Inter Press ServiceHuman Rights – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 19 Feb 2019 15:19:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 In the World of Sustainability, Colonialism is Not Deadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/world-sustainability-colonialism-not-dead/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-sustainability-colonialism-not-dead http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/world-sustainability-colonialism-not-dead/#respond Tue, 19 Feb 2019 14:22:21 +0000 Zafirah Zein http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160197 Zafirah Zein is a correspondent for Eco-Business*, a sustainability media organisation covering responsible business and sustainable development in Asia Pacific.

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At global fashion brand Ganni's 2019 runway show, models glided down the runway against the backdrop of girls from developing countries. Credit: Instagram / @oursecondskin

By Zafirah Zein
SINGAPORE, Feb 19 2019 (IPS)

Scandinavian fashion label and global It-brand Ganni hardly caused a stir recently when it closed Copenhagen Fashion Week with a sustainability-themed showcase titled “Life on Earth.”

Considering that sustainability is now a consumer trend, it is no surprise that a luxury brand touted as “a magnet for cool girls all over the planet” aimed to boost its street cred with a show that put sustainability at its core.

The problem? Photographs of brown, underprivileged women in developing countries served as the backdrop for a runway of mostly white, European models decked in designer clothing, with no mention of their stories, and how these connected in relation to the brand, or sustainability for that matter.

Zafirah Zein

Decades after the end of colonialism, Western domination in the areas of sustainable development and environmental protection threaten to undermine our efforts towards a more equal, sustainable future.

Anna Nadim Saber, a New York-based fashion blogger, criticised the brand online for being “problematic,” sharing in a long Instagram post: “This is a larger pattern of exploitation in the fashion industry. It is exactly women like those in these pictures who are worst affected by our industry: poor wages and terrible working conditions in sweatshops that manufacture clothing for many Western brands.”

To the fashion industry, she said: “Stop being tone deaf and blind to your own internalised, colonial mentality.”

Saber appeared to be the only voice from the fashion business who called out Ganni’s misstep, but her view picked at a discomfort that I’ve been harbouring a few months into writing about sustainable development.

Ganni’s efforts to promote sustainability were not just misplaced; they perpetuated notions of inequality and Western superiority through the misrepresentation of other communities and the lack of real engagement with global problems.

These “tone deaf” practices by Western brands also reaffirmed the unsettling perception that the global narrative on sustainability deflects blame from and even applauds the actors that have long been the driver of global ills.

This is rooted in colonial attitudes and cultural imperialism—issues that stem from the historical relationship between once colonised-states and their ex-colonisers, and unequal power structures between the Global North and South.

Eco-colonialism?
The term eco-colonialism is practically unheard of in the mainstream conversation on sustainability. However, government agencies and civil groups worldwide have recently used it to refer to the behaviour and policies of developed, Western nations who currently serve as the loudest voices on environmental protection today.

Earlier this year, Malaysia’s Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) accused the European Union (EU) of “economic colonisation” for its move to ban palm oil in biofuels by 2020, in a bid to halt deforestation. The country has also claimed the ban to be “discriminatory” as it favours European-grown oils such as rapeseed and sunflower, while diverting attention away from domestic environmental issues.

In an interview, a spokesperson for FELDA said: “It’s the same colonial attitudes, the white man imposing their rule on us from afar.”

Palm oil contributes significantly to the economies of Asian palm-oil exporting countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, where poor, smallholder farmers in these countries account for almost half of palm oil output and thus depend on the commodity for economic survival.

Europe, in this case, is only considering their own priorities and not those of people in Malaysia and Indonesia, while still using palm oil in everything else from soap and cosmetics to crackers and ice cream.

Putting a freeze on a crop that is most significant in accelerating social and economic development of many countries across Africa and Southeast Asia carries the shadow of neocolonialism, which includes a powerful state exercising control over another through economic or monetary means.

Another issue that stinks of green imperialism is the plastic waste trade, which gained attention after China banned foreign waste imports in January last year to protect its environment.

Forced to deal with their own rubbish, China’s move was met with backlash from British and American companies, even prompting a senior director at the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries in Washington to say: “Do they (China) care about the global environment or only their own environment because we are land-filling perfectly good materials now because of the actions that they’re taking.”

Some also took the easier route, by redirecting their waste to Southeast Asia and swamping local ports and recycling plants across the region in the process. This led to a backlash from several countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, who subsequently banned plastic waste imports.

Thailand and Vietnam are among the five countries that were ranked as the most marine polluting countries in the world, making Asia the target of international criticism over their waste management practices and unsustainable consumer lifestyles, despite the fact they are usually at the receiving end of rich nations’ waste.

This has created an unequal picture of global waste, in which developed nations, who are more likely to engage in overconsumption, are deflected from blame.

However, most media attention has focused on plastic-choked oceans in Asia while spotlighting environmental movements in the West that want to wipe out plastic straws and switch to more durable, dearer items—lifestyle practices that are out of reach for many in the developing world.

As this opinion piece by geography experts at the University of Guelph, Canada, puts well: “If we understand waste, not as something produced by the actions of a group of individuals, but rather a product of socioeconomic systems that contribute to making waste and encourages wasting, problems with these dominant explanations arise. We start to see that Western consumers are part of the problem and cannot be absolved of their responsibility.”

Moving away from Western-led sustainability
Chandran Nair, Malaysian founder of Hong Kong-based think tank Global Institute for Tomorrow, writes in his book The Sustainable State that the problem with today’s sustainable development narrative is that it is understood from the perspective of advanced economies rather than developing ones.

He notes that discussions are often led by Western experts who rarely confronted the unsustainable means by which their own economies had grown.

Speaking with Nair at Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, he weighed in on our shared view that the Western-dominated sustainability space often rang hypocritical and is reminiscent of colonial habits such as paternalism, victim-blaming and exporting problems.

Furthermore, most sustainability events and panel discussions lacked the diversity that could better represent the issues faced by the majority of the world’s population and were instead populated with white men in suits. This also extends to civil society, where green movements in Asia are often led by Western expatriates.

This always seemed strangely ironic to me, that the West was leading the world into a sustainable future, after almost worldwide adoption of a Western economic model that thrives on overconsumption has resulted in the pillaging of the earth.

“The most unsustainable societies are Western societies, but they make it an Asian problem,” said Nair. “Now these societies are also providing us with solutions from their thought leaders. There’s something wrong with this picture.”

That conversation with Nair drove home the flaw in our current narrative: sustainability often focuses on the demands and desires of the developed, and largely Western world, while failing to address the more complex barriers that the majority of the world has towards achieving a sustainable way of life.

Real solutions lie in radically shifting the global conversation to one rooted in local needs and contexts, and coming up with knowledge-based ideas and polices that are independent of Western models.

Sustainability has to furthermore be more inclusive of other voices outside of the Western mainstream—especially communites long marginalised by it—by striving for true representation that does not perpetuate damaging colonial mentalities.

Not doing so runs the risk of supporting a global structure of inequality that will do no good to our quest for sustainability.

*This story was originally published on Eco-Business and reproduced with permission.

The link to the original article follows: https://www.eco-business.com/opinion/in-the-world-of-sustainability-colonialism-is-not-dead/

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Excerpt:

Zafirah Zein is a correspondent for Eco-Business*, a sustainability media organisation covering responsible business and sustainable development in Asia Pacific.

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Sexual Violence Surging in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/sexual-violence-surging-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sexual-violence-surging-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/sexual-violence-surging-south-sudan/#respond Tue, 19 Feb 2019 12:22:54 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160191 Women and girls continue to face the brunt of violence in the northern region of South Sudan with persistently high and brutal levels of sexual violence, a new report found. Despite the signing of a peace deal nearly five months ago, United Nations investigators have found an “endemic” rise in cases of sexual violence in […]

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“There’s been very little accountability in South Sudan for what is chronic, endemic problem of sexual violence against women and girls,” the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights says. Credit: Jared Ferrie/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 19 2019 (IPS)

Women and girls continue to face the brunt of violence in the northern region of South Sudan with persistently high and brutal levels of sexual violence, a new report found.

Despite the signing of a peace deal nearly five months ago, United Nations investigators have found an “endemic” rise in cases of sexual violence in South Sudan’s Unity State.

“There’s been very little accountability in South Sudan for what is chronic, endemic problem of sexual violence against women and girls,” said the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) spokesperson Rupert Colville.

“Virtually complete impunity over the years, as a result, very little disincentive for these men not to do what they’re doing,” he added at the launch of the report.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also expressed concern over the widespread issue, stating: “The volatility of the situation in South Sudan combined with the lack of accountability for violations and abuses committed throughout Unity, likely leads armed actors to believe that they can get away with rape and other horrific forms of sexual violence.”

Between September and December 2018 alone, at least 175 women and girls experienced sexual and physical violence. Of these cases, 64 were girls, some as young as eight years old.

U.N. Missions in South Sudan (UNMISS) and OHCHR researchers found that most of the victims were attacked on roads as they traveled in search of firewood, food or water, commodities which have been limited since the start of the conflict in 2013.

One woman recounted her experience, stating: “We women do not have a choice…if we go by the main road, we are raped. If we go by the bush, we are raped…we avoided the road because we heard horrible stories that women and girls are grabbed while passing through and are raped, but the same happened to us. There is no escape—we are all raped.”

The 30-year-old survivor was raped on three separate occasions, each time around the same location to or from food distribution sites in Bentiu.

Almost 90 percent of the women and girls were raped by more than one perpetrator and often over several hours, the report found.

The report also observed that many of the attacks were premeditated and organised, stating: “The ruthlessness of the attackers appears to be a consistent feature of sexual violence documented during this investigation.”

In another incident in November, a woman who was two months pregnant suffered a miscarriage after being gang-raped.

Survivors also described being beaten with rifle butts, sticks, and cable wires if they attempted to resist or after they were raped.

A 50-year-old survivor told investigators she was beaten after trying to keep armed men from taking her 25-year-old daughter.

“Some of them threw punches and kicks on me for not allowing them to take my daughter. Those armed men were just like my sons, but they were so cruel. They do not have mercy,” she said.

Among the factors that have contributed to the rise in attacks against women and girls is the large number of fighters on “standby” mode awaiting disengagement and withdrawal.

Though a peace agreement was signed in September 2018, the new transitional government will not be put into effect until May, leaving members of numerous armed forces in limbo.

“A lot of these young men who are heavily armed, are just waiting around…This is a very toxic mix, and there are also youth militia which some of these official groups ally with and you don’t know exactly who they are; they’ve been heavily involved as well,” Colville said.

President Salva Kirr of South Sudan. The United Nations has urged Kirr to carry out investigations and seek justice for survivors of sexual violence in the northern region of the country. Credit: Elias Asmare/IPS

Impunity and the lack of accountability have also led to the normalisation of violence against women and girls, and both UNMISS and OHCHR have urged President Salva Kiir to carry out investigations and seek justice for survivors.

Upon hearing about reports of mass report, an investigation was carried out by a South Sudanese committee. However, they denied the allegations and declared that the rapes were “not a true story.”

While the current peace deal seems volatile, it is increasingly urgent for the new South Sudan to act and protect women and girls.

“Sadly, we have continued to receive reports of rape and gang rape in northern Unity since the beginning of this year,” Bachelet said.

“I urge the Government of South Sudan to take adequate measures – including those laid out in the peace agreement – to protect women and girls, to promptly and thoroughly investigate all allegations of sexual violence and to hold the perpetrators accountable through fair trials,” she added.

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The Geneva Centre issues a publication on the unprecedented rise of people on the move and one other on the role of the headscarf as a bridge between cultures and religionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/geneva-centre-issues-publication-unprecedented-rise-people-move-one-role-headscarf-bridge-cultures-religions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=geneva-centre-issues-publication-unprecedented-rise-people-move-one-role-headscarf-bridge-cultures-religions http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/geneva-centre-issues-publication-unprecedented-rise-people-move-one-role-headscarf-bridge-cultures-religions/#respond Tue, 19 Feb 2019 08:07:24 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160189 (Geneva Centre) – Two new publications entitled “The Unprecedented Rise of People on the Move” and “Veiling/ Unveiling: The Headscarf in Christianity, Islam and Judaism” have been published by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue. The purpose of the first publication is two-fold: it is first to assess the causes and […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Feb 19 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(Geneva Centre) – Two new publications entitled “The Unprecedented Rise of People on the Move” and “Veiling/ Unveiling: The Headscarf in Christianity, Islam and Judaism” have been published by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue.

The purpose of the first publication is two-fold: it is first to assess the causes and consequences of forced displacement of people on the move in Europe and in the Arab region. The first volume entitled “Migration and human solidarity, a challenge and an opportunity for Europe and the MENA region” explores the adverse impact of cross-border movement resulting from war-related insecurity and from economic push factors such as the detrimental impact of climate change.

Secondly, it aims to demonstrate that the migrant and refugee crisis is not a “number-crisis” as many of the European countries most hostile to the arrival of people on the move are those that have hosted the smallest numbers of migrants. Upon examination of these issues, it becomes clear that the closed border policies of advanced societies and the rise of xenophobic populism further aggravate the migrant and refugee crisis.

The publication also includes a part entitled “Protecting people on the move: IDPs in the context of the refugee and migrant crisis” examines the causes and consequences of internal displacement in the context of the migrant and refugee crisis. It demonstrates that the push and pull factors of forced displacement of IDPs in the Arab region exacerbate migrant and refugee inflows to Europe. Upon examination of the predicaments of IDPs in Syria, Iraq and Azerbaijan, the study demonstrates that prolonged internal displacement results in long-term adverse impact on societies from economic, social and political standpoints.

In conclusion, the publication suggests that the long-term solution to enhance the protection of IDPs in conflict- and disaster-settings rests on the ability of stakeholders to develop efficient policies to prevent and reduce internal displacement.

