Inter Press ServiceDemocracy – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 25 Sep 2017 07:45:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Indigenous Land Conflicts Finally Garner Attention in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indigenous-land-conflicts-finally-garner-attention/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 16:36:36 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152204 The territorial claims of hundreds of indigenous communities, which extend throughout most of Argentina’s vast geography, burst onto the public agenda of a country built by and for descendants of European colonisers and immigrants, accustomed to looking at native people as outsiders. It all started with the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old artisan who […]

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An indigenous demonstration in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, demanding justice for the murder of Javier Chocobar, leader of a Diaguita indigenous community that is fighting against the exploitation of a quarry in northern Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of ANDHES

An indigenous demonstration in the city of San Miguel de Tucumán, demanding justice for the murder of Javier Chocobar, leader of a Diaguita indigenous community that is fighting against the exploitation of a quarry in northern Argentina. Credit: Courtesy of ANDHES

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

The territorial claims of hundreds of indigenous communities, which extend throughout most of Argentina’s vast geography, burst onto the public agenda of a country built by and for descendants of European colonisers and immigrants, accustomed to looking at native people as outsiders.

It all started with the disappearance of Santiago Maldonado, a 28-year-old artisan who on Aug. 1 participated in a protest in the southern Patagonian province of Chubut by Mapuche indigenous people, who were violently evicted by security forces. Since then, there has been no news of his whereabouts.

This mobilised broad sectors of society, and brought out of the shadows a conflict that in recent years has flared up into violence on many occasions, but which historically has been given little attention.

“I hope the sad incident involving Santiago Maldonado will help Argentina understand that it is necessary and possible to find legal and political solutions for theindigenous question,” said Gabriel Seghezzo, director of the Foundation for Development in Justice and Peace (Fundapaz) .

“It is imperative to work to defuse conflicts, because otherwise, the violence will continue,” added the head of Fundapaz, anorganisation that works to improve the living conditions of communities living in the Argentine portion of the Chaco, a vast subtropical forest that extends to Paraguay and Bolivia.

Fundapaz was one of the organisations that worked for more than 20 years on a territorial claim of rural lands in the northwestern province of Salta, which ended in 2014, when the local government transferred ownership of 643,000 hectares to the families that lived there.

Communal ownership of over 400,000 hectares was recognised for members of the Wichi, Toba, Tapiete, Chulupí and Chorote indigenous peoples, while the rest was granted in joint ownership to 463 non-indigenous peasant families.

The case, however, was merely one happy exception, since the vast majority of the country’s indigenous communities still do not have title to their lands.

Ten years ago, the government launched the National Programme for the Survey of Indigenous Territories, in which 1,532 communities were registered. To date, only 423 of them have been surveyed, although they do not yet have title deeds, while there are another 401 in process.

According to the National Institute of Indigenous Affairs (INAI), these 824 communities are demanding that 8,414,124 hectares be recognised as their ancestral lands. That is bigger than several countries in the continent, such as Panama or Costa Rica, but it is only about three percent of the 2,780,400 square km of the Argentine territory.

In the remaining communities, the survey has not even started.

This means the constitution, which recognises “the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of indigenous peoples” and guarantees not only “respect for their identity and the right to a bilingual and intercultural education”, but also “the communal possession and ownership of the lands they traditionally occupy,” is not being fulfilled.

These principles were incorporated in the constitution during the latest reform, in 1994, and marked a tremendous paradigm shift for a nation that has historically seen native people as an alien element, to be controlled.

"Where is he?" That is the question repeated on numerous posters on walls in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina regarding the Aug. 1 of Santiago Maldonado during a demonstration in the southern region of Patagonia. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

“Where is he?” That is the question repeated on numerous posters on walls in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina regarding the Aug. 1 of Santiago Maldonado during a demonstration in the southern region of Patagonia. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

In fact, up to 1994, Argentina’s laws actually instructed the authorities to “preserve the peaceful treatment of Indians and promote their conversion to Catholicism.”

However, the extraordinary progress on paper seems to have brought few concrete improvements for native people, whose proportion in the Argentine population is difficult to establish.

In the last National Census in 2010, 955,032 people identified themselves as belonging to or descended from an indigenous group, which represented 2.38 percent of the total population at that time of 40,117,096.

But the number of indigenous people is believed to be higher, since many people are reluctant to acknowledge indigenous roots, due to the historical discrimination and stigma that native people have suffered. The largest indigenous groups are the Mapuche in the south, the Tobas in the Chaco region, and the Guarani in the northeast.

“Since the constitutional reform that recognised indigenous peoples’ rights, we have had 23 years of absolute failure of public policies to solve the indigenous question. There has been a terrible postponement of the issue by all government administrations in this period,” said Raúl Ferreyra, a professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Buenos Aires.

For Ferreyra, “land disputes have clear roots in the uncontrolled advance of soy monoculture in the north of the country, and the passage to foreign hands of vast swathes of land in the south.”

“What we need is dialogue, but there is a lack of will and of tools,” he told IPS.

What happened with the land question is a good example of the gap between rules and reality.

In November 2006, the national Congress passed Law 26,160 on Indigenous Communities, which declared an “emergency with regard to the possession and ownership of indigenous territories” for four years.

During that period, which was to be used to determine which are the ancestral lands of the communities, as a preliminary step to the granting of title deeds, evictions were banned, even if a court order existed.

However, little progress was made on the survey, despite the fact that Congress voted for an extension of the original term of four years twice, for a total of 11 years.

The latest extension expires in November and dozens of social organisations across the country have called for its renewal until 2021, while Congress will begin debating the fate of the law on Sept. 27.

The demand was backed by hundreds of intellectuals, in a public letter in which they pointed out that “in Argentina, the recognition of indigenous peoples’ collective rights over their ancestral territories is increasingly irreconcilable with the expansion of profitable lands for capital.”

According to a study by global rights watchdog Amnesty International, there are 225 conflicts in the country involving indigenous communities, nearly all of them over land.

In 24 of them there were acts of violence with the intervention of the security forces, and even deaths. One case was the 2009 murder of Javier Chocobar, the leader of a Diaguitacommunityin the northwestern province of Tucumán, which is still unsolved.

“In all these years, many judges have continued to order evictions of indigenous communities despite the law prohibiting it. That is why we believe that if the emergency is not extended, the situation will get worse, “explained BelénLeguizamón, coordinator of the Indigenous Rights area of the Lawyers Association for Human Rights and Social Studies in Northwest Argentina (ANDHES).

In her view, “the law is an umbrella with holes, but an umbrella nonetheless.”

“The survey of Argentina’s indigenous territories should already have been completed, and today we should be studying the granting of title deeds on lands. We have to work against the strong discrimination that not only exists on the part of authorities and the mainstream media, but also among some sectors of society,” Leguizamón told IPS.

As an example, she noted that “schools in Argentina still teach that indigenous people belong to a past that no longer exists.”

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Parliamentarians a “Fourth Pillar” of Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:56:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152201 Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week. Of course, these are not […]

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In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif/IPS

By Baher Kamal
ROME/NEW DELHI, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week.

Of course, these are not easy challenges. But according to the discussions of a representative group of around 50 legislators and experts from the two most populous continents, parliamentarians – as representatives of the stakeholders themselves – must be the “fourth pillar” to promote the 2030 Agenda, along with government, private enterprises, and civil society."If our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.” --Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population

“It is not just simply a question of adopting particular legislation and budgetary measures,” said Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in his keynote speech.

“Equally vital will be possession of an overarching vision and the conduct of oversight to ensure that the work is being implemented properly. Promoting the global partnerships that have been discussed to date will also be crucial. That is precisely the role that parliamentarians in every country are to fulfill. It is furthermore a role to be fulfilled by parliamentarians both within regions, and between regions.

“Given the law and tax system reforms that will be needed if we are to achieve the SDGs, parliamentarians will have an extremely big role to play,” Mashiko stressed.

Jointly organised by the Japan-based Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) — which is the Secretariat of the JPFP — and the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (IAPPD), the conference approached what has been considered as the key challenge: the linkage between population issues, in particular youth, and the global sustainable development agenda, also known as the SDGs.

Youth

No wonder — while youth in the African continent of 1.2 billion inhabitants face extremely high rates of unemployment, in Asia and the Pacific, nearly 40 million youth – 12 per cent of the youth labour force – were unemployed in 2015. That year, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

However, despite these apparently moderate youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-East Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

This region also faces a big gender gap. In South Asia, low female participation (19.9 per cent) is estimated to be nearly 40 percentage points lower than among youth males (53 per cent). And this gender gap in labour force participation rates has been widening over the last decade in South Asia.

“Building societies where every person can live with dignity - this is the essential principle of our parliamentarians’ activities,” Mashiko said.

“One of the principles of the SDGs is that ‘no-one is left behind’. From that perspective, ensuring equality of opportunity to young people, despite their differences in birth and wealth, has a definite meaning. So to that end, ensuring education and employment opportunities ought to be treated as priority issues.”

Population Growth

Growing populations across the world are the biggest hurdle in the path of equitable development, said India’s Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, adding that in order to achieve the SDGs, it is of “utmost importance” for all the countries to take care of their populations.

He stressed that there is a need for large-scale awareness on population issues, and that increasing population has created problems around the entire world regarding sustainable development, employment opportunities and health services.

Ena Singh, the India Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that his country, India, has registered a rapid decline in fertility rates since its Independence and that currently the average fertility rate is 2.2 children, with the challenge now to bring down the total fertility rate to 2.1.

For her part, Marie Rose Nguini Effa, MP from Cameroon and President of the Africa Parliamentary Forum on Population Development, emphasised the Forum’s readiness to work with APDA to promote investment in youth, “which is critical to Africa’s development and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.”

The Inter-Linkage

New Delhi’s meeting is the latest of a series of dedicated Parliamentarian conferences focusing on the inter-linkages between population issues and the 2030 Agenda, examining ways in which both developed and developing countries as equal partners serve to be the driving force to address population issues and achieve sustainable development.

According to the meetings of Parliamentarians organisers, the fundamental underlying concept is that addressing population issues is imperative to attain universal health coverage (UHC), turning the youth bulge into a demographic dividend, achieving food security, promoting regional stability, and building economically viable societies where no one is left behind.

Bigger than the Whole African Population

“India is the world’s largest democracy and home to 1.3 billion people, which is bigger than the whole African population. Being a highly diverse country with a multitude of cultures, languages and ethnicities, India now enjoys one of the fastest economic growth rates,” according to the organisers.

The country’s serious investment in young people is the driving force behind such growth; the pool of well-educated, skilled young people is making the country an IT capital, they said, adding that the Indian economy also has a great influence on the African continent, especially East Africa, due to long-standing historical, cultural and commercial connections between them.

“Furthermore, with its longstanding history of democracy, the power and role of the Parliament of India is well-established and fully exercised, and its democratic system has contributed to promoting unity of diversity and national development.”

Given that addressing population issues calls for an approach to help people to make free and informed RH choices, parliamentarians as representatives of the people have a crucial role to play in this regard as well, they conclude.

The Arab, Asian Youth Bulge

Lawmakers from the Asia and Arab region had gathered last July at a meeting in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”.

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population, the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development convened on 18-20 July in the Jordanian capital to analyse these challenges and how to address them.

Since its establishment, APDA has been holding an annual Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development to promote understanding and increase awareness of population and development issues among Japanese, Asian, and Pacific parliamentarians.

APDA sends Japanese and Asian parliamentarians overseas to observe projects conducted by the United Nations Population Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Government.

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care.

Through exchanges between lawmakers from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

“Japan is embracing its aging society, where individuals in every age group are finding uses for their particular skills and attributes, and is planning to build a vibrant society which makes the maximum use of what its older citizens can offer and helping to achieve sustainable development, which is what humanity should be striving for,” Mashiko concluded.

“This may possibly apply equally everywhere throughout the world. Given their population structure and social systems, the situation in the countries from Africa, the Arab world and Asia represented at this conference will be very, very different. However, the very presence of such differences means that if our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.”

*With inputs by an IPS correspondent in India.

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Monitoring Progress on UN’s Sustainable Development Goalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/monitoring-progress-uns-sustainable-development-goals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=monitoring-progress-uns-sustainable-development-goals http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/monitoring-progress-uns-sustainable-development-goals/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 05:57:44 +0000 Abby Maxman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152197 Abby Maxman is the President and CEO of Oxfam America

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Abby Maxman is the President and CEO of Oxfam America

By Abby Maxman
BOSTON, Massachusetts, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

Two years ago, world leaders joined together to endorse a new and ambitious agenda not to reduce poverty but to eradicate it, not to lessen hunger but to end it once and for all, and not to overlook inequality but jointly to attack it.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) broke new ground in the fight against poverty by moving beyond social development targets to better protect our fragile planet, reduce economic and social inequalities, and promote human rights. Today, the hard work to achieve this ambition is just beginning.

