Inter Press ServiceHuman Rights – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 20 Nov 2018 20:00:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 IOM Creates Emergency Safe Havens for Bangladesh’s Rohingya Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/iom-creates-emergency-safe-havens-bangladeshs-rohingya-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iom-creates-emergency-safe-havens-bangladeshs-rohingya-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/iom-creates-emergency-safe-havens-bangladeshs-rohingya-refugees/#respond Tue, 20 Nov 2018 16:22:59 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158761 Dozens of community buildings in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps have been upgraded by shelter teams from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, to provide temporary accommodation for refugees in emergency situations. Seventy buildings have now been completed under the first phase of the project, supported by the European Union (EU), offering temporary shelter space for over […]

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The block M24 (Camp 20) mosque is one of the community structures upgraded by IOM, with funding from ECHO, to provide temporary shelter for Rohingya refugees during emergencies. Photo: IOM

By International Organization for Migration
Cox’s Bazar, Nov 20 2018 (IOM)

Dozens of community buildings in Bangladesh’s Rohingya refugee camps have been upgraded by shelter teams from IOM, the UN Migration Agency, to provide temporary accommodation for refugees in emergency situations.

Seventy buildings have now been completed under the first phase of the project, supported by the European Union (EU), offering temporary shelter space for over 4,500 people.

The upgraded structures will allow IOM shelter and site management teams to provide better protection for refugees if they are affected by landslides, floods, bad weather or other unexpected events that force them to leave their own shelters.

Mohammed Nur, 36, a maji or community representative, said: “If weather conditions turn bad and storms destroy our shelters, people from our area will be able to stay here safely for a few days. It is a relief for all of us.”

In a second phase of community shelter upgrade work, to be funded by the United Kingdom, a further 100 buildings will undergo improvements. Once completed, the 170 strengthened structures will be able to accommodate 10,000 people with urgent shelter needs.

The facilities will also serve as a temporary accommodation for families whose shelters need to be repaired or completely re-built in the coming months, as the dry season offers a window of opportunity to tackle damage inflicted during the monsoon season.

“IOM and partners have provided over 100,000 households with materials to help them upgrade their own shelters. But weather and environmental conditions in the camps mean tens of thousands of families live with the knowledge that their shelters could be damaged or destroyed at any time,” said Manuel Pereira, IOM’s Emergency Coordinator in Cox’s Bazar.

“Ensuring we have secure and stable buildings in which people can safely take shelter if disaster strikes is hugely important under such circumstances. This project means that even though people are living in very uncertain conditions, if the worst happens, we are still able to offer them a safe haven.”

The EU funding was provided by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) under a consortium project implemented by IOM, the German Red Cross, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The Disaster Risk Reduction consortium was established to mitigate against disasters among refugee and local communities affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Almost a million Rohingya are currently living in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, after escaping violence in Myanmar, which surged in late August 2017 sending over 500,000 people fleeing across the border in just a few weeks. The region is prone to some of the worst monsoon conditions on earth and undergoes two cyclone seasons each year.

Most Rohingya live in what has become the largest refugee settlement in the world – a desperately overcrowded environment on ground prone to landslides and flooding. People living in local villages, where infrastructure has been severely overstretched since the arrival of so many people in a very short period, also face ongoing risk of environmental and other disasters.

For more information please contact Fiona MacGregor at IOM Cox’s Bazar. Email: fmacgregor@iom.int, Tel: +88 0 1733 33522

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UN Commemorates International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/un-commemorates-international-day-elimination-violence-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-commemorates-international-day-elimination-violence-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/un-commemorates-international-day-elimination-violence-women/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 16:16:14 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158738 Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Special Adviser to the President of Wellesley College on Women’s Leadership.

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Protesters gather at a candlelight vigil in New Delhi. Credit: Sujoy Dhar/IPS

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

“From the tuk tuk drivers in Cambodia… to the school children in South Africa, women and men and girls and boys are taking a stand to prevent violence against women,” says Executive Director of UN Women and Under Secretary General Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

On November 19, the UN marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at the Trusteeship Council Chambers at the UN Headquarters. It also commemorates the UN Secretary-General’s UNiTE Campaign to End Violence against Women.

One of the unique features of the commemoration is the UN’s commitment to the role of law enforcement in ending violence against women and girls in private and public spaces. This local-to-global focus at the UN will bring critical perspectives from the UN, Member States, and including for the first time, a local law enforcement agency – the New York Police Department (NYPD).

The “violence against women” movement is perhaps the greatest success story of international mobilization. However over 35 percent of women across the world face violence during their life in what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.”

Over one billion women experience gender – based violence in the world. Under Secretary General Mlambo-Ngcuka has pointed out that given the magnitude of this pandemic, if it was a disease, governments and scientists would be marshalling every resource to address it.

According to research led by a group of scholars at Stanford and Oxford universities, domestic violence costs 25 times more than conflict and violent extremism and exhausts 5.2 percent of global GDP.

Despite the stark and unyielding statistics, around the world, a new energy is bringing renewed commitments from heads of state and government leaders to address the different faces of violence against women.

Eighteen years ago, when I partnered with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences on a study on domestic violence in the outskirts of Beijing, violence against women in the domestic sphere was recognized only in terms of loss of limb or eyesight.

The broadening categories of domestic violence including the recognition of economic abuse as a category of violence is part of a second generation of domestic violence laws and is in full compliance with international norms such as the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (DEVAW).

Earlier in the year, Theresa May wrote to the Guardian, “Not all abusive behavior is physical. Controlling, manipulative and verbally abusive behavior ruins lives and means thousands end up isolated, living in fear. So, for the first time, the bill will provide a statutory definition of domestic abuse that includes economic abuse, alongside other non-physical abuse.”

While older laws on gender -based violence focused on punishment, the new crop of laws focus broadly on punishment and prevention.

For example, the newly passed “anti-violence against women” law in Tunisia (2017) makes it easier to prosecute domestic abuse, and it imposes penalties for sexual harassment in public spaces. Most importantly it calls for children to be educated in schools about human rights.

Another phenomenon of this “second generation” of gender-based violence laws is a heightened recognition of a victim- centered approach and the costs of violence on the survivor, in terms of physical, economic, psychological, social and familial.

Earlier in the year, New Zealand passed legislation granting victims of domestic violence 10 days paid leave to allow them to leave their partners, find new homes and protect themselves and their children. Family violence in New Zealand is estimated to cost the country between NZ$4.1bn and $7bn a year.

One of the critical components of the UNiTe campaign is the recognition that violence against women does not take place in a vacuum. As Secretary General Antonio Gutteres has confirmed: “Violence against women is fundamentally about power. It will only end when gender equality and the full empowerment of women will be a reality.”

Mlambo- Ngcuka harnesses the full panoply of international commitments in their full majestic entirety, including the recognition that gender parity and women’s leadership is critical to UNiTe campaign to end violence against women.

In doing so she marshals international norms, from General Recommendation 12 and 19 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the DEVAW and the Security Council Resolution 1325 and its progeny as normative and constitutive in combating violence against women.

From the HeforShe movement, which calls for male leadership in advancing women’s equality, Mlambo-Ngcuka is putting in motion a broader bedrock of structures to combat violence against women in order to address the root causes of gender inequality.

On November 19, we come together at an extraordinary moment of unprecedented momentum built by the #MeToo movement towards empowering women and achieving gender equality across the board and across the globe.

As envisioned 70 years ago, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognized that “contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind…” More must be done to recognize that these barbarous acts take place not only battlefields, but within hallowed halls of power, in the classrooms, in workplaces, including the paddy fields, and in our homes.

As stated in the UDHR, the commitment to end violence against women is a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. This common standard transcends culture, tradition, power or politics.

*Along with Richard Liu of MSNBC, Rangita de Silva de Alwis will be moderating the UN’s Commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women at the UN Trusteeship Council on November 19.

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Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis* is Associate Dean of International Affairs at the University of Pennsylvania Law School & Special Adviser to the President of Wellesley College on Women’s Leadership.

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Teenage Pregnancy in Kenya: A Crisis of Health, Education and Opportunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/teenage-pregnancy-kenya-crisis-health-education-opportunity/#respond Mon, 19 Nov 2018 10:50:36 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158723 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Education CS Amina Mohamed chats with form four candidates of Mama Ngina Secondary School a few minutes before KCSE exams. Credit: Standard

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 19 2018 (IPS)

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

November 20, 2018 marks International Children’s Day. Perhaps a day we should use to reflect on a national crisis of underage pregnancies that confronts us.

Recent media reports of the high number of girls failing to sit their final secondary school examinations (KSCE) only reveal the extent to which we have continued to sweep under the carpet candid discussions about adolescent sexuality.

Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary, Amina Mohamed said that the country must confront this worrying trend. “We must have this conversation. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It is happening to our children, our sisters, and even our young brothers. We will deal with it or it will not go away”. No doubt CS Mohamed has a tough job ahead.

Consider this. Statistics from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) indicate that between June 2016 and July 2017, 378,397 adolescents in Kenya aged 10 to 19 got pregnant.

The carpet’s edges are now too frayed to conceal our failure to act; we no longer can afford the blissful pretence about sexual activity among our teenagers. Nor can the responsibility for decisive solutions be shunted around.

Numerous studies have documented the fact that a high number of teens are already sexually active. These young girls are part of the four in ten women in Kenya aged between 15 and 49 who have unintended pregnancies. There can be no illusions about what they need: accurate, up-to-date information and access to effective contraception.

It is time to take a wholesome picture of the social and economic price society is paying when 15 percent of its teenage girls become pregnant. For virtually all of them – and statistics say majority are from poor families – it means an end to any dreams of coming out of poverty because they cannot continue with education.

Complications during pregnancy are the second cause of death for 15 to 19-year-old girls, therefore it means their already poor families have additional health care costs to meet. Children born to such young mothers are more prone to physical and cognitive development.

The overall effect is a perpetuation of the cycle of poverty that brings personal catastrophe while weakening social and economic development and adding strain to already stretched medical services.

In reproductive health, as in most things, knowledge is power. But across sub-Saharan Africa too many teenage girls lack knowledge of their bodies, their contraceptive options, and their rights. The notion of rights is central.

As the UNFPA report The Power of Choice states, in countries where rights to health, education and opportunity prevail, fertility rates tend to be lower. Through exercising their wider rights, people exercise choice about the timing and number of their children.

The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2014 that shows girls who have completed secondary education have an average of three children in their lifetimes compared to an average 6.5 for those with no education. Additionally, around 60% of girls who have completed primary and secondary school use some form of modern contraception compared to only 15% of those with no education.

That almost one in five Kenyan teenage girls is a mother represents not only a huge cost to the health sector, but also a betrayal of potential on a shocking scale.

“The girl child in this country is under threat from all manner of vices, including early pregnancy and female genital mutilation and many other kinds of nonsense that affect our communities. These things have no basis for the development of our country” said the Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto.

The underlying drivers of teenage pregnancy are complex and include gender inequality, child marriage, poverty, sexual violence, and poor education and job opportunities. To be successful, efforts to reduce the incidence of teenage pregnancy must address all these elements through comprehensive programmes of behaviour change, social and economic development, health and sex education, reproductive rights, and gender equality.

