Inter Press ServiceHuman Rights – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 18 Aug 2017 19:16:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 Civilians Increasingly Bearing Burden of Armed Conflicts in Arab Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:32:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151695 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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World Humanitarian Day / Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

The war in Syria has now entered its 6th year and is becoming the world’s worst man-made disaster.

The humanitarian calamity in Syria has affected millions of lives; more than half of Syria’s pre-war population has been forced to flee, including 6.3 million internally displaced persons and 5.1 million refugees living in refugee camps in the Middle East and in Europe. It is also estimated that approximately 465,000 people have lost their lives because of this enduring conflict with no immediate end in sight.

Arab civilians are also suffering in other major armed conflicts in the Middle East. According to UNHCR and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, at least 3 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the civil strife in Iraq.

Iraq Body Count estimates that more than 50% of the war-related deaths – following the 2003 Iraq invasion – were civilians.

In Yemen, the United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 civilians have perished from the fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthi rebels. On top of this, IOM and UNHCR estimates that around 3 million Yemeni civilians have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the conflict.

World Humanitarian Day / Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

The high civilian tolls witnessed in these conflicts reveal that civilians are increasingly bearing the burden of armed conflicts in the Arab region.

The pattern of modern warfare has changed: battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.
The theme of the 2017 World Humanitarian Day – Civilians caught in conflict are not a target – reaffirm the vision expressed in the 10 May 2017 report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict calling for “collective action to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict.”

A “global protection crisis” has emerged – noted the Secretary General in the same report – owing to the rise of use of force of which civilians are ultimately the main victims. Since the end of World War II, it is estimated that between 60-90% of war-related deaths are primarily among civilians. Civilians have become the primary casualties of war in the 21st century.

The irregular and black market arms trade have fuelled the rise of violent and extremist groups in numerous countries in the Arab region.

The illicit arms trade has enabled terrorist groups to thrive in countries affected by conflict and violence. Disturbing images of civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals being bombed in Palestine, in Syria and in Iraq show that civilian infrastructure is increasingly being targeted by belligerents.

Although the Arms Trade Treaty sought to regulate the international arms trade, the flow of arms and weapons to violent and extremist groups continues to fuel bloody conflicts in the Arab region owing to the lack of ratification of the Treaty by the member states of the United Nations.

Warfare and armed conflicts are increasingly being fought in urban centres in the Arab region. It has brought the war closer to people. The pattern of modern warfare has changed: Battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.

World Humanitarian Day / Civilians are Not a Target

The use of heavy weapons, so-called strategic bombardments and the use of modern technologies such as drones have increased the likelihood of inflicting collateral damage on civilians during armed conflicts. The disproportionate use of force has caused immense suffering leading to abuse and to killings of civilians. Collateral damage has emerged as an acceptable term to justify errors and the indiscriminate use of force.

In order to respond to the need to provide protection to civilians in armed conflict, the world has a moral responsibility to end the illegal trade of arms and weapons fuelling the growth of violent and extremist groups.

States need to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and comply with its provisions so as to end the illicit arms trade that is currently estimated to lie at around 10 billion US dollars per year. Weapons and arms should not end up in the hands of extremist groups such as DAESH that commit heinous and unscrupulous crimes on civilian populations in the Arab region.

I also appeal to the international community to ensure that all parties to conflict comply with their provisions to protect the lives of civilians in line with the provisions set forth in the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War commonly known as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Respect for international law must guide the actions of belligerents in armed conflicts. Widespread crimes against humanity affecting civilians must be condemned uniformly by world leaders regardless of where they take place. Civilians should not bear the burden of the devastating consequences of military conflicts.

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Resettling Congolese Refugees in Angola, a New Shot at a Normal Lifehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/resettling-congolese-refugees-in-angola-a-new-shot-at-a-normal-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=resettling-congolese-refugees-in-angola-a-new-shot-at-a-normal-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/resettling-congolese-refugees-in-angola-a-new-shot-at-a-normal-life/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:58:52 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151707 The UN’s refugee agency is relocating more than 33,000 Congolese refugees from overcrowded temporary shelters in northern Angola to a more permanent establishment in Lóvua. From April this year, Angola witnessed an influx of refugees—who were fleeing violence in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo—to its Lunda Norte province. The government rushed to manage the situation […]

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Congolese Refugees in Angola - Families who fled militia attacks in Kasai Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrive at the newly established Lóvua settlement in northern Angola. Credit: UNHCR/Rui Padilha

Families who fled militia attacks in Kasai Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrive at the newly established Lóvua settlement in northern Angola. Credit: UNHCR/Rui Padilha

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

The UN’s refugee agency is relocating more than 33,000 Congolese refugees from overcrowded temporary shelters in northern Angola to a more permanent establishment in Lóvua.

From April this year, Angola witnessed an influx of refugees—who were fleeing violence in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo—to its Lunda Norte province. The government rushed to manage the situation by setting up temporary centers in Cacanda and Mussunge.

From the very beginning, authorities in Angola deliberated on questions of a more permanent settlement to ensure stability within the country.

“The centers quickly became overcrowded and the situation became very difficult. The government began working on setting up Lóvua two months ago,” Margarida Loureiro, who works as an external relations officer at the UN Field Office in Dundo, the provincial capital of Lunda Norte, told IPS.

Not all refugees who have biometrically registered—and all 33,142 have—chose to live in the temporary centers. Many lived with other host communities across Lunda Norte. Unintentionally, this allowed the government to relocate, for instance, roughly 400 families from Mussunge, and close the shelter quickly.

Now, the UN refugee agency and government authorities, through town hall meetings, have brought attention to a more cohesive space for all Congolese refugees in Lóvua.

Lóvua, which is located 100 kms (or 62 miles) from the DRC border, has been bracketed into nine zones. Every zone is divided by nine villages and every village is divided by 72 plots of land. Each village can host a maximum of 360 people. When families first arrive at the shelter, they are assisted with food and blankets. After a 24-hour period of assistance, they are sent to their plot of land where they work to build their own homes.

Still, funding the project, in spite of an interagency appeal by the UN in June for 65.5 million dollars, has had dismal results—only 32 percent of the money has come through.

Agencies are predicting that an estimated 50,000 Congolese refugees will need help by the end of the year.

“Although the number of refugee arrivals have swindled at this time of the year, the government has kept its borders open. To ensure Lóvua’s sustainability, we still need greater funding,” said Margarida.

Angola is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and has historically received refugees from the DRC. Before the influx in April, Angola hosted as many as 13,400 refugees from DRC.

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The Perils of Irregular Migration: From Migrant to Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/perils-irregular-migration-migrant-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=perils-irregular-migration-migrant-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/perils-irregular-migration-migrant-migrants/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 15:15:50 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151677 Migrants are increasingly becoming communication agents, revealing their own stories, fears, hopes and dreams. The testimonies below are part of the Aware Migrants information campaign, implemented by IOM, the UN Migration Agency and funded by the Italian Ministry of Interior with the aim of helping potential migrants in making informed decisions by warning them about […]

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Migrants Charles, Fleur-Kafè, Marcel and Oumou reflect not only the difficulties and challenges they faced during their journeys, but also what they perceive their future to be back in their hometowns. Credit: IOM

Migrants Charles, Fleur-Kafè, Marcel and Oumou reflect not only the difficulties and challenges they faced during their journeys, but also what they perceive their future to be back in their hometowns. Credit: IOM

By International Organization for Migration
ROME, Aug 14 2017 (IOM)

Migrants are increasingly becoming communication agents, revealing their own stories, fears, hopes and dreams. The testimonies below are part of the Aware Migrants information campaign, implemented by IOM, the UN Migration Agency and funded by the Italian Ministry of Interior with the aim of helping potential migrants in making informed decisions by warning them about the real dangers of the journey along the main routes from East and West Africa across the desert and the Mediterranean. 

In the campaign’s latest short documentaries, migrants Charles, Fleur-Kafè, Marcel and Oumou reflect not only the difficulties and challenges they faced during their journeys, but also what they perceive their future to be back in their hometowns. They have very clear messages for prospective migrants who are thinking of undertaking the perilous journey to Europe.

Their testimonies raise questions about migrants’ vulnerabilities along the route, as described by Marcel and Fleur-Kafè, but also about their perceptions of their own identity.

“I am going back to an unknown land, my own country,”says Oumou with a bright smile on her face.

Charles is convinced that he should bring back to his own community the know-how and the experience of life he gained while away from his country.

Watch here

 

 

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Yemen: African Migrants Beaten, Starved, Sexually Violated by Criminal Groupshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/yemen-african-migrants-beaten-starved-sexually-violated-criminal-groups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-african-migrants-beaten-starved-sexually-violated-criminal-groups http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/yemen-african-migrants-beaten-starved-sexually-violated-criminal-groups/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:11:01 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151666 African migrants who arrive on Yemen’s shores –that’s if they are not forced into the sea to drown—risk to fall in the hands of criminal networks who hold them captive for several days to extort money in exchange for their “freedom,” according to UN sources. During captivity, the migrants are “horribly treated – beaten, starved, […]

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Yemen: African Migrants Beaten, Starved, Sexually Violated by Criminal Groups

Map of the Horn of Africa. Source: United Nations, Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Cartographic Section. Public Domain

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

African migrants who arrive on Yemen’s shores –that’s if they are not forced into the sea to drown—risk to fall in the hands of criminal networks who hold them captive for several days to extort money in exchange for their “freedom,” according to UN sources.

During captivity, the migrants are “horribly treated – beaten, starved, sexually violated, chained to the ground” so they are willing to pay, confirmed to IPS Chissey Mueller, from the International Organization for Migration’s Mission in Yemen.

The released migrants might go to IOM, or other organisations for help, or they might continue their migratory journey at the risk of being abducted and held captive again, informed Mueller, IOM’s Migrants Assistance and Protection Unit in Yemen.

“It truly is a terrible ordeal: crossing the sea is only part of the dangerous journey that the migrants are embarking on,” said Mueller. IOM provides humanitarian assistance, such as medical assistance, food, water, and non-food items, to the most vulnerable migrants.