Delivering on the development goals will not be a technocratic exercise. Systematic and efficient monitoring, including good quality data, is crucial to tracking progress, but action on this front has been too slow.

Let’s look at inequality, for example. The importance of a global goal specifically aimed at tackling income inequality cannot be overstated. Extreme economic inequality has been shown to impede poverty alleviation, slow economic growth, compound gender inequality, drive inequality in health and education outcomes, undermine economic mobility over generations, fuel crime, undermine social cohesion, and harm democracy.

But turning the inequality goal into a reality requires a fundamental change of approach on how governments take on vested interests, and how resources are shared.

Earlier this year, we at Oxfam’s pointed out that just eight men own the same wealth as half of humanity, the poorest 3.6 billion people. Worse yet, the gap between rich and poor is growing in countries across the world, in countries rich and poor.

At the same time, there are no shortage of tools proven to reduce the gap between rich and poor. What we need then are transparency, data, and accountability to ensure governments are using them.

Oxfam’s contribution to the effort is a global index that ranks 152 countries by the policies they have in place to reduce economic inequality, including fair and effective taxation, spending on health, education and social protection, as well as fair labor policies.

Our first version of this index, which we launched in July, found that the vast majority of governments – three quarters of those in our index – are doing less than half of what they could be doing to tackle inequality.

Sweden, Belgium and Denmark top the index because of high levels of social spending and good protections for workers. Nigeria, Bahrain and Myanmar come in at the bottom of the index because of exceptionally low levels of government spending on health, education and social protection, extremely bad records on labor and women’s rights, and a tax system that overburdens the poorest in society and fails to tax its wealthiest citizens.

But this is not a clear-cut story of rich country good, poor country bad.

The US, for example, ranks 23rd out of 152. That may not sound too bad, but it is not great for the richest country on earth. In fact, the US comes at the bottom among G7 countries when it comes to fighting inequality, and ranks 21st out of 35 OECD countries.

And even those countries at the very top of the list could do more. For example, Belgium’s corporate tax incentives allow big business to avoid paying their fair share, and Denmark has cut taxes for the richest. Worse yet, many countries at the top effectively export inequality by acting as tax havens.

More than $100 billion in tax revenues are lost by poor countries every year because of corporate tax dodgers — enough money to provide an education for the 124 million children who aren’t in school and fund healthcare interventions that could prevent the deaths of at least six million children.

Our hope with this Index is to build a public conversation about how to tackle this inequality crisis. Governments need to build fairer tax systems, uphold the rights of workers, and invest more money in our public services. We will only achieve the SDGs if our economies work for all of us, not just a few.

While achieving the SDGs will indeed be expensive, the world has enough resources. Now it’s up to governments to find the political will to allocate these resources towards ending extreme poverty, realizing human rights, and achieving sustainable development that truly leaves no one behind. And it’s up to us to hold them accountable to do so.

No doubt about it, we have much work ahead of us. And given everything else that’s going on in the world, it certainly feels like a rather daunting task. But together, we can be the generation that ends extreme poverty once and for all.

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The Crisis of Refugees and Their Sufferings Call for a Solutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/crisis-refugees-sufferings-call-solution/#respond Thu, 21 Sep 2017 16:06:02 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152191 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 21 2017 (IPS)

The pursuit of international peace and security has been on the agenda of international decision-makers ever since the establishment of the League of Nations on 10 January 1920. There has been a constant ambiguity about the way this commitment has been translated to practice. The Covenant of the League of Nations committed itself “to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security”: nevertheless, the eruption of violence and geopolitical confrontations lead to another major confrontation two decades later. This reinforced the determination of the world community to redouble its efforts to promote peace and security. The Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue said that the UN Charter – adopted on 26 June 1945 – did not prevent the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and of Nagasaki less than two months later. The disastrous consequences of the Second World War was a terrible reminder of humanity’s ability to bring the world close to apocalypse. Partly for such reasons more than 60 million people continue to be forcibly displaced today and peace continues to be so elusive.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

This year’s annual theme for the 2017 International Day of Peace “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All” draws the attention of the need of the world community to unite its forces in support of people up-rooted and separated from their kith and kin. Dr. Al Qassim noted that the refugee and migrant crisis have become the symbol of the world’s inability to live up to the ideals of the Founders of the UN to promote peace and justice worldwide. Foreign invasions exacerbating resort to terrorist violence keep peace in jeopardy. So does the simultaneous rise of right-wing populist parties in the West which has become the driving force of xenophobia, bigotry, racism and marginalization of the Other. The combination of these elements once the symbol of a world undermining the peace that its peoples yearn for.

The Chairman has also concluded that the Arab region has been adversely affected by the rise of violent extremism and the proliferation of local and international conflicts. The civil wars and/or internal upheavals in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Iraq have resulted in the forced displacement of millions of people. In total, more than 13 million people have been forced to leave their home societies owing to the lack of security and the surge of violence. Millions of people have embarked on perilous and hazardous journeys over the unpredictable Balkan route. As the latter is being sealed off, they engage on the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea from North Africa. Walls and fences have been built – and even detention camps – to respond to the unprecedented rise of people on the move. These liberal societies which cursed the Berlin Wall cordoning off the free flow of ideas now advocate new walls to cordon off the free flow of people in distress. He asked: How come that Europe cannot accommodate displaced people counting for less than 1% of Europe’s total population when certain countries in the Middle East provide protection to refugees and migrants accounting for more than 20% of their own populations? Making matters worse, Islamophobia is also on the rise in Southeast Asia where the ominous policy of ethnic cleansing has reared its head once again.

Guided by the vision of promoting peaceful societies and addressing the plight of people on the move, the Geneva Centre will be organizing a panel debate on 15 December 2017 entitled “Migration and human solidarity, a challenge and an opportunity for Europe and the MENA region.” He hoped that the debate will further promote a joint response of stakeholders from the Global North and the Global South responding with one voice to the injustice that is targeting people on the move in the Arab region and in other regions of the world. He called upon decision-makers should remain guided by the principles of international solidarity and justice in addressing the plight of refugees and migrants. We can no longer remain indifferent to a crisis that has become the symbol of the world’s inability to promote peace and justice.

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A Trump Doctrine of Hypocrisyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-doctrine-hypocrisy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/trump-doctrine-hypocrisy/#respond Wed, 20 Sep 2017 19:38:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152169 In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations. During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times. “Our government’s first duty is […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 20 2017 (IPS)

In his first address on the global stage of the General Assembly, United States’ President Donald Trump touted an “America First” approach at the very institution that is meant to inspire collaboration between nations.

Donald J. Trump. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

During his 45-minute speech, President Trump praised national sovereignty, referencing the concept a whopping 21 times.

“Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values,” he told world leaders.

“As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

But in a global world that relies on each other on issues such as economic growth and environmental protection, can a “me first” approach work?

Peace Action’s Senior Director of Policy and Political Affairs Paul Kawika Martin says no.

“To say one country first over the other certainly is not going to deal with these issues,” he told IPS.

Though the President highlighted the need to work together to confront those who threaten the world with “chaos, turmoil, and terror,” his actions seem to imply otherwise.

Starting with withdrawing from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement to tackle global emissions to threatening funding cuts to not only the UN but also to its own State Department which handles diplomacy and foreign assistance, the U.S. seems to be far from working together with the international community.

As Trump received applause upon speaking of the benefits of the U.S.’ programs in advancing global health and women’s empowerment, he has also sought to eliminate such programs including the gender equality development assistance account ambassador-at-large for Global Women’s Issues and has already withdrawn all funds to the UN’s Population Fund.

“Talk is cheap when you don’t fund the efforts you tout,” said Oxfam America’s President Abby Maxman.

“Mr. Trump continues on a path that will cost America its global influence and leadership,” she continued.

Martin echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “We talk about working together but we don’t seem to do the things that you need to do to work together, which is making sure you have the right diplomacy, supporting the UN, and supporting other international fora.”

He particularly pointed the U.S.’ refusal to participate and sign the new nuclear ban treaty.

Adopted in July, the treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons is now open for signature and will enter into force 90 days after 50 countries have ratified it.

Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treaty.

However, the world’s nine nuclear-armed states including the U.S. boycotted the negotiations and announced they do not ever intend to become party to the document.

Instead, President Trump used his address to lambast both North Korea and Iran for their alleged pursuits of nuclear weapons and make war-inciting claims.

“We will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said.

“It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.”

Martin noted that no country would act kindly to threats of annihilation.

Such threats have instead only served to increase tensions.

Since Trump threatened “fire and fury” on 8 August, North Korea has conducted four nuclear tests.

The President continued to say that the Iran Deal is the “worst” and most “one-sided” agreements, threatening to withdraw from it.

As nuclear tensions continue escalate, Trump’s threats of war and unwillingness to cooperate gives security to none, particularly not Americans.

U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein criticized the President for his remarks and noted the hypocrisy in using the UN stage of peace and global cooperation to threaten war.

“He missed an opportunity to present any positive actions the U.N. could take with respect to North Korea…By suggesting he would revisit and possibly cancel the Iran nuclear agreement, he greatly escalated the danger we face from both Iran and North Korea,” she said.

“He aims to unify the world through tactics of intimidation, but in reality he only further isolates the United States.”

Martin highlighted the importance of diplomacy rather than intimidation.

“Diplomacy is the hardest thing. It is harder to get together at a table and work on a deal but that’s what needs to be done.”

President Trump did express his support for the UN and its work, citing former President Harry Truman who helped build the UN and made the U.S. the first nation to join the organization.

He referred to Truman’s Marshall Plan which helped restore post-World War II Europe, but still went on to urge nations to “embrace their sovereignty.”

However, it was Truman that spoke of a “security for all” approach during a conference which established the UN Charter in 1945.

He urged delegates to use this “instrument for peace and security” but warned nations against using “selfishly,” stating: “If any nation would keep security for itself, it must be ready and willing to share security with all. This is the price which each nation will have to pay for world peace.”

“Out of this conflict have come powerful military nations, now fully trained and equipped for war. But they have no right to dominate the world. It is rather the duty of these powerful nations to assume the responsibility for leadership toward a world of peace.

That is why we have here resolved that power and strength shall be used not to wage war, but to keep the world at peace, and free from the fear of war.”

Truman’s collective action approach helped prevent another devastating world war.

However, President Trump’s non-cooperation and combative words signal a darker future in global affairs.

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“We are a World in Pieces”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/we-are-a-world-in-pieces/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-are-a-world-in-pieces http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/we-are-a-world-in-pieces/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 18:38:30 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152134 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

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António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, in his address to the General Assembly

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

I am here in a spirit of gratitude and humility for the trust you have placed in me to serve the world’s peoples. “We the peoples”, and our United Nations, face grave challenges. Our world is in trouble. People are hurting and angry. They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing.

The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating. Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace. And I strongly believe that, together, we can build peace. We can restore trust and create a better world for all. I will focus today on seven threats and tests that stand in our way. For each, the dangers are all too clear. Yet for each, if we act as truly United Nations, we can find answers.

First, the nuclear peril.
The use of nuclear weapons should be unthinkable. Even the threat of their use can never be condoned. But today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War.

The fear is not abstract. Millions of people live under a shadow of dread cast by the provocative nuclear and missile tests of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Within the DPRK itself, such tests do nothing to ease the plight of those who are suffering hunger and severe violations of their human rights.

I condemn those tests unequivocally. I call on the DPRK and all Member States to comply fully with Security Council resolutions. Last week’s unanimous adoption of resolution 2375 tightens sanctions and sends a clear message regarding the country’s international obligations.

I appeal to the Council to maintain its unity.

Only that unity can lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and — as the resolution recognizes — create an opportunity for diplomatic engagement to resolve the crisis.

When tensions rise, so does the chance of miscalculation. Fiery talk can lead to fatal misunderstandings.

The solution must be political. This is a time for statesmanship. We must not sleepwalk our way into war. More broadly, all countries must show greater commitment to the universal goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The nuclear-weapon states have a special responsibility to lead.

Today proliferation is creating unimaginable danger, and disarmament is paralyzed.

There is an urgent need to prevent proliferation and promote disarmament. These goals are linked. Progress on one will generate progress on the other.

Second, let me turn to the global threat of terrorism.
Nothing justifies terrorism — no cause, no grievance. Terrorism continues to take a rising toll of death and devastation. It is destroying societies, destabilizing regions and diverting energy from more productive pursuits. National and multilateral counter-terrorism efforts have disrupted networks, reclaimed territory, prevented attacks and saved lives.

