per cent of children who arrived to Italy by sea in 2016 were unaccompanied, up from 75 per cent in 2015.

Do these mandatories know that 75 per cent of children who arrived in Italy—the very same country hosting their Summit—have reported experiences such as being held against their will or being forced to work without pay?

Let alone the case of hundreds of children who are abducted to sell their organs, to be recruited by terrorist organisations as child soldiers, or are exploited in harsh “modern” slavery work.

Will these political leaders mostly talk big finance and big business–including the 20 May US-Saudi Arabia weapons deal amounting to 110 billion dollars? Who knows…they might also have some spare time to read US president Donald Trump’s latest tweets.

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An Untold Economic Success Story in Syriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 21:17:30 +0000 Pierre Krahenbuhl http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150473 Pierre Krähenbühl is Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)]]> Hanan, UNRWA microfinance recipient, Jaramana camp, Damascus, Syria © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Wasim al Masri

Hanan, UNRWA microfinance recipient, Jaramana camp, Damascus, Syria © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Wasim al Masri

By Pierre Pierre Krähenbühl
AMMAN, Jordan, May 18 2017 (IPS)

Hidden almost literally under the rubble of the civil war in Syria is an economic success story that is rarely told. Hanan Odah is a thirty-year-old Palestine refugee living in Jaramana refugee camp in Damascus. She supports her multiply displaced family of three from a thriving micro-enterprise venture. Her husband was killed in the conflict, but she refused to submit to despair and dependency on her parents.

Hanan founded a stationery and perfume business, which she runs from the family house that was badly damaged and which she rebuilt. Young, innovative and courageous, she is living proof that as large businesses have collapsed, small scale enterprises can survive and even thrive in the markets opening up at the grassroots.

As senior leaders and key business figures gather at the World Economic Forum in Jordan this week a thought should be spared for Hanan who lives the ideals they champion. Her work should resonate at their meeting which seeks to “stimulate entrepreneurship” and map out a path to an “inclusive economic transformation”.

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

In July 2014, violence engulfed Hanan’s home and business. She fled in fear of her life and after two years of living hand to mouth with her family moved back into her house which had been damaged and completely looted. Hanan immediately set to work rebuilding and obtained her first loan from UNRWA in 2016. That added to Hanan’s working capital; she expanded her product base increasing income and is now looking to take her business to another level of expansion and brand recognition.

According to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, de-industrialization has inflicted USD 254.7 billion in economic damage on Syria. In 2015 alone GDP loss was USD 163.3 billion. As a result of the economic collapse, more than 85 per cent of Syrians were living in poverty by the end of 2015, with more than 69 per cent of the population barely surviving in extreme poverty. Nearly three million jobs have been lost and unemployment is now over fifty per cent.

With recent donor funding, in particular USD 1 million from the European Union, we have expanded our micro finance outreach. Always searching for new openings, we have been actively mapping new locations of internally displaced people to reach the Palestine refugees we serve and to deliver loan products where market opportunities open up. Al Huseniya near Damascus is a good illustration.

The town’s inhabitants fled when armed groups seized it but in the second half of 2015 people began to return after insurgents were driven out. With the improved security situation and the return of Palestine refugees UNRWA dispatched two micro finance specialists to Al Huseniya.

Within a year, dozens of business plans were vetted, market risks were assessed and one hundred loans were issued, helping to secure a better standard of living for returning refugees; enabling them to generate income, repair and furnish their homes, lifting themselves and their families out of the poverty trap and away from aid dependency.

Across Syria, UNRWA’s Micro Finance Department disbursed a staggering 9,520 loans in 2016, worth nearly two million dollars. We can build on this track record and expand with the support of donors and partners.

I pay tribute to UNRWA staff who have achieved this against the odds. During the Syria conflict, the majority of UNRWA’s microfinance offices have been damaged. Moreover, the war has significantly affected our microfinance staff and their families. Prior to the conflict we had 130 staff in six offices across the country. The majority were from the now devastated Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, where our largest microfinance office had been situated.

Over half of our microfinance staff have fled the country and a third have been displaced. Against the odds, we seek to retain staff as circumstances allow and have reassigned personnel to new branches as opportunities have been found.

Our loans have also developed flexibly in response to the evolving conflict. There are currently five products that respond to the deepening emergency situations in Syria and help Palestine refugees re-build their houses and maintain stable incomes for themselves and extended families; no small achievement as war rages relentlessly in the country.

UNRWA’s micro finance work is a rare but significant example of hope in the country. As leaders at the World Economic Forum strive to shape innovative, flexible, and inclusive responses to the most traumatic conflict of our age, I hope they might find Hanan’s story revealing, instructive and perhaps even inspiring. She is an extraordinary young woman who in the face of untold adversity is bravely transforming her community from within, one business plan at a time, which is what the World Economic Forum, at its best, is striving to achieve.

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Mapping and Responding to Climate-Induced Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mapping-and-responding-to-climate-induced-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mapping-and-responding-to-climate-induced-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mapping-and-responding-to-climate-induced-migration/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 12:38:55 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150452 Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 18 2017 (IPS)

As the world focuses on conflict-related migration and displacement, with an unprecedented 60 million fleeing from war and persecution, others are pointing to a less discussed trigger of population movements: climate change.

As part of a panel series, UN University (UNU) brought together academics and researchers to discuss the importance of the links between climate change, migration, and displacement.

“This three-sided nexus…gives the possibility to not discuss climate change without referring to migration and human rights and vice versa—the ties are so strong, the interlinkages are very present in all the case studies we are researching,” UNU-Environment and Human Security’s (EHS) legal expert Cosmin Corendea told IPS.

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), an average of 22.5 million people have been displaced each year by climate or weather-related disasters in the last seven years, equivalent to 62,000 people every day.

Climate change, which causes more frequent extreme weather events, is only expected to make such trends worse in the coming decades. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that between 25 million and 200 million people could be displaced by 2050 because of climate change.

Niger is one such country experiencing the effects of climate change from recurrent droughts to the slow disappearance of Lake Chad.

Tamir Afifi from the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) told participants that communities lost their livestock and thus their primary source of livelihoods as a result of the diminishing lake.

“They completely lost their identity,” he said, adding that migration became a strategy to cope with food insecurity and climate change.

“Since the environment stresses have become so strong… that when people move, they actually don’t come back or they don’t come back for a while. It is not associated anymore to the seasonal events as it used to be,” Afifi continued.

In the U.S., one Native American tribe is being forced off their home on Isle de Jean Charles off the coast of Louisiana due to rising sea levels, law professor Maxine Burkett told attendees. The island has lost 98 percent of its land since 1955.

Generally speaking, climate change alone does not trigger migration, but rather a combination of economic, educational, and cultural factors, panelists said.

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) found that 37 percent and 26 percent of people in Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu cited economic and educational reasons for migration, respectively, while only 18 percent cited climate change.

Bishawjit Mallick from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) noted that in Bangladesh, it was those with less resources who moved after the devastating Cyclone Aila in 2009.

However, this complex multi-causal nature of migration may not be the case for much longer, said Burkett.

“Climate change is not a static phenomenon, it is a change…so what may seem today a deeply entangled, thorny, and multi-causal event may soon have an undeniable climate signal,” she told attendees.

Corendea stressed the need to create language around environmental migration which could help create the corresponding migration policies.

Though IOM has a working definition of an environmental migrant, there is still no internationally accepted definition.

As a result, language around climate change is still absent from the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration, an intergovernmental document comprehensively addressing international migration currently under negotiation.

Panelists also highlighted the need for bottom-up approaches to address the complex issue.

Afifi stressed that such problems cannot be solved without involving the communities themselves.

Mallick echoed similar comments, stating: “People in New York City will never understand the lives of people in Bangladesh.”

Correndea suggested a regional approach in which nations share resources and information, helping create a migration framework and a preemptive measure in the case of displacement or relocation.

“Individually you can’t do it, internationally is too slow—so you have to meet in the middle in order to move the process forward,” he told IPS.

“Before becoming a humanitarian affair, [regions] can create a preemptive measure in order to assist people in case an extreme climate event happens. And the science shows that this will happen,” Corendea concluded.

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Sexual Violence as a “Threat to Security and Durable Peace”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/sexual-violence-as-a-threat-to-security-and-durable-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sexual-violence-as-a-threat-to-security-and-durable-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/sexual-violence-as-a-threat-to-security-and-durable-peace/#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 13:16:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150441 Mina Jaf, Founder and Executive Director of Women's Refugee Route. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Mina Jaf, Founder and Executive Director of Women's Refugee Route.
Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 17 2017 (IPS)

Sexual violence is increasingly used as a tactic of terrorism and thus must be addressed as a peace and security issue, officials said at a United Nations Security Council meeting.

UN officials, member states, and civil society representatives came together during a Security Council debate to discuss the pervasive issues, challenges, and solutions surrounding conflict-related sexual violence.

“Too many women live with a spectre of violence in their daily lives, in their households, and families. Armed conflict only serves to exacerbate these prevailing conditions,” said Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, adding that such sexual violence is a “heart-wrenching crime.”

Executive Director of Women’s Refugee Route Mina Jaf echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “[Women] are much more vulnerable in conflict countries…and when you are more vulnerable, you face more violence.”

The secretary-general shed light on the issue in an annual report detailing numerous cases of sexual violence used for “strategic” purposes in 19 countries.

In Iraq, nearly 2,000 Yazidi women and girls remain enslaved in Islamic State (IS) territories and reports have emerged of the sale and trade of women as well as the use of women as human shields by IS during operations in Mosul, according to the report.

In Myanmar, over half of the women interviewed by the UN’s Human Rights Office (OHCHR) said they experienced some form of sexual violence which may have been employed systematically “to humiliate and terrorise their community.”

Displaced women and girls are at heightened risk, Mohammed and Jaf said, as approximately one in five refugees or displaced women experience some form of sexual violence.

The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) documented almost 600 incidents of conflict-related sexual violence in the country in 2016 alone, largely affecting displaced women and girls. The survivors included 57 girls, several of whom were below 10 years of age. Most of the cases occurred at Sudan People’s Liberation Army checkpoints near designated protection sites and reports indicate that sexual violence is being used to punish communities for their ethnic background or perceived support for opposition groups.

Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict Adama Dieng reminded attendees that there is a face and name behind every number in the report.

He told the stories of Nasima who, in fear of being killed by her relatives after returning from IS captivity, attempted suicide, and Marie who contracted HIV because she was too ashamed to report her rape and receive preventive care.

Such shame and stigma are integral components of the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war, the report notes.

“Aggressors understand that this type of crime can turn victims into outcasts, thus unravelling the family and kinship ties that hold communities together,” the report states. For instance, children who are born of rape may face a life of marginalization and be susceptible to exploitation and recruitment, preventing long-term recovery.

“Stigma kills,” Dieng added.

Mohammed highlighted that holistic reintegration is “imperative.”

“It is not enough to bring back our girls—we must bring them back with dignity and respect to an environment of support, equality, and opportunity and ensure that they are provided…critical assistance that helps them reintegrate back into their homes and societies,” she stated, referencing the social media campaign #BringBackOurGirls which began after 270 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their school in Chibok by Boko Haram.

Dieng noted the importance of redirecting the stigma of sexual violence from the victim to the perpetrator which is only possible by involving community leaders to shift harmful perceptions of gender and shame. He also pointed to the need to recognize survivors as legitimate victims of conflict and terrorism who are entitled to relief, reparation, and justice.

“When victims have a chance to tell their stories, to observe the sentencing of offenders, and to benefit from solidarity and support including material and symbolic reparations, it can counteract isolation and self-blame. It tells the community that what happened was not the victims’ fault,” Dieng stated.

Some countries have begun to address sexual violence through legislation including Colombia which established a framework providing sexual violence survivors with access to justice. However, just 2 per cent of the 634 documented cases of conflict-related sexual violence have resulted in convictions, a trend seen around the world.

Mohammed noted the positive developments in perceptions of sexual violence, stating, “Sexual violence in conflict is no longer seen as merely a women’s issue or a lesser evil in a false hierarchy of human rights violations. Instead, it is rightly viewed as a legitimate threat to security and durable peace that requires an operational security and justice response.”

She also acknowledged the UN’s own mishaps in responding to sexual abuse allegations by peacekeeping forces but vowed to tackle the challenge and make zero tolerance “a reality.”

