Inter Press Service » Crime & Justice http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 22 May 2017 13:06:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.18 Reflections on 2017 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/reflections-on-2017-world-day-for-cultural-diversity-for-dialogue-and-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reflections-on-2017-world-day-for-cultural-diversity-for-dialogue-and-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/reflections-on-2017-world-day-for-cultural-diversity-for-dialogue-and-development/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 05:38:04 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150497 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”)]]>

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (“The Geneva Centre”)

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, May 22 2017 (IPS)

More than 7 billion people live on this planet spread among 7 continents, 194 states of the United Nations (UN) and numerous other non-self-governing territories. The world is made up of a mosaic of people belonging to different cultural and religious backgrounds. Our planet has been a cultural melting pot since time immemorial.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

According to the UN, the world population is expected to rise to 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion people in 2100. The projected rise of the global population will further reinforce the world’s cultural wealth and the opportunities for dynamic interchange between cultures and civilizations.

The 2017 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development is an important opportunity to advance the goals of the 2005 UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. This landmark Convention aims to “protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions” and to further enhance cultural diversity around the world.

The 2001 UNESCO Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity likewise reminds us of the importance of moving “from cultural diversity to cultural pluralism” through social inclusion and cultural empowerment enabling social cohesion to flourish. Harmonious relationships between peoples start with cultural interaction and cultural empathy.

While we place great importance in preserving the diversity of cultures as a common heritage of mankind, we fear that the world is on the brink of entering into a phase of fragmentation and irreconcilable division.

The inflow of migrants to Europe has been used as an excuse to justify the rise of right-wing populism. Migrants are often scapegoated for the failures of societies although their contributions to the economic and social development of societies and to cultural diversity are well documented. Differences related to cultures and to religions are presented as obstacles and as being damaging to modern societies. This has given rise to discrimination, marginalization, bigotry and social exclusion leaving the impression that cultural diversity is a threat, and not a source of richness.

While the flow of migrants and refugees to rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population, they are increasingly resented. Yet it has been difficult to increase development assistance resources from rich economies to help stabilize people on the move who are present in countries neighbouring their country of origin. The latter, while much poorer, have welcomed a much higher, double-digit, percentage of migrants and refugees in relation to their own population.

With a view to proposing an alternative solution to enhance cultural diversity and to reversing this trend, I co-chaired a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the theme of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights.”

During the deliberations, one of the panellists made a salient remark that captured the essence of the debate. It was emphasized that we should never fear “the stranger, in his or her difference, because he or she will be a source of richness.”

Echoing this view, I believe that in modern societies, progress can be ascribed to the celebration of cultural diversity and to the acceptance of the stranger. The driving force behind the success of the United States of America (USA) was the country’s openness towards migrants aspiring to live the American Dream. It allowed building a prosperous society that leveraged the talent of different people regardless of religious or cultural differences.

Embracing cultural diversity, open-mindedness and tolerance enabled the US to become a symbol of success and prosperity.

Taking inspiration from this example, I would like to emphasize that we need to cultivate a climate where cultural diversity is considered a synonym for progress and development. Exclusion and marginalization of people owing to cultural differences do not belong in an open, tolerant and prosperous society.

Hence the need to intensify dialogue between and within societies, civilizations and cultures. We need to learn more about each other, to build mutual bonds and to break down the walls of ignorance that have insulated societies.

The term “the beauty of the world lies in the diversity of its people” captures the essence of the 2017 World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. Let difference beget not division but an urge to celebrate diversity and pluralism.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/reflections-on-2017-world-day-for-cultural-diversity-for-dialogue-and-development/feed/ 0
An Untold Economic Success Story in Syriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 21:17:30 +0000 Pierre Krahenbuhl http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150473 Pierre Krähenbühl is Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)]]> Hanan, UNRWA microfinance recipient, Jaramana camp, Damascus, Syria © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Wasim al Masri

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

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

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

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

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

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria/feed/ 0
Mapping and Responding to Climate-Induced Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mapping-and-responding-to-climate-induced-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mapping-and-responding-to-climate-induced-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mapping-and-responding-to-climate-induced-migration/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 12:38:55 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150452 Migrants arrive daily at New Delhi railway stations from across India fleeing floods and a debilitating drought. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mapping-and-responding-to-climate-induced-migration/feed/ 0
Sexual Violence as a “Threat to Security and Durable Peace”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/sexual-violence-as-a-threat-to-security-and-durable-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sexual-violence-as-a-threat-to-security-and-durable-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/sexual-violence-as-a-threat-to-security-and-durable-peace/#comments Wed, 17 May 2017 13:16:47 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150441 Mina Jaf, Founder and Executive Director of Women's Refugee Route. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stigma kills,” Dieng added.

Mohammed highlighted that holistic reintegration is “imperative.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/sexual-violence-as-a-threat-to-security-and-durable-peace/feed/ 0
Kenya’s Drought: Response Must Be Sustainable, Not Piecemealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal/#comments Mon, 15 May 2017 10:11:55 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150415 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator and the UNDP Resident Representative in Kenya.]]> Dabo Boru, 21, is a mother of three who trekked with her family to Badanrero from her home village of Ambato, 38 km away. They were forced to move here in order to save their cattle from dying of thirst and hunger due to drought. Credit: @unicefkenya

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

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

 

A malnutrition emergency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Underfunded response

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

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

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

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

Government efforts

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

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

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

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

Sustainable, not piecemeal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/kenyas-drought-response-must-be-sustainable-not-piecemeal/feed/ 1
Punishment for Human Rights Abusers Is Irrevocable Achievement for Argentine Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/punishment-for-human-rights-abusers-is-irrevocable-achievement-for-argentine-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=punishment-for-human-rights-abusers-is-irrevocable-achievement-for-argentine-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/punishment-for-human-rights-abusers-is-irrevocable-achievement-for-argentine-society/#comments Fri, 12 May 2017 22:27:50 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150403 Hundreds of thousands of people poured into the Plaza de Mayo square in Buenos Aires on May 10 to protest a Supreme Court ruling that made it possible to reduce the prison sentences of dictatorship-era human rights abusers – a verdict neutralised by a new law passed by Congress on May 10. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Hundreds of thousands of people poured into the Plaza de Mayo square in Buenos Aires on May 10 to protest a Supreme Court ruling that made it possible to reduce the prison sentences of dictatorship-era human rights abusers – a verdict neutralised by a new law passed by Congress on May 10. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, May 12 2017 (IPS)

What at first was terrible news that outraged a large proportion of Argentine society, who see the conviction and imprisonment of dictatorship-era human rights violators as an irrevocable achievement for democracy, became a cause for celebration a week later.