The smugglers that sail  boats between the Horn of Africa profit easily because the distance is short (5 hours or less between Somalia and Shabwa), and the demand is high, said Mueller.

“In addition to the smugglers operating boats, there are smugglers and criminal networks in Yemen who facilitate the movement of migrants between the governorates and into Saudi Arabia.”

And for those who want to return to their home country, the UN specialised body tries to evacuate them by coordinating with the authorities in Yemen and the country of origin for safe passage, she added.

IOM staff assist Somali, Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

IOM staff assist Somali, Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Dumped” in the Sea

Informing from Aden, Yemen, IOM on 10 August said that up to 180 migrants were reported to have been forced that day from a boat by smugglers off the coast of Yemen. Five bodies had been recovered so far and around 50 were reported missing.

This tragic incident came barely 24 hours after smugglers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea resulting in the drowning of over 50 migrants. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf region via war-torn Yemen.

According to IOM, a total of 300 migrants have reportedly been forced from boats over the past two days by smugglers off the coast of Yemen – many feared dead or missing. See: Smugglers Throw Hundreds of African Migrants OffBoats Headed to Yemen.

“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the IOM Yemen Chief of Mission.

“It truly is a terrible ordeal: crossing the sea is only part of the dangerous journey that the migrants are embarking on”
“They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers on the false hope of a better future,” de Boeck added.

Migration Between Horn of Africa and Yemen, Not New

Migration of Africans to Yemen is not new. In fact, Mueller said to IPS that the migration trends between the Horn of Africa and Yemen are centuries old, and facilitated by the geographical proximity.

In 2014, there were an estimated 270,000 Somali refugees and several hundred thousand Ethiopian migrants in Yemen, she informed, adding that while the Somalis had sought refuge in Yemen, the Ethiopian migrants for the most part were focused on economic opportunities, either in Yemen or in Saudi Arabia.

‘There are large populations of Somalis along the southern and western coastal villages of Yemen, with significant communities in Aden and in Sana’a.  When the conflict engulfed Aden 2015 for three months, there was a mass exodus of the city.”

Somalis fled the area, and many of them headed east towards the Port of Mukallah, and eventually took boats to Somalia, said Mueller.  The Ethiopian migrants seemed to head north into Yemen, trying to avoid the conflict hotspots, with the intention of reaching Saudi Arabia.

Several Thousands Stranded in Yemen

Several thousand Ethiopian migrants have subsequently found themselves stranded in Yemen, trapped by the conflict’s frontlines, she added.

“Once the conflict in Aden ended by July/August 2015, and began to diminish in the southern part of the country, people – Yemenis and Somalis returned to their communities in Yemen. By the end of 2015, it was thought the Somali refugee community in Yemen still numbered 250,000, according to UNHCR estimates. “

According to Mueller, in 2016, despite the conflict’s continuation, but probably because it had begun to concentrate in the Taiz enclave, Hajjah, Sa’adah, etc., the number of Somali refugees and Ethiopian migrants estimated to have come to Yemen was over 117,000, according to the UN Refugee agency UNHCR.

Many More than 2,000 Migrants per Month

“IOM thinks that the trend of Ethiopian migrants coming to Yemen in 2017, most likely to transit through to Saudi Arabia, is still strong.”

For the first six months of 2017, we encountered almost 2,000 migrants per month when our mobile teams would patrol the coastal roads in Lahj and Shabwa, said Mueller, adding that is just two governorates that we cover, and we are just one agency.

“So imagine how many migrants are landing along other parts of Yemen’s coastal areas, where we are not present.  This is why we think that this year’s estimates of new arrivals are similar to last year’s trends. “

“Recently, smugglers have been pushing migrants out of the boats, fearing that the security forces might arrest them. This is what happened the past two days in Shabwa,” said Lina Koussa, IOM’s Emergency Response Officer in Aden.

Violently Forced into the Sea

Reporting from Aden, Yemen, IOM on 10 August informed that 160 Ethiopian migrants had been violently forced into the sea off Yemen’s coast in the morning of that day.

This tragic incident came one day after the presumed death of 50 Ethiopian and Somali migrants during a similar incident, the UN migration organisation informed, adding that as with yesterday (9 August), this tragedy took place off the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea – although in a different location and closer to the shore.

Every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives on this life-threatening route towards the Gulf countries through Yemen, a country in crisis. The journey and the situation in Yemen is extremely dangerous for migrants, IOM said.

“The psychological effect these experiences have on children can be enormous. This is why IOM has psychologists embedded in their patrolling teams on Yemen’s beaches. The deadly actions of the smugglers today bring the total number of presumed dead over the last two days close to 70. “

IOM is has information on 114 dead or missing in 2017 off the coast of Yemen (Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea in route to Yemen) and 109 in 2016. “The actual total is likely to be higher.”

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One in 10 Displaced Syrians Returned Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-in-10-displaced-syrians-returned-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-in-10-displaced-syrians-returned-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-in-10-displaced-syrians-returned-home/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 07:07:37 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151662 This year alone, between January and July, 602,759 displaced Syrians returned home, according to reports from the UN Migration Agency and implementing partners on the ground. Around 6 million Syrians currently remain displaced within their own country. Findings indicate that the vast majority of  people returning (84 per cent) had been displaced within Syria, the Geneva-based […]

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IOM distributes hygiene kits in Damas, Syria last May 2017. File photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

IOM distributes hygiene kits in Damas, Syria last May 2017. File photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

This year alone, between January and July, 602,759 displaced Syrians returned home, according to reports from the UN Migration Agency and implementing partners on the ground. Around 6 million Syrians currently remain displaced within their own country.

Findings indicate that the vast majority of  people returning (84 per cent) had been displaced within Syria, the Geneva-based UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported.

The next highest number of people (16 per cent) returned from Turkey, followed by Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, it added. Those from Turkey and Jordan reportedly returned mainly to Aleppo and Al Hasakeh Governorates.

An estimated 27 per cent of the returnees stated that they did so to protect their assets or properties and 25 per cent referred to the improved economic situation in their area of origin.

Other factors people gave IOM and partners as their reasons for returning included the worsening economic situation in the place where they were seeking refuge (14 per cent), social or cultural issues such as tribal links, political affiliations or any obstacle preventing integration in their area of displacement (11 per cent), and the improvement of the security situation in their area of return (11 per cent).

Aleppo, Main Destination of Returnees

Half of all returnees in 2016 were to Aleppo Governorate, said IOM.

The report shows that similar trends have been observed in 2017. Consequently, an estimated 67 per cent of the returnees returned to Aleppo Governorate (405,420 individuals), 27,620 to Idleb Governorate, and 75,209 to Hama Governorate, 45,300 to Ar-Raqqa Governorate, 21,346 to Rural Damascus and 27,861 to other governorates.

Within the Governorates mentioned, Aleppo city, received the most returnees, followed by Al Bab sub-district in Aleppo Governorate, Hama sub-district in Hama Governorate, Menbij sub-district in the northeast of Aleppo Governorate, and Al-Khafsa sub-district also in Aleppo Governorate, the UN specialised body reported.

According to reports, almost all (97 per cent) returned to their own house, 1.8 per cent are living with hosts, 1.4 per cent in abandoned houses, 0.14 per cent in informal settlements and 0.03 per cent in rented accommodation.

The city of Zabadani in Syria taken last June 2017 during an IOM assessment. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

The city of Zabadani in Syria taken last June 2017 during an IOM assessment. Photo: UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Access to Food, Household Items

Access of returnees to food and household items is 83 per cent and 80 per cent respectively. Access to water (41 per cent) and health services (39 per cent) is dangerously low as the country’s infrastructure has been extremely damaged by the conflict.

The report indicates that an increasing number of Syrians displaced within the country appear to be returning home, informed IOM, adding that the total figure by end of July this year was already close to the 685,662 returnees identified in the whole of 2016.

However, of those returnees, an estimated 20,752 and 21,045 were displaced again in 2016 and 2017 respectively. This means that around 10 per cent of those who returned ended up as internally displaced persons (IDPs) once again.

Six Million Displaced Within Syria

While trends of returnees increase, Syria continues to witness high rates of displacement. From January to July 2017, an estimated 808,661 people were displaced; many for the second or third time, and over 6 million in total currently remain displaced within the country. This makes up to 1 in 3 inhabitants.

The figure is particularly relevant in view of the fact that the Syrian population is estimated to be slightly more than 21 million, i.e. one in three Syrians are still displaced.

IDP returns have mainly been spontaneous but not necessarily voluntary, safe or sustainable. As such, they cannot, at present, be considered within the context of a durable solutions framework.

These data have been collected by IOM’s implementing partners, who use a set of tools and methods to identify, assess and monitor different population categories throughout Syria, in relation to needs and mobility dynamics at a community level.

According to IOM’s Progressive Resolution of Displacement Situations, the number and scale of crises are forcing record numbers of people to flee their homes seeking relative safety within or across international borders.

“However, the growing complexity and unpredictability of these crises is resulting in increasingly protracted displacement situations which challenge the versatility of the three traditional durable solutions – voluntary return and sustainable reintegration, sustainable settlement elsewhere and sustainable local integration.”

Over 4.5 Million Syrians in Hard-to-Reach Areas

According to the United Nations Refugee agency UNHCR’s estimates, there are 6.3 million internally displaced persons in Syria, while 4.53 million people are in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.

UNHCR reported that over 5 million people have fled Syria since 2011, seeking safety in Lebanon, Turkey, Jordan and beyond. Millions more are displaced inside Syria and, as war continues, hope is fading fast.

It also estimates that 13.5 million people are in humanitarian need in Syria.

 

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Promise or Peril? Africa’s 830 Million Young People by 2050http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/promise-peril-africas-830-million-young-people-2050/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promise-peril-africas-830-million-young-people-2050 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/promise-peril-africas-830-million-young-people-2050/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 14:10:50 +0000 John Dramani Mahama and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151652 Honourable Mr John Dramani Mahama, is the former President of the Republic of Ghana, follow him on twitter. Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya, follow him on twitter.