We need to intensify this work. Stronger international cooperation remains crucial. I am grateful to the General Assembly for approving one of my first reform initiatives: the establishment of the UN Office on Counter-Terrorism. Next year, I intend to convene the first-ever gathering of heads of counter-terrorism agencies of Member States to forge a new International Counter-Terrorism Partnership.

But it is not enough to fight terrorists on the battlefield or to deny them funds. We must do more to address the roots of radicalization, including real and perceived injustices and high levels of unemployment and grievance among young people. Political, religious and community leaders have a duty to stand up against hatred and serve as models of tolerance and moderation.

Together, we need to make full use of UN instruments, and expand our efforts to support survivors.

Experience has also shown that harsh crackdowns and heavy-handed approaches are counterproductive. As soon as we believe that violations of human rights and democratic freedoms are necessary to win the fight, we have lost the war.

Third, unresolved conflicts and systematic violations of international humanitarian law.
We are all shocked by the dramatic escalation of sectarian tensions in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. A vicious cycle of persecution, discrimination, radicalization and violent repression has led more than 400,000 desperate people to flee, putting regional stability at risk.

The authorities in Myanmar must end the military operations, and allow unhindered humanitarian access. They must also address the grievances of the Rohingya, whose status has been left unresolved for far too long.

No one is winning today’s wars. From Syria to Yemen, from South Sudan to the Sahel, Afghanistan and elsewhere, only political solutions can bring peace. We should have no illusions. We will not be able to eradicate terrorism if we do not resolve the conflicts that are creating the disorder within which violent extremists flourish.

Last week I announced the creation of a High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation. Those eminent individuals will allow us to be more effective in brokering peace around the world. The United Nations is forging closer partnerships with key regional organizations such as the African Union, the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

We continue to strengthen and modernize peacekeeping – protecting civilians and saving lives around the world. And since taking office, I have sought to bring together the parties to conflict, as well as those that have influence on them.

As a meaningful example, I am particularly hopeful about tomorrow’s meeting on Libya.

Last month, I visited Israel and Palestine. We must not let today’s stagnation in the peace process lead to tomorrow’s escalation. We must restore the hopes of the people. The two-state solution remains the only way forward. It must be pursued urgently.

But I must be frank: in too many cases, the warring parties believe war is the answer.

They may speak of a willingness to compromise. But their actions too often betray a thirst for outright military victory, at any cost. Violations of international humanitarian law are rampant, and impunity prevails. Civilians are paying the highest price, with women and girls facing systematic violence and oppression.

I have seen in my country, and in my years at the United Nations, that it is possible to move from war to peace, and from dictatorship to democracy. Let us push ahead with a surge in diplomacy today and a leap in conflict prevention for tomorrow.

Fourth, climate change puts our hopes in jeopardy.
Last year was the hottest ever. The past decade has been the hottest on record.

Average global temperature keeps climbing, glaciers are receding and permafrost is declining.

Millions of people and trillions of assets are at risk from rising seas and other climate disruptions.

The number of natural disasters has quadrupled since 1970. The United States, followed by China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia, have experienced the most disasters since 1995 – more than 1600, or once every five days. I stand in solidarity with the people of the Caribbean and the United States who have just suffered through Hurricane Irma, the longest-lasting Category 5 storm ever recorded.

We should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict will be the new normal of a warming world.

We have had to update our language to describe what is happening: we now talk of mega-hurricanes, superstorms and rain bombs.

It is high time to get off the path of suicidal emissions. We know enough today to act. The science is unassailable. I urge Governments to implement the historic Paris Agreement with ever greater ambition. I commend those cities that are setting bold targets.

I welcome the initiatives of the thousands of private enterprises — including major oil and gas companies — that are betting on a clean, green future. Energy markets are telling us that green business is good business. The falling cost of renewables is one of the most encouraging stories on the planet today. So is the growing evidence that economies can grow as emissions go down.

New markets, more jobs, opportunities to generate trillions in economic output. The facts are clear. Solutions are staring us in the face. Leadership needs to catch up.

Fifth, rising inequality is undermining the foundations of society and the social compact.
The integration of the world’s economies, expanding trade and stunning advances in technology have brought remarkable benefits. More people have risen out of extreme poverty than ever before. The global middle class is also bigger than ever. More people are living longer, healthier lives.

But the gains have not been equal. We see gaping disparities in income, opportunity and access to the fruits of research and innovation. Eight men hold the same wealth as half of humanity.

Whole regions, countries and communities remain far removed from the waves of progress and growth, left behind in the Rust Belts of our world. This exclusion has a price: frustration, alienation, instability. But we have a blueprint to change course — to achieve fair globalization. That plan is the 2030 Agenda.

Half our world is female. Half our world is under 25 years of age. We cannot meet the Sustainable Development Goals without drawing on the power of women and the enormous energy of young people. We know how fast transformation can take place in our day and age. We know that with global assets and wealth worth trillions, we are not suffering from a lack of funds.

Let us find the wisdom to use the tools, plans and resources already in our hands to achieve inclusive and sustainable development — a goal in its own right but also our best form of conflict prevention. The dark side of innovation is the sixth threat we must confront — and it has moved from the frontier to the front door.

Technology will continue to be at the heart of shared progress. But innovation, as essential as it is for humankind, can bring unintended consequences. Cybersecurity threats are escalating. Cyber war is becoming less and less a hidden reality — and more and more able to disrupt relations among States and destroy some of the structures and systems of modern life.

Advances in cyberspace can empower people, but the dark web shows that some use this capacity to degrade and enslave. Artificial intelligence is a game changer that can boost development and transform lives in spectacular fashion. But it may also have a dramatic impact on labour markets and, indeed, on global security and the very fabric of societies.

Genetic engineering has gone from the pages of science fiction to the marketplace – but it has generated new and unresolved ethical dilemmas. Unless these breakthroughs are handled responsibly, they could cause incalculable damage. Governments and international organizations are simply not prepared for these developments.

Traditional forms of regulation simply do not apply. It is clear that such trends and capacities demand a new generation of strategic thinking, ethical reflection and regulation. The United Nations stands ready as a forum where Member States, civil society, businesses and the academic community can come together and discuss the way forward, for the benefit of all.

Finally, I want to talk about human mobility, which I do not perceive as a threat even if some do. I see it as a challenge that, if properly managed, can help bring the world together.

Let us be clear: we do not only face a refugee crisis; we also face a crisis of solidarity.
Every country has the right to control its own borders. But that must be done in a way that protects the rights of people on the move.

Instead of closed doors and open hostility, we need to reestablish the integrity of the refugee protection regime and the simple decency of human compassion. With a truly global sharing of responsibility, the numbers we face can be managed. But too many states have not risen to the moment.

I commend those countries that have shown admirable hospitality to millions of forcibly displaced people. We need to do more to support them. We also need to do more to face the challenges of migration. The truth is that the majority of migrants move in a well-ordered fashion, making positive contributions to their host countries and homelands. It is when migrants move in unregulated ways that the risks become clear – for states but most especially for migrants themselves exposed to perilous journeys.

Migration has always been with us. Climate change, demographics, instability, growing inequalities, and aspirations for a better life, as well as unmet needs in labour markets, mean it is here to stay.

The answer is effective international cooperation in managing migration to ensure that its benefits are most widely distributed, and the human rights of all concerned properly protected. But from ample experience, I can assure you that most people prefer to realize their aspirations at home.

We must work together to make sure that they can do so. Migration should be an option, not a necessity. We also need a much stronger commitment of the international community to crack down on human traffickers, and to protect their victims.

But we will not end the tragedies on the Mediterranean, the Andaman Sea and elsewhere without creating more opportunities for regular migration. This will benefit migrants and countries alike.

I myself am a migrant, as are many of you. But no one expected me to risk my life on a leaky boat or cross a desert in the back of a truck to find employment outside my country of birth.

Safe migration cannot be limited to the global elite. Refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants are not the problem; the problem lies in conflict, persecution and hopeless poverty.
I have been pained to see the way refugees and migrants have been stereotyped and scapegoated – and to see political figures stoke resentment in search of electoral gain.

In today’s world, all societies are becoming multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious.
This diversity must be seen as a richness, not a threat. But to make diversity a success, we need to invest in social cohesion, so that all people feel that their identities are respected and they have a stake in the community as a whole.

We need to reform our world, and I am committed to reforming our United Nations. Together, we have embarked on a comprehensive reform effort:
— to build a UN development system to support States in bettering peoples’ lives;
— to reinforce our ability to safeguard people’s peace, security and human rights;
— and to embrace management practices that advance those goals instead of hindering them.
We have launched a new victims-centred approach to preventing sexual exploitation and abuse.
We have a roadmap to achieve gender parity at the United Nations – and we are already on our way.

We are here to serve: to relieve the suffering of “we the peoples”; and to help fulfil their dreams.
We come from different corners of the world. Our cultures, religions, traditions vary widely — and wonderfully. At times, there are competing interests among us. At others, there is even open conflict. That is exactly why we need the United Nations. That is why multilateralism is more important than ever.

We call ourselves the international community. We must act as one. Only together, as United Nations, can we fulfil the promise of the Charter and advance human dignity for all.

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Islamic Organization Promotes Cultural Rapprochement Between US & Muslim Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/islamic-organization-promotes-cultural-rapprochement-us-muslim-world/#respond Mon, 18 Sep 2017 11:44:28 +0000 Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152117 Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen is Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

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Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen. Credit: OIC

By Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen
NEW YORK, Sep 18 2017 (IPS)

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), by virtue of its position of being the second largest international organization outside the UN system with 57 member countries comprising one fifth of the world population and covering Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas, is indeed an important actor in dealing with rapprochement between cultures, in particular rapprochement between the Muslim World and its international partners like the USA.

Rapprochement between cultures through dialogue among civilizations and diverse faiths as an agenda item was pioneered by the OIC at the international level as early as 1998.

The OIC believes in dialogue and communication in order to foster mutual respect and understanding. Its focus continues to be one of outreach and engagement with the international stakeholders like the USA to form a meaningful and functional partnership to work together in engendering a culture of peaceful coexistence and upholding human dignity.

Communication makes people more connected and raises awareness among them on the implications of hatred and discrimination based on their faith, culture and religion. Based on these premises, the OIC has established a separate full-fledged Department of Dialogue and Outreach in its General Secretariat. The main objective of this Department is to reach out to different cultures with an aim to reduce misunderstanding and cultural gap between them and the Muslim World.

With this in mind, the Department has established a close relationship of collaboration and cooperation with the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), an Intergovernmental setup established at the initiative of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia along with Austria and Spain to highlight the efficacy of cultural rapprochement as an effective tool to reduce conflict through building bridges between cultures.

We all want to live in dignity, in peace, in security, to raise our children, to protect our families. Muslims are not exception to that. Islam like any other religion advocate for the same values of humanity, mercy, solidarity, peace.

To this end, contemporary challenges like xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, discrimination, and hatred must be tackled through inclusive dialogue and tolerance. For this, uniting our efforts is what the world needs today.

Much has been achieved in this regard, nevertheless, as the challenges around us continue to grow and expand, much more is yet to be done. We believe that there is more to unite us than to divide. As such, in order to focus on the factors that bring us together, cultural rapprochement through communication, dialogue and inclusiveness needs to be nurtured and demonstrated in our everyday life.

Meanwhile, an OIC press release says the Organization will hold several meetings on the sidelines of the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York starting Monday, 18 September 2017.

The foreign ministers of the OIC Member States are expected to hold a coordination meeting to discuss the issues of interest to the OIC that are on the agenda of the current session of the UNGA.

Also, the Special Ministerial Committee on Palestine will hold a meeting to discuss the developments regarding the Palestinian issue, and the Secretary General Dr. Yousef Al Othaimeen will chair an international high-level meeting to support the Palestinian refugees.

There will also be a ministerial meeting of the Contact Group on the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar, who are being subjected to persecution, displacement and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar for years. The situation has exacerbated in the past weeks, which caused more than 300,000 of the Rohingyas to flee to Bangladesh.

Other contact group meetings will also be held on Somalia, Sierra Leone, Mali, Yemen, Jammu and Kashmir, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and on the aggression of Armenia on Azerbaijan to discuss the situations and developments in these countries and regions.

In addition, the second meeting of the Contact Group on Muslims in Europe will be held, which aims to promote understanding and respect between Muslims living in the West and their communities and protecting their rights in light of heightened Islamophobia across Europe.

The recent terrorist attacks combined with the current economic crisis and high unemployment rates have increasingly strained relations between immigrant Muslim communities and the larger societies in which they live, a situation that has been used by the far right groups to exacerbate tensions.