An unexpected ruling handed down by the Supreme Court on May 3 initially opened the door to hundreds of members of the military and civilians in prison for crimes against humanity committed during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship to seek a reduction of their sentences, which would in some cases even allow them to immediately be released.

However, the wave of outrage that arose in human rights groups spread in the following days throughout society, leading to changes that came about at a dizzying pace that made it unlikely for the court ruling, which applied to one particular case, to be used as a precedent for other human rights abusers to obtain a reduction in their sentences.“I don’t recall in the history of Argentina any other time that Congress has reacted so quickly to a legal ruling. And I am convinced that the entire justice system is going to rebel against this Supreme Court ruling.” -- Andrés Gil

“It won’t go any farther than this. In the Argentine justice system, the Supreme Court’s decisions are not binding on lower courts. After the strong social repulsion and after all political sectors spoke out against the early release of human rights violators, this will end with Muiña,” Jorge Rizo, chairman of the Buenos Aires Bar Association, told IPS.

It was the case of Luis Muiña, a civilian in prison for his participation in kidnappings and torture in 1976, that sparked the massive protest demonstrations held over the past week.

In a divided ruling, the Supreme Court decided to apply the “two for one” law that compensates for time spent in pre-sentence custody, to reduce Muiña’s 13-year sentence to the nine years he has already served.

But exactly a week later, on May 10, Congress passed a law supported by all political sectors which established that the two-for-one law was not applicable in cases involving genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.

A few hours later, hundreds of thousands of people filled the Plaza de Mayo square in Buenos Aires, reminiscent of the biggest rallies in the country’s history.

Many wore white headscarves, a symbol of the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights groups, who in April celebrated the 40th anniversary of their first march in the Plaza de Mayo square to demand that their “disappeared” sons and daughters be returned to them.

According to human rights organisations, 30,000 people were killed or “disappeared” by the regime.

A big banner on the stage read: “Never again! No freedom for human rights abusers”. The main speaker at the massive rally was Estela de Carlotto, the longtime head of the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who have so far found 122 of their grandchildren, stolen by the dictatorship and raised under false identities.

“Just like with the Nazis, wherever they go we will go after them,” Carlotto chanted along with the crowd estimated by the organisers at 400,000 people.

“Fortunately, society has taken a firm stance,” said the activist, adding that the quick action by Congress “fills us with hope and gratitude.”

“Never again! No freedom for human rights abusers”, read a big banner in the massive rally where hundreds of thousands of Argentinians, wearing white headscarves representing the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights group, demanded full punishment for dictatorship-era human right violators. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

“Never again! No freedom for human rights abusers”, read a big banner in the massive rally where hundreds of thousands of Argentinians, wearing white headscarves representing the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo human rights group, demanded full punishment for dictatorship-era human right violators. Credit: Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo

In the demonstration there was in the air a strong rejection of the government of conservative President Mauricio Macri, even though it did not play any role in the trial. Many protesters held signs linking the president to the Court’s decision, a connection also insinuated in Twitter by former president Cristina Fernández (2007-2015), who at the moment was traveling through Europe.

The government had a somewhat unclear response to the Supreme Court ruling. It initially left the response exclusively in the hands of Human Rights Secretary Claudio Avruj who, although responsible for this area, is not a high-ranking official. Perhaps over-cautiously, he urged people to be “respectful of the verdict.”

But as the negative repercussions grew, the government began to reject the ruling, through more important figures. And once Congress passed the law, Macri himself congratulated the lawmakers, and said he was opposed to “any tool that favours impunity, and especially when this tool is applied to crimes against humanity.”

The Supreme Court ruling was divided, three-to-two. The majority was made up of Elena Highton, Horacio Rosatti and Carlos Rosenkrantz – the latter two named to the Court last year on Macri’s recommendation.

The two-for-one law, which stated that every day spent in pre-sentence custody counted for two days after two years had been served, was designed to help Argentina address the large proportion of people in prison who have not yet been tried and sentenced. But the 1994 law was repealed in 2001 as it had failed to achieve its aim.

But the three Supreme Court justices argued that the most beneficial law for the accused must be applied in penal law, even in cases involving crimes against humanity.

“The sentence, technically, goes against international law,” said Gastón Chillier, executive director of the Social and Legal Studies Centre (CELS), a human rights organisation created during the dictatorship.

“The law which was passed promptly by Congress is a result of the cross-cutting nature of the reaction against the ruling. From now on, the justice system will have to be very autistic to ignore the rejection that the sentence generated,” Chillier told IPS.

One of the founders of CELS, lawyer Marcelo Parrilli, filed criminal charges accusing the three magistrates of prevarication, or knowingly handing down a decision contrary to the law.

Soon after, federal prosecutor Guillermo Marijuán considered that there were grounds to launch a judicial investigation. And the Front for Victory (FPV) political faction headed by former president Fernández sought to impeach Highton, Rosatti and Rosenkrantz.

But it did not all end there, since a well-known constitutionalist lawyer, Andrés Gil, asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to order Argentina to abstain from reducing the sentences of those convicted of human rights violations.

Gil told IPS: “I don’t recall in the history of Argentina any other time that Congress has reacted so quickly to a legal ruling. And I am convinced that the entire justice system is going to rebel against this Supreme Court ruling.”

“Those who signed that decision did not realise that the trial and punishment of those responsible for human rights abuses during the last dictatorship now form part of the heritage of the Argentine people,” he added.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/punishment-for-human-rights-abusers-is-irrevocable-achievement-for-argentine-society/feed/ 0
Indonesia’s Trial and Verdict by Omissionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/indonesias-trial-and-verdict-by-omission/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indonesias-trial-and-verdict-by-omission http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/indonesias-trial-and-verdict-by-omission/#comments Fri, 12 May 2017 12:42:13 +0000 Warief Djajanto Basorie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150396 The author is a manager and instructor at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute , Jakarta since 1991.]]>

The author is a manager and instructor at Dr. Soetomo Press Institute , Jakarta since 1991.

By Warief Djajanto Basorie
JAKARTA, May 12 2017 (IPS)

Remove one word in the narrative. You hit your target with a two-year jail sentence.

Governor of Jakarta Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, widely know as Ahok, was the target. After a six-month trial, the North Jakarta District Court on May 9 sentenced him to two years in jail with immediate imprisonment for defamation of religion. It was a double blow within a month.