The aim of the second publication is to counter misconceptions, deconstruct stereotypes and to show the role of the headscarf as a bridge between cultures and religions. Against the background of a heightened fear of the Other, with societies turning inwards and moving away from tolerance, the headscarf has become outrageously politicised. Politicians are waging a relentless war against this religious symbol, either by advocating its prohibition and thus trampling on article 18 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, or by legislating to impose it on women, thus violating women’s freedom to choose what to wear.

The Geneva Centre partnered with the Permanent Mission of Algeria to organize a panel discussion and an exhibition on 23 February 2018, at the UN Offices in Geneva, entitled “Veiling/ Unveiling: The Headscarf in Christianity, Islam and Judaism.” In the first part of the publication, the reader is provided with the summary of the debate, whilst a full chapter is dedicated to the lessons learned, offering an analysis of the topic from the standpoint of each religion discussed. The second part of the publication provides a graphic illustration of the catalogue of the eponymous exhibition.

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Roma the Movie: The Hidden Drama of Domestic Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/roma-movie-hidden-drama-domestic-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=roma-movie-hidden-drama-domestic-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/roma-movie-hidden-drama-domestic-workers/#respond Mon, 18 Feb 2019 13:22:29 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160175 Roma, a 2018 Mexican film written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, is currently on a triumphal journey through the world. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the best director and best foreign language film at the Golden Globe Awards, best director and best picture at the Critics´ Choice Awards, best film, […]

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By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Feb 18 2019 (IPS)

Roma, a 2018 Mexican film written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, is currently on a triumphal journey through the world. It won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, the best director and best foreign language film at the Golden Globe Awards, best director and best picture at the Critics´ Choice Awards, best film, best direction and best cinematography at the British Academy Film Awards. Furthermore, Roma has a record high ten nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards (The Oscars). Not at all bad for a black-and-white movie, which appears to have been directed by a sophisticated cineaste and custom-made for an art-house audience. Moreover, Roma deals with a highly controversial and seldom treated theme – the plight of poor, women domestic workers.

Of course, it was with high expectations that I sat down to watch this highly acclaimed movie, but it produced more disappointment than admiration. Let me begin with the aesthetics. I got an uncanny feeling that I had seen cinematography like this before. I was reminded of movies that Michelangelo Antonioni directed during the 1960s. He did not build his movies around traditional plots or intrinsic, character analysis. He rather used visuals as a tool for his message, which nevertheless was quite radical, critical of social ills and the feeling of alienation they created. Antonioni’s films were characterized by scant action and dialogue, complex and detailed composition and extremely long and well-planned shots. His characters were submerged in their inner life, unable to communicate their feelings, while Antonioni made their surroundings reflect their feelings. His persons moved around in simple, but at the same time visually stunning environments, saturated with moods and atmospheres.

Alfonso Cuarón´s movie is made like that and apart from Antonioni it reminded me of another skilled director, Luis Buñuel. Watching the wealthy people in Roma carousing on a hacienda during New Year´s Eve I came to think about Buñuel´s devastating criticism of the emptiness of higher class life in his The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and when a fire starts in the woods I was back in a surreal scene from Miloš Forman´s The Firemen´s Ball. I spite of these impressive models Cuarón´s movie lacks the desperation, the shocking condemnation of inner-city poverty of Buñuel´s Los Olvidados, which he in 1950 filmed in the slums not far from Colonia Roma, the wealthy middle class district in Mexico City, where Cuarón´s film takes place twenty years later. Roma has the refinement and aesthetics of Italian neo-realistic movies, but lacks the heart-braking compassion of films like Umberto D. and Bicycle Thieves, in which the desperate and poor protagonist in the end cries out: “I curse the day I was born!”

Like in the movies mentioned above, the setting of Cuarón´s characters is depicted with cinematographic splendour, but they do not advance the strong compassion you feel for a person like da Sica´s poor pensioner or bicycle thief. Cuarón´s “Cleo” Gutiérrez is an indigenous live-in maid in a wealthy middle-class household. Unfortunately, she remains a stereotype, as if she had been cast and solidified in the same mold as so many other working people imagined by upper middle-class moviemakers. A strong, silent, all-enduring and all-tolerating heroine, depraved of a voice of her own.

Cleo appears to speak the language of the Zapotecs of the valleys of Oaxca in southern Mexico, but we learn nothing about her roots among a people who uphold their strong traditions and who gave birth to Mexico´s president Benito Juárez (1806 – 1872), who from poor, rural, indigenous origins rose to become a well-educated, urban professional and a worldwide symbol of Latin American nationalism and resistance to foreign intervention.

Quiet and patient Cleo is dating Fermín, equally poor but a ruthless egocentric, who in an absurd scene naked is displaying his martial art skills, confessing to the usually silent Cleo: “I owe my life to martial arts. I grew up with nothing, you know.” Cleo becomes pregnant and Fermín avoids all responsibilities, insulting Cleo by calling her gata, cat, a common slur for maids “unable to take care of themselves”. Her employers sympathize with her and Cleo continues to work for them, receiving good medical care, thanks to the family’s connection to a major urban hospital.

The general background to Cleo´s drama is that the family father is leaving his wife and their four children, as well as the politically motivated Corpus Christi Massacre of June the 10th 1971, when 120 unarmed protesters were killed. Fermín happens to be part of the paramilitary Halcones, Falcons, who were guilty of the slaughter. The weakest moment of the movie is when this Fermín suddenly appears with a gun in the store where Cleo is looking for a crib for their expected child and he kills a man in front of her, at the same time as she goes into labour and is brought to the hospital by the mother of her employer. In spite of excellent care her baby is born dead. In connection with this comes the film´s most revealing scene: When Cleo is taken to the delivery room, the grandmother Teresa is asked by a nurse about Cleo’s last name, her date of birth and if she has insurance. Teresa cannot answer any of those questions.

Here the movie, as well as the reality, reveal themselves – poor women who work as maids are not considered as close friends and family members. Their employers often declare that “they are part of the family”, but this may serve as a means to deny them decent wages and social security. In spite of its shallowness, its lack of social, psychological and political sting Roma makes us aware of the plight of female, domestic workers; their poverty, defencelessness and marginalisation. Nevertheless, the soft, apolitical approach of Cuarón may just as well be a whitewash of inequality and discrimination and result in what I heard a Mexican woman state on TV: “Roma constitutes a homage to all the brave women who make it possible for us other women to make our contribution to society.”

As of June 2018, there were 2.2 million domestic workers in Mexico. Around 95 per cent of them were women and more than half of them had an indigenous background. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that there are at least 67 million domestic workers worldwide, not including child domestic workers, and that this number is increasing steadily in both developed and developing countries. Approximately 83 percent are women and many are migrant workers.1 For the most part, domestic work is demanding and undervalued. Even if legislation protecting domestic workers exists in many countries, it is seldom enforced. Domestic work is generally poorly paid and regulated. It is also common that domestic workers are subject to serious and various forms of abuse. Maybe a change is on its way. In July 2011 an ILO Convention on Domestic Workers was adopted.2 It recognized domestic workers as workers with the same rights as other labourers and it was entered into force on 5th September 2013. However, the Convention is still far from being implemented everywhere. In spite of its shortcomings a popular film like Roma might constitute a small step in the right direction.

1 https://www.ilo.org/global/topics/domestic-workers/WCMS_209773/lang–en/index.htm
2 https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CMW.aspx

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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International Aid Feeds Hope and Fuels Confrontation in Venezuelahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/international-aid-feeds-hope-fuels-confrontation-venezuela/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-aid-feeds-hope-fuels-confrontation-venezuela http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/international-aid-feeds-hope-fuels-confrontation-venezuela/#respond Sat, 16 Feb 2019 02:35:14 +0000 Humberto Marquez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160163 The international food and medical aid awaiting entry into Venezuela from neighboring Colombia, Brazil and Curacao is at the crux of the struggle for power between President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó, recognised as “legitimate president” by 50 governments. The current situation “offers advantages to Guaidó. It is trying to break the ties […]

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"Humanitarian aid now. We need it," read a banner during a massive demonstration in Caracas on Feb. 12, demanding that international aid blocked at the border of neighboring countries be allowed into the country. The demonstrations were held in 50 towns and cities around the country, in support of Juan Guaidó as acting president and demanding that President Nicolás Maduro step down. Credit: Humberto Márquez/IPS

"Humanitarian aid now. We need it," read a banner during a massive demonstration in Caracas on Feb. 12, demanding that international aid blocked at the border of neighboring countries be allowed into the country. The demonstrations were held in 50 towns and cities around the country, in support of Juan Guaidó as acting president and demanding that President Nicolás Maduro step down. Credit: Humberto Márquez/IPS

By Humberto Márquez
CARACAS, Feb 16 2019 (IPS)

The international food and medical aid awaiting entry into Venezuela from neighboring Colombia, Brazil and Curacao is at the crux of the struggle for power between President Nicolás Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaidó, recognised as “legitimate president” by 50 governments.

The current situation “offers advantages to Guaidó. It is trying to break the ties between Maduro and the armed forces through the pressure to receive humanitarian aid,” Argentine analyst Andrei Serbin Pont, director of the Regional Coordinator of Economic and Social Research, a Latin American academic network, told IPS.

Serbin said Guaidó should secure the so-far reluctant participation of the Red Cross and the United Nations with respect to getting the aid into the country because “by definition humanitarian aid cannot have political objectives,” which are clearly present in the cooperation offered by governments of the Americas and Europe that refuse to recognise Maduro as the legitimately re-elected president."The struggle over the aid makes many local residents here see that there is hope that this time the opposition will bring about change; people now see light at the end of the tunnel." -- Nadine Cubas

President Maduro said: “It is not humanitarian aid but a rotten gift, which carries within the poison of humiliation of our people and serves as a prelude to military intervention. If the United States wants to help us, the blockade, the financial persecution and the economic sanctions against Venezuela should cease.”

U.S. President Donald Trump and several of his Latin America policy advisers repeat the mantra that “Maduro must go,” and that Washington “does not rule out any option, including the military option” with respect to Venezuela.

The Venezuelan armed forces, which have reiterated their loyalty to Maduro, have been deployed in territorial defence exercises since late January, have blocked road access from Colombia, and are ready to prevent any attempt to bring in the controversial aid shipments.

In the midst of one of the multitudinous street demonstrations that the opposition has held in recent weeks, Guaidó announced that “humanitarian aid is going to come in, no ifs ands or buts. I have given the order to the armed forces to allow it to enter” on Feb. 23.

The unprecedented situation in which Venezuela finds itself, with two supposed presidents, is due to the fact that the opposition and many governments consider invalid the May 2018 elections in which Maduro, 56, was elected for a second six-year term on Jan. 10, and refuse to recognise him as president.

In response, the opposition-dominated National Assembly, considered to be in a state of rebellion by the other branches of government, decided that its president, the 35-year-old Guaidó, would be acting president of Venezuela, starting on Jan. 23.

The border city of Cúcuta in northeastern Colombia has already received 500 tons of medicines and nutritional supplements, while Guaidó announced new collection centers in the state of Roraima in northern Brazil and on the neighboring Dutch island of Curacao, where 90 tons are expected from France, opposition deputy Stalin González told the media.

The aid accumulated so far “consists of emergency medicines and supplements for children under three years of age with severe malnutrition, pregnant or nursing mothers, and the elderly,” Julio Castro, leader of the non-governmental organisation Doctors for Health, told IPS.

The medical aid, according to Castro, “10 percent of what is urgently needed,” for some 300,000 patients, will go to public hospitals and will be distributed by NGOs and religious organisations, with the support of thousands of volunteers responding to the opposition’s call.

Gonzalez said there are already 250,000 volunteers mobilised around the country, including 10,000 health professionals.

Young people from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela gathered in downtown Caracas on Feb. 12 to express support for President Nicolás Maduro. Credit: AVN

Young people from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela gathered in downtown Caracas on Feb. 12 to express support for President Nicolás Maduro. Credit: AVN

An immediate effect of the bid for aid has been that the government has increased in recent days the delivery of apparently stockpiled medicines and supplies to several public hospitals, according to workers at several hospitals in Caracas and other cities.

People like Natalia Vargas, 39, a bank clerk and diabetes patient, hope that “if emergency help arrives, then other medicines that are scarce because they are imported can come. And when you get them, they’re too expensive.”

“I hope that the politicians and the military will reach an agreement to bring in the aid,” she told IPS at her home in La Candelaria, a traditional lower-middle-class neighourhood in central Caracas.

The international aid initiatives are in response to the social and economic collapse that has occurred in Venezuela since Maduro firste came to power in 2013, unprecedented due to the fact that it happened in an oil-rich country and because of the speed of the collapse, without no natural catastrophe or war.

During the last five years and while some three million people left the country, more than 80 percent of Venezuela’s 31 million inhabitants were left in poverty and unable to acquire enough food and the medicines they need, in addition to hyperinflation since 2017, according to the Study on Living Conditions conducted by three of the country’s leading universities.

In the same period, the economy shrunk to half its size, GDP plunged 56 percent, 210,000 of the 490,000 companies in the country closed, half of the industrial park has been operating at 20 percent of capacity, and local agriculture can barely provide 25 percent of the necessary food, according to the 2018 year-end report of the Fedecámaras central business chamber.

The deficit of medicines in pharmacies remains has stood at 85 percent since last year, the president of the Federation of Pharmacists, Freddy Ceballos, said on Feb. 13.

From the town of Cúa, near the east of the capital, Nadine Cubas, 71, who suffers from hypertension and glaucoma, told IPS that “we are far from the border, that aid may not reach the valleys of the Tuy River, where we are, but if it supplies the people in the west then there is a better chance of getting medicines here.”