The OIC Secretary General is expected to have bilateral meetings with a number of presidents, foreign ministers and high officials from the member states and non-member states during the UNGA to discuss issues of mutual interest.

Furthermore, Al-Othaimeen and his accompanying delegation of senior officials will participate in the opening of the UNGA session and several meetings and activities that are to be held on its sidelines on important regional and international issues.

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Secretary-General Talks Myanmar, Trump Ahead of General Assemblyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/secretary-general-talks-myanmar-trump-ahead-general-assembly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=secretary-general-talks-myanmar-trump-ahead-general-assembly http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/secretary-general-talks-myanmar-trump-ahead-general-assembly/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 06:47:38 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152070 In an environment full of major threats, countries must work together towards peace and stability, the Secretary-General said ahead of the General Assembly. As the UN gears up for the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, when leaders from around the world will convene, the Secretary-General pointed to pressing issues and actions to be discussed […]

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Secretary-General António Guterres addresses a press conference ahead of the 72nd session of the General Assembly, which begins on 19 September. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 14 2017 (IPS)

In an environment full of major threats, countries must work together towards peace and stability, the Secretary-General said ahead of the General Assembly.

As the UN gears up for the 72nd Session of the General Assembly, when leaders from around the world will convene, the Secretary-General pointed to pressing issues and actions to be discussed over the course of the week.

“Global leaders will gather here next week at a time where our world faces major threats—from nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cyber crime,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said of his first General Assembly session since assuming office in January 2017.

“No country can meet these tests alone. But if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course, and that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important,” he continued.

Among the most pressing issues that is expected to be discussed during the annual meeting is the humanitarian crisis and escalation of violence in Myanmar, which Guterres described as “catastrophic” and “unacceptable.”

“I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country,” Guterres said, recommending that Rohingya Muslims be granted citizenship or at least a legal status that allows them to leave a productive life.

Sparked after the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked a security post on August 25, Myanmar’s military has launched “clearance operations” which has left a path of destruction in its wake.

Security forces have reportedly systematically targeted Rohingya communities, including by burning their homes and indiscriminately shooting at villagers.

Over 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have since fled into neighboring Bangladesh, a figure that tripled in just one week.

In response to the violent outbreak, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said that the treatment of Rohingya Muslims seems to be a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

When asked if he agrees that the Rohingya population is facing ethnic cleansing, Guterres stated: “When one-third of the Rohingya population have to flee a country, can you find a better word to describe it?”

However, he stopped short of describing the atrocities as genocide, instead calling it a “dramatic tragedy.”

“The question here is not to establish a dialogue on the different kinds of technical words…people are dying and suffering at horrible numbers and we need to stop it. That is my main concern.”

Amid mounting criticism over her response to the latest iteration of the crisis, Nobel Peace laureate and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi recently cancelled her trip to the UN meeting this year.

In her address to the General Assembly in 2016, Suu Kyi said that her government did not fear international scrutiny over its treatment of the Rohingya population.

“We are committed to a sustainable solution that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the State,” she said.

Myanmar is reportedly sending its Second Vice President Henry Van Thio in Suu Kyi’s place.

The Security Council (UNSC) has also faced criticism for its silence and lack of action on the situation in Myanmar.

The group last met behind closed doors at the end of August but issued no formal statement or proposal to end the crisis.

The Secretary-General wrote a letter to the 15-member council asking it to “undertake concerted efforts to prevent further escalation of the crisis.”

During a press conference, Guterres highlighted his personal commitment to the issue, stating: “This is a matter that I feel very deeply in my heart…the suffering of the people is something I feel very strongly about.”

UNSC held another closed-door meeting on Wednesday which many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are saying is insufficient and are urging for a public meeting.

“[UNSC] needs to take control of the issue and show that they are really concerned about it,” said Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau at a press conference on the Myanmar crisis.

“The Security Council is supposed to be the guardian of international peace and security. This is an international peace and security crisis. It is a nightmare—people are dying, there is destruction, there is no excuse for them to keep sitting on their hands,” he continued.

In an effort to advance the UN’s work on peace and security, Guterres also announced a new High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.

The 18-member group, which includes personalities such as President of Chile Michelle Bachelet and President of the International Crisis Group Jean-Marie Guéhenno, will advise the Secretary-General on mediation efforts and challenges.

Guterres also said that he aims to discuss the Myanmar crisis along with other challenges such as climate change with the United States’ President Donald Trump who is due to attend and speak at the general debate on 19 September.

Since taking office, President Trump has butted heads with the UN, threatening to significantly cut funds to UN programs and even eliminating all funds to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) after citing concerns that the agency conducts “coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization” in China.

Earlier this year, Trump also announced the U.S.’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, a landmark commitment made by 195 countries to address and combat climate change.

In response to such challenges, Guterres highlighted the efforts being made to make the U.S.-UN relationship a constructive one and hopes that it will be a message that the President will also convey in his address.

“It is my deep belief that to preserve the American interests is to engage positively in global affairs and to engage positively in support to multilateral organizations like the UN,” Guterres said.

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Indian Journalist’s Murder: The Ultimate Form of Press Censorship?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indian-journalists-murder-ultimate-form-press-censorship/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indian-journalists-murder-ultimate-form-press-censorship http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/indian-journalists-murder-ultimate-form-press-censorship/#comments Thu, 07 Sep 2017 22:56:50 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151969 Dauntlessly crusading against curbs on freedom of speech, fifty-five-year-old Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh was gunned down at her very doorstep in Bengaluru city on the evening of Sep. 5, taking three bullets of the seven fired in her lungs and heart. She was shot from just three feet away. Known for her vocal stand against […]

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Gauri Lankesh. Credit: Wikipedia

By Manipadma Jena
BHUBANESWAR, India, Sep 7 2017 (IPS)

Dauntlessly crusading against curbs on freedom of speech, fifty-five-year-old Indian journalist Gauri Lankesh was gunned down at her very doorstep in Bengaluru city on the evening of Sep. 5, taking three bullets of the seven fired in her lungs and heart. She was shot from just three feet away.

Known for her vocal stand against India’s growing right-wing ideology, communal politics and majoritian policies, Lankesh ran bold and forthright anti-establishment reports on the eponymous Gauri Lankesh Patrike, a regional language tabloid published, owned and edited by her since 2005."Gauri Lankesh’s death is another stark reminder of how violence is the new normal (in India)." --A senior journalist

She ran the paper only on subscriptions from loyal readers from across remote villages of Karnataka State. The paper carried no advertisements, following in the tradition of her socialist poet, playwright and journalist father who started the original tabloid.

Gauri Lankesh described herself on her Twitter handle as a journalist-activist. Fluent in both English and the regional Kannada language, she fearlessly broadcast her far-left of centre and pro-Dalit ideologies against religious fundamentalism and the caste system, reaching a huge mass grassroots population.

Speaking at her funeral, Karnataka’s chief minister M Siddaramaiah said, “Gauri brokered deals with Naxalites (Left-wing extremists) in Karnataka. She helped them enter the mainstream and played a vital role of a negotiator between the State and the extremists.” An activity which extremists cadres may have wanted to halt, Lankesh’s brother Indrajit Lankesh said today.

Known as a sympathizer of left-wing extremists, Lankesh was among the few who could empathise with the poverty, oppression and injustices that had pushed these people to pick up arms against the government.

In November, Lankesh was convicted in two libel suits filed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) parliamentarians for her 2008 article alleging that they had criminal dealings. She was, however, granted bail and was planning to appeal to a higher court.

Majority of journalists killed wrote on politics and corruption

Lankesh’s voice being silenced once again highlights that journalists covering politics and corruption in India are most at risk of being silenced by killing.

Over half of the 27 journalists murdered in the country since 1992 were covering politics and corruption – the two beats most likely to provoke violent repercussions, finds the Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ). The threat from these seems to be rising.

India continues to languish in the bottom third of the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, ranking 136th of 180 countries. Among India’s neighbours, most fare better, including conflict-torn Afghanistan at 120, Pakistan at 139, Sri Lanka at 141, , Bangladesh at 146, Nepal at 100, Bhutan at 84 and China at 176. Norway leads while North Korea is at the bottom.

The Index ranks countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country.

Source: RSF

‘It is not what you said, but why you said it’

A friend of the slain journalist who was also from the media fraternity is quoted as saying that Lankesh was very “in your face” in her brand of progressive activism against radical Hinduism.

“In my frequent interactions with her, I would tell her that her whole rhetoric should be more subtle,” her friend says. “She was very naive and she was politically incorrect. She was very bold, but indulged in sloganeering of a certain kind which I said would not achieve anything. She needed to strategize.”

“Our right to dissent is being threatened,” the intrepid journalist said instead.

Bold red placards at her funeral read, “It is not what you said, but why you said it.”

“Given the ways in which speech is being stifled, dire days lie ahead,” Lankesh told an online portal a few months before her death, in an intuitive foretelling of her violent end.

She installed two closed circuit surveillance systems a fortnight before the fatal attack.

No link has yet been established between her death and her ideology or writing by police investigations, but because she so fiercely fought for freedom of speech and freedom of thought, large sections of Indian media protesting her killing are expressing concern over what they described as a growing intolerance of dissenting political voices.

A senior journalist sums up the current sentiment saying, “Gauri Lankesh’s death is another stark reminder of how violence is the new normal (in India). Alternate opinion is no longer debated, it is silenced.”

The Reporters without Borders (RSF) 2017 index report too blames the rise of Hindu nationalism for India’s drop in ranking.

“The three-year-old (federal) administration has been trying to banish all “anti-nationalist” discourse from the Indian press. Journalists who refuse to censor themselves are the targets of defamation suits or are prosecuted under section 124A of the penal code, under which “sedition” is punishable by life imprisonment, the organization reiterated today.”

Getting away with murder

Hundreds of journalists are murdered, but in nine out of 10 cases their killers go free.

India’s unsolved journalist murders rose by 24 percent within just one year, finds CPJ’s latest Global Impunity Index 2016 which documents the top countries where the killers of journalists go unpunished and where cases of journalists killed remain unsolved. In comparison, Syria is up 85 percent and Brazil 36

CPJ finds it is most often criminal and political groups, government officials in India who get away with journalist murders. Rural and small-town journalists reporting on local corruption, crime, and politics are targeted most. Worse, in addition to failing to solve any journalist murder, India has never responded to UNESCO’s requests for the judicial status of journalist killings in the country.

Impunity is widely recognized as one of the greatest threats to press freedom. The Impunity Index finds globally, 95 percent of victims were local reporters. More of them covered politics and corruption than any other beat. Also in 40 percent of cases, the victims reported receiving threats before they were killed. Threats however are rarely investigated by authorities and in only a handful of cases is adequate protection provided. Of serious concern is CPJ’s finding that only 3 percent of total murder cases over the 2006 – 2016 decade have been brought to justice, including the prosecution of the masterminds.

No data on the murder of journalists is maintained separately, according to India’s home ministry, which administers law and crime. Since 2014 the national crime records bureau (NCRB) has however started collecting data only on grievously injurious attacks on media persons.

The federal or any of the State governments is yet to act on RSF’s 2015 call to the Indian government to launch a national safety plan for journalists, or at least establish alert and rescue mechanisms that would also send a strong message of support for media freedom.

India’s information and broadcasting ministry rejected RSF’s index ranking earlier this year, saying it found the sampling random in nature and it does not portray a proper and comprehensive picture of freedom of the press in India.

Earlier in February U.N. Secretary General António Guterres agreed to take steps to address the safety of journalists, at a meeting where RSF and CPJ called for the appointment of a special representative to the UNSG to end impunity, ensure safety.

Attacks on Asia Pacific’s free press escalates: Cambodia’s clampdown via huge back tax

With 34 countries and more than half the world’s population, the Asia-Pacific region holds all the records including the biggest number of “Predators of Press Freedom,” according to RSF.

Earlier this week, the English-language Cambodia Daily newspaper published its last issue on Sep. 4 after fighting for the right to report the news freely and independently for 24 years. It was forced to close by an unprecedented form of government pressure – a sudden demand to pay 6.3 million dollars in alleged back taxes, according to RSF.

The newspaper’s editor, Jodie DeJonge regards it as arbitrary and politically motivated, pointing out that no tax audit had been carried out, according to RSF, which also says that the Cambodia Daily has been one of the relatively few independent media outlets to cover corruption, deforestation and other stories that are embarrassing for the government. This clampdown on independent media outlets has come as Cambodia prepares to hold elections next year.

“But this is not a tax issue, it is a free press issue,” DeJonge told RSF.