On April 19 Ahok lost his bid for reelection as governor of this metropolis of 10 million people to former education minister Anies Baswedan.

Ahok’s change in fortune occurred on Sept 27 2016. Surveys up to then showed Ahok was a shoe-in to win reelection. He had garnered one-million-plus signatures of support from eligible voters in Indonesia’s capital, collected by a non-party volunteers group. His popularity was on a high for his clean government stance and success in delivering services. And the Jakarta race is centrally crucial.

The importance of the Jakarta governorship is that it’s a proven path to the presidency. The proof is in President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo who was previously Jakarta’s governor 2012-2014. As Jokowi did not complete his five- year governorship, Ahok as his deputy, succeeded Jokowi as governor.

On that clear Tuesday morning, Sept 27, Governor Ahok travelled to Pramuka Island in the Thousand islands group off the coast of North Jakarta. The trip was to celebrate a karapu fish harvest but the event turned to be a pre-campaign delivery.

Indonesia is a Muslim-majority nation of 250 million people. Ahok is of Chinese descent and a Christian, a double minority. Apparently Ahok did not perceive the consequences when he cited a verse in the Qur’an, Islam’s holy book, in light of the coming gubernatorial campaign.

“You know, perhaps in the back of your mind, you feel you can’t vote for me. Because you were fooled to use Al Maidah (verse) 51 …,” Ahok remarked off-the-cuff of opposing politicians who might use Islam’s holy scripture against him.

Al Maida (The Table Spread) , the fifth surah (chapter) in the Qur’an, has 120 ayat or verses. The verse in question is verse 51.

In essence Al Maida verse 51 calls on the faithful not to accept a non-Muslim as their leader.

On Oct 6 a Jakarta academic reviewed Ahok’s statement in video and concluded Ahok has committed blasphemy. Communication studies scholar Buni Yani uploaded a clip of the video and its transcript on his Facebook account. It stirred a storm.

“All of you (Muslim voters) were fooled by Al Maidah (verse) 51 …”. This is the quote in Buni Yani’s transcript.

The difference with the original quote is that Buni Yani’s transcript does not have the word “use” (pakai in Indonesian). At a talk show on TV One Oct 11, the academic confessed he erred in transcribing the remarks the Jakarta governor made.

Buni admitted he excluded the word “use” because he asserted he did not wear a headset to listen to the statement of Governor Basuki. But the damage has been done.

Buni’s 31-second video clip with provocative commentary can be described as a “post-truth” message where the narrative appeals to emotion disconnected from facts. The talking point continues eventhough the message is found to be misleading.

Oxford Dictionaries on Nov 15 has declared “post-truth” as its 2016 international word of the year, reflecting what it called a “highly-charged” political 12 months.

Buni Yani’s belated admission of verbal exclusion in his posted video could not repair the damage and restrain what was to come. Nor the public apology Ahok made in gatherings and on television over his misconceived Sept 27 remarks.

The omission of a single word was one element that drove a sea of white-clad mostly men on Nov 4 to flood the multi-lane streets off Jakarta’s Monas Square. The Square in Central Jakarta separates Freedom Palace, the president’s residence to its north, and City Hall, the governor’s office to its south.

Led by the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and other hardline groups, the mass rally demanded Ahok’s arrest and criminal prosecution for defaming Islam.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo read out a midnight statement slamming the street violence and damage before the palace gates that ensued that night. He stated “political actors” were behind the mayhem that caused one death.

On Nov 16 the chief for criminal investigation of the National Police, three-star Police Commissioner General Ari Dono Sukmanto, declared Ahok a suspect in an alleged act of blasphemy. This followed intense investigation culminating in a 10-hour case screening that heard testimony Nov 15.

On Dec 2 another huge rally took place. Like the one before, it was held on a Friday to create a great mass after noon public prayers at the capital’s mosques.

On Dec 13 Ahok went to his first of 22 hearings of his blasphemy trial.

On May 9 2017 Dwiarso Budi Santiarto, chief of the five-judge panel, read out the court’s verdict. Ahok is found guilty of violating Article 156a of the Criminal Code on defaming a religion. The sentence is two years with immediate imprisonment.

The bench’s decision goes beyond the prosecutors’ demand for a year in jail with a 2-year probation. Ahok appealed.

The convicted governor was quickly bundled to the Cipinang Prison in East Jakarta. Later in the evening Ahok was transferred to the police mobile brigade compound in Depok, south of Jakarta, “for safety,” the Cipinang warden said.

Th court’s verdict triggered an outcry of grief among Ahok supporters. They gathered in front of the courthouse, the prison, City Hall and on Wednesday night May 10, they held a candle-lit vigil at Proclamation Park, central Jakarta, where Indonesia’s first president Soekarno declared Indonesia’s independence Aug 17 1945. Similar vigils assembled in Manado and Waingapu, Christian majority centers in Eastern Indonesia.

“#Save Ahok” and “#Free Ahok” were the twitter hash tags. Many of the supporters at City Hall were red-clad women. Some in red and white, the national colors. Men wore the plaited colored shirts of Ahok’s campaign.

Ahok opponents approved the verdict. In front of the court venue, wearing white garb, they cried out in triumph and knelt on the ground in gratitude.

President Jokowi called for all to respect the legal process.

“I request all parties to respect the legal process, the verdict that was read out, and also to respect the steps taken by Mr Basuki Tjahaja Purnama,” Jokowi stated.

Defence lawyer I Wayan Sudarta didn’t mince words. He told The Jakarta Post the verdict was politically driven and unacceptable.

Ahok lost votes because of the trial. The rumor mill was rife of moves to mess with the president.

Further to Jokowi’s midnight statement Nov 4 on the activity of “political actors”, Coordinating Minister for Politcal, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto announced May 8, the day before the Ahok verdict, that the government seeks to ban by legal means the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, an organization that calls for an Islamic caliphate.

HTI’s disbandment is justified as its existence is against the Constitution and Indonesia’s state ideology, Pancasila (The Five Tenets), State Intelligence Chief Budi Gunawan stated.

Indeed, the legal process and the political dynamics in Indonesia comes under scrutiny. The big raucous demonstrations outside the court house and the mass rallies demanding Ahok’s conviction contrasting against the pro-Ahok vigils raise the spectre of social unrest, if not disunity.

Interfaith leaders in Indonesia’s have repeatedly called for tolerance to safeguard the sanctity of the national credo, Bhinekka Tunggal Ika, unity in diversity.