Cubas added that “the struggle over the aid makes many local residents here see that there is hope that this time the opposition will bring about change; people now see light at the end of the tunnel.”

What the opposition is counting on is this: if the government lets the aid in, it will show weakness and a division in the support of the military, with an unpredictable domino effect, and if it does not allow it in, it will look like an inhumane clique of leaders whose only concern is to hold onto power, opposition deputies Julio Borges and Juan Miguel Matheus told reporters.

This position is in line with the demand that the entry of aid be a first step for the Venezuelan crisis to lead to elections for a new government, as demanded by the United States, the Lima Group of 12 countries from the hemisphere and the majority of the European Union, against opposition by other governments, such as those of China, Cuba, Iran, Russia and Turkey, or calls for a search for a middle path, issued by Mexico and Uruguay.

Borges and Gonzalez said the humanitarian aid that has accumulated will be followed by more aid as the political game unfolds in Venezuela.

Governments such as those of Argentina, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Puerto Rico and the United States, plus the Organisation of American States, have offered more than 200 million dollars in assistance.

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Dismantling Sexual Health Stigma in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/dismantling-sexual-health-stigma-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dismantling-sexual-health-stigma-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/dismantling-sexual-health-stigma-india/#respond Fri, 15 Feb 2019 14:17:33 +0000 Natasha Chaudhary http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160156 Natasha Chaudhary* is a trainer, coach and strategy consultant working to strengthen people-powered work. She is a Director at Haiyya, an Indian youth led feminist non-profit organization specializing in grassroots campaigning and consulting.

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Natasha Chaudhary* is a trainer, coach and strategy consultant working to strengthen people-powered work. She is a Director at Haiyya, an Indian youth led feminist non-profit organization specializing in grassroots campaigning and consulting.

By Natasha Chaudhary
NEW DELHI, Feb 15 2019 (IPS)

Results from a survey with young and unmarried women suggest that as low as 1% of women have received information on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) from their mothers, doctors or government campaigns.

And 53% of these women feel unsure if the sexual health problems they faced were severe enough to visit a gynaecologist. Within the Indian context and patriarchal system, any conversation around young women’s sexuality is limited and stigmatised.

Natasha Chaudhary

This massively impacts the way unmarried women view their sexual health. About 13 women in India die every day due to unsafe abortions.

Shame and stigma particularly impact unmarried women who end up delaying abortions and often resort to backdoor clinics putting their lives at risk. As low as 20% of the unmarried women my organization (Haiyya) surveyed, knew about the abortion law in India, and 95% had never visited a gynaecologist to take consultation on sex, pleasure or contraception.

As a demographic, unmarried women are completely invisible in the domain of SRHR in India. Due to societal biases and shame, they de-prioritize their sexual health needs and refrain from accessing services.

When they try to consult doctors, they are often denied services, misinformed or coerced into decisions. It is this stigma and narrative we are challenging through our initiative at Haiyya called Health Over Stigma.

It all started 2 years ago, when one of our colleagues had to undergo an abortion. It was a traumatic and harrowing experience she went through at the clinic, where her dignity was shamed and destroyed.

Following that event, we found ourselves sharing personal stories with each other that we had never shared before. One of us had been denied getting a pap smear test because the doctor felt she would only need it once married.

Someone else had elongated treatment of a vaginal infection because she was too scared to visit a gynaecologist. Someone else had been shamed by the doctor, who dared to ask if her parents knew she was sexually active.

We all had approached our sexual health from a place of fear. None of us felt we could hold service providers accountable. We felt as if we were alone and had no bargaining power as a community.

We began talking to more women and found that despite different experiences, we were bound by our stories of isolation and helplessness. This issue has persisted because power lies with age old institutions where women are disengaged from decision making processes that affect their very own lives.

We needed to flip this by organizing unmarried women as a collective and moving the onus and accountability on medical institutions.

After two years of work, we are challenging the status quo. As a recipient of the Goalkeepers Youth Accelerator Award, this year I will be able to lead Haiyya in the implementation of a campaign were women will mobilize and demand to be treated with dignity and their agency upheld and asking doctors to fulfil their duty as non-judgmental service providers.

Through storytelling and community building, we are aiming to achieve three key objectives in 2019:

Catalyzing public commitments from institutions such as hospitals, ministries and other relevant health actors to update their code of conduct. Creating an online platform that empowers women by providing them with resources on their rights, how to access services, and testimonials from individual experiences.

Building a community of women in India who drive an online conversation in key states on devising informed strategies that improve access to health services and combat stigma

Within the sexual reproductive health and rights spaces, unmarried women continue to be a marginalised group. As a young unmarried woman working with other such women, I want to change that narrative.

We will achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 5.6 (ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights) by making possible that all women, from diverse backgrounds, ages and choices, have the right and necessary information.

*Natasha Chaudhary holds a Master’s degree in Development Studies from University of Sydney and was an undergraduate at Delhi University. She says she deeply cares about gender, health and caste issues with a focus intersectional leadership and designing-interventions that enable changemakers as decision- makers shifting away from service delivery models.

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Excerpt:

Natasha Chaudhary* is a trainer, coach and strategy consultant working to strengthen people-powered work. She is a Director at Haiyya, an Indian youth led feminist non-profit organization specializing in grassroots campaigning and consulting.

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Bringing #MeToo to the Fashion Industryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/bringing-metoo-fashion-industry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bringing-metoo-fashion-industry http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/bringing-metoo-fashion-industry/#respond Fri, 15 Feb 2019 10:29:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160147 The global #MeToo movement has put a spotlight on sexual harassment and violence in various industries including the film and music industries. Is it now time for the fashion industry to address these issues within their supply chains, one organisation says. Coinciding with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Forum on Due Diligence […]

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CPJ joins call for Nigeria to ensure internet and social media services remain connected during electionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/cpj-joins-call-nigeria-ensure-internet-social-media-services-remain-connected-elections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cpj-joins-call-nigeria-ensure-internet-social-media-services-remain-connected-elections http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/cpj-joins-call-nigeria-ensure-internet-social-media-services-remain-connected-elections/#respond Thu, 14 Feb 2019 16:21:58 +0000 Editor CPJ http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160162 (CPJ) – The Committee to Protect Journalists joined more than 15 rights organizations and the #KeepItOn Coalition to call for Nigerian authorities to ensure that internet and social media services remain connected during upcoming elections, and safeguard internet speeds of websites and messaging applications. In early February, Nigeria’s federal government denied rumors of plans to […]

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An electoral worker prepares identity card and biometric verification readers, at the offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission in Kano, northern Nigeria, on February 14, 2019. CPJ joined a call for Nigeria to ensure that internet and social media services remain connected during the upcoming elections. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

By Editor, CPJ
Feb 14 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(CPJ) – The Committee to Protect Journalists joined more than 15 rights organizations and the #KeepItOn Coalition to call for Nigerian authorities to ensure that internet and social media services remain connected during upcoming elections, and safeguard internet speeds of websites and messaging applications. In early February, Nigeria’s federal government denied rumors of plans to shut down the internet during upcoming elections, according to the privately owned Guardian Nigeria and Quartz news outlets. Nigeria has two sets of elections scheduled in the coming weeks: federal elections on February 16 and state elections on March 2.

The letter, addressed to Umar Garba Danbatta, executive vice chairman and chief executive officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission, emphasized how internet disruptions inhibit journalists’ ability to safely conduct reporting and run contrary to international law. It also highlighted additional social and economic costs of internet outages.

“The media is critical to this particular election and critical to people understanding both the [election’s] processes and procedures,” Festus Okoye, national commissioner of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, told CPJ on February 13. Okoye also emphasized the importance of internet connectivity because the smart card readers used for voter identification are based on the internet. “Three networks–Glo, MTN, and Airtel–are powering them [the smart card readers], so if you jam the network there won’t be any election…that’s just the bottom line.” he said.

Read the full letter here.

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Philippines’ Maria Ressa detained and released over ‘political’ chargehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/philippines-maria-ressa-detained-released-political-charge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=philippines-maria-ressa-detained-released-political-charge http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/philippines-maria-ressa-detained-released-political-charge/#respond Thu, 14 Feb 2019 15:59:20 +0000 Editor CPJ http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160159 (CPJ) – The Philippine government’s legal harassment of the news website Rappler and Maria Ressa, its founder and executive editor, took an alarming turn Wednesday when officers from the National Bureau of Investigation arrested Ressa at Rappler’s bureau in Manila and held her overnight over a cyber libel case filed against her by the Justice […]

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Maria Ressa--founder, CEO, and executive editor of the Rappler news website--giving her acceptance speech at CPJ's 2018 International Press Freedom Awards on November 20, 2018. (Getty Images/Dia Dipasupil)

By Editor, CPJ
Feb 14 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(CPJ) – The Philippine government’s legal harassment of the news website Rappler and Maria Ressa, its founder and executive editor, took an alarming turn Wednesday when officers from the National Bureau of Investigation arrested Ressa at Rappler’s bureau in Manila and held her overnight over a cyber libel case filed against her by the Justice Department. Ressa’s arrest was in connection to a story published by Rappler in 2012, before the law was enacted. Ressa told CPJ before her arrest that the charge was “political” and that the Philippines has “weaponized” its cybercrime law. Ressa was released on bail on Thursday morning. CPJ’s Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler explored the implications of Ressa’s arrest for press freedom in an op-ed for CNN.

Apart from the cyber-libel charges, Ressa and Rappler face five tax cases. In December, CPJ and First Look Media announced a campaign to provide legal support for journalists, and the first recipients were Ressa and Rappler. CPJ’s board also passed a resolution Wednesday condemning the arrest.

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Q&A: What of the Carbon Neutral Countries?http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-carbon-neutral-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-carbon-neutral-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-carbon-neutral-countries/#respond Thu, 14 Feb 2019 11:56:00 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160137 IPS Correspondent Desmond Brown interviews DR. ARMSTRONG ALEXIS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname.

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Dr. Armstrong Alexis, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname tells IPS High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations need support as they continue to protect their forests. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
PARAMARIBO, Feb 14 2019 (IPS)

As High Forest Cover and Low Deforestation (HFLD) nations meet in Suriname at a major conference, it is obvious that the decision made by these countries to preserve their forests has been a difficult but good one.

“It is a choice that governments have to make to determine whether they want to continue being custodians of the environment or whether they want to pursue interests related only to economic advancement and economic growth,” Dr. Armstrong Alexis, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname, tells IPS in an interview.

The UNDP and the U.N. Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA) have been instrumental in the coming together of the group of countries under the HFLD umbrella.

Both U.N. bodies have supported countries with the design and implementation of national policies and measures to reduce deforestation and manage forests sustainably, hence contributing to the mitigation of climate change and advancing sustainable development.

Forests provide a dwelling and livelihood for over a billion people—including many indigenous peoples. They also host the largest share the world’s biodiversity and provide essential ecosystem services, such as water and carbon storage, which play significant roles in mitigating climate change.

Deforestation and forest degradation, which still continue in many countries at high rates, contribute severely to climate change, currently representing about a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Amid this, Alexis says HFLD countries need support as they continue to protect their forests.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

For a long time Suriname has maintained 93 percent forest cover of total land area which has been providing multiple benefits to the global community, in particular, combatting climate change for current and future generations. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Inter Press Service (IPS): Can you give a brief synopsis of the work of the UNDP in Suriname?

Armstrong Alexis (AA): The UNDP is a partner in development in Suriname. We specifically focus on resources. We cover a whole spectrum of issues around climate change, renewable energy, the reduction of fossil fuels and adaptation and mitigation measures. We also focus on the issue of forests.

IPS: Why is this meeting important for Suriname, and what was the UNDP’s role in collaborating with the HFLD nations?

AA: Suriname is the most forested country on earth. Approximately 93 percent of the land mass of Suriname is covered by pristine Amazonian forests. So, with 93 percent forest cover, Suriname has traditionally, for centuries, been a custodian of its forests and have preserved its forests while at the same time achieving significant development targets for its people.

Given the role of forests as they relate to climate change and in particular the sequestration of carbon, Suriname genuinely believes, and the science will back that up, that Suriname in fact is a carbon negative country. It stores a lot more carbon than it emits. And there are a number of other countries in the world that the U.N. has defined as Heavily Forested Low Deforestation countries. These are countries that are more than 50 percent covered by forests and at the same time they have the deforestation rate which is way below the international average which I think is .02 percent of deforestation per annum.

These countries have come together through a collaborative effort supported by the UNDP and the UN-DESA.

We’ve brought these countries together because they all have a common purpose, they all have a common story and they all are working towards finding common solutions to ensure that there is:

  1. Recognition of the fact that these countries have traditionally maintained their forests and have not destroyed the forests in the name of development;
  2. Given the relevance of trees and forests to combatting climate change, that these are actually the countries that provide a good example and the best opportunity for serving the earth with high forest cover.

IPS: What is the way forward for the protection of forests?

AA: In every country where there are forests there are activities that result in two things – deforestation, where the trees are cut down and usually not replaced; and you also have what it called forest degradation where the forest is not totally destroyed but it is not as thick, it does not have as many trees and sometimes the trees are much younger for many different reasons, including timber production. So, you might be degrading the quality of the forest but not necessarily deforesting in total.

Those countries that form the HFLD have made commitments with the international community that they will continue to pursue their development objectives without necessarily destroying their forests. And destroying here means either deforestation or degradation.

It’s a challenge because in Suriname for example, the small-scale gold mining sector is the largest driver of deforestation—not timber production, not palm oil as in some countries, and not infrastructure.

IPS: So, what do you say to a country that has gold in the soil? That they should not mine that gold?

AA: It’s difficult to say that to a country when the economy depends on it. How do you say to a country don’t produce timber when the economy of the country depends on it?