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Cambodia no Longer Compliant with the Global Dealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/cambodia-no-longer-compliant-global-deal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cambodia-no-longer-compliant-global-deal http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/cambodia-no-longer-compliant-global-deal/#respond Tue, 05 Sep 2017 12:28:01 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151927 Independent media is being closed down. Last weekend a leading opposition politician was arrested. Cambodia's commitment to defend human rights and participate in the Global Deal is coming under question.

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Cambodia no Longer Compliant with the Global Deal - Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden, addresses high-level summit on large movements of refugees and migrants. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

Stefan Löfven, Prime Minister of Sweden, addresses high-level summit on large movements of refugees and migrants. Credit: UN Photo/JC McIlwaine

By Erik Larsson
PHNOM PENH, Sep 5 2017 (IPS)

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven made a special effort to reach this global agreement between countries, unions and businesses. The bearing idea is that by initiating dialogue in society, salaries can be raised, business profits improved and political stability strengthened.

Cambodia is one of sixteen countries that has signed the agreement. At this moment though, Cambodia is in reverse mode. Several experts have warned that Cambodia is turning into a dictatorship.

”You can not be part of the Global Deal if you violate all basic labour rights”, says Oscar Ernerot of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation LO, who still does not want Cambodia excluded from this international initiative.

Over the weekend, over one hundred policemen were involved in arresting the prominent member of the opposition Kem Sokha. He is being accused of treason and the authorities claim that he has planned to overthrow the government of Hun Sen, which has been in power for over 30 years.

There is a real risk for the entire Global Deal initiative to fall apart if the participating countries are in violation of the most basic labor rights. Oscar Ernerot - Swedish Trade Union Confederation LO
These charges of treason are refuted by the opposition, who claim that the government is setting the scene to stage a victory in the coming elections in July 2018.  The latest arrest seems to be part of a conscious drive to strike at the growing voices of discontent.

Over a period of a few weeks, about 30 radio stations considered to favour the opposition have been closed. Arbetet Global recently wrote about the outspoken newspaper The Cambodia Daily that all of sudden was ordered to pay a hefty tax.

Developments have caused much worry and the European Union warns of the waning democratic process in the country. Human rights defenders like Amnesty claim that the authorities are utilizing the judicial system to punish and silence political critics.

This curtailing of freedoms of independent unions and human rights organisations is having effect.

Oscar Ernerot at Swedish LO iterates that those who join the Global Deal, do so with the stated intention of protecting human rights and defending labor rights as well as promoting a societal dialogue.

Despite the change for the worse, he doesn’t feel Cambodia should be disqualified from participation.

”No, I don’t think so. We need to have a long term perspective. If they were thrown out of the Global Deal, the possibility to influence their development would be even less. Our position is that the Swedish government has to put more pressure on the Cambodian government and pose tough questions on why they are breaking their own promises.

According to Oscar Ernerot, there is though a real risk for the entire Global Deal initiative to fall apart if the participating countries are in violation of the most basic labor rights.

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Venezuela’s Government Is Following a “Policy to Repress,” the UN Sayshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/venezuelas-government-following-policy-repress-un-says/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=venezuelas-government-following-policy-repress-un-says http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/venezuelas-government-following-policy-repress-un-says/#respond Wed, 30 Aug 2017 18:36:35 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151852 After sending a team to investigate the human rights conditions in Venezuela amid growing political and economic crisis, the UN Human Rights Office has reported that the crushing of anti-government protests point to the “the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instil fear in the population to curb demonstrations.” After being repeatedly […]

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Secretary-General António Guterres (right) meets with Jorge Arreaza, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 30 2017 (IPS)

After sending a team to investigate the human rights conditions in Venezuela amid growing political and economic crisis, the UN Human Rights Office has reported that the crushing of anti-government protests point to the “the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instil fear in the population to curb demonstrations.”

After being repeatedly denied access into Venezuela, the UN sent a team to monitor the situation remotely. After investigating protests from April 1 until 31st July, the team recorded that the security forces and armed colectivos, a pro-government armed group, were responsible for a total 73 deaths or half of all 146 deaths that the team opened investigations into. The report also sheds light on the gradual escalation of violence, as injured persons in the first half of April reported inhaling tear gas, and by the end of July, came in dozens to treat injuries from gunshots.

As the report clearly outlines Venezuela’s spiral into crisis by continuous use of attacks against peaceful protesters by government forces, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has stressed on the importance to curb this mishandling of power.

“The right to peaceful assembly was systematically violated, with protestors and people identified as political opponents detained in great numbers. The report also identifies serious violations of due process and patterns of ill-treatment, in some cases amounting to torture,” Zeid said.

International pressure, however, has worked to some effect as many detainees, who numbered as many as 5,000 in the beginning of April, have been freed. Still, more than 1,000 are reportedly detained. In addition, 609 civilians have been tried in military courts, instead of ordinary courts.

Besides the use of deadly force, many witnesses gave firsthand accounts of the violence, citing cases where the security forces deliberately fired tear gas at short range, or threw nuts and bolts directly at them. Numerous instances of illegal house raids and unlawful torture of detainees have also been reported.

The breakdown of law and order, with violence primarily attributed to the National Guard and the National Police, has picked up pace in August.

Recent measures like criminalising leaders from the opposition through the newly established Commission of Truth, Justice, and Peace have raised concerns about the partisan nature of inquiries into preventing further violence. This new commission was recently installed by the controversial Constituent Assembly.

Zeid cited the deterioration of conditions in the country and encouraged the government to follow up on the report published by the UN and make conscientious enquiry.

“I encourage the Venezuelan Government to follow up on the recommendations made in the report and to use its findings as guidelines to seek truth and justice for the victims of human rights violations and abuses. I once again call on the Government to renounce any measure that could increase political tension in the country and appeal to all parties to pursue meaningful dialogue to bring an end to this crisis,” he said.

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Internet Shutdowns in Africa Stifling Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:56:10 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151755 Jonathan Rozen is a Researcher with the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Africa Program*

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Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015, according to the same data.

By Jonathan Rozen
NEW YORK, Aug 21 2017 (IPS)

The internet for journalism is now like the air you breathe,” said Befeqadu Hailu, an Ethiopian journalist and a member of the Zone 9 blogger collective who was arrested in April 2014 and charged with terrorism. “Without the internet, modern journalism means nothing.” Yet, the internet is something that journalists in multiple African countries are often forced to do without.

Between 30 May and 8 June, the Ethiopian government shut down the country’s internet service for the third time in the last year. These shutdowns have occurred in the context of an ongoing crackdown on the press by authorities, who are currently keeping nine of the 17 journalists recorded on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) 2016 prison census behind bars.

Since the state-run Ethio Telecom holds monopolistic control over both internet and telephone service, the government has the ability to effectively sever its population’s communications on a whim.

“We’ve been through extraordinarily difficult times [during] the ten days of [the] shutdown,” Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of the Addis Standard, told CPJ over WhatsApp.

There was a complete digital blackout during the first few days after which broadband became available, said Hulu. But since broadband is largely only available for businesses and organisations, many journalists continued to face major challenges. The frequent clampdown on internet access prevents them from securely communicating with sources or publishing on time.

After the third day of the shutdown, Lemma ran between hotels to find internet access. “This is insecure as you are using the business centres there, which is not a secure connection,” Lemma said.

 

Congo-Brazzaville

On 25 June 2017, Congo-Brazzaville’s internet connection was restored after a 15-day shutdown that was reportedly caused by a mysterious fishing boat that damaged the country’s submarine cables.

While journalists and analysts inside and outside of Congo-Brazzaville speculated over the truthfulness of a boat’s involvement, private mobile companies were able to provide some satellite connection. Nevertheless, journalists remained hampered.

“As long as the internet is not stable, many field, remote reporters or correspondents are facing big problems to send their stories, their work,” a Congo-Brazzaville-based journalist told CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015
While online media distributors are effectively blocked from their platforms during internet shutdowns, print and broadcast journalists’ investigative capacities also suffer greatly.

 

Cameroon

For 93 days between January through April 2017, the Cameroonian government with cooperation from private mobile operators cut off internet access in the two western, Anglophone regions of the country.

The government also imposed a suffocating culture of fear through a campaign of arrests and detentions, according to a forthcoming CPJ report on Cameroon’s use of anti-state legislation against journalists. Attacks on the press increased dramatically. At least eight journalists were arrested in connection with their journalism (six of them remain in detention in Yaoundé).

Without the internet, reporting on people’s daily realities became extremely difficult. The media environment in Cameroon was choked. Fear of reprisal, coupled with the internet shutdown, restricted communication between online and offline regions. Coverage of ongoing abuses was stifled.

“Content [was] sent to the [media] station through road,” a Cameroonian broadcast journalist based in the English-speaking regions who requested to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told CPJ. “We could therefore not relay timely news items from other areas because we had to wait for them two [to] three days after.”

With such limited information, speculation reigned supreme, the journalist said.

 

Secure communications

As governments improve their surveillance tactics, journalists are forced to use a small number of internet-based communication platforms in pursuit of private conversation.

“You pick up your phone to make that call, and you know your phone is tapped, you know there is someone on the other end listening,” Lemma told CPJ. “People don’t [even] feel safe meeting in person.”

“It’s no more a secret that many journalists are actually [wiretapped],” a Congolese journalist told CPJ over WhatsApp on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Also, internet is very important for the journalists’ work, since some social media [helps] to bypass [wiretapping] or line monitoring when they need to check or get or publish some facts.”

This perspective is supported by a 2011 report, which highlights how “the November 2009 law on electronic communications and the 2010 decree on identification of [telecommunications] subscribers show that the [Congolese] state has seemingly unlimited power to invade the privacy of its citizens in the interest of security … It seems that the state can access personal data under any pretext without the consent of the individual concerned, who can do nothing to stop it from happening.”

When journalists are too afraid to speak on regular telecommunication lines for fear that their government will intercept the communication and arrive at their door, encrypted internet-based tools like WhatsApp or Signal offer a practical method of communication and information dissemination.

In his 2015 piece titled Surveillance forces journalists to think and act like spies“, CPJ’s staff technologist Tom Lowenthal explains how important encryption technology is for journalists to connect with sources and write important stories. Without secure communication tools, journalists’ ability to communicate privately with sources becomes limited and self-censorship flourishes.

“Internet shutdowns are particularly censorious in areas where fear of reprisal for critical journalism reigns, and unfortunately, this fear exists in many of the African countries that have experienced internet shutdowns,” said CPJ’s emergencies director María Salazar-Ferro. “Journalists should never feel that their work is putting them or those they communicate with in danger.”

 

Resisting shutdowns

Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015, according to the same data.

Many of these shutdowns occur during elections and other moments of political tension, when access to information is critical for the public to make informed decisions.

In response, internet freedom advocates have mobilised to compel governments and telecommunications companies to resist shutting off internet access.

In March 2017, the Freedom Online Coalition, which is composed of 30 national governments working to advance internet freedom, expressed deep concern over the “growing trend of intentional state-sponsored disruptions”. They also offered a list of five good practices for governments to avoid shutdowns and seize the economic and social growth brought by the internet.

In Ethiopia, for example, a 30-day shutdown cost the government upwards of US$8.5 million, while a separate 15-day shutdown in the Republic of the Congo cost over US$72 million, according to a 2016 Brookings Institute report.

On 10 April 2017, a creative advocacy proposal was put to the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), the body that allocates Africa’s IP addresses, which are identifiers for computers and other devices that connect to the internet. The proposal called for the denial of new IP addresses for one year to countries that order their internet to be shut down.

Though media reports indicate that the proposal was denied as a result of intense opposition from African governments, AFRINIC subsequently issued a statement calling for African governments to “renounce the use of internet shutdowns as a policy tool”.

Internet advocates are also targeting telecommunications companies and internet service providers in an effort to get them to resist government calls for shutdowns.

On 15 February 2017, nearly a month into Cameroon’s internet shutdown, CPJ was among 27 signatories on a letter to three Cameroon telecommunication companies’ CEOs, requesting “support in restoring internet access”.

A month later, United Nations Special Rapporteur on free expression David Kay’s report to the UN Human Rights Council highlighted the responsibility of private “provider” companies to “ensure that they do not cause, contribute or become complicit in human rights abuses” involved in shutdowns.

“Being able to survive as a journalist in this age without access to the internet – the idea itself is very daunting,” Lemma told CPJ. “But beyond the idea, it’s everything from losing your security [to] not being able to communicate the way you want.”

Respect for press freedom means letting it breathe by enabling journalists to conduct their work. Without internet access journalists cannot publish online, nor can they conduct thorough investigations or talk securely with their sources. To have a free press, African governments need to #KeepItOn.