This is a testing time for Indonesia where minorities in religion like the Ahmadis and Syiahs face discrimination as well as LGBTs. Papua in the Eastern end of Indonesia is another issue where a movement seeks separation.

As Indonesian citizens, they want equal rights under the Constitution to express their case. Article 28E(3) of the Constitution states: “Every person shall have the right to the freedom of association and expression of opinion.”

All sections in the nation have a stake to make Indonesia a truly peaceful, just and inclusive society, to paraphrase the theme of World Press Freedom Day 2017 that Jakarta hosted early May.

To ward off any communal conflict that could arise from the Ahok case, one voice of moderation comes from a Muslim cleric in Depok, 20 km south of Jakarta. On the Sunday before the Ahok verdict, in a post-morning prayer sermon, he stated that those who bring up Al Maideh verse 51 must also acknowledge the message in verse 8 of the same chapter.

“Let not the enmity and hatred of others make you avoid justice.” The cleric explained Muslims must treat people of other faiths with justice.

The statements and views expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of IPS.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/indonesias-trial-and-verdict-by-omission/feed/ 0
Concerns Arise Over Freed Nigerian Abductees, Thousands Still Missinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/concerns-arise-over-freed-nigerian-abductees-thousands-still-missing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=concerns-arise-over-freed-nigerian-abductees-thousands-still-missing http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/concerns-arise-over-freed-nigerian-abductees-thousands-still-missing/#comments Wed, 10 May 2017 16:12:07 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150371 Gathering at the country's capital of Abuja, Nigerians call on the government to act quickly to find the 276 girls kidnapped from a Chibok school. Credit: IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/concerns-arise-over-freed-nigerian-abductees-thousands-still-missing/feed/ 0
Mega-Projects Have Magnified Corruption in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mega-projects-have-magnified-corruption-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mega-projects-have-magnified-corruption-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mega-projects-have-magnified-corruption-in-brazil/#comments Sat, 06 May 2017 02:44:24 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150322 Former Brazilian presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff take part in an Apr. 29 demonstration in defence of the shipbuilding industrial hub in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, one of the oil projects in Brazil on the verge of bankruptcy, due to the crisis plaguing the state-run oil company Petrobras due to the corruption scandal and the drop in oil prices. Credit: Stuckert/Lula Institute

Former Brazilian presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff take part in an Apr. 29 demonstration in defence of the shipbuilding industrial hub in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, one of the oil projects in Brazil on the verge of bankruptcy, due to the crisis plaguing the state-run oil company Petrobras due to the corruption scandal and the drop in oil prices. Credit: Stuckert/Lula Institute

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, May 6 2017 (IPS)

It cannot be categorically stated that corruption has increased in the country in recent years, because there is no objective information from earlier periods to compare with, according to Manoel Galdino, executive director of Transparency Brazil.

But recent revelations give the impression of a drastic increase in corruption, involving unprecedented amounts of money, nearly the entire political leadership of the country, and numerous state-run and private companies.

The Odebrecht conglomerate, led by Brazil’s biggest construction company, admitted to having paid 3.39 billion dollars in bribes to politicians between 2006 and 2014.

And that is only part of the scandal. More than 30 companies, including other large construction firms, are allegedly involved in the embezzlement of funds from the state oil company Petrobras, the initial focus of the “Lava Jato” (Carwash) investigation launched by the Public Prosecutor’s office, which has been exposing Brazil’s systemic corruption over the last three years.

The proliferation of mega-projects in the energy and transport sectors since 2005 coincides with the apparent rise in illegal dealings, with the collusion of politicians and business executives to maintain shared monopolies of power and excessive profits.

The 2006 discovery of huge oil deposits under a thick layer of salt in the Atlantic Ocean, known as the “pre-salt” reserves, sparked a surge of mega-projects, such as two big refineries and dozens of shipyards to produce drillships, oil platforms and other oil industry equipment.

Those projects came on top of petrochemical complexes that had already been projected.

In the following years, two big hydropower plants began being built on the Madeira River, and in 2011 the construction of another huge plant, Belo Monte, got underway on the Xingu River. This turned the Amazon region into a major supplier of energy for the rest of the country.

Three railroads, over 1,500-km-long each, ports all along the coast and others on the riverbanks were added to highways in the process of being paved or expanded to reduce the country’s deficit of transport infrastructure.

“Mega-projects always have a big potential for corruption. In Brazil we have always had a lot of corruption, which has now become more visible, thanks to the activity of oversight bodies and the media,” Roberto Livanu, president of the independent I Do Not Accept Corruption Institute, told IPS.

“But we cannot say that there is more corruption now than before, there is no way of measuring the magnitude, amounts and people involved,” said Livanu, who also works with the prosecution in the judicial proceedings.

Because of the very nature of the crime, “we only have subjective perceptions created by the visibility of the cases, which is now increased by the involvement of people in power, attracting much more interest from the press,” he said.

Besides, due to their complexity, mega-projects tend to fail – 65 per cent of them fail in at least one of four main aspects: cost, deadlines, objective and quality – says Edward Merrow, head of the U.S. consultancy Independent Project Analysis (IPA), in his book “Industrial MegaProjects”.

This complexity, he says, also contributes to corruption, at least in countries such as Brazil, with multiple opportunities for fraud presented by the thousands of contracts signed with suppliers of goods, services and financing, and regulatory and tax authorities.

On Apr. 24 the Senate passed a law penalising abuse of authority, with the aim of avoiding the need for further probes like “Lava Jato”, which is investigating one-third of the members of the Senate on corruption charges. Credit: Lula Marques/AGPT

On Apr. 24 the Senate passed a law penalising abuse of authority, with the aim of avoiding the need for further probes like “Lava Jato”, which is investigating one-third of the members of the Senate on corruption charges. Credit: Lula Marques/AGPT

“It is likely that with the greater circulation of money, in a growing economy, with major investments, corruption may have increased in Brazil, but it is not possible to confirm it,” said Galdino, from Transparency Brazil.

This is because we don’t know the proportion that corruption represented in the past with respect to GDP, because there was no research that made it possible to obtain the results available today, he explained.

“Supervisory bodies have made a lot of progress in the past 15 to 20 years and this is what led to the Lava Jato operation,” also underpinned by a mobilised civil society, Galdino said.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office was strengthened and its investigations began to be carried out together with specialised judicial bodies, the Federal Police, tax authorities and financial oversight bodies, since corruption flourishes along with money laundering, he said.

The plea bargains that encourage cooperation with the justice system in exchange for reduced sentences were a key instrument for the success of Lava Jato, with 155 such agreements reached with people under investigation.

