Inter Press ServiceCrime & Justice – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Food Sustainability, Migration, Nutrition and Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/food-sustainability-migration-nutrition-women/#respond Tue, 19 Jun 2018 18:02:14 +0000 Enrique Yeves http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156293 Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

By Enrique Yeves
ROME, Jun 19 2018 (IPS)

We worry about how we can continue to put food on our tables; and yet one-third of food is never eaten, instead being lost or wasted.

We worry about eating properly, and yet in many countries , poor nutrition, obesity and micronutrient deficiencies are increasingly common. This trend is taking place in the Americas, Oceania, Asia, Africa and in Europe.

Enrique Yeves

We want to empower women and girls, yet in every sector we still see serious disparities in terms of equal pay for equal wages and getting more women into senior management positions. We worry about the mass movement of people, many of them disenfranchised, and yet fail to stop the exploitation and even death that too often awaits those who try to migrate.

What is to be done? First, we must understand how each of these issues is interlinked and how they can be alleviated using an integrated approach involving agriculture, education, social services, health and infrastructure. If we channel development assistance in an integrated way, rather than towards specific sectors, we are more likely to achieve sustainable changes – these in turn can ease the burden of coordination and enhance our ability to help governments to achieve more effective and long term improvements.

For this to happen, we need the political will of governments to achieve change, coupled with adequate resources.

These issues are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Governments committed to the SDGs in 2015, pledging to end hunger, extreme poverty, and other social, environmental and health evils that have left over 815 million people undernourished, and in many areas barely surviving in squalid and inhumane conditions.

The role of governments is central. Only they can exert the political will to enforce the required changes and to set aside the critically needed resources.

The role of development organizations, including the UN, non-governmental organizations and international and regional financial institutions, is also critical. They exist to support governments determined to achieve the SDGs and in so doing to improve their overall social, economic and political wellbeing.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been working for over 70 years on both the policy front and on the ground, doing so globally, regionally, nationally and at the community level. We have been documenting the state of food insecurity in the world, exploring and emphasizing the all-important role of small producers in achieving food security. Small-scale farmers, fishers and foresters, constituting a vast number of the rural poor, are vulnerable to environmental and market forces often beyond their control. Yet it is they who, using tried and tested traditional systems enhanced where possible by improved technologies adapted to their needs, hold the keys to a world without hunger As FAO has documented, family farmers produce more than two-thirds of the world’s food, with smallholders producing more per unit of land.

In the long run, tackling the direct relationship between mass migration and poverty and instability entails addressing basic challenges in the countries that people are leaving, and by providing more integrated assistance to refugees to improve their health and capacity to earn livelihoods in the receiving countries.

An important but frequently underplayed aspect for governments in developing countries is their need for assistance in defining and quantifying their present situation through internationally accepted benchmarks. Reliable statistics are crucial in order to measure progress towards attainment of the SDGs and general progress in development.

FAO delivers a lot of services to its members in this regard. And the effort produces globally relevant information, some of it alarming. Right now, for example, the global number of undernourished people is estimated at 815 million and that figure is rising for the first time in more than a decade. The number of countries reliant on external food assistance is now 39, the highest it’s ever been since FAO started tracking.

Eradicating hunger is a lynchpin for the entire 2030 Agenda, and governments must raise awareness about why achieving the SDGs is critical. This effort will both enable and benefit from women’s empowerment.

Programmes such as food for work, food stamps or a mix of both – especially in situations where conflict or natural disaster have impacted local production – are all part of the toolkit and are demonstrably efficient in fostering women’s power and interests. Increasing access to food is a building block to goals ranging from nutrition to women’s rights and assuring resilient livelihoods for producers.

What is essential is to find synergies – not only to avoid wasteful duplication but to forge the basis for sustainable solutions. Otherwise our worries are in vain.

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Enrique Yeves is Director of Communications, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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Trump is Here to Stay and Change the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-stay-change-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/trump-stay-change-world/#respond Mon, 18 Jun 2018 15:05:37 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156274 Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality. If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump […]

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By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jun 18 2018 (IPS)

Donald John Trump, 45th and current president of the United States, has been seen in many illustrious circles as an anomaly that cannot last. Well, it is time to look at reality.

If we put on the glasses of people who have seen their level of income reduced and are afraid of the future, Trump is here to stay, and he is a result and not a cause.

Roberto Savio

In his year and a half of government, Trump has not lost one of his battles. He has changed the political discourse worldwide, established new standards of ethics in politics, a new meaning of democracy, and his electoral basis has not been shrinking at all.

His critics are the media (which a large majority of Americans dislike), the elite (which is hated) and professionals (who are considered to be profiting at the expense of the lower section of the middle class).

There is now a strong divide with the rural world, the de-industrialised parts of the United States, miners with their mine closed, etc. In addition, white Americans feel increasingly threatened by immigrants, minorities, corporations and industries which have been using the government to their advantage. At every election their number shrinks by two percent.

Let us not forget that Trump was elected by the vote of the majority of white woman, in a country which is the bedrock of feminism.

I know that this could create some irate reactions. The United States is home to some of the best universities in the world, the most brilliant researchers as shown by the number of Nobel prizes awarded , very good orchestras, libraries, museums, a vibrant civil society, and so on. But the sad reality is that those elites count, at best, for no more than 20 percent of the population.

In 80 percent of cases, TV news is the only source of information on international affairs. Newspapers are usually only local, with exception of a few (Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, in all less than ten), and have a readership of 35 percent of the population.

You have only to travel in the US hinterland to observe two striking facts: it is very rare to meet somebody who knows geography and history even minimally, and everybody is convinced that the United States has been helping the entire world for which nobody is grateful.

An investigation by the New York Times found out that Americans were convinced that their country has been giving at least 15 percent of its budget for support and philanthropy. In fact, in recent decades the real figure has been below 0.75 percent. At the same time, it has a number of institutes of international studies of the highest level with brilliant analysts, plus a large number of international NGOs. But only 34 percent of the member of the Senate, and 38 percent of members of the House of Representatives have a passport…

The country is divided into two worlds. Of course, the same happen in every country, and in Africa or Asia the division between elite and low-level population is even more extreme. But the United States is an affluent country, where for more than two centuries efforts have been made on the fronts of education and integration in a country which has also been called the “melting pot”, and where it is widely believed that it is the best – if not the only – democracy in the world.

Trump, therefore, has an easy and captive electorate, made up of strong believers, and we cannot understand why, if we do not go over the history of American politics, which is in fact parallel to the political history of Europe. The calls for a lengthy analysis which is what is missing in today’s media, and in which recent US politics can be divided (very roughly) into three historical cycles.

The first, from 1945 to 1981), saw the political class convinced that the priority was to avoid a new world war. For this, institutions for peace and cooperation had to be built, and individuals were to be happy with their status and destiny.

Internationally, that meant the creation of the United Nation, multilateralism as a way to negotiate on the basis of participation and consensus, and international cooperation as a way to help poor countries develop and reduce inequalities. Domestically, this was to be done by giving priority to labour over capital. Strong trade unions were created and in 1979 income from labour accounted for 70 percent of total income. A similar trend was also the seen in Europe.

The second cycle ran from 1981 to 2009, the year Barack Obama was named president. On behalf of the corporate world, Ronald Reagan had launched the neoliberal wave. He started by shutting down the trade union of air traffic controllers, and went on to dismantle much of the welfare and social net built over the previous four decades, eliminating regulations, giving free circulation to capital, creating unrestricted free trade, and so on.

That led to delocalisation of factories, the decline of trade unions and their ability to negotiate, and a very painful reduction of the labour share of wealth, which fell from 70 percent in 1979 to 63 percent in 2014, and has continued to decline ever since.

Unprecedented inequalities have become normal and accepted. Today, an employee at Live Nation Entertainment, an events promotion and ticketing company, who earns an average of 24, 000 dollars would need 2,893 years to earn the 70.6 million dollars that its CEO, Michael Rapino, earned last year.

Reagan had a counterpart in Europe, Margaret Thatcher, who dismantled trade unions, ridiculed the concept of community and common goods and aims (“… there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families …” ), partly followed by Gerard Schroeder in Germany. Globalisation became the undisputed new political vision, far from the rigid ideologies which had created communism and fascism, and were responsible for the Second World War. The market would solve all problems, and governments should keep their hands off.

Reagan was followed by Bush Sr., George H. W. Bush. who somewhat moderated Reagan’s policies. While he started the war with Iraq, he did not go on to invade the entire country. And he was followed by a Democrat, Bill Clinton, who did not challenge neoliberal globalisation but tried to ride it, showing that the left (in American terms) could be more efficient than the right. To give just one example, it was Clinton who completed deregulation of banks by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act which separated savings and investment banking. That led to the transfer of billions of dollars from savings to investments, or speculation, with the result that today banks consider customer activity less lucrative than investments, and finance has become a sector that is totally separate from the production of goods and services. There are now 40 times more financial transactions in one day than output from industry and services, and finance is the only sector of human activity without any international control body.

Markets are now more important than the vote of citizens given that, in many cases, it is they that decide the viability of a government. Furthermore, this has become a sector with no ethics: since the financial crisis of 2008, banks have paid a whopping amount of 321 billion dollars in penalties for illegal activities.

Clinton’s conviction that the left could be successful also had its counterpart in Europe, like Reagan had Thatcher. It was Tony Blair, who constructed a theoretical design for explaining the submission of the left to neoliberal globalisation: this was the so-called Third Way which was, in fact, was a centrist position that tried to reconcile centre-right economic and centre-left social policies.

However, it became clear that neoliberal globalisation was in fact lifting only a few boats and that capital without regulation was becoming a threat. Social injustices continued to increase and legions of people in the rural area felt that towns were syphoning off all revenues and that the elite was ignoring them, and unemployed workers and the impoverished middle class no longer felt old loyalties to the left, which was now considered representative of the elite and professionals.

In the United States the Democratic Party, which also held a neoliberal view with Clinton, began to change its agenda from an economic approach to one of human rights, defending minorities, Afro-Americans and immigrants, and advocating their inclusion in the system.

The fight was no longer between corporations and trade unions, and Obama was the result of that fight, the champion of human rights also as an instrument of international affairs. In fact, while he had a brilliant agenda on human rights, he did very little on the social and economic front, beside the law on national health. But his alliance of minorities and progressive whites was a personal baggage, who could not pass on to an emblematic figure of the establishment like Hillary Clinton.

That led to a new situation in American politics. Those on the left began to see defence of their identity (and their past) as the new fight, now that the traditional division between left and right had waned. Religious identity, national identity, fight against the system and those who are different, become political action.

It should be stressed that the same process happened in Europe, albeit in a totally different cultural and social situation. Those left out deserted the traditional political system to vote for those who were against the system, and promised radical changes to restore the glories of the past.

Their message was necessary nationalist, because they denounced all international systems as merely supporting the elites who were the beneficiaries. It was also necessarily to find a scapegoat, like the Jews in the thirties. Immigrants were perfect because they aroused fear and a perceived loss of traditional identity, a threat in a period of large unemployment.

The new political message from the newcomers was to empower those left out, those who felt fear, those who had lost any trust in the political class, and promise to give them back their sovereignty, reject intruders and take power away from the traditional elites, the professionals of politics, to bring in real people.

Since the end of the financial crisis in 2008 – which brought about even further deterioration of the social and economic situation) – those parties known as populist parties started to grow and they now practically dominate the political panorama.

In the United States, the Republicans of the Tea Party, radical right-wing legislators, were able to change the Republican party, pushing out those called compassionate conservatives because they had social concern. In Europe, the media were startled to see workers voting for Marine Le Pen in France, but the left had lost any legitimacy as representative of the lower incomes; technological change led to the disappearance of social identities, like workers.

In a period of crisis, there was no capability for redistribution. The left had now found itself in the middle of a crisis of identity and it will not emerge from it soon.

Let us now come to today. In November 2016, to universal amazement, (and his own) Trump was elected president of the United States, and just four months later, in March 2017, Brexit came as a rude awakening for Europe. The resentful and fearful went to the polls to get Great Britain out of Europe. The fact that the campaign was plagued by falsehood – recognised by the winners after the referendum – was irrelevant. Who was against Brexit? The financial system, the international corporations, the big towns like London, university professors: in other words, the system. That was enough.

Here, I have deliberately lumped together the United States and Europe (the European Union) to show that globalisation has had a global impact. A United States, which had been the creator and guarantor of the international system, started to withdraw from it under Reagan when he felt that it was becoming a straitjacket for the United States.

This started the decline of the United Nations: on American initiative, trade was taken away from the United Nations and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was created. Globalisation has two engines, trade and finance, and both are now out of the United Nations, which has become an institution for health, education, children, woman and other non-productive sectors, according to the market. It is no coincidence that Trump is now fighting against the globalisation that United States invented, and one of its main enemies is the WTO.

An old maxim is that people get the government they deserve. But we should also be aware that they are being pushed by a new alliance: the alternative right alliance. In all countries it has the same aim: destroy what exists. This network is fed at the same time by Russia and the United States. American alt-right ideologues like Steve Bannon are addressing European audiences to foster the end of the European Union, with clear support from the White House. The populists in power, like Viktor Orban in Hungary or Matteo Salvini in Italy (as well those not in power, like Le Pen) all consider Trump and Vladimir Putin as their points of references. Such alliances are new, and they will become very dangerous.

And now we come to Mr. Trump. After what has been said above, it is clear why he should be considered a symptom and not a cause, while his personality is obviously playing an additional important role. It should be noted that he has not lost any important battle since he came to power. He has been able to take over the Republican party completely, and it is now de facto the Trump Party.

In the primaries for the November 2017 elections (for all House of Representative seats and 50 percent of those of the Senate), he intervened to support candidates he liked, and their opponents always lost. In South Carolina, conservative Katie Arrington, who won against a much stronger opponent, Mark Sanford, declared in her acceptance speech: our party is the Trump party.

Trump knows exactly what his voters think, and he always acts in a way that strengthens his support, regardless of what he does. He is a known sexist, and is now involved in a scandal with a porno star? He has moved the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and he now has the support of the evangelists, a very large and puritan Protestant group which is an important source of votes. (Interestingly, Guatemala and Paraguay which decided to move their embassies to Jerusalem are also run by evangelists.)