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Refugees land at Lampedusa island in Italy. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By John Dramani Mahama and Siddharth Chatterjee
ACCRA, Ghana / NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 11 2017 (IPS)

Last month, Spanish charity workers rescued 167 migrants arriving from Africa aboard a small boat.

2016 was the deadliest for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, with at least 3800 deaths recorded. Most know the dangers they face on the route, yet still choose the possibility of death in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels over the hopelessness of life in areas they reside.

John Dramani Mahama

Consider this. Every 24 hours, nearly 33,000 youth across Africa join the search for employment. About 60% will be joining the army of the unemployed.

A report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees released this month claims that seven in ten of those heading for Europe are not refugees fleeing war or persecution, but economic migrants in search of better lives.

12 August 2017, is International Youth Day.

Africa’s youth population is growing rapidly and is expected to reach over 830 million by 2050. Whether this spells promise or peril depends on how the continent manages its “youth bulge”.

According to the World Bank, 40% of people who join rebel movements are motivated by lack of economic opportunity. The UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres noted, “The frustration generated in young people that have no hope in the future is a major source of insecurity in today’s world. And it is essential that when Governments plan their economic activities, when the international community develops forms of cooperation, they put youth employment, youth skills at the centre of all priorities…”

Some estimates indicate that more than half a million Africans migrated to European Union countries between 2013 and 2016, adding to the millions flowing in from Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghnistan and parts of Asia.

Siddharth Chatterjee

Many of Africa’s young people remain trapped in poverty that is reflected in multiple dimensions, blighted by poor education, access to quality health care, malnutrition and lack of job opportunities.

For many young people–and especially girls– the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services is depriving them of their rights and the ability to make decisions about their bodies and plan their families. This is adversely affecting their education and employment opportunities.

According to UNDP’s Africa Human Development Report for 2016, gender inequalities cost sub-Saharan Africa US$ 95 billion annually in lost revenue. Women’s empowerment and gender equality needs to be at the top of national development plans.

Between 10 and 12 million people join the African labour force each year, yet the continent creates only 3.7 million jobs annually. Without urgent and sustained action, the spectre of a migration crisis looms that no wall, navy or coastguard can hope to stop.

10 to 12 million young people join the African labour force each year, yet the continent creates only 3.7 million jobs annually. Credit: Adapted from “Promulgation,” courtesy of flickr user ActionPixs (Maruko). Kenya

“The future of Africa’s youth does not lie in migration to Europe, but in a prosperous Africa”, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Akinwumi Adesina, has said.

Africa’s population is expected to reach around 2.3 billion by 2050. The accompanying increase in its working age population creates a window of opportunity, which if properly harnessed, can translate into higher growth and yield a demographic dividend.

In the wake of the Second World War, the Marshall Plan helped to rebuild shattered European economies in the interests of growth and stability. We need a plan of similar ambition that places youth employment in Africa at the centre of development.

For example, one sector that Africa must prioritise is agribusiness, whose potential is almost limitless. Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa Region has said, “We cannot overstate the importance of agriculture to Africa’s determination to maintain and boost its high growth rates, create more jobs, significantly reduce poverty….”. The World Bank says African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth US $1 trillion by 2030.

The demographic dividend wheels: Adapted from African Union Commission.

Agriculture can help people overcome poor health and malnutrition. Given the importance of agriculture for the livelihoods of the rural poor, agricultural growth has the potential to greatly reduce poverty – a key contributor to poor health and undernutrition.

In the meantime, the aging demographic in many Western and Asian Tiger economies means increasing demand for skilled labour from regions with younger populations. It also means larger markets for economies seeking to benefit from the growth of a rapidly expanding African middle class. Consumer spending in Africa is projected to reach US $1.4 trillion in the next three years and business-to-business spending to reach $3.5 trillion in the next eight years.

Whether the future of Africa is promising or perilous will depend on how the continent and the international community moves from stated intent to urgent action and must give special priority to those SDGs that will give the continent a competitive edge through its youth.

The core SDGs of ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education all have particular resonance with the challenge of empowering youth and making them effective economic citizens.

As we mark International Youth Day, there is hope. Many young people in Africa are taking charge of their futures. There is a rising tide of entrepreneurship sweeping across Africa spanning technology, IT, innovation, small and medium enterprises. They are creating jobs for themselves and their communities.

The African Development Bank is working on creating 25 million jobs and equipping at least 50 million youth to realize their full economic potential by 2025.

The African Union established the theme for 2017 as “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend Through Investments in Youth.” This will determine Africa’s enormous promise to realise its economic and social potential as well as reap a demographic dividend (video).

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Smugglers Throw Hundreds of African Migrants Off Boats Headed to Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/smugglers-throw-hundreds-african-migrants-off-boats-headed-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=smugglers-throw-hundreds-african-migrants-off-boats-headed-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/smugglers-throw-hundreds-african-migrants-off-boats-headed-yemen/#respond Fri, 11 Aug 2017 13:33:55 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151657 A total of 300 migrants have reportedly been forced from boats over the past two days by smugglers off the coast of Yemen – many feared dead or missing, the United Nations migration agency has reported. “The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea when he saw […]

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IOM staff assists Somali and Ethiopian migrants who were forced into the sea by smugglers. Credit: UN Migration Agency (IOM)

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 11 2017 (IPS)

A total of 300 migrants have reportedly been forced from boats over the past two days by smugglers off the coast of Yemen – many feared dead or missing, the United Nations migration agency has reported.

“The survivors told our colleagues on the beach that the smuggler pushed them into the sea when he saw some ‘authority types’ near the coast,” said Laurent de Boeck, the Yemen Chief of Mission of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“They also told us that the smuggler has already returned to Somalia to continue his business and pick up more migrants to bring to Yemen on the same route. This is shocking and inhumane. The suffering of migrants on this migration route is enormous. Too many young people pay smugglers with the false hope of a better future,” de Boeck added. “There is something fundamentally wrong with this world if countless numbers of children can be deliberately and ruthlessly drowned in the ocean, when they are no longer an easy source of income, and nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again.” – IOM chief.

According to IOM, up to 180 migrants were reportedly thrown into the sea from a boat today by the smugglers. Five bodies have been recovered so far, and around 50 are reported missing.

This latest incident comes barely 24 hours after smugglers forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea, resulting in the drowning of around 50 migrants, said IOM. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.

Shallow Graves

Shortly after 11 August’s tragedy, IOM staff found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa, during a routine patrol. The dead had been quickly buried by those who survived the smuggler’s deadly actions. The approximate average age of the passengers on the boat was 16.

“The UN Secretary-General is heart-broken by this continuing tragedy,” his Spokesman Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at the daily briefing in New York.

“This is why he continues to stress that the international community must give priority to preventing and resolving a variety of situations which both generate mass movement and expose those already on the move to significant danger,” he added, underscoring the need to increase legal pathways for regular migration and offer credible alternatives to these dangerous crossings for people in need of international protection.

30,000 Under the Age of 18

Since January of this year, IOM estimates that around 55,000 migrants left the Horn of Africa to come to Yemen, most with the aim of trying to find better opportunities in the Gulf countries.

More than 30,000 of those migrants are under the age of 18 from Somalia and Ethiopia, while a third are estimated to be female, according to the UN specialised body.

IOM staff tend to the remains of a deceased migrant on a beach in Yemen. Credit: UN Migration

“This journey is especially hazardous during the current windy season in the Indian Ocean. Smugglers are active in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, offering fake promises to vulnerable migrants.”

IOM and its partners operate across the region to support these migrants and provide lifesaving assistance to those who find themselves abused or stranded along the route.

Forced into the Sea

Meantime, IOM reported that 160 Ethiopian migrants were violently forced into the sea off Yemen’s coast on 8 August morning.

This comes one day after the presumed death of 50 Ethiopian and Somali migrants during a similar incident, it adds.
“As with 9 August, this tragedy took place off the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea – although in a different location and closer to the shore.”

Staff from the UN migration agency found six bodies on the beach –two male and four female. An additional 13 Ethiopian migrants are still missing (unaccounted for).

IOM on 10 August provided emergency medical assistance to 57 migrants. The UN agency also provided food, water and other emergency relief assistance to the surviving migrants. 84 migrants (in addition to the 57) left the beach.

The UN migration agency has also reported that every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives on this life-threatening route towards the Gulf countries through Yemen, a country in crisis.

“The journey and the situation in Yemen is extremely dangerous for migrants. The psychological effect these experiences have on children can be enormous.”

This is why IOM has embedded psychologists embedded in their patrolling teams on Yemen’s beaches.

“The deadly actions of the smugglers on 10 August bring the total number of presumed dead over the last two day close to 70. IOM is aware of 114 dead or missing in 2017 off the coast of Yemen (Gulf of Aden and in the Red Sea en route to Yemen) and 109 in 2016. The actual total is likely to be higher.

Brutally Treated

Survivors from both incidents described their journey with the smugglers to IOM:

“Throughout the journey, migrants had been brutally treated by the smugglers. They were forced to squat down for the entirety of the trip from Ambah Shore in Somalia, which sometimes takes between 24-36 hours, so that the smugglers could increase the number of people in the boat…

“… The migrants were not allowed to move inside the boat. They were not allowed a private or separate space to use the bathroom and had to urinate on themselves…

“… In some cases, the smugglers tied their hands so if something did happen, they would not be able to run or swim or save their lives. If one of the migrants accidentally moved, he would be beaten or even killed…

“…The migrants were not allowed to take enough food or water on the journey to fulfil their basic needs. They were only allowed to take one to two litres of water and one small meal. They also faced many dangerous during the journey in the windy season.”

Migrant survivors from other smuggling journeys have told IOM that usually smuggler networks coordinate when migrants arrive in Yemen so that they would have a pick up location.

“Some migrants who are able to pay extra money are taken by car to unknown destinations. Others, who do not have money, walk for long distances, without knowing where they are headed.

Pushed Out of the Boats

Recently, smugglers have been pushing migrants out of the boats, fearing that the security forces might arrest them. This is what happened the past two days in Shabowa, said Lina Koussa, IOM’s Emergency Response Officer in Aden.