In 2015, cases of sexual abuse by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic sparked global outrage, while a Swedish investigative team found that the UN continues to neglect survivors.

Jaf told IPS that without accountability and justice, including in the case of peacekeepers, the issue of conflict-related sexual violence will not be resolved.

She added that humanitarian responders must be trained to cope with such sensitive issues, recounting the case of a woman who did not report a sexual assault due to her discomfort in speaking to a male translator, and gender equality must continue to be promoted.

“Sexual violence in conflict does not happen in a vacuum. This is the result of systematic failure by the international community to address the root causes of conflict, gender inequality and impunity,” Jaf stated.

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Kenya’s Drought: Response Must Be Sustainable, Not Piecemealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal/#comments Mon, 15 May 2017 10:11:55 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150415 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and the UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.]]> Dabo Boru, 21, is a mother of three who trekked with her family to Badanrero from her home village of Ambato, 38 km away. They were forced to move here in order to save their cattle from dying of thirst and hunger due to drought. Credit: @unicefkenya

Dabo Boru, 21, is a mother of three who trekked with her family to Badanrero from her home village of Ambato, 38 km away. They were forced to move here in order to save their cattle from dying of thirst and hunger due to drought. Credit: @unicefkenya

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 15 2017 (IPS)

 

A malnutrition emergency

Food security in Kenya has deteriorated significantly since the end of 2016. UNICEF reports a significant increase in severe acute malnutrition. Nearly 110,000 children under-five need treatment, up from 75,300 in August 2016.

Waterholes and rivers have dried up, leading to widespread crop failure and livestock depletion. At the height of the drought, surface water in most counties had either dried up or its level dramatically reduced.

Consequently, within a year, the price of maize flour has risen by 31 per cent, milk by 12 and sugar by 21 per cent. These food price increases have driven inflation up from 9.04 per cent in February to 11.48 per cent in April. Many families are making do with just one meal in a day.

Conditions are dire in half of Kenya’s 47 counties. Livestock and milk production has declined, adversely affecting food consumption levels for communities, particularly women and children.

Malnutrition is widespread among children. In the hardest-hit counties of Turkana, Marsabit and Mandera, a third of children under 5 are acutely malnourished – double the emergency threshold. High malnutrition, when combined with an outbreak of cholera or measles, can lead to a surge in deaths among children and other vulnerable groups.

A child suffering from severe acute malnutrition receiving therapeutic milk at UNICEF-supported clinic in Loiyangalani, Marsabit County in Kenya. UNICEF in collaboration with partners is responding to the drought by providing urgently needed therapeutic feeding supplies. Credit: ©UNICEF Kenya/2017/Knowles-Coursin

A child suffering from severe acute malnutrition receiving therapeutic milk at UNICEF-supported clinic in Loiyangalani, Marsabit County in Kenya. UNICEF in collaboration with partners is responding to the drought by providing urgently needed therapeutic feeding supplies. Credit: ©UNICEF Kenya/2017/Knowles-Coursin


Underfunded response

We must urgently respond to this malnutrition crisis through treatment and prevention. Blanket supplementary feeding for young children and pregnant and lactating women can avert a catastrophic spike in mortality in the months ahead.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and partners have developed a US$30 million plan to intervene with blanket supplementary feeding in nine northern hotspots, but only 10 per cent of the required funds have been committed.

By the time the Government had declared drought a national disaster, over 2.6 million Kenyans were in urgent need of food aid. This figure will increase unless an appeal for US$166 million to support the most vulnerable is met; less than a third of that amount is available so far.

Don’t be fooled by the news of floods in recent weeks, this has done nothing to alleviate drought-induced malnutrition among children. Flooding is an indicator of poor infiltration resulting from lack of vegetation and soil degradation. This means that much water is flowing off the soil and too little is seeping in. We will face drought again before the onset of the short rains later this year.

Government efforts

President Uhuru Kenyatta declared a national drought disaster in February 2017 and committed US$128 million towards the national drought response.

The Government of Kenya has allocated resources for food aid and monthly cash transfers through its Hunger Safety Net Programme.

Its Livestock Insurance Programme offers a lifeline to affected pastoralists, enabling them to purchase animal feed to keep their herd alive during drought. In addition, offtake programmes are helping farmers to sell of their herds and restock as necessary when conditions improve.

These are commendable efforts but the number of people accessing such support is not enough, and the needs are fast outpacing the response.

Sustainable, not piecemeal

Climate scientists predict that weather patterns will continue to change. This will bring about more frequent, intense and widespread droughts and flash floods.

The vast majority of smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa are dependent on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods and are subject to the vagaries of the weather.

We need long-term solutions to alleviate the adverse impacts of climate change and unpredictable weather patterns.

We must build the resilience of communities and invest in agriculture and rural infrastructure. This includes turning away from dependency on rain-fed agriculture towards large-scale water harvesting and innovative irrigation systems.

Due to traditional farming practices, crop yields on the continent have about one-tenth the average productivity of Western farms. Sub-Saharan Africa is the only region where per capita food production is sadly falling. Areas in Somalia and coastal Kenya affected by the current drought have registered crop failure of 70 to 100 percent.

In richer countries, drought-resistant crop varieties have been developed to cope with water scarcity and other climate-induced shocks, including varieties of maize, cowpea and sorghum. A major hindrance to their adoption in East Africa is the weak legislative framework for registration and the lack of appropriate technologies.

Soil moisture management is becoming an increasingly important aspect of crop production. In partnership with the EU, WFP, IFAD and the Government of Kenya, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a developed programme to promote conservation agriculture, but this approach must be scaled up. UNDP has created capacities for food production in Turkana County, slowly building community resilience and food security through irrigation. This has the potential to reduce dependence on rain fed agriculture and create practical models for scaling up through the northern frontier development council in Marsabit, Mandera, Wajir, Lamu, Tana river, Garissa and Isiolo Counties.

With advances in mobile technology, smallholders now have better tools to forecast impending crises. The Kenyan Government should work closely with communities to build resilience and put in place mitigation measures before the onset of large-scale crises. County governments, created mainly to bring services closer to citizens, are particularly suited to mapping out priorities and matching them with viable solutions.

For example a county like Turkana has the potential of not only being the breadbasket of Kenya, but a source for fresh water for all of Kenya for the next 70 years.

Turkana women water their banana field from the nearby River Turkwel. Credit: UNDP Kenya

Turkana women water their banana field from the nearby River Turkwel. Credit: UNDP Kenya


The international community can contribute to these efforts by\supporting and partnering with policymakers, researchers and local communities on the effective uses of forecasting and early warning early response mechanisms.

Piecemeal responses to climate-related emergencies can no longer suffice. We need sustainable solutions to effectively tackle drought and its devastating impacts on Kenya’s most vulnerable communities, particularly women and children.

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Concerns Arise Over Freed Nigerian Abductees, Thousands Still Missinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/concerns-arise-over-freed-nigerian-abductees-thousands-still-missing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=concerns-arise-over-freed-nigerian-abductees-thousands-still-missing http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/concerns-arise-over-freed-nigerian-abductees-thousands-still-missing/#comments Wed, 10 May 2017 16:12:07 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150371 Gathering at the country's capital of Abuja, Nigerians call on the government to act quickly to find the 276 girls kidnapped from a Chibok school. Credit: IPS

Gathering at the country's capital of Abuja, Nigerians call on the government to act quickly to find the 276 girls kidnapped from a Chibok school. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 10 2017 (IPS)

Following the release of over 80 missing schoolgirls, human rights groups have expressed concerns about their rights and future.

After a series of negotiations, the Government of Nigeria recently struck a deal allowing for the release of 82 girls from Chibok in Nigeria’s Borno state in exchange for five Boko Haram leaders.

Though a positive development, the news was met with cautious optimism by international groups.

“The release of 82 of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls by the armed group Boko Haram is a big relief. However, it is vital now that they receive adequate physical and psychosocial counselling and support so that they can fully reintegrate in their communities,” said Amnesty International’s Nigeria Director Osai Ojigho.

In April 2014, 276 girls were abducted from their school in Chibok by Boko Haram, sparking international outrage and the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign.

To date, 161 out of the 276 girls have been released or escaped.

Soon after the newest release, the West African nation’s government publicised the girls’ names to outlets including Twitter.

Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher on Nigeria Mausi Segun criticised the move, calling it a “dismal failure” to protect the girls’ privacy.

“We can’t imagine the kinds of abuses they might have been exposed to. We were hoping the focus would be on their reintegration and their return to their families or to any kind of normalcy… but releasing their names in the way that the government has done, I think they paid very little attention to the rights and the needs of the girls,” Segun told IPS.

While such information was divulged to the media, she added that the girls’ families were left in the dark as they did not have access to any information or list of names. “I think that it’s shameful,” she continued.

Segun also expressed concern over the legal status of the girls.

In a similar deal between the Nigerian Government and Boko Haram, 21 girls were released in October 2016. However, the girls have still not been allowed to return to their families and communities.

Though the government has claimed that it is providing education and services to the girls, “a jail is a jail,” Segun told IPS.

“They have no freedom to leave. They have a right to their liberty, and there is a legal obligation on the government to give reasons for holding them.… We are concerned that the same treatment awaits the recently released 82 girls as well,” she continued.

Ojigho expressed similar sentiments, urging the government to ensure the privacy of the released girls and that they are not kept in lengthy detention and security screening which may “add to their suffering and plight.”

Segun highlighted the need for families to have access to information and their own children. But it is not just these girls that deserve such access and attention, she said.

“Virtually everyone who has been affected by the conflict has a son, a daughter, a father, a mother missing whose fate they have no information about,” Segun told IPS.

Though it is uncertain how many have been kidnapped, Amnesty International has documented at least 41 cases of mass abductions by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014. Many abductees are subject to abuses including rape, beatings, and forced suicide missions.

In a recent report by the UN Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict in Nigeria, the UN verified the use of 90 children, mostly girls, for suicide bombings in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. They were also able to verify cases of sexual violence affecting 217 children between 2013 and 2016, but estimate that thousands of women and girls may be victims.

“Boko Haram has inflicted unspeakable horror upon the children of Nigeria’s north-east and neighbouring countries,“ said Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba.

Human Rights Watch also found insufficient government action towards solving such cases. In November 2014, over 500 children were abducted from the Borno town of Damasak. The human rights group found that residents have received no response from the government and that Nigerian authorities have neither publicly acknowledged the Damasak abductions nor disclosed efforts to recover the missing children.

“The government has failed to reach out to them, perhaps because they do not have high level media attention as the Chibok abduction has,” Segun said, stressing the need to widen the scope of negotiations to include the thousands missing beyond Chibok’s schoolgirls.

The UN announced that they are on standby to provide comprehensive support to the survivors, including emergency reproductive health care and psychosocial counseling. The UN’s Children Agency (UNICEF) also vowed to help the girls reunite with their families and continue their education in a safe environment.

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African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/african-migrants-bought-and-sold-openly-in-slave-markets-in-libya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-migrants-bought-and-sold-openly-in-slave-markets-in-libya http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/african-migrants-bought-and-sold-openly-in-slave-markets-in-libya/#comments Tue, 09 May 2017 13:32:17 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150360 A shot of the living conditions inside a detention centre in Libya. Credit: UN Migration Agency (IOM)

A shot of the living conditions inside a detention centre in Libya. Credit: UN Migration Agency (IOM)

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 9 2017 (IPS)

Hundreds of migrants along North African migration routes are being bought and sold openly in modern day ‘slave markets’ in Libya, survivors have told the United Nations migration agency, which warned that these reports “can be added to a long list of outrages” in the country. The International Criminal Court is now considering investigating.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) had already sounded the alarm after its staff in Niger and Libya documented over the past weekend shocking testimonies of trafficking victims from several African nations, including Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia. They described ‘slave markets’ tormenting hundreds of young African men bound for Libya.

Operations Officers with IOM’s office in Niger reported on the rescue of a Senegalese migrant who this week was returning to his home after being held captive for months, IOM had on April 11 reported.

According to the young man’s testimony, the UN agency added, while trying to travel north through the Sahara, he arrived in Agadez, Niger, where he was told he would have to pay about 320 dollars to continue North, towards Libya.