Crucially, such efforts must also include boys and men, whose attitude to girls and women underpin many pervasive social problems in Kenya and across the world.

Reproductive rights and health are also central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being for all ages.

As the UN family in Kenya we are working in partnership with government, civil society, religious and youth groups to extend access to sexual and reproductive health information, counselling and services for young people. We intend to step this up.

Three years ago, Kenya launched the Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Policy. Unless bold decisions are made to implement that policy, pregnancies among our youth will continue to be a wrecking ball to the national development agenda particularly the Big Four and the SDGs.

In order for every girl to achieve her full human potential, how can the entire country be engaged to initiate a change in mindset in Kenya? How can a national conversation on this subject be leveraged into national action?

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Excerpt:

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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IOM Launches ‘Holding On’ Campaign: A Virtual Reality Experience of Internal Displacementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/iom-launches-holding-campaign-virtual-reality-experience-internal-displacement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iom-launches-holding-campaign-virtual-reality-experience-internal-displacement http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/iom-launches-holding-campaign-virtual-reality-experience-internal-displacement/#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 14:41:47 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158709 Marking the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) launched the ‘Holding On’ digital campaign yesterday (15/11) to raise awareness of the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and celebrate their courage and resilience. Holding On showcases the stories of internally displaced persons by asking them to reflect […]

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Holding On VR exhibitions have been held in ten locations around the world since July. The Holding On digital campaign launched yesterday. Credit: IOM

By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Nov 16 2018 (IOM)

Marking the 20th anniversary of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) launched the ‘Holding On’ digital campaign yesterday (15/11) to raise awareness of the plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and celebrate their courage and resilience.

Holding On showcases the stories of internally displaced persons by asking them to reflect on their most cherished possessions. Global audiences can now share these stories on social media via the #HoldingOn hashtag. They can also sign a petition that calls on states to respect and advance the Guiding Principles, which Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs, will use in her work.

The Guiding Principles serve as the global standard for States regarding the protection and assistance of internally displaced persons. Displaced within the borders of their own countries, IDPs are among the world’s most neglected – often denied access to education, employment, safe accommodation and other human rights.

Twenty years on, internal displacement continues unabated around the world with 40 million people displaced in their own countries by conflict and violence as of December 2017, which accounts for 62 per cent of all conflict-induced displacement. The number of IDPs has nearly doubled since 2000, increasing sharply over the last five years. In addition, a further estimated 26 million people are displaced annually due to natural disasters.

“Internally displaced people have left their homes on their own. They don’t have anything other than what they’re carrying. Our exhibition shows people who just walked out with a t-shirt or only holding their children in their arms…That’s all they have,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies in the United Nations podcast, A Way Home Together: Stories of the Human Journey.

The items IDPs carry with them when they flee often become physical representations of a world that has since disappeared. As simple as a camera, t-shirt or small bird, these items represent symbols of struggle and hope.

“This camera carries a lot of memories. I used it to take pictures of my children at home. We used to go north to picnic and these cameras were always with us. We took pictures and video footage that I still keep as memories,” said Moafaq, displaced in an emergency site in Iraq.

Tetiana and Volodymyr Ziangirov, internally displaced in Ukraine, reminisced, “The crib is 23+ years old now. My two elder daughters grew up in it. My best memories are associated with this crib.”

The exhibition’s virtual reality (VR) films reanimate the lives of IDPs in Colombia, Iraq, Nigeria, the Philippines and Ukraine. Since July 2018, IOM has held ten exhibitions around the world including in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Djibouti.

Conventional videos that do not require VR glasses, as well as feature and photo stories, are now available on the campaign’s website, allowing people an intimate view into the lives of others who remain displaced.

Upcoming exhibitions will be held during the IOM Council in Geneva between 27-30 November, the opening ceremony of the Global Migration Film Festival (GMFF) in Geneva on 28 November, and on International Migrants Day in Cairo on 18 December.

For more information please contact Angela Wells at IOM Headquarters in Geneva, Tel: +41 22 717 9 435, Email: awells@iom.int

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Rohingya Protest Against Return to Myanmar and Halt Repatriationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rohingya-protest-return-myanmar-halt-repatriation/#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 08:37:00 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158693 Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar. The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. […]

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Rohingya refugees protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against their voluntary repatriation to Myanmar. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

By Naimul Haq
COX'S BAZAR/DHAKA, Nov 16 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of Rohingya refugees in camps in Cox’s Bazar, the southern-most coastal district in Bangladesh, protested on Thursday, Nov. 15, against an attempt to send them back to Myanmar.
The voluntary repatriation was scheduled to begin Thursday as per a bilateral agreement reached at the end of October between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh. They had agreed to the repatriation of 2,260 people from 485 families at the rate of 150 people per day over 15 days. However plans for repatriations were postponed in the face of massive demonstrations which started Thursday in several of the 27 camps that now host over a million refugees.

Men, women and even children began protesting soon after midday at one of the smaller camps in Unchiprang near the Myanmar border and protests soon spread across other camps, including the biggest camp Kutupalong.

They chanted slogans and waved placards that read—‘We won’t go back,’ ‘We demand safety,’ ‘We want citizenship,’ ‘We demand justice,’—as rows of buses arrived outside Unchiprang camp. The buses were to transport refugees some 15km from Cox’s Bazar to the Bangladesh border of Gundum, from where they would have been taken to Tumbru in Myanmar.

Bangladesh officials in charge of repatriation waited outside the camp asking the families to board the buses but none were willing.

Since last August, more than 700,000 Rohingya—some 60 percent of whom where children, according to the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF)—fled atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state into Bangladesh.

Many still carry fresh memories of their experiences, which include rape, sexual violence and the torching of homes with people still inside.

“Why should we return?” shouted Nahar, a 26-year-old mother of three who arrived last July. She said that returning to Myanmar means going to a death camp.
Yousuf Ali, a resident of neighbouring Shamlapur camp said, “You want us to commit suicide?” A fellow refugee from Jamtoli camp said, “There is no guarantee that we would survive once we return.”

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people.

Mohammad Abul Kalam, Bangladesh’s Refugee, Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner, and also a magistrate attached with Cox’s Bazar district office, told IPS, “We were prepared for the repatriation. Earlier we had sought a voluntary decision and made informed choices on the return of the refugees. No one responded with the decision to return home in Myanmar and so we had to postpone the programme.”

On Tuesday, 50 of the identified families selected for return, were interviewed by the U.N. to find out whether families agreed to return. None agreed, according to Kalam.

“They refused to go now but we remain prepared to facilitate their return home. Our counterpart from Myanmar was also present on the other side of the border … So far we know Myanmar had also taken all preparations for the much-expected repartition [that was] to start today,” Kalam said.

The government of Bangladesh along with local and international aid organisations and U.N. agencies, have been working together to provide shelter, medical services, schooling and food to almost one million people. Credit: Mohammad Mojibur Rahman/IPS

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet this week urged Bangladesh to halt the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar, saying the move would violate international laws. “With an almost complete lack of accountability — indeed with ongoing violations — returning Rohingya refugees to Myanmar at this point effectively means throwing them back into the cycle of human rights violations that this community has been suffering for decades,” Bachelet said.

In October chair of the U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, said that the Myanmar government’s “hardened positions are by far the greatest obstacle” to repatriation. He had also said, “Myanmar is destined to repeat the cycles of violence unless there is an end to impunity.” The U.N. has called the full investigation into genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine State.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali briefed the media on Thursday evening in the capital Dhaka, saying that Bangladesh would not forcibly return Rohingyas to Myanmar.
“There have been campaigns [saying] that the Bangladesh government is sending them back forcibly. From the beginning we have been saying that it will be a voluntary return. There is no question of forcible repatriation. We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?” he said.

Mia Seppo, U.N. resident coordinator in Dhaka, told reporters at the joint press conference that, “The U.N. actually welcomes the commitment of the government of Bangladesh to stick to the principle of voluntary repatriation, which has been demonstrated today.”

Abu Morshed Chowdhury, President of Cox’s Bazar Chamber of Commerce and co-chair of Cox’s Bazar Civil Society NGO Forum, told IPS, “There were some flaws in the plans for the Rohingya repatriation. How can the refugees return, even if it’s voluntary, without ensuring their citizenship? The U.N. agencies have the responsibility to ensure this.”
He added that U.N. should have “been more active in their roles to allow smooth repatriation.”

Rezaul Karim Chouwhury, Executive Director of COAST Bangladesh, one of the leading NGOs working to address the Rohingya crisis also echoed the same concerns.

“There were flaws in the plans too, because we know that sooner or later the Rohingyas have to return to settle back. The bilateral agreement paved the way for the initiation of the repatriation and rehabilitation but the key players (international) in my opinion have not been so active,” he told IPS.

Caroline Gluck, Senior Public Information Officer, U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Cox’s Bazar, told IPS that every refugee has the right to freely decide their own future and the right to return.  Their decisions should be based on relevant and reliable knowledge of the conditions within the country of origin.

“Access restrictions in Rakhine State currently limit UNHCR’s ability to provide such information. Only refugees themselves can make the decision to exercise their right to return and when they feel the time is right for them. It is critical that returns are not rushed or premature,” she said. She added that the UNHCR supported the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of Rohingya refugees in safety and dignity to their places of origin or choice.

“We will work with all parties towards this goal. However, we do not believe that current conditions are conducive to returns in line with international standards. The responsibility for creating these conditions lies with Myanmar.”

*Additional Reporting by Mohammed Mojibur Rahman in Cox’s Bazar

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Mexico-US migration: What can data tell us?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/mexico-us-migration-can-data-tell-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexico-us-migration-can-data-tell-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/mexico-us-migration-can-data-tell-us/#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 10:37:29 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158683 Douglas Massey, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, shares his views on data and migration between the US and Mexico. This interview took place during first International Forum on Migration Statistics, organized by OECD, IOM and UN DESA between 15-16 January 2018.

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By International Organization for Migration
Nov 15 2018 (IOM)

Douglas Massey, Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University, shares his views on data and migration between the US and Mexico. This interview took place during first International Forum on Migration Statistics, organized by OECD, IOM and UN DESA between 15-16 January 2018.

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Women Make the Voice of Indigenous People Heard in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/women-make-voice-indigenous-people-heard-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-make-voice-indigenous-people-heard-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/women-make-voice-indigenous-people-heard-argentina/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 21:38:52 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158673 The seed was planted more than 20 years ago by a group of indigenous women who began to gather to try to recover memories from their people. Today, women are also the main protagonists of La Voz Indígena (The Indigenous Voice), a unique radio station in northern Argentina that broadcasts every day in seven languages. […]

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Do the bells toll for Rohingyas?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bells-toll-rohingyas/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bells-toll-rohingyas http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bells-toll-rohingyas/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 11:03:58 +0000 C R Abrar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158662 Mid-November has arrived and insecurity and uncertainty have descended over Rohingya refugees in Ukhia and Teknaf. The impending deadline has also elicited expressions of deep concern from UN independent experts and rights organisations. After much foot-dragging on flimsy grounds, the Burmese authorities finally approved a list of about 2,000 Rohingyas for repatriation. On October 30, […]

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Smoke is seen billowing on the Myanmar border as Rohingya refugees walk on the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip. PHOTO: REUTERS

By C R Abrar
Nov 14 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Mid-November has arrived and insecurity and uncertainty have descended over Rohingya refugees in Ukhia and Teknaf. The impending deadline has also elicited expressions of deep concern from UN independent experts and rights organisations.