“We condemn the acts of smugglers off the coast of Yemen – 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants were forced from a boat yesterday, and another 160 today, the death toll is still unknown,” said William Lacy Swing, IOM Director General.

“The utter disregard for human life by these smugglers, and all human smugglers worldwide, is nothing less than immoral. What is a teenager’s life worth? On this route to the Gulf countries, it can be as little as 100 USD, “ said IOM chief.

Something Wrong in This World

“There is something fundamentally wrong with this world if countless numbers of children can be deliberately and ruthlessly drowned in the ocean, when they are no longer an easy source of income, and nothing is done to stop it from ever happening again.”

It should never have happened in the first place, he added.

“We should not have to wait for tragedies like these to show us that international cooperation must be enhanced to fight human smuggling – not just through policy but through real action along these smuggling routes.”

This is a busy and extremely dangerous smuggling route. Yemen is suffering one of today’s most dire humanitarian crises, said William Lacy Swing.

Countries experiencing conflict or crisis like Yemen need greater support to reinforce law enforcement and humanitarian border management with the aim of protecting vulnerable migrants like these 16-year-old kids, he said.

“My thoughts are with their families and loved ones in Ethiopia and Somalia. I am making a promise to them that IOM will not forget them and will continue to fight to protect the rights and dignity of future generations of migrants,” concluded Swing.

120 Somali and Ethiopians, Forced into the Pitching Sea

IOM on 9 August reported from Aden that early that morning, a human smuggler, in charge of the boat, forced more than 120 Somali and Ethiopian migrants into the pitching sea as they approached the coast of Shabwa, a Yemeni Governorate along the Arabian Sea. The migrants had been hoping to reach countries in the Gulf via war-torn Yemen.

Shortly after the tragedy, staff from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, found the shallow graves of 29 migrants on a beach in Shabwa, during a routine patrol.

The dead had been quickly buried by those who survived the smuggler’s deadly actions. IOM is working closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure appropriate care for the deceased migrants’ remains.

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This Is How Indigenous Peoples Help Curb Gas Emissions, End Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/indigenous-peoples-help-curb-gas-emissions-end-hunger/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 11:55:42 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151639 A third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities, according to the United Nations. Moreover, indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, climate-resilient and well-adapted to their environment, making them a good source of nutrients in climate challenged areas, reports the UN Food and […]

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Indigenous Peoples can provide answers to food insecurity and climate change challenges. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

A third of global forests, crucial for curbing gas emissions, are primarily managed by indigenous peoples, families, smallholders and local communities, according to the United Nations.

Moreover, indigenous foods are also particularly nutritious, climate-resilient and well-adapted to their environment, making them a good source of nutrients in climate challenged areas, reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“Constituting only 5 per cent of the world population, indigenous peoples nevertheless are vital stewards of the environment. Traditional indigenous territories encompass 22 per cent of the world’s land surface, but 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity. “

According to this Rome-based UN specialised body, indigenous peoples ways of life and their livelihoods can teach us a lot about preserving natural resources, growing food in sustainable ways and living in harmony with nature.

“Mobilising the expertise that originates from this heritage and these historical legacies is important for addressing the challenges facing food and agriculture today and in the future,” it added on 9 August on the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.

According to FAO, here are 6 of the many ways in which Indigenous Peoples are helping the world combat climate change:

1. Their Traditional Agricultural Practices Are Resilient to Climate Change

Throughout the centuries, indigenous peoples have developed agricultural techniques that are adapted to extreme environments, like the high altitudes of the Andes, the dry grasslands of Kenya or the extreme cold of northern Canada.

These time-tested techniques, like terracing that stops soil erosion or floating gardens that make use of flooded fields, mean that they are well-suited for the increasingly intense weather events and temperature changes brought on by climate change.

2. They Conserve and Restore Forests and Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples see themselves as connected to nature and as part of the same system as the environment in which they live. Natural resources are considered shared property and are respected as such.

By protecting natural resources, like forests and rivers, many indigenous communities help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

3. Indigenous Foods Expand and Diversify Diets

The world currently relies very heavily on a small set of staple crops. Wheat, rice, potatoes and maize represent 50 per cent of daily calories consumed. With nutritious, native crops like quinoa, oca and moringa, the food systems of indigenous peoples can help the rest of humanity expand its narrow food base.

4. Indigenous Foods are Resilient to Climate Change

Because many indigenous peoples live in extreme environments, they have chosen crops that have also had to adapt.

Indigenous peoples often grow native species of crops that are better adapted to local contexts and are often more resistant to drought, altitude, flooding, or other extreme conditions.

Used more widely in farming, these crops could help build the resilience of farms now facing a changing, more extreme climate.

5. Indigenous Territories hold 80 Per Cent of the World’s Biodiversity

Preserving biodiversity is essential for food security and nutrition. The genetic pool for plants and animal species is found in forests, rivers and lakes and pastures.

Living naturally sustainable lives, indigenous peoples preserve these spaces, helping to uphold the biodiversity of the plants and animals in nature.

6. Indigenous Peoples’ Lifestyles Are Locally Adapted and Respectful of Natural Resources

Indigenous peoples have adapted their lifestyles to fit into and respect their environments. In mountains, indigenous peoples’ systems preserve soil, reduce erosion, conserve water and reduce the risk of disasters.

In rangelands, indigenous pastoralist communities manage cattle grazing and cropping in sustainable ways that preserve rangeland biodiversity. In the Amazon, ecosystems improve when indigenous people inhabit them.

FAO considers indigenous peoples as “invaluable partners” in eradicating hunger and in providing solutions to climate change.

“We will never achieve long-term solutions to climate change and food security and nutrition without seeking help from and protecting the rights of indigenous peoples.”

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Why New US Cold War with Russia Nowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-us-cold-war-russia-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-us-cold-war-russia-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-us-cold-war-russia-now/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 15:54:16 +0000 Vladimir Popov http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151631 Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

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Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

By Vladimir Popov
BERLIN, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

Even before the imposition of new sanctions on Russia by Donald Trump and the ongoing fuss over Russian hackers undermining US democracy, Russian-American relations had deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s. Why?

Vladimir Popov

Political ideology
After all, the US has fewer ideological disagreements with Russia than with the USSR. Russia now has a capitalist economy and is more democratic than the USSR. Russia is also much weaker than the USSR – its population and territory are about 60 to 80 percent of the Soviet Union, and its economic and military might has been considerably diminished, so it poses much less of a threat to the US than the USSR.
However, US rhetoric and actions towards Russia are much more belligerent now than during the 1970s, or in the 1980s, when the US imposed sanctions against the USSR after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. Even when President Reagan was calling the USSR ‘the evil empire’, relations did not deteriorate as much as in recent years.

Bilateral economic relations have taken a similar turn for the worse. Soviet-US trade expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, nominally increasing nearly a hundred-fold in two decades, before plateauing in the 1980s. There was some growth in the 1990s and 2000s after the USSR fell apart, but after peaking in 2011, trade has been falling.

Why did the fastest expansion of bilateral trade occur in the 1960s and 1970s? After all, the USSR was not a market economy, and also ‘communist’. By contrast, US trade growth with post-Soviet, capitalist and democratic Russia over the next two decades was modest, before actually shrinking in the last half decade.

Geopolitics?

One popular explanation is geopolitical considerations. It is argued that when a hostile power tries to expand its influence, the US, the rest of the West and hence, NATO respond strongly.

Examples cited include the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s, and sanctions against the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The same could be said about more recent Western sanctions in response to Russian advances in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and Syria.

But the 1970s contradicts this argument. After all, the USSR was gaining ground at US expense in Indochina, the former Portuguese colonies, Nicaragua and other developing countries. Why then did détente and trade grow in the 1970s?

US as #1
The US position is not primarily determined by either ideology or geopolitics, but rather, by the changing US establishment view of the balance of power. After the devastation of the Second World War, the USSR was hardly a superpower, so the US expected to press the USSR, its erstwhile ally, into submission through the Cold War.

But the Soviet Union began closing the gap with the United States in terms of productivity, per capita income and military strength in the 1950s and 1960s. Even though its economy slowed from the mid-1960s, the USSR had caught up in many respects, enough to qualify as the other superpower. The result was détente. Although the USSR had been offering rapprochement after the Second World War, the US only accepted detente in the 1970s, as the military gap closed.

Today, the US establishment knows that the Russian economy have fallen far behind since the 1980s while its military is getting more obsolete. The strategic conclusion appears to be that Russia can be contained via direct pressure and sanctions, something unthinkable against the communist USSR in the 1970s or China today, even though China is less democratic than Russia and still led by a communist party.

Playing with fire
Economically and militarily, Russia is undoubtedly relatively much weaker today than the USSR was. But its capacity has recovered considerably in the new century from the 1990s, with modest growth reversing the economic devastation of the Yeltsin presidency.

And even if it is true that the US is now an unchallenged ‘number one’, and will remain dominant in the foreseeable future, while Russia is not only weak, but also getting relatively weaker, the current effort of pressing Russia into submission has risks.

US pressure on Russia can result in a stand-off comparable to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which the USSR was willing to risk at that time, even though its military capability was well behind that of the US. Eventually, not only were Soviet missiles withdrawn from Cuba, a return to the status quo ante, but the US also promised not only not to invade Cuba, but also to withdraw its medium range missiles from Turkey.

True, Russia is relatively weaker today, but it still has tremendous destructive capacity. One only has to remember that North Korea, with much less military capacity, has successfully withstood US pressure for decades. However, as US economic dominance in the world has been eroding since the Second World War, and its military superiority is the main source of US advantage, the temptation will remain to use this superiority before it is eroded as well.