This article originally appeared on Africa Portal

 

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Why Breastfeeding Is One of the “Smartest Investments” for All Countrieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/breastfeeding-one-smartest-investments-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breastfeeding-one-smartest-investments-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/breastfeeding-one-smartest-investments-countries/#respond Tue, 08 Aug 2017 07:08:58 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151609 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released new findings on the economic gains—besides the obvious health benefits—of breastfeeding. Hailing the practice as an investment that ought to be supported by governments, the UN estimates that 4.70 dollars can push up rates of breastfeeding to 50 percent by 2025. Currently, only 23 countries can claim […]

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May 18, 2017. A combined group of South Sudanese refugees and Ugandans take part in a class about breast feeding. Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement, Adjumani District. Conflict and famine in South Sudan have led to an exodus of refugees into Uganda. Credit: JAMES OATWAY/UNICEF

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 8 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has released new findings on the economic gains—besides the obvious health benefits—of breastfeeding.

Hailing the practice as an investment that ought to be supported by governments, the UN estimates that 4.70 dollars can push up rates of breastfeeding to 50 percent by 2025. Currently, only 23 countries can claim a rate above 60 percent. Overall, only 40 percent of children less than six months old are exclusively breastfed today.

In the world’s largest emerging economies—China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria—236,000 children die each year from a lack of investment in breastfeeding. Together, the countries lose more than 119 billion dollars annually.

A healthier workforce, nurtured from the very beginning of childhood, can add to a prosperous economy. Breastfeeding ensures ammunition against deadly diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia, which are two major causes of death among infants. Similarly, it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer among mothers.

“We need to bring more understanding to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding—the baby should be fed with mother’s milk within the first hour of being born. Unfortunately, for many social and cultural reasons, this is not put to diligent practice. This is a sheer missed opportunity,” France Begin, a Senior Nutrition Adviser for Infant & Young Child Nutrition at UNICEF, told IPS.

The obvious benefits of breastfeeding, such as providing nutrition and bolstering development of the brain, are well known. Still, it is commonly mistaken as a woman’s job alone.

“Countries like Nepal and Kenya have done a wonderful job with policies to protect lactating mothers. In Kenya for example, all workplaces in the private sector have a room dedicated to mothers who have to breastfeed their children. In a way, this is our message too—you have to support women, and can’t simple leave it up to them,” said Begin. Indeed, providing lactation education classes and better paid maternity leave can go a long way.

Across all income levels, breastfeeding adds to an increase in intelligence, measured by a 3-point Intelligence Quotient (IQ) increase on average. Better academic performances, ensured by strong educational opportunities and programs, can lead to a better life for all members of the family.

“If you don’t make a strong commitment, it is a sheer drain to the child’s life, the families, and in the end, the economy,” resounded Begin.

This is why the report has deemed the practice as a “smart investment.” As the rate of breastfeeding remains stagnant in over two decades, it has become imperative to rally support and raise awareness. The UN has stepped up to do so by observing World Breastfeeding Week from August 1 until August 7.

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A Hostage to Parliament, Temer Sacrifices Indigenous Rights to Save Himselfhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/hostage-parliament-temer-sacrifices-indigenous-rights-save/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 22:19:48 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151600 This article is part of special IPS coverage for the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples, celebrated on August 9

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Guaraní Indians Hamilton Lopes and his daughter stand in front of their shack where their family lives precariously on lands which have not yet been demarcated and where they face a threat of expulsion, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay. In this area, large landowners have taken their lands, causing the greatest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Guaraní Indians Hamilton Lopes and his daughter stand in front of their shack where their family lives precariously on lands which have not yet been demarcated and where they face a threat of expulsion, along the border between Brazil and Paraguay. In this area, large landowners have taken their lands, causing the greatest number of murders and suicides of indigenous people. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

Brazilians now have new reasons to yearn for and at the same time fear the parliamentary system of government. It facilitates quick solutions to political crises such as the one that is currently affecting the country, but it also further empowers reactionary forces and has led to backsliding on gains such as indigenous rights.

In a country with a presidential system of government, the “semi-parliamentarism” which many people, including President Michel Temer, identify in the current administration, is working against indigenous people and other sectors that have little say in parliament.

“The national Congress forms part of a conservative system, a ‘democracy’ which never took indigenous representation into account,” lamented Marcos Terena, coordinator of the World Indigenous Nations Games, also known as the Indigenous Olympics, and a veteran activist of the Terena people, who live in west-central Brazil.

Native people are suffering an offensive against their rights, which has intensified since Temer took office.

Temer, who went from vice-president to president in May 2016 after the impeachment and removal of Dilma Rousseff, who was elected in 2014 and accused of fiscal fraud, totally depends on mainly conservative parliamentary groups.

This dependence started with how he rose to power, because a two-thirds majority in both houses was required to remove Rousseff. But it has been heightened since May 17, when the scandal broke out that made Temer the country’s first sitting head of state to be formally charged with a crime.

A conversation recorded by Joseley Batista, owner of JBS, the world’s largest meat processing company, was the basis for a formal accusation of corruption against Temer by the federal prosecution office.

On Aug. 2, the lower house of Congress rejected a corruption charge against Temer for alleged bribe-taking, which saved him from a possible Supreme Court trial might have removed him from office. But the federal prosecution office is preparing new charges of obstruction of justice and activity in a criminal organization, drawing out the parliamentary and judicial battle for the current presidency, which ends on Jan. 1, 2019.

To ensure the backing of the ruralist parliamentary group, which according to their website has 214 representatives and 24 senators – 40 per cent of parliament – Temer is granting its members a number of benefits and the approval of legal measures, to the detriment of native peoples, the environment and fiscal austerity.

Headed by large landowners, cattle ranchers and producers of grains for export markets, this bloc sees indigenous lands, whose demarcation is ensured by the 1988 constitution, as an obstacle to the expansion of agriculture.

According to the last census, there were 896,917 indigenous people in Brazil in 2010, or 0.47 per cent of the population of 190.7 million at the time. But they occupy more than 13 per cent of the national territory, which the powerful ruralist caucus considers excessive.

A constitutional amendment that would submit the demarcation of indigenous lands to approval by Congress is one of the ruralist bloc’s proposals, which would likely prevent the creation of new protected areas to ensure the physical and cultural survival of native peoples.

Submitted in the year 2000, the initiative has been shelved until now. “I think that even the ruralists themselves recognise that the conditions for it to be passed do not exist,” said Marcio Santilli, founder of the Socio-environmental Institute (ISA), the non-governmental organisation that has the largest database on indigenous people in the country.

Lucimario Apolonio Lima, a chief of the Xocó indigenous people, is struggling to find new livelihoods for his people, after a dam cut off their traditional activities of agriculture and fishing, which depended on the waters of the São Francisco River, in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Lucimario Apolonio Lima, a chief of the Xocó indigenous people, is struggling to find new livelihoods for his people, after a dam cut off their traditional activities of agriculture and fishing, which depended on the waters of the São Francisco River, in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A constitutional amendment requires approval by a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament, which has become more difficult to obtain with a governing coalition weakened by accusations of corruption, not only against Temer, but also against his chief ministers and parliamentary leaders.

“The biggest threat, more than a risk, is the time frame, a concept with which they want to limit the entire public administration,” on the indigenous issue, Santilli told IPS.

This time frame is October 1988, when the constitution was approved. The rights of indigenous peoples were to be limited to the area occupied at that time, according to an interpretation by the Supreme Court, when it ruled in 2009 on the demarcation of the Raposa Sierra do Sol indigenous reserve, in the state of Roraima, in the far north of Brazil.

The ruralist caucus wants this to be the general criteria followed. Up to now what have been demarcated are “lands traditionally occupied” by indigenous people, as stated in the constitution. Anthropological studies are carried out identify the territory to be demarcated, in a process carried out by the National Indigenous Foundation (Funai), which answers to the executive branch.

The Attorney General’s office, which advises the executive branch, pronounced itself in favour of the validity of the time framework, “extending the threat” to prevent new demarcations, said Santilli, who presided Funai in the 1990s.

According to data from ISA, Brazil has 480 indigenous lands already approved, but there are still 72 declared and 44 identified which are still pending demarcation, in addition to other 108 in process of identification, the initial phase of the process.

There is a huge lag, because the constitution established that all the areas were to be demarcated within a five-year period – in other words, by 1993.

A time frame makes no sense in “a country that was 100 per cent indigenous” when, in 1500, “the native people encountered the unknown world of the ‘coloniser’ which caused the extermination of thousands of natives and their communities, generating a national debt which cannot be subject to a moratorium,” Terena told IPS.

Indigenous activist Marcos Terena is seen surrounded by people from the Terena people during a meeting in Campo Grande, the capital of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Credito: Mario Osava/IPS

Indigenous activist Marcos Terena is seen surrounded by people from the Terena people during a meeting in Campo Grande, the capital of the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Credito: Mario Osava/IPS

Besides, the offensive against indigenous rights and lands has brought violent conflicts. From 2003 to 2015, 891 indigenous people were murdered in Brazil, an annual average of 68, according to the latest report by the Catholic Indigenous Missionary Council. The violence has intensified in recent years, with 137 murders in 2014 and 138 in 2015.

The current context encourages “anti-indigenous groups to promote proposals that range from changes to the sacred national constitution to attempts to block a budget capable of addressing indigenous demands,” Terena asserted.

Another ruralist threat is to close down Funai, the government body which implements indigenous policies and has suffered constant budget cuts that curtail its functions, such as the anthropological studies and the defence of demarcated territories.

The loosening of measures against mining and the construction of roads, hydroelectric plants and power transmission lines on indigenous lands are other means of pressure exercised by the ruralists and by companies that seek to “break down or weaken” indigenous peoples’ exclusive rights to use their lands, said Santilli.

“There is an ‘anything goes’ mentality, against an absurd backdrop of weakness of the president, accused of corruption and with only five per cent approval in opinion polls,” who is incapable of defending the diluted rights of the minorities and the environment against the private interests of legislators, he lamented.

The ruralist caucus reflects a distortions in parliamentary representation. Landowners make up a small sector of the population with disproportionate political power, in contrast to the millions of small-scale farmers, who are practically absent in Congress.

The economical clout of the former and the electoral rules, which assign a larger proportion of legislators to small states in Brazil’s hinterland with rural economies than to the most urbanised states, go a long way to explaining the power of the conservatives, said Santilli.

Weakened, Temer is distributing “prizes, incentives, public posts and advantages, paying the price for being saved, but when the money is finished, there will be an exodus,” predicted Antonio Queiroz, head of the Inter-Union Department of Parliamentary Advisory, which supplements the legislative work in Brasilia.

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Mauritanians Go to Polls for Controversial Referendum Votehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/mauritanians-go-polls-controversial-referendum-vote/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mauritanians-go-polls-controversial-referendum-vote http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/mauritanians-go-polls-controversial-referendum-vote/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 07:12:20 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151582 While voters in Venezuela overwhelmingly rejected President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to amend the constitution recently, similar tensions and a clash between protesters and state authorities appears to be brewing across the Atlantic in the West African nation of Mauritania. The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has sounded alarm about the apparent suppression of dissent, […]

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By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

While voters in Venezuela overwhelmingly rejected President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to amend the constitution recently, similar tensions and a clash between protesters and state authorities appears to be brewing across the Atlantic in the West African nation of Mauritania.

04 March 2016 – Nouakchott, Mauritania
Secretary-General (right) meets with representatives of civil society in Nouakchott, Mauritania, during his visit to the country.

The United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has sounded alarm about the apparent suppression of dissent, and the excessive use of force by authorities to quash protests ahead of the controversial vote.

“We have witnessed protest leaders with broken arms and bruised faces after they were beaten up by police during demonstrations. We are concerned that as tensions and protests escalate, the authorities may resort to further use of such excessive force. We call on all sides to refrain from the use of violence and to take measures to de-escalate the situation,” Ravina Shamdasani, a human rights officer at OHCHR, told IPS.

Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the president of Mauritania, responded to a failed proposal to amend the constitution by raising the stakes to a referendum vote, scheduled for August 5th.

The proposal, which seeks to abolish Majilis al-Shuyukh, or the upper house of the parliament, was approved by the Jamiya Al Wataniya, the lower house. The bill collapsed in the upper house earlier in March this year as 33 senators out of a total of 56 rejected it.

The bill, now up for a referendum vote, also proposes changes to the country’s flag by adding a red stripe to the top and bottom to pay homage to the martyrs who fought for the country’s successful independence from France in 1960.

Since July 21, as protests escalated, the government has refused air time on TV to dissenters, and has made arrests.