Trump has refused to disclose his incomes and taxes, and he has not formally separated himself from his companies. In the United States, this is usually is enough to force people to resign.

He has removed from his cabinet all the representatives of finance and industry he had put in on his arrival (in order to be accepted by the establishment) and replaced them with right-wing hawks, highly efficient and not morons, from National Security Advisor John Bolton to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. He has managed to obtain Gina Hastel, a notorious torturer, as director of the CIA with the votes of Democrats.

He has turned his back on a highly structured treaty with Iran (and other four major countries) to forge a totally unclear agreement with North Korea, which creates problems with Japan, an American ally by definition. He has decided to side with Israel and Saudi Arabia against Iran, because that move has the support of a large American sector.

In addition to narcissism, what moves Trump are not values but money. He has quarreled with all historical allies of the United States and he is now engaging in a tariff war with them, while starting one with China, simply on the basis of money. However while erratic, Trump is not unpredictable. All that he has done, he announced during his electoral campaign.

Trump believes he is accountable to no one, and has created a direct relationship with his electors, bypassing the media. According to The Washington Post’s Fact Checker blog, which keeps track of Trump’s many misstatements, untruths and outright lies, he exceeded 3,000 untrue or misleading statements in his first 466 days – on average, 6.5 untruths a day. Nobody cares. Very few are able to judge.

When a president of United States announces that he is abandoning the treaty with Iran, because they are the main financier of ISIS and Al Qaida, the lack of public reaction is a good measure of the total ignorance of most Americans.

Americans have no idea that Islam is divided between Sunni and Shiite, and that the terrorists are Sunni and based on an extreme interpretation of Islam, Wahhabism, or Salafism. Iranians, who are not Arabs, are Shiite, and are considered apostate by the Sunni extremists; Iran has lost thousands of men in the fight against ISIS.

This ignorance helps Trump win Republican voters, no matter what.

The fact that Trump knows exactly what his voters feel and think feeds his narcissism. After his meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, at a press conference he said of previous US presidents: “I don’t think they’ve ever had the confidence, frankly, in a president that they have right now for getting things done and having the ability to get things done”.

He does not tolerate any criticism or dissent, as his staff well knows. The result is that he is surrounded by yes men, like no president before. His assistant for trade, Peter Navarro, has declared that there should be a special place in hell for foreign leaders who disagree with Trump.

According to the large majority of economists, the tariff war that he has now started now with US allies plus China will bring growth down all over the world, but nobody reacts in the United States. It is all irrelevant to his voters. He now has a 92 percent rate of confidence, the highest since the United States has existed.

Considering all he has done in less than two years against the existing order leads us to consider that the real danger is that he will be re-elected, and leave office only in 2024. By then, the changes in ethics and style will have become really irreversible.

With many candidates in various countries looking to him as a political example, he will certainly be able to change the world in which we have grown and which, albeit with many faults, has been able to bring about growth and peace.

It is true that the traditional political system needs a radical update, and it does appear able to do so. Meanwhile, it is difficult to foresee how a world based on nationalism and xenophobia – with a strong increase in military spending worldwide, and many other global problems from climate change to no policy for migration, and a global debt that has reached 225 percent of GNP in ten years – will be able to live without conflicts,

What we do know is that the world which emerged from the Second World War, based on the idea of peace and development, the world which is in our constitutions, will disappear.

Democracy, can be a perfect tool for the legitimacy of a dictator. This is what is happening in the various Russias, Turkeys, Hungarys or Polands. A strongman wins the elections, then starts to make changes to the constitution in order to have more power. The next step is to place cronies in institutional positions, reduce the independence of the judiciary, control the media, and so on. That is then followed by acting in name of the majority, against minorities.

This is not new in history. Hitler and Mussolini were at first elected, and today many “men of providence” are lining up.

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Europe, Sharing the Love?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-sharing-love http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:42:42 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156249 Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries. On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly […]

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Mediterranean waters in Spain. Credit: Photo by David Aler on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries.

On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly operated by the NGOs‘SOS Mediterranée’ and ‘Doctors Beyond Borders’ (MSF), from docking at Italian ports. There were 629 migrants on the ship. Among them where 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women.

The Italian coastguard coordinated the rescue operation but after moving the migrants to the Aquarius, the new Italian government denied access to Italian harbours. Malta, similarly when asked by Italy to accept the boat and take care of the relief, denied responsibility.

In recent years Italy has been at the forefront of a constant wave of migration from North Africa and has provided a huge amount of support by allowing the vessels into Italian ports. Malta also, with its relatively small population has accepted a large number of migrants despite its fewer than 450 000 inhabitants and small land size.

While public opinion, activists, policymakers, local officials and news agencies have criticised the latest decision by the Italian Government, the Government has also given to understand that it is working towards a solution with other European governments, given the very real humanitarian concerns involved in migration to its shores and those of other Mediterranean countries.

Similarly several local officials in Italy have condemned the hardline stance, such as the mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando and the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, the latter stating that “…the port of Naples is ready to welcome” the migrants. “We are humans, with a great heart. Naples is ready, without money, to save human lives” he tweeted on June 10.

A breakthrough in the situation occurred only when Spain’s newly elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, decided to welcome the 629 migrants after the mayors of Valencia and Barcelona both offered to take the boat in at their ports. “It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people” Sánchez’s office said.

As of 15 June, 792 migrants have either died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean, says the UN Migration Agency (IOM). This number represents a decrease compared to the last three years, as deaths in the same period, were 1,836 in 2017, 2,899 in 2016 and 1,806 in 2015.

However, this situation is still represents a shameful paradox in our century. In 2017, migrants dead or missing while crossing the Mediterranean waters were 3,116 and the EU initiatives and allocations of funds have not been able to avoid these tragedies. In 2018 alone, of the 52,389 people who attempted to cross the Mediterraneam rim, 792 died, making the death rate 1.5%. The deadliest route in 2018 is – as of June 15 – the central route (503 deaths), as opposed to going by the western route (244) or the east (45).

 

 

The timing of the Aquarius’ events may not be completely coincidental, as there is an EU meeting at the end of June that will consider changing the rule that asylum must be claimed in the country of first entry.

That is the rule that has put Italy on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis. If considered in this light, the latest Italian decision, could be viewed as a bid for a domestic political win, as dissatisfaction of Italian public opinion towards migration flows has been steadily increasing in recent years. It remains to be seen what will be the political outome at the EU level.

While France’s government deeply criticized Italy’s decision to deny Aquarius’ docking, other countries, such as Hungary, praised Rome’s decision. Viktor Orban, the anti-migration prime minister said that Salvini’s decision is a “great moment which may truly bring changes in Europe’s migration policies.”

After being abandoned for four days, those migrants feared they were going back to Libya, a nightmare that obviously any of them wanted to consider. On November 2017, a CNN report on slave auctions in Libya had prompted international outrage over a slave market operating in the country.

Ben Fishman, an analyst from The Washington Institute, has highlighted what are the root causes of the growth of this general abuse of African migrants in Libya. “First” he wrote in a policy paper right after the CNN report was published, “many traffickers exploit migrants’ desperation to reach Europe, often trapping them in Libya. These traffickers enjoy free rein in Libya exploiting the country’s lawlessness in the same manner that the Islamic State did in 2015-2016 when it took control of Sirte.

Smugglers and gangs overlap with the militia landscape, making it extremely difficult to curtail the activities of one group without impacting the overall profit stream”. Fishman also added that “the main push factors that compel migrants to risk these treacherous journeys – namely, poverty, and lack of opportunities […] have not been adequately addressed”. In 2015 the EU had established a 3.2 billion euros fund to facilitate migration management at the point of origin in Africa but this EU-led initiative clearly needs to be greatly expanded.

Many analysts and activists urge the EU to address the migration crisis in an adequate and sustainable manner. Migration flows will continue, especially if policy responses remain as weak as they are at the moment. The EU needs to implement a comprehensive framework that deals both with the situation in Libya and with the points of origins in Africa, as well as with the welcoming policies implemented by the receiving countries in Europe.

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From Fake News to a Fake Deathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fake-news-fake-death/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fake-news-fake-death http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fake-news-fake-death/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 00:01:38 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156225 When news broke on May 29th that journalist Arkady Babchenko had been murdered in Ukraine, serious questions about the safety of journalists in the country were raised. When news broke less than 24-hours later that Babchenko’s murder had been staged by the Ukrainian security service, serious questions about the credibility of journalists in the country […]

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Arkady Babchenko. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Ed Holt
KIEV, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

When news broke on May 29th that journalist Arkady Babchenko had been murdered in Ukraine, serious questions about the safety of journalists in the country were raised.

When news broke less than 24-hours later that Babchenko’s murder had been staged by the Ukrainian security service, serious questions about the credibility of journalists in the country were raised."Now we know we should check everything the authorities say not twice, but three or four times." --Anna Babinec

Now, say global press freedom advocates, efforts to keep journalists in Ukraine and other parts of the world safe have only been hampered by the deception.

Johann Bihr, Head of the East European and Central Asian Desk at Reporters Without Borders (RSF), told IPS: “This discredits journalists and hampers efforts to effectively protect them.

“The global impact of this story means that it will have an effect in other countries. Whenever something similar happens, doubts will be raised.”

Babchenko, a former Russian soldier who had fought in Chechnya, had been a vociferous critic of the Kremlin for years. He fled Russia last year fearing for his life and eventually moved to Kiev where he had been working for the Tatar TV channel ATR.

When reports of his death first emerged, there was immediate speculation of Russian involvement – a theory Ukrainian authorities swiftly confirmed.

In the hours after the killing was reported, Moscow denied any involvement and, after Babchenko appeared alive, claimed it was evidence of Kiev’s anti-Russian propaganda.

But as soon as Babchenko appeared at a press conference held by the Ukrainian security services (SBU) the day after his apparent death, revealing he had been co-operating with the SBU in an operation to expose people apparently planning to kill him, press freedom watchdogs were outraged.

In a statement, Philippe Leruth, President of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), described it as a “complete circus” and told the Ukrainian authorities it was “intolerable to lie to journalists around the world and to mislead millions of citizens”.

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said there “could be no grounds for faking a journalist’s death”. He said staging the killing “would not help the cause of press freedom,” adding in a tweet: “It is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive…for the stunt.”

And the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) warned it could potentially “undermine public trust in journalists and to mute outrage when they are killed”.

The SBU, and Babchenko, have continued to defend the operation. In posts on Facebook, Babchenko said he did not care about criticism questioning the journalistic ethics of what he and the SBU had done, saying he was grateful that the operation had saved his life.

But groups like RSF, CPJ and IFJ say while they are relieved Babchenko is alive, they question whether the mass deception, and subsequent damage to journalists’ and the Ukrainian authorities’ credibility, was worth it.

“We are glad that Babchenko is alive and are in no doubt that the threats he had been facing were real. However, what we are waiting for is the Ukrainian government to present hard evidence that this was worth it and it has really led to some results. So far, they have failed to do so,” Bihr told IPS.

Ukraine has a poor record on journalist safety. Journalists regularly face harassment and physical attacks as well as ‘doxing’ – the publication of their personal information.

Seven journalists have been killed in the last four years in Ukraine, the most recent being Belarusian-born Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet who died in a car bomb assassination in July 2016.

The investigation into his murder has stalled amid claims of a lack of effort from investigators and Ukrainian involvement in the killing.

After Babchenko’s staged murder, Larysa Sargan, spokesperson for Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, drew up a list on her Facebook page of journalists she claimed had been “traitorous” for criticising the operation.

In the wake of the faked murder, while all local journalists have been quick to stress their relief that Babchenko is alive, their opinions on the merits of the operation differ.

Some have praised it as the best way to save a threatened journalist’s life and expose a Russian plot, but many others have been critical of it and some have linked it back to what they say are serious shortcomings among institutions of power towards journalists‘ safety and freedom of speech.

Olga Rudenko, deputy editor-in-chief at the Kyiv Post newspaper, told RFE/RL: “Ukrainian journalists feel even less safe than they used to. To make it a safer place for journalists, the authorities need to investigate crimes against journalists.

“The whole plot to kill Babchenko, if we presume there was one, was only possible in the first place because so many earlier murders and attacks on journalists remain un-investigated, making for an atmosphere of impunity. Who’d sign up to kill a high-profile journalist if they knew all previous killers had been found and punished?”

Anna Babinec, co-founder of the investigative journalism agency Slidstvo.Info, said the incident had, for many journalists, stripped them of what trust they had left in Ukrainian authorities.

She told IPS: “Many journalists who lacked trust in the Ukrainian government before now have absolutely no trust in it.

“As an investigative journalist, working the whole night at the scene of the ‘crime’ was a great test of my skills. Now we know we should check everything the authorities say not twice, but three or four times. We need to check not only if the police are doing their work properly, but whether they are lying about crimes.”

She added: “As a journalist and human being I’m happy that my colleague is alive, but there are still a lot of questions that the security service and Arkady [need to answer] about this special operation.”

This distrust has deepened in the days since the operation with the SBU reluctant to give further details and both the alleged killer and man who hired him claiming to have been working with the SBU all along.

The leak of a reported ‘hit list’ of 47 people, supposedly discovered by the SBU during the operation, has added to the confusion.

The list, which includes journalists and political activists, contains the names of many critics of the Ukrainian authorities, among others, but, pointedly, does not include Babchenko.

Some local journalists believe it is genuine, but others doubt its veracity. Speaking to RFE/RL, three journalists on the list said they had been contacted by the SBU and shown a list with their names on. They said what they had been shown was similar to the list leaked in Ukrainian media, but had a different order of names and, in some cases, spellings.

One of the journalists said they had been questioned by the SBU about their political opinions.

Whether the SBU will give any further details on the operation and show it was, as the RSF said ‘worth it’, anytime soon is uncertain.

But the fact that local and global media were misled by authorities, with the willing help of a journalist, means this is likely to be a boon for those looking to repress free speech or spread propaganda as it leads to questions about the skills and credibility of those who are supposed to be presenting unbiased facts, critics say.