There are ways and means of doing it [small-scale mining or timber production] in a sustainable way. There are ways and means of ensuring that in granting concessions whether it be for timber production or small-scale gold mining, that you take into consideration means and approaches for rehabilitation.

You have to take into consideration the biodiversity and the sensitivity of some of those forests and whether or not you value more the biodiversity of that area or the few dollars that you can make by destroying that area’s forests and extracting the gold and extracting the timer.

So, conscious decisions have to be made by governments and our role as UNDP is to provide the government with the policy options, which usually is supported by sound scientific research and data to indicate to them what their real options are and how they can integrate those options in the decisions that they make.

So, it is a difficult choice indeed, but it is a choice that governments have to make to determine whether they want to continue being custodians of the environment or whether they want to pursue interests related only to economic advancement and economic growth.

So far, they’ve done a good job at it. One of the areas that I want to emphasise is that a lot of this work cannot be done by the countries alone, because if you think about it, the market for the timber is not Suriname. The market for the gold is not Suriname.

Usually the companies that come into those countries to do the extractives, they are not even local companies. They are big multinational companies. A country like Suriname or Guyana—those countries cannot take on this mammoth task alone. They need the support of the international community, they need the support of agencies like the U.N., they need the support of the funds that have been established like the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility, the Adaptation Fund, and they need the support of the bilateral donors and the countries that have traditionally invested in protecting the forests.

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Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Desmond Brown interviews DR. ARMSTRONG ALEXIS, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) resident representative for Suriname.

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Rapa Nui’s Stone Statues and Marine Resources Face Threats from Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/rapa-nuis-stone-statues-marine-resources-face-threats-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rapa-nuis-stone-statues-marine-resources-face-threats-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/rapa-nuis-stone-statues-marine-resources-face-threats-climate-change/#respond Thu, 14 Feb 2019 08:05:45 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160125 Social activists and local authorities in Rapa Nui or Easter Island are calling for urgent action to address rising sea temperatures, declining rainfall, and rising tides that threaten their fishing resources and their Moais, the mysterious volcanic stone monoliths. On this island in the Polynesia region of the Pacific Ocean, 3,800 kilometers from the coast […]

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The Hidden Economic Costs of Displacementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/hidden-economic-costs-displacement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hidden-economic-costs-displacement http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/hidden-economic-costs-displacement/#respond Thu, 14 Feb 2019 05:40:14 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160130 While the impacts of displacement on wellbeing are well-known, one group has pointed to the equally burdensome economic costs for those displaced as well as host communities. In a new report, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) examines the financial costs of internal displacement across major crises around the world, raising awareness of the importance […]

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The city of Mogadishu now hosts more than 600,000 IDPs—one-third of the total figure in the East African nation. This dated picture shows one of the many refugee camps outside of Somalia’s capital which played host to almost 400,000 famine refugees who fled to Mogadishu for aid at the height of the 2011 famine. A year later they had still been living in refugee camps and some eight years later more remain. Credit: Abdurrahman Warsameh/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 14 2019 (IPS)

While the impacts of displacement on wellbeing are well-known, one group has pointed to the equally burdensome economic costs for those displaced as well as host communities.

In a new report, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) examines the financial costs of internal displacement across major crises around the world, raising awareness of the importance of preventing future displacement as well as responding to such situations efficiently.

“We have long understood the devastating impact internal displacement can have on the safety and wellbeing of people affected by conflict, violence, disasters and development projects,” said IDMC’s Director Alexandra Bilak.

“But internal displacement also places a heavy burden on the economy, by limiting people’s ability to work and generating specific needs that must be paid for by those affected, their hosts, governments or aid providers,” she added.

Looking at the economic costs of the consequences of internal displacement on key needs and services such as health, shelter, and income in eight countries, IDMC found that the average cost per internally displaced persons (IDPs) was 310 dollars.

With 40 million displaced around the world, the global financial impact of displacement reaches 13 billion  dollars annually.

The report also notes that the impacts of internal displacement are far higher in low-income countries, partially due the lack of capacity to minimise impacts of crises.

The Central African Republic (CAR) is one such low-income country, with over 70 percent of the country estimated to be living in poverty.

CAR has seen decades of instability and violence, and its most recently conflict has resulted in an ongoing, dire humanitarian crisis and the displacement of over 1 million people, more than half of whom have stayed within the country’s borders.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), one in four children is either displaced or a refugee.

IDMC calculated that the economic impacts of internal displacement in the central African country between 2013 and 2017 total 950 million dollars. This represents 230 million dollars annually, equivalent to 11 percent of the country’s pre-crisis gross domestic product (GDP).

Almost 40 percent of the total cost comes from the impacts of displacement on nutrition and food security.

Approximately two million people are severely food insecure in the country, while UNICEF projects that over 43,000 children under the age of five will face severe acute malnutrition which, if left untreated, is fatal.

Combined with the additional costs associated with providing healthcare to IDPs in emergency settings, health accounts for half of the economic impact of the Central African Republic displacement crisis.

In Somalia, drought alone cost the country 500 million dollars annually between 2017 and 2018, representing almost five percent of the country’s pre-crisis GDP. The country-wide drought lead to 892,000 new displacements in the country in 2017.

As the drought left rural communities unable to cultivate and live off their lands, the highest economic impact is associated to the provision of food assistance to IDPs.

IDMC also found high impacts on housing and infrastructure as the drought drove many Somalis to urban and peri-urban areas in search of new sources of income. However, this further stretched the already limited capacity of municipalities to provide basic services such as water and sanitation.

The city of Mogadishu now hosts more than 600,000 IDPs—one-third of the total figure of IDPs in the East African nation.

“This new research clearly shows the risk internal displacement represents, not only for human rights and security but also for national development,” said Bilak.

By identifying the areas in which internal displacement has the highest cost can help governments and aid providers target their interventions, the report notes.

However, more and better data is needed.

“More data and analysis are needed to further identify where the financial losses are greatest and help governments and aid providers prevent future displacement, as well as respond more efficiently to existing crises,” Bilak concluded.

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How Devastating is Climate Change for World Peace & Security?http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/devastating-climate-change-world-peace-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=devastating-climate-change-world-peace-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/devastating-climate-change-world-peace-security/#respond Wed, 13 Feb 2019 13:11:10 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160123 When the Security Council, the most powerful body at the United Nations, met last month to discuss the growing new threats to world peace and security, the discussion veered away from international terrorism, nuclear Armageddon and the rash of ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. And 83 of the 193 member […]

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Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 13 2019 (IPS)

When the Security Council, the most powerful body at the United Nations, met last month to discuss the growing new threats to world peace and security, the discussion veered away from international terrorism, nuclear Armageddon and the rash of ongoing military conflicts in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

And 83 of the 193 member states remained collectively focused on one of the greatest impending dangers to humanity: the devastation that could be triggered by climate change.

In an interview with IPS, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna best captured the grim scenario when she declared: “Whether the issue is desertification in parts of Africa, forced migration of vulnerable people in Central America, conflict over water scarcity, or rising sea levels and tropical storms for small island states, the security aspects of climate change are pressing and multifaceted.”

Addressing the Security Council, Under-Secretary-General for Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, warned that climate change affects peace and security in indirect but serious ways.

In the Sahel, she said, competition for resources has fuelled tensions between herders and farmers; in the Lake Chad Basin, drought has reduced economic opportunities and threatened the livelihoods of many who are turning to armed groups; and in Asia, studies have shown a link between the impact of climate change on livelihoods and the intensity of civil conflicts.

She also pointed out that climate-related displacement is “an acute problem which drives up local tension, as well as human trafficking and child exploitation.”

In her wide-ranging interview, the Canadian Minister said as part of her country’s $2.65 billion pledge to support developing countries in their mitigation and adaptation efforts, Canada has increased its adaptation support to the poorest and most vulnerable populations impacted by climate change.

This funding includes support for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), some of them, including the Maldives, Tuvalu and Kiribati, are in danger of being wiped off the face of the earth because of sea-level rise.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: The United Nations has recognized climate change as one of the greatest long-term challenges to international peace and security. How best would you characterize these challenges?

MINISTER McKENNA: The impact of climate change goes beyond the environment. At the national, regional and global levels, climate change is having a significant effect on economies, social development and peace and security, particularly in fragile contexts where it is a threat multiplier to governance challenges.

The increased frequency, severity and magnitude of extreme weather events all over the world – one of the most immediate and visible results of climate change– will likely continue to generate humanitarian crises.

Canada also recognizes that women and girls are disproportionately affected by the adverse effects of the changing climate and we stress the importance of addressing their needs as countries build back better.

Canada’s International Assistance and Defence Policies recognize that climate change poses a serious security challenge and must be addressed to sustain development and peace and security gains.

The Government of Canada believes that an integrated approach to addressing climate change is essential to fully account for social, economic, political and security impacts globally and that multilateral consensus is key to achieving sustainable development, peace and security, noting the importance of involving women and girls in decision-making around environment and climate action issues.

IPS: The countries most vulnerable to climate change are the 57 small island developing states (SIDS)—some of whom like the Maldives, Tuvalu and Kiribati, may be wiped off the face of the earth due to sea level rise and natural disasters. Do you think the international community – and specifically the United Nations – is adequately responding to these dangers with concrete actions on climate resilience and funding for adaptation?

MINISTER McKENNA: Climate change is a global challenge that requires a global solution. At COP21 in Paris, the global community came together to strengthen the global response to climate change including by: enhancing adaptive capacity and reducing vulnerability to climate change; providing financial resources to support developing countries in their transition toward a lower carbon future; and holding the average global temperature increase to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, while striving to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

With the adoption of the Paris Rulebook in 2018, all countries including major economies are moving forward with this commitment.

As part of Canada’s $2.65B pledge to support developing countries in their mitigation and adaptation efforts, Canada has increased its adaptation support to the poorest and most vulnerable populations impacted by climate change. This funding includes support for Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Canada is providing $60M to establish a Renewable Energy in Small Island Developing States Program at the World Bank to support the planning and construction of renewable energy infrastructure, energy efficiency and battery storage solutions.

Canada is providing $300M to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to advance projects that support the transition of SIDS, Least Developed Countries, and African States towards clean and climate-resilient economies.

Of note, the GCF is supporting the Pacific Islands Renewable Energy Investment Program in seven SIDS (the Cook Islands, Tonga, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru and Samoa), which is expected to reduce 120,000 tonnes of Co2 per year, while increasing the penetration of renewables in these markets.

Canada is providing $30M to respond to the urgent adaptation needs of developing countries through the Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF). As of 2016, the Fund has approved US$1B for projects in 40 countries, including nine SIDS, such as Tuvalu, the Maldives, and Kiribati.

IPS: In November 2015, during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM) in Malta, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced grants amounting to $2.65 billion over a five year period to help developing nations in their battle against climate change. With 2020 as the expiry date, how much of these funds have been disbursed and who are the recipients? Will there be further grants after 2020?

MINISTER McKENNA: Canada is delivering $2.65B in climate finance to developing countries. To date, over $1.5B worth of projects have been announced in the form of grants and concessional financing. This pledge covers FY 2015/16 to 2020/21.

(The link to recent announcements: https://climate-change.canada.ca/finance/RecentAnnouncements-AnnoncesRecentes.aspx.)

Funding beyond 2020/21 will require a decision from the Government of Canada.

IPS: The scarcity of water, triggered primarily by climate change, is also responsible for current and past water conflicts and marine disputes, including confrontations between Israel and Jordan, India and Pakistan, Egypt and Ethiopia, Palestine and Israel, (not excluding Bolivia, Peru and Chile.). Do you think the situation will get any worse with new conflicts on the horizon?

MINISTER McKENNA: Canada recognizes that water, if not governed effectively in a fair and inclusive manner, can act as a conflict driver.

Water in abundance may lead to devastating floods, while water scarcity leads to drought, both of which have significant political, social, environmental and economic implications.

The acceleration of climate change, the increased frequency of drought and flooding, the increasing variation in water flows, the growing volume of hydro generation necessary for agriculture, energy production and human consumption are all conspiring to make access to water, water management and water security a critical global challenge.

Areas that are already struggling with challenges, such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, and/or fragile political institutions, are particularly vulnerable to these changes.

Canada also recognises that women are the most susceptible to bear the impacts of these changes, and of potential ensuing conflicts.

In the future, problems such as water shortage, low water quality, or floods are increasingly likely to exacerbate existing social tensions. This can undermine economic development in various countries and could increase the risk of instability.

However, despite the complexity of the challenges, water is also a resource for collaboration. While the past 50 years have seen approximately 40 cases of acute violent water conflicts, they have also given rise to over 150 water treaties around the world.

Water-related disputes between states have typically been resolved through diplomatic channels; however, the past will not necessarily be a good predictor of the future, as climate change will increasingly amplify existing water challenges at the local, national, regional and global levels.

Still, diplomatic engagement can be a tool for addressing water, peace and security challenges. Canadian diplomatic and development efforts focus on reducing instability and the human tragedy posed by climate change, including through reducing risks and increasing resiliency with respect to natural disasters, forced migration, food insecurity and water scarcity.

We also believe that women should be at the forefront of our interventions addressing these issues, and we ensure that Canada’s initiatives systematically integrate gender.

IPS: The threat of sea level rise, caused by climate change, could also result in a new category of “environmental refugees” fleeing from their sinking homelands to neighboring countries. Shouldn’t the 1951 UN convention be amended to include this new category of refugees?

MINISTER McKENNA: Decisions on actions the Government of Canada may take in the event of natural disasters are taken on a case-by-case basis.

For refugees resettled from abroad, Canada relies on referrals from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) or another designated referral organization, or a private sponsorship group.