The UN urged the government to conduct elections peacefully, and in compliance with an international order to hold transparent elections.

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Will Governments Support Access to Information Driving Development?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/will-governments-support-access-information-driving-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-governments-support-access-information-driving-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/will-governments-support-access-information-driving-development/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 17:24:20 +0000 Gerald Leitner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151459 Gerald Leitner, is Secretary-General of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

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Gerald Leitner, is Secretary-General of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)

By Gerald Leitner
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

In an Information Society, access, and the ability to apply and re-use information is at the heart of individual fulfilment and social participation. Long before the idea of an Information Society came into use, libraries connected people to this, connecting them with literature and learning, and allowing them to improve their lives, and those of their families and communities.

Access to information and the ability to apply and re-use it is at the heart of individual fulfilment and social participation

Gerald Leitner. Credit: IFLA

The Development and Access to Information (DA2I) report 2017, produced by IFLA in partnership with the Technology and Social Change Group at the University of Washington, makes the case for investment by governments, and other stakeholders, in delivering access as a driver of progress.

The spread of the Internet, and the content it holds, creates unique possibilities to offer access to information. Yet there are barriers standing in the way to realising this potential. These present us with two scenarios.

In the first, rates of physical connectivity to the Internet remain low in remote or poorer areas, allowing a digital divide to become a development divide. A lack of relevant content, and the ability to read and use it, prevents others from seeing the value in connectivity.

Information poverty robs people of opportunities to keep their families healthy, update farming practices to respond to climate change, or find jobs. And rather than full information and evidence, decisions on civic, economic and social life are taken based on misinformation and superstition.

In the second, people learn to get the best out of the Internet, knowing how to keep themselves and their families safe online. They can find the information they need, at the right time and in the right format, and apply it to changing real world problems.

They also develop the skills necessary to create their own content, further enriching available information resources. New markets are created, new communities formed, and innovation, creativity and civic participation thrives.

DA2I 2017 argues that four factors make the difference: physical connectivity, social context, individual and community skills, and the legal and policy framework. Based on indicators from established, recognised sources, the report offers a first look at how regions and countries are doing in each of these four areas, and how performance on these is linked to other characteristics, such as poverty or gender inequality.

It finds that while there is progress in some areas, such as numbers with Internet connections, big gaps in terms of skills and uses remain, and the gender digital divide is even widening.

It also provides evidence of the contribution access makes to achieving four of the focus Sustainable Development Goals at this year’s UN High Level Political Forum, which took place on 10-19 July – agriculture, health, gender equality and innovation.

Most of all, it underlines how essential libraries are to development. When they benefit from the resources and legal frameworks they need, they can bring their unique potential to bear – as trusted, community institutions, connected both to the global Information society and alert to local needs and interests, with staff dedicated to providing meaningful access to information.

IFLA itself has made the most of its unique position as the global voice of libraries, working with representatives of 73 countries to promote the Sustainable Development Goals, and the role that libraries can play in their realisation.

We have been overwhelmed by the response so far, but this is just the start of an ongoing process – the next stop is a global meeting in early 2018. We look forward to returning with a new DA2I report next year, with updated statistics, and even more examples of how libraries are making a difference, from the local to the global level, to achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

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Kenya and Ethiopia Join Forces to Advance Peace, Security, Development and Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/kenya-ethiopia-join-forces-advance-peace-security-development-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenya-ethiopia-join-forces-advance-peace-security-development-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/kenya-ethiopia-join-forces-advance-peace-security-development-hope/#respond Mon, 24 Jul 2017 06:59:56 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151414 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia have a shared vision of turning this once violent and fragile region into a prosperous & peaceful area. Moyale-07 Dec 2015. Credit: UNDP Kenya

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 24 2017 (IPS)

The Horn of Africa is often synonymous with extreme poverty, conflict, demographic pressure, environmental stress, and under-investment in basic social services such as health, education, access to clean water and infrastructure.

In Kenya’s Turkana, Marsabit, Wajir and Mandera counties, for instance, between 74% and 97% of the people live below the absolute poverty line and literacy rates and school enrollment rates are well below the national average. Conditions here are rife with flashpoints for potential conflict over natural resources and access to limited government services, and all too fertile for discontent, radicalization, violent extremism and recruitment of adolescents and youth into armed groups as an economic survival mechanism.

Confronting the challenges of radicalization and terrorist threats in the region calls for a focused strategy on a compendium of socio-cultural, economic, political and psychological factors. While extremism and related violence have traditionally been driven by exclusion and poverty, this paradigm is no longer adequate. As shown during the attack at Kenya’s Garissa University, not all extremists are uneducated or from poor families.

Complex, interlinked and rapidly evolving circumstances have brought about the need for a raft of interventions geared towards fostering sustainable peace in the border areas. One of the most promising initiatives to-date involves establishing social and economic interdependence across border communities.

This is the powerful rationale behind the pact between the Governments of Ethiopia and Kenya, who established a cross-border programme which straddles Marsabit County, Kenya and the Borana/Dawa Zones of Ethiopia known as the “Integrated Programme for Sustainable Peace and Socio-economic Transformation.”

This initiative was launched in December 2015 by President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, and Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Executive Secretary, Ambassador Mahboub Maalim. A short video.

The programme, which is implemented in partnership with IGAD and the UN Country Teams of Ethiopia and Kenya, aims at preventing and mitigating potential violent conflicts and extremism in the borderland areas through conflict prevention mechanisms, addressing the root causes of violent extremism and focusing on the humanitarian, security and development nexus.

To take this programme another step forward, the Kenyan and Ethiopian Governments signed the programme document on 22 June 2017.

Kenya’s Minister Henry Rotich and Ethiopia’s Minister Kassa Tekleberhan exchange the joint agreement. Kenya’s Foreign Minster Amina Mohamed and EU Ambassador to Kenya, Stefano Dejak look on. Credit: UNDP Kenya


To galvanize support for the programme, an event titled “From Barriers to Bridges: The Ethiopia-Kenya Cross-Border Programme” was organized on 10 July 2017 at UNDP New York. It was co-chaired by the Permanent Representatives of Kenya and Ethiopia to the United Nations.

Taking stock of the programme to-date, one cannot help but marvel at how far the two countries have come and what can still be achieved. As confirmed by local community elders, local conflicts have diminished and the programme has achieved impressive results in reducing the allure of extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab among local youth, ever since joint interventions by the Government of Kenya, the UN and civil society partners started in 2015.

There have been significant socio-economic gains as well. The Isiolo-Merille-Marsabit-Moyale road, which is partially financed by the European Union (EU), is now complete and is expected to be a game-changer in enhancing integration, connectivity and promoting trade between Ethiopia and Kenya.

The World Bank has also embarked on a huge infrastructure development programme to link Isiolo with Mandera. The EU is already proposing that the Ethiopia-Kenya cross-border programme be scaled up to include the Mandera Triangle, the Omo and Karamoja clusters.

These are all welcome developments for a region with substantial development needs and considerable potential. The areas involved are home to more than half of Kenya’s livestock, which can be harnessed to create bigger and better agro-business industries.

The region’s diverse and rich culture and heritage, evidenced by local historical and geographical sites, can be an asset in developing eco-tourism. There is also a latent resource for clean and renewable energy exploitation, as proven by the recent launch of the Lake Turkana Wind Power Project, which is expected to generate 310MW.

Once operational, the wind farm will provide 310MW of reliable, low cost energy to Kenya’s national grid (i.e. approx. 15% of the country’s installed capacity). Credit: Lake Turkana Wind Power Project


The recent discovery of major groundwater aquifers and massive oil deposits in Turkana provides further reason for optimism.

Cross-border trade could have a positive ripple effect. It is poised to generate tremendous revenue for both countries, reduce risks of conflict, facilitate prevention of violent extremism efforts (particularly if tied to approaches that aim to strengthen social cohesion and societal resilience as well as paying attention to the social/cultural/political dimensions that drive radicalization and extremism), and improve livelihoods, especially among the marginalized and poor communities to expedite the achievement of a core goal of the SDGs – ending poverty by 2030.

The UN Assistant Secretary General and UNDP Regional Director for Africa Mr. Abdoulaye Mar Dieye has said, “The Ethiopia Kenya Cross Border Programme has a high peace and development return. If we invest in the region we can boost development and reduce insecurity. This Cross Border Programme is a regional public good. It resonates far beyond Kenya and Ethiopia and can serve the entire continent”.

Mr Abdoulaye Mar Dieye flanked by the Permanent Representative of Kenya Ambassador Macharia Kamau and the Permanent Representative of Ethiopia, Ambassador Tekeda Alemu said, “The Ethiopia Kenya Cross Border Programme has a high peace and development return”. Credit: UNDP Africa


The Kenya Ethiopia cross-border programme may well hold the key to an innovative approach to operationalizing Mr António Guterres, the UN Secretary General’s prevention agenda by addressing marginalization, radicalization and prevent violent extremism using human development and economic growth to spur peace.

Norway’s Ambassador to Kenya, Victor Ronneberg says. “this programme is a testimony of the UN’s convening role, to spur dialogue & engagement & reiterates the primacy of multilateralism even more in this day and age.”

The momentum has to be maintained and should not falter due to absence of resources. It is therefore critical for the international community to strongly support this initiative.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. Follow him on twitter.

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Parliamentarians Study Nexus of Youth, Refugees and Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 18:04:54 +0000 Safa Khasawneh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151397 Held for the first time in the Arab world, an annual meeting of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians examined how regional conflicts hinder the development of effective policies to achieve sustainable development, particularly as they generate large numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants. To reach a comprehensive solution, legislators called for examining the roots […]

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Delegates of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians in Amman, Jordan. Credit: Safa Khasawneh

By Safa Khasawneh
AMMAN, Jordan, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

Held for the first time in the Arab world, an annual meeting of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians examined how regional conflicts hinder the development of effective policies to achieve sustainable development, particularly as they generate large numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants.

To reach a comprehensive solution, legislators called for examining the roots and background of conflicts in the region."Governments should create societies where people can realize their dreams and achieve their goals." --Acting Chair of JPFP Ichiro Aisawa

The meeting kicked off Tuesday, July 18 in the Jordanian capital Amman with a focus on challenges faced by youth, including high unemployment rates and poor access to healthcare, as well as women’s empowerment and other sustainable development issues.

Around 50 legislators and experts from Asian, Arab and European countries attended the meeting, organized annually by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) which serves as the Secretariat of Japan’s Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP).

This year’s meeting was held under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs” and hosted by the Jordan Senate and Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD).

On behalf of the conference organizers, Acting Chair of JPFP Ichiro Aisawa addressed the gathering, devoting his remarks to the need to address challenges facing youth in the region, which he described as the birthplace of two of the world’s three major monotheistic religions and which has contributed richly to humankind’s cultural heritage.

Aisawa, who is also Director of APDA, called on parliamentarians to work together to realize sustainable development for the good of all.

In his opening statement, Jordan’s Acting Senate President Marouf Bakhit reiterated his country’s commitment to promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adding that issues of population and development are at the “forefront” of legislation approved by Arab parliaments and that holding this event is a “positive indicator and a step in the right direction.”

Bakhit stressed that population and development problems in Arab countries are caused mainly by conflicts, wars and forced migration.

Tackling the situation in the region, Vice Chair of JPFP Teruhiko Mashiko said in his keynote “the only solution is to prepare basic conditions for development based on knowledge and understanding of social sciences and integrating youth into the economic system.”

The first session touched on regional challenges, young refugees and means of fostering social stability. Jordan’s MP Dr. Reda Khawaldeh told IPS that building peaceful and stable societies is a responsibility that must be shouldered by the state, religious leaders, media and other civil society organizations.

Picking up on the main theme of Amman meeting – a youth bulge in the region, which describes the increasing proportion of youth relative to other age groups – Aisawa told IPS that frustration is one of the reasons that led angry Arab youth (most of whom were highly educated but with no jobs) to protest in the streets and topple their leaders.

These young men had lost their hopes and dreams of having a decent life, he said, stressing at the same time that this phenomenon is not limited to Arab countries, but could happen anywhere.

“To address this key dilemma, governments should create societies where people can realize their dreams and achieve their goals. Politicians must also advocate policies based on democracy where the rule of law prevails and people identify themselves as constructive stakeholders who participate in building their country rather than be the source of disruption and chaos,” Aisawa said.

The second session discussed the demographic dividend and creating decent jobs for youth. Sharing his experience in this regard, Philippines MP Tomasito Villarin said his country has adopted five local initiatives to give youth quality education essential for enhancing their productivity in the labor market and providing them with decent jobs.