The law allowing for plea bargains was passed in 2013, in response to popular protests that shook cities across Brazil in June that year, said Galdino, the head of Transparency Brazil, a non-governmental organisation whose aim is to improve institutions through monitoring and public debate.

“Until the 1990s the focus was on combatting administrative irregularities, but this approach did not lead to jail sentences for anyone,” he compared, citing as an example the case of lawmaker Paulo Maluf, a symbol of corruption ever since he was elected governor of the southern state of São Paulo (1979-1982), but who was convicted abroad, not in Brazil.

However, there are studies that show an increase in corruption when there is an abundance of public resources, as well as greater tolerance of those engaging in corruption during times of prosperity.

A ten per cent rise in transfers of resources from the central government to small municipalities increased by 16 per cent the serious cases of corruption in the city governments in questions, according to a study by Brazilian economist Fernanda Brollo, a professor at the British University of Warwick, together with four Italian colleagues.

The study was based on figures from 1,202 municipalities with a population of less than 5,940, during two periods of government between 2001 and 2008. The mayors who benefitted from the increased funds were re-elected in a greater proportion than the rest, despite the corruption.

“He steals but he gets things done” was the informal slogan of a former São Paulo politician, Adhemar de Barros, who governed that state during several periods between 1938 and 1966. In 1950 he was so popular that he was seen as a strong candidate to the presidency of Brazil, but he did not run.

Building large works, such as highways, hospitals and power plants has always been a source of popularity, as well as, according to popular suspicion, illicit wealth.

The proliferation of mega-projects during the governments of leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011), with dozens of works involving investments of over one billion dollars, in some cases over 10 billion dollars, with huge cost overruns, appears to confirm their direct relation with an increase in diverted resources.

Lava Jato initially investigated the oil business. But the corruption affected other projects in varied sectors, such as hydroelectric plants, the Angra-3 nuclear plant (under construction), railways and stadiums built or upgraded for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, according to that and other investigations carried out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mega-projects-have-magnified-corruption-in-brazil/feed/ 0
Mob Killing Sparks Fresh Outrage Over Pakistan’s Blasphemy Lawshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws/#comments Fri, 05 May 2017 00:01:39 +0000 Zofeen Ebrahim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150309 A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

By Zofeen Ebrahim
KARACHI, May 5 2017 (IPS)

Aimal Khan, 27, an airman in Pakistan’s Air Force, warns the country will end up in the throes of mayhem if the state does not do something about the abuse of the blasphemy laws. “People will use it to settle personal scores,” he said.

He should know. His younger brother, Mashal Khan, 25, was brutally killed by a mob roused to a frenzy by allegations he had committed blasphemy. “They became the judge, the jury and the executioner,” Aimal said. "It's pretty obvious that religious passions are easily ignited because day in and day out all we hear about is religious sermonizing in one form or the other." --Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy

Studying at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK), Khan was known for speaking out against corruption and injustices prevalent in society. On April 13, he was shot, stripped and not satisfied with that, the mob then beat up his corpse as shown in the graphic video footage.

The police investigation following his killing, however, found no evidence he had committed blasphemy. The government has since arrested 47 of the 49 accused.

Political activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir told IPS that the country’s blasphemy laws are not just used by the land mafia to evict people, but often for raising funds and recruiting members by rogue organisations. “The social media has become a more potent tool where one fake account with just one blasphemous tweet can kill someone,” he said alluding to the fake account created in the name of Mashal Khan to falsely establish he’d committed blasphemy.

According to opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah, since 1990, 65 people have been killed on allegations of committing blasphemy and no one was executed for the crimes.

A month later, Aimal says the family continues to receive phone calls expressing condolences from all across Pakistan. Ordinary people to celebrities and even politicians have visited their home to offer comfort.

“After my brother’s murder, we thought humanity had fled from this country, but I tell you, it’s quite the opposite. We have been given unconditional support,” Aimal said, his voice filled with emotion, over the phone from his village Zaida in Swabi district, KPK.

He hopes his family’s loss can open the door to a meaningful debate on reviewing the infamous laws.

Muhammad Iqbal Khan (left), the father of Mashal Khan, who was murdered by a religious mob in Pakistan. The men offer prayers. Credit: Abdul Hameed Goraya/IPS

Muhammad Iqbal Khan (left), the father of Mashal Khan, who was murdered by a religious mob in Pakistan. The men offer prayers. Credit: Abdul Hameed Goraya/IPS

Aimal’s sentiments are echoed by Reema Omer of the International Commission of Jurists. “If Mashal’s most tragic killing could revive the debate and lead to blasphemy reform, that would be a fitting tribute to his bravery and courage,” she told IPS.

“The law should have been reviewed and reformed a long time ago. These incidents are latest but not the first,” pointed out Nasir. While exploitation of these laws can be corrected through procedural reforms, he said what was innately wrong was that they are in violation of Hanafi jurisprudence [followed in Pakistan] which gives no death penalty to non-Muslims for blasphemy but Pakistani law does.

Asia Bibi, a Christian, has been on death row for the last seven years. International Christian Concern  has termed her case one of the most “controversial” and best examples of the abuse of blasphemy laws.

While a complete scrapping of the law is unlikely, many see this as an opportunity to revive a debate. In 1986, to ‘Islamise’ the country, Pakistan’s then leader General Mohammad Zia ul Haq enacted these laws.

But anyone who has tried to even tried to open debate has either been censured or silenced.

In 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the then governor of Punjab, was assassinated for supporting Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy. His murder was followed by that of Shahbaz Bhatti, a minister who had talked of misuse of the laws.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazal) chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman, enjoying a huge following in the KPK, while condemning Khan’s lynching, said he was well aware that liberal forces would use this incident and call for amendment in the laws, but warned that no one would be allowed to touch it.

“For a few days when there was such an outcry it was felt the time for a critical review of the blasphemy laws had arrived,” said I.A. Rehman, noted rights activist, speaking to IPS. “The clerics were on the defensive.”

This euphoria was short-lived.

Rehman said the lawmakers belonging to religious parties disowned the resolution in the assembly which they had earlier backed.

In fact, soon after Mashal’s lynching, the legislative assembly of Pakistan-administered Pakistan passed two resolutions regarding the finality of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and respect of his family and companions.

A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

The resolution also stated that if Ahmadis (declared non-Muslims by the constitution of Pakistan) claim themselves to be Muslims, they should be charged with blasphemy.

He has little hope in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who himself narrowly survived ouster and was saved by a supreme court verdict last month, after the opposition had taken him to court on charges of corruption.