Russian journalist Tanya Felgenhauer told British daily newspaper The Independent: “This story has been a victory of the post-factual world and it makes our jobs even more difficult.

“One of the only advantages we have over social media and state media is accuracy and fact-checking. Here, our fact-checking model wasn’t sufficient, and our credibility has suffered badly.”

The RSF’s Bihr told IPS: “It provides help for organisations who sow doubt and spread misinformation, who blur the lines between truth and fiction. It provides fuel for repressive governments and propaganda media working to hamper freedom of speech.”

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Stop Neglecting African Conflictshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=stop-neglecting-african-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/stop-neglecting-african-conflicts/#respond Wed, 13 Jun 2018 12:27:32 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156207 Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group. Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises. “It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent […]

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A group of displaced men, women, and children find refuge at a church on the outskirts of Nyunzu village in eastern Congo. Pastor Mbuyu (pictured) looks after them. Credit: NRC/Christian Jepsen

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 13 2018 (IPS)

Conflicts have uprooted millions across several African nations and we must not forget them, said a human rights group.

Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) timely message was published through their annual list of the worlds most neglected displacement crises.

“It’s a sad pattern that we are once again seeing that the crises on the African continent seldom make media headlines or reach foreign policy agendas before it is too late,” said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland.

This year’s results found that six of the worlds 10 most neglected conflicts are found in Africa.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) – where years of civil war have displaced more than 5 million people – topped the list.

South Sudan, Central African Republic, Burundi and Ethiopia rounded out the top five.

But why are such conflicts so neglected?

Lack of political and diplomatic will is among the NRC’s major concerns.

“We – the West – are good at turning a blind eye when there is little geopolitical interest for us,” NRC’s spokesperson Tiril Skarstein told IPS.

“The countries on the list are often considered less strategically important, and that’s why there’s no international interest in finding a solution,” she added.

Skarstein explained that in some countries, the opposite is the case, where there are many actors with conflicting political interests taking part in the conflict. Such are the cases of Yemen and Palestine, where political gains are put before the lives of civilians.

The lack of political will to work towards a solution is one of three criteria on which a crisis is measured in order to be included on the list.

Media Turns A Blind Eye

According to the NRC, the plight of African refugees is also consistently too far removed from the ‘consciousness of the west’ as their stories fail to be told in Western news and media.

If they are, they certainly are not being covered as as much as other humanitarian conflicts in the world.

Expanding on this point, Skarstein drew comparison between Syria and the DRC where the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in both conflicts is approximately 13 million.

“Many people wouldn’t know that. Why? Because the two have had vastly different levels of international exposure,” she told IPS.

Since many of the refugees from the Syria have fled the Assad regime via Europe, many in the West have been forced to “confront and come to terms with their plight.”

“We are literally seeing these people arrive on our doorsteps. In the media, their story in chronicled, tv, online, on social media. And when people get to see others and know their situation people have a tendency to care and act,” Skarstein noted.

Meanwhile, conflicts in the DRC and other African nations often see displaced people flee to neighboring countries.

“They are not arriving on tourist beaches. Crossing one African border to another doesn’t generate the same level of exposure,” Skarstein said.

Less Money, More Problems

Because of the lack of political will and media attention, many of African crises also end up struggling to access humanitarian funds.

“Crises that are given little international attention and are seldom mentioned in the media, are also often declined the financial support needed to meet severe humanitarian needs,” Skarstein told IPS.

DRC is currently the second lowest funded of the world’s largest crises with less than half of the US$812 million aid appeal met.

A further problem is ‘donor fatigue’, a phenomenon whereby the longer a conflict goes on, the harder it is to attract the necessary funding from donors.

“You have conflicts raging for years, sometimes even decades – you get people thinking it’s a hopeless case, it’s all over. We need to fight that,” she said.

So what can get these African conflicts off the most neglected list?

The NRC says the most important thing is for donor states to provide assistance on a needs basis rather than a political one.

The human rights group also highlighted the role of media in bringing attention to overlooked humanitarian disasters.

“Exposure is so critical, that people be heard and listened too is key. The more we speak up about these crises and the more we see of them, the more that can be done,” Skarstein said.

And this list should serve as a reminder to all.

“Just because we do not see these people suffer, it does not make their suffering any less real…importantly, it does not absolve us from our responsibility to act,” Skarstein concluded.

Violence escalated in several parts of the DRC in 2015, forcing almost 2 million people to flee their homes in 2017 alone.

Among the other countries to make this year’s “World’s Most Neglected Displacement Crises” list is the Palestinians territories, Myanmar, Yemen, Venezuela and Nigeria.

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Kenya Can End the Moral Indignity of Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/kenya-can-end-moral-indignity-child-labour/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 13:20:44 +0000 Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156175 Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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12 June is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world's poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health

Although child abuse and exploitation is prohibited by the Kenyan constitution, some children are still engaged in manual labour. XINHUA PHOTO: SAM NDIRANGU

By Jacqueline Mogeni and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

On 12 June every year is the World Day Against Child Labour. In the world’s poorest countries, around one in four children are engaged in work that is potentially harmful to their health.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest proportion of child labourers (29 per cent of children aged 5 to 17 years) and is considered detrimental to their health and development.

Many children not yet in their teens, are sent out to work in farms, as sand harvesters, street hawkers, domestic workers, drug peddling and most piteously, as sex workers and child soldiers.

Of all child labourers in these and similar industries around the world, half are in Africa, indicating that the continent’s conscience must urgently be pricked into action.

Jacqueline Mogeni

Kenya has made some commendable moves towards eliminating child labour, primarily through the National Policy on the Elimination of Child Labour, and most recently the Computer and Cybercrime Bill with its provisions on child sexual exploitation. And worth mentioning is the Children’s Act which domesticated most international and continental conventions to enhance child rights and protection.

Kenya has ratified most key international conventions concerning child labour including Minimum Age, Worst Forms of Child Labour, Optional Protocol on Armed Conflict, Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Persons.

The country must now also ratify the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Among the steps that will reduce the number of children ending up as workers is the policy on compulsory secondary education. Currently, only the primary level schooling is mandatory, which leaves an almost five-year gap between completion and the minimum working age of 18 years.

Officially, primary and secondary schools are prohibited from charging tuition fees, but unofficial school levies, books and uniforms still make it difficult for families to send their children to school. Partly because of that, transition to secondary school is at about 60%, leaving many children prone to exploitation.

While engaging children has been considered as more income, new analysis by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) indicates child labour is economically unjustified.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Sending such children out to work rather than to school means they miss out on education and the skills that might have landed them better jobs in the future. It means we are not investing in human capital, but rather ensuring the youth will remain mired in low-skilled jobs, thus jeopardising any hopes for reaping a demographic dividend. Efforts to empower, educate and employ young people will have a cascading effect on the rest of society.

Estimates indicate that in sub-Saharan Africa, the last few years have witnessed a rise in child labour, where other major regions recorded declines. It is conceivable that the retrogression was driven largely by economic slow-down, but clearly, child labour is likely a cause rather than cure for poverty for families and for entire nations. “Child labor perpetuates poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, population growth, and other social problems”, says Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi.

A particularly obdurate form of child labour is early marriage, with statistics indicating that one in five girls under 15 years is married, invariably to a much older man. The cycle of abuse sets off immediately, with most of these ‘child brides’ being overworked in the home; often made to walk many kilometres to fetch water, sweep the house, prepare meals and give birth to many children while their peers are in school.

Childbirth is a deadly hit-or-miss proposition for them. Young mothers are four times likelier than those over 20 to die in pregnancy or childbirth, even without considering other perils such as fistula that are hazards for child mothers.

Even where such births are uneventful, it means that such children will most likely never go back to school, dashing any hopes of decent employment in future.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted by world leaders in 2015, include a renewed global commitment to ending child labour.

With its current momentum including moves to clamp down on exploitation of children and increasing secondary school transition rates, Kenya can be a model for Africa in the global commitment.

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Excerpt:

Jacqueline Mogeni is the CEO at Kenya’s Council of Governors and Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Human Rights Must Be on the Table During U.S.-North Korea Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2018 06:54:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156112 Human rights issues must be included in next week’s United States-North Korea summit in order to create a “sustainable agreement”, said a UN expert. In an effort towards denuclearization, U.S. President Trump is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. In anticipation of the summit, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights […]

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Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, addresses the Assembly’s annual general debate. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Human rights issues must be included in next week’s United States-North Korea summit in order to create a “sustainable agreement”, said a UN expert.

In an effort towards denuclearization, U.S. President Trump is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

In anticipation of the summit, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Tomás Ojea Quintana called for human rights issues to be a topic of discussion.

“At some point, whether [in] the next summit or other summits to come or meetings, it is very important that human rights are raised,” Quintana said.

“I am not of the opinion that a human rights dialogue will undermine the opening and the talks on denuclearization at all,” he added.

Instead, DPRK’s participation in a discussion on human rights will give them “credibility” and “show that they want to become a normal state.”

While they have signed and ratified several human rights treaties, North Korea remains one of the most repressive, authoritarian states in the world

A 2014 UN report found systematic, gross human rights violations committed by the government including forced labor, enslavement, torture, and imprisonment.

It is estimated that up to 120,000 people are detained in political prison camps in the East Asian nation, often referred to as the “world’s biggest open prison.”

“My call is for an amnesty, a general amnesty that includes these prisoners, and it is a concrete call,” Quintana said.

The UN Commission of Inquiry also found the “inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

Approximately two in five North Koreans are undernourished and more than 70 percent of the population rely on food aid.

Most North Koreans also lack access to basic services such as healthcare or sanitation.

Diarrhea and pneumonia are the two main causes of death for children under five, the report said.

It wouldn’t be the first time that President Trump has taken a strong stance on North Korea.

“No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea,” Trump said during his first speech to the General Assembly in 2017.

“It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior,” he added.

In an open letter, more than 300 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world have also called on North Korea to reform its regime and hope the upcoming meeting will urge human rights improvements as part of any agreement.

“North Korea’s increased dialogue with other countries is a positive step, but before the world gets too excited they should remember that Kim Jong Un still presides over perhaps the most repressive system in the world,” said Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director Brad Adams.

“As the UN Security Council has recognized, human rights abuses in North Korea and threats to international peace and security are intrinsically connected, so any security discussion needs to include human rights,” he continued.

Human Rights Watch is among the human rights organizations that signed the letter.

Among the letter’s calls to actions, organizations urged Kim Jong Un to act on UN human rights recommendations, increase engagement with the international human rights system, end abuses in detention and prisons, and to accept international humanitarian aid for needy communities.

“If [Kim Jong Un] really wants to end North Korea’s international isolation, he should take strong and quick action to show the North Korean people and the world that he is committed to ending decades of rights abuses,” Adams said.

Quintana echoed similar sentiments, noting that human rights issues were sidelined over two decades ago when the U.S. and the DPRK signed an agreement to freeze Pyongyang’s nuclear programme and again during recent six-party talks.

“Those processes, although they were well-intentioned, were not successful,” he said.

“For this new process to be successful, my humble opinion as a human rights rapporteur is that the human rights dialogue should be included because it is part of the discussion. Human rights and security and peace are interlinked, definitely, and this is the situation where we can prove that,” Quintana continued.

Otherwise, any denuclearization agreement would send the “wrong message” and prevent the two parties from building a “sustainable agreement.”

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UN Exemptions Make Mockery of Sexual Abuse in World Bodyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/un-exemptions-make-mockery-sexual-abuse-world-body/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-exemptions-make-mockery-sexual-abuse-world-body http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/un-exemptions-make-mockery-sexual-abuse-world-body/#respond Thu, 07 Jun 2018 14:41:44 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156105 When allegations of sexual harassment were made against a senior UN official—holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General at the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)– the United Nations admitted that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has no jurisdiction over a UN body created by the General Assembly and answerable only to member states. http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/ But this glaring exemption to […]

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The UN General Assembly, the ultimate authority to ban exemptions on sexual abuse in the UN system. Credit: UN photo/Manuel Elias

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 7 2018 (IPS)

When allegations of sexual harassment were made against a senior UN official—holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General at the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)– the United Nations admitted that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has no jurisdiction over a UN body created by the General Assembly and answerable only to member states. http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/

But this glaring exemption to the UN’s much-ballyhooed “zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse” (SEA) also applies to several other UN bodies created by the General Assembly, including, most importantly, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) — making a mockery of the ongoing fight against harassment in the world body.

And these exemptions may also cover some of the UN “Commissions, Boards, Committees, Councils and Panels” – all of which are considered subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly.

“I find it absolutely appalling that three of the UN entities entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring effective functioning of the UN system are themselves flouting some basic UN norms, taking advantage of legal lacuna without any supervision of the Secretary-General,” Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General, UN High Representative and Chairman of the General Assembly’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (commonly referred to as the Fifth Committee) (1997-1998), told IPS.

He said it is “extremely urgent” that this situation be addressed without any more delay by the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA).

“By feeling helpless about such abuse and misuse in view of its past resolutions, the Assembly is shunning its responsibility as the world’s highest intergovernmental decision-making body,” Chowdhury said.

Asked for her comments on the ICSC exemption from the UN’s zero tolerance policy, Dr Purna Sen, Director of Policy at UN Women, Executive Coordinator and newly-appointed Spokesperson on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination, told IPS that zero tolerance is not an optional extra that (some) employers can apply or not.

“It must have universal reach so that all staff can enjoy safety and respect”.

First of all, she pointed out, sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation and assault are all aspects of sexual violence. There are laws against violence and all states have committed to ending violence by 2030 (Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals 5.2).

“The obligation for ending violence rests with states but all actors, the private sector, universities etc all have a role to play in making this happen. ICSC cannot be exempt from this work: independence cannot confer impunity,” Dr Sen said.

Secondly, the notion there can be places where accountability cannot reach is not tenable.

“With great respect for women who have shouted and hollered until they have been heard, I wish to note the international clamour from women who have put abusers on notice,” she noted.

The MeToo, BalanceTonPorc and other such women-led imperatives for change have at last got attention. Accountability has to be made real – at the ICSC, as well as elsewhere, Dr Sen said.