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Donald Trump & Kim Jong-Un Need To Find A Diplomatic Off-Ramphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/donald-trump-kim-jong-un-need-find-diplomatic-off-ramp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=donald-trump-kim-jong-un-need-find-diplomatic-off-ramp http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/donald-trump-kim-jong-un-need-find-diplomatic-off-ramp/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 07:40:29 +0000 Daryl G. Kimball http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151626 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association

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Image by The Official Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Photostream – flickr.com

By Daryl G. Kimball
WASHINGTON DC, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

Just six months into the administration of President Donald Trump, the war of words and nuclear threats between the United States and North Korea have escalated, and a peaceful resolution to the escalating crisis is more difficult than ever to achieve.

Both leaders need to immediately work to descalate the situation and direct their diplomats to engage in an adult conversation designed to resolve tensions

On Jan. 1, North Korea’s authoritarian ruler Kim Jong Un vowed to “continue to build up” his country’s nuclear forces “as long as the United States and its vassal forces keep on [sic] nuclear threat and blackmail.” Kim also warned that North Korea was making preparations to flight-test a prototype intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Two days later, Trump could not resist laying down a “red line” on Twitter, saying, “It won’t happen.”

Pyongyang has responded to the U.S. statements and military exercises on North Korea’s doorstep with its own, even more bellicose rhetoric. Following press reports that a U.S. carrier strike group was being sent toward the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations warned April 17 that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that his country is “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the United States.”

After an inter-agency review, Trump and his team announced a policy of “maximum pressure and engagement” to try to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions and its ballistic missile program. So far, the approach has been all “pressure” and no “engagement,” with U.S. officials calling for North Korea to agree to take concrete steps to show its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

In response, North Korean has accelerated its pace of ballistic missile tests, including flight tests of missiles in July with ICBM capabilities. The UN Security Council unanimously adopted Aug. 5 the toughest UN Security Council sanctions yet imposed on North Korea. The Korean Central News Agency lashed out Aug. 8, warning that it will mobilize all its resources to take “physical action” in retaliation in response to the UN actions.

Trump, in turn, said Tuesday “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

Trump’s attempt to play the role of nuclear “madman” is as dangerous, foolish, and counterproductive as North Korea’s frequent hyperbolic threats against the United States.

Trump’s latest statement is a blatant threat of nuclear force that will not compel Kim to shift course. In fact, repeated threats of U.S. military force only give credibility to the North Korean propaganda line that nuclear weapons are necessary to deter U.S. aggression, and it may lead Kim to try to accelerate his nuclear program.

That should not come as a surprise. Since the beginning of the nuclear age, U.S. “atomic diplomacy” has consistently failed to achieve results. The historical record shows that U.S. nuclear threats during the Korean War and later against China and the Soviet Union, as well as Nixon’s “madman” strategy against North Vietnam, failed to bend adversaries to U.S. goals.

With respect to North Korea in particular, the threat of pre-emptive U.S. military action is not credible, in large part because the risks are extremely high.

North Korea has the capacity to devastate the metropolis of Seoul, with its 10 million inhabitants, by launching a massive artillery barrage and hundreds of conventionally armed, short-range ballistic missiles. Moreover, if hostilities begin, there is the prospect that North Korea could use some of its remaining nuclear weapons, which could kill millions in South Korea and Japan.

U.S. intelligence sources believe North Korea has already developed a warhead design small enough and light enough for delivery by an ICBM. North Korea’s may have a supply of fissile material for up to 25 nuclear weapons, but its fissile production capacity is likely growing and it may be ready to conduct its sixth nuclear test explosion, which would further advance ability to develop a reliable missile-deliverable warhead.

Trump and his advisers need to curb the impulse to threaten military action, which only increases the risk of catastrophic miscalculation. A saner and more effective approach is to work with China to tighten the sanctions pressure and simultaneously open a new diplomatic channel designed to defuse tensions and to halt and eventually reverse North Korea’s increasingly dangerous nuclear and missile programs.

Better enforcement of UN sanctions designed to hinder North Korea’s weapons procurement, financing, and key sources of foreign trade and revenue is very important. Such measures can help increase the leverage necessary for a diplomatic solution. But it is naive that sanctions pressure and bellicose U.S. threats of nuclear attack can force North Korea to change course.

Unless there is a diplomatic strategy to reduce tensions and to halt further nuclear and long-range ballistic missile tests in exchange for measures that ease North Korea’s fear of military attack, Pyongyang’s nuclear strike capabilities will increase, with a longer range and less vulnerable to attack, and the risk of a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula will likely grow.

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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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One Earth: Why the World Needs Indigenous Communities to Steward Their Landshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-earth-world-needs-indigenous-communities-steward-lands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-earth-world-needs-indigenous-communities-steward-lands http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/one-earth-world-needs-indigenous-communities-steward-lands/#comments Mon, 07 Aug 2017 22:41:07 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151603 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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An ethnic matriarch in India's biodiversity-rich Sikkim State in the Himalayan foothills. She is a repository of traditional knowledge on plants both for food and medicinal properties. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

An ethnic matriarch in India's biodiversity-rich Sikkim State in the Himalayan foothills. She is a repository of traditional knowledge on plants both for food and medicinal properties. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

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

“Showing them a picture-book crow, I intone ‘kaak’ in Bengali, the State language. While others repeat in chorus, the tribal Santhali first-graders respond with a blank look. They know the crow only as ‘koyo’. They’ll happily roll out glass marbles to count but ask them how many they counted, they remain silent because in their mother tongue, one is mit, two is bariah – very different sounding from the Bengali ek and du.”

Teacher Ramakrushna Bhadra faced a formidable challenge at the rural Hatrasulganj Santhal primary school in India’s eastern West Bengal state, until he decided to learn the tribal language himself.Out of 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide, India holds as many as 700 different ethnic groups, adding up to 104 million people.

For Santhals, the largest tribal community in West Bengal, Bengali is a foreign tongue. Hence at school, the new entrants learnt nothing, lost interest, dropped out of classes and joined their parents in seasonal migration. Generational illiteracy has only perpetuated the poverty cycle.

India even passed a law declaring education as a constitutional right for all children 6 to 14 years old, and to reduce the drop-out rate of ethnic minorities, it provided for mother-tongue primary education and set up free residential schools in tribal pockets.

With a precarious demographic total of around 8,000, and a female literacy rate of 3 percent, the Dongria Kondh tribal community in neighbouring Odisha state has an exclusive girls-only free residential school in Rayagada district set up by the government in 2008. While enrolling and retaining the girls demands continued effort, teachers say older girls who have been in the school for some years have now distanced themselves from their roots, viewing their unique traditional costume and hair-dress as embarrassing.

Retaining unique indigenous cultures, their traditional knowledge systems and sustainable management of natural resources, even while aiding them to access, choose and prioritize from the development pathway so that they are not left behind, has been a challenge for governments around the world.

Out of 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide, India holds as many as 700 different ethnic groups, adding up to 104 million.

Central to this challenge and offering the closest solution is granting their right to customary land and the resources within it.

Their ancestral land and natural resources have a fundamental importance in their livelihood, ways and of life, culture and religion and, in fact, in their collective physical and cultural survival as communities.

One of the Indian tribes least in contact with the outside world, the Bonda community's remote settlements are part of the left-wing extremists Red Corridor, where government education, health and sanitation schemes have had little impact. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

One of the Indian tribes least in contact with the outside world, the Bonda community’s remote settlements are part of the left-wing extremists Red Corridor, where government education, health and sanitation schemes have had little impact. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

The government has several specific programmes for indigenous communities such as in education, livelihoods, quotas in educational institutions and jobs, and food security at huge funding expense, whose aim has been to bridge the conspicuous economic gap between them and the mainstream population.

“Poor implementation of existing schemes in the tribal regions has meant that not only poverty

continues at exceptionally high levels in these regions, but the decline in poverty has been much slower here than in the entire country,” according to an earlier national report by the Planning Commission, now Niti Aayog.

Discrimination, official apathy, and insensitivity to tribal ways of life, rampant corruption, denial of justice and human dignity, and political marginalization has led to entrenchment of left-wing extremism is several tribal regions in India.

In India, most of the indigenous groups live in deep natural forests that sit atop rich deposits of iron, bauxite, chromites, coal and other minerals. The government and corporate miners want to get their hands on as much of this as possible.

But the Indian Constitution has given powers of self-governance and autonomy to tribal communities over their habitat, where the village council holds the last word in decisions, even over government’s, on the use of its resources, specifically in the context of the Forests Rights Act 2006 and the Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.

Still, this power of the village council has been subverted time and again by government agencies and corporate, as numerous studies and reports have established.

Lack of clear recognition and protection of indigenous people’s land rights and natural resources especially forests, is today the root cause of conflict and unrest around a majority of infrastructure and mining projects, resulting in time over run, aborted project with losses running into billions of dollars.

While the ethnic groups have become somewhat more aware, India’s apex court has been keenly monitoring their land and forest rights implementation. This has made a tremendous difference in the last decade. The issue continues to be on the boil as civil society organizations, both local and international keep the debate open and protest ongoing.

Until the 2011 census, more than half of the total indigenous population in India had left home to live in urban areas, completely alien to their nature-loving lives and livelihoods. Poverty, project-related displacement and loss of livelihoods from denied access to land and forests are the main causes for migration.

In Kadaraguma village high in the hills of Rayagada, 66-year-old Kone Wadaka is looking for an heiress to pass on her confidential wealth of medicinal knowledge in forest plants. The oral knowledge of generations was passed down from her father, a tribal healer of a Dongria Kondh clan. Accompanying him as a teenager for days before the sun was up, Wadaka learnt to identify leaves and roots that could prevent conception, alleviate fits and seizures, heal wounds, and subdue pain. Herself unmarried, a young girl she had set her mind on to relay the family knowledge has moved on to school.

As the forest moves further away from their villages, and trees are cut, to be replaced by commercial timber plantations, Wadaka is afraid if she does not find someone suitable soon, the invaluable knowledge might die with her. It saddens her that her people will lose something that was theirs for generations.

The 2030 agenda for sustainable development, whose key larger goal remains building inclusive societies, seeks to empowerment of indigenous people through secure tenure rights to land, parity in education and vocational training, doubling of small-holding agricultural productivity and income and encourages States to include indigenous leaders in subsequent reviews of country progress towards the goals.