“It [ruling Pakistan Muslim League — PML-N] will not take on the clerics at this stage,” Rehman said, lamenting: “The chance of doing something about blasphemy will again be missed.” But then he never had much hope attached to Sharif in the first place. “The PML-N is an accomplice to orthodoxy therefore there is no hope of a change for the better.”

However, there are others who say the laws have nothing to do with the recent episodes of lynching. The laws were not even invoked once.

Following the killing of Khan, in another part of Pakistan, a man was shot dead by his three sisters. He was accused of blasphemy in 2004 and the sisters in their confessional statement said they were incited by the imam of their neighbourhood mosque.

The same day a mob attacked a man after Friday prayers in northern Pakistan town of Chitral, and was saved in time by the mosque imam and the police officers who intervened and rescued him. The man was mentally ill and was on his way to Islamabad for treatment.

“It’s not the law, it’s the people, a people that have gone berserk,” said eminent educationist, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, who teaches physics at universities in Islamabad and Lahore.

That is why he insists on teaching Occam’s Razor in his classes. “It’s a metaphor for parsimony of assumptions. Start with the obvious, if that doesn’t work then assume that something more complicated is involved,” he explained, adding: “In this [lynching] particular case, it’s pretty obvious that religious passions are easily ignited because day in and day out all we hear about is religious sermonizing in one form or the other.”

But Omer thinks otherwise. “Killings in the name of blasphemy and mob violence after blasphemy allegations cannot be separated from the law and its mandatory death punishment; the impunity – even patronage – enjoyed by perpetrators in the past; and the state’s use of blasphemy to clamp down on dissenting/critical voices,” she said.

Recalling the climate just before Khan’s killing, she said there was renewed movement by various state institutions condemning ‘blasphemers; calling blasphemy ‘an act of terrorism; and urging people to report blasphemy so strict action could be taken against them.

Nasir, too, believed that when the parliament associates the death penalty with a crime it “does trickle down into society, socially and politically”. He gave the example of the arrest of three people for desecrating a Hindu temple and tried under section 295A (of blasphemy laws) which does not carry death penalty but shows clearly that blasphemy against other religions does not create a “huge social or political uproar”.

In addition, Omer said, the existence of the blasphemy laws in their current form gives a certain “cloak of legality” to such calls. “Which is why we shouldn’t lose sight of the connection between the existence of the blasphemy laws and the kind of violence we saw in Mardan, in Chitral, and before that in Kot Radha Kishan and other cases,” she said.

A large number of people accused of blasphemy, or even convicted of blasphemy by trial courts for defiling the Holy Quran, suffer from mental illnesses, said Omer. “This too is a common thread in how blasphemy laws play out in practice,” she said.”This is a damning indictment of the prosecution and police, who allow these cases to continue despite the fact that the accused do not have the requisite capacity to commit a crime.”

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws/feed/ 0
Refugee Journalists, the Challenge of Reporting from Exilehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 17:16:57 +0000 Elena Pasquini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150304 The author is Editor in Chief Degrees of Latitude
]]>
Photo credits: Sara Furlanetto

Photo credits: Sara Furlanetto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The value of a different perspective

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

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

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

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

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


This story was originally published by Degrees of Latitude

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/refugee-journalists-the-challenge-of-reporting-from-exile/feed/ 0
Social Forum Calls for Fight Against Corruption, to Defend the Amazonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/social-forum-calls-for-fight-against-corruption-to-defend-the-amazon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=social-forum-calls-for-fight-against-corruption-to-defend-the-amazon http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/social-forum-calls-for-fight-against-corruption-to-defend-the-amazon/#comments Wed, 03 May 2017 21:53:04 +0000 Milagros Salazar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150273 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/social-forum-calls-for-fight-against-corruption-to-defend-the-amazon/feed/ 0 Reflections on World Press Freedom Dayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue/#comments Wed, 03 May 2017 06:54:15 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150261 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue]]>

The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, May 3 2017 (IPS)

This year’s theme for the 2017 World Press Freedom DayCritical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies” is one of the most important days honouring press freedom.

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Inevitably, the impact of media has the power to transform societies through enlightenment and active citizenry.

Observers occasionally refer to the media as the fourth estate owing to its influential role to further enhancing the plurality of opinions and ideas.

A free press is indispensable for facilitating good governance and transparency. It strengthens the accountability of governments as citizens can critically assess the activities of incumbents through information provided by the media.

Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends freedom of expression and the right to information. It enables press freedom to become a reality:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Some cite as a hadith of the Prophet Muhammad that “the ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr.”

However, significant challenges lay ahead limiting the freedom of the press.

Firstly, journalists have had at times to pay a high toll for the expression of truth as they see it.

Thus according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than 1,200 journalists have been killed since 1992.

Among these victims, 65% were murdered, 22% perished owing to crossfire and combat, whereas 12% lost their lives owing to dangerous assignments.

Many of those murders remain unresolved and the perpetrators are rarely brought to justice as “complete impunity” prevails in 86% of the cases.

The 2016 World Press Freedom report issued by Reporters Without Borders suggests that violent extremism has put significant constraints on the ability of the press to operate freely and carry out their duties.

The conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria, the report underlines, have enabled insurgents to “create black holes for reporting.”

Journalists have the right to work free from the threat of violence and of fear in their capacity as transmitters of information to the public.

Their lives should not be put at stake for merely putting Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration into practice.

Secondly, the accountability of media needs to be strengthened so that it represents the public’s interests.

After the so-called “War on Terror”, hate speech and online bigotry have rapidly been on the rise targeting specifically religious minorities.

This has been followed by a misconceived conflation between terrorism, Islam and the Arab identity, which has given rise to marginalization, bigotry and discrimination.

At the same time losses of lives as a result of violence or military action may be reported selectively thus implying unacceptable differences in the value of human lives according to where the losses occur.

During the Geneva Centre’s panel debate on 15 March on the theme of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” that was held at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG), it was suggested by the panellists to better harness the power of media by promoting positive stories about religion and culture.

It was also proposed that we, as global citizens, should never fear the stranger as differences enrichen our societies.

I believe that media can play a more influential role in addressing prevailing misconceptions and misunderstandings that exist between people.

Journalists need to refrain from the use of contemporary phobic language triggering social exclusion and religious intolerance.

Incitements to hatred, violence and bigotry should be condemned as it exacerbates religious divisions within communities.

The spread of fake news and fabricated stories in social media contradict the goals of freedom of opinion or of expression.