A trafficker provided him with accommodation until the day of his departure, which was to be by pick-up truck, IOM said. But when his pick-up reached Sabha in south-western Libya, the driver insisted that he hadn’t been paid by the trafficker, and that he was transporting the migrants to a parking area where the young man witnessed a slave market taking place.

“Sub-Saharan migrants were being sold and bought by Libyans, with the support of Ghanaians and Nigerians who work for them,” IOM Niger staff reported.

A young South Sudanese refugee looks out of a truck before being transported to the Imvepi settlement at the Imvepi Reception Centre, Arua District, in northern Uganda. Credit: UNHCR/David Azia

A young South Sudanese refugee looks out of a truck before being transported to the Imvepi settlement at the Imvepi Reception Centre, Arua District, in northern Uganda. Credit: UNHCR/David Azia

A ‘Long List of Outrages’

“The latest reports of ‘slave markets’ for migrants can be added to a long list of outrages [in Libya],” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s head of operation and emergencies. “The situation is dire. The more IOM engages inside Libya, the more we learn that it is a vale of tears for all too many migrants.”

Abdiker added that in recent months IOM staff in Libya had gained access to several detention centres, where they are trying to improve conditions.

“What we know is that migrants who fall into the hands of smugglers face systematic malnutrition, sexual abuse and even murder. Last year we learned 14 migrants died in a single month in one of those locations, just from disease and malnutrition. We are hearing about mass graves in the desert.”

So far this year, he said, the Libyan Coast Guard and others have found 171 bodies washed up on Mediterranean shores, from migrant voyages that foundered off shore. The Coast Guard has also rescued thousands more, he added.

Sold in Squares or Garages

“Migrants who go to Libya while trying to get to Europe have no idea of the torture archipelago that awaits them just over the border,” said Leonard Doyle, chief IOM spokesperson in Geneva. “There they become commodities to be bought, sold and discarded when they have no more value.”

Many describe being sold “in squares or garages” by locals in the South-Western Libyan town of Sabha, or by the drivers who trafficked them across the Sahara desert.

Risking their lives to reach Europe from North Africa, a boatload of people, some of them likely in need of international protection, are rescued in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian Navy. Credit: UNHCR/A. D'Amato

Risking their lives to reach Europe from North Africa, a boatload of people, some of them likely in need of international protection, are rescued in the Mediterranean Sea by the Italian Navy. Credit: UNHCR/A. D’Amato

“To get the message out across Africa about the dangers, we are recording the testimonies of migrants who have suffered and are spreading them across social media and on local FM radio. Tragically, the most credible messengers are migrants returning home with IOM help. Too often they are broken, brutalised and have been abused, often sexually. Their voices carry more weight than anyone else’s,” added Doyle.

So far, the number of Mediterranean migrant arrivals this year approaches 50,000, with 1,309 deaths, according to the UN migration agency.

IOM rose from the ashes of World War Two 65 years ago. In the battle-scarred continent of Europe, no government alone could help survivors who wanted no more than an opportunity to resume their lives in freedom and with dignity. The first incarnation of IOM was created to resettle refugees during this post-war period.

International Criminal Court May Investigate

In view of these reports, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 8 May told the United Nations Security Council that her office is considering launching an investigation into alleged migrant-related crimes in Libya, including human trafficking.

“My office continues to collect and analyse information relating to serious and widespread crimes allegedly committed against migrants attempting to transit through Libya,” said Fatou Bensouda during a Security Council meeting on the North African country’s situation.

“I’m similarly dismayed by credible accounts that Libya has become a marketplace for the trafficking of human beings,” she added, noting that her office “is carefully examining the feasibility” of opening an investigation into migrant-related crimes in Libya should the Court’s jurisdictional requirements be met.

‘Horrendous Abuses’ at the Hands of Smugglers

Meanwhile, one person out of every 35 trying to cross the inland sea between northern Africa and Italy in 2017 has died out in the deep waters of the Mediterranean, the United Nations refugee agency on 8 May reported, calling for “credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection.”

“Saving lives must be the top priority for all and, in light of the recent increase in arrivals, I urge further efforts to rescue people along this dangerous route,” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Filippo Grandi.

The Central Mediterranean – with smugglers trafficking people from the shores of Libya to Italy – has proven to be particularly deadly. Out on the open sea, approximately 1,150 people have either disappeared or lost their lives in 2017.

In response to the recent stories reported to UNHCR’s teams by survivors, Grandi said that he is “profoundly shocked by the violence used by some smugglers.”

As the “Central Mediterranean route continues to be particularly dangerous this year, also for 2016 the UN recorded more deaths at sea than ever before.

The main causes of shipwrecks, according to UNHCR, are the increasing numbers of passengers on board vessels used by traffickers, the worsening quality of vessels and the increasing use of rubber boats instead of wooden ones.

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Time to Find ‘Magic Formula’ to Stop Hatreds – Baku Forumhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/time-to-find-magic-formula-to-stop-hatreds-baku-forum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-to-find-magic-formula-to-stop-hatreds-baku-forum http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/time-to-find-magic-formula-to-stop-hatreds-baku-forum/#comments Mon, 08 May 2017 05:59:21 +0000 Rahul Kumar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150334 Night-time view of Baku, Azerbaijan. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Azerbaijan

Night-time view of Baku, Azerbaijan. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Azerbaijan

By Rahul Kumar
BAKU, Azerbaijan, May 8 2017 (IPS)

It is time to find that “magic formula” that will encourage people to stop conflicts, the rise of violent extremism and hatreds, and live together in peace, urged a United Nations senior official at the end of a UN-backed conference on intercultural dialogue in Baku, Azerbaijan.

In her closing remarks at end of the 4th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, the head of the United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova expressed hope and optimism that the world is “on the right path” towards building “inclusive and resilient” societies. “Act now to stamp out extremism and build peace in the minds of men and women” – UNESCO chief

More than 500 delegates, experts, academics, business and civil society leaders from 120 countries took part in this year’s Forum, held in Baku (5-6 May) under the theme ‘Advancing Intercultural Dialogue – New avenues for human security, peace and sustainable development‘, which was co-organised along with UNESCO and the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), among others.

Bokova also called on participants to act now to stamp out extremism and “build peace in the minds of men and women,” echoing the UNESCO’s own timeless message about the need to make the most of the opportunities to bolster peaceful coexistence provided by our globalised world of increasing interconnections and diversity.

“I think we all feel a certain sense of urgency, that we have to act […] the world is very fragile, and peace is very fragile.”

Irina Bokova

Irina Bokova

Bokova praised president Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan for his “longstanding leadership in promoting intercultural dialogue” as well as the tireless engagement of the First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva, as UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Oral and Musical Traditions.

Azerbaijan has a long history on the ‘Silk Road’ ancient trade route, as a centre for exchange, scholarship and art. Baku’s Walled City is also inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Too Early to Cry Victory

A flurry of debates, panel discussions, exhibits and concerts held by renowned artists working to bring people of different walks of life closer together.

Preventing terrorism in cyberspace, educating girls to combat violent extremism, and changing people’s negative perception of migrants in cities were some of the topics broached at the Forum.

The agenda also included such topics as the role of faith, religions, human security, sport, education, art, sustainable development, preventing violent extremism, and business in building trust and cooperation among cultures and civilisations.

Reflecting on the outcome of the Baku Forum, Maher Nasser, Acting UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, said it is too early to “cry victory” or dismiss the event as a failure because that can only be determined by what will follow.

“The discussions that I have seen bring back the importance of dialogue and using culture as a way to connect and to connect societies – sometimes within the same country. How culture bring us together as humans. We may see things differently, but there are also, sometimes, things that can bring us together. Culture and art are important elements of that,” he explained.

Nasser also highlighted the important connection between tourism and culture. “Tourism today is one the top employers around the world… Tourism depends on stability. No one wants to go to a region in conflict, unless you are war reporter. So tourism has a vested interested in promoting peace.”

Diversity, Dialogue, Mutual Understanding

Hosted by Azerbaijan, the Baku Forum was organised also with the participation of the UN World Tourism Organization, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Council of Europe, the Islamic Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization and the North-South Centre of the Council of Europe.

For his part, Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nassir, UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), said that military actions and security measures cannot be the only response to the world’s challenges.

“The interconnected nature of today’s crises requires us to connect our own efforts for peace and security, sustainable development and human rights, not just in words, but in practice,” he said.

“The challenge now is to make corresponding changes to our culture, strategy, structures and operations. We must commit to achieve human security and sustainable development, in partnership with regional organizations, mobilizing the entire range of those with influence, from religious authorities to civil society and the business community, he added, adding that women and youth must also be brought to the table.

The Baku Process has become a successful platform to promote “peaceful and inclusive societies” around the world. Since its inception, Al-Nasser said, the Forum has encouraged and enabled people and communities worldwide to take concrete measures to support diversity, dialogue and mutual understanding amongst nations.

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How to Counter Violent Extremism, Youth Radicalisation – Baku Forumhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/how-to-counter-violent-extremism-youth-radicalisation-baku-forum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-counter-violent-extremism-youth-radicalisation-baku-forum http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/how-to-counter-violent-extremism-youth-radicalisation-baku-forum/#comments Fri, 05 May 2017 14:54:35 +0000 Rahul Kumar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150319 Baku Forum to promote sustainable development and human security through dialogue. Credit: UNESCO

Baku Forum to promote sustainable development and human security through dialogue. Credit: UNESCO

By Rahul Kumar
BAKU, Azerbaijan, May 5 2017 (IPS)

The integration of migrants in cities, countering the rise of violent extremism, as well as youth radicalisation on the Internet have been some of the key issues discussed at a United Nations forum in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The Fourth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue (May 5 – 6) hosted by Azerbaijan under the theme ‘Advancing Intercultural Dialogue – New avenues for human security,peace and sustainable development’ examined effective responses to challenges facing human security, including massive migration, violent extremism and conflicts.“Inclusive societies cannot exist without the full participation of youth” -- Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser (UNAOC)

The focus has primarily been put on the role of faith, religions, migration, human security, sport, education, art, sustainable development, violent extremism, business in building trust and cooperation among cultures and civilizations.

According to the UN Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), the Forum provides a platform to discuss the way forward to build societies based on genuine respect for everyone’s rights including freedom of belief, equal opportunities, and good governance as well as an inclusive framework of tolerance and respect for diversity.

Organised in partnership with UNAOC, the Council of Europe, the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the North-South Center of the Council of Europe, and UNESCO, the Forum brought together heads of government and ministers, representatives of inter-governmental organisations, the private sector, policy-makers, cultural professionals, journalists and civil society activists.

‘The World Has Become a Very Complicated Place’

Nadia Al-Nashif, UNESCO Assistant Director General for Social and Human Sciences, said the Baku Forum has a “very strong vision and resonates deeply with UNESCO’s mandate to build peace in the minds of men and women.”

Night time view of Baku, Azerbaijan. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Azerbaijan

Night time view of Baku, Azerbaijan. Credit: Ministry of Tourism and Culture, Azerbaijan


“The world has become a very complicated place,” she noted. “We are looking at huge innovations in technology but at the same time, we are facing increased tensions, a result of the lack of general trust that stems from how much insecurity there is in the world.”

Al-Nashif said the UN intercultural dialogue is a platform for people to debate the notion of coexistence and what that means in regards to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that seeks to “promote norms for social justice, advocate for social inclusion, integration, acceptance, and not just tolerance but empathy.”

Ahead of the Forum, the network of the UNESCO Silk Road Online Platform met at the Baku Congress Centre to examine progress made in its 2016-2018 Action Plan.

The Youth Vision

As part of the preparations for the Baku Forum, about 150 youth representatives from around the world gathered at the UN Alliance of Civilizations’ 7th Global Forum (See: BAKU: youth chart vision of inclusive society at UN forum) in Baku, Azerbaijan, 25-27 April 2016.

Young people of all walks of life, from an Internet technology intern to a dentist, have been working to define future narratives to counter potentially compelling discourse of those who seek to divide society.

“People are disconnected because they don’t know each other’s experiences,” Rashida M. Namulondo, a storyteller and actress from Uganda, told communities, and platforms of action, told the UN News Centre during the pre-opening event of the UNAOC’s Global Forum, Baku April 2016.

Namulondo operates an online platform through which people can share each other’s experiences. “It is important that we tell our stories and listen to other people’s stories,” she said, emphasizing the power of storytelling to heal people’s hearts.