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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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World Still Lagging on Indigenous Rights 10 Years After Historic Declaration, UN Experts Warnhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/world-still-lagging-indigenous-rights-10-years-historic-declaration-un-experts-warn/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 14:43:55 +0000 Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151593 Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine is Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Albert K. Barume is chairman of the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz is the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

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Women from Nepal's indigenous tribe. Credit: Mallika Aryal/IPS

By Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine, Albert K. Barume and Victoria Tauli-Corpuz
GENEVA / NEW YORK, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

The world’s indigenous peoples still face huge challenges a decade after the adoption of an historic declaration on their rights, a group of United Nations experts and specialist bodies has warned. Speaking ahead of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples on 9 August, the group says States must put words into action to end discrimination, exclusion and lack of protection illustrated by the worsening murder rate of human rights defenders.

The joint statement from the Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the UN Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples reads as follows:

“It is now 10 years since the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by the UN General Assembly, as the most comprehensive international human rights instrument for indigenous peoples. The Declaration, which took more than 20 years to negotiate, stands today as a beacon of progress, a framework for reconciliation and a benchmark of rights.

But a decade on, we need to acknowledge the vast challenges that remain. In too many cases, indigenous peoples are now facing even greater struggles and rights violations than they did 10 years ago.

Indigenous peoples still suffer from racism, discrimination, and unequal access to basic services including healthcare and education. Where statistical data is available, it shows clearly that they are left behind on all fronts, facing disproportionately higher levels of poverty, lower life expectancy and worse educational outcomes.

Indigenous peoples face particularly acute challenges due to loss of their lands and rights over resources, which are pillars of their livelihoods and cultural identities.

Indigenous women face double discrimination, both as women and as indigenous peoples. They are frequently excluded from decision-making processes and land rights, and many suffer violence.

We call on all States to ensure that indigenous women fully enjoy their rights as enshrined in the Declaration and emphasize that their rights are a concern for all of us.

The worsening human rights situation of indigenous peoples across the globe is illustrated by the extreme, harsh and risky working conditions of indigenous human rights defenders.

Individuals and communities who dare to defend indigenous rights find themselves labelled as obstacles to progress, anti-development forces, and in some cases, enemies of the State or terrorists.

They even risk death. Last year alone, some sources suggest that 281 human rights defenders were murdered in 25 countries – more than double the number who died in 2014. Half of them were working to defend land, indigenous and environmental rights.

We urge States to protect indigenous human rights defenders. Crimes committed against them must be duly investigated and prosecuted, and those responsible brought to justice.

Indigenous peoples are increasingly being drawn into conflicts over their lands, resources and rights. Lasting peace requires that States, with the support of the international community, establish conflict resolution mechanisms with the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples’, in particular indigenous women.

Many States still do not recognize indigenous peoples, and in particular indigenous women and youth still face a lack of official recognition and direct political participation. Even in States where laws are in place, the Declaration has not been fully implemented.

It is high time to recognize and strengthen indigenous peoples’ own forms of governance and representation, in order to establish constructive dialogue and engagement with international and national authorities, public officials and the private sector.

The minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world, as set out in the Declaration, must now be met.

These include the rights to identity, language, health, education and self-determination, alongside the duty of States to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing measures that may affect them.

The Declaration represents important shifts in both structure and the practice of global politics, and the last 10 years have seen some positive changes in the situation of indigenous peoples and greater respect for indigenous worldviews.

But we still have a long way to go before indigenous peoples have full enjoyment of their human rights as expressed in the Declaration. We call on all States to close the gap between words and action, and to act now to deliver equality and full rights for all people from indigenous backgrounds.”

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Migrants Crossing US-Mexico Border Dying at Faster Rate. More Deaths in Mediterraneanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/migrants-crossing-us-mexico-border-dying-faster-rate-deaths-mediterranean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-crossing-us-mexico-border-dying-faster-rate-deaths-mediterranean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/migrants-crossing-us-mexico-border-dying-faster-rate-deaths-mediterranean/#respond Mon, 07 Aug 2017 09:12:30 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151589 While the number of migrants deaths in the Mediterranean Sea has so far in 2017 exceeded 2,350 victims for the fourth consecutive year, migrants crossing the United States-Mexico border are dying at a faster rate in 2017 than in past years, the UN migration agency reports. Visit to Detention Centers in Libya. During Ambassador Swing’s […]

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By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 7 2017 (IPS)

While the number of migrants deaths in the Mediterranean Sea has so far in 2017 exceeded 2,350 victims for the fourth consecutive year, migrants crossing the United States-Mexico border are dying at a faster rate in 2017 than in past years, the UN migration agency reports.


Visit to Detention Centers in Libya. During Ambassador Swing’s visit to Tripoli in May, IOM Libya launched a plan to enhance its presence in the country and improve living conditions inside detention centres. This video is a result of a VR training commissioned by the UN and conducted by LightShed. Source: IOM – UN Migration Agency

According to a new briefing from the Berlin-based Missing Migrants Project (MMP) at the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, migrants crossing the United States-Mexico border are dying at a faster rate in 2017 than in past years.

On this, MMP’s Julia Black on 4 August reported: “Some 232 migrant fatalities have been recorded in the first seven months of 2017, an increase of 17 per cent compared with the 204 deaths recorded between January and July 2016.”

Black added: “Fifty bodies were recorded as discovered in July, the most recorded in any month so far this year,” explaining that these remains were located across the border region. “Nine were recorded in various locations along the Río Grande; ten in a truck in San Antonio, Texas; and 16 in other locations in Texas.”

Migrants Crossing US-Mexico Border Dying at Faster Rate in 2017: UN Migration Agency

Fifteen more were recovered in Arizona’s Pima County, a notoriously dangerous crossing, where seasonal temperatures regularly soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) between the months of May and September. So far in 2017, 96 bodies have been recovered in Pima County.

Black said, “These numbers are especially concerning considering that, according to US Border Patrol figures, fewer migrants seem to be crossing into the US in 2017. The US Border Patrol has apprehended 140,024 migrants between January and June 2017, about half the number recorded in the first six months of 2016.”

The briefing reports that IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded more than 1,250 migrant fatalities on the US-Mexico border since 2014.

The “American Dream”

MMP staffers note each one of these deaths are individual tragedies that serve as reminders of the many migrants who continue to risk their lives pursuing their “Sueño Americano” – or American Dream, according to Black.

“Though the story of the ten migrants who lost their lives trapped in the back of a tractor-trailer in Texas on Sunday was widely covered by English- and Spanish-language media, most of the deaths recorded in the border region occur in ones and twos. Those deaths, recorded almost daily during summer months, rarely make headlines.”

The most recent incident recorded on the border region was the death of a five-year-old child migrant drowned in the Río Grande near Tamaulipas, Mexico, on Wednesday. Reports indicate that the child’s father also went missing during the river crossing, she added.

“Many of those pursuing ‘el Sueño Americano’ travel from Mexico to Texas, meaning that they must cross the swift-flowing Río Grande to reach the US. The briefing reports that in 2017, 57 people have drowned in Though migrant fatalities on the US-Mexico border represent 65 per cent of the total number recorded in the Americas, it is likely that many migrant deaths occur in Central and Southern America that go unrecorded.”

Notably, several bodies, presumed to be migrants, were seen floating off the coast of Nicaragua on Tuesday; another migrant was killed near Oaxaca, Mexico on Sunday after being struck by a train; another, from El Salvador, was the victim of a stabbing, she added.

The briefing reports that the true number of migrant fatalities in 2017 is likely to be higher than the data from Missing Migrants Project indicate. “It’s something that is true for all regions of the world, unfortunately,” concluded Black.

2,397 Migrant Deaths in the Mediterranean

Meantime, the UN Migration agency on the same day, 4 August, reported that 115,109 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 2 August, with almost 83 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. This compares with 261,228 arrivals across the region through 2 August 2016.

Credit: IOM

For its part, IOM Rome reported that according to official figures of the Italian MOI, 95,215 migrants arrived in Italy by sea this year, which is slightly (2.73 per cent) fewer than last year during the same period, when 97,892 arrived, highlighting a trend that IOM has observed of slower traffic to Italy during mid-summer, and fewer deaths (approximately half of those recorded in July 2015 and 2016).

Top Ten Nationalities

Italian authorities on August first week released the latest roster of top-ten nationalities to arrive as migrants traveling by sea from Africa through the end of July, added IOM.

Nigeria continues to be the year’s top sender nation with 15,317 arrivals, followed by Bangladesh (8,687), Guinea (8,631), Cote d’Ivoire (7,905) and Mali (5,526).

Bangladesh, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Morocco continue to show sharp increases over levels of arrivals at this time last year. Those countries that now are sending fewer migrants include Eritrea – down more than 50 per cent from 2016 – with slighter decreases as well for Nigeria, Sudan and the Gambia.

IOM’s Flavio Di Giacomo further noted total arrivals by sea to Italy during the month of July came to 11,461, a decrease of more than 50 per cent compared with the total registered in July 2016: 23,552.

Asphyxiation on Board

Meanwhile, IOM Athens reported that 73 migrants and refugees arrived at various Greek locations (Lesvos, Rhodes, Megisti) between 31 July and 2 August. The total number of arrivals by sea to Greece as of 2 August is 11,353. This compares with 160,515 at this time last year.

“The latest fatalities in the region were reported on Tuesday (1 August) when eight corpses were recovered on a dinghy off the Libyan coast – it is likely the migrants died from asphyxiation on board. They were expected to be brought to land in Italy on Friday 4 August.”

These deaths bring the total of fatalities in the Mediterranean in 2017 to 2,397, IOM reports, adding that although this figure trails the number of deaths (3,193) recorded at this time last year, it nonetheless marks the fourth consecutive year migrant deaths in the Mediterranean Sea have exceeded 2,350.

Worldwide, the IOM Missing Migrants Project reports that there have been 3,408 fatalities in 2017 through 2 August, with the Mediterranean region accounting for the largest proportion of deaths – over two-thirds of the global total.