Finally, it seems that any exemption from the UN’ policies is something that exists due to a General Assembly resolution.

“It is surely within the authority and competence of the GA then to review and change that situation.”

The need for independence cannot trump the need for safety and respectful workplaces, where abuse of power and gender inequality are rendered obsolete, she declared.

“Surely our collective efforts are not incapable of finding arrangements for their co-existence such that staff and the public have confidence in the whole UN system.”

Seeking an intervention by the Secretary-General and the GA President, Chowdhury told IPS: “I believe very strongly that the President of the Assembly, with his trusted leadership, needs to take the initiative on a priority basis, in consultation with the Secretary-General, to table a UNGA resolution to overcome this lack of jurisdiction and control which results in such abuse without any higher supervisory control”.

He said “past decisions should not be an excuse to overlook such aberrations which the IPS article has very rightly highlighted. Independence of a UN entity should not give it immunity to disregard norms which are core values of the UN.”

Asked to weigh in with his comments, Ian Richards, President of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations of the UN System (CCISUA), told IPS: “We expect all parts of the UN system to have policies and structures in place to prevent sexual harassment, in line with Secretary-General Guterres’s promise of zero tolerance.”

“This allows our member unions to help victims assert their individual rights to a harassment-free workplace and get justice when their rights are infringed,” he added.

However, he pointed out, “we are currently unable to assist staff who work for bodies such as the ICSC, ACABQ and JIU, to benefit from these rights. This despite their staff also having UN contracts and being appointed by the Secretary-General.”

He said the ICSC will itself touch on this issue when it discusses workforce diversity at its 87th session this July in Bonn.

“We hope it will join us in calling for consistent HR policies and structures throughout, without of course compromising the independence these bodies require to do their job.”

Brenden Varma, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly (PGA) told IPS: “It’s for Member States to take such an initiative – not the PGA. From the PGA’s side, he continues to stand firmly against all forms of sexual abuse and harassment.”

Meanwhile, providing an update on cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in the UN system, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters May 1 that for the first three months of this year, from 1 January to 31 March 2018, there were 54 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners.

But not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase, he added.

Out of the 54 allegations, he said, 14 are reported from peacekeeping operations and 18 from agencies, funds and programmes. Twenty-one allegations relate to implementing partners and one to a member of a non-UN international force.

Of the 54 allegations, 17 are categorized as sexual abuse, 34 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature.

The allegations involve 66 victims — including 13 girls (under the age of 18) and 16 victims whose age remains unknown.

With regard to the status of the allegations, he said, 2 have been substantiated by an investigation; 2 were not substantiated; 21 are at various stages of investigation; 27 are under preliminary assessment; and 1 investigation’s result is under review.

With over 95,000 civilians and 90,000 uniformed personnel working for the UN, sexual exploitation and abuse are not reflective of the conduct of the majority of the dedicated women and men who serve the Organization, Dujarric said.

“But every allegation involving our personnel undermines our values and principles and the sacrifice of those who serve with pride and professionalism in some of the most dangerous places in the world. For this reason, combating this scourge, and helping and empowering those who have been scarred by these egregious acts, continue to be key priorities for the Secretary-General in 2018.”

At a meeting with the Secretary-General in London on May 3, the executive heads of UN agencies, who are members of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), reiterated “their firm commitment to uphold a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment; to strengthen victim-centred prevention and response efforts; and to foster a safe and inclusive working environment.”

In addition, they pledged to provide mechanisms such as 24-hour helplines for staff to report harassment and access support; establish a system-wide database to avoid rehire of individuals who have perpetrated sexual harassment.

The CEB also pledged to institute fast track procedures to receive, process and address complaints; recruit specialized investigators, including women; enforce mandatory training; provide guidelines for managers; harmonize policies; and launch staff perception surveys to learn from experiences.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Nepal: Where Abortion is Treated as Homicidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepal-abortion-treated-homicide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nepal-abortion-treated-homicide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepal-abortion-treated-homicide/#respond Wed, 06 Jun 2018 05:18:04 +0000 Sabin Shrestha http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156078 Sabin Shrestha is Executive Director of the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), the Kathmandu-based partner of international women's group Donor Direct Action.

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A Nepali family. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

By Sabin Shrestha
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Jun 6 2018 (IPS)

Less than thirty years ago the likelihood of a mother dying due to pregnancy or childbirth in Nepal was one of the highest in the world. In 1990 UNICEF estimated that the rate was 901 women or girls out of 100,000 – significantly higher than any of its neighbours.

Since then the country has been somewhat of a global success story in maternal health. By 2015 the rate had been reduced to 215 and it is hoped that it has fallen even further in the last three years.

In the 1990s over half of maternal mortality instances were due to unsafe abortions. Still illegal in most circumstances women often sought backstreet options carried out by untrained personnel. Abortion laws were strictly enforced to the point that pregnant women sometimes feared they would be charged with homicide – even if they miscarried.

I grew up in Kathmandu and have worked on this issue for more than 15 years. I’ve seen how the lives and well-being of Nepalese women and girls were being put at serious risk during a time when they needed support. Thankfully, others were in agreement.

Responding to months of lobbying and coalition-building Nepal’s Parliament passed a bill in 2002 which legalised abortion without exception for 12 weeks. Services to enable women to access reproductive health care were also scaled up in quite a short time frame. Nepal had achieved a minor miracle.

Although a conservative country in many ways the transition was relatively smooth.

But making sustained progress in this landlocked and developing nation, where most people live in a remote or rural area, was not easy. In the past legal abortions were difficult for most women to access and the financial cost in a public hospital was often more than a month’s salary, meaning that some women were either forced to continue with an unintended pregnancy – or avail of an unsafe abortion carried out by somebody without proper medical training.

In the mid 2000s an estimated 4,000 Nepalese women were still dying each year as they were being forced to undergo unsafe abortions.

Coming from a poor household in Western Nepal a young woman called Lakshmi had little hope of being able to pay for an abortion after becoming pregnant. Like many other women her realistic choice was to either get an unsafe abortion or to continue her pregnancy.

She chose the latter, but in 2007, along with our partner the Center for Reproductive Rights and my organisation the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), she brought forward what would turn out to be a landmark case.

Lakshmi maintained that Nepal’s government had failed to enforce its own law on reproductive rights and that safe and legal abortion was extremely difficult to access for most Nepalese women and girls – including herself. She argued that it was not sufficient that abortion was technically legal, but that reproductive health care was a basic constitutional right, which should be affordable and easily accessible.

In May 2009 the Supreme Court of Nepal agreed with her and called on the government to promote the availability of safe and legal abortion in Nepal, to enact a new separate act addressing the issues of women’s reproductive health rights, to ensure personal information of women who get abortions remains confidential and to inform, educate and increase awareness among the general public.

This was a major step forward, but it has only partially come to pass. Abortion services are currently available in 75 district hospitals and also in a limited number of primary health check locations. Since 2016 the Nepalese government has also provided free abortion services through Government Health institutions.

However, only 41% of women of reproductive age know that abortion is legal, it is still seen as a social taboo – and even when they do avail of it it is still treated as homicide in some cases. I know of at least 13 women who are serving prison sentences, including Meera, a young woman from Biratnagar, who is currently serving a seven year sentence for infanticide after she had a miscarriage in 2015.

The government has failed to make it possible for women to be able to afford to pay for abortions, a significant number still do not know that abortion is legal, information on contraception is still not properly communicated, and midwives and other medical personnel have yet to be properly trained on reproductive health and rights.

Out of the 323,100 abortions which took place in Nepal in 2014 only 137,000 were safe and legal. Untrained health workers are still carrying out the majority of abortions here.

Following the devastating 2015 earthquake in Nepal that killed over 9,000 people up to 90% of birthing centers in the 14 most affected districts were either seriously damaged or destroyed. During this time abortion was next to impossible to access. Three years on not all have been re-built, meaning that the challenges already faced by pregnant women have been exacerbated.
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However, things may finally be about to change for the better. A new bill on reproductive rights has been recently approved in principle by the Office of Prime Minister and Ministers Council, which will respond to the concerns highlighted by our Supreme Court nine years ago and will separate reproductive rights as a distinct legal issue. It will ensure that women have much better access to information on their rights and that a fund is set up for women who cannot access free abortions, carried out by only qualified health personnel.

We are hopeful that the government will formally enact this into law in the coming months, which will also finally make it impossible to convict a woman of homicide if she has an abortion or suffers a miscarriage. This would provide a context for securing the release of those who are still in prison for very unfair reasons and transform the futures of millions of Nepalese women and girls.

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Excerpt:

Sabin Shrestha is Executive Director of the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD), the Kathmandu-based partner of international women's group Donor Direct Action.

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Unilateral Coercive Measures have Devastated the Syrian Economy &Ruined Civilian Liveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/unilateral-coercive-measures-devastated-syrian-economy-ruined-civilian-lives/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unilateral-coercive-measures-devastated-syrian-economy-ruined-civilian-lives http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/unilateral-coercive-measures-devastated-syrian-economy-ruined-civilian-lives/#respond Fri, 01 Jun 2018 17:08:00 +0000 Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156031 Idriss Jazairy is Special Rapporteur on “the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights to the Syrian Arab Republic”*

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Idriss Jazairy is Special Rapporteur on “the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights to the Syrian Arab Republic”*

By Idriss Jazairy
GENEVA, Jun 1 2018 (IPS)

I have been entrusted by the Human Rights Council with the task of monitoring, reporting and advising on the negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights of unilateral coercive measures.

The United Nations has repeatedly expressed concern that the use of such measures may be contrary to international law, international humanitarian law, the UN Charter and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States1.

Idriss Jazairy. Credit: UN Photo

During my visit, I had the honour of being received by Ministers, Deputy Ministers and senior officials of the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Economy and Foreign Trade, Local Administration and Environment, Social Affairs and Labour, Transport, Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Electricity and Health.

I also met with the leadership of the Planning and International Cooperation Commission, the Central Bureau of Statistics, the Chamber of Commerce, and with the Governor of the Central Bank.

I was briefed by staff from civil society, humanitarian organizations and by independent experts. Last but not least, I am also grateful to the numerous diplomatic missions that shared their views with me during my visit. I very much appreciate the briefings I received from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in Beirut prior to my visit.

The purpose of this mission was to examine to what extent unilateral coercive measures targeting the Syrian Arab Republic impair the full realization of the rights set forth in the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.

I will present my full report to the Human Rights Council in September 2018. My present statement contains my preliminary observations on the outcome of my visit.

I have examined the situation of the Syrian Arab Republic as a target of unilateral coercive measures by a number of source States. I have examined relevant evidence and endeavoured to assess the actual impact of such measures on the Syrian people.

One source country has applied unilateral coercive measures since 1979, and they were strengthened in subsequent years. A larger group of States began applying similar measures in 2011.

The collective measures call for a trade ban on the import and export of multiple goods and services. It also includes international financial transfers. The superimposition of different packages of collective sectoral measures, together with the across-the-board implementation of financial restrictions, are tantamount in their global impact to the imposition of comprehensive restrictions on Syria.

Additional measures targeting individuals by virtue of their alleged relationship with the government have also been applied.

Because of their comprehensive nature, these measures have had a devastating impact on the entire economy and the daily lives of ordinary people. This impact has compounded their suffering resulting from the devastating crisis that has unfolded since 2011.

Singling out the impact of the unilateral coercive measures from that of the crisis is fraught with difficulty, but this does in no way diminish the necessity to take measures to restore their basic human rights as a whole.

It is clear that the sufferings imposed by the unilateral coercive measures have reinforced those that were caused by the conflict.

Indeed, it seems ironic that these measures applied by source States out of a concern for human rights are actually contributing to the worsening of the humanitarian crisis as an unintended consequence.

The dramatic increase in the suffering of the Syrian people

The Syrian economy continues to decline at an alarming rate. Since the application of coercive measures in 2011, and the beginning of the current crisis, the total annual GDP of Syria has fallen by two thirds.

Foreign currency reserves have been depleted, and international financial and other assets remain frozen. In 2010, 45 Syrian Liras were exchanged for one dollar; by 2017 the rate fell to fell to 510 liras per dollar. Inflation has dramatically increased since 2010, reaching a peak of 82.4% in 2013; the cost of food items rose eight-fold during this time.

This combination of factors visited further devastation on the living conditions of the population that were already degraded by the conflict. This has hit the half of working Syrians living on fixed salaries particularly hard.

The unintended consequences of unilateral coercive measures

This damage to the economy has had predictable effects on the ability of Syrians to realize their economic, social and cultural rights. Syria’s human development indicators have all tumbled. There has been a staggering increase in the rate of poverty among ordinary Syrians.

While there was no food insecurity prior to the outbreak of violence, by 2015 32% of Syrians were affected. At the same time unemployment rose went from 8.5% in 2010 to over 48% in 2015.

Banking restrictions

The most pervasive concerns I have heard during my mission relate to the negative effect that comprehensive financial restrictions have had on all aspects of Syrian life. Restrictions on the Central bank, state-owned and even private banks, and transactions in the main international currencies have comprehensively damaged the ability of anyone seeking to operate internationally.

Despite nominally including “humanitarian exemptions” they have proven to be costly, or extremely slow, to access in practice.

The uncertainty around what transactions do, or do not violate the unilateral coercive measures, have created a “chilling effect” on international banks and companies, which as a result are unwilling or unable to do business with Syria.

This has prevented Syrian and international companies, non-governmental actors (including those operating in purely humanitarian fields), and Syrian citizens from engaging in international financial transactions (including for goods which are legal to import), obtaining credit, or for international actors to pay salaries or contractors in Syria.

This has forced Syrians to find alternatives, such as hawala, which result in millions of dollars flowing through high cost financial intermediaries, who are alleged at times to be owned by terrorist organizations.

These channels which are not transparent, cannot be audited, and increase transaction costs remain the only avenue for smaller companies and Syrian civil society actors to operate internationally.

Medical care

Syria practices universal, free health care for all its citizens. Prior to the current crisis, Syria enjoyed some of the highest levels of care in the region. The demands created by the crisis have overwhelmed the system, and created extraordinarily high levels of need.