Lou Louis Koboji Loboka, a medical lab scientist in South Sudan, was also among the 150 participants at the youth event, titled ‘Living Together in Inclusive Societies: Narratives of Tomorrow.’

Having been displaced to a neighbouring country, he returned home to start a health-training venture. “A lot of youths are not educated, and therefore are messing up the country as I speak,” he said.

Ranim Asfahani, of Syria, said she chose to join the thematic group on youth and children because her organization engages with youth and children. Her one-word message is “peace.”

Shuhei Sakoguchi, a student at Soka University in Japan and a Buddhist, said he joined the thematic group on interfaith because every religion has good principles.

For Minh Anh Thu, of Viet Nam, said she was inspired by many peers who engage in innovative intercultural projects, and this youth event was an opportunity to think about community development and investment in youth in her country.

Inclusive Societies

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser

Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser

Addressing the youth to the Global Forum, UNAOC High Representative Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser highlighted their ability to transform the world for the better.

“For the Alliance, inclusive societies cannot exist without the full participation of youth,” he said, stressing that UNAOC’s youth-focused activities and programming are built on the principle that young people are the primary agents of change – not just in the future – but in the present as well.

Al-Nasser, of Qatar, who held the presidency of the UN General Assembly for its 2011/2012 session and now heads up the UNAOC as the Secretary-General’s High Representative, said that the recent rise of violent extremism and terrorism worldwide only strengthened his work and mandate.

Growing Migratory Flows Threatening Peace, Security

Given this situation, UNAOC’s work must be more visible than ever, he stressed, noting that his priorities also include addressing issues related to the growing migratory flows that are threatening international peace and security, and the spread of negative narratives, such as hate speech on social media.

According to UNESCO, a boom in the world’s population (more than 7 billion in 2017), the power of technology, more salient human mobility, and the increased flow of goods and ideas across borders have brought cultures much closer together in the 21st century in ways unimaginable only a few decades ago.

“But as some doors have opened, others have closed in particular in the minds of women, men and children living with increased and more complex manifestations of diversity. This has strengthened prejudice, intolerance, racism, xenophobia, discrimination, radicalization and violent extremism.”

The Forum gives added impetus to the UN International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022), for which UNESCO is the lead agency within the UN.

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Refugee Journalists, the Challenge of Reporting from Exilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 17:16:57 +0000 Elena Pasquini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150304 The author is Editor in Chief Degrees of Latitude
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Photo credits: Sara Furlanetto

Photo credits: Sara Furlanetto

By Elena L. Pasquini
ROME, May 4 2017 (IPS)

Abdulwahab Tahhan is a journalist and a refugee. From his exile in London, he documents the war that is devastating his homeland of Syria, monitoring airstrikes and assessing civilian casualties for the non-profit Airwars.

As for many journalists and netizens forced to leave their countries due to war, oppression, and persecution, continuing journalistic work has been a challenge for Tahhan. But now that’s his job: ‘Helping people understand the war better’, he told Degrees of Latitude.

Youngest of seven children, he grew up in Aleppo, studied English and literature, but not journalism, even if he would have liked. It was the concern of becoming used as a ‘propaganda tool’ that kept Tahhan away from professional reporting until the spring of 2011.

When the Syrian uprising erupted, he began translating content and videos about the demonstrations from Arabic to English for a secret Facebook group that spread updates beyond the Syrian borders, documenting arrests and detentions, and advising protesters how to keep themselves safe. ‘It wasn’t a professional platform; too dangerous to be identified as the journalist or the voice who was reporting about what was going on. Once you were identified, that’s it. You will be targeted; your family will be targeted …’, he said.

It was in Turkey, where Tahhan fled from Syria and obtained a visa to the United Kingdom, that his professional career in journalism begun, working as a fixer, interpreter, translator, writer and in the production of the award-winning documentary ‘The Suffering Grassers’. But getting a job in England was tough: ‘I had all the skills, I had the knowledge, the only thing that I lacked were the contacts’, he said. It was the Refugee Journalism Project, a collaboration between the London College of Communication and the Migrants Resource Centre, that provided Abdulwahab with what he needed to make his voice heard again.

It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know

‘In many countries, getting ahead in journalism still relies on having the right social capital, that is, being able to access jobs and opportunities by virtue of having an influential professional and personal network. The old adage still applies – it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know. So, if you are new to a country, don’t speak the same language, aren’t the same colour or religion, don’t have knowledge of the system, you simply don’t have the same social capital as the journalists who came through the European system. The project’s activities (mentoring, workshops and industry placements) attempt to address this’, Vivienne Francis, Project media consultant, explained.

The Project – which so far has worked with 36 journalists from a number of countries, including Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Cuba, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Yemen – was originally a London-focused initiative, but it has received applications from all across the UK, and ‘in greater numbers than we anticipated’, according to Francis. ‘We did not want to turn anyone away, as a number of these individuals – due to the UK government’s refugee dispersal scheme – were living in communities where they felt quite isolated. We had to find practical ways to support not just more participants, but also those who lived many miles away. One solution was to offer online mentoring and connecting them with networks of journalists closer to where they lived’, she said.

The value of a different perspective

Refugee journalists need support, but they bring to the newsrooms the invaluable knowledge of the countries they come from. ‘That’s one of the ways we could improve journalism’, Tahhan said. ‘If you want to write a story about Syria, you want a Syrian researcher, someone who understands Arabic, who understands the culture, who knows places and locations, that can tell you something about the country that maybe people here don’t know or are not aware of, that can double-check the authentication of specific reports’, he said.

It is not about teaching the local journalists how to do their job better; it is about providing them with sources, insights and different perspectives. He was intrigued, and alarmed, noticing how much attention European journalists put on bombings and terrorists killed, compared to ‘the victims of those bombings’, Tahhan said. ‘I would always focus on the humanitarian aspect; I would always focus on the civilian casualties from the war … I haven’t seen this very much on the news, to be honest. I haven’t seen a lot of reports from a civilian perspective’, he added.

But to unlock the potential of refugee journalists, many barriers have to be overcome and a holistic approach is needed: ‘The asylum process itself also takes a huge toll on individuals. Before they can think about re-establishing their professional careers, many have to deal with the emotional anguish of leaving home and loved ones, battling to get refugee status, permanent housing, and access to benefits’, Francis said. Giving refugees the basic tools for survival is not enough to enhance integration. The question is how to ‘maximize the value of the professions, work experience and qualifications they might already have. Their prior lives and experiences need to be seen as adding value to society’.

What is crucial, according to Tahhan, is to provide journalists with contacts and a ‘safe’ platform: ‘A safe environment is where you can start discussion ideas without being accused of being biased, discussing the ideas for the ideas themselves without attacking you personally …. [discussing] the ideas, [without] discussing the person, throwing accusation, stereotyping people, generalizing. Being safe [means] that you have been able to express whatever you want to express without being prosecuted’, he explained.

Refugees journalists must feel safe. ‘I know this is highly unlikely to happen in the Europe because of the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, but bear in mind we come from countries where we are oppressed and we can’t really report a lot of things against the governments, against the regimes’.


This story was originally published by Degrees of Latitude

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Collective Amnesia in Famine Response and Resilience-Buildinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/collective-amnesia-in-famine-response-and-resilience-building/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=collective-amnesia-in-famine-response-and-resilience-building http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/collective-amnesia-in-famine-response-and-resilience-building/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 11:37:38 +0000 Suresh Babu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150285 The author is Head of Capacity Strengthening at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a research center of CGIAR. Babu is specialized in capacity strengthening and rebuilding after emergencies and crises, and has been following the famine in East Africa and the Middle East closely.]]> "Young girls line up at a feeding centre in Mogadishu, #Somalia, where a severe drought is threatening famine." Credit: UN instagram

"Young girls line up at a feeding centre in Mogadishu, #Somalia, where a severe drought is threatening famine." Credit: UN instagram

By Suresh Babu
WASHINGTON DC, May 4 2017 (IPS)

The emerging drought-induced humanitarian crisis—prevailing in countries from Niger in West Africa to Somalia in East Africa—and conflict-driven famine conditions in South Sudan, Somalia, and Northeast Nigeria, have become a regular phenomenon.

Even though these food crises can be prevented, they persistently arise due to the development community’s collective amnesia on what has worked and what has not in famine response, recovery, and resilience-building.

We know countries that have constructed robust policies, institutions, and food systems capable of withstanding natural and human-induced shocks fare better than those with weak systems, but approaches to development haven’t changed to reflect this knowledge.

A new approach to drought response and famine recovery must involve building durable systems at various levels. By creating strong systems for implementing policies, building institutions, and growing and delivering food, countries can prevent the most deleterious effects of frequent shocks, and also have the capability to bounce back quickly to a normal development process.

Suresh Babu

Suresh Babu

Currently a large segment of population—close to 20 million—faces starvation and possible death. Following the declaration of drought and national emergencies, country governments and international organizations have begun their usual response routine: identifying the vulnerable population, estimating the emergency aid needs, and planning the associated workshops and conferences.

While all these activities are a necessary part of famine response and recovery, it remains a puzzle as to why we keep “reinventing the wheel” to address a challenge that has long been part of the development process. Today, climate change is finally forcing policy makers to rethink their response paradigm: from “relief and development” to “relief to resilient food systems.”

The need for a paradigm shift is clear from the lessons from drought responses over the last 40 years. A key lesson is that unless national response systems are resilient to meet natural and manmade shocks, they will be continuously “firefighting.” Emergency resources will be repeatedly diverted to address annual cycles of drought, while countries lose ground on long-term development plans.

Policy systems resilience

The effectiveness of a country’s national policy system in identifying drought-related challenges and developing intervention strategies depends on the strength of the policy process. The actors in the policy process must develop common goals to address food emergencies and balance these goals with long-term development strategies.

Such balancing in Ethiopia over the past 20 years has built a policy system that is highly adaptable in managing drought while simultaneously investing in long-term development. For example, Ethiopia’s productive social safety nets for vulnerable communities also helped build local infrastructure for sustainable development.

Strengthening policy-making systems including safety nets and subsidies could simplify and shorten the decision-making process, allowing countries to focus their efforts on the most vulnerable groups without forgoing long-term development.

The Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency is an example of linking long-term development with resilience-building initiatives. The Agency coordinates action plans to help provide and enable policy on the assessment, response, and financing of a drought-related crisis. A robust policy-making process under various circumstances can guide policy-making systems to ensure that they are responsive and accountable.

In this respect, the current drought-induced emergencies are an opportunity to strengthen national lawmaking for development and implementation of comprehensive policies and strategies to protect vulnerable populations both in the immediate and in the long run.

Institutional resilience

Existing institutions are inadequate for meeting emerging issues in the development process, let alone the complexity of challenges arising from drought and conflict. In the context of famine prevention and recovery, flexible institutions are essential.

For example, a well-equipped famine early warning system that quickly collects, processes, and analyzes data from around the country is fundamental. In countries where such systems exist, they can assess of the number of people affected and deploy the best responses more quickly than those without an effective system.

During conflict, however, key institutions such as agricultural research either function poorly or completely fall apart. Sustaining local institutions during the conflict period and using them effectively during response and recovery stages can help build their strength in the long run.

These institutions can be useful not only for aid distribution in emergencies but also implementation of social safety nets during normal periods. For example, during times of famine in Bangladesh, the government used schools as food distribution centers.

Developments in information and communications technology, such as mobile banking, provide opportunities for effective targeting and swift transfer of cash resources to vulnerable groups.

Cash transfers to remote areas can help promote trade and markets in those areas. This approach helps build sturdy local markets and creates demand for basic commodities that continue during normal times. Cash transfers through Brazil’s Bolsa Família program is a typical example of this approach.

Food system resilience

Resilient food systems can help reduce the impacts of drought on food and nutrition security. Countries that have built efficient food harvesting or distribution systems are better able to prevent famines even when faced with severe drought.

For example, the Ethiopian government invested in service delivery systems to share knowledge on innovations in farming and to provide modern inputs such as high-yielding seed varieties and chemical fertilizers. Strengthening the resources available for communities is a key factor in preventing famines.

Foreign aid assistance in drought-affected countries should focus on both emergency help and long-term building.

A successful example is India’s rural employment guarantee scheme, which uses natural resources to build rural infrastructure for vulnerable groups. Such approaches supply crop and animal inputs, rehabilitate land and water resources, and build micro-irrigation, all of which can help to fight future droughts in the short and long run.