Generally speaking, in order to be considered for resettlement to Canada, individuals must be a Convention refugee as defined in the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

A Convention refugee is “a person who, by reason of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons or race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion, (a) is outside each of their countries of nationality and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of each of those countries or (b) not having a country of nationality, is outside the country of their former habitual residence and is unable or, by reason of that fear, unwilling to return to that country.

For questions on amending a UN convention, please contact UNHCR directly.

IPS: How is Canada’s own environmental policies in relation to emissions, pollution, clean technology, renewable energy, marine conservation — and also its contribution to the UN’s Green Climate Fund (GCF)?”

MINISTER McKENNA: The Pan-Canadian Framework (PCF) on Clean Growth and Climate Change is Canada’s plan to take ambitious action to fight climate change.

The PCF is built on four pillars: 1) pricing carbon pollution, 2) complementary actions to reduce emissions across the economy, 3) adaptation and climate resilience and 4) clean technology, innovation, and jobs; and includes more than fifty concrete actions that cover all sectors of the Canadian economy.

The PCF positions Canada to meet its Paris Agreement greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target of 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Additional emissions reductions will come from measures that have not yet been modelled; including increases in carbon sequestered through forests and agricultural lands, investments in green infrastructure, public transit, and clean technology and innovation, as well as future actions by federal, provincial and territorial governments.

In the PCF, Canada committed to become a global leader on clean technology innovation. The federal government has since announced $2.3 billion in clean technology investments, including nearly $1.4 billion in financing dedicated to supporting clean technology firms and $400 million to support the development and demonstration of clean technologies.

Though 80% of Canada’s electricity already comes from non-emitting sources such as hydroelectricity, solar and wind, Canada has set a goal to increase this portion to 90% by 2030. In support of this goal, Canada has committed to invest $26.9 billion in green infrastructure, a portion of which will support renewable energy projects.

Furthermore, Canada is working to reduce emissions from its existing fossil fuel fired electricity generation, passing final legislation in December 2018 that will phase-out traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030 and limit GHG emissions from natural gas-fired electricity generation.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Q&A: A Cuban Film About Family in the “Global South” Premieres in Berlinhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-cuban-film-family-global-south-premieres-berlin/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-cuban-film-family-global-south-premieres-berlin http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/qa-cuban-film-family-global-south-premieres-berlin/#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2019 17:30:21 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160083 A documentary about a Cuban family facing an uncertain future had its world premiere Feb. 12 at the Berlin International Film Festival, one of the world’s most prestigious cinema events. “La Arrancada” (On the starting line) is a debut feature by Brazilian director Aldemar Matias, focusing on a young athlete who is having doubts about […]

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“La Arrancada” is a feature film about a young athlete who is having doubts about her role in national sports in Cuba. Courtesy of FiGa Films

By A. D. McKenzie
BERLIN/PARIS, Feb 12 2019 (IPS)

A documentary about a Cuban family facing an uncertain future had its world premiere Feb. 12 at the Berlin International Film Festival, one of the world’s most prestigious cinema events. “La Arrancada” (On the starting line) is a debut feature by Brazilian director Aldemar Matias, focusing on a young athlete who is having doubts about her role in national sports in the Caribbean country. The narrative follows her as she considers her future, which may well lie abroad, she reluctantly realises.

Structured with sensitivity and shot in an understated style, the film eschews the usual visual clichés associated with Cuba. Instead, with nary a Cadillac in sight, it offers a story with a strong feminist sensibility, told as it is from the point of the view of the athlete, Jenniffer, and her mother Marbelis. The latter is a no-nonsense boss of a fumigation centre in downtown Havana who marshals her army of mostly male fumigators to destroy mosquito nests throughout the city. Away from work, she tries to ensure that her daughter and son fulfil their potential.

The mother-daughter relationship is at the core of the film, with some poignant scenes, but “La Arrancada” also addresses the role of young men who feel they have to quit their homeland to improve their lives. We see Jenniffer’s brother getting ready to leave Cuba, and travelling through several Latin American countries, even as Jenniffer struggles to find her own role at home in the competitive arena. This intimate account of a family in the “Global South” explores issues of emigration and youth unemployment and “unfolds the portrait of a generation unsure of what’s next in Cuba”, as director Matias says.

In the following interview, Matias – who studied in Cuba – discusses his background and the themes in his film (a Cuba-Brazil-France co-production, distributed by Miami-São Paulo company FiGa Films).

Q:  Before we discuss the film, can you tell us about your background, where you were born and how you came to study in Cuba?

Aldemar Matias (AM): I was born in Manaus, Brazil. In my early twenties, I started working there as a TV reporter for local TV channels. It was always TV shows about arts or environmental subjects. Then I had the desire to spend more time with the people I was interviewing, to have the possibility to develop a deeper relationship with the characters. That’s when the interest for documentaries appeared. At that moment I already knew about the school in Cuba. It seemed like a holy land for aspiring filmmakers, specially from Latin America, Asia and Africa. Actually, the institution was initially thought to give high quality film education for these “3 worlds”. For me, It was a life-changing experience. It’s still my favourite place in the world. 

Q: What sparked the idea for La Arrancada?

AM: I already knew Marbelis (Jenniffer’s mom) from a previous short film I did, El Enemigo. Then, I was in Cuba trying to do another project, with multiple characters, that was not working very well. I called Marbelis to be part of it and to film a day at the beach. Her daughter asked if she could join in. When I saw these two interacting, that’s when I really saw the possibility of a powerful story, and I decided to focus completely on them. 

Q: The film could have been set in many other countries in the Global South, with its themes of young people leaving their homeland in search of better opportunities, parents living with the sadness of distance, national uncertainty about the future, etc. Could you discuss your reasons for highlighting these concerns?

AM: I believe the intimacy of a family is a great place to portray bigger political contexts. When we see the lives of these two, we can understand better how complex it is to make these decisions, to deal with these uncertainties. Jenniffer might have the idea that she can reach better opportunities somewhere else, but at the same time, she cares about what she’s doing in Cuba, I mean, she’s very upset when she can’t compete. Marbelis might reproduce a nationalist speech in the morning for her workers, but at the same time she can help her son to leave the country. How do we know what’s the best life project for us and our kids? When we see particular family stories up closer, immigrants (from Cuba or from anywhere else) become more than just a number or statistics. It’s not as reductionist as “there is good, here is bad”. 

Q: La Arrancada may be considered a feminist film, even if this aspect isn’t over-emphasised. Many viewers will appreciate the comments from Marbelis, the mother, to her son in one memorable scene, where she cautions him about the misogynistic lyrics in certain types of music. Can you tell us more about this section and why you included it?

AM: I think about Marbelis’ feminism the whole time! Not just this scene. But it’s not up to me to judge it. As a filmmaker, and especially as a male filmmaker. I love the fact that it just comes naturally: she might know nothing about concepts such as sorority or empowerment. But she’s there leading a troop of men every morning in the health district with “audacity and discipline”, as she says, alongside with her sister Delaires. At the same time, she might make a joke with Jenniffer saying “she won’t get married if she doesn’t prepare the lunch fast”. The patriarchy culture is there as well, obviously. That’s her authentic personality and I have to be honest with its complexity. The same way she might call out her son for misogynistic lyrics, and then she can dance to it later. 

Q: The story is told in a very understated way, leaving viewers to draw their own conclusions, especially concerning the role of women in “male” domains. Why did you choose this approach?

AM: I believe my job as a filmmaker is to open discussions, not to give conclusions. And to make the viewer empathise with complex realities and personalities. That’s why I choose to film in this way. But of course, I also need to take responsibility of the journey the viewer is taking and to provide the right path to generate the questions I want him/her to think about. 

Q: The English title is “On the starting line” but “arrancada” could also be “torn” which accurately sums up Jenniffer’s situation. How did you choose the title?

AM: This great idea is from the editor, Jeanne Oberson. I believe the title must provoke a question at the end of the film. “La Arrancada” has the obvious superficial first layer/meaning connected to Jenniffer’s sports activity that you see immediately in the beginning of the film. But then you think about the title again in the end and you actually might question yourself where is this “arrancada” taking her? Will she be able to be “arrancada”? How is this “arrancada” going to be? At least, that’s what we intended to provoke. 

Q: This is a Brazil-Cuban-French co-production. Can you tell us about the production aspects?

AM: The production company is Dublin Films, from Bordeaux. The film was actually financed and post-produced in France, all shot in Cuba (with a Cuban crew) and directed by me, Brazilian.

Q: What is your next project?

AM: Right now I’m in the post-production of a short film I did in my city, Manaus, and a 5-episode TV series about young dancers in Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil who challenge the conservatism of their communities. Although I’m based in Barcelona, I want to keep researching new stories in Latin America, especially in the Amazon, the region where I’m from. By the way, the political moment we’re living in Brazil now urges new stories to be filmed. 

This article is published with permission from the editor of Southern World Arts News (SWAN). You can follow her on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

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Economic Crisis Can Trigger World Warhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/economic-crisis-can-trigger-world-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-crisis-can-trigger-world-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/economic-crisis-can-trigger-world-war/#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2019 12:49:56 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Vladimir Popov http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160107 Economic recovery efforts since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis have mainly depended on unconventional monetary policies. As fears rise of yet another international financial crisis, there are growing concerns about the increased possibility of large-scale military conflict. More worryingly, in the current political landscape, prolonged economic crisis, combined with rising economic inequality, chauvinistic ethno-populism as […]

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By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Vladimir Popov
KUALA LUMPUR and BERLIN, Feb 12 2019 (IPS)

Economic recovery efforts since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis have mainly depended on unconventional monetary policies. As fears rise of yet another international financial crisis, there are growing concerns about the increased possibility of large-scale military conflict.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

More worryingly, in the current political landscape, prolonged economic crisis, combined with rising economic inequality, chauvinistic ethno-populism as well as aggressive jingoist rhetoric, including threats, could easily spin out of control and ‘morph’ into military conflict, and worse, world war.

Crisis responses limited
The 2008-2009 global financial crisis almost ‘bankrupted’ governments and caused systemic collapse. Policymakers managed to pull the world economy from the brink, but soon switched from counter-cyclical fiscal efforts to unconventional monetary measures, primarily ‘quantitative easing’ and very low, if not negative real interest rates.

But while these monetary interventions averted realization of the worst fears at the time by turning the US economy around, they did little to address underlying economic weaknesses, largely due to the ascendance of finance in recent decades at the expense of the real economy. Since then, despite promising to do so, policymakers have not seriously pursued, let alone achieved, such needed reforms.

Instead, ostensible structural reformers have taken advantage of the crisis to pursue largely irrelevant efforts to further ‘casualize’ labour markets. This lack of structural reform has meant that the unprecedented liquidity central banks injected into economies has not been well allocated to stimulate resurgence of the real economy.

From bust to bubble
Instead, easy credit raised asset prices to levels even higher than those prevailing before 2008. US house prices are now 8% more than at the peak of the property bubble in 2006, while its price-to-earnings ratio in late 2018 was even higher than in 2008 and in 1929, when the Wall Street Crash precipitated the Great Depression.

As monetary tightening checks asset price bubbles, another economic crisis — possibly more severe than the last, as the economy has become less responsive to such blunt monetary interventions — is considered likely. A decade of such unconventional monetary policies, with very low interest rates, has greatly depleted their ability to revive the economy.

Vladimir Popov

The implications beyond the economy of such developments and policy responses are already being seen. Prolonged economic distress has worsened public antipathy towards the culturally alien — not only abroad, but also within. Thus, another round of economic stress is deemed likely to foment unrest, conflict, even war as it is blamed on the foreign.

International trade shrank by two-thirds within half a decade after the US passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in 1930, at the start of the Great Depression, ostensibly to protect American workers and farmers from foreign competition!

Liberalization’s discontents
Rising economic insecurity, inequalities and deprivation are expected to strengthen ethno-populist and jingoistic nationalist sentiments, and increase social tensions and turmoil, especially among the growing precariat and others who feel vulnerable or threatened.

Thus, ethno-populist inspired chauvinistic nationalism may exacerbate tensions, leading to conflicts and tensions among countries, as in the 1930s. Opportunistic leaders have been blaming such misfortunes on outsiders and may seek to reverse policies associated with the perceived causes, such as ‘globalist’ economic liberalization.

Policies which successfully check such problems may reduce social tensions, as well as the likelihood of social turmoil and conflict, including among countries. However, these may also inadvertently exacerbate problems. The recent spread of anti-globalization sentiment appears correlated to slow, if not negative per capita income growth and increased economic inequality.

To be sure, globalization and liberalization are statistically associated with growing economic inequality and rising ethno-populism. Declining real incomes and growing economic insecurity have apparently strengthened ethno-populism and nationalistic chauvinism, threatening economic liberalization itself, both within and among countries.

Insecurity, populism, conflict
Thomas Piketty has argued that a sudden increase in income inequality is often followed by a great crisis. Although causality is difficult to prove, with wealth and income inequality now at historical highs, this should give cause for concern.

Of course, other factors also contribute to or exacerbate civil and international tensions, with some due to policies intended for other purposes. Nevertheless, even if unintended, such developments could inadvertently catalyse future crises and conflicts.

Publics often have good reason to be restless, if not angry, but the emotional appeals of ethno-populism and jingoistic nationalism are leading to chauvinistic policy measures which only make things worse.

At the international level, despite the world’s unprecedented and still growing interconnectedness, multilateralism is increasingly being eschewed as the US increasingly resorts to unilateral, sovereigntist policies without bothering to even build coalitions with its usual allies.

Avoiding Thucydides’ iceberg
Thus, protracted economic distress, economic conflicts or another financial crisis could lead to military confrontation by the protagonists, even if unintended. Less than a decade after the Great Depression started, the Second World War had begun as the Axis powers challenged the earlier entrenched colonial powers.