Despite this, restrictive measures, particularly those related to the banking system, have harmed the ability of Syria to purchase and pay for medicines, equipment, spare parts and software.

While theoretical exemptions exist, in practice international private companies are unwilling to jump the hurdles necessary to ensure they can transact with Syria without being accused of inadvertently violating the restrictive measures.

Migration and ‘brain drain’

While the security situation was a central factor which led to migration flows from Syria, it should be emphasized that the dramatic increase in unemployment, the lack of job opportunities, the closure of factories unable to obtain raw materials or machinery or to export their goods have all contributed to increasing the emigration of Syrians.

Some receiving States have selected skilled migrants, while pressuring the less fortunate to return to Syria. This “brain drain” has harmed the medical and pharmaceutical industries in particular, at the worst possible time for Syria.

The anticipated end of the current conflict will not put an end to the flows of migrants, especially to Europe, in view of the saturation of neighbouring countries.

These flows are likely to continue so long as the Syrian authorities are prevented by unilateral coercive measures from addressing the pressing problems related to their social and economic infrastructure, in particular the restoration of energy and water supplies.

Ban on equipment and spare parts

The ban on the trade in equipment, machinery and spare parts has devastated Syrian industry. Vehicles, including ambulances and fire trucks, as well as agricultural machinery suffer from a lack of spare parts. Failing water pumps gravely affect the water supply and reduce agricultural production.

Power generation plants are failing, and new plants cannot be purchased or maintained, leading to power outages. Complex machinery requiring international technicians for maintenance are failing, damaging medical devices and factory machinery.

Civilian aircraft are no longer able to fly safely, and public transit buses are in woeful condition. Whatever rationale source countries may have for restricting so-called dual use goods, greater effort is needed to ensure that goods that are clearly intended for civilian use are permitted, and that they can be paid for.

Ban on technology

As a result of unilateral coercive measures, Syrians are unable to purchase many technologies, including mobile phones and computers. The global dominance of American software companies, technology companies, and banking and financial software, all of which are banned, has made it difficult to find alternatives. This has paralyzed or disrupted large parts of Syrian institutions.

Education

Shortages of inputs, energy and water supply as well as of teaching material causing delays in the rebuilding of schools have kept 1.8 million children without access to their classrooms.

The ability of Syrians to participate in the international community has been sharply affected. Syrians have been excluded from international educational exchange programs, and the tremendous difficulties involved in obtaining a visa have prevented many from studying or travelling abroad, upgrading their training and skills, or participating in international conferences.

By removing consular services from Syria, countries have forced people including the poorest, to travel to neighbouring countries for such applications, which are also placing onerous restrictions on entry for Syrians.

Conclusion

I am profoundly concerned that unilateral coercive measures are contributing to the ongoing suffering of the Syrian people. Claims that they exist to protect the Syrian population, or to promote a democratic transition, are hard to reconcile with the economic and humanitarian sufferings being caused.

The time has come to ask whether these unintended consequences are now more severe than can be reasonably accepted by democratic States. Whatever their political objectives, there must be more humane means by which these can be achieved in full compliance with international law.

In view of the complexity of the system of unilateral coercive measures in place, there needs to be a multi-stage approach to addressing the dire human rights situation prevailing in Syria.

This would imply a sequenced approach involving addressing the crucial humanitarian needs of the population throughout the whole of Syria, without preconditions, when these touch on issues of life and death. A first stage could include addressing the urgent needs of the food insecure, which represent nearly one third of the population.

The second stage is to translate at the ground level effective measures to fulfil the commitment of source States to meet their obligation to allow humanitarian exemptions, particularly for financial transactions.

Finally, there must be a serious dialogue on reducing unilateral coercive measures, starting with those that have the most egregious effect on the population, along with those that will promote confidence building between the parties, with the ultimate aim of lifting the unilateral coercive measures. I hope that my report and my future work can contribute in this end.

*Based on the end-of-mission statement by the Special Rapporteur,and includes “preliminary observations and recommendations” on Syria.

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Excerpt:

Idriss Jazairy is Special Rapporteur on “the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights to the Syrian Arab Republic”*

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IOM, Partners to Assist Business Leaders in Combatting Human Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/iom-partners-assist-business-leaders-combatting-human-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iom-partners-assist-business-leaders-combatting-human-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/iom-partners-assist-business-leaders-combatting-human-trafficking/#respond Wed, 23 May 2018 13:07:56 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155899 The Interactive Map for Business of Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives and Organisations was launched yesterday (22/05) at the British Telecom Centre in London. IOM, the UN Migration Agency, as part of the RESPECT Initiative, joined the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking (GBCAT), and the United Nations Global Compact through its Action Platform on Decent Work in […]

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The Interactive Map report gives an overview on the current stakeholder landscape on human trafficking. Photo: Modernslaverymap.org

By International Organization for Migration
LONDON, May 23 2018 (IOM)

The Interactive Map for Business of Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives and Organisations was launched yesterday (22/05) at the British Telecom Centre in London.

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, as part of the RESPECT Initiative, joined the Global Business Coalition Against Trafficking (GBCAT), and the United Nations Global Compact through its Action Platform on Decent Work in Global Supply Chains organizations in launching this platform.

The Map is designed as a knowledge-sharing hub for countering human trafficking and will provide companies and other stakeholders with a global list of initiatives that can help them combat this abuse in their operations and supply chains.

IOM has an ongoing relationship with private sector leaders to address human trafficking. In 2017, the Organization partnered with the Global Initiative against transnational organized crime (GI) and Babson College’s Initiative on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery to form the Responsible and Ethical Private Sector Coalition against Trafficking (RESPECT).

The launch event included a keynote speech by Baroness Philippa Stroud. IOM was represented by Sarah Di Giglio, IOM UK.

“In our globalized economy, the demand for cheap labour and services is what is driving human trafficking. Yet, the responsibility of the industries and consumers demanding cheap labour and cheap goods often goes unrecognized,” said Di Giglio. “Until we, the global community, address this demand and recognize that goods are sold cheaply because of the exploitation of workers including migrant workers, our efforts to end human trafficking will be wholly inadequate,” she added.

As a unified resource of information, the Interactive Map includes a repository of best practices and a stakeholder mapping report to serve as a primary resource for businesses engaged in combating human trafficking and forced labour.

Since 1994, IOM has worked extensively to combat human trafficking. For the past 14 years, the Organization has implemented more than 2,600 projects in over 150 countries and has assisted tens of thousands of trafficked persons.

To learn more about the Interactive Map, please visit: http://www.spumma.com/modernslaverymap/

For more information, please contact Jorge Galindo, IOM HQ, Tel: +41227179205, Email: jgalindo@iom.int

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$1.7 Trillion Global Spending on Military in 2017: Highest since End of Cold Warhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/1-7-trillion-global-spending-military-2017-highest-since-end-cold-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=1-7-trillion-global-spending-military-2017-highest-since-end-cold-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/1-7-trillion-global-spending-military-2017-highest-since-end-cold-war/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 16:55:14 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155877 According to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in total, countries around the world spent $ 1.739 billion on arms in 2017. Although there was a marginal increase of 1.1 percent rise in real terms on 2016, the total global spending in 2017 is the highest since the end of […]

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According to the latest report by SIPRI, countries around the world spent $ 1.739 billion on arms in 2017, the highest since the end of the cold war

A military helicopter flying during a drill. Credit: Simon Fitall

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 22 2018 (IPS)

According to the latest report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), in total, countries around the world spent $ 1.739 billion on arms in 2017. Although there was a marginal increase of 1.1 percent rise in real terms on 2016, the total global spending in 2017 is the highest since the end of the cold war.

This is an unprecedented amount of resources. The spending in 2017 represented 2.2 percent of global domestic product (GDP) or $ 230 per person. The ‘military burden’, which is “the military expenditure as a share of GDP” and which “assesses the proportion of national resources dedicated to military activities and the burden on the economy”, has fluctuated from a post-cold war high of 3.3 percent in 1992 to a low of 2.1 percent in 2014.

The five biggest spenders in 2017 were the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Russia and India, which together accounted for 60 percent of global military spending. The United States alone accounted for more than a third of the world total in 2017 ($695 billion) and it spent more than the next seven highest spenders combined, confirming the fact that the country can retain itself as the most powerful nation – in terms of military – in the world.

Looking at the US trend, there is a clear difference between the Obama and the Trump administration. US military expenditure had fallen each year since 2010 and substantially did not change in 2017 from 2016. However, the military budget for 2018 has been set by the Trump administration at a considerably higher level ($700 billion).

 



Regional trends

Looking at the regional trends, in the Middle East, because of a lack of accurate data for Qatar, Syria, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen, SIPRI could not estimate the total military spending in this region in 2017. Between 2009 and 2015, military expenditure of countries in this region increased by 41 percent, although it then decreased by 16 percent between 2015 and 2016 because of the fall in oil prices.

The spending increased again in 2017 by 6.2 percent with Saudi Arabia being the largest military spender in the region and the third largest in the world, following the US and China. Turkey increased its military expenditure by 46 percent between 2008 and 2017 while the last available estimate for the UAE’s military spending is for 2014, when it was the second largest military spender in the Middle East ($24.4 billion). After some years of decline, Iran could increase its military spending between 2014 and 2017 by 37 percent, mainly due to the gradual lifting of European Union and United Nations sanctions, which brought benefits to the Iranian economy. Israel’s military spending increased by 4.9 percent to $16.5 billion in 2017 (excluding about $3.1 billion in military aid from the USA). Today Israel is one of the 10 countries with the highest ‘military burden’ in the world (4.7 percent of GDP).

Military spending in Asia and Oceania reached $477 billion in 2017, a 3.6 percent higher than in 2016 and 59 percent higher than in 2008. These high levels make the region the second largest spender after the Americas. The largest increases in military spending between 2008 and 2017 were those of Cambodia (332 percent), Bangladesh (123 percent), Indonesia (122 percent) and China (110 percent). China’s military spending in 2017 ($228 billion), accounted for 48 percent of the regional total.

Europe accounted for 20 percent of global military expenditure in 2017, at $342 billion. The spending in Europe was 2.2 percent lower than in 2016 and marginally higher (1.4 percent) than in 2008. France’s spending fell by 1.9 percent to $57.8 billion; the British military spending rose by a tiny 0.5 percent to $47.2 billion, while Germany’s spending rose by 3.5 percent to $44.3 billion, its highest level since 1999.

In Africa, military expenditure was marginally down in 2017, by 0.5 percent to $42.6 billion or 2.5 percent of global military spending. North Africa’s military spending was an estimated $21.1 billion in 2017: the first annual decrease since 2006. Algeria, Africa’s largest spender, decreased its budget by 5.2 percent between 2016 and 2017 to $10.1 billion. Nigeria’s expenditure fell for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, despite the ongoing military operations against the terrorist group Boko Haram. Its spending was $1.6 billion in 2017.

 



Military expenditure vs aid to developing countries: a huge gap

These data, combined with other key information on budget spending from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show that the portion of GDP that OECD countries spend every year for the military, is much higher than the one dedicated to the ‘Official Development Assistance’ (ODA). The latter is defined as “government aid designed to promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries”. According to OECD, “loans and credits for military purposes are excluded [from ODA]” and this aid “may be provided bilaterally, from donor to recipient, or channelled through a multilateral development agency such as the UN or the World Bank”.

The gap between military expenditure and ODA in OECD countries is incredibly deep in most cases. For example, Turkey spends more than twice as much for its military budget rather than for aid to developing countries: 2.2% of GDP for its military and 0.95% for ODA. The gap is even greater in the case of Israel: 4.7% for the military budget and an insignificant 0.10% for ODA. The US spends 3.1% of its GDP for the military and 0.182% for ODA. Only a few countries follow the opposite trend. Luxembourg, for example, in 2017 spent twice as much for ODA (1.00% of its GDP) rather than for its military budget (0.5%).

Analysts, activists and policymakers worldwide have often criticized this allocation of resources. Regardless of the freedom of each country to spend its budget in the way it prefers in order to guarantee security for its citizens, there is an important aspect to note. Anton Chekhov once said: “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there”. This principle, which then took the name of ‘Chekhov’s gun’, was paraphrased as “once a gun appears in a story, it has to be fired”, someday soon.

A global military expenditure of over $1.7 trillion clearly represents much more than a simple “pistol on the wall”. The likelihood to have a conflict caused or fuelled by those arms produced by that $1.7 trillion global budget, is higher than ever.

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Media Watchdogs Fear a Chill in Slovakiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/media-watchdogs-fear-chill-slovakia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=media-watchdogs-fear-chill-slovakia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/media-watchdogs-fear-chill-slovakia/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 00:03:37 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155863 International media watchdogs, EU politicians, journalists and publishers have condemned Slovak police investigating the murder of a local journalist after one of his colleagues claimed she was interrogated for eight hours before being forced to hand over her telephone – potentially putting sources at risk. Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcova had travelled from Prague to […]

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Mass protests in Slovakia in the wake of the killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova led to the resignation of the country's Prime Minister, Interior Minister and head of police. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Mass protests in Slovakia in the wake of the killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova led to the resignation of the country's Prime Minister, Interior Minister and head of police. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, May 22 2018 (IPS)

International media watchdogs, EU politicians, journalists and publishers have condemned Slovak police investigating the murder of a local journalist after one of his colleagues claimed she was interrogated for eight hours before being forced to hand over her telephone – potentially putting sources at risk.

Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcova had travelled from Prague to Bratislava on May 15th believing she was going to help Slovak police with their investigation into the murder of her former colleague, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, in February this year."It starts with a phone, then a laptop, then interview notes and what is next?...Journalism is the canary in the coal mine. If it dies in these countries, then ‘European-ness’ will have died." --Drew Sullivan

But she said after she arrived she was questioned for eight hours by officers from the Slovak National Crime Agency (NAKA) repeatedly asking about the investigative reporting network she works with, her past work and links between Slovak business people and senior politicians.

They also demanded she hand over her mobile phone so they could access data on it.