In addition, famine prevention and drought responses need to go beyond country borders.

International and bilateral organizations have been effective in helping governments with famine early warning information and in coordinating food security and nutrition interventions, but in the long run have failed to build sustainable local institutions.

How the current emergency is handled has larger implications for the success of regional commitments such as the Malabo Declaration on agricultural transformation and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

A large population is currently under threat of famine across the African continent from Niger to Somalia. Although triggered by frequent droughts, the famine-like conditions are mostly preventable, except in war-ravaged areas.

Countries with adequate resilience have managed to reduce the adverse effects of drought on vulnerable populations, while others have not.

Even with political will and the current level of international support, the need for building local support as a fundamental part of the response is too often lost to collective amnesia. But if we build on policy, institutional and food capacities, lessons from past efforts and innovations can help achieve food security and prevent famines in the affected regions.

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Journalist Killings in Sri Lanka Predicated on a Deadly Ironyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony/#comments Tue, 02 May 2017 15:02:27 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150251

This article is part of special IPS coverage of World Press Freedom Day.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2017 (IPS)

The widespread belief in the politically-motivated killings of journalists in Sri Lanka is predicated on a deadly irony: the hidden hand has always been visible, but the fingerprints have gone missing.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Sri Lankan journalist killed in 2009.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Sri Lankan journalist killed in 2009.

The two most widely publicized killings relate to IPS UN Bureau Chief in Colombo, Richard de Zoysa, 30, in February 1990, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge, 51, in January 2009.

But both murders remain unsolved—due primarily to political coverups — despite several leads pointing to the killers.

As fate would have it, the politician who apparently ordered the killing of de Zoysa, and the police officer who executed that order both died in a suicide bomb blast in 1993, three years after de Zoysa’s murder.

But the rest of the conspirators are still on the loose and fugitives from justice.

And as the United Nations commemorated World Press Freedom Day, there were reports last week that one of the suspects in the Wickrematunge killing– far from being investigated or prosecuted — had been elevated to the rank of a diplomat and posted to a Sri Lanka embassy in an Asian capital years ago.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), which has an arresting headline on its website titled “Sri Lanka: Where Journalists are Killed with Impunity,” lists the killings of 25 Sri Lankan journalists since 1992, with 19 where “motives were confirmed” and six with “motives unconfirmed.”

David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on ‘the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression’, called on governments “to investigate and hold accountable all those responsible for attacks on journalists.”

In a statement released May 2, he said: “This past year has seen repeated attacks on journalists, leaving many dead or injured. Often terrorist groups carry out such attacks to silence opposition, secularists or atheists.”

Too often, he pointed out, threats are not met with effective protection by law enforcement or, in their aftermath, genuine investigation and prosecution.

“States need to make accountability a priority,” he declared.

In an interview with IPS, Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, confirmed that both high profile killings in Sri Lanka were meant to silence press criticism of political higher-ups.

Speaking strictly as a former journalist and widow of Lasantha Wickrematunge, she said “the authorities at the time wanted to silence Lasantha and cripple two newspapers — The Sunday Leader of which he was Editor-in-Chief and I was Consultant Editor– and The Morning Leader of which I was Editor in Chief.”

In Richard de Zoysa’s case, Samarasinghe said, he was the first Sri Lankan journalist to pay the ultimate price for his journalism.

Like Lasantha, Richard was beloved during his life, and like Lasantha, he has, since his death, become an icon in the media industry in Sri Lanka. Richard was a man of extraordinary talent and range who wrote haunting poetry and powerful plays, she noted.

There is no doubt in my mind that his killing was politically motivated as well, said Samarasinghe, a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, an Edward R. Murrow Fellow in Washington DC, and an International Journalist-in-Residence at the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: Since Lasantha’s killing, has there been any credible investigation to track down his killer or killers? Why has there been no trial or conviction for 8 long years?

SAMARASINGHE: Before January 2015, there had been virtually no serious investigation into this crime. There seems to have been a deliberate cover-up and stonewalling of the case. Such emblematic cases are not properly investigated for several reasons; among them, to hide the truth, to perpetuate a fear psychosis in the people and to create chaos. These assassinations affect not only the families of the victims but society as a whole. A break down in the rule of law and a lack of freedom of information leads to social divisiveness and generates mistrust between groups and in the institutions of the State. They send messages of fear, despondency and submission – and slavish/divisive societies are easier to manipulate.

However, since the change in administration in 2015, a special Criminal Investigations Team was established and there have been concrete steps taken not only in Lasantha’s case but in the cases of other journalists who were beaten, threatened or who disappeared during the previous administration. Lasantha’s body was exhumed late last year as part of this new investigation. These are extremely gut-wrenching circumstances and for me very difficult to endure as his wife. However, for the sake of the greater good and for the purposes of a thorough independent investigation, we have to go through this.

The proper conclusion of these investigations are important in order to re-establish Good Governance and the Rule of Law in our country, and halt the cyclical recurrence of violence in various forms. This is why the present administration has said it is deeply committed to these democratic principles.

IPS: How safe is the political environment for journalists now — as compared with 1990 or 2009?

SAMARASINGHE: As a nation that had suffered a dark period under the yoke of terrorism and an accompanying culture of impunity, this administration has demonstrated in several concrete ways that it is actively conscious of the value of a nation built on the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law. The cornerstone of any democracy is freedom of information. Without this there can be no meaningful advancement of peace, development or human rights. Among others, the proper handling of Lasantha’s case will become the symbol of a restored and renewed democracy where once again, the people of our country will have faith in our judiciary, and in our system of Justice. This is a slow and steady process.

Clearly the current administration has taken several steps in the right direction. For instance after years of civil society activism the Right to Information Act was signed into law in August 2016 and came into force on February 4, 2017. The government unanimously enacted the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crimes and Witnesses Act. A Permanent Office for Missing Persons (OMP) has been established. These are all structures and mechanisms that serve to rebuild trust in the state. I would say that today we have an administration that understands the value of an independent fourth estate and the serious perils of lapdog journalism.

QUESTION: With the increasing attacks on journalists worldwide, is there a role for the UN to stem this onslaught?

SAMARASINGHE: There is definitely a leadership role for the United Nations. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 19 which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” to the unanimously adopted Sustainable Development Goals – particularly Goal 16, to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” we see that member states fully realize the UN’s critical role in this regard.

Target 10 of Goal 16 recognizes that public access to information and fundamental freedoms are indispensable conditions to sustainable development. It reads, “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”

IPS: Are most UN member states paying only lip service to the cause of press freedom?

SAMARASINGHE
: In the final analysis, it is the responsibility of individual member states to implement nationally the international agreements and UN resolutions in accordance with their own domestic laws and cultures and to establish Rule of Law and end impunity. The two indicators set by the United Nations Statistical Commission for tracking progress in the achievement of target 10 are pertinent as they relate (a) to the number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates, and (b) to the number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information. Therefore SDG 16 is significant in mainstreaming safety of journalists in the international development agenda and for tracking progress in individual countries.

IPS: Do you think the UN should at least name and shame these countries where journalists are constantly in danger of losing their lives in the line of duty?

SAMARASINGHE: There is in fact a UN plan of action for the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, with UNESCO taking the lead in developing and implementing the plan. This plan includes a number of actions including standard-setting, policy-making, monitoring, reporting, building capacity and awareness-raising.

And yet, according to the UN itself every five days a journalist is killed in pursuit of a story. So yes, clearly the international community must be more proactive in addressing this issue. The numbers from civil society are staggering as well, with the Committee to Protect Journalists reporting that some 370 journalists were murdered between 2004 and 2013 in direct retaliation for their work, with 48 journalists killed in 2016 and 8 already killed in 2017.

However there are several soft approaches that the UN already explores, and awareness-raising through commemorative events or International Days (including World Press Freedom Day) is one. These soft approaches, if constant, can be very effective in shining a light on national situations, transporting incidents to the international stage and affording activists and family members an international platform to make their case.

IPS: Is there any role for journalists themselves to take up the fight at home or, more importantly, internationally?

One way to do this is to highlight or give prominence to the journalists who have been victimized in their own countries. For example, as an exiled journalist at the time, I was invited to speak at international events organized by UN agencies. During this period, I was also given the opportunity to speak at various other international venues, including on Capitol Hill, at the National Press Club, Universities and was also invited to serve as key note speaker at special events, including to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr Day. This kind of exposure helps keep the issues alive on the international stage.

Furthermore, UNESCO has the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize awarded on 3 May that honors a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of press freedom. Lasantha was awarded this prize in 2009. He became only the second journalist to be honoured posthumously since this prize was created, and a testimony to the risk many journalists run in the pursuit of their calling. Again, this award, and the buzz it created, became a megaphone opportunity to highlight not only Lasantha’s case, but also the plight of all journalists persecuted everywhere for their work.

And in 2009 Mr Ban Ki Moon the then UN Secretary General highlighted Lasantha’s assassination during his remarks on Press Freedom Day. The world’s top diplomat giving prominence to Lasantha’s case was an important step in the right direction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SNVeGGe0TU. Other UN agencies and diplomats expressed concern as well quite publicly, and these statements sent a message that the international community was watching. But yes, given the horrific numbers, it is important that the international community remains ever vigilant.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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At UN, Rex Tillerson, Top US Diplomat, Delivers Stark Warnings to North Koreahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/at-un-rex-tillerson-top-us-diplomat-delivers-stark-warnings-to-north-korea/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=at-un-rex-tillerson-top-us-diplomat-delivers-stark-warnings-to-north-korea http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/at-un-rex-tillerson-top-us-diplomat-delivers-stark-warnings-to-north-korea/#comments Sat, 29 Apr 2017 21:42:27 +0000 Barbara Crossette http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150222 Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, right, who presided over the UN Security Council session on North Korea’s nuclear threats, with Yun Byung-se, his South Korean counterpart, April 28, 2017. Tillerson demanded that all UN member states must abide by UN sanctions on North Korea. Credit: RICK BAJORNAS/UN PHOTO

Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, right, who presided over the UN Security Council session on North Korea’s nuclear threats, with Yun Byung-se, his South Korean counterpart, April 28, 2017. Tillerson demanded that all UN member states must abide by UN sanctions on North Korea. Credit: RICK BAJORNAS/UN PHOTO

By Barbara Crossette
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 29 2017 (IPS)

Speaking to the United Nations Security Council at a meeting on North Korea held at the foreign-minister level, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked member countries to join the United States in a strong campaign to enhance pressures on the Kim Jong-un regime, whose rapidly developing nuclear and missile programs have reached dangerous levels.

The high-level diplomatic session took place on April 28, the final day of the American presidency of the Security Council, a monthly rotating position. The atmosphere signaled that the US was back and needed partners after months of disparaging the UN and insulting various UN member countries.

All 15 Council members read statements at the session, in addition to South Korea’s foreign minister, Yun Byung-se. North Korean diplomats did not participate in the Council session. But as if to underline the menacing if predictable behavior of the regime, it fired a missile, which apparently failed, not long after the Council’s meeting ended.

The tone of Tillerson’s address to the Council was much more measured than the freewheeling style of Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, who said on her first day in the job that she would “take names” and later threatened to use her high heels for kicking those who opposed American policies. (The heels reference was used when she was governor of South Carolina, referring to labor organizers.)

She also compared the UN with the South Carolina state legislature for its clubbiness when she was governor, yet she promoted a fellow state governor to become head of the UN’s World Food Program. PassBlue obtained the letter she wrote to UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Haley had promised to “fix” things at the UN as well. “I like to fix things,” she told the US Senate Foreign Relations committee at her confirmation hearing in January.

Hints that a new approach by the US toward world politics may be forming, perhaps led by Tillerson, followed a week of extraordinary chaos in an already chaotic White House. President Donald Trump, still lacking a coherent foreign policy of his own, flailed around for a single domestic success he could advertise on his 100th day in office.

He tried and failed again to get a new national health care bill and threw out an ill-considered American tax-reform outline that ran into a buzzsaw of criticism from experts who called it a gift to the rich.

The week of chaos began on April 24 with a White House lunch for all Security Council ambassadors and their spouses, in which the idea of a presidential “we need you” surfaced and praise for the UN Secretary-General Guterres was made by Trump, according to a diplomat at the meeting. Tillerson was not present at the lunch, but Haley sat at the president’s side.