After much foot-dragging on flimsy grounds, the Burmese authorities finally approved a list of about 2,000 Rohingyas for repatriation. On October 30, Bangladeshi and Burmese authorities agreed to begin the long-awaited repatriation process in mid-November.

The failure of the Burmese authorities to create an enabling condition for the refugees to return is the foremost factor behind the call for a halt to any repatriation at this stage. No meaningful change has occurred in the Burmese state’s policy towards the Rohingya people. The demand for restoration of citizenship rights has gone unheeded; Rohingyas are still not recognised as a national ethnic group; the discriminatory legal and administrative apparatuses that were set up over the decades creating an apartheid-like situation remain intact; their land and properties remain confiscated by the state or have been given away to Buddhist Rakhines; those who committed heinous crimes against the Rohingyas continue to remain in command positions and enjoy absolute impunity; escorted by the law enforcement agencies, the ultra-nationalist Buddhist vigilantes still dominate the streets of Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung; Rohingyas in internally displaced camps continue to perish slowly for lack of food, potable water, medicine and livelihood opportunities; and the Kofi Annan recommendations, the much-celebrated and cited panacea for Rohingya salvation, continue to gather dust.

It is no surprise that the news of impending repatriation has hit the Rohingya community in Bangladesh hard. The assurances of the Bangladesh government that no one will be forced to return against their wish and that the UN refugee agency will be engaged in ascertaining the voluntariness of returnees have done little to assuage the concerns of these traumatised people. A Reuters report (November 9, 2018) documents the reaction of 20 of the 2,000 Rohingyas whose names have appeared in the first list for repatriation. Abdur Rahim, 47, who owned two acres of land in Arakan, emphatically says: “I’ll just consume poison if I am forced to go back,” and goes on to demand, “What is the guarantee that we will not be persecuted again?” His apprehension resonates in the statement of Nur Kaida, 25. She says it “would be better to die in the camps rather than go back and get killed or raped.”

Last week dozens of Rohingyas were apprehended by the Bangladesh Coast Guards while attempting to go to Malaysia through the maritime route. For some the dangerous sea route would be worth the risk to avert repatriation to the killing fields of Arakan. Mohammad Wares, 75, one of those whose name appeared in the list, asserts it is better than going back. “Why are they sending us back?” he asks. Poignantly, he proposes, “They may as well throw us into the sea.”

Instead of creating a congenial condition for Rohingyas’ return, on November 8, the Director General of Asean Affairs of Burma’s foreign ministry claimed that 54 of 6,472 Rohingyas on a list provided by Bangladesh authorities had been identified as having been involved in “terrorism”. He did not specify the type, timing or location of the alleged terrorist activities. The DG further noted that his country sent a list of terrorists to Bangladesh with a request to take action against them. If they are sent back, they would “have to take action against them according to the law,” he said. Thus it is clear, on the one hand, that Burma is presenting to the world that it is serious about taking back the Rohingyas, while on the other, it has not only failed to create the minimum conditions for Rohingyas’ return but is engaged in subterfuges to undermine any meaningful repatriation.

Instead of promoting inter-communal harmony to facilitate refugees’ return, the Burmese government has been engaged in a relentless campaign to present Rohingyas as terrorists. On October 26, Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, a pro-military think tank in Yangon, hosted a seminar that was attended by Rick Heizman, a controversial American activist whose anti-Muslim views have made him popular with the Burmese nationalists. Earlier in September, Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent United Nations agencies and at least one foreign aid group web links to a recent film by Heizman that claims Rakhine State is the target of an Islamic plot to destroy Buddhism.

In shoring up the Burmese government’s implicit agenda to deny Rohingyas their rightful claims in Arakan, on November 4, in Akyab, the capital of Burma’s western state of Arakan, Buddhist protesters held a rally opposing repatriation of the Rohingyas and the latter’s claim to residence in the state. Earlier on October 14, the military-backed Buddhist monk Wirathu at a rally in Yangon attacked Rohingyas as “terrorists” and declared that he would take up arms to oppose any UN or international “interference”. Last week leaders of Arakan National Party (ANP), the dominant political party of ethnic Rakhines, informed visiting US diplomats that returning Rohingya refugees will not be placed in the northern Maungdaw district region, their ancestral land. “This proposal was approved by the Rakhine state parliament as well,” said the secretary of ANP.

The duplicity of the Burmese regime is also obvious in the case involving seven Rohingyas who were deported by India in early October. The Indian Supreme Court refused to intervene in the matter after it was convinced by the Indian central government that Burma had accepted the refugees as citizens and had agreed to take them back. However, the men were denied citizenship and the Burmese government compelled them to accept national verification cards. Thus, there is little reason to believe that Burma would treat the Rohingyas who return from Bangladesh any differently under present conditions.

Independent experts have also counselled against any repatriation at this stage. On October 24 at the Security Council, Marzuki Darusman, chair of the UN Independent International Fact Finding Mission on Burma, described the persecution and the killing of Rohingyas as “slow burning genocide” as well as “ongoing genocide”. Another independent UN human rights expert, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma Yanghee Lee, on November 6 urged a halt to the “rushed plans” to repatriate Rohingya refugees on grounds of a lack of guarantee that the refugees wouldn’t face persecution if they returned home.

It is under such dismal conditions that on November 9, 42 humanitarian and civil society agencies working in Arakan and in Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh expressed their anxiety about the prospect of any repatriation efforts at this stage. They assert that facilitating repatriation would be premature in conditions where refugees continue to flee Burma and note that refugees’ return to conditions of confinement with no freedom of movement or access to services and livelihood is likely to be permanent. The last thing the refugees want is to live in a situation of 128,000 of fellow Rohingyas and other Muslims who have been incarcerated in central Arakan state over the last six years.

Reports inform that both Bangladesh and Burma were exhorted to begin the repatriation process by some powerful states of the region who have significant interests in shielding the Burmese regime from mounting international criticism of committing mass atrocities, including crimes against humanity and genocide. A token repatriation of a few thousand Rohingyas would be a convenient excuse for them to claim that the bilateral solution is gaining traction and thus there is little role for the international community in the Rohingya affair. Surely, the scenario merits prudent consideration.

While the commitment of the international community in addressing the root cause of Rohingyas’ plight has been severely wanting, Bangladesh stands tall by extending its continued support to the refugees. The prime ministerial pledge to this effort has been consistent and unequivocal. As a follow-up to her 2017 statement to the UN General Assembly session, in which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called for the creation of a “safe zone”, in 2018 she publicly affirmed her country’s commitment not to return Rohingya refugees to Burma until the conditions are conducive including “guaranteeing protection, rights, and a pathway to citizenship for all Rohingyas” (statement at the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2018). There is compelling evidence to argue such conditions do not exist now.

CR Abrar teaches international relations at the University of Dhaka.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Trump’s Anti-Media Rhetoric Resonates Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/trumps-anti-media-rhetoric-resonates-worldwide/#comments Wed, 14 Nov 2018 07:44:05 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158659 A former French president once remarked: Never pick a fight with a little kid or the press. The kid will throw the last stone at you and the press will have the last word. But that obviously does not apply to a teflon-coated Donald Trump because nothing apparently sticks on him – even as he […]

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

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14 2018 (IPS)

A former French president once remarked: Never pick a fight with a little kid or the press. The kid will throw the last stone at you and the press will have the last word.

But that obviously does not apply to a teflon-coated Donald Trump because nothing apparently sticks on him – even as he survives a barrage of criticisms from the mainstream media while he continues to utter falsehoods and mouth blatant lies.

As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan never said: Trump may be entitled to his own opinions but not to his own facts.

The leader of the free world, according to some critics, is fast emulating the authoritarian lifestyle of a tin pot third world dictator.

At a highly confrontational press conference last week, Trump lashed out at Jim Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for Cable News Network (CNN) for his sharp questioning of the US president– specifically on Trump’s deliberate mischaracterizations of the Central American migrant caravan.

As a result, the White House, in an unprecedented move, suspended Acosta’s press credentials while also threatening to blacklist other reporters —including Peter Alexander of National Broadcasting Company (NBC), April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks and Yamiche Alcindor of Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)– “if they did not treat the White House with respect”.

Trump’s decision is a violation of the basic right of journalists to cover the government. He characterized one reporter as “very nasty” and dismissed another reporter for asking “a stupid question”.

But Trump’s authoritarian tactics and his hostility towards the mainstream media—dismissing negative stories as “fake news” – are increasingly influencing other right wing and dictatorial leaders, including in the Philippines, Hungary, Egypt, Myanmar, Turkey, China, Poland and Syria, who are following in his footsteps.

Barbara Crossette, a former New York Times UN Bureau Chief, told IPS “it isn’t only authoritarian regimes that may be taking heart from Trump — in fact it may be the other way around.”

She said Trump admires their strong-man behavior. And more democracies are also putting journalists and intellectuals in many fields into harm’s way, she added.

Maria Ressa is right now under extreme pressure and legal threats in the Philippines, and in India, which prides itself on its democratic credentials, journalists and academics have been threatened, assaulted and in some cases killed by extreme Hindu nationalist mobs spawned in a way very similar to Trump’s unleashing of white supremacists.

Among the victims killed in India was Gauri Lankesh, an internationally known journalist who had been critical of the Hindu nationalists, said Crossette, who was a former New York Times chief correspondent for South and Southeast Asia.

CNN, which has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for the suspension of Acosta’s press credentials, said “if left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers elected officials.”

In a statement released November 13, CNN demanded the return of Acosta’s credentials arguing that “the wrongful revocation of these credentials violates CNN and Acosta’s First Amendment rights of freedom of the press, and their Fifth Amendment rights to due process.”

Zeke Johnson, senior director of programs at Amnesty International USA, told IPS Trump’s contempt for the press and his decision to bar certain reporters from the White House not only is an affront to the right to free speech, and anathema to good governance, but also sends a dangerous signal to other leaders.

“We have seen governments around the world try to silence journalists just for reporting on uncomfortable truths or expressing a difference of opinion from the ruling power,” he pointed out.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been imprisoned in Myanmar for nearly a year for exposing crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.

Johnson said President Erdogan of Turkey has a history of shutting down outlets and imprisoning journalists. Trump’s actions are especially galling coming so recently after the horrifying disappearance and murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“While Khashoggi’s case may be an extreme example of the dangers reporters face, Trump’s insistence that reporters show him deference or face consequences only emboldens those who see a free press as a threat to authoritarian rule.”

Courtney Radsch, Advocacy Director at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said journalists should be able to do their job without fear that a tough series of questions will provoke retaliation.

“The White House should immediately reinstate Jim Acosta’s press pass, and refrain from punishing reporters by revoking their access–that’s not how a free press works.”

“In the current climate, we hope President Trump will stop insulting and denigrating reporters and media outlets, it’s making journalists feel unsafe,” added Radsch.

Meanwhile, in a New York Times piece last week, Megan Specia pointed out how Trump’s words have justified aggressive and undemocratic actions by several political leaders worldwide.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly invoked “fake news” to denounce his critics. So has Poland’s right wing government.