They patently ignored Thucydides’ warning, in chronicling the Peloponnesian wars over two millennia before, when the rise of Athens threatened the established dominance of Sparta!

Anticipating and addressing such possibilities may well serve to help avoid otherwise imminent disasters by undertaking pre-emptive collective action, as difficult as that may be.

The international community has no excuse for being like the owners and captain of the Titanic, conceitedly convinced that no iceberg could possibly sink the great ship.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.
Vladimir Popov, a former senior economics researcher in the Soviet Union, Russia and the United Nations Secretariat, is now Research Director at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin

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Are Sustainable Development Goals Reaching Indigenous Peoples?http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/sustainable-development-goals-reaching-indigenous-peoples/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-development-goals-reaching-indigenous-peoples http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/sustainable-development-goals-reaching-indigenous-peoples/#respond Tue, 12 Feb 2019 12:19:00 +0000 Peter J. Jacques http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160104 Peter J. Jacques is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, USA.

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Above, Amazigh women in a village with an association that cultivates an olive tree nursery. Credit: Peter J. Jacques

By Peter J. Jacques
ORLANDO, Florida, Feb 12 2019 (IPS)

Life and death for whole communities hang in the balance of achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that include eliminating poverty, conserving forests, and addressing climate change in a resolution adopted unanimously by the United Nations in 2015.

Take for example, the Indigenous Amazigh people who live in the mountains around Marrakech. They are representative of people who need to be served first by sustainable development.

The High Atlas Amazigh people experience hard lives in small villages. Most work as day laborers and agriculturalists with barely enough income to support their families and heat their homes.

Education is a major concern, but is hard to attain for a number of reasons. Sometimes families cannot afford the subsequent costs of backpacks and books, even when the school is open and free.

The challenge is especially difficult for girls, because, as one person explained, “How can fathers let their girls study if it is dark when they must travel?”

The effect of incomplete education is profound, and when we asked one 62-year-old man what he thought the greatest threats to the future were, for his community, he did not have confidence in his own experiences, noting, “What can I say? I am not read [educated].”

Through a partnership of the University of Central Florida (Orlando), the Hollings Center for International Dialogue (Washington D.C. and Istanbul), and the High Atlas Foundation (Marrakech), we recently conducted field work in the High Atlas Mountains, speaking with the people there who poured their hearts out to us.

The most consistent message we heard from the people of the High Atlas was that the future hinges on water. One group told us that when things are good, it is because the rain is abundant and on time; things are very hard otherwise.

They are worried that climate change will affect if the rains come, or that the rain will not “come in its time.” They have good reason to worry because climate change is expected to decrease precipitation significantly, reducing streams, lakes, and groundwater.

Drought is a constant worry. The World Bank estimates that 37 percent of the population works in agriculture, meanwhile production of cereal crops varies wildly due to annual variation of precipitation– and 2018 was thankfully a bountiful year.

Climate change will make the people of the High Atlas Mountains much more vulnerable while they are already living on the edge of survival.

In one area, this change in precipitation timing and amount was already noticeable, resulting in a significant loss of fruit trees. In that same area, we were told that there is fear that there will be no water in twenty years, and that for these people who are deeply connected to the land, there will be “no alternatives.”

The High Atlas people are in an extremely vulnerable position. One group noted that they are so desperate for basic resources that they burn plastic trash to heat their water. Worse, they believe they have been left behind by society and that “the people of the mountains do not matter.”

They feel that Moroccan society is deeply unfair—there is no help for the sick, little support for education, little defense against the cold, and that, for some, corruption is the greatest threat to a sustainable future.

Consequently, civil society has an important role in achieving the SDGs. The High Atlas Foundation has been working to help people in this region to organize themselves into collectives that decide both what the collective wants, and pathways to achieve those goals.

Women have organized into co-ops that they own and they collect dividends from their products together. People in one coop lobbied the 2015 Conference of Parties climate meeting in Marrakech.

Men’s associations have developed tree nurseries that not only produce income, but which protect whole watersheds – and therefore some water for the future. They are also participating in carbon sequestration markets.

In this regard, the Marrakech Regional Department of Water and Forest provides them carob trees and the authorization to plant these trees on the mountains surrounding their villages.

However, perhaps the most important element of these collectives is that they give each person in them a voice. Leaders of these collectives have formal rights to approach the regional governments about their needs, and this voice would not be heard at all without the formal collective organization.

These organizations cannot replace government services, but they do add capacity to the community.

Not only do these collectives lend people some influence over their current and their children’s lives, they love each other and they are not struggling alone. We witnessed profound solidarity. Repeatedly, the collectives told us “We love each other, we are one family,” “We are like one,” “We help each other,” and the conviction that “I will be with you.”

The world is decidedly on an unsustainable path, so If we are going to meet SDGs, all the people like the people of the High Atlas Mountains must matter and their voice deserves to be heard.

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Excerpt:

Peter J. Jacques is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, USA.

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12 Years Behind a Stove—An Undocumented Immigrant in New York Cityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/12-years-behind-stove-undocumented-immigrant-new-york-city/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=12-years-behind-stove-undocumented-immigrant-new-york-city http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/12-years-behind-stove-undocumented-immigrant-new-york-city/#comments Tue, 12 Feb 2019 07:40:34 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160091 One chilly afternoon in November 2005, Hilarino came by Pedro’s house in Oaxaca, Mexico, driving a shiny red car. “Pedro!” he shouted, “We are leaving in March. There is a route North to the U.S. that passes along the sea.” Pedro was thrilled. “I saw him with that car and I thought ‘there’s money up […]

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Pedro cooks at a deli in Upper Manhattan. He is one of the 775,000 undocumented immigrants estimated to be living in the state of New York in 2018.

By Carmen Arroyo
NEW YORK, Feb 12 2019 (IPS)

One chilly afternoon in November 2005, Hilarino came by Pedro’s house in Oaxaca, Mexico, driving a shiny red car.

“Pedro!” he shouted, “We are leaving in March. There is a route North to the U.S. that passes along the sea.”

Pedro was thrilled. “I saw him with that car and I thought ‘there’s money up there. At least a lot of jobs.’” Pedro shook Hilarino’s hand, went back inside and told his wife Camila he was leaving the country. He was headed to the United States of America.

Twelve years after he initially crossed the border as a mojado, a wetback, Pedro cooks at a deli in Upper Manhattan. He is one of the 775,000 undocumented immigrants estimated to be living in the state of New York in 2018. Like most migrants, he left his family behind and came to the U.S. dreaming of success. But mostly, he dreamt of happiness. And like many of them, he is still looking for it.

Today, Pedro throws food on the grill like a pitcher in the final round of a baseball game—same speed, same accuracy. He also prepares sandwiches, spreads cream cheese on bagels, and sometimes cooks burgers and steaks. He always adds some spices to his cooking: chili powder, cumin, and garlic.

From Monday to Saturday, he stands behind the stove for 8 hours, and talks to his colleagues about their families and their weekends. They’re almost all Mexican and crossed the border by foot.

Samuel, Pedro’s closest friend at the deli, crossed in 1999, when he was 15 years old. Now he is married and has three kids. His other friends at the deli, Jose, Lupe and Juana, had a similar fate. They live with their families in the U.S.

During his shift, Pedro’s dark, straight hair is covered under a white cloth that resembles a chef’s hat. When you ask for a turkey sandwich after 10:00 PM, Pedro peers over the counter, overcoming his 5’2” height, curious to see who’s buying.

I met them—Samuel, Juana, Jose, Lupe and Pedro—when I moved to New York in 2017. They love Spanish-speakers that go to the deli. Being from Spain, I fit right in.

“How’s school?” asks Lupe when I tell her I attend Columbia University. “What do you study? Be careful!”

Pedro fears Donald Trump, “he’s not good for immigrants, he’s just rich.” He loves Mexico’s president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), “he has great ideas, he’s really going to make a difference.”  Pedro supported Hillary in 2016. “She said she would help us out.”

“Are you a Democrat?” I ask him.

He looks at Samuel, they laugh, and reply simultaneously: “You could say so.”

Up until the time Pedro was 23 years old, he had lived in Oaxaca all of his life. He worked for four years as a police officer in his hometown. His job paid enough to provide for Camila and their three-year old daughter, but not enough to own land, launch a business, or do anything aside from surviving.

Pedro was tired. His job was dangerous and boring. “If I’d stayed, I doubt I’d be alive.” He never knew when the narcos [drug dealer] would bribe the officers or would kill them out of spite. “I was going crazy,” he explains over coffee.

Until the age of 23, Pedro lived in Mexico his entire life.

In September 2005, his childhood friend who lived in California, Hilarino, phoned him. “I’m coming back for you, Pedro.”

“I was so excited, híjole. You can’t imagine,” sighs Pedro.

That same night, he told his pregnant wife he was leaving. Camila shook her head. “You are lying.” Pedro remained silent, finished his frijoles, kissed his wife good night, and went to sleep.

Hilarino returned to Mexico in November 2005 when Pedro’s wife had just given birth to a second girl. Hilarino showed up at Pedro’s house in a new car and agreed to take a safe passage through the Gulf of California into Arizona.

Pedro told Camila he was definitely leaving. She stared at him in silence, blaming him for the lonely years to come. But she didn’t quite believe him. “You have a job here,” barked Camila.“If you want to go, go. But you have a job here. Your family is here.” Pedro couldn’t hear her. At that time, happiness lay on the other side of the border.

On the Feb. 28, 2006, Hilarino called Pedro. There was a way into the U.S. on  March 3rd. Pedro hung up, quit his job, and filled a small bag with dried tortillas and canned kidney beans. On the morning of the third, he woke up and left.

Camila begged him to stay. She cried, pointed at their daughters, and let her tears wet the tablecloth. But nothing could move Pedro. He was not going to let his feelings dictate his actions. “I hardened my heart. I already knew what I wanted,” he tells me in a confident voice, while he stirs his coffee. To this day, Camila mentions every time they fight, “you never cried for me when you left.” Pedro shrugs, and the abundance of his wrinkles becomes more apparent.

Hilarino left his car with his parents in Oaxaca, and he joined Pedro and another 12 hopeful Mexicans—10 men, 2 women—on a bus ride from Oaxaca to the Arizona border. Leading them was a “coyote,” a smuggler who helps Mexicans get into the U.S.

Hilarino, Pedro and another 12 hopeful Mexicans—10 men, 2 women—took a bus from Oaxaca to the Arizona border.

Since President Trump took office, coyotes have increased their rates. They now charge eye-popping fees—ranging from 8,000 to 12,000 dollars—to those looking to cross the border. Twelve years ago, Pedro paid only 1, 300 dollars.

After two days on the bus, they arrived at the frontier—1,800 miles away from home. They bought 4 gallons of water, Coke and Red Bulls in preparation for the driest journey of their lives. In a matter of hours, they became mojados—undocumented and unwanted. They had been loved, but now they felt tossed aside. They left their families behind and looked toward the future, towards happiness.

The journey lasted four days. They walked at night and slept in the mornings to avoid the heat. “The first night I was so scared…Wow. Una caminada recia [A tough walk],” says Pedro, to attest to the length of the journey. “We hiked from 6:00PM to 5:00AM. I didn’t even know where I was. Once you are inside the desert, you can deal with anything.”

That first day was a nightmare. Pedro napped next to Hilarino. You don’t hear much in the desert, so his snores filled their moments of rest. Suddenly, one of the 14 migrants came running toward them carrying his shoes in his right hand. “La Migra, la Migra!” he shouted warning his colleagues of the Border Patrol Agents. “Oh my God, I was so scared,” Pedro recalls. They all started running, but the coyote called them back and calmed them down.

“They won’t come here. Let’s just walk fast.”

Pedro bursts into laughter, covering his mouth with his hands. “They didn’t get me. They didn’t get me! Thank God!!”

Pedro mentions God once every five sentences. After a few seconds of doubt, he admits he is  Catholic, but that he doesn’t go to Mass very often, nor do his friends Samuel or Jose. All of a sudden, he realises something: “She’s from Spain, don’t you see? Where do you think religion came from? From Spain!” Samuel nods convinced, and Pedro looks back at me with a satisfied smile. “The Argentinian Pope is a good person,” he adds.

On the third day in the desert, they had run out of water. Pedro and Hilarino licked the remains of their empty water bottles, hoping for one more drop. One of the 14 fainted, so they carried him until they arrived in Phoenix, Arizona. They had walked 380 kilometres, more than 80 hours, eating only corn tortillas and kidney beans from a can.

On the third day in the desert, Pedro and Hilarino had run out of water.

The coyote had arranged for a van to drive them out of Phoenix to Los Angeles, California. “He was a very good man. I’ve heard other stories. Kidnappings, killings. But this coyote did everything he promised he would do. He got the 14 of us to Los Angeles.” Nevertheless, insists Pedro, that was 2006. Now the story has changed. “The border is too dangerous. The narcos are everywhere. If you cross their territory, you become theirs.”

The narcos are not the only problem for Hispanic immigrants in 2018. After President George Bush signed the Secure Fence Act in October 2006, the government built 1,120 km of fencing from San Diego to New Mexico, making it harder for immigrants to cross by foot. Now, with President Trump, the number of arrests by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has surged. Immigrants detained at the border are criminally prosecuted, and funding for Border Patrol Agents has increased. Pedro considers himself lucky to have come to the U.S. in early 2006, instead of today, with these increased challenges.

Once in California, Hilarino and Pedro obtained fake IDs and looked for jobs. For the next six months, Pedro harvested pears, peaches, and kiwis alongside other Hispanics. Their salaries were 420 dollars per week. Pedro sent part of his earnings to Camila. But he hated the job. “It was too hard,” he remembers, rubbing his dry hands against each other.