Curiously, Trump tried to make a joke about her tenure in New York, thanking her for her “outstanding leadership” and then asking Council members: “Does everybody like Nikki? Because if you don’t she can easily be replaced. No, we won’t do that. I promise.”

Still, Trump inadvertently raised suspicions about whether Haley will be reined in by Tillerson, who is slowly but surely reorganizing his department and takes a cautious approach to his diplomacy so far. Reports soon emerged that Haley may be required to have her public statements pre-approved by the State Department, but whether she agrees remains to be seen.

Four days later, on April 28, Tillerson’s message in the Security Council session on North Korea was about partnership, stressing not only American fears — the stock rhetoric of the Trump White House — but also the anxieties of Asian nations and the wider world. “The more we bide our time, the sooner we will run out of it,” Tillerson said to a chamber full of UN ambassadors, whom he thanked for their presence. “I urge this Council to act before North Korea does.”

Tillerson’s demand for action — beginning “today,” he said — included familiar complaints from Washington; for example, doing a better job of enforcing UN resolutions aimed at bringing North Korea to a nuclear stand-down. He called for new financial sanctions on anyone, individual or country, who is supporting or abetting North Korea in its nuclear and missile development — thus defying the sanctions regime, the strictest set imposed by the UN on a member country. No higher-level sanctions on, say, digital activities that violate UN penalties, were mentioned.

He also asked all 193 UN member nations to “suspend or downgrade diplomatic relations with North Korea,” saying that the regime of Kim Jong-un was exploiting its diplomatic openings and privileges to fund its technology programs, particularly for its military. And he emphasized the importance of imposing bans on North Korean imports, especially coal. He called for suspending the guest-worker program that bring laborers into various countries who can become agents of the Kim Jong-un regime.

He singled out China. “We must all do our share, but with China accounting for 90 percent of North Korean trade, China alone has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique, and its role is therefore particularly important,” Tillerson said. “The US and China have held productive exchanges on this issue, and we look forward to further actions that build on what China has already done.”

Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, in his address to the Council, refused to accept that it was up to his country alone to solve the North Korea problem. “The key to solving the nuclear issue on the peninsula does not lie in the hands of the Chinese side,” he said. China has preferred to deal with the North Korea issue in multination talks, although these have gained little ground in the past.

The Chinese minister told the media before the Council session that his country’s priorities are denuclearization of North Korea, upholding the nonproliferation regime there, peace talks and not to allow “chaos or war to break out on the peninsula.”

Tillerson repeated the long-held position that “all options” were on the table in dealing with North Korea, as Vice President Mike Pence repeated throughout his trip to Northeast Asia.

“Diplomatic and financial levers of power will be backed by a willingness to counteract North Korean aggression with military action, if necessary,” Tillerson said. But he did not repeat Trump’s recent offhand remark that he would meet with Kim Jong-un if the situation required it. Nor did he refer to the cyberwarfare powers that the US has at its disposal, which Washington does not confirm or deny have been used to abort or destroy North Korean missiles after their launchings.

Russia, for its part, emphasized the toll that sanctions took on ordinary North Koreans and said that although Russia was united in condemning in North Korea’s missile launchings, the government won’t give up its nuclear program as long as it feels threatened by US naval exercises in the region.

Speaking to the Council first, Guterres of the UN described North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile firings in recent years as “clear violations of Security Council resolutions.”

He pointed out that these actions have violated numerous international agreements, including maritime law and aviation regulations.

Moreover, Guterres said, “The International Atomic Energy Agency remains unable to access the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] to verify the status of its nuclear program,” though it does have sophisticated satellite monitoring in place.

“The DPRK is the only country to have conducted nuclear tests in this century,” Guterres noted. “We must assume that, with each test or launch. The DPRK continues to make technological advances in its pursuit of a military nuclear capability. . . . The onus is on the DPRK to comply with its international obligations. At the same time, the international community must also step up its efforts to manage and reduce tensions.”

In his concluding remarks, speaking as the US representative and not the Council presiding officer, Tillerson re-emphasized the crucial importance of a truly international effort beyond the calls for more negotiations.

“We will not negotiate our way back to the negotiating table with North Korea,” he said. “We will not reward their violations of past resolutions. We will not reward their bad behavior with talks. We will only engage in talks with North Korea when they exhibit a good-faith commitment to abiding by the Security Council resolutions and their past promises to end their nuclear programs.

“And that is why we must have full and complete compliance by every country to the resolutions that have been enacted by this body in the past — no relaxation in the vigorous implementation of sanctions. . . . Any failure to take action diminishes your vote for these resolutions of the past, and diminishes your vote for future resolutions, and it devalues your seat at this Council. We must have full, complete compliance by all members of the Council.”

Leaving the Council after the hourslong session and skirting the media throng outside the chamber, Tillerson walked with Haley to the US mission to the UN across the street, where Council members were treated to lunch.

(Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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Climate-Smart Agriculture – From Tanzania to Vietnamhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 16:52:53 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150208 Farmers clear weeds from a trench, which retains water and prevents soil erosion during rains, as part of the FAO project to strengthen capacity of farms for climate change in Kiroka, Tanzania. Credit: FAO

Farmers clear weeds from a trench, which retains water and prevents soil erosion during rains, as part of the FAO project to strengthen capacity of farms for climate change in Kiroka, Tanzania. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

As part of efforts to move towards “climate-smart” agriculture, several countries have shared In a meeting in Rome new experiences on how to produce food in ways that help farmers cope with the impacts of climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture.

The exchange took place at a special 26 April side-event during a session of the UN Food and Agriculture OrganizationFAO’s executive Council.

While countries are embarking on the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions –the actions nations are taking under the Paris Agreement– the event provided an opportunity to learn from countries that have championed climate-smart agriculture in different regions, FAO informed.

Climate-smart agriculture is an approach aimed at transforming food systems. It involves pursuing sustainable productivity increases while implementing climate adaptation strategies and reducing greenhouse gas emissions where possible, to achieve food security in the face of increasing climate change.

Tanzania

In Tanzania, the UN specialised body reports, estimated loss in the agriculture sector due to climate change is about 200 million dollars per year.

To tackle this problem the government has brought the climate agenda in line with agriculture development and food security policies, and climate change considerations are now mainstreamed into national development planning and budget allocations, it added.

Tanzania also intends to invest more in research on climate-smart agriculture to inform decision-making and involve private partners to catalyse additional investment in the sector.

The national policy focus in Tanzania has hence shifted towards building resilience of agricultural and food production systems in the face of climate change and fostering adoption of climate smart agriculture, particularly among vulnerable, smallholder farmers, according to FAO.

For example, rice-farming techniques that use less water were introduced several years ago in five Tanzanian regions –Morogoro, Iringa, Lake Zone, Shinyanga and Mbeya– are used now by around 30 per cent of all rice producers in those areas.

The farmers have already seen their yields increase while using less water resources – which is particularly important for these drought-prone areas – and are eager to switch to new varieties of rice seeds.

Conservation agriculture practices, implemented in the Lake Zone, have also shown their efficiency, the UN agency said.

These have included the use of improved seed varieties of cassava, maize, sorghum and cotton, which are tolerant to droughts and water scarcity, and the use of organic fertilizers such as manure to increase soil fertility. As a result, the productivity in the areas practicing conservation agriculture has increased by about four times compared to the traditionally cultivated areas.

National researchers have also developed special breeds of high-yielding dairy cows and introduced them to livestock farmers in the field enabling them to cut down the number of cattle while increasing their income. This in turn has helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions in livestock production and prevent grazing damage to crops.

Vietnam

In Vietnam, about 700 000 hectares of rice and other food crops were heavily damaged by climate-induced natural disasters in 2016. As a result, rice production fell by 800 000 tons, and about 1.1 million people in affected areas were put at a greater risk of food insecurity.

To reverse the dire situation, numerous climate change adaptation and disaster-risk management measures have been implemented at national, subnational and local levels.

For example, rice cultivation area in several Central provinces has been converted to other crops such as fruit trees and grapes, which require less water for raising and can serve as an alternative source of income for farmers. When weather permits, the land can be easily switched back to rice production.

On sloping land areas of Vietnam’s Northern mountainous regions and Central provinces, annual food crops are intercropped with forests, fruit or industrial trees, reported FAO.

Such agro-forestry systems help farmers diversify their income, control soil erosion, and improve ecosystems and the environment. In addition, they help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sequester carbon.

Integrating crops or forests with aquaculture is also widely practiced in Vietnam. For example, the ecological shrimp-mangrove forests in the country’s coastal provinces provide sustainable livelihoods for vulnerable coastal communities while protecting natural resources.

“Furthermore, organic farming products can fetch premium prices due to the high food safety standards employed in their production. With more than 180 000 hectares of the shrimp-mangrove forests having been cultivated to date, farmers are receiving a stable income of 1 600 dollars per hectare per year. Meanwhile, the coastal protection value is estimated at about 800 dollars per hectare per year.”

In household pig production, livestock farmers are being encouraged to use bio-digesters, which allow them to convert wastes into biogas used for daily cooking and lighting. They also create nutrient-rich slurry for fertilizing paddy rice fields. More than 35 000 bio-digesters have already been installed, which resulted in a 40 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

During the FAO-hosted event, the participants also highlighted the importance of embedding climate-smart agriculture in national policies and programmes, and promoting climate-smart practices in the field through trainings and farmer field schools in various ecological zones.

They also stressed the need to provide accurate climate information to farmers, and investing in evidence-based research on climate-smart agriculture.

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20 Million People Could ‘Starve to Death’ in Next Six Monthshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:49:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150200 A livestock owner in Yemen tends her goats. Livestock production fell by more than 35 per cent in 2016 compared to the pre-crisis period. Credit: FAO

A livestock owner in Yemen tends her goats. Livestock production fell by more than 35 per cent in 2016 compared to the pre-crisis period. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

Urgent action is needed to save the lives of people facing famine in North Eastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, the UN leading food and agriculture agency’s chief on April 28 warned. “If nothing is done, some 20 million people could starve to death in the next six months.”

“Famine does not just kill people, it contributes to social instability and also perpetuates a cycle of poverty and aid dependency that endures for decades,” the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) the Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva added.

At a media briefing ahead of the conclusive session of the this UN specialised agency’s executive arm—the FAO Council, he launched a new appeal for voluntary contributions, that are “of vital importance to FAO, now more than ever.”

“I will be always committed to finding more savings and promoting more efficiency, as I have done over the last five years. But I have already cut to the bone. There is no more fat left.”

On this, Graziano da Silva emphasised the need to work with everyone on the basis of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development –“Leaving No One Behind”, in order to save all the affected people.

He also announced that agreement will be signed among FAO and the other two Rome-based UN agencies: the International Fund for Agriculture (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP) on how to tackle the current famine in those 4 countries– Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

The FAO Council, which has met in FAO-headquarters in Rome on 24 – 28 April, convenes between sessions of the main Conference to provide advice and oversight related to programmatic and budgetary matters.

The Council’s 49 elected members have been briefed on the extent of the hunger crises, and the steps required to preventing catastrophe.

Making Funds Go Further

The organisation’s executive body has also approved FAO‘s Programme of Work and Budget 2018-2019, which prioritises areas where FAO can deliver the greatest impact to member countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable agriculture production, water scarcity management, and building the resilience of poor family farmers.

Famine has officially been declared by the South Sudanese government for some parts of the country. Credit: FAO

Famine has officially been declared by the South Sudanese government for some parts of the country. Credit: FAO

Food and agriculture are central to the sustainable development agenda, and FAO’s work is projected to contribute to the achievement of 40 targets across 15 of the 17 goals.

Ahead of the FAO Council’s meeting, Graziano da Silva had on 25 April stated in Geneva that a combination of food assistance and food production assistance is the only way to avoid famine in conflict-ridden Yemen where two-thirds of the population –17 million people– are suffering from severe food insecurity.

“As the conflict continues, food security and nutrition will also continue to deteriorate,” he stressed in his address to a United Nations High-Level Pledging conference for Yemen organised in Geneva and co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Sweden.

“To put these figures into perspective, we are talking about the double of Switzerland’s population being unable to meet their basic daily food needs.”

He stressed how livelihoods support, especially for agriculture and fishing, must be an integral part of the international community’s response to the crisis in Yemen.