Responding to an Amnesty International report on thousands of deaths in Syrian prisons, President Bashar al-Assad was quoted as saying: “You can forge anything these days. We are living in a fake news era.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Bangladesh’s Largest Job Site, UN Migration Agency Partner to Combat Unethical Recruitment Practiceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bangladeshs-largest-job-site-un-migration-agency-partner-combat-unethical-recruitment-practices/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bangladeshs-largest-job-site-un-migration-agency-partner-combat-unethical-recruitment-practices http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/bangladeshs-largest-job-site-un-migration-agency-partner-combat-unethical-recruitment-practices/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 12:57:58 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158654 The UN Migration Agency (IOM) is partnering with Bangladesh’s largest online job portal Bdjobs.com Ltd. to provide the latest information to job seekers on overseas employment opportunities and connect them directly with employers. The two agencies on Sunday (11/11) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a new online portal that expects to go live […]

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IOM and Bdjobs.com officials sign a Memorandum of Understanding to better inform overseas job seekers. Photo: IOM

By International Organization for Migration
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Nov 13 2018 (IOM)

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) is partnering with Bangladesh’s largest online job portal Bdjobs.com Ltd. to provide the latest information to job seekers on overseas employment opportunities and connect them directly with employers. The two agencies on Sunday (11/11) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create a new online portal that expects to go live within six months.

In Bangladesh, every year nearly two million people join the working age population, while only 200,000 jobs are created locally. This phenomenon, coupled with pull factors – including peer influence, expectations of higher income and the perceived social status attached to living abroad – often lead working age people to migrate for jobs overseas.

But prospective migrants frequently find themselves misled by middlemen when it comes to signing to contracts and confronting working and living conditions different from what they were promised in some destination countries. Some job seekers even become victims of human trafficking and end up facing extreme exploitation and abuse.

IOM has been working closely with the Government of Bangladesh, recruiting agencies as well as with public and private stakeholders to reduce the vulnerability of job-seeking migrants during their journeys. For a decade, IOM has promoted a rights-based approach and integration of migration into Bangladesh’s national development agenda.

“Overseas opportunities, job requirements and the terms and conditions of their employment are the bare minimum that migrants should know to make conscious choices,” said IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Giorgi Gigauri. “It is their basic right and it is very important that stakeholders go beyond business as usual and play a responsible role in protecting migrant workers.”

“Credible information platforms need to become more accessible, not only to potential migrants, but also migrants living abroad and those willing to re-migrate,” he added.

“The changing market dynamics are driving us to focus more on technical jobs, which are filled by a large number of migrant workers,” said Bdjobs.com CEO AKM Fahim Mashroor. “We believe this initiative will definitely help migrant workers to get more accurate and timely job information for safe and regular migration.”

The new online job portal, which will be developed with support from the IOM Development Fund, will have some unique features particularly designed for Bangladeshi migrant workers.

The android app will offer Bangla/English language preferences and will allow jobseekers to create profiles with information required by the Bangladesh Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) – the agency responsible for authorizing work permits for Bangladeshi migrants.

Profiles will also be integrated with a search engine through which government, foreign missions, employers and recruiting agencies will be able to identify suitable candidates.

For more information please contact Chowdhury Asif Mahmud Bin Harun at IOM Bangladesh, Email: mbinharun@iom.int, Tel. +880 1755509476.

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Climate of Repression a Dark Cloud over Upcoming Elections in Fijihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/climate-repression-dark-cloud-upcoming-elections-fiji/#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 12:45:58 +0000 Josef Benedict http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158651 Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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A semi-submerged graveyard on Togoru, Fiji. The island states in the South Pacific are most vulnerable for sealevel rise and extreme weather. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Josef Benedict
JOHANNESBURG, Nov 13 2018 (IPS)

Powdery white beaches. Crystal clear turquoise water. Palm trees swaying in the breeze.

This is the postcard picture of paradise that comes to mind when tourists think of Fiji. But for many citizens of the South Pacific’s largest island nation, and its media, the reality is anything but blissful.

And the repressive climate in which elections are about to take place serves to highlight the decline in democracy there in recent years.

In fact, since incumbent Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama seized power a coup in 2006, Fijians have seen their civic freedoms increasingly restricted through repressive laws and policies.

The CIVICUS Monitor, an online platform that tracks threats to civil society across the globe, says these restrictions have also created a chilling effect within Fijian media and civil society.

Voters in this country of 900,000 people go to the polls on November 14 in the second national elections since the return to parliamentary democracy in 2014. But given the state of afffairs, serious questions have been raised about the poll’s legitimacy.

Bainimarama’s FijiFirst government took the reins democratically following the 2014 vote – after eight years of ruling by decree. To hold on to power, Bainimarama has tried to muzzle the media and any criticism.

For several years after the coup, a regime of heavy censorship was imposed, where officially-appointed censors roamed newsrooms, deciding what could and could not be published.

In 2010, the government introduced a media decree that imposed excessive restrictions on the right to freedom of expression with hefty penalties. It also barred foreign investors from owning more than 10 percent of a Fijian media outlet.

That law has since become a noose around the neck of the media sector, giving the authorities the license to imprison journalists or bankrupt editors, publishers and news organisations.

Three years ago, the noose tightened when the decree was amended to prohibit the airing of local content including news by subscription-based television services. Early this year, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein raised concerns about this law saying it “has the effect of inhibiting investigative journalism and coverage of issues that are deemed sensitive, as well as discouraging a plurality of views.”

Some outlets have tried to challenge the official suppression and paid for it. In 2012, The Fiji Times, one of the very few independent news outlets that has refused to toe the government line, and its editor-in-chief, Fred Wesley, were found guilty of contempt of court for reprinting an article first published in New Zealand, that criticised Fiji’s judiciary.

Four years later, four Fiji Times officials, including Wesley, were charged with sedition for a letter published in the weekly vernacular Nai Lalakai newspaper, that authorities found to contain inflammatory views about Muslims.

This, even though the letter was not written by any Fiji Times staff. Human rights groups believe the charges were politically motivated. Despite the judicial harassment, they were acquitted by the Fiji High Court in May 2018.

The sedition law has also been used by the Fijian authorities to target opposition politicians. In March, the Fiji United Freedom Party’s former leader, Jagath Karunaratne and former opposition parliamentarian, Mosese Bulitavu were convicted of spray painting anti-government slogans in 2011 – charges they have denied. Both were sentenced to almost two and a half years in prison.

The government has also in recent years tried to systemically weaken the power of trade unions, which has a strong voting bloc. Felix Anthony, the Fiji Trade Union Congress (FTUC) National Secretary, has blasted Bainimarama for preaching respect for human rights and painting a picture of Fiji for the international community that is in stark contrast to the reality on the ground.

Anthony has accused the government of ignoring workers’ collective bargaining rights and imposing individual contracts on civil servants, teachers, nurses and other workers in direct violation of labour laws and international conventions that Fiji has ratified. Over the last year, the trade union has been denied permission to hold peaceful marches on at least three occasions, without a valid reason.

Fiji’s draconian laws have compelled civil society organisations (CSOs) to tread carefully, fueling frustration at a narrow civic space and the suppression of dissenting voices. Nevertheless, rights groups have continued bravely to organize and demand reforms and accountability for rights violations.

While CSOs often play a crucial role in election preparations and promoting participatory democratic culture in many countries, this is not the case in Fiji. A 2014 Electoral Decree, which does not allow any CSO that receives foreign funding “to engage in, participate in or conduct any campaign, including organising debates, public forum, meetings, interviews, panel discussions, or publishing any material that is related to the election”, has effectively barred civil society participation in elections.

Clearly unjustified, this ban is a violation of freedom of expression and undermines civil society, a key pillar of any democratic society.

Despite these worrying restrictions, Fiji was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in October 2018 for a three-year term. Among its commitments was that Fiji ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – a treaty that clearly outlines legal obligations to respect and protect the right to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association. Demonstrated respect for these rights must begin with the upcoming elections and upheld by the winning party after it.

The next administration must take steps not only to ratify all human rights treaties but to ensure that all laws and decrees – such as the sedition and media laws – are revised or repealed to keep national legislation in step with international human rights law and standards.

Law enforcement officials, such as the police, who are seen to be controlled the executive, must be re-trained to ensure that they operate independently, respect the right to free speech and assembly and allow peaceful protests.

The incoming administration must take steps to foster a safe, respectful and enabling environment for civil society and swiftly remove measures that limit their right to participate in elections.

During the pledging event by candidate states to the UNHRC in Geneva in September, Fiji’s representative at council, Nazhat Shameem, committed to giving the South Pacific region a voice in world’s main human rights body.

A lofty promise for a government not in the habit of giving voice to interests beyond its own. Fiji should start by allowing its own citizens to speak out and express themselves at home, without fear of reprisals.

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Excerpt:

Josef Benedict is a civic space research officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Aung San Suu Kyi stripped of Amnesty’s highest honorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/aung-san-suu-kyi-stripped-amnestys-highest-honor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aung-san-suu-kyi-stripped-amnestys-highest-honor http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/aung-san-suu-kyi-stripped-amnestys-highest-honor/#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 19:31:47 +0000 Amnesty International http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158648 Amnesty International announced today that it has withdrawn its highest honor, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, from Aung San Suu Kyi, in light of the Myanmar leader’s shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for. On 11 November, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi to inform her the […]

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By Amnesty International
Nov 12 2018 (Amnesty International)

Amnesty International announced today that it has withdrawn its highest honor, the Ambassador of Conscience Award, from Aung San Suu Kyi, in light of the Myanmar leader’s shameful betrayal of the values she once stood for.

On 11 November, Amnesty International’s Secretary General Kumi Naidoo wrote to Aung San Suu Kyi to inform her the organization is revoking the 2009 award. Half way through her term in office, and eight years after her release from house arrest, Naidoo expressed the organization’s disappointment that she had not used her political and moral authority to safeguard human rights, justice or equality in Myanmar, citing her apparent indifference to atrocities committed by the Myanmar military and increasing intolerance of freedom of expression.

“As an Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience, our expectation was that you would continue to use your moral authority to speak out against injustice wherever you saw it, not least within Myanmar itself,” wrote Kumi Naidoo.

“Today, we are profoundly dismayed that you no longer represent a symbol of hope, courage, and the undying defense of human rights. Amnesty International cannot justify your continued status as a recipient of the Ambassador of Conscience award and so with great sadness we are hereby withdrawing it from you.”

Perpetuating human rights violations

Since Aung San Suu Kyi became the de facto leader of Myanmar’s civilian-led government in April 2016, her administration has been actively involved in the commission or perpetuation of multiple human rights violations.

Amnesty International has repeatedly criticized the failure of Aung San Suu Kyi and her government to speak out about military atrocities against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State, who have lived for years under a system of segregation and discrimination amounting to apartheid. During the campaign of violence unleashed against the Rohingya last year the Myanmar security forces killed thousands, raped women and girls, detained and tortured men and boys, and burned hundreds of homes and villages to the ground. More than 720,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. A UN report has called for senior military officials to be investigated and prosecuted for the crime of genocide.