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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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“I’ll Tell You a Story” – Violence Against Women in Peruhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/ill-tell-story-violence-women-peru/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ill-tell-story-violence-women-peru http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/ill-tell-story-violence-women-peru/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 10:57:28 +0000 Andrea Vale http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151566 Domestic violence is alarmingly prevalent in Peru. Not only is it statistically more common than in other, more progressive cultures, but Peruvian women tend to accept it as simply a ‘part of marriage.’ It was therefore both surprising and understandable that the domestic violence classes at a women’s center in the Cajamarca region, observed throughout […]

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Poor women from the Andes highlands queuing up for aid in a village in Peru's Puno region. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

Poor women from the Andes highlands queuing up for aid in a village in Peru's Puno region. Credit: Milagros Salazar/IPS

By Andrea Vale
LIMA, Aug 4 2017 (IPS)

Domestic violence is alarmingly prevalent in Peru. Not only is it statistically more common than in other, more progressive cultures, but Peruvian women tend to accept it as simply a ‘part of marriage.’

It was therefore both surprising and understandable that the domestic violence classes at a women’s center in the Cajamarca region, observed throughout the summer of 2016, were always crowded and bustling, teeming with adult women and teenage girls."Whenever he sees her with someone, that’s when he starts to get angry. And that’s when he hits her." --Cecilia

“A lot of women don’t speak out against domestic violence because they aren’t as educated, they don’t know about it as much,” one woman called out during class one afternoon. Her fellow classmates all nodded. “Their husbands will insult them and hit them, and the women believe that it’s their fault, that they deserve that kind of treatment.”

One of the class attendees, Cecilia, was reluctant to speak after initially offering to do so, instead staring down at her skirt while her friend sitting next to her, Yolanda, asked, “Are you ready to talk about it?” To which Cecilia quietly replied, “No.”

(Surnames have been omitted to ensure confidentiality.)

When asked if she or anyone she knew has had experience with domestic violence, Yolanda’s eyes immediately darted to Cecilia.

“Many of my friends have experience with it,” she said in Spanish.

When asked if she thinks that some women don’t object to being subjected to domestic violence because they think it’s simply a part of marriage, or a part of the larger culture, Yolanda whispered to Cecilia, “Come on, tell them, tell them.” Cecilia, however, did not answer.

In many Peruvian families, men’s education takes priority over that of women. According to a report by the United Nations, only 56.3% of women in Peru have received at least some secondary education, as compared to 66.1% of men. According to UNESCO, only 6.3% of adult males in Peru are illiterate – as compared to 17.5% of females.

As with almost any aspect of society, education makes a huge difference, but especially so when it comes to domestic violence. According to a study carried out by Princeton University, the less education you have, the higher your chances of being domestically abused are: 42.04% of women with no education at all, and 42.80% of those with primary school education had been abused – compared to 28.93% of those with tertiary, college or more.

“Mothers teach their boys to not do women’s work, that they don’t cook and clean and that’s the woman’s job,” another woman chimed in during class one afternoon, “If the women doesn’t cook and do women’s chores, then they’ll be abused. They won’t be able to get out of it because they don’t have any education, they don’t have any resources.”

All of the women in the class fell into one of two camps. Some wore jeans and tank tops. Others wore traditional long skirts, button down shirts and cardigans. Some were timid – some were not. The ones who spoke openly, condemning Machismo Culture and lecturing the others on the importance of marrying your best friend, were wearing leggings. The ones with waist-length braids and farming boots stayed quiet.

Contributing to that Machismo Culture is the reality that Peru is a sometimes vision-bending fusion of the Old existing alongside the New. While many in Peru drive cars, have cell phones and wear modern clothing, the simultaneous perseverance of a rural lifestyle that feels like going back in time offers fertile soil for that outdated, patriarchal society to take root in.

Consequently, domestic violence is more prevalent among rural women, as is their willingness to put up with it.

“It’s even worse in the rural areas. There, women are just expected to stay in their homes and that’s it,” Yolanda said. “The women from out in the country are quiet. They don’t talk, they don’t say anything. They were raised in that home. Their father hits their mother, and when they get married they get hit. They see it as normal.”

According to the Pan American Health Organization, physical violence within domestic abuse – as opposed to emotional, sexual or verbal violence – is “used much more frequently on women with fewer economic resources” in Peru.

According to the World Health Organization, the lifetime prevalence of physical violence by an intimate partner is 50% in urban areas of the country, as opposed to 62% in rural areas. And there, more than other countries, domestic violence often becomes fatal.

According to the Peruvian publication La Republica, there have been 356 feminicidios, or ‘women-icides’ in the country within the last 4 years, with an additional 174 attempted feminicidios. What’s more, judges have been markedly lenient in their punishments for perpetrators, with almost half receiving less than 15 years in prison, and two receiving less than seven – that is, if they end up being convicted, which only 84 were.

After staring over periodically at Yolanda while she spoke, and visibly reacting to one of Yolanda’s answers, Cecilia became willing to speak. When asked if she knew any stories of domestic violence, she stared down into her lap for a long silence, then nodded.

“Yes. I could tell you a story,” she said.

She proceeded to describe in detail the situation of a ‘relative’ who happened to be the same age as herself – twenty-nine.

“She got engaged to this man … He is always telling her that he loves her, and that he wants her, all the time right?” Cecilia said. “And always saying how much he loves her, and how he’s willing to give her everything, right? But in reality, I can see that it is not good.

“When he tells her that he needs her, she’ll go and be with him. But she is alone. He says that he loves her so much, and that’s why he doesn’t want her to work. He says she should only dedicate herself to her child. She has a daughter, and because of that she can’t work.

“Every instant the phone rings to call her, he asks, ‘Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with?’ And he’ll find her.”

She finished, “He forces her to stay with him. She tries to leave, but he’s there always, always behind her, listening and waiting for her. Whenever he sees her with someone, that’s when he starts to get angry. And that’s when he hits her. She has tried to get out, but he’s forcing her. Because right now she lives more in fear, out of fear that he’s going to kill her if she were to have another partner.”

Cecilia’s hesitancy to speak – whether or not she actually was talking about a “relative” – says leagues about her situation, and that of all the women facing the Machismo Culture in Peru. It’s difficult to grapple with an issue that is in many ways tied into the larger economic, political and historical storylines that have resulted in the perseverance of a rural, anachronistic culture.

The education they are receiving at classes like the one taught at the women’s center is a necessary start – but only if paired with empowerment, so that women like Cecilia can know that they don’t have to be afraid to tell their stories.

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Latin America Discusses How to Make Environmental Rights a Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/latin-america-discusses-make-environmental-rights-reality/#respond Fri, 04 Aug 2017 01:35:07 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151563 The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean. That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational […]

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Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Delegates from 24 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean pose next to Argentine authorities, after the opening of the seventh meeting of the negotiating committee on a regional agreement that will enable access to information, participation and justice in environmental matters, held in Buenos Aires. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 4 2017 (IPS)

The final declaration of the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 stated that “Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens.” However, this rarely happens in Latin America and the Caribbean.

That was acknowledged by most countries in the region, which 25 years later are drafting a supranational legal instrument with the aim of making public access to information and to environmental justice a reality for people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Delegates from 24 countries are taking part Jul. 31 to Aug. 4 in the Seventh Meeting of the Negotiating Committee of the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as Principle 10 of the 1992 Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land.” -- Danielle Andrade

This week’s meeting in Buenos Aires, organised by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the government of Argentina, is to be the second-to-last debate on Principle 10, and is being held behind closed doors.

The final document is to be approved in November or December in an as-yet undetermined city.

But there is still a long way to go.

At the current meeting it has become clear that the debate on how far public participation should go has not come to a conclusion, although the ECLAC-sponsored negotiations began in November 2014.

The main sticking point is whether or not the document will be binding on signatory states.

If an agreement is reached for a binding document, it would set minimum standards for the participating countries to guarantee public participation in environmental matters.

If the decision is that it should be non-binding, it could merely become yet another declaration of principles that changes nothing.

The UN special rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, John Knox of the United States, said “the instrument should be binding, even though that would make it harder to reach a consensus.”

“If it isn’t binding, the impression will be that instead of taking a step forward, we took a step back,” he said.

Knox was a special guest speaker during the opening of the meeting, which was held at Argentina’s Foreign Ministry, with the presence of three Argentine cabinet ministers and Costa Rica’s deputy minister of environment, Patricia Madrigal.

The Costa Rican official took part on behalf of the Negotiating Committee board, which is presided by her country and Chile, and is also composed of Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In the same vein as Knox, the Argentine expert on environmental law, Daniel Sabsay, a speaker at a special session on the implementation of the future agreement, said he was “worried by the prospect that the text will just end up as another grand declaration, without any actual results.”

Rights of indigenous peoples and communities

The draft of the Regional Agreement makes several references to indigenous peoples and establishes that it will acknowledge the right to consultation, and prior, free and informed consent, which has been recognised in most national legislations, and in the International Labour Organisation Convention 169, which regulates the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples.

It also stipulates that information must be delivered in indigenous languages, and that native people must receive special assistance to access information, since they are identified as a vulnerable group.

In addition, it establishes that, in every project with an environmental impact, the State has the obligation to identify the directly affected communities and promote their informed participation in the decision-making processes.

“The drafts that have been released until now set out no concrete instruments which countries are required to enforce and which would empower civil society. If it is not binding, it will not be useful,” he told IPS.

The debate is taking place against a backdrop of escalating disputes over land and natural resources, around the world and in this region in particular.

“Social conflicts over environmental issues resulted in 200 deaths last year around the world, 60 per cent of which were documented in Latin America. The most violent region has been the Amazon rainforst, where 16 people died for defending their land,” said Danielle Andrade of Jamaica, chosen as a civil society representative in the negotiations.

This situation shows the failure of governments to address the concerns of local communities in the face of extractive or land use projects that affect them.

Principle 10 of the Río Declaration establishes that States must facilitate and promote social participation in debates on environmental issues, making information widely available and guaranteeing access to legal and administrative proceedings.