Over 17 Million Yemenis, Acutely Food Insecure

More than 17 million people around Yemen’s rugged landscape are acutely food insecure, and the figure is likely to increase as the on-going conflict continues to erode the ability to grow, import, distribute and pay for food, Graziano da Silva wrote on IPS.

“More than 7 million people are on the verge of famine, while the rest are marginally meeting the minimum day-to-day nutritional needs thanks to external humanitarian and livelihoods support. Large-scale famine is a real risk that will cast an awful shadow for generations to come.”

According to Graziano da Silva, only a political solution can end the suffering in Yemen, as there can be no food security without peace. And the longer the delay to draft an adequately funded recovery plan, the more expensive the burden will be in terms of resources and human livelihood.

In 2016, agriculture production in Yemen and the area under cultivation shrank by 38 per cent due to the lack of inputs and investments. Livestock production fell by 35 per cent.

“Agricultural assistance in a humanitarian crisis can no longer be an afterthought,” the FAO Director-General said. “We need to seize every opportunity to support communities in Yemen to continue producing food, even under difficult circumstances.”

In Geneva, Graziano da Silva met Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghr, for talks on FAO’s support to the country to deliver emergency livelihood assistance and kick-start food production, especially when resources pledged to tackle the crisis are concretely made available.

The Geneva pledging conference on April 25 mobilised half of the 2,1 billion dollars urgently required to rescue the starving Yemeni population.

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Kenya Is Doing Its Part to Battle Drought, We Must Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/kenya-is-doing-its-part-to-battle-drought-we-must-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-is-doing-its-part-to-battle-drought-we-must-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/kenya-is-doing-its-part-to-battle-drought-we-must-too/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:11:58 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Aida Mengistu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150190 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya and Aida Mengistu, Acting Head, OCHA Regional Office for Southern and Eastern Africa.]]> Mother and son wait outside health centre in Bandarero, Marsabit County, Kenya. 3 March 2017. Credit: OCHA/FARAH DAKHLALLAH

Mother and son wait outside health centre in Bandarero, Marsabit County, Kenya. 3 March 2017. Credit: OCHA/FARAH DAKHLALLAH

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Aida Mengistu
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

After three years of drought and failed harvests, Kenya is in the grip of a national crisis.

All eyes are on neighbouring Somalia and South Sudan – where the needs are indeed greater and more acute – but we must not forget the nearly 3 million Kenyans whose lives have been blighted by these extreme conditions.

Kenya has allocated US$128 million towards the national drought response effort, expanded social safety nets, and is working with the international community to mitigate the impacts of the drought on the most vulnerable.

But the US$166 million appeal launched by the UN and partners in March 2017 has raised a mere 18 per cent of its funding target, US$10.3 million of which from the UN’s own Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien speaks to a mother at a UN-supported health centre in Marsabit County, Kenya. 3 March 2017. Credit: UN/@SIDCHAT1

Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien speaks to a mother at a UN-supported health centre in Marsabit County, Kenya. 3 March 2017. Credit: UN/@SIDCHAT1


If donors don’t step up funding immediately, millions of families in dire need will be left to fend for themselves. Half of all Kenyan counties have been directly affected by the drought.

Governments that respond to humanitarian needs must be rewarded with support, not penalised by an international community that looks the other way. This will only deepen the Horn of Africa’s humanitarian crisis.

Thousands of Kenyans are on the move – escaping thirst, hunger and disease. The number of people facing severe food insecurity – 2.6 million – has tripled in less than a year. Even more have trouble accessing clean water. Children are suffering from acute malnutrition and preventable diseases like diarrhoea, measles and cholera.

Consider this, as many as 19,000 children’s lives are lost each year in Kenya due to malnutrition.

Children queue for a school meal in Marsabit County, Kenya. 3 March 2017. Credit: OCHA/FARAH DAKHLALLAH

Children queue for a school meal in Marsabit County, Kenya. 3 March 2017. Credit: OCHA/FARAH DAKHLALLAH


The situation would have been far worse had the Kenyan Government, the Kenyan Red Cross, the private sector, and the humanitarian community not stepped in earlier this year – declaring a national drought disaster and tapping into early warning and emergency preparedness systems, public-private partnerships and social safety nets.

The Kenya Food Security Steering Group who have been monitoring food insecurity trends across the country. Its data and analysis helps to alert to growing needs and inform the response, which is coordinated through the National Drought Management Authority.

The Government is financing livestock insurance from private companies to sustain thousands of vulnerable pastoralists whose herds have been decimated by drought.

Supported by Equity Bank, the Kenya Hunger Safety Net Programme (HSNP) oversees cash transfers to thousands of vulnerable residents in the country’s arid northern counties.

Here is a Government that is doing its part, but the rest of the world is not.

Without assistance, Kenya’s severely food insecure population could surge to 4 million during the second quarter of 2017. Thousands more children will drop out of school and more herders will cross borders in search of pastures. Tensions will rise and diseases will spread.

The international community can stop this from happening by getting behind Kenya’s drought response effort, which is so critical to the security and stability of the Horn of Africa.

With US$20 million we could stem the spread of cholera and diarrhoea by providing access to clean water and sanitation. An additional US$30 million would finance supplementary feeding for 545,000 children over six months in areas like Turkana, Marsabit and Mandera where global acute malnutrition rates are at double the emergency threshold.

With US$166 million, we would enable nearly 3 million people to get through this devastating crisis.

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable,” says an African proverb. Let’s put our sticks in a bundle to make Kenya’s drought response – and its communities – unbreakable.

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IPS Journalists Who Perished in the Line of Dutyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/ips-journalists-who-perished-in-the-line-of-duty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ips-journalists-who-perished-in-the-line-of-duty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/ips-journalists-who-perished-in-the-line-of-duty/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 11:44:12 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150159

This article is part of special IPS coverage of World Press Freedom Day.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 26 2017 (IPS)

In the politically-risky world of professional journalism, news reporters are fast becoming an endangered species.

The numbers are staggering: some 1,236 journalists have been killed since 1992, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

In 2016 alone, 48 journalists were killed worldwide – and in the first few months in 2017 there have been 8 deaths. The “deadliest countries” for journalists include Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and Mexico, where international news organizations took the heaviest toll.

But Inter Press Service (IPS) was not spared the agony either.

The news agency, which has relentlessly covered the developing world for over 53 years, has suffered both under repressive authoritative regimes and also in war-ravaged countries where IPS journalists have either been detained, tortured or beaten to death in the line of duty in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

Richard de Zoysa

Richard de Zoysa

But for most surviving families, the tragedy has been doubly devastating because the killer or killers have never been apprehended, prosecuted or convicted in any court of law in their respective home countries—or in some cases their bodies never recovered.

The most glaring example was the fate of 30-year-old Richard de Zoysa, the IPS Bureau Chief in Sri Lanka, who was abducted, tortured, killed and dropped from a helicopter into the ocean – a crime reportedly perpetrated by “death squads”. His bloated body was washed ashore in the suburbs of Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital.

The horrendous politically-motivated crime, which took place in February 1990, is still one of the unresolved murders after 27 long years.

In 2006, Alla Hassan, the IPS correspondent in Iraq, was shot and killed while driving to work in a war zone where killings were routine with little or no rule of law.

And in Argentina in the mid-1970s, two IPS journalists, Luis Guagnini and Roberto Carri, were both abducted at the end of their working day in the IPS Bureau in Buenos Aires – and their dead bodies were never recovered.

In a February 2013 piece titled “Censorship by Murder Will Not Silence Truth”, IPS Regional Editor for Asia Kanya d’Almeida wrote that even though Sri Lanka experienced a “reign of terror” battling two insurgencies in the South and the North in the 1990s, “no one expected that one of its victims would be Richard de Zoysa.”

She described him as “the progeny of two powerful Colombo families, star of the English-language stage, a well-known newscaster and bureau chief of the Rome-based Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency, whose dispatches on Sri Lanka throughout the 1980s earned him a reputation at home and abroad as an exceptionally prolific writer.”

Juan Gelman, Director of the Latin American Bureau of IPS, based first in Buenos Aires between 1974 and 1977 and then in Rome, recounts the disappearance of two IPS journalists – Luis Guagnini and Roberto Carri—in the mid 1970s.

“Just days after the funeral, the media received a directive from the government: no more mention of Richard de Zoysa — not in print, not in pictures, not on the radio. If murder would not suffice to silence him, then censorship would have to be the next best thing.”
The kidnappings, like most such kidnappings at that time, were attributed to para-military groups, such as the self-styled Triple A comprising the Argentinian Anti-Communist Alliance —  which was largely held responsible for the murder of over 2,000 trade union leaders, students and leftist intellectuals.

Writing in “The Journalists Who Turned the World Upside Down”, a publication recounting the history of IPS, Gelman says the result was striking: 30,000 “desaparecidos”–  a term which encompasses four concepts: the kidnapping of unarmed citizens, their torture, their murder and the disappearance of their bodies.

“At the beginning of 1975, the Triple A had IPS in its sights, and the difficulties of obtaining information were multiplying,” says Gelman.

In an act of solidarity, then IPS Director General Roberto Savio decided to relocate the Latin American network to Rome, a task shared by four colleagues.

Every day, news arrived from the southern part of South America about killings and “disappearances” that the agency would punctually distribute. Several IPS journalists had to flee and rebuild their personal and professional lives in exile. This was not easy, but many managed, says Gelman.

In the case of de Zoysa, he was murdered on the eve of his relocation from Colombo to Lisbon as the new IPS Bureau Chief in Europe.

As de Almeida recounted: “On the third day after de Zoysa had been bundled into a jeep by six armed men (one of whom his mother Dr. Manorani Saravanamuththu, would identify as a high-ranking police officer in the president’s detail), wearing nothing but a sarong around his waist, a fisherman bobbing about on the Indian Ocean just off the coast of Moratuwa, a seaside suburb south of Colombo, hauled a floating corpse into his narrow boat and rowed it ashore.”

And although bullet wounds and three days in salt water had eaten away at the handsome 30-year-old, his mother, called in by a magistrate defying government orders to “dispose” of bodies without due process, recognised him.

The news sparked a massive public outcry among Colombo’s elite: louder, even, than the collective fury over the roughly 40,000 deaths that had preceded de Zoysa’s in that black decade, wrote de Almeida.

“Just days after the funeral, the media received a directive from the government: no more mention of Richard de Zoysa — not in print, not in pictures, not on the radio. If murder would not suffice to silence him, then censorship would have to be the next best thing.”

His last dispatch from Colombo was titled “Sri Lanka: Nearing a Human Rights Apocalypse.”

In late 1990, at a ceremony held at the United Nations, IPS posthumously bestowed its annual “International Achievement Award” on de Zoysa for his excellence in journalistic reporting and his news accounts of the killings of students by death squads in Sri Lanka.

But Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations was instructed by the Foreign Ministry in Colombo to reject the invitation and boycott the ceremony — even though more than a hundred diplomats turned out for the event.

The killings of journalists have been mostly in war ravaged or conflict-ridden countries. But Sri Lanka was neither– although successive governments were battling insurgencies both in the country’s South and North.

After de Zoysa’s killing, the most prominent journalist to be murdered in Colombo was Lasantha Wickrematunge, editor-in-chief of the Sunday Leader, in January 2009.

Both were unfortunate deaths in the “fog of bloody insurgencies and Sri Lankan politics”, Sinha Ratnatunga, editor in chief of the Sri Lanka Sunday Times, told IPS.

But there was more to follow, including the abduction of editor Keith Noyar and Poddala Jayantha, and the disappearance of journalist Prageeth Ekneligoda.

As a tribute to the missing journalist, the US State Department named Sandhya Ekneligoda, wife of the slain journalist, for one of its “International Women of Courage” Awards.

Ekneligoda was nominated by the US Embassy in Colombo, for her work “pursuing justice in her own husband’s case, as well as on behalf of missing families from both Sinhalese and Tamil communities, as a profound symbol in Sri Lanka’s efforts towards justice and reconciliation.”

Asked about state of press freedom in Sri Lanka since the killings of de Zoysa and Wickrematunge, Ratnatunga told IPS the danger to media freedom in Sri Lanka is when one compares the environment today to what it was– rather than what it should be.

Clearly, media practitioners faced trying times in the bad old days, beginning with serial indictments against editors and publishers on archaic criminal defamation charges around 1995, followed by censorships on military news as a separatist insurgency gathered momentum.