Although the civilian government does not have control over the military, Aung San Suu Kyi and her office have shielded the security forces from accountability by dismissing, downplaying or denying allegations of human rights violations and by obstructing international investigations into abuses. Her administration has actively stirred up hostility against the Rohingya, labelling them as “terrorists”, accusing them of burning their own homes and decrying “faking rape”. Meanwhile state media has published inflammatory and dehumanizing articles alluding to the Rohingya as “detestable human fleas” and “thorns” which must be pulled out.

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to speak out for the Rohingya is one reason why we can no longer justify her status as an Ambassador of Conscience,” said Kumi Naidoo.

“Her denial of the gravity and scale of the atrocities means there is little prospect of the situation improving for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya living in limbo in Bangladesh or for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who remain in Rakhine State. Without acknowledgement of the horrific crimes against the community, it is hard to see how the government can take steps to protect them from future atrocities.”

Amnesty International also highlighted the situation in Kachin and northern Shan States, where Aung San Suu Kyi has failed to use her influence and moral authority to condemn military abuses, to push for accountability for war crimes or to speak out for ethnic minority civilians who bear the brunt of the conflicts. To make matters worse, her civilian-led administration has imposed harsh restrictions on humanitarian access, exacerbating the suffering of more than 100,000 people displaced by the fighting.

Attacks on freedom of speech

Despite the power wielded by the military, there are areas where the civilian-led government has considerable authority to enact reforms to better protect human rights, especially those relating to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. But in the two years since Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration assumed power, human rights defenders, peaceful activists and journalists have been arrested and imprisoned while others face threats, harassment and intimidation for their work.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration has failed to repeal repressive laws – including some of the same laws which were used to detain her and others campaigning for democracy and human rights. Instead, she has actively defended the use of such laws, in particular the decision to prosecute and imprison two Reuters journalists for their work documenting a Myanmar military massacre.

Aung San Suu Kyi was named as Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience in 2009, in recognition of her peaceful and non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights. At the time she was held under house arrest, which she was eventually released from exactly eight years ago today. When she was finally able to accept the award in 2013, Aung San Suu Kyi asked Amnesty International to “not take either your eyes or your mind off us and help us to be the country where hope and history merges.”

“Amnesty International took Aung San Suu Kyi’s request that day very seriously, which is why we will never look away from human rights violations in Myanmar,” said Kumi Naidoo.

“We will continue to fight for justice and human rights in Myanmar – with or without her support.”

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Inside a Wagon in the Forest of Compiègnehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inside-wagon-forest-compiegne http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/#respond Sun, 11 Nov 2018 14:26:10 +0000 Manuel Manonelles http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158629 What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris. Indeed, […]

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Picture taken after the signature of the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne. Credit: Public Domain

By Manuel Manonelles
GENEVA, Nov 11 2018 (IPS)

What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Indeed, it was on November 11, 1914 that the signature of the Armistice between the Allied powers and the German Empire took place, in the above-mentioned wagon. This event marked de facto the end of World War I (1914-18), a conflict that changed the world and still today projects its shadows.

The Armistice was followed by the Paris Peace Conference and, as a consequence, the Treaty of Versailles, that of Sèvres and many others. The birth of the League of Nations, the policy of “reparations” or the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, and in part the Russian one, were other outputs of the end of the Great War. The consequences of some of these historical events are still present today in the international agenda and determine the lives of millions of people, one century later.

 

The Middle East, Kurdistan and Syria

The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, through the Treaty of Sèvres of August 1920, opened a Pandora’s Box that we still strive to close today. Three examples: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the civil war in Syria and the case of the Kurdistan.

Let us start with the last one, with Kurdistan. Sèvres foresaw the holding of a referendum to decide its future, a referendum that never took place. The uprising of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, the subsequent war and the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) were the main causes, but the disunity between the Kurds we could call “pragmatic” and the supporters of a greater Kurdistan also influenced. Similarly, the fact that Sèvres planned to include the oil rich province of Mosul within the territory of an eventual free Kurdistan (which the British were coveting) helped to tip the balance in favor of Turkish interests.

Another unfortunate legacy is, in part too, the current civil war in Syria. It is widely known that the origin of this conflict is related to the emergence of the Arab Spring, the resilience of the al-Assad regime, the infiltration of radical jihadist groups, and the interests of many regional and global powers.

However, part of the current war’s cruelty is intimately related to a State, Syria, resulting from the end of the WWI, with their borders designed to satisfy, exclusively, the French and British colonial interests. A division based on a Franco-British secret agreement taken before the end war, the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, that unscrupulously mixed and divided diverse ethnic and religious groups.

Even more, we cannot ignore the icing on the cake of all conflicts, the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its origin is linked to the Balfour declaration (1917) before the end of the Great War. This declaration was assumed by the San Remo Conference (1920) -also linked to the Paris Peace Conference- within the framework of the complex maneuvers of the great powers, and other influential groups of interests, during the reshaping of borders of the post-Ottoman Levant.

 

Inheritances in financial policy

In another vein, one of the main elements that also defined the treaties resulting from the Paris Peace Conference, and especially the Treaty of Versailles, was the policy of “reparations”. This policy mainly entailed that the countries that lost WWI had to face the payment of enormous sums to compensate the Allies.

This policy, so aggressive, led to the resignation of a young economist from the British delegation at the Peace Conference, called Keynes, who warned of the destabilizing effects in the economic and financial field that this could have. Indeed, this was one of the main causes of the German hyper-inflationary crisis of the years 1920-23, in which a loaf of bread reached the cost of billions of German marks. The influence of this crisis on the discrediting of the Weimar Republic and the consequent rise of Nazism is well known.

This sequence of events is at the base of the almost pathological animosity of the German economists to inflation. Since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, German official economic and financial policy has been always conditioned by a strict control of inflation: perceived as the mother of all possible and imaginable evils. This was the policy that Chancellor Merkel imposed, not only in Germany but also in the rest of Europe, during the last economic and financial crisis; a restrictive policy that would avoid the supposed danger of inflation. With the consequent austerity policies and their consequences…

All of this and more, a hundred years ago, started in a wagon inside the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Manuel Manonelles is the Delegate of the Government of Catalonia in Switzerland, as well as Visiting Professor at the University Ramon Llull – Blanquerna (Barcelona)

 

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Suspended for Two Years, IOM Resumes Voluntary Humanitarian Return Flights from Southern Libyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/suspended-two-years-iom-resumes-voluntary-humanitarian-return-flights-southern-libya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=suspended-two-years-iom-resumes-voluntary-humanitarian-return-flights-southern-libya http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/suspended-two-years-iom-resumes-voluntary-humanitarian-return-flights-southern-libya/#respond Fri, 09 Nov 2018 18:48:26 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158626 The UN Migration Agency, IOM, resumed its Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme (VHR) in Libya’s southern city of Sebha yesterday (08/11). VHR provides support to stranded migrants wishing to return to their home countries. In recent months, IOM has been expanding its outreach in the south through multiple field missions to make VHR operations possible. The […]

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Nigerian returnees boarding a plane to Lagos from southern Libya. Photo: IOM/Moayad Zaghdani

By International Organization for Migration
TRIPOLI, Libya, Nov 9 2018 (IOM)

The UN Migration Agency, IOM, resumed its Voluntary Humanitarian Return Programme (VHR) in Libya’s southern city of Sebha yesterday (08/11). VHR provides support to stranded migrants wishing to return to their home countries. In recent months, IOM has been expanding its outreach in the south through multiple field missions to make VHR operations possible.

The charter, which landed in Lagos, Nigeria, came after IOM’s outreach activities with local authorities and Nigerian communities in the south. In close coordination with the Nigerian Embassy in Tripoli, the Organization facilitated the provision of online consular support which enabled the embassy to conduct consular authentication and issue travel documents.

“We have been working intensively in the South to make sure that migrants living in urban settings or detention centres, who wish to return home safely, can receive our support,” said IOM VHR Operations Assistant, Mohamed Hmouzi.

The land transportation for migrants from BraK AL Shati and Sebha, located 80 kilometres and 30 kilometers – subsequently, from Tamanhent International Airport, was secured in collaboration with the local authorities. The migrants were also provided with food and non-food items. IOM provided protection screenings for vulnerable migrants and medical screening prior to their departure.

The charter carried 120 migrants (75 men, 30 women, 6 children and 9 infants) to Lagos. IOM will be working closely with the local authorities to ensure they reach all stranded migrants in the south who are interested in VHR assistance.

So far in 2018, IOM has provided voluntary humanitarian return assistance to a total of 14,622 migrants in Libya, out of which 3,503 were Nigerian migrants. Nigeria is the top country of return from Libya, followed by Mali and Niger.

IOM will continue monitoring and assessing the needs of stranded migrants in southern Libya for the provision of humanitarian assistance, VHR registration, medical care, as well as other pressing needs.

This charter was funded by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

For more information, please contact Maya Abu Ata at IOM Libya, Tel: + 00216 58601336, Email: mabuata@iom.int or Safa Msehli, Tel: +216 22 241 842 Email: smsehli@iom.int

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Number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela reaches three millionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/number-refugees-migrants-venezuela-reaches-three-million/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=number-refugees-migrants-venezuela-reaches-three-million http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/number-refugees-migrants-venezuela-reaches-three-million/#respond Thu, 08 Nov 2018 16:35:36 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158601 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency announced today that the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide has now reached three million. According to data from national immigration authorities and other sources, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean host an estimated 2.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela, […]

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Colombia hosts the highest number of migrants and refugees from Venezuela. Photo: IOM

By International Organization for Migration
Nov 8 2018 (IOM)

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency announced today that the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela worldwide has now reached three million.

According to data from national immigration authorities and other sources, countries in Latin America and the Caribbean host an estimated 2.4 million refugees and migrants from Venezuela, while other regions account for the rest.

“Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have largely maintained a commendable open-door policy to refugees and migrants from Venezuela, however, their reception capacity is severely strained, requiring a more robust and immediate response from the international community if this generosity and solidarity are to continue,” said Eduardo Stein, UNHCR-IOM Joint Special Representative for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela.

Colombia has the highest number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, a total of over one million. It is followed by Peru, with over half a million, Ecuador over 220,000, Argentina 130,000, Chile over 100,000 and Brazil 85,000.

In addition to South American countries, countries in Central America and the Caribbean also recorded increasing arrivals of refugees and migrants from Venezuela. Panama, for example, is now hosting 94,000 Venezuelans.

With rising numbers, the needs of refugees and migrants from Venezuela and the communities hosting them have also significantly increased.

Governments in the region are leading the humanitarian response and coordinating their efforts, including through the Quito Process, which has been an important step towards a regional approach to scale up the response and harmonize policies. The second Quito meeting of governments from the region will take place on 22 and 23 November.

To support this response, the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Platform, established in September and composed of 40 partners and participants, including UN Agencies, other international organizations, civil society and faith-based organizations, is strengthening the operational response and on a humanitarian Regional Response Plan for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (RMRP), to be launched in December.

The RMRP will focus on four strategic areas: direct emergency assistance, protection, socio-economic and cultural integration and capacity-building for the governments of receiving countries.