When she refused she says she was threatened with a 1,650 Euro fine and police produced a warrant to confiscate the phone. She said she agreed to give them the phone but having failed to retrieve data from it when Holcova refused to give them passwords, they took it saying they would use Europol forensic resources to get past its passwords and access the information inside.

News of the interrogation and requisition of Holcova’s phone brought widespread condemnation from groups like Reporters Without Borders, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which Holcova, and previously Kuciak, has worked with, MEPs and other groups.

Meanwhile, in Slovakia, publishing houses and dozens of editors from local newspapers and media outlets put out a joint statement demanding Holcova’s phone be returned to her immediately, reiterating the legal right to protection of journalists’ sources and calling on Slovak police to explain their conduct.

However, they say it is not just Holcova they are defending.

Beata Balogova, Editor in Chief of the Slovak daily newspaper ‘Sme’, told IPS: “This isn’t just about Pavla, it goes further than that. We need to know whether they [the police and prosecutor] think what they have done is in line with the laws of this country.”

As in some other countries in Central Europe, media watchdogs have pointed to an alarming erosion in press freedom in Slovakia in recent years with journalists facing denigration and abuse from the government and intimidation by local businessmen.

Meanwhile, many local media outlets have been bought up by oligarchs and there are serious doubts about the political independence of the country’s public broadcaster. Criminal libel prosecutions are also a permanent threat to journalists’ work.

Kuciak was shot dead by a single bullet to his chest and his fiancée by a single bullet to the head in his home east of the capital Bratislava in late February.

At the time of his death, Kuciak and Holcova had been working on a story about the links between the ‘Ndrangheta mafia and people in Smer, the senior party in the Slovak governing coalition.

In the days after the killing, there was feverish speculation about mafia or political involvement in the murder and that it had been carried out as a clear warning to other journalists.

Balogova and other Slovak journalists believe that by taking Holcova’s phone, police may have been sending a signal to journalists.

“It could have been to tell journalists that they are being watched or to try and frighten them,” she said.

There has also been speculation that the police may have been trying to get information so they can move to try and cover up links between failings in the investigation and senior figures in the Slovak police and judicial system.

In their statement, Slovak publishers and editors said: “Taking into account that many suspicions which arose after the murder of Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova point directly to representatives of criminal justice institutions, the rigorous protection of sources is more important than ever, especially when there is a risk this information could be abused.”

Drew Sullivan, Editor at the OCCRP, told IPS that the police may have been acting on orders from politicians.

“Justice is still political in Slovakia,” he said. “It is possible the ruling political party, which is more concerned about the news stories which created the protests [after Kuciak’s murder and which forced the Prime Minister’s resignation] than they are with Jan’s murder, is dictating the police‘s approach.”

And Marek Vagovic, editor in chief at Slovak news site Aktuality.sk, Kuciak‘s former employer, told the Slovak daily ‘Novy cas’: “Looking at the nature and links between those in power who control the criminal justice institutions, I don’t believe this is about investigating a double pre-meditated murder.

“I fear that in taking Pavla Holcova’s mobile phone they have a different aim: tracking down her informants so they can find out what she was working on and can warn politicians, oligarchs and members of organised crime under suspicion.”

In a statement, the Special Prosecutor’s Office, which issued the warrant to take Holcova’s phone, said that Holcova had willingly given up her phone to police and that the device had been taken solely to try and find Kuciak’s killers.

It stressed that the warrant was issued to help the investigation and not to impinge on any of Holcova’s rights as a journalist.

But Slovak lawyers and constitutional experts have questioned the police’s approach, arguing that any information relating to Kuciak’s murder found on the phone would probably not be admissible as evidence if it was accessed without Holcova giving them the password to it.

Following media attention, the Special Prosecutor’s Office said on May 18th it would send the phone back to Holcova as soon as possible and that after it was taken no attempt was made to bypass its security and access its data. But it defended the police’s conduct, saying that looking to obtain data in the phone was “a necessary and logical” step in the investigation.

It also said that Holcova would be asked to attend further questioning in the future as a witness in the investigation. Holcova, though, has said she will “consider very carefully” any future meetings with Slovak investigators.

Whatever the intentions of the Slovak police were, their actions will have had an effect, although perhaps not the one they would have been expecting if they were attempting to frighten journalists.

“It may affect how sources interact with us,” explained Balogova. “Sources speak to journalists because they believe that we can and will protect their identities. But now they may be worried that journalists cannot protect their sources. So, will they still talk to us?

“But [the police’s actions] may also have the opposite effect – journalists will just be more careful now in how they communicate with people and go about their work.”

The incident made headlines abroad and was noted in the European Parliament which has been closely following the Slovak media environment since Kuciak’s murder and the subsequent mass protests which forced the Slovak Prime Minister, Interior Minister and, eventually, the head of the police force to resign.

MEPs suggested it would have further damaged the reputation of the Slovak police, which is widely perceived as endemically corrupt and at senior level linked to powerful local business figures suspected of criminal activity.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, said in a statement: “We thought that after the murders of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova that the Slovak government would do all it could to allow journalists to carry out their daily work and that we would see them as partners in the common fight against corruption and crime.

“Unfortunately, today we can see that, despite the Slovak government’s assurances, the opposite is happening.”

But perhaps just as importantly, the treatment of Holcova could have ramifications beyond Slovakia, potentially emboldening neighbouring governments which, critics say, are leading their own crackdowns on critical media.

Press freedom in Poland and Hungary has receded dramatically over the last few years, according to local and international media groups, with both countries’ rankings in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index plummeting.

Governments seen as populist, increasingly authoritarian and corrupt have used legislation, taxes on independent media, takeovers, forced closures and, some believe, security service surveillance, to try and silence critical news outlets, they claim.

When asked whether he thought other governments in the region could start using similar methods following what happened to Holcova, OCCRP’s Sullivan told IPS: “Absolutely. It starts with a phone, then a laptop, then interview notes and what is next?

“There is an increasing erosion of journalism rights in the East of Europe. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland have become problematic states where independent journalism is dying.”

He added: “We’ve seen this [Slovak police treatment of Holcova] and worse in Eastern Europe, Russia and the CIS states. It is something we kind of expect from drug states, captured states and the autocracies in those regions. But we haven’t seen it with a European Union member.”

And he called on the EU to act to uphold its core values. “This is a growing splinter in the eye of Europe and the European Union needs to act decisively if it doesn’t want to lose its European values. It can’t have members denying basic values.

“If this is allowed to continue, it will lead to …. further repression of journalism. Journalism is the canary in the coal mine. If it dies in these countries, then ‘European-ness’ will have died. These are states that are fundamentally becoming undemocratic. We need media there chronicling this.”

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We Need a Gender Shift to save Our Girls from the Jaws of Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/need-gender-shift-save-girls-jaws-extremism/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 14:27:23 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155759 Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Boko Haram has killed over 5,000 and displaced more than 300,000 people, according to US-based think tank Council on Foreign Relations. Credit: Stephane Yas / AFP

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Consider this. Boko Haram, the ISIS-affiliated insurgent group has sent 80 women to their deaths in 2017 alone.

The majority of suicide bombers used by terror group Boko Haram to kill innocent victims are women and children, US study reveals.

The incident only highlighted a growing trend of young girls joining extremist groups and carrying out violent acts of terrorism globally.

In a recent survey conducted on suicide bomb attacks in Western Africa, UNICEF found that close to one in five attacks were carried out by women, and among child suicide bombers, three in four were girls.

May 15 marks the International Day of Families, and this year’s theme focuses on the role of families and family policies in advancing SDG 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.

With terrorism posing a clear and present threat to peace today, and the recent trend where terrorists are using female recruits for increasingly chilling perpetrator roles, it is a good time to examine the various ways in which we are pushing our daughters towards the perilous guile of terror groups.

Amb. Amina Mohamed

Online and offline, terror groups are deliberately seeking to attract women, especially those who harbour feelings of social and/or cultural exclusion and marginalization.

The Government of Kenya has focused on the often-overlooked promise of girls’ education. The young girl of today has higher ambition and a more competitive spirit. She no longer wants to go to school and only proceed to either the submissive housekeeper role, or token employment opportunities like her mother very likely did.

She wants a secure, equal-wage job like her male classmates, to have an equal opportunity to making it to management positions, and access to economic assets such as land and loans. Like her male counterparts, she wants equal participation in shaping economic and social policies in the country.

This is why education is a prime pillar in Kenya’s National Strategy to Counter Violent Extremism, which was launched in September 2016. The strategy aims to work with communities to build their resilience to respond to violent extremism and to address structural issues that drive feelings of exclusion.

Kenya has done relatively well in balancing school enrolment among genders. What young women now need is to feel that they have a future when they come out of the educational process. According to a recent survey by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), only about a third of Kenyans in formal employment, are women.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Although Kenya does not have a separate policy for girls’ education, the country has put in place certain mechanisms to guarantee 100% transition from primary to secondary education. This policy will address the existing hindrances to girls’ education and particularly, transition from the primary to secondary level where Kenya has a 10% enrollment gender gap.

Globally, it is estimated that if women in every country were to play an identical role to men in markets, as much as US$28 trillion (equal to 26 percent) would be added to the global economy by 2025.

Quality education for the youth must not only incorporate relevant skills development for employability, but for girls we must go further to provide psychosocial support. Already, girls and women bear the greater burden of poverty, a fact that can only provide more tinder if they are then exposed to radicalization.

According to estimates, the return on one year of secondary education for a girl correlates with as high as a 25% increase in wages, ensuring that all girls get at least secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa, would reduce child marriages by more than half.

All these demonstrate the cyclical benefits, from one generation to the next, of education as an intervention strategy. The Kenyatta Trust for example, a non-profit organization, has beneficiaries who are students who have come from disadvantaged family backgrounds. President Kenyatta the founder of the Trust says, “my pledge is to continuously support and uplift the lives of all our beneficiaries, one family at a time.”

For success a convergence of partners is crucial, spanning foundations, trusts, faith based organizations, civil society, media and to work with the Government to advance this critical agenda.

The UN in Kenya is working with the government to understand the push and pull factors that lure our youth to radicalization. One such initiative is the Conflict Management and Prevention of Violent Extremism (PVE) programme in Marsabit and Mandera counties, supported by the Japanese Government.

The project, being implemented in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the two County Governments, is part of the larger Kenya-Ethiopia Cross-border Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic transformation.

UN Women and UNDP in Kenya are also working with relevant agencies to establish dynamic, action-ready and research-informed knowledge of current extremist ideologies and organisational models.

To nip extremism before it sprouts, we must start within our families, to address the feelings of exclusion and lack of engagement among girls who are clearly the new frontier for recruitment by terror groups.

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Excerpt:

Ambassador Amina Mohamed EGH, CAV is the Cabinet Secretary for Education in the Government of Kenya and co-chair of High Level Platform for Girls Education. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Sustainable Food Systems; Why We do Not Need New Recipeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 05:14:37 +0000 Doaa Abdel-Motaal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155751 Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs […]

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By Doaa Abdel-Motaal
ROME, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs to create employment in rural areas while protecting forests and wildlife, improving landscapes, and preventing climate change through lower food production emissions. Well-functioning food systems are also considered essential for social stability and conflict prevention. In fact many politicians today go as far as to argue that food systems need to thrive so as to stem rural-to-urban migration and the cross-border flow of desperate people fleeing food insecure nations.

Doaa Abdel-Motaal

This sounds like a tall order, sufficient to make of food and agriculture an economic sector apart. Add to this mix that some want the agricultural sector to deliver energy in the form biomass and biofuels, and not just food, and you seem to have an almost impossible set of goals.

But let us take a minute to work through all of this. Is there any economic sector of which we do not expect abundance, safety, employment generation and environmental protection? Do we not expect, for example, when our cars are manufactured that there be a sufficient number of them to meet demand, that they be safe and generate employment, and that they not pollute either during their production or use? Do we not expect when cars or other manufactured products are produced, that our economies grow while delivering greater peace and security in the process?

The food and agricultural sector requires exactly what all other economic sectors do. Beyond government intervention to impose food safety and environmental regulations, governments need to invest in the infrastructure that is necessary for absolutely any economic sector to thrive. This infrastructure includes physical infrastructure such as roads and highways, but above all legal infrastructure too. By this I mean the rule of law, in the form of a functioning court system to which investors can have quick and easy recourse, and open trade and investment policies. This legal infrastructure is what allows non-governmental actors like the private sector to throw their hat into the ring.

But there is something about food that makes any discussion of it emotional. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people are chronically undernourished. This figure is as unacceptable as it is alarming, and is certainly cause for immediate action. However, what this number does not call for is a misdiagnosis.

An emotional response to what is a troubling reality is the last thing we need. Doubling down on government intervention to pick winners and losers in the food sector, or to create an ‘industrial policy’ for agriculture, would be a mistake. It would prevent market signals from functioning properly. In fact, the answer to current food insecurity is to double down on economic growth, pursuing it even more aggressively.

Clearly some social protection is needed as this transition occurs. While people do not die of a lack of cars, they do die of a lack of food. But social protection must be managed carefully. The safety nets must be targeted to those in need, must not create complacency and slow the pace of economic reform, and, above all, food aid must not grow into an industry of its own, with the associated vested interests that would make it impossible to dismantle.

I have worked on international trade issues for decades where I have watched some of the world’s most developed nations refuse to reduce their agricultural subsidies and escalating tariffs that inflict daily harm on the developing world’s agricultural sector. A beggar thy neighbour approach. In the same arena, I have watched many developing countries refuse to open their markets to imported food, making food more expensive for the poorest segments of their population. These are all examples of the unfortunate application of an industrial policy to food.

I have also worked extensively in the area of food aid. While I have seen this aid come to the rescue of millions of people in dire need, I have also seen it create dependence and delay desperately needed economic reforms. I now work on polar issues, where I am watching scientists in Antarctica harvest their first crop of vegetables grown without earth, daylight or pesticides as part of a project designed to cultivate fresh food where we would have previously thought impossible.

My message is this, let us apply simple economics to food and agriculture and not invent new industrial policy recipes for this sector every day. Let us also keep a watchful eye on where technology can take us. Research and development may well take this sector towards a very different future.