Emergency regulations promulgated to combat terrorism saw the press caught in the crossfire and suffer collateral damage, said Ratnatunga, a former President of the Editors’ Guild.

By the early 2000s, he pointed out, the military had the upper-hand in a civilian Government desperate to end the blood-letting in the country.

The dreaded ‘white van’ (the mode of transport for those abducted) syndrome emerged.

“Journalists who were critical of the military were targeted; some were killed, others abducted and tortured. The LTTE guerrillas (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) fighting for a separate state on the island were equally merciless with those who critiqued them on their turf.”

With the end of the ‘war’ resulting in the capitulation of the guerrillas, the ‘white van’ syndrome began to fade away, but the bitter after-taste remained and political opponents of the then-Government flogged the issue to its advantage, he added.

As all new Governments do, said Ratnatunga, the 2015 Government that replaced the old regime promised the sun and the moon to the media. Sceptical were those who have seen it all before.

Not too long after, ensconced in power and place, the new Government began to lose patience with the vastly expanding media. They began a “Them” versus “Us” labeling policy but the cohabitation Government of the country’s two major political parties, operating under the euphemism ‘National Unity Government’, became a victim of its own intrigue.

He said the Media Ministry, the official Government newspaper group and state television were, on the surface, supporting the Unity Government against the Opposition, but within, tug-of-wars were taking place; so much so, the President appointed a committee of his party loyalists to ascertain why he was not getting due prominence in the state media – a not-so-thinly veiled message to those backing the Prime Minister.

The Sri Lankan media keeps growing; the print media retains its influence, new publications keep sprouting up and television stations vie for ratings with politics and entertainment as their staple diet while social media adds the spice – usually by not allowing facts to get in the way of a good gossipy story, Ratnatunga added.

To have a say in this vast labyrinth, powerful politicians egg on businessmen they have helped amass wealth to start up newspapers, TV and radio stations; and to control this growing ‘monster’ the Government is regulating the issue of frequencies to who they think are politically ‘questionable’ applicants, also embarking on a new initiative to have a Media (Standards) Commission.

Like their predecessors in office, he said, the new Government uses the ‘carrot and stick’ policy. Journalists, given houses, motorbikes and computers are now being offered compensation for political victimization and physical harassment of the past years.

The Sri Lankan media does live in interesting times, Ratnatunga declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

 

 

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Fate of Earth Must Not be Decided by US & Fellow Nuclear Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fate-of-earth-must-not-be-decided-by-us-fellow-nuclear-states/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 15:21:57 +0000 Joan Russow http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150115 Dr Joan Russow is Co-ordinator, Global Compliance Research Project]]> Credit: UN photo

Credit: UN photo

By Joan Russow
VICTORIA, BC, Canada, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

When the United Nations continues its negotiations in June for an international treaty against nuclear weapons, there must be a treaty that should cover every single aspect of the devastating weapons — and leading eventually to their total elimination from the world’s military arsenals.

As envisaged, the treaty should not only prohibit stockpiling; use and threat of use, and planning for use of nuclear weapons but also the deployment; transfer, acquisition, and stationing; development and production of these weapons—along with testing; transit and transshipment; and financing, assistance, encouragement, and inducement and an obligation for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and a framework to achieve it.(WILPH, Reaching Critical Will).

As Eva Walder, the Swedish representative to the UN’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, declared: “Sweden’s position is clear. The only guarantee that these weapons will never be used again is their total elimination.”

Through the current negotiations, there is the global opportunity to speak truth to power, to save the world from the scourge of war and to prevent and remove the threats to peace.

The US has stated that the treaty to ban nuclear weapons would be ineffective, with adverse consequences for security and would hinder the implementation of Article VI of the US constitution on international treaties.

It is, rather, NATO`s nuclear policy which contravenes Article VI, as well as some of the Thirteen Steps Towards Nuclear Disarmament, and has consequences for common security:

1) nuclear weapons must be maintained indefinitely
2) We will improve their use and accuracy (modernize them)
3) We can use them first.
4) We can target non-nuclear weapon states
5) We can threaten to use them
6) We can keep them in Europe, as they are now doing
7) We can launch some on 15 minutes warning.
8) We say “they are essential for peace
(Murray Thompson, Canadian for a Nuclear Weapons Convention)

In October 17 2016, prior to the vote of the Open Ended Working Group (OEWG) on Nuclear Weapons, the US circulated a “non-paper“, to NATO and its allies on potential negative impacts of starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty and wrote,“ for the allies, participating in the OEWG , we strongly urge you to vote no on any vote at the UN First Committee on starting negotiations for a nuclear ban treaty.“ http://www.icanw.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/NATO_OCT2016.pdf

Subsequently, in the October 27 2016 meeting of the OEWG, the US Intervention appeared to work. Only the Netherlands did not vote no. On December 23, 2016.the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a significant resolution to launch negotiations in 2017 on a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons.

The resolution was adopted by a large majority, with 113 UN member states voting in favour, 35 voting against and 13 abstaining. Support came from every continent, except Australia, and represented the range of legal systems. It thus fulfilled the criteria for a peremptory norm.

The US appears, however, to have provided a script for the US allies voting on the nuclear ban treaty; most of them gave the reason for voting against the resolution as being, “the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and they have refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”. Perhaps “security” needs to be redefined not distorted by the US weapons industry.

The late Olof Palme, former Prime Minister of Sweden, affirmed “True security exists when all are secure, through “common security” (Palme Commission (Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security) 1982)
http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/04/the-u-n-at-70-a-time-for-compliance/

The aforementioned October 17 2016 letter to the NATO and the script for allies at the UNGA, continues the practice of the US “influencing“ votes through financial incentives, threats, or intimidation (FITI),

For example, in 1990, only two countries on the UNSC opposed the passage of US Resolution 678, and when Yemen cast one of these votes, the U.S. Ambassador threatened him: “that will be the most expensive vote you ever cast,” and the U.S. immediately cut off aid to Yemen.

In 2003, several UNSC non-permanent members who opposed the US` proposed intervention in Iraq, suddenly came out with a US script supporting the invasion of Iraq. In addition, in 2003, the US sent a letter, described as an ultimatum, to all the members of the UNGA pressing them to not support the call for an emergency session of the UNGA to oppose the invasion of Iraq.

The data, based on UNGA voting patterns, provided in the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) document of participants in the March negotiations, indicates that there were 138 “supportive” states, one “not supportive” state (Japan), and 13 “not clear” states

The ICAN data on voting patterns of participants who did not attend the March negotiations indicate 14 were “supportive, five were “not clear”, 27 NATO states were “not supportive,” along with the other non-NATO nuclear weapons states (Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and other US allies from NATO along with Japan, and South Korea, http://www.icanw.org/

If the 14 supportive states attend the upcoming June 15– July 7 meeting, there will be around 143 “supportive` states” (70% of the 193 member states of the United Nations). This would be the case, provided the US does not threaten or offer financial incentives and persuade them to claim “that the US nuclear weapons are essential for its security and has refused to declare that nuclear weapons should never be used”`.

If there is a positive vote in the UNGA, the US and the four other permanent members will try to block decision through taking any UNGA decision to the UNSC. With the current composition of the UNSC, the nuclear powers will be able to get “not supportive” votes from only three non-permanent members: Italy, Japan and Ukraine.

This is assuming that Bolivia Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Senegal. Sweden, and Uruguay will not be coerced into renouncing their former supportive positions for a treaty for the abolition of nuclear weapons. If the required number of nine votes does not oppose the treaty, the UNSC would fail to make a decision. Then there is a precedent in the 1950 “Uniting for Peace Resolution” and the decision could pass back to the UNGA. http://www.un.org/en/sc/repertoire/otherdocs/GAres377A(v).pdf

In the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations, there is a call to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war – and “to maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace”…

In 2017, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday clock to two and one half minutes to midnight because of the threats arising both from nuclear weapons and climate change. The funds thus saved from ending the production of nuclear weapons could be transferred to fully implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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Women Clearing Bombs in Cambodiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 14:27:52 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150110 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia/feed/ 0 Building resilient rural livelihoods is key to helping Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/building-resilient-rural-livelihoods-is-key-to-helping-yemen/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 08:37:39 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150106 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).]]> Al Hudaydah, Yemen.  Dairy cattle seek shade. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. Dairy cattle seek shade. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

People in Yemen are currently suffering from the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

More than 17 million people around Yemen’s rugged landscape are acutely food insecure, and the figure is likely to increase as the ongoing conflict continues to erode the ability to grow, import, distribute and pay for food. More than 7 million people are on the verge of famine, while the rest are marginally meeting the minimum day-to-day nutritional needs thanks to external humanitarian and livelihoods support. Large-scale famine is a real risk that will cast an awful shadow for generations to come.

Only a political solution can end the suffering in Yemen, as there can be no food security without peace. And the longer the delay to draft an adequately funded recovery plan, the more expensive the burden will be in terms of resources and human livelihood.

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

Keep in mind that Yemen has a very young population, yet some 2.2 million children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition. As inadequate nutrition in a child’s early years can permanently damage an individual’s lifetime potential, it is imperative to stop a generational doomsday loop.

To prevent the food security situation from worsening, immediate livelihoods support – mainly agriculture and fishing – must be an integral part of the humanitarian response. This year, FAO Yemen is appealing for USD 48.4 million in funding to reach 3 million people.

While Yemen is widely noted as being dependent upon imports for almost all of its wheat and rice demands, people can and do produce a lot of food on their own. This requires the provision of seeds, fertilizers and fuel for equipment and irrigation to the 2 million households who currently lack access to such basic agricultural inputs.

In 2016, agricultural production and area under cultivation shrank by 38 percent due to this lack of inputs. Livestock production fell by 35 percent. The situation in 2017 is not expected to improve without the international community’s intervention.

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A female dairy farmer milks her cow.  Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A female dairy farmer milks her cow. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli


FAO is on the ground in Yemen, working around the clock to deliver emergency livelihood assistance to kick-start food production. This assistance comprises inputs like quick turnaround backyard food production kits, which includes vegetable seeds, egg-laying chickens and rainwater storage tanks, solar pumps, feed, fertilizer, fishery boats, engines, fishing nets and continuous operational equipment and material support.

These home production kits, designed to help feed a household of 20 people for six months, constitute cost-effective humanitarian assistance that can be scaled up to reach more people more quickly. This is especially pertinent for internally displaced people – who now constitute more than 10 percent of the population, and the vast majority of whom traditionally relied on agriculture and livestock. They now live in camps, with relatives or on empty lots and helping them relieve pressure on host communities can pay a double dividend in terms of food and social cohesion.

The kits also have the virtue of being simple, and in the case of Yemen – enduring a combination of several worst-case scenarios at once – simple translates into being implementable.

Simplicity is especially essential to support isolated rural households, almost half of whom live more than six kilometres from any local market at a time when travel is dangerous and roads have been destroyed. For many of these families, these food production kits are their only lifeline to food.

In a bid to restore agricultural livelihoods, FAO is also offering starter kits for beekeepers, replacing fishing equipment that has been destroyed or lost, and giving rural households modern butter churns that enable the production to increase tenfold and help offset Yemen’s serious dairy deficit.

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A livestock market. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli

Al Hudaydah, Yemen. A livestock market. Credit: FAO/Chedly Kayouli


As many families have had to sell their animals, a key productive asset, and restocking has slowed down due to lack of access to fodder, FAO is also distributing vouchers to distressed households in order to purchase livestock. At the same time, FAO is bolstering veterinary networks to vaccinate and treat ailing livestock as well as monitor and contain potential transboundary livestock diseases, which pose an enormous risk both for households living in Yemen’s remote and isolated areas as well as livestock trade across the region.

Making Yemen’s food system more sustainable will be a long-term effort, requiring important changes to which crops are grown and the rebooting or creation of value chains and improved logistics for what is destined to be the country’s primary economic sector. Agriculture already employs more than half of the workforce and is the main source of income for around 60 percent of households.

Even in peacetime, Yemen will face huge challenges, as only 4 percent of its land is arable and water resources are extremely limited. However, its people can and must be enabled to create a viable and more sustainable food system. This requires a simultaneous approach of providing humanitarian assistance along with resilience-building initiatives.

There is no time to lose. The alternative is dismal and threatens to catalyse more conflicts in the future, for there can be no peace without food security.

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