For more information contact:

Juliana Quintero, IOM (juquintero@iom.int +54 1132488134)
William Spindler, UNHCR (spindler@unhcr.org +507 69290257 or +41 79 2173011)

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Empowering Women in Post-Conflict Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/empowering-women-post-conflict-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=empowering-women-post-conflict-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/empowering-women-post-conflict-africa/#respond Thu, 08 Nov 2018 10:43:25 +0000 Amber Rouleau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158594 Amber Rouleau is with the communications office for African Women Rising

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African Women Rising AWR’s programs focus on providing people with access to capital to be able to invest in farming or businesses, working in partnership with farmers to sustainably improve yields and reduce vulnerability to environmental challenges, and providing adult and girls’ education to empower people to take action in their communities

This school was started by one of African Women Rising’s adult literacy groups. The government-run school is far away and children are not able to join until they are older as it is too far away for them to walk. Parents decided to take action, pool their resources and start their own school so their children would not fall behind. This demonstrates the power of community organizing. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

By Amber Rouleau
SANTA BARBARA, California, USA, Nov 8 2018 (IPS)

While its conflict ended in 2007, Northern Uganda struggles with its legacy as one of the most aid-dependent regions in the world.

Linda Cole, founder of African Women Rising (AWR), who has vast experience working in conflict and post-conflict regions, realized that programs don’t always reach the people who need it the most: those living in extreme poverty.

Couple this with the fact that most post-conflict programs are geared toward men, Cole created African Women Rising with the belief that there is a better way to impart meaningful and long-term change for women in these communities.

Rooted in the conviction that women should be active stakeholders in defining their own development strategies, AWR’s programs focus on providing people with access to capital to be able to invest in farming or businesses, working in partnership with farmers to sustainably improve yields and reduce vulnerability to environmental challenges, and providing adult and girls’ education to empower people to take action in their communities.

In order to become a better farmer, businesswoman, or simply a more productive member of society, women must know how to read, write and calculate. AWR is helping over 9,000 of the most vulnerable women and girls reclaim their lives, and empower future generations, building on initiatives which allow for self-sustaining solutions.

The majority of the women African Women Rising works with are widows, abductees, girl mothers, orphans or grandmothers taking care of orphans and other vulnerable children. For women who were forced to participate in the war against their own people, the return home is often a grim experience.

Many return to areas where access to primary health care, education or arable land to farm is tenuous at best. Accordingly, throughout the last twelve years, AWR has been working to break this paradigm of extreme dependency and create a foundation of self-sufficiency and sovereignty for women in these rural communities, with three foundational programs: micro-finance, education, and agriculture.

Brenda is 24 years old. She has 3 children, the two older ones go to school. Brenda is a participant in African Women Rising’s organic Field Crop program. Using local resources and simple methods for improving the soil and water conservation, she has been able to double her yield. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

In the last number of years, Northern Uganda has seen a dramatic increase in refugees coming from South Sudan. Over one million people have crossed the border, approximately 80% are women and children, some arriving into the communities where AWR is working. AWR is currently working with 6,600 refugees in Palabek settlement camp, helping them start and maintain permagardens to increase access to food and income.

Their micro-financing program is founded on proven Village Savings and Loan methodology, with an approach based on savings, basic business skills, and access to capital. AWR achieves this through rigorous capacity building and mentorship. The training classes focus on basic business knowledge and accounting to provide women with the tools to be successful.

The viability of AWR’s model lies in its use of community mobilizers who provide technical support and mentoring for each group over a three year period. This year, AWR groups will save over $2 million, all coming from women’s weekly savings of 25 to 75 cents.

“With the money I saved from the Micro Finance group in 2013 I hired a tractor to plow my land and plant simsim. With the income I bought cattle. I now have more than 80 cattle. African Women Rising has changed my life.” Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

As the largest provider of adult literacy in Northern Uganda, AWR’s 34 adult literary centers provide education to more than 2,000 adults. However, they are more than a place to become literate. Participants identify issues that are relevant to them and discuss how to solve them.

For example, the lack of trustworthy candidates in a recent election made over 50 students to run for public office. Centers have also repaired boreholes, opened up new roads, started marketplaces and community schools for children.

African Women Rising is the largest provider of adult literacy in Northern Uganda. Their centers are more than a place to learn to read and write. Building upon the teachings of Paul Freire, they help communities organize, identify, and solve the challenges they are facing. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

Their education programs for girls focuses primarily on children of AWR members who participate in their livelihoods programs and are reaching a financial status where they can begin to sustainably afford school fees. In some of these regions, not a single girl graduates from primary school – and in Palabek refugee camp, AWR has built a structure, so teachers have a building in which to prepare and teach lessons.

Cole and her organization are working together with parents, caretakers, schools, and government officials to create sustainable change. The program provides academic mentorship and life skills to 1,150 girls in 11 remote schools in Northern Uganda, increasing access and removing obstacles to schooling.

This includes providing washable menstrual pads for girls, so they can stay in school when they are menstruating, one of the biggest barriers for girls in continuing their studies.

With each missed week, girls fall farther behind, often eventually dropping out entirely, perpetuating the cycle of poverty. AWR is building awareness and support for girls’ education in communities, and aims to have 55% of girls graduating their grade level this year.

The organization’s agricultural training program teaches community members how to create, manage, and maintain their gardens (allowing for not only food, but income), over a year’s seasonal cropping cycle, tracking 25 different agroecological based indicators (most agencies track 2 to 3 in a development setting).

Women learning how to use an A-frame to help dig swales to collect water for their Perma Garden. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

The Perma garden and Field crop programs increase soil fertility, water conservation, and crop yields, teaching farmers in a participatory approach designed to maximize exposure to practical lessons, ensuring year-round access to nutritious vegetables and fruit. A better diet and nutritional intake, means increased income for participants and increased access to healthcare and schooling.

Perma Gardens are designed to produce food year-round. This helps people through the hunger period and, for many, it is also a source of income. Credit: Brian Hodges Photography for African Women Rising

These programs are symbiotic, and while there are no quick fixes, simple, community-based solutions wholly learned over time changes lives. AWR believes in a just and equal world where all people have the opportunity and right to live their lives with dignity.

Through their programs they are working to break the cycle of poverty and dependence: as parents and caregivers are becoming financially stable they invest in the education of their children, and as children learn, a cycle of empowerment and self-sustainability begins. Like a seed planted in a garden, the cultivation of education provides opportunities for the entire community, for generations to come.

AWR depends on grants and donations. For more information on African Women Rising, or to donate, please visit http://www.africanwomenrising.org/

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Excerpt:

Amber Rouleau is with the communications office for African Women Rising

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Is Excessive Sovereign Debt a Threat to Peace?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/excessive-sovereign-debt-threat-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=excessive-sovereign-debt-threat-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/excessive-sovereign-debt-threat-peace/#respond Wed, 07 Nov 2018 11:39:33 +0000 Boudewijn Mohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158579 Boudewijn Mohr* is a former UNICEF country programme and operational management specialist who travelled across 36 countries on the African continent. He is also a former senior international corporate banker in New York, and author of the recently-released “A Destiny in the Making: From Wall Street to UNICEF in Africa”.

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Now if a sovereign debt crisis can be proven to threaten essential social and economic rights of populations and thus might constitute a threat to peace in that country and the sub-region, can the Security Council intervene on the basis of R2P? What is the correct point to intervene? When there are signs that excessive debt is threatening peace, could the Security Council intervene pre-emptively?

Opening day of the Annual Conference of the European Center for Peace and Development, City Hall, Belgrade, 26 October 2018

By Boudewijn Mohr
BEAUNE, Burgundy, France, Nov 7 2018 (IPS)

Some 30 years ago, the international banks were afloat with petrodollars, deposited by the oil exporting countries. The banks in turn stepped up lending to Latin America, in a big way. The new branch of Société Générale in New York where I was working at the time followed suit rapidly building up its portfolio, as the bank needed to make loans to get its branch off the ground.

Latin America was not my territory; my clients were French companies establishing subsidiaries in the United States. But when in 1982 I witnessed the panic in New York surrounding the implosion of Mexico’s debt, I wondered; and then began to write about it in a renowned Dutch newspaper in Holland, also offering ideas for solving the debt overhang.

I simply failed to grasp why commercial banks, in their eagerness to make loans, would lend so excessively, as they themselves must have known that such loans carried great risks. The banks probably did so willy-nilly, following in the footsteps of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

At that time, the IMF was trying to help redress large balance of payment deficits of countries in Latin America through imposing stiff austerity measures, curbing inflation and trying to rekindle growth.

Today the IMF does not wince pumping 57 billion dollars into Argentina, a questionable step, and if only for weakening its own capital base in exchange for an excessive sovereign loan.

Given Argentina’s history, a portion of the loan unlikely may never be repaid, would need to be re-phased or simply forgiven. Their president says that chance is “zero”. The IMF now needs a major capital injection that may not be so easy to negotiate this time around, according to the Financial Times.

Has then nothing changed since the 1980s?

Now if a sovereign debt crisis can be proven to threaten essential social and economic rights of populations and thus might constitute a threat to peace in that country and the sub-region, can the Security Council intervene on the basis of R2P? What is the correct point to intervene? When there are signs that excessive debt is threatening peace, could the Security Council intervene pre-emptively?

Not a whole lot in any case. But in my mind something important did change compared to 30 years ago: the world’s money supply today is unimaginably massive. You could call it a bubble of money in circulation; and that means that all that floating money, like the petrodollars of the past, needs to find a home, ergo loans to those countries that have less of it.

 

Poverty the ultimate threat facing humanity

Most researchers now agree that poverty is the ultimate threat facing humanity, and not only in the developing world. Everything bad emanates from it. Today poverty has increased to unbearable levels for many, a result of conflicts, climate change and rising food prices.

Today’s poverty reduction strategies now include provisions for the poor. This approach is rooted in UNICEF’s tireless campaign for economic adjustment with a human face in the ‘80s under the leadership of UNICEF’s Richard Jolly and his team of economists, and was enthusiastically endorsed by Jim Grant.

The proposal was to shield the poor and vulnerable from the worst effects of the austerity measures through strong social protection and safety nets. It is encouraging to note that Christine Lagarde pledged for more flexible measures in IMF lending that would include strong provisions to protect the most vulnerable.

This intention should be properly institutionalised and respected by her successors. For now, inequality in every aspect of life continues unabated; you are all familiar with the statistics.

 

Sovereign debt as a threat to peace

In 2012 the Max Planck Research Institute published a discussion paper with the most telling title “Sovereign debt crises as threats to the peace nations”. Its author, Matthias Goldmann, a senior research fellow, found that more reliable data than before enable researchers to point to a correlation between sovereign debt and the risk of armed conflict or even civil war. I have seen this in West and Southern Africa.

Sovereign debt reduces the ability of the state to adequately provide basic services to the most vulnerable, such as health and education services. I have witnessed in Africa that countries in pre-conflict situations have had declining budget allocations for health and education, far below internationally established norms (10% for health and 25% for education).

Beginning in the 1980s, poverty increased steadily in Côte d’Ivoire. World prices of cacao were steadily declining; and conflict in the form of protests and strikes began to rear its ugly head.

I was stationed in Abidjan when it got worse, with demonstrating university students, the university closed, burnt-out cars and soldiers roaming the streets in hijacked vehicles. It took 10 years for the civil conflict to end. In the end the country was exhausted and essentially bankrupt.