Villarin told IPS that to achieve SDGs, his country must also address other grave challenges, including massive poverty in rural areas and an armed conflict south of Manila.

Focusing on women’s empowerment in the region as a driving force for sustainable development, Jordan’s MP Dr. Sawsan Majali warned that gender inequality is still a major challenge, especially for women with disabilities.

The second day was dedicated to a study visit to a number of sites in the ancient city of Salt, some 30 km northwest of the capital, where participants had the opportunity to explore and share good practices of development projects provided by the Salt Development Corporation (SDC), aimed at supporting community services and raising public awareness.

SDC Director Khaldoun Khreisat said financial and technical support came from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), whose officials saw Salt as a similar model to the Japanese city of Hagi.

During the three-day meeting, close consultations were held on other issues, including the key role parliamentarians play in achieving the SDGs, promoting accountability and good governance.

In his closing address, Vice Chair of JPFP Hiroyuki Nagahama stressed that politicians are accountable for the outcome of their policies and they have the responsibility and power to build a society where everybody can live in dignity.

At the end of meeting, Algerian MP Abdelmajid Tagguiche proposed the establishment of a committee to follow up and implement recommendations and outcomes of the conference.

As the curtain came down on July 20, a draft statement was issued calling for examining causes of conflicts in the region to achieve the SDGs, create decent jobs for youth and provide societies with health care and gender equality.

APDA was established on Feb. 1, 1982 and since that time it has engaged in activities working towards social development, economic progress, and the enhancement of welfare and peace in the world through studying and researching population and development issues in Asia and elsewhere.

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Lawmakers in Europe Want the UN to Debate a Parliamentary Assembly. When Will Governments Follow?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 16:35:06 +0000 Andreas Bummel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151380 Andreas Bummel is Director of Democracy Without Borders and Coordinator of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

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Andreas Bummel is Director of Democracy Without Borders and Coordinator of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

By Andreas Bummel
BERLIN, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)

Earlier this month, the European Parliament adopted its annual recommendations on the European Union’s policy at the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly that begins in September.

Cedit: UN Photo

The document pointed out that the EU “should play a proactive part in building a United Nations that can contribute effectively to global solutions, peace and security, human rights, development, democracy and a rule-of-law-based international order.”

Among other things, the European Parliament called on EU governments to foster a debate “on the topic of establishing a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly with a view to increasing the democratic profile and internal democratic process of the organisation and to allow world civil society to be directly associated in the decision-making process.”

For more than twenty years the European Parliament has been pushing for a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA). Six years ago it called on EU governments to promote its establishment.

The Council’s working group on the UN had a brief internal discussion at the time and concluded that the creation of a UNPA would imply a modification of the UN’s Charter which was considered unrealistic. It was also said that it would be a paradox for the UN to establish a UNPA since there are member states that do not have a democratically elected parliament. Finally, the point was made that a UNPA would entail high costs that the UN and governments would be unable to bear.

The Council did not engage with the parliament or anyone else pertaining these and other arguments. Its consideration of the issue was superficial. Ironically, it is easier for the UN to create a UNPA than to add just one single seat to the UN Security Council. Other than the Council seemed to believe, while the latter indeed requires an amendment of the Charter, the former clearly does not.

A UNPA can be created according to Article 22 which allows the General Assembly to establish subsidiary bodies as it deems necessary to fulfill its work. A UNPA could be seen as part of the assembly’s “revitalization”, a topic that has been pursued for long but did not yield much results so far.

Each year, Freedom House in Washington D.C. publishes its assessment of democracy in the world and today nearly two thirds of UN member states are considered to be “electoral democracies”. The foundation warns, however, that democracy is increasingly under threat by populist and nationalistic forces as well as authoritarian powers.

Proponents of a UNPA keep pointing out that giving parliamentarians a voice at the UN would help strengthening democracy especially in countries where it is still weak and under pressure. Opposition politicians certainly would benefit from a seat in a UNPA and the international exposure that would go along with it.

After all, it has been a key argument that if the UN’s promotion of democracy is to be credible, the world organization itself needs to democratize as well. The establishment of a UNPA could also be understood as a response to Sustainable Development Goal 16. SDG 16 targets include the development of “effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” and ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Why should the UN, of all things, be excluded from this?

A UN parliamentary body could be a useful complement to the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development in order to review the implementation of the SDGs.

At the beginning, a UNPA need not be a monumental investment. It depends on the specifics. So far, neither the Council of the EU or anyone else has come up with a thorough calculation. How can you argue that the costs would be too high if you never calculated them in the first place?

Under US President Donald Trump multilateralism and UN funding are under threat. This should be a wake-up call. To a large degree, a UNPA would be educational. It would bring the UN closer to lawmakers in the capitals and could help strengthen budgetary support of UN member states. In the long run, strengthening the UN’s democratic profile could turn out to be a good investment.

When she was an Italian deputy, the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, endorsed a UNPA and last year she confirmed that she still believes that it “could be a very useful tool.”

For a long time, EU governments have been ignoring the European Parliament’s endorsement of a UNPA. Will it be different this time?

Although a debate on this topic is not unrealistic, it is premature to expect that there will be a formal push in the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly. Most UN member states, including those from the EU, never looked into the concept of a UNPA in a serious way and will have to do their homework first.

Support like it was expressed by Malta’s foreign minister George Vella, who was succeeded last month, or by the cabinet of Italy’s foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni, who is now Italy’s Prime Minister, was the exception.

In May an informal meeting in New York hosted by the Canadian UN mission in collaboration with the international Campaign for a UNPA brought together representatives of 12 governments for a briefing on the proposal. This was a sign of growing interest.

More such informal meetings seem to be the most likely way forward for the time being. In the process, several EU governments – and other UN member states – may declare their support in one way or another which eventually could bring it on the EU’s and the UN’s agenda.

In particular, it will be interesting to see what position the new French government under President Emmanuel Macron will take.

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In the New World Order, Asia Is Rising, Says Pakistan’s UN Envoyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:44:56 +0000 Barbara Crossette http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151363 When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United […]

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Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, presiding over a General Assembly session, May 5, 2017. In an interview, Lodhi said the UN imbued nations with a “spirit of cooperation.” Credit: UN/Photo

By Barbara Crossette
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United States twice and once as Pakistan’s high commissioner in London.

In a sense, that background is all coming together at the UN.

While Lodhi’s diplomatic priority must be putting Pakistan’s interests first, she said in an interview in her office at the Pakistani UN mission on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she also finds time to focus on global perspectives, which makes the UN a great assignment.

From her base in New York, Lodhi stays actively involved in a number of international think tanks, including the Institute of Strategic Studies and the Middle East Center at the LSE, both in London. She is also a member of the UN Disarmament Commission and the global agenda council of the World Economic Forum.

In the interview, Lodhi ranged over Pakistan’s reputation in the UN arena, the increasing role of China in development across Asia, the rise of Islamophobia and the sad state of Western responses to an unprecedented world refugee crisis.

Although Pakistan’s national priorities remain predominant — Lodhi mentioned counterterrorism, sustainable economic development, relations with India and the decades-long impasse over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir — the UN has another 192 nations with their own interests. The rapid, spontaneous evolution of a new world order means every nation needs friends to meet the challenges.

“When you come to the UN, you see the priorities of other nations, and the dynamics at play, and the crises that are occurring,” she said. “The best thing about [the UN] is that it encourages a spirit of cooperation, and I think that’s extremely essential in the challenging times that we live in. The United Nations is about negotiating as part of a bloc of countries. No country here negotiates on its own for obvious reasons, because you need the support of other countries.”

The UN displays global changes in sharp relief, Lodhi suggested, and the West must recognize that these developments beg for a rethinking of old assumptions about international power structures.

“At a time when we see the rise of Asia — and this being described as Asia’s century — the West needs to go back to the drawing board and revisit the very notion of an international community,” she said.

Maleeha Lodhi was born into a well-to-do family in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, and the center of the country’s cultural traditions and base for its most prominent human-rights activists and groups. That includes the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernmental group.

She has credited her career partly to her parents’ emphasis on education. But her personality came into play early. She is known to be tough but gracious, meticulous in her scholarship while outspoken in promoting Pakistan. An Indian commentator suggested that Lodhi may have been sent to the UN to keep India from getting a permanent Security Council seat, though the Council is a long way from reform and expansion.

Decades ago, Lodhi became a good friend and adviser to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister, who first appointed her ambassador to the United States in 1993-1996. She served as ambassador to the US again, from 1999 to 2002, under the military government of President Pervez Musharraf.

Her years in Washington, and later in fellowships at Harvard and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, would have demonstrated to anyone that Pakistan had serious critics across the US government and research organizations.

Under Abdul Qadeer Khan, who headed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Pakistan was found to have shared the technology he acquired while studying and working in Europe (or help given to him by China) with North Korea, Libya and Iran. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2004 for his black-market operations but pardoned almost immediately by General Musharraf and placed under house arrest until 2009.

Asked if Pakistan’s however-notorious past relations with North Korea and China, which is the country’s biggest development aid donor, had led to any outside requests for Pakistani information on the North Korean nuclear program or suggestions that Pakistani experts might be tapped to give advice with China on the current nuclear crisis with the Kim Jong Un regime, Lodhi said no.

Pakistan is often portrayed as an oppressive Islamic society, harsh on women and minorities, a record that is increasingly shared by neighboring India. The Pakistani government and intelligence services have also been accused of having created the Taliban, though little is said or remembered of Islamabad’s earlier hosting — with full US support — of the disparate armies of the Afghan mujahedeen, who took power after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The remnants of these warlord-led militias in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance continue to create political havoc in Kabul.

The attitude toward Pakistan is much more positive at the UN, Lodhi said.

“Contrary to the impression given by the negative media [particularly in the US], at the United Nations you’ll find the total antithesis. If you look at Pakistan’s position within this international community, it is one of enormous respect,” she said. She noted that the country has played a key role at the UN “on all three pillars: peace and security, human rights/humanitarian action and development.”

“We have consistently remained among the top three troop contributors to UN peacekeeping,” she said. “This has been the case since 1960 onwards.” Lodhi added that much of the current deployment of Pakistani soldiers is in Africa, “where they are needed most.”

On the humanitarian front, Lodhi points to Pakistan’s record on refugee assistance.

“We’ve always pointed out that the Western countries need to show a bigger heart,” she said. “They have a big wallet, but they need to match that wallet with a bigger heart. We didn’t have much of a wallet in Pakistan, but we continue to host over two million Afghan refugees. At the peak, we had more than three million. We continue to do that, and we’ve done that for 35 years.”

Pakistan, the world’s second-most-populous Muslim majority nation after Indonesia, plays a key role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, and its voting bloc at the UN, Lodhi said. Among the concerns of Muslims, she said, are the unfulfilled resolutions on Kashmir, still a disputed territory between Pakistan and India; and on Palestine.

“There’s such a similarity between the cases of Palestine and Kashmir, both involving Muslim nations, both involving big power politics that stood in the way and continue to stand in the way of implementation of those resolutions.”

As a Muslim, Lodhi sees Islamophobia and xenophobia as “new forms of racial discrimination,” she said. “This is the contemporary expression of effort to discriminate against people of a certain faith who also happen to be people of a certain color. Here, also, Pakistan has been active at the United Nations, raising the issue.”

China looms large in the ambassador’s perception of the most significant global changes happening on the horizon, starting with the shifting relationship between Islamabad and Beijing.

“Traditionally, it was a defense and strategic dimension that was dominant in the relationship,” Lodhi said. “Now that relationship has morphed into a much more wide-based relationship. The defense-strategic relationship is there, but in addition, there is a very strong — I would say, much stronger — economic and investment orientation because Pakistan is the pivot of China’s One Belt, One Road. We hope to be the beneficiary in a mutually advantageous way.”

The Chinese initiative was announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping. It is a breathtakingly ambitious program involving road, rail and sea links connecting traders and investors across Central Asia, parts of South and Southeast Asia, two seas — the South China Sea and Indian Ocean –and, ultimately, Europe.

The Chinese, who never think small or pay a lot of attention to critics, have wowed Pakistan, a longtime ally that sees itself as part of “the biggest economic initiative of the 21st century by any nation,” Lodhi said. “People still invoke the Marshall Plan as having in a way created a new paradigm and shifted a whole set of circumstances at that time. But this is gigantic by comparison. It’s not about aid and assistance. It’s about investment. It’s about trade. It’s about energy cooperation.

This has the potential of transforming all of Asia — certainly the 60 countries that are participating, thrusting them into a new era of prosperity and mutual cooperation.”

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

The post In the New World Order, Asia Is Rising, Says Pakistan’s UN Envoy appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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