He also missed his family. “For the first three years, I could barely speak with them over the phone. I couldn’t see them.” Now, with Facebook, Facetime, and WhatsApp, they talk frequently. “The first time I saw them I cried so much. It was incredible,” he smiles again. But then he mumbles, “It’s still so hard. So hard, so hard.”

Silvino, one of his colleagues at the plantation, suggested they go to Montgomery, Alabama, where he had been working earlier in the year. The job was in construction and the pay was higher, 600 dollars per week. Pedro quickly agreed and bid Hilarino farewell.

Pedro paid 200 dollars to get to Montgomery, moved in with Silvino, and phoned Camila, as he did every time he traveled. The following day Pedro was working in construction, where he stayed for the next three months.

By the end of November, winter took over Alabama and construction work stopped. “There were no jobs, nothing I could do.” Pedro wanted to move again, when his wife called him. “My kids… They were sick. They had pneumonia.” He told Camila to use the savings he had left in Mexico for the doctor. Then he looked for someone to take him to New York, where he had a friend living on 125th Street. Silvino, as Camila and Hilarino before him, didn’t want Pedro to leave. But his pleas and promises of employment didn’t make a dent in Pedro’s resolution. He chased his future to New York.

In New York, with its millions of inhabitants rushing to a job, a date, or a doctor’s appointment, Pedro felt more at home than he had for the last nine months.

This time, he paid 400 dollars for a 17-hour ride. When he arrived to the city, it was snowing. “‘What is this?’ I asked. I had never seen snow before. I didn’t know what to do!” He laughs, making his almond-shaped eyes disappear. “I was in the Big Apple.” In New York, with its millions  of inhabitants rushing to a job, a date, or a doctor’s appointment, he felt more at home than he had for the last nine months.

The couple he knew at 125th Street fostered him in their home while he roamed the streets looking for a job. It was so cold that he didn’t look up to the skyscrapers, he just looked down as he trudged through the ice and snow. The next day, Jose, a Mexican friend of the couple, came over. “You don’t have a job, compadre? Let me talk to el patrón, he’ll have a job for you.”

Pedro hadn’t picked up much English on his two previous jobs—everyone was Hispanic in the farming and construction industries.

“What can you do?” asked Jose.

“Anything,” replied Pedro.

Jose called his boss, and Pedro started working at the deli that very night. After his three previous months in Alabama construction, he actually was ready for anything.

For a month and a half, he worked as the handyman and delivery boy of the deli. For once, he finally felt happy: he enjoyed his friends, his children were healthy, and he liked New York. But the rhythm was too fast. “Here, everyone rushes. They work, work, work, every single day of the year. They are busy all the time. Over there, you have more time for family, for tradition.”

He stops for a moment and adds: “Although I love turkey day.”

“Thanksgiving?” I ask.

“Yes, turkey day!!” he laughs.

The deli’s kitchen needed a cook, so one of the Mexicans who worked behind the stove taught Pedro how to grill.

After a couple of months, he started looking for a new job. “It didn’t pay enough.” The deli’s kitchen needed a cook, so one of the Mexicans who worked behind the stove taught Pedro how to grill. “This is easy, Pedro. Try one hour per day, before your shift, you’ll become a cook.”

Working at the kitchen was much better: He could learn English, and the salary was higher.

Samuel, who works at the counter, advocated for Pedro in front of his boss.

“I had never cooked before. In Mexico, my wife cooked, and I worked. I came home to a warm meal every day, as is tradition.” So when he got the job, he phoned Camila.

“Don’t be sad,” she said. “We are doing well. Échale ganas.” Pedro did as she said and worked hard every day, and kept sending money back to his family. Two years in, Samuel ran to the deli: “Good news for you, Pedro. El patrón will pay you more starting next week.”

That week Samuel counted Pedro’s cash with him. “He is such a noble man,” smiles Pedro. “He was so happy for me.”

Samuel also speaks highly of Pedro. “He is always laughing, and he talks so much,” Samuel points at him, while Pedro chats with Jose.

Now, Pedro shares a room in Upper Manhattan with an Ecuadorian immigrant. He pays 300 dollars in rent, and sends almost 2,000 dollars to his family every month through Western Union. Most of it goes to Camila and his two daughters. “A couple of years ago, Camila phoned me and said, ‘We are going to buy some land.’”

Pedro leans over and assures me, “That wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t come here. They have everything now.”

Still Camila wants him back home, and Pedro has the same desire. He misses his family. When he wakes up at 12:00PM, he calls his daughters, who are now 13 and 15 years old. The smallest one used to sing songs to him on the phone as a child. “I talked to her and she sang back. She only sang,” he tells me cheerfully. After a 30-minute chat with them, he gets changed for his 4:00PM shift at the deli. He also sends them presents from time to time: socks, shoes, and clothes. 

On Sundays, he listens to rancheras (he hates reggaeton), goes for strolls downtown, and has beers with his Mexican friends. Sometimes he joins Samuel’s family when they go for a picnic on Governor’s Island. Every couple of days he reads El Diario de Nueva York, for immigration news. He also glances over El Diario de Mexico, to feel assured that the demise of Mexico’s largest political party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), has actually happened, and AMLO is in control. Samuel, Jose, Lupe, Juana and the other Mexicans who work at the deli feel the same way.

“Most of my friends want to go back home too. One just left. He had a girlfriend there,” laughs Pedro. When he returns to Mexico, he will start his own business, maybe a restaurant. But he knows that the moment he sets foot on that plane back to his homeland, he will never return.

“I’ve been saying this for three years. Someday I will go. But not now.” Pedro smiles again, and he realigns his chef’s hat, while he throws strips of beef onto the grill.

He looks back at Samuel and repeats: “Someday.”

  • All names have been changed to preserve the identity of those featured.

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Billions of Swedish Krona Supported the Struggle against Apartheidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/billions-swedish-krona-supported-struggle-apartheid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=billions-swedish-krona-supported-struggle-apartheid http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/billions-swedish-krona-supported-struggle-apartheid/#comments Mon, 11 Feb 2019 14:43:23 +0000 Ida Karlsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160080 Between 1982 and 1988 Birgitta Karlström Dorph was on a secret mission in South Africa. “Why didn’t they stop us? Probably they were not aware of the scope of the operation. The money was transferred through so many different channels. We were clever, ” Karlström Dorph says.  The work was initiated by the Swedish prime […]

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Birgitta Karlström Dorph, 79, was on a secret mission in South Africa between 1982 and 1988. Hundreds of millions were transferred to the anti-apartheid movement. She later became the ambassador to Ethiopia and later Botswana. Credit: Ida Karlsson/IPS

By Ida Karlsson
STOCKHOLM, Feb 11 2019 (IPS)

Between 1982 and 1988 Birgitta Karlström Dorph was on a secret mission in South Africa. “Why didn’t they stop us? Probably they were not aware of the scope of the operation. The money was transferred through so many different channels. We were clever, ” Karlström Dorph says. 

The work was initiated by the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme and the Swedish government, the details of which were not discussed in public.

Altogether, Sweden’s financial support for the black resistance against apartheid in South Africa between 1972 and 1994 amounted to more than SEK 4 billion (443 million dollars) in today’s value ‒ and that is an underestimation ‒ according to figures reported by SIDA, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency.

“On my first morning in South Africa I went to Burgers Park, in the centre of Pretoria. A black worker was cleaning a path in the park. Suddenly I came across a bench and on it was written: ‘Whites only’. And I looked at it. I was appalled. I gathered up my courage and spat on the bench,” Karlström Dorph recalls.

From 1982, a Swedish humanitarian committee, headed by the general director of SIDA, handled a huge aid effort whose secret elements the government perhaps was not fully aware of. Karlström Dorph’s work in South Africa was twofold comprising her official diplomatic posting and her secret mission.

“My family didn’t know what I was doing.”

She followed what was going on in the resistance movement to see if she could find people and organisations who could receive Swedish aid.

“The documents that show what we did to support the underground resistance are still classified,” she explains.

Money from Sweden was transferred to leaders within the black resistance in South Africa. Sweden paid for Nelson Mandela’s lawyer, including while he was incarcerated on Robben Island. Sweden also provided the priest and anti-apartheid activist Beyers Naudé with funds when he was subjected to a banning order.

The South African government looked at Naudé as an enemy as he played a crucial role in supporting the underground resistance movement.

“I wanted to understand what was going on in the country. Naudé was my key to the whole opposition. He provided me with contacts,” Karlström Dorph explains.

Funds were channeled from SIDA to organisations and small groups in Sweden and then into accounts of community organisations in South Africa.

“I provided Swedish organisations with bank account numbers and contact information to organisations in South Africa, for example in Soweto,” she adds.

Karlström Dorph says she drove around and met people and organisations every day.

One of the most important objectives was to build a civil society that eventually could negotiate with the government. People and organisations that eventually could take over.

“We established a programme for scholarships. The Swedish Ecumenical Council, an umbrella organisation of churches of all denominations, administered about 500 scholarships. People got money transferred into their accounts directly from Sweden. We tried to find relevant organisations throughout the black community,” she says.

People organised themselves and formed a more united opposition in South Africa. UDF, the United Democratic Front, was an umbrella organisation for about 600 member organisations against apartheid. Many of the UDF leaders received money through the scholarships.

“We gave money to those who were arrested and were tortured and interrogated. They needed legal help. A lot of money went to competent lawyers. I also met with wives of those who were imprisoned,” Karlström Dorph explains.

According to Horst Kleinschmidt, a former political activist, Sweden contributed between 60 and 65 percent of the budget of the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa, or IDAF, an anti-apartheid organisation. Between 1964 and 1991 the organisation brought 100 million British Pounds into South Africa for the defence of thousands of political activists and to provide aid for their families while they were in prison.

The defence of political prisoners meant that when the prosecutor demanded capital punishment, the sentence was reduced to life in prison. Between 1960 and 1990 this effort saved tens of thousands of human lives, according to the Swedish author Per Wästberg, who was involved in IDAF’s work.

Karlström Dorph got in touch with Winnie Mandela and visited her while Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

“We sat down and talked a lot about her husband and the struggle, and various contacts,” Karlström Dorph says.

Before they left, she mentioned that she had a book about Nelson Mandela in the car ‒ a book that was banned. Winnie Mandela immediately asked for it.

“I said: ‘If I give you the book, I am committing a crime,’” Karlström Dorph recalls.

But Winnie Mandela insisted and Karlström Dorph finally went to the car to get it.

“If our activities had been exposed, many of those who were involved in our work would have found themselves in a serious predicament,” Karlström Dorph says.

The apartheid regime killed affiliates to the ANC, the African National Congress, within the country and also in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique. Oftentimes during the national State of Emergency, the police and army were stationed or brought into the segregated, black urban living areas to rule with their guns. People, some of whom were unarmed, were beaten and shot for protesting against apartheid. Police even tore down the housing areas were black people lived.

“They went in with bulldozers and people did not have time to collect their belongings but had to flee,” Karlström Dorp recalls.

She never visited ANC offices or attended anti-apartheid conferences.

“The ANC was forbidden. Members of ANC were imprisoned or killed,” she says making a throat-slitting gesture.

“We never talked about ANC during all these years,” she adds.

Her very close association with Naudé would have made Karlström Dorph a prime target.

“I was never scared. You just had to be careful,” she says.

There was one time when they had a very strange break-in in their house.

“They had turned the house upside down, but they just took one of my dresses and one of my husband’s shirts. They had slept in our beds and left white fingerprints on the hairdryer. My friends said it was typical of the security police. They wanted to show: ‘We know who you are. We keep an eye on you.’”

When they moved to a new apartment, she found a bullet on the floor in the hallway and there was a hole in the window. Someone had shot through it.

“They obviously tried to intimidate us. I took the bullet and threw it in the bin,” she says.

Once they were being followed on the motorway and a car tried to drive them off the road, but they managed to get away from it.

Many experienced the brutality of the apartheid regime. One of Karlström Dorph’s contacts, a 25-year-old young man in Pretoria, was found dead.

“We transferred some funds to his organisation. Someone contacted me and told me that they had thrown him down an old mine shaft in Pretoria,” she says.

In the Swedish documentary “Palme’s secret agent”, Popo Molefe, co-founder of UDF, explains Karlström Dorph’s role.

“Without the support of a strong and committed personality like Birgitta Karlström Dorph I do not think we would have been able to form the United Democratic Front, a coalition of social forces,” he says.

Molefe later became the leader of South Africa’s North Western Province.

Between 1972 and 1994 the exiled ANC received SEK 1.7 billion (188 million dollars) in today’s value. At the time the ANC was considered a terrorist organisation by the governments in the United Kingdom and the United States. The financial support from Sweden was more or less kept secret until the beginning of the 1990s.

In 1994, South Africans took their first step together into a very new democracy after decades of white supremacist, authoritarian rule in the form of apartheid. Sweden’s involvement had been stronger and much more far-reaching than what was ever reported officially.

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Ghana Won’t Have Press Freedom Without Accountabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/ghana-wont-press-freedom-without-accountability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghana-wont-press-freedom-without-accountability http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/ghana-wont-press-freedom-without-accountability/#respond Mon, 11 Feb 2019 13:50:51 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160077 Jonathan Rozen is Africa Research Associate at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

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The Independence Arch is pictured in Accra, Ghana. Authorities have failed to hold anyone to account in recent attacks on journalists. Credit: CPJ/Jonathan Rozen

By Jonathan Rozen
NEW YORK, Feb 11 2019 (IPS)

Three bullets, fired at close range by two assassins on a black and blue Boxer motorbike on January 16, 2019, killed investigative journalist Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela, according to Sammy Darko, a lawyer working on Divela’s case.

Darko told CPJ over the phone that bystanders saw it happen. Ghana’s media community, international rights groups (including CPJ), and social media users around the world responded swiftly, mourning the loss and demanding justice.