After the peace accords of 1992 Mozambique had no trouble finding loans and grants. At the 1995 Consultative Group Meeting in Paris, over 1 billion dollars was raised, a huge sum for its time. In the late 1990s Mozambique’s south developed fast with several huge investments from South Africa, for example a gigantic aluminum smelter near Maputo and upgrading of road and rail network. It was double-digit growth.

But the north, traditionally marginalised, stayed further behind. Not surprisingly, many years later the conflict flared up again between Frelimo and Renamo in the centre and north of the country.

In Rwanda, sovereign debt increased massively in the early 1990s. A structural adjustment programme imposed harsh austerity measures, but military expenditures were exempted. Public services collapsed with cuts in health and education expenditures. Development aid and foreign loans were channelled towards financing the military.

The army swelled to 40,000 troops. Clearly something bad was at hand. But nobody wanted to know. Ethnic tensions, already high in this small and overpopulated country, rose significantly, and then imploded into genocide. Rwanda’s sovereign debt was the worst debt trap the world had ever seen.

When Michel Camdessus retired from the IMF, he warned that poverty would “undermine societies through confrontation, violence and civil disorder”. This, I believe has always been so throughout history, but we paid lip service to change.

With all the problems our planet faces, inequality and poverty should not be the most difficult problems to solve once and for all. After all, states have the responsibility to protect its citizens in a human way, as adopted in 2006 in a unanimous resolution, R2P for short.

To note that R2P does not deny the right to use the military option as a last resort. What is new though is that the UN Security Council in case of a grave violation of this responsibility to protect its citizens, for example genocide, may decide to move into a sovereign nation.

Now if a sovereign debt crisis can be proven to threaten essential social and economic rights of populations and thus might constitute a threat to peace in that country and the sub-region, can the Security Council intervene on the basis of R2P?

What is the correct point to intervene? When there are signs that excessive debt is threatening peace, could the Security Council intervene pre-emptively? Goldmann argues that the Security Council might decide to intervene if there are additional factors, such as ethnical, racial, or structural inequality. These factors usually deteriorate as a result of economic hardship.

And lastly, how would the Security Council relate to and work with the major sovereign debt lender, the IMF, in pre-empting these threats to peace? Intriguing questions which beg for urgent answers.

*Prior to his stint with UNICEF, Boudewijn Mohr was a senior international corporate banker in New York, first with Chase Manhattan Bank in Wall Street and later at Societe Generale branch in New York City. This article is based on an address to the annual conference of the European Centre for Peace & Development in Belgrade last month. The theme of the conference was “A New Concept of Human Security.”

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Excerpt:

Boudewijn Mohr* is a former UNICEF country programme and operational management specialist who travelled across 36 countries on the African continent. He is also a former senior international corporate banker in New York, and author of the recently-released “A Destiny in the Making: From Wall Street to UNICEF in Africa”.

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Rainwater Harvesting Eases Daily Struggle in Argentina’s Chaco Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rainwater-harvesting-eases-daily-struggle-argentinas-chaco-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rainwater-harvesting-eases-daily-struggle-argentinas-chaco-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/rainwater-harvesting-eases-daily-struggle-argentinas-chaco-region/#comments Tue, 06 Nov 2018 23:22:31 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158571 “I’ve been used to hauling water since I was eight years old. Today, at 63, I still do it,” says Antolín Soraire, a tall peasant farmer with a face ravaged by the sun who lives in Los Blancos, a town of a few dozen houses and wide dirt roads in the province of Salta, in […]

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Mariano Barraza (L), a member of the Wichi indigenous people, and Enzo Romero, a technician with the Fundapaz organisation, stand next to the rainwater storage tank built in the indigenous community of Lote 6 to supply the local families during the six-month dry season in this part of the province of Salta, in northern Argentina's Chaco region. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Mariano Barraza (L), a member of the Wichi indigenous people, and Enzo Romero, a technician with the Fundapaz organisation, stand next to the rainwater storage tank built in the indigenous community of Lote 6 to supply the local families during the six-month dry season in this part of the province of Salta, in northern Argentina's Chaco region. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
LOS BLANCOS, Argentina, Nov 6 2018 (IPS)

“I’ve been used to hauling water since I was eight years old. Today, at 63, I still do it,” says Antolín Soraire, a tall peasant farmer with a face ravaged by the sun who lives in Los Blancos, a town of a few dozen houses and wide dirt roads in the province of Salta, in northern Argentina.

In this part of the Chaco, the tropical plain stretching over more than one million square kilometres shared with Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, living conditions are not easy."I wish the entire Chaco region could be sown with water tanks and we wouldn't have to cry about the lack of water anymore. We don't want 500-meter deep wells or other large projects. We trust local solutions." -- Enzo Romero

For about six months a year, between May and October, it does not rain. And in the southern hemisphere summer, temperatures can climb to 50 degrees Celsius.

Most of the homes in the municipality of Rivadavia Banda Norte, where Los Blancos is located, and in neighbouring municipalities are scattered around rural areas, which are cut off and isolated when it rains. Half of the households cannot afford to meet their basic needs, according to official data, and access to water is still a privilege, especially since there are no rivers in the area.

Drilling wells has rarely provided a solution. “The groundwater is salty and naturally contains arsenic. You have to go more than 450 meters deep to get good water,” Soraire told IPS during a visit to this town of about 1,100 people.

In the last three years, an innovative self-managed system has brought hope to many families in this area, one of the poorest in Argentina: the construction of rooftops made of rainwater collector sheets, which is piped into cement tanks buried in the ground.

Each of these hermetically sealed tanks stores 16,000 litres of rainwater – what is needed by a family of five for drinking and cooking during the six-month dry season.

“When I was a kid, the train would come once a week, bringing us water. Then the train stopped coming and things got really difficult,” recalls Soraire, who is what is known here as a criollo: a descendant of the white men and women who came to the Argentine Chaco since the late 19th century in search of land to raise their animals, following the military expeditions that subjugated the indigenous people of the region.

Today, although many years have passed and the criollos and indigenous people in most cases live in the same poverty, there is still latent tension with the native people who live in isolated rural communities such as Los Blancos or in the slums ringing the larger towns and cities.

Since the early 20th century, the railway mentioned by Soraire linked the 700 kilometres separating the cities of Formosa and Embarcación, and was practically the only means of communication in this area of the Chaco, which until just 10 years ago had no paved roads.

Dorita, a local indigenous woman, stands in front of a "represa" or pond dug near her home, in Lote 6, a Wichí community a few kilometres from the town of Los Blancos, in Argentina's Chaco region. The ponds accumulate rainwater and are used to provide drinking water for both animals and local families, posing serious health risks. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Dorita, a local indigenous woman, stands in front of a “represa” or pond dug near her home, in Lote 6, a Wichí community a few kilometres from the town of Los Blancos, in Argentina’s Chaco region. The ponds accumulate rainwater and are used to provide drinking water for both animals and local families, posing serious health risks. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The trains stopped coming to this area in the 1990s, during the wave of privatisations and spending cuts imposed by neoliberal President Carlos Menem (1989-1999).

Although there have been promises to get the trains running again, in the Chaco villages of Salta today there are only a few memories of the railway: overgrown tracks and rundown brick railway stations that for years have housed homeless families.

Soraire, who raises cows, pigs and goats, is part of one of six teams – three criollo and three indigenous – that the Foundation for Development in Peace and Justice (Fundapaz) trained to build rainwater tanks in the area around Los Blancos.

“Everyone here wants their own tank,” Enzo Romero, a technician with Fundapaz, a non-governmental organisation that has been working for more than 40 years in rural development in indigenous and criollo settlements of Argentina’s Chaco region, told IPS in Los Blancos. “So we carry out surveys to see which families have the greatest needs.”

The director of Fundapaz, Gabriel Seghezzo, explains that “the beneficiary family must dig a hole 1.20 metres deep by five in diameter, in which the tank is buried. In addition, they have to provide lodging and meals to the builders during the week it takes to build it.”

“It’s very important for the family to work hard for this. In order for this to work out well, it is essential for the beneficiaries to feel they are involved,” Seghezzo told IPS in Salta, the provincial capital.

Fundapaz “imported” the rainwater tank system from Brazil, thanks to its many contacts with social organisations in that country, especially groups working for solutions to the chronic drought in the Northeast region.

Antolín Soraire, a "criollo" farmer from the Chaco region of Salta, stands in front of one of the tanks he built in Los Blancos to collect rainwater, which provides families with drinking water for their needs during the six-month dry season in northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Antolín Soraire, a “criollo” farmer from the Chaco region of Salta, stands in front of one of the tanks he built in Los Blancos to collect rainwater, which provides families with drinking water for their needs during the six-month dry season in northern Argentina. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Romero points out that so far some 40 rooftops and water tanks have been built – at a cost of about 1,000 dollars each – in the municipality of Rivadavia Banda Norte, which is 12,000 square kilometres in size and has some 10,000 inhabitants. This number of tanks is, of course, a very small part of what is needed, he added.

“I wish the entire Chaco region could be sown with water tanks and we wouldn’t have to cry about the lack of water anymore. We don’t want 500-meter deep wells or other large projects. We trust local solutions,” says Romero, who studied environmental engineering at the National University of Salta and moved several years ago to Morillo, the capital of the municipality, 1,600 kilometres north of Buenos Aires.

On National Route 81, the only paved road in the area, it is advisable to travel slowly: as there are no fences, pigs, goats, chickens and other animals raised by indigenous and criollo families constantly wander across the road.

Near the road, in the mountains, live indigenous communities, such as those known as Lote 6 and Lote 8, which occupy former public land now recognised as belonging to members of the Wichí ethnic group, one of the largest native communities in Argentina, made up of around 51,000 people, according to official figures that are considered an under-registration.

In Lote 6, Dorita, a mother of seven, lives with her husband Mariano Barraza in a brick house with a tin roof, surrounded by free-ranging goats and chickens. The children and their families return seasonally from Los Blancos, where the grandchildren go to school, which like transportation is not available in the community.

Three children play under a roof next to goats in Lote 6, an indigenous community in the province of Salta in northern Argentina. It is one of the poorest areas in the country, with half of the population having unmet basic needs, and where the shortage of drinking water is the most serious problem. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

Three children play under a roof next to goats in Lote 6, an indigenous community in the province of Salta in northern Argentina. It is one of the poorest areas in the country, with half of the population having unmet basic needs, and where the shortage of drinking water is the most serious problem. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

About 100 metres from the house, Dorita, who preferred not to give her last name, shows IPS a small pond with greenish water. In the region of Salta families dig these “represas” to store rainwater.

The families of Lot 6 today have a rooftop that collects rainwater and storage tank, but they used to use water from the “represas” – the same water that the animals drank, and often soiled.

“The kids get sick. But the families often consume the contaminated water from the ‘represas’ because they have no alternative,” Silvia Reynoso, a Catholic nun who works for Fundapaz in the area, told IPS.

In neighboring Lote 8, Anacleto Montes, a Wichi indigenous man who has an 80-square-metre rooftop that collects rainwater, explains: “This was a solution. Because we ask the municipality to bring us water, but there are times when the truck is not available and the water doesn’t arrive.”

What Montes doesn’t say is that water in the Chaco has also been used to buy political support in a patronage-based system.

Lalo Bertea, who heads the Tepeyac Foundation, an organisation linked to the Catholic Church that has been working in the area for 20 years, told IPS: “Usually in times of drought, the municipality distributes water. And it chooses where to bring water based on political reasons. The people in the area are so used to this that they consider it normal.”