The consensus is that Latin America in general has sufficient regulations in this respect. In fact, Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie said that “since 1992, 20 countries in the region have incorporated in their constitutions the right to a healthy and sustainable environment.”

The issue, it seems, is how to put into practice those rights which are only on paper.

“Nearly every country has environmental laws, but they have problems enforcing them. That is why we believe the creation of a committee for implementation of the treaty is crucial, to which people in the region could turn with their environmental conflicts, and which should include public participation, and should have powers to intervene,” Andrés Nápoli of Argentina, another civil society representative in the negotiations, told IPS.

The agreement that is being negotiated is inspired by the so-called Aarhus Convention, approved in 1998 in that city in Denmark, within the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). The Convention was especially useful for Eastern Europe countries, which had abandoned Communism a few years before, and had few environmental regulations.

“The countries of Latin America have been developing environmental laws since the 1990s, and recently some English-speaking Caribbean nations have being doing so,” said Carlos de Miguel, head of ECLAC’s Policies for Sustainable Development Unit.

“For that reason, the aim is enhancing the capacities of countries to ensure the rights established in the existing laws. Some countries have not been able to implement their environmental legislation, not because they don’t want to, but due to a lack of training and of financial resources,” he told IPS.

De Miguel said “we expect an ambitious agreement, that includes the creation of the institutions that will enforce it. We hope it will be signed not only by the 24 countries that are negotiating, but by all 33 countries in the region.”

The countries taking part in the discussions include all of the nations of South America except for Venezuela, Guyana and Surinam, and all of the countries of Central America with the exception of Nicaragua, while Caribbean island nations like Barbados and Cuba are absent.

Among the articles that are under discussion in Buenos Aires are article 6, which defines the scope of the right to information; 7 and 8, on the participation of citizens in decision-making processes; and 9, which regulates access to justice.

The last meeting will discuss the articles that define the institutions created by the treaty and whether or not to create an enforcement committee that, according to the majority, will define its effectiveness.

“It is essential to establish mechanisms to ensure that participation is real and ensure the most vulnerable populations have access to information, because official bodies and NGOs on their own cannot mobilise participation,” said Leila Devia, head of the Basel Convention Regional Centre for South America, at the special session on implementation.

That convention, which has 186 member States, deals with the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.

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Gender Equality? It’s Still a Man’s Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/gender-equality-still-mans-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-equality-still-mans-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/gender-equality-still-mans-world/#respond Thu, 03 Aug 2017 17:57:38 +0000 Anna Shen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151558 Anna Shen is an international consultant for the United Nations, an entrepreneur, and advisor to startups around the world.

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Gender inequality is the greatest moral and social issue of our time — and the world’s most critical economic challenge.

Globally, women are grossly underrepresented in scientific research and development (R&D). Laboratory-assistant-analyzing. Credit: Bigstock

By Anna Shen
SAN FRANCISCO, California, Aug 3 2017 (IPS)

Gender inequality is the greatest moral and social issue of our time — and the world’s most critical economic challenge. If half of the global population cannot fulfill their human potential, the world’s economic growth will falter.

Gender inequality is the greatest moral & social issue of our time, it’s up to all of us - men and women - to change the rules

Anna Shen

We are being robbed as we speak: if women fully participated in formal economic activity, it would add $12 trillion to the world’s coffers, according to the McKinsey Global Institute.

Drill down to specific industries – the tech sector – and globally, women face the most profound imbalances. At risk are the immense contributions to innovation that women around the world could make — if simply given the chance.

We are now in what The World Economic Forum calls the “4th Industrial Revolution,” an era built on technology that fuses digital, physical and biological worlds. It is imperative that women contribute to the planet’s sweeping transformation.

Imagine if women participated fully and their intellects, talents, and skills were fully used. Think of the products developed, technologies created, companies funded, and discoveries found. What answers would women find for the world’s most pressing problems?

Keep in mind women’s inventions to date: Marie Curie, winner of two Nobel Prizes, who discovered radioactivity, radium and polonium; Grace Hopper, who designed Harvard’s Mark I computer; and
Ann Tsukamoto, who isolated stem cells, a promising discovery that could lead to a cure for cancer.

Sadly, the numbers speak for themselves.

Globally, women are grossly underrepresented in scientific research and development (R&D). Catalyst, a global nonprofit that works to accelerate women’s workplace inclusion, reports that worldwide, females account for less than 29 percent of those employed in R&D. In America, which prides itself as possessing the worlds’ most advanced tech companies, women hold less than 25 percent of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

When women actually do work in the tech sector, retention is an issue; negative work experiences and a lack of support spur women to depart at alarming rates. Almost one-third of women in science, technology and engineering in the U.S. intend to leave their jobs within a year; it is worse in other parts of the world, as women in Brazil (22 percent) and India (20 percent) plan to quit during the same time period.

If one narrowly looks at the business case for gender, the argument is undeniable. Put simply, women boost the bottom line and add invaluable perspectives. According to a Morgan Stanley report that polled 108 tech firms, companies with a highly gender-diverse workforce grew 5.4 percent more revenue-wise per year.

Board representation matters too. Companies in every sector, not just tech, perform 5 percent better when they have just one woman on the board, according to Credit Suisse, which examined 3,000 companies. The Peterson Institute for International Economics noted that out of 22,000 firms surveyed globally in tech and other, 60 percent had no female board members. Norway, Latvia, Slovenia, and Bulgaria had only 20 percent female representation in board members and senior executives.

In developing countries, gender parity could enable greater self-sufficiency. Consider the recent visit of Google CEO Sundar Pichai to Nigeria and the promise that the company will train 10 million Nigerians in the next five years, ushering them into the digital economy, a lofty goal that would open more Africans to the global marketplace. What if half – five million — of the newly trained tech workers were women?

Dr. Unoma Okorafor, founder of the Nigerian-based foundation Working to Advance African Women (WAAW), is working across eight countries to increase the pipeline of females in tech. She believes that fostering gender parity is critical to poverty alleviation and Africa’s rapid development. “Technology can empower women who are currently working in agriculture or at home. Many entrepreneurs are women, however, they are excluded from the formal system,” she said.

Could a burgeoning tech sector wean these countries off foreign aid? If countries could train workers to think for themselves, Africa could change the narrative from aid to trade. “We could empower Africans to innovate for themselves,” said Okorafor, adding that this is part of the goal of attracting women to careers in STEM.

The problem is in training and retaining women leaders globally, but discrimination exists in the funding mechanism – venture capital (VC) — used to birth companies. In California’s Silicon Valley, where many of the world’s largest tech companies launched – Uber, Airbnb, Google, Facebook – women face obstacles in VC; in fact, women-led companies comprised less than 5 percent of all VC deals in 2016. Only 7 percent of partners at the leading 100 VC firms are women.

This summer’s avalanche of sexual harassment scandals at Uber and several prominent American venture capital firms have made global front-page news.

Unfortunately, for women in other countries, the story is also the same. In late July, the board of Kenyan software company Ushahidi fired Daudi Were, executive director, after an investigation of sexual harassment by a former employee. She published details online, recounting the disturbing impact of his actions. Eleven other women experienced similar incidents.

Access to capital is unmistakably powerful. Trish Costello, founder of Portfolia, a crowdfunding website that aims to create a new class of women investors, said that, “The goal is to design spaces that work for women in terms of investment vehicles. Men say that there are no female VCs and that is why there is a leaky pipeline, but that is not true.”

Ruchira Shukla, regional lead for South Asia for the venture capital arm of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), gave hopeful news: “The number of women entrepreneurs in the tech space is rising. These women will serve as role models,” adding that she is heartened by the women entrepreneurs she is seeing, especially as the IFC invested in a fund for female founders.

Recent discussions to raise women up are encouraging. Is it lip service? Across the tech industry, it is still a man’s world. It’s up to all of us – men and women – to change the rules. Innovation and the world’s future are at stake.

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peopleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/international-day-worlds-indigenous-peoples/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-day-worlds-indigenous-peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/international-day-worlds-indigenous-peoples/#respond Wed, 02 Aug 2017 13:59:55 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151547 Over the centuries, Indigenous peoples who have in-depth and locally rooted knowledge of the natural world , have been increasingly dispossessed of their lands, territories and resources and have lost control over their own way of life. Traditional indigenous lands and territories contain some 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity and indigenous peoples have […]

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International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 2 2017 (IPS)

Over the centuries, Indigenous peoples who have in-depth and locally rooted knowledge of the natural world , have been increasingly dispossessed of their lands, territories and resources and have lost control over their own way of life.

Traditional indigenous lands and territories contain some 80 per cent of the planet’s biodiversity and indigenous peoples have a crucial role in managing natural resources.

One of the root causes of poverty and marginalization of indigenous peoples is loss of control over their traditional lands, territories and natural resources.

Worldwide, indigenous peoples account for 5 per cent of the population, but represent 15 per cent of those living in poverty. Too often, they pay a price for being different and face discrimination.

Enabling indigenous peoples to overcome poverty requires supporting their efforts to shape and direct their own destinies and managing development initiatives crafted with that goal in mind. Their concept of poverty and development must reflect their own values, needs and priorities; they do not see poverty solely as the lack of income

Indigenous peoples have rich and ancient cultures and view their social, economic, environmental and spiritual systems as interdependent. Their traditional knowledge and understanding of ecosystem management are valuable contributions to the world’s heritage.

Indigenous languages are key to ensuring the continuation and transmission of the culture, customs and history that constitute the core parts of the heritage and identity of indigenous peoples. It is estimated that there are between 6,000 and 7,000 oral languages in the world today. A great majority of these languages are spoken by indigenous peoples, and many (if not most) of them are in danger of becoming extinct. One indigenous language dies every two weeks.

There are more than 370 million self-identified indigenous peoples in over 70 countries around the world. There are more than 400 groups in Latin America alone, each with a distinct language and culture. The biggest concentration of indigenous peoples, an estimated 70 per cent, live in Asia and the Pacific region.

On the Tenth Anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the IPS Inter Press Service and its partners call for the voices of the Indigenous Peoples to be heard and their rights respected.

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