*Doaa Abdel-Motaal is former Executive Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health, former Chief of Staff of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and former Deputy Chief of Staff of the World Trade Organization. She is the author of “Antarctica, the Battle for the Seventh Continent.”

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Marielle Franco Was Always There for Us and Now We’re There for Herhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/marielle-franco-was-always-there-for-us-and-now-were-there-for-her/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=marielle-franco-was-always-there-for-us-and-now-were-there-for-her http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/marielle-franco-was-always-there-for-us-and-now-were-there-for-her/#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 21:53:52 +0000 Ana Paula Gomes de Oliveira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155739 Ana Paula Gomes de Oliveira, from the Mothers of Manguinhos movement, an activist group comprised of women who have lost their children to police violence

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Marielle Franco Was Always There for Us and Now We’re There for Her - Ana Paula, resident of Manguinhos in Rio de Janeiro, mother of Johnatha de Oliveira, a 19 year-old boy killed by military police officers on 14 May 2014. The case of Jonatha's killing is portrayed in the report "You killed my son - Homicides by military police in the city of Rio de Janeiro", AMR 19/2068/2015 launched on August 2015. The report "You killed my son" denounces extrajudicial executions by military police officers in Rio de Janeiro and the pattern of non-investigation and impunity surrounding police killings.

Ana Paula Gomes de Oliveira.

By Ana Paula Gomes de Oliveira
May 11 2018 (IPS)

On May 14, 2014, my son, Johnatha de Oliveira Lima, was killed by a police officer from the Pacifying Police Unit in Manguinhos, in Rio de Janeiro. Soon after my son’s death, I got a phone call from a woman who identified herself as Marielle. I didn’t know who she was.

Back then, she wasn’t the city councilwoman elected with the fifth biggest share of the vote in Rio, not yet. But she worked on the Human Rights Commission in the state legislature, where she reached out to people who’d lost their children, siblings, or parents.

It is unacceptable that Marielle’s life has come to an end in such a cruel way, and that whoever was responsible has still not been brought to justice.

I knew that there was a Human Rights Commission because I’d seen it on television. On the same day that Johnatha died, she called me and said that she was there to help any way she could. I remember it perfectly. This is what she told me:

“Hi, Ana Paula, my name’s Marielle. You don’t know me, I work on the Human Rights Commission, but I want to tell you that, first of all, I’m here for you as a woman, and as the mother that I am. I can’t even imagine the pain you’re feeling. I wanted to give you my condolences, all my support, and I wish I could be there with you now and give you a hug personally. I’m sure I’ll get a chance to do just that.”

She kept on reaching out to me, to my family, my sister, and she invited us to the commission, where I met her for the first time. Here in Manguinhos, she was at the demonstration a year after Johnatha’s death, and then at cultural events.

Marielle was just like us. She came over to my house with the commission, and I got my family together to meet them. Our connection only grew stronger, because she was always there for us.

Sometimes through phone calls, many times by showing up at hearings, and not just for my son. I’d see her at demonstrations outside court, supporting other families at hearings, alongside other mothers whose sons had been killed, and she’d often come over and see us, give us a hug and a word of comfort, of strength. Whenever we saw her she wanted to know how my family was, and she’d talk about my son. She brought an air of peace, and she was always so warm.

When I heard that Marielle had been killed, I was in Jamaica. Amnesty International had invited me to take part in an event with relatives of people killed by police in Jamaica, Brazil and the USA. We went to share our stories and draw strength from one another.

On the night of March 14, after an intense day of activities, I was too tired to go out. I stayed in the hotel, looking over photos of my son and the protests on my cellphone. That day marked three years and 10 months since my son was killed. I reflected about everything that happened after his death, and everything that had brought me to that place, Jamaica. A place so far away from my daughter, my family, and my friends.

When I thought about it, I understood that if I was there, it was for a reason. So I pulled up a picture of my son and I started writing. As if I were talking to him: “Son, your mom loves you. I’m never going to forget you.” Just when I’d finished posting the photo with that caption on social media, my phone started going off. It was Denize, a mother I met through Marielle and the Human Rights Commission. We had grown close because of the terrible reality that we shared: her son had also been killed by the police.

It was Denize who gave me the news that Marielle had been shot dead. I was overwhelmed. It was like losing someone from my family, a close friend. I knew that whenever I called, day or night, she would pick up.

It is unacceptable that Marielle’s life has come to an end in such a cruel way, and that whoever was responsible has still not been brought to justice.

Marielle was always there for all of us, a tireless defender of our rights. And now we, the mothers she always gave a hand to when we needed it, will always be there for her and for those in her life. Our voices will not rest and we will keep fighting for Marielle until justice is delivered. Demand answers from the Brazilian authorities by signing Amnesty International’s petition.  As we say in Brazil, Marielle is still present, today and always!

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Excerpt:

Ana Paula Gomes de Oliveira, from the Mothers of Manguinhos movement, an activist group comprised of women who have lost their children to police violence

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The UN and #MeToo: The Saga of Abuse Must End, Once and for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end/#comments Thu, 10 May 2018 13:09:56 +0000 Loraine Rickard-Martin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155707 Loraine Rickard-Martin, PassBlue*

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Secretary-General António Guterres and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, at an event for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Nov. 22, 2017. The author, a veteran of the UN, argues that new steps by the institution to confront sexual harassment systemwide requires a new mind-set as well. Credit: ESKINDER DEBEBE/UN PHOTO

By Loraine Rickard-Martin
NEW YORK, May 10 2018 (IPS)

For many years now, media attention on sexual abuse and exploitation by United Nations peacekeepers cornered the UN and pushed it toward reform. Now, the #MeToo movement has put the organization — and many other major institutions across the world — on red alert.

But UN insiders and supporters are wondering if the leadership’s rush to action in the last few months augurs real change or is mere window dressing after decades of neglecting the problem. Some people see an opportunity for the UN to recognize that its separation of sexual harassment from sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) allows perpetrators to get away with impunity.

Many people also hope that the welcome action spurred by #MeToo will translate into addressing other forms of harassment and abuse of authority. I am doubtful, having in my 37-year career encountered a deepening UN culture of silence and fear and tendency to protect powerful men and complicit women, at any cost.

Last December, spurred by the #MeToo movement, Secretary-General António Guterres created a task force on sexual harassment, headed by Jan Beagle, the UN’s head of management. PassBlue reported at the time on a range of detailed accusations from women working in the UN and foreign missions to the UN, who had experienced sexual harassment. Other media also soon reported on such trouble within the UN.

In February 2018, the UN set up a 24-hour sexual harassment helpline; zero tolerance was reinforced in speeches. In April, the UN announced its first executive coordinator and spokesperson on addressing sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in and outside the institution, Purna Sen.

Will these appointments and the task force mean genuine change in how the UN addresses sexual harassment and abuse?

The problem has existed for a long time. More than 25 years ago at the UN, an employee named Catherine Claxton made charges of sexual harassment and denial of promotion against Luis Maria Gomez, who, when he became her boss, prompted Claxton to finally file a formal complaint against him. Claxton won her case but waited years to receive a cash payment and a gag order yet no promotion; all of this happened only after The New York Times published an article about her case. Gomez parachuted briefly from one UN office into another before retreating into retirement.

The most current and public case of sexual harassment has zeroed in on Unaids, the UN entity tasked with preventing and ending AIDS worldwide. The case involves a complaint from a staff member, Martina Brostrom, against a top Unaids official, Luiz Loures, who was exonerated from the allegations and quietly retired. According to The Guardian, one of the most senior women in Unaids, Miriam Maluwa, who acted as a key witness for the accuser, has been placed on administrative leave.

The case was recently reopened — most likely because of media publicity, significantly when The Lancet published a scathing article on how the accusations were handled and dismissed.

Based on indications in his most recent report on SEA showing fewer cases being reported in certain UN sectors, like peacekeeping, Guterres acknowledged the likelihood of the underreporting of such cases and that most of those that have been submitted involve civilian staff and not peacekeepers. (Jane Holl Lute, the UN envoy on ending SEA, spoke to the media in March 2018 about the report in the video below.)

Which raises the question as to why the UN separates sexual harassment (unwelcome sexual behavior between or among UN staff) from sexual exploitation and abuse (sexual violation of non-UN staff, or SEA) as categories of misconduct. It’s an artificial divide, given that perpetrators criss-cross the lines and seem to have no trouble getting recycled in the UN system, becoming repeat offenders.

More steps have been taken by the UN this month to deal with the allegations: on May 4, it announced plans to develop a screening tool for “confirmed perpetrators of sexual harassment” to prevent them from moving around the UN system. As an example, a high-level Unicef official recently resigned because of inappropriate conduct against women in his previous job at Save the Children UK.

Recycling UN personnel accused of sexual wrongdoing — either through a transfer to another job or another mission or eased into retirement with full benefits — has long been a UN practice. Yet there is no hint of how the screening tool will prevent recycling, since, as Beagle said in announcing it, “sexual misconduct was going unreported in a culture of silence and impunity at U.N. offices worldwide.”

After all, a lack of accountability and responsible reactions to sexual harassment and abuse have much to do with the mutual protection of the “old boys’ club,” including complicit women. The culture also has to do with the fear of displeasing the UN’s 193 member states, who fiercely protect their national staff in the UN system, enabled by a tenuous adherence to Article 100 of the UN Charter, which prohibits personnel of the Secretariat from seeking or receiving instructions from any government.

Some countries, more than others, lobby hard for recruitment, promotion and protection of their nationals, and the UN leadership too often falls in line.

I encountered recycled cases 10 years ago, having witnessed UN personnel performing sensitive work for the institution while sexually harassing their colleagues, openly hiring sex workers and conducting sexual relationships with national staff in the field, some of the latter employed in offices of their national governments.

Indeed, in my career at the UN, I’ve observed little improvement with the problem of sexual abuse and harassment since 1977, when a female colleague and friend on a UN peacemaking mission was drugged and sexually assaulted but too afraid to report it. On the same mission, a UN peacekeeper from a Western country bought — yes, bought — a 16-year-old girl from her impoverished family and took her to live in his officers’ quarters in the UN camp.

In the 1980s, an internationally respected UN colleague casually remarked: “There’s nothing wrong with having sex with 15-year-old girls [in country X]. They want it. They chase after you. It’s normal in the culture.”

Women and men who suffer various kinds of harassment and abuse of authority in the UN system every day are hoping that the attention from #MeToo will trickle down to other types of abuse in management decisions, such as staff selection, promotion, assignments and renewal of contracts.

Many of us have long noted that the problem of various forms of harassment and abuse in the UN has worsened as successive administrations of leadership started to move toward a corporate culture, which has chipped away at staff rights and job security. This shift, pushed by powerful member states, accelerated in the 1990s. The UN internal system of justice was overhauled according to a General Assembly directive in 2009, and though improvements have been made, such as whistleblower protection, many deficiencies remain.

Recent UN cases that surfaced in the media, for example, have specifically uncovered retaliation against whistleblowers, like the much-reported story of Anders Kompass (formerly with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, or OHCHR), who was suspended for revealing a high-level cover-up of the rape of children in the Central African Republic.

Other examples include Peter Gallo, a former UN internal investigator who contended that he suffered retaliation after bringing a complaint of misconduct against officials of the UN’s internal investigative body; and Emma Reilly, another staff member with OHCHR, who alleged that she faced retaliation for trying to get the office to end the practice of providing to governments the names of dissidents scheduled to participate in sessions of the Human Rights Council.

Jan Beagle, the director of UN management and recently named to head the UN’s new task force on sexual harassment in the institution, pictured in 2015. Credit: KIM HAUGHTON/UN PHOTO

Guterres’s willingness to be honest and aggressive, at least on the SEA and harassment front, including emphasizing mandatory training and strengthening whistleblower protection, appears to be sincere. But he must ensure that those entrusted by him to carry out his directives are committed to doing just that, from start to finish. Yet what are we to make of the fact that Jan Beagle, now handling the UN task force on sexual harassment accusations, was recently a top executive at Unaids?

A letter dated Feb. 5, 2018 and addressed to Guterres by AIDS-Free World, an American nonprofit watchdog group, notes that Beagle “was Deputy Executive Director for Human Resources and Management at UNAIDS while the very case at hand was being mangled: nary a word of intervention.”

Furthermore, The Guardian reported on May 8 that when Beagle was tapped by Guterres for the top UN management job, she was being investigated for a claim of harassment in Unaids but later cleared. The staff member who made the claim, Sima Newell, said that the investigation was improperly handled by Unaids.

One way that Guterres aims to transform the UN culture is to put more power in the hands of women. His plan has merit, but achieving gender parity must not be used as a distraction from the hard job of ending the prevailing mind-set of impunity. It’s unlikely that such an ingrained bias will be easy to dislodge.

Some people have charged that self-protection, rather than protection of victims, lies at the heart of many recent UN steps to eliminate abuse. An internal memo addressed to his team by Ben Swanson, the UN’s top investigator (from the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services), the day before the UN’s harassment helpline was launched, “suggests that the organization was acting defensively,” said one media report.

The #MeToo movement has offered the UN a welcome opportunity to reverse decades of neglect in how it responds to sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct. No amount of high-profile appointments and other initiatives, however, will result in improvements without a radical change in the UN environment of silence, fear, cover-up and protection of powerful men and complicit women.

The UN’s efforts must extend to addressing all forms of harassment and abuse of authority. Many insiders, observers and supporters know that the UN can, and must, do better.

*PassBlue is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the US-UN relationship as well as women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters, reported from our base in the UN press corps. Founded in 2011, PassBlue is a project of the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs in New York and not tied financially or otherwise to the UN; previously, it was housed at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. PassBlue is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.