“Water scarcity is the most serious social problem in this part of the Chaco,” says Bertea, who maintains that rainwater collection also has its limits and is experimenting with the purchase of Mexican pumps to extract groundwater when it can be found at a reasonable depth.

“The incredible thing about all this is that the Chaco is not the Sahara desert. There is water, but the big question is how to access it,” he says.

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The Forgotten ‘Migrant Caravan’: Historic Launch of Global Movement of Families of the Missinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/forgotten-migrant-caravan-historic-launch-global-movement-families-missing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forgotten-migrant-caravan-historic-launch-global-movement-families-missing http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/forgotten-migrant-caravan-historic-launch-global-movement-families-missing/#respond Tue, 06 Nov 2018 18:44:23 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158559 Each year, the Caravana de Madres de Migrantes Desaparecidos (Caravan of Mothers of Missing Migrants) crosses Mexican territory in search of their children who went missing trying to reach the United States. For the first time, the Mothers’ Caravan was joined in Mexico City by mothers from other continents, with the aim of building a […]

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IOM’s Missing Migrants Project attend the Caravana de Madres de Migrantes Desaparecidos (Caravan of Mothers of Missing Migrants). Credit: IOM

By International Organization for Migration
Mexico City, Nov 6 2018 (IOM)

Each year, the Caravana de Madres de Migrantes Desaparecidos (Caravan of Mothers of Missing Migrants) crosses Mexican territory in search of their children who went missing trying to reach the United States.

For the first time, the Mothers’ Caravan was joined in Mexico City by mothers from other continents, with the aim of building a transnational movement to remind the international community that one disappearance, one death, is one too many.

Over 40 mothers and other family members searching for missing migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, Senegal, Mauritania, Tunisia and Algeria came together to share their stories, to build ties, and to exchange experiences of searching for information on the whereabouts of their children.

IOM’s Missing Migrants Project attended this historical event as an observer.

The summit was convened by the Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano and the Italian Carovani Migranti, two NGOs which assist mothers and families of missing migrants in Central America and Italy, respectively. Associations representing families of the missing sent delegations to the Summit, including the Tunisian Association Mères des Disparus, the Algerian Collectif de Familles des Harraga d’Annaba, the Mauritanian Association des Femmes Chefs de Famille, the Salvadoran Comité de Migrantes Desparecidos, the Honduran Comité de Familiares de Migrantes Desaparecidos del Progreso and the Mexican Red de Enlaces Nacionales.

Rosa Idalia Jiménez has been looking for her son, Roberto Adonai Bardales Jiménez, since 28 May 2013. He disappeared when he was 14, as he fled poverty and violence in his home country towards the US border. He wanted a safer, better life. The last time Rosa heard from him, he was preparing to cross the US-Mexico border into Texas from Reynosa, Mexico.

Rosa shared her story this weekend at the first-ever Global Summit of Mothers of Missing Migrants. The Summit took place in Mexico City 2–4 November 2018 as part of the 8th World Social Forum on Migration.

It is not only mothers who participated in the Summit, but also sisters, brothers, fathers, grandmothers. They wear photos of the missing around their necks, in the hope that someone will recognize their loved ones and be able to help find them. They vow not to rest until their searches are over.

The disappearance of a loved one, no matter the context, leaves a family mourning their loss, or waiting for news of a missing father, husband, wife, mother, son or daughter. Caught between grief and hope, families begin a search for information about their loved ones that can take years or a lifetime. Coming together around such tragic circumstances, the mothers can share their stories of pain, grief, and, above all, endless love for their missing children.

Over the course of three days, mothers and family members at the Summit discussed the many obstacles they face in their search for their missing relatives. Without national or international search mechanisms, families are left to navigate a confusing web of institutions and bureaucracy with little state support.

Nonetheless, they persist: the mothers’ caravan has organized annual marches through Mexico to raise awareness and search for lost loved ones since 2005. By the end of this first Global Summit of Mothers of Missing Migrants, participants mapped out a plan to globalize the struggle of families searching for missing migrants. A manifesto was collaboratively drafted on the final day of the Summit, setting out the mothers’ demands for truth and justice for their missing sons and daughters.

As the way forward, the mothers agreed on a list of actions, which include joint advocacy campaigns around key events, supporting regional initiatives put forward by each association, and creating an online platform to coordinate their efforts.

The Summit thus marks the beginning of a global movement of mothers and families of the missing: there is an urgent need to raise awareness about deaths and disappearances during migration and to combat indifference towards these global tragedies.

For further information please contact Marta Sanchez Donis, IOM Global Migration Data Analysis Centre, Tel: +49 1511 0001 187, Email: msanchez@iom.int

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The ironic life of African migrants in Parishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ironic-life-african-migrants-paris/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ironic-life-african-migrants-paris http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/ironic-life-african-migrants-paris/#respond Tue, 06 Nov 2018 18:27:36 +0000 Adnan Morshed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158556 In Paris recently I noticed an extraordinary phenomenon unfolding around the Eiffel Tower during a casual afternoon stroll. The sans-papiers—as the undocumented migrants are known in local parlance—vended touristy souvenirs around the Champ de Mars, Place du Trocadéro, and the Palais de Chaillot. They often played hide-and-seek games with the police to avoid detection. Struggling […]

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A souvenir vendor sells Eiffel Tower models for tourists in front the Eiffel Tower at the Trocadero in Paris in 2011. Photo: REUTERS

By Adnan Morshed
Nov 6 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

In Paris recently I noticed an extraordinary phenomenon unfolding around the Eiffel Tower during a casual afternoon stroll. The sans-papiers—as the undocumented migrants are known in local parlance—vended touristy souvenirs around the Champ de Mars, Place du Trocadéro, and the Palais de Chaillot. They often played hide-and-seek games with the police to avoid detection. Struggling migrants from Africa—or more specifically from countries such as the Republic of Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Chad, Mali, Senegal, Eritrea, and Niger—these vendors live a shadow life in Paris and survive in a particular type of parallel underground economy of the city’s tourism industry. Curiously, they sell mostly one product: miniature replicas of the Eiffel Tower. Their surreptitious economic footprint wraps around Gustave Eiffel’s soaring tower, built in 1889 to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution.

Here is the great irony. The sans-papiers—whose best self-defense in a hostile environment, one would imagine, is to be socially invisible—make a living peddling the most visible, conspicuous architectural icon of Paris. Many of them cross the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats risking their lives, gradually move from different port cities to the cultural and economic heart of France, and, finally, occupy a social space that accidentally conflates two most unlikely global conditions: the migrant’s unstable, floating life, and iconic architecture, percolating within the transient space of global tourism.

The story doesn’t end there. The miniature Eiffel Towers are made in China. The socially invisible migrant sells the most visible architectural trope of French cultural chauvinism to tourists from across the world.

The state system seems to tolerate the sans-papiers as long they are humanoid silhouettes, not real people with real names, real addresses, real families, and personal histories. Always at the mercy of the state’s shifting migration politics and the focus of many worried gazes, they are the spectral protagonists of a global narrative, one in which Europe, Africa, and Asia converge at the foot of a wrought-iron tower.

The social dramas that take place around the Parisian monument offer poignant narratives of modern migration, globalisation, xenophobia, anticipation, and nationalist angsts. Thus, the migrant’s story couldn’t be explained away as one of mere resilient survival.

In 2005, estimates of France’s illegal immigrant population were placed somewhere around 400,000 people. Undocumented migrants have been trickling into Paris. According to some aid groups, as many as 100 migrants pour into Paris, the “City of Lights,” each day. The dream is to get asylum in France or cross the English Channel to eventually reach Britain. In 2016, over 160,000 migrants crossed the central Mediterranean Sea to arrive in Italy and other European destinations. Many perish in the rough waters of the sea. The United Nations Refugee Agency reported that 239 migrants drowned in two boat capsizes alone in 2016.

The crisis has sparked new kinds of transnational dialogue. European government officials have been trying to persuade African governments to beef up their efforts to minimise the northbound traffic. Aid and other forms of international cooperation have been promised. For instance German Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Ethiopia, Mali, and Niger to discuss how the refugee crisis in Europe could be resolved through sharing resources and offering military aid.

Why are African and Asian migrants flocking to Europe en masse?

Many African observers believe that the current migration crisis is a result of some of France’s postcolonial practices. French businesses brought large numbers of workers from former African colonies as cheap labour. Current migrants continue to come to France with hopes of finding work, building a better life, and joining family members who have already settled there. They also try to escape from ethnic conflicts, civil wars, corrupt governments, and lack of economic opportunities in their home countries.

Furthermore, there is this entrenched belief among Africans that France has built enormous networks of corruption across Africa in collusion with African leaders. Still, many desperate Africans believe that risking their lives in a perilous boat journey is far better than living under a constant threat of death in their native countries, devastated by ethnic rivalry. A brighter life is only one sea voyage away, no matter how precarious it is. Thus, the crowded boats on the Mediterranean are signs of extreme desperation and anxious global mobility.

When some of the people survive the dangerous sea journey, arrive at the Eiffel Tower, and begin vending its Chinese-made miniature version, globalisation and national identity dovetail in a saga of unlikely protagonists and their hide-and-seek economies. As much as the Eiffel Tower, the sans-papiers inadvertently become new emblems of France and a category of “Frenchness” that the country projects on to the world stage.

Like the uncertain and unwelcome lives of the migrants roaming around its base, the Eiffel Tower’s beginning was dubious. Before it was inaugurated on March 31, 1889, Gustave Eiffel’s monumental structure attracted the wrath of many of France’s famous writers, artists, and intellectuals, who wrote a scathing letter, rejecting the iron “monstrosity” as fundamentally incompatible with French values and aesthetic consciousness. Eiffel sought to justify his creation on both aesthetic and functional grounds, offering a range of historic precedents and a seemingly inexhaustible list of practical uses for the tower.

In the 21st century, the sans-papiers find themselves in a somewhat parallel situation, having to justify their presence in France on grounds of human rights, open-society ethos, and social justice. The great French writer Guy de Maupassant hated the Eiffel Tower, the then-tallest human-made structure in the world (the record previously held by the Washington Monument), yet he lunched at the restaurant located inside the tower, so that he wouldn’t have to see it. By going in, thereby internalising it, Maupassant self-choreographed a love-hate relationship with the Eiffel Tower.

Here is another uncanny parallel with the undocumented migrants, who suffer constant humiliation of social exclusion in their adoptive country, while, paradoxically, selling her undisputed cultural symbol to thousands of global tourists each day. Their livelihood depends on the very icon of the country that frequently refuses to give them legal status. The Eiffel Tower is the epitome of French pride and the refugee’s uncomfortable hope for the future.

Could Gustave Eiffel in the late 19th century imagine a more ironic practical use of his monument as the subterfuge of anxious migrants?

Adnan Morshed is an architect, architectural historian, and urbanist. He teaches in Washington, DC, and serves as Executive Director of the Centre for Inclusive Architecture and Urbanism at BRAC University. His books include DAC/Dhaka in 25 Buildings (2017) and Oculus: A Decade of Insights into Bangladeshi Affairs (2012). He can be reached at amorshed@bracu.ac.bd.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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