A return to the founding principles of press freedom and journalism – accountability, transparency and independence of news media – is the first step to stop the flow of misinformation that is on the rise.

When the Emir Abd el Qader el Jazairy – the founder of contemporary Algeria – visited a printing press in Paris in 1852, he made the following observation on the power of the press:

What comes out of it resembles a drop of water coming from the sky: if it falls into the half-opened shell, it produces the pearl; if it falls into the mouth of the viper, it produces venom.”

Media has a “moral and social responsibility” in “combating discrimination and in promoting intercultural understanding (…)” as stipulated in Principle 9 of the Camden Principles on Freedom of Expression and Equality.

By reversing the trend of offering simplistic and misconceived generalizations not grounded in reality, media could become a catalyst for social inclusion by implanting a culture of peace, harmony and tolerance.

This would be in line with the objectives laid out in the 2002 “Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence” and in UN HRC Resolution 16/18 entitled “Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or belief.”

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/2017-world-press-freedom-day-message-by-dr-hanif-hassan-ali-al-qassim-chairman-of-the-geneva-centre-for-human-rights-advancement-and-global-dialogue/feed/ 0
Journalist Killings in Sri Lanka Predicated on a Deadly Ironyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony/#comments Tue, 02 May 2017 15:02:27 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150251

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

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

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

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Sri Lankan journalist killed in 2009.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Sri Lankan journalist killed in 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpts from the interview:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony/feed/ 0
Repression 2.0: An Updated Global Censorshiphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/repression-2-0-an-updated-global-censorship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=repression-2-0-an-updated-global-censorship http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/repression-2-0-an-updated-global-censorship/#comments Tue, 02 May 2017 04:46:59 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150232 In Minnesota, supporters gather at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in November 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In Minnesota, supporters gather at a rally for then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in November 2016. Credit: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2017 (IPS)

Censorship tactics have become more complex, posing new challenges for journalists and non-journalists alike, a new report finds.

In its annual “Attacks on the Press” report, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has documented a range of censorship cases from around the world and revealed a new world of media repression.

“[Censorship] is definitely becoming more sophisticated and complex and is occurring at a variety of levels,” CPJ’s Advocacy Director Courtney Radsch told IPS.

CPJ’s Executive Director described these new strategies as “repression 2.0” in the report, stating; “Repression 2.0 is an update on the worst old-style tactics, from state censorship to the imprisonment of critics, with new information technologies including smartphones and social media producing a softening around the edges.”

At the end of 2016, there were almost 260 journalists in jail, the most CPJ has ever documented.

Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists with over 145 imprisoned journalists, more than China, Egypt, and Iran combined.

The country’s media crackdown deepened following the July 15, 2016 coup attempt and the subsequent imposition of a state of emergency which the Turkish government allegedly used to shut down over 50 newspapers, 30 TV channels, and three news agencies.

The government also reportedly used anti-terror laws to imprison journalists, including the chief editor of Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet Can Dündar who was sentenced to six years in prison on charges of disclosing state secrets, espionage, and aiding a terrorist group. Most recently, life sentences are being sought for 30 people with ties to Zaman newspaper, which is associated with Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen whom the government accuses of organising the coup attempt. The newspaper has since been under government control.

In Kenya, authorities are increasingly using a new mechanism to control the media: money.

“As revenues drain away from traditional media due to the inroads of digital technologies, the use of financial-induced self-censorship, or ‘fiscing’, can also ensure that journalists are more ‘reasonable’ in their reporting,” said journalist Alan Rusbridger in the report.

“Murder is messy. Money is tidy,” he continues.

However, the control of information is not unique to developing countries, said Rasch.

In the U.S., President Donald Trump has raised anti-media hostility to levels “previously unseen on a national scale,” said journalist Alan Huffman in the report.

President Trump has consistently described some media organizations as “fake news,” most recently reiterating the claim that media fabricate stories during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). “They have no sources, they just make them up when there are none,” he told attendees.

Trump’s rhetoric often emboldened his supporters who would boo journalists. Huffman described one case in the report where a Trump supporter wore a T-shirt that suggested the use of lynching, stating: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED.”

The president has also restricted and even denied access for reporters perceived as unfriendly, including those from Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post, and the Washington Post, and has threatened to change libel laws to make it easier to sue journalists and news agencies.

In one chapter, Christian Amanpour noted the similarities in such “poisonous” trends in the U.S. and around the world.

“The same dynamic has infected powerful segments of the American media, as it has in Egypt, Turkey, and Russia, where journalists have been pushed into political partisan corners, delegitimized, and accused of being enemies of the state. Journalism itself has become weaponized. We cannot allow that to happen,” she stated.

In Ecuador, the government has allegedly used social media as a way to suppress journalists.

After tweeting that Ecuador’s former Vice-President Lenin Moreno had not paid income taxes, journalist Bernardo Abad’s twitter account had been blocked for violating its terms of service. By the end of the week, nine accounts had been temporarily suspended after also tweeting about Moreno’s taxes.

Radsch told IPS that with the internet and social media, there are now “more outlets for repression and threats.”

China has taken this to the next level, making plans to link journalists’ online posts to their finances.

Under the country’s proposed social credit plan, journalists who write or speak critically of the government could face personal financial consequences including decreased credit score or a denied loan. Such censorship goes beyond the business as usual tactics of shutting down reporters’ social media accounts to affecting journalists’ daily activities.

Rasch highlighted the need to advocate for an open internet and the rights of journalists.

“[We must] remember the importance of the press that continues to help us make sense of all the information that we are bombarded with all the time,” she told IPS.

She also recommended journalists adopt secure communication practices in order to maintain their privacy and their sources’ privacy.

Most importantly, journalists must stand strong and commit to fact-based reporting.

“This is the best and most important way to fight back against the new censorship,” said Simon.

“Journalists cannot allow themselves to feel demoralized. They need to pursue their calling and to seek the truth with integrity, honestly believe that the setbacks, while real, are temporary,” he concluded.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/repression-2-0-an-updated-global-censorship/feed/ 0
Climate-Smart Agriculture – From Tanzania to Vietnamhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 16:52:53 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150208 Farmers clear weeds from a trench, which retains water and prevents soil erosion during rains, as part of the FAO project to strengthen capacity of farms for climate change in Kiroka, Tanzania. Credit: FAO

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanzania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vietnam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/climate-smart-agriculture-from-tanzania-to-vietnam/feed/ 0
20 Million People Could ‘Starve to Death’ in Next Six Monthshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:49:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150200 A livestock owner in Yemen tends her goats. Livestock production fell by more than 35 per cent in 2016 compared to the pre-crisis period. Credit: FAO

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

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Funds Go Further

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Over 17 Million Yemenis, Acutely Food Insecure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/20-million-people-could-starve-to-death-in-next-six-months/feed/ 1
Marching for a Green and Just Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/marching-for-a-green-and-just-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=marching-for-a-green-and-just-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/marching-for-a-green-and-just-future/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:20:00 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150196 A climate march for the people. Credit IPS/Roger Hamilton-Martin

A climate march for the people. Credit IPS/Roger Hamilton-Martin

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 28 2017 (IPS)

People around the world will be banding together to fight one of the world’s most pressing problems: climate change.