They may not get it.

“I’m devastated because the life of a brilliant, dedicated and young journalist has been cowardly cut short. I’m angered because journalists in Ghana have never felt safe, despite our role very clearly recognized and sealed by the country’s constitution,” Emmanuel Dogbevi, managing editor of the privately owned, investigative Ghana Business News, told CPJ the day after Divela’s murder.

Ahmed Hussein-Suale Divela was shot to death in Accra, Ghana, on January 16, 2019. Credit: Tiger Eye Private Investigations

Fatal violence against journalists in Ghana is rare. In 2015, radio reporter George Abanga was also shot dead at close range; he is the only other journalist in Ghana killed in connection with their work since CPJ began keeping global records in 1992.

According to CPJ research, he had been investigating a cocoa farmers’ dispute in western Ghana and covered other political tensions. No one has been held accountable for ending his life, and his reporting.

Impunity prevails in another recent attack that police committed to investigating.

In March 2018, as CPJ reported, journalist Latif Iddrisu said he was dragged into the criminal investigation department (CID) headquarters in Accra and beaten by a group of police officers for asking a question while reporting on a protest outside.

He was left bloody and a medical report at the time identified the “suggestion of right frontal bone fracture” in his skull. Iddrisu this month told CPJ without elaborating that the condition of his head injury has since worsened.

Similar to what followed Divela’s murder, Iddrisu received a wave of solidarity from journalists and private citizens. The hashtag #JusticeForLatif flooded social media, but there has been no justice: “[T]he perpetrators are yet to be identified but the case docket has been forwarded to the Attorney General’s office for advice,” Ghanaian police spokesperson David Senanu Eklu told CPJ recently, 10 months after the attack.

In the case of Divela’s murder, local witnesses had watched his killers–one heavyset and one slim–loitering for hours on January 16 in the Medina neighborhood of Ghana’s capital, Accra, confused about who they were or what they wanted, Darko told CPJ.

Investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas in Abuja, Nigeria, in June 2018, wearing beaded strands to obscure his face and hide his identity. Credit: CPJ/Jonathan Rozen

The two men were conspicuous in a way that their target and the rest of the Tiger Eye Private Investigations team, headed by the undercover journalist known as Anas Aremeyaw Anas, had always sought to avoid. Anas and those with whom he works hide their identities.

Divela had told CPJ he feared for his life after an image of his face was broadcast on live television by Kennedy Agyapong, a member of parliament from the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), accompanied by repeated threats.

During radio and TV appearances in May and June 2018, Agyapong railed against Anas and his team’s undercover method of investigating corruption by secretly filming officials allegedly accepting bribes. Visibly angry, he directed staff of his own Net 2 TV channel to display Divela’s picture and called for those listening to attack the journalist on sight.

Parliament has not taken punitive action, but on January 29 an opposition member submitted a complaint against Agyapong, specifically pertaining to his threats against Ahmed and Anas, and it has been referred to the privileges committee that deals with disciplining parliamentarians, Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, the majority leader in Ghana’s parliament and fellow NPP member, told CPJ.

Agyapong did not answer CPJ’s repeated calls for comment since Divela was killed. He told Joy News on camera that he did not regret broadcasting Divela’s face and said police should investigate Anas.

On January 21, Ghanaian police issued a statement saying they had spoken with Agyapong and Kwesi Nyantakyi, the former Ghana Football Association (GFA) president, and were following “significant leads.”

Agyapong’s threats came days before the premiere of Anas’ film “Number 12”–which featured Nyantakyi accepting $65,000, resulting in a lifetime from ban FIFA, and is now part of a corruption investigation by the Ghanaian government, Darko told CPJ. Divela had been assisting prosecutors, the lawyer said.

Oppong Nkrumah, Ghana’s minister of information, told CPJ on January 24 that the government and police were keen to get to the bottom of who killed Divela, but said it was still in question if the attack was related to his work.

Nkrumah said he was not aware of the details surrounding Abanga’s shooting in 2015, and on Iddrisu’s case said the government “continues to encourage the police to be professional and diligent in their work.”

Today, Eklu confirmed to CPJ that authorities have not arrested anyone in Abanga’s case and that the investigation is ongoing. Augustine Kingsley Oppong, chief inspector and police public relations officer for Brong Ahafo, the region where Abanga was killed, told CPJ he is committed to getting to the bottom of Abanga’s murder.

Ghanaian journalist Latif Iddrisu stands outside his Accra home in May 2018, wearing a neck brace and carrying an umbrella because direct sunlight aggravated his head injury from an attack by police in March 2018. Credit: CPJ/Jonathan Rozen

In early May 2018, journalists from around Africa and the world met at a hotel in Ghana’s capital to discuss and celebrate the media’s role in holding power to account. It was World Press Freedom Day and Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo addressed the gathering with praise for his country as one of the safest places in Africa for journalists and the media’s role in a healthy democracy.

Later that week, sitting in his Accra home after the conference, Iddrisu told CPJ he hoped the police attack against him would spark a “new conversation” about press freedom in Ghana. He is now less optimistic.

“If the police had dealt with [the officers] that assaulted me, it would have sent a strong message,” Iddrisu told CPJ this month.”Because they failed to act, people think they can break the law, they can assault journalists, and even go to the extent of killing a journalist and get away with it…now my brother, a colleague, is shot and murdered in cold blood…it’s heartbreaking.”

Dogbevi, from Ghana Business News, told CPJ he also believed the lack of accountability for attacks against journalists would encourage more violence: “Unfortunately, I don’t feel confident in the ability or willingness of the state to protect me–the example of Latif Iddrisu says all.”

The post Ghana Won’t Have Press Freedom Without Accountability appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jonathan Rozen is Africa Research Associate at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

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Seas of Death and Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/seas-death-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=seas-death-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/02/seas-death-hope/#respond Mon, 11 Feb 2019 10:14:23 +0000 Jan Lundius http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=160066 The Mediterranean Sea is currently a sea of death. On the 20th of June every year, i.e. The World Refugee Day, an organization called UNITED for Intercultural Action publishes a “List of Deaths”, summarising information on where, when and under which circumstances a named individual has died due to the “fatal policies of fortress Europa”. […]

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By Jan Lundius
STOCKHOLM / ROME, Feb 11 2019 (IPS)

The Mediterranean Sea is currently a sea of death. On the 20th of June every year, i.e. The World Refugee Day, an organization called UNITED for Intercultural Action publishes a “List of Deaths”, summarising information on where, when and under which circumstances a named individual has died due to the “fatal policies of fortress Europa”. The data are collected through information received from 550 network organisations in 48 countries and from local experts, journalists and researchers in the field of migration. The list issued in 2018 accounted for 27 000 deaths by drowning since 1993, often hundreds at a time when large embarkations capsize. These deaths account for 80 per cent of all the entries,1 there are probably thousands more dead, corpses that were never found and/or not accounted for.

While considering seas as a place of death and barriers to human interaction it might be opportune to be reminded of their role as means of communication and trade, as well as transfer of culture and innovation. For thousands of years, humans have used the sea to enrich themselves and their communities by interacting with people from other cultures.

The Mediterranean – Sea of seas, hope and doom, Venus cradle and Sappho´s tomb. Over its waters Greeks, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Romans, Berbers, Italians, French, Normans, Turks, Slavs, Jews, Christians and Muslims have carried their goods, music, inventions, food and ideas, creating a mighty cultural mix reaching down to the southern shores of Maghreb and Egypt, and beyond, as well as all the way up to the coasts of the North – and Baltic Seas, spreading Greek philosophy, Roman law, Arabic science, poetry, art and culture and much more that have benefitted humankind. Almost every sea in the world has been serving humankind in a similar manner, as a powerful blender of cultures, proving that human mobility benefits us all.

A rosy picture? Let us not forget the shadows. Seas have always been scenes of bloody battles, ruthless piracy and slave trade, the last activity is doubtless one of humanity´s worst crimes. Between 1650 and 1900, more than 10 million enslaved Africans arrived in the Americas, while many had died during the passage across the Atlantic Ocean. During the same period, 8 million East Africans were enslaved and sent across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and Asia. It was not only Africans who were brought in chains across the seas. European nations like Great Britain, France and Spain sent political prisoners, “vagrants” and other “undesirables” to their colonies. Between 1788 and 1868 more than 160 000 convicts were transported from Britain to penal colonies in Australia. Barbary pirates operating from North African ports carried out razzias on European coastal towns, mainly to capture slaves for the Ottoman slave market. It has been calculated that between 1530 and 1780 the Barbary corsairs enslaved approximately 1 250 000 people.

After the British Empire ended slavery in 1833 indentured labour became the most common means to obtain cheap workforce for its colonies, a practice that soon was employed by other nations as well. This meant that immigrants would contract to work for an overseas employer, generally for seven years. The employer paid the sea passage, the indentured labourer did not receive any wages, but was provided with food and shelter. Millions of people were brought across the seas under such conditions, mainly Asians, but some Europeans as well.

Nationalist political parties often complain that most migrants do not provide any benefits for the receiving country, that the majority of them are poor and uneducated. However, this is nothing new. American immigrants have often been depicted as entrepreneurial, sturdy workers building up a wealthy nation. When the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson in 1879, on his way to California, in steerage crossed the Atlantic he was amazed to find that most emigrants were not any strong, adventurous men eager to make a living and gain success in America, but mainly desperate and tired people trying to escape European persecution, poverty and unemployment.

    The more I saw of my fellow passengers, the less I was tempted to the lyric note. Comparatively few of the men were below thirty; many were married and encumbered with families; not a few were already up in years. Now those around me were for the most part quiet, orderly, obedient citizens, family men broken by adversity, elderly youths who had failed to place themselves in life, and people who had seen better days.2

In spite of the desperation and misery of their ancestors, descendants of slaves, criminals and desperate, poor migrants have contributed to the creation of wealthy nations and impressive cultures. Europeans complaining about the influx of poor, uneducated people from distant cultures easily forget that several of their own ancestors found themselves in a similar state of poverty and desperation and that it was human mobility that in the end provided a solution for them and their children.

Christopher Columbus dreamt he would find an utopian India, but instead he discovered a “New World”, which in reality was a very old one and just like the Mediterranean, on which shore he was born, this world was dependent on another mighty, internal sea on which shores there lived people of different cultures – Arawaks, Tainos, Mayas, Aztecs and many more whose cultures eventually mixed with those of European conquerors, Africans slaves and indentured labourers from Europe and Asia.

In spite of immense suffering, wars and plagues a multifaceted mix of cultures developed, evident through a wide variety of food, religious beliefs and especially of music genres, like merengue, calypso, cumbia, rumba, reggae, son, salsa, gospel, jazz and blues. In modern times authors like García Márquez, Juan Rulfo, Miguel Angel Asturias, Marie Vieux Chauvet, Alejo Carpentier, Derek Walcott, Vidhiar Naipul, Jaques Romain, Zora Neale Hurston, Aimé Césaire, William Faulkner and other almost countless writers, story tellers, poets and singers bear witness about this unique blend of cultures created by Mexicans, Colombians, Haitians, Garifunas, West- and East Indians, Jamaicans, Pirates, Slaves, Maroons, Guanches, Turks, Andalusians, Jews, Gypsies, French, Dutch, Voodooists, Santeros, Muslims and Christians. What would the world have been without this blend of cultures along the shores of the Mediterranean – and the Caribbean Seas?

The same is true about the maritime trade, cultural and commercial exchange along the coasts of the Indian Ocean, beginning with the world´s earliest civilization in Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt and the Indian subcontinent. There ancient Romans, Arabs, Africans and people from Sri Lanka and India, and even Chinese, used the monsoon drifts and equatorial currents to connect with each other and spread their goods and cultures, creating culturally mixed, communicating societies along the coasts, like the African Bantu-Swahili culture, which spread its influence further inland.

South China Sea tells a similar story about human interaction across the waters and even if the Champas of Vietnam, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Malaysians, the Indonesians, the Dutch, the Portuguese and the Philippines have claimed superiority over that particular sea it has nevertheless carried goods, ideas, religions and inspiration between the different populations who inhabited and still inhabit its shores.

In the far north we find the North Sea, once ruled over by the Vikings with their superior longships; rading, trading and establishing colonies in Ireland, Iceland, England and on the northern coasts of France. In the Middle Ages and through the 15th century they were displaced by traders from Northern European coastal ports, the Hansa community, shipping grain, fish, timber, dyes, linen, salt, metals, wine, culture and art, following the old Viking, Finnish and Slav trade routes around the Baltic sea and down along the Russian rivers, even connecting with one of the most distant inland seas of them all – the White Sea, which linked the distant cultures of Finns, Sami people, Samoyeds and Russians, among other treasures giving birth to the stunning Karelian epic Kalevala, which like Homer´s Odyssey, among other things, is a tribute to the sea.

So, while we are probing the tragedy of the drowned refugees and migrants of the Mediterranean, let us not forget that the open seas of the world have not only served as routes for desperate migrants, asylum seekers, slavers, pirates and warriors, they have also been channels for civilization and friendship, providing vitality, strength and culture to the peoples of their shores. In spite of its shortcomings, mobility is part of human nature and cannot be blocked. Human interaction and communication is a blessing and instead of drowning people in their waves let us allow the seas to continue to bring cultures, inspiration and friendship between us all.

1 http://unitedagainstrefugeedeaths.eu/about-the-campaign/about-the-united-list-of-deaths/
The list does not only account for deaths occurring at sea, but also in detention blocks, asylum units and town centres.
2 Robert Louis Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes and The Amateur Migrant. London: Penguin Classics 2004, p. 107.

Jan Lundius holds a PhD. on History of Religion from Lund University and has served as a development expert, researcher and advisor at SIDA, UNESCO, FAO and other international organisations.

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