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Excerpt:

Loraine Rickard-Martin, PassBlue*

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“I Wake Up Screaming”: Gaza’s Children Bear the Brunt of Violencehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wake-screaming-gazas-children-bear-brunt-violence/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wake-screaming-gazas-children-bear-brunt-violence http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wake-screaming-gazas-children-bear-brunt-violence/#comments Thu, 10 May 2018 05:33:48 +0000 Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155696 Reham Qudaih wakes up nightly to the same nightmare: her father shot, lying on the ground in a pool of blood. “In my dreams he is on the ground shot. When I have that dream – which I’ve had more than once I wake up screaming,” she told the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). In a […]

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Palestinian child on donkey cart next to garbage container in Gaza City. Credit: Mohammed Omer/IPS

By Will Higginbotham and Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 10 2018 (IPS)

Reham Qudaih wakes up nightly to the same nightmare: her father shot, lying on the ground in a pool of blood.

“In my dreams he is on the ground shot. When I have that dream – which I’ve had more than once I wake up screaming,” she told the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

In a recent study, NRC found that children living in the Gaza Strip are experiencing are showing increasing signs of psychosocial deterioration since clashes reignited in the region.

“The violence children are witnessing in Gaza comes on top of an already worsening situation negatively impacting their mental wellbeing,” said NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland.

“They have faced three devastating wars and have been living under occupation for the past 11. Now they are once again faced with the horrifying prospect of losing their loved ones, as they see more and more friends and relatives getting killed and injured,” he continued.

Now in their sixth week, ongoing protests at the border between Gaza and Israel have left over 40 killed and more than 5,500 injured since its inception in March.

While Palestinian demonstrators are reportedly using burning tires and wirecutters to breach the barbed-wire border fence, Israeli forces have retaliated with rubber bullets and live ammunition.

Dubbed the ‘Great Return March,’ the demonstrations are centered on Palestinian refugees’ right to return and resettle in Israel.

NRC’s study—which saw 300 school children aged 10 to 12 surveyed—found that 56 per cent reported they were suffering from nightmares.

Principals from 20 schools also reported a rise in symptoms of post-traumatic stress in children, including fears, anxiety, stress and nightmares.

The principals ranked increased psychosocial support in schools as their top need currently.

One of the many schools in Gaza damaged in Israeli attacks. Credit: Eva Bartlett/IPS

Qudaih is fourteen and lives in the Gaza strip. She has suffered from ongoing nightmares since the 2014 Gaza-Israeli conflict.

She was making progress in coping with her trauma, but much was unravelled after her father was shot in the leg while attending the protests.

On the day that Qudaih’s father was shot, Israeli troops killed 20 Palestinian protesters and wounded more than 700 – including children.

“We went there [to the protests] to reclaim our rights that were taken away by the occupation…we do not have electricity, rights or food. We don’t get any treatment or a chance to play,” Qudaih said.

Since 2007, Gaza has faced an economic blockade by Israel and Egypt, contributing to a persistent humanitarian crisis.

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), half of the region’s children depend on humanitarian assistance and one in four needs pscyhosocial care.

The United States’ recent move to cut aid to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees further threatens the already very fragile community.

In addition, there is a lack of medicine and health equipment while power cuts and fuel shortages have disrupted water and sanitation services leaving nine out of 10 families without regular access to safe water.

If such trends continue, the UN has predicted that Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020.

Inconsolable since the incident, Qudaih constantly worries about the safety of her family and her future.

And her nightmares keep on returning.

Sadly, her story is not a unique for the children living in the Gaza strip.

“The escalating violence in Gaza has exacerbated the suffering of children whose lives have already been unbearably difficult for several years,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere.

Apart from the symptoms of severe distress and trauma, Geert added that children are also experiencing physical injuries.

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Ayoub was among the children that was killed in the protests, significantly impacting the younger members of his family and the larger community.

“Children belong in schools, homes and playgrounds – they should never be targeted or encouraged to participate in violence,” Cappelaere said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on Israeli forces to curb the use of “lethal force against unarmed demonstrators,” while questioning “how children…can present a threat of imminent death or serious injury to heavily protected security force personnel.”

NRC highlighted the need for long-term investment in psychosocial suppor. t

“For the children we work with, the nightmares continue for months and years after the violence that causes them. For these children they don’t have a chance to recover from previous trauma before fresh layers arise. That builds up,” said Jon-Håkon Schultz, Professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Tromsø in Norway.

“We need people to look seriously and invest in ways that we can counter these harmful psychological impacts,” he added.

The NRC provides psychosocial support to children living in Gaza and provide training for teachers through their Better Learning Programme (BLP) developed in partnership with University of Tromsø in Norway.

One of the features of the program involved screening children for nightmares and helping them work through their re-occurring ones through breathing and drawing exercises.

Qudaih is among the 250,000 children supported by NRC.

“We want to have dignified lives,” she said, urging the need for peaceful demonstrations.

The ‘Great Return March’ began on 30 March and will end on 15 May to mark what Palestinians refer to as the “Nakba”, a day that commemorates Palestinians’ displacement after the establishment of Israel in 1948.

Marchers have also pointed to the relocation fo the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem as a driver for the demonstration, a move that will take place on 15 May.

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Economies Flourish and Traffickers Profit from the Struggles of Low-Skilled Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economies-flourish-traffickers-profit-struggles-low-skilled-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economies-flourish-traffickers-profit-struggles-low-skilled-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economies-flourish-traffickers-profit-struggles-low-skilled-migrants/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:42:14 +0000 Agnes Igoye http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155668 Agnes Igoye serves as Uganda’s deputy National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and heads Uganda Immigration training Academy

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Human trafficking is not only limited to Uganda or Nigeria — it is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 40.3 million men, women, and children from every part of the world were victims of human trafficking.

It is estimated that 40.3 million people are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Agnes Igoye
KAMPALA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

I was 14-years-old the first time I came face to face with a human trafficker. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided my home. Ruthless, they demanded virgins and young girls. In a horrifying escape, I endured a treacherous, long journey that ended in an internally displaced people’s camp. I was lucky. Many Ugandan children were not. By the end of the nineteen years’ civil war, UNICEF estimated that the LRA had abducted some 20,000 children.

Human trafficking is still a problem today. Recently, the Nigeria government confirmed 110 school girls are missing, abducted by Boko Haram in Dapchi, in northeastern Nigeria. This follows a similar attack in April 2014 when Boko Haram abducted 276 school girls from Chibok, Borno State.

Human trafficking is not only limited to Uganda or Nigeria — it is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 40.3 million men, women, and children from every part of the world were victims of human trafficking.

Trafficking is lucrative, generating $150 billion in annual profits from forced labour in the private economy, according to International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates. In its report Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, two-thirds of the $150 billion is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while $51 billion comes from forced economic exploitation

While the LRA and Boko Haram kidnap, most human traffickers employ deceit as a recruitment tool. They target those who are low-skilled, mostly women and children. Lured with promises of gainful employment, the 2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery: Forced Labour and Forced Marriage indicates women and girls account for 99% of victims in the commercial sex industry, and 58% in other sectors, including domestic work.

Many of them experience exploitation. Complaints of abuse of Ugandan low-skilled workers in the Middle East, include physical and racial abuse, no pay or underpayment of wages, denied medical help, sexual abuse and long working hours. In Libya, there have been gross human rights abuses in the form of auctioning of migrants.

Trafficking is lucrative, generating $150 billion in annual profits from forced labour in the private economy, according to International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates. In its report Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour, two-thirds of the $150 billion is generated from commercial sexual exploitation, while $51 billion comes from forced economic exploitation, including domestic work and agriculture. The reality is, as low-skilled migrants suffer exploitation, human traffickers become richer.

Profiting from slavery is immoral. And it is time to craft creative solutions to solve this issue.

I have worked to stop human trafficking for almost a decade. I’ve helped build a rehabilitation center for survivors, trained law enforcement to recognize and investigate it, and I advocate globally for the rights of victims. What I have learned is that it is not enough to tell unemployed people about the dangers posed by human traffickers. Instead, we must focus on safe migration and ways to find gainful employment free of exploitation.

We should start by urging more countries to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. So far, only 51 countries, mostly migrant-sending countries, have ratified the convention. Memorandums of Understanding (MOU’s) and bilateral agreements between migrant-sending and receiving countries will only be effective when driven by respect for migrant’s rights.

Another tactic is for governments and policy makers to recognize and regulate sectors that attracted low skilled workers like domestic work. The lack of contracts/guidelines of what domestic work entails increases the vulnerability of those employed in the sector. Where contracts do exist, statements like ‘any other duties that your employer will assign from time to time’ have been exploited by traffickers to enslave their victims. In my interviews with survivors, ‘any other duties’ have included providing erotic massage to their employers — women and men alike. One victim was severely beaten for giving the massage without a smile.

Discriminatory migration policies and overly stringent visa regimes also must be altered. When policy makers don’t facilitate the humane movement of low-skilled migrant workers, they feel their only option is to listen to deceptive traffickers. Policies can be crafted to meet the needs of countries but also take away the power of traffickers to deceive and continue to draw victims.

 

Human trafficking is not only limited to Uganda or Nigeria — it is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 40.3 million men, women, and children from every part of the world were victims of human trafficking.

Agnes Igoye

 

While these solutions could help reduce the trafficking of people who are seeking a better life, other tactics are needed to prevent kidnappings like the one I almost experienced. Rather than concentrate resources to military options, governments should tackle the root causes that drive youth to join the ranks of violent extremist organizations. The UN 2015 Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism prescribes dealing with poverty and youth unemployment that make extremist organizations an attractive source of income and belonging.

Governments and development partners also should do more to allocate resources to implement this plan to ensure employment facilitation, skills development, entrepreneurial support, youth involvement in decision-making, mentorship programs, as well as improved education. The World Bank Vice President for Africa Makhtar Diop warned this education should have practical application to improve young people’s productivity to match the demands of a fast changing labour force.

These solutions are key to unlocking the potential of the youth, such as those who raided my home, and now those who belong to Boko Haram and who continue to kidnap girls.

Indeed, these policies are part of the solution to the unemployment crisis that is fueling international human trafficking.

Agnes Igoye serves as Uganda’s deputy National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and heads Uganda Immigration training Academy. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow her on Twitter @AgnesIgoye.

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Excerpt:

Agnes Igoye serves as Uganda’s deputy National Coordinator Prevention of Trafficking in Persons and heads Uganda Immigration training Academy

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FAO Releases Alarming Report on Soil Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 13:09:04 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155621 Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat.  FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A […]

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Soil pollution poses a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and to our health, says new report by FAO

Untreated urban waste is amongst those human activities that contaminate our soils. Credit: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 4 2018 (IPS)

Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat. 

FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A Hidden Reality” at the start of a global symposium which has been taking place 2-4 May, 2018 at FAO headquarters, participated by experts and policymakers to discuss the threat of soil pollution in order to build an effective framework for a cohesive international response.

 

Background: What is soil pollution?

“Soil pollution refers to the presence of a chemical or substance out of place and/or present at a higher than normal concentration that has adverse effects on any non-targeted organism. Soil pollution often cannot be directly assessed or visually perceived, making it a hidden danger” states the FAO report. As a “hidden danger” right below our feet, soil pollution turns out to be underestimated affecting everyone – humans and animals.

The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans


The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans.

The Global Symposium on Soil Pollution (GSOP18), aims to be a step to build a common platform to discuss the latest data on the status, trends and actions on soil pollution and its threatening consequences on human health, food safety and the environment.

The report prepared by FAO shows how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are deeply linked with the issue of addressing soil pollution. SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Wealth and Well-Being), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) have all targets which have direct refernceto soil resources, particularly soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.

Furthermore, the widespread consensus that was achieved on the Declaration on soil pollution during the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3, December 2017) is an obvious sign of global determination to tackle pollution and its causes, which mainly originate from human activities. Unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices are amongst the main causes of soil pollution, highlights FAO’s report.

 

Facts and figures to note

The FAO report is an updated benchmark of scientific research on soil pollution and it can be a critical tool to identify and plug global information gaps and therefore advance a cohesive international response to soil pollution.

According to findings of the report, the current situation is of high concern. For example, the amount of chemicals produced by the European chemical industry in 2015 was 319 million tonnes. Of that, 117 million tonnes were deemed hazardous to the environment.

Global production of municipal solid waste was around 1.3 billion tonnes per year in 2012 and it is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes annually by 2025. Some developing countries have notably increased their use of pesticides over the last decade. Rwanda and Ethiopia by over six times, Bangladesh by four times and Sudan by ten times.

The report also highlights that “the total number of contaminated sites is estimated at 80,000 across Australia; in China, the Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry, estimated that 16 per cent of all Chinese soils and 19 per cent of its agricultural soils are categorized as polluted”.

“In the European Economic Area and cooperating countries in the West Balkans” adding, “there are approximately 3 million potentially polluted sites”. While in the United States of America (USA) there are “more than 1,300 polluted or contaminated sites”. These facts are stunning and the international community needs to turn its urgent attention to preserve the state of our soils and to remediate polluted soils into concrete action.

The report also warns that studies which have been conducted, have largely been limited to developed economies because of the inadequacy of available information in developing countries and because of the differences in registering polluted sites across geographic regions.

This means that there are clearly massive information gaps regarding the nature and extent of soil pollution. Despite that, the limited information available, is enough for deep concern, the report adds.

 

A growing concern

“The more we learn, the more we know we need cleaner dirt,” said FAO’s Director of Communication, Enrique Yeves, confirming the urgency of the UN agency to address the issue of soil pollution as soon as possible.

Concern and awareness over soil pollution are increasing worldwide. The report highlights the positive increase in research conducted on soil pollution around the world and fortunately, determination is turning into action at international and national levels.

Soil pollution was at the centre of discussion during the Fifth Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Plenary Assembly (GSP, 2017) and not long ago, the UNE3 adopted a resolution calling for accelerated actions and collaboration to address and manage soil pollution. “This consensus” highlights FAO’s report, “achieved by more than 170 countries, is a clear sign of the global relevance of pollution and of the willingness of these countries to develop concrete solutions to address pollution problems”.

FAO’s World Soil Charter recommends that “national governments implement regulations on soil pollution and limit the accumulation of contaminants beyond established levels in order to guarantee human health and wellbeing. Governments are also urged to facilitate remediation of contaminated soils”.

“It is also essential to limit pollution from agricultural sources by the global implementation of sustainable soil management practices”. These recommendations need to be adequately addressed both at international and national levels, in line with the 2030 agenda.

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