Thousands are set to gather at the People’s Climate March in Washington, D.C. on 29 April to mark the 100th day of President Donald Trump’s administration and push for solutions to the climate crisis.

“The climate crisis has gotten so bad globally that we need much bolder and faster policy changes to really try and address that,” the coordinator of the People’s Climate Movement New York Leslie Cagan told IPS.

A group have scientists recently found that CO2 is being released into the atmosphere at much faster rates and in a shorter period, and that even a two degree Celsius rise of the average temperature will have disastrous effects on the climate.

“We’re really against a ticking clock,” Cagan said.

Cagan was one of the co-coordinators of the 2014 People’s Climate March. However, new challenges have arisen since then.

“This march has the added challenge of having an administration that doesn’t believe in climate change,” Executive Director of UPROSE and member of the Climate Justice Alliance steering committee Elizabeth Yeampierre told IPS.

Among those in the U.S. government that are skeptical of climate change is former Exxon Mobil CEO and now Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Scott Pruitt, and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

This has led not only to threats to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and cut funds to the EPA, but the U.S. government has already taken steps to dismantle environmental protections including slashing the Clean Power Plan and approving fossil fuel-related projects such as the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Though dubbed the “People’s Climate March,” the march is in fact for climate, jobs, and justice, intersections that are crucial in order to create a sustainable future.

“We don’t want to and can’t isolate the climate issue from the other pressing issues…part of the reason why the globe is experiencing this extreme climate crisis has to do with the kind of economic structures and dynamics that have been played out for many years,” Cagan told IPS.

Indigenous Environmental Network’s (IEN) Extreme Energy and Just Transition Campaign Organiser Kandi Mossett echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating the argument against climate action often used is that it takes away jobs.

“The point is that we are not against jobs at all, we are against the type of jobs that are poisoning and killing the planet and the people in those jobs,” she said.

In order to move away from fossil fuels to a green economy, activists are advocating for a “just transition,” a framework which helps transition workers currently employed by the fossil fuel industry to jobs created by renewable energy sources.

The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates approximately 3 million Americans are directly employed by the fossil fuel industry while the American Petroleum Institute estimated 9.8 million full-time and part-time jobs in the country’s oil and natural gas industry.

Fracking wells are often located in poor, rural communities including Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale region, which are are reliant on the jobs they provide. Workers in such communities therefore need resources such as access to training in order to transition into green jobs.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People also found that all 378 coal plants are located near poor and minority communities, exposing residents to high levels of toxins.

“[Communities of color] shouldn’t have to say, ‘well the only job I can take is a job that is going to affect my health and the health of my family. The option of having a job that is renewable and that honors mother earth and our health should exist, and the technology exists to do it,” said Yeampierre told IPS.

According to the Sierra Club, the number of clean energy jobs already outnumbers all fossil fuel jobs in the U.S. by more than 2.5 to 1, and coal and gas jobs by 5 to 1. This shift to renewable energy is only expected to grow.

However, the fossil fuel industry has been resisting the transition with just five fossil fuel companies spending over 115 million dollars per year to oppose climate action.

“[Fossil fuel companies] control the destiny of literally billions on the planet,” said Cagan.

These issues are not unique to the U.S. From Nigerian residents suffering from oil pollution of the Niger River Delta to coal miners in the second largest coal producing country India, the fossil fuel industry and its impacts are felt in virtually every corner of the world.

Mossett noted that even U.S. pollution is not static and that we are all being impacted regardless of where it occurs.

“Our future is connected, their struggle is our struggle,” said Yeampierre, noting that the climate movement is aligned with the Global South.

However, since the U.S. is among the top contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, efforts to combat global climate change may be undermined.

Cagan noted that the movement will only succeed if the links between climate, justice, and jobs are made.

“Now is the time for those movements to work together into one more unified movement. We need to find ways to work with each other and at times to literally march together,” she told IPS.

Yeampierre similarly stressed the importance of this new vision, stating that a different kind of leadership and unity that is built on just relationships is essential. Mossett told IPS that the march allows people to show such solidarity and strength to President Trump.

However, though such mass movements are important, it does not solve the problem, the organisers said.

“We hope very much is that the march will be inspiring and powerful enough that people are reenergized to keep doing the work when they go back home. It’s the long term struggle that makes the difference,” said Cagan.

Beyond the necessity to move away from fossil fuels, she highlighted the need to encourage and strengthen work at the local level which, once added up, could create a different national picture.

Yeampierre noted that solutions must be designed based on context and in order to do so, local communities must be meaningfully engaged.

“If we don’t all collectively learn that we need to fight together, then we are all collectively going to die together. There is no escaping that,” Mossett said.

Over 300 sister marches on climate, justice, and jobs have been planned across the world.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/marching-for-a-green-and-just-future/feed/ 0
Kenya Is Doing Its Part to Battle Drought, We Must Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/kenya-is-doing-its-part-to-battle-drought-we-must-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-is-doing-its-part-to-battle-drought-we-must-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/kenya-is-doing-its-part-to-battle-drought-we-must-too/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:11:58 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Aida Mengistu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150190 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya and Aida Mengistu, Acting Head, OCHA Regional Office for Southern and Eastern Africa.]]> Mother and son wait outside health centre in Bandarero, Marsabit County, Kenya. 3 March 2017. Credit: OCHA/FARAH DAKHLALLAH

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/kenya-is-doing-its-part-to-battle-drought-we-must-too/feed/ 0
IPS Journalists Who Perished in the Line of Dutyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/ips-journalists-who-perished-in-the-line-of-duty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ips-journalists-who-perished-in-the-line-of-duty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/ips-journalists-who-perished-in-the-line-of-duty/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 11:44:12 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150159

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard de Zoysa

Richard de Zoysa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

 

 

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/ips-journalists-who-perished-in-the-line-of-duty/feed/ 0