Inter Press Service » Human Rights http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 30 Apr 2016 10:54:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Compensation Hard to Ensurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/compensation-hard-to-ensure/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=compensation-hard-to-ensure http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/compensation-hard-to-ensure/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 10:54:07 +0000 Shakhawat Liton http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144914 By Shakhawat Liton
Apr 30 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The dead do not feel anything, but those who survive do. The horrendous experience of the insensitive test after rape. The courtroom insults during trial because a draconian law permits the accused to question the victim’s character. The families suffer no less humiliation as they wait for justice. While nations around the world have overhauled relevant laws with provisions that shield the rape victims, ours still favour the offender instead. Isn’t it time we were a little more sensitive towards the victims of a crime now regarded as a crime against society? In the wake of Tonu murder after suspected rape, The Daily Star tries to shed some light on all these aspects.
Today, we run the third and final instalment of the three-part series.

rape_4__She was gang raped by railway employees at the railway rest room in Kolkata while travelling in India on February 26, 1998.

The incident triggered outrage. Maitree, a network of 42 women’s groups and NGOs in Kolkata, moved to Kolkata High Court seeking compensation for the 27-year old Shefali Begum (name changed to protect her identity).

The Kolkata HC in 1999 gave her 1 million rupees compensation for the humiliation she had undergone. But the Railway Board, which was asked to pay the compensation, challenged the order in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court in January 2000 upheld the HC verdict and said: “Even those who are not citizens of this country and come merely as tourists will be entitled to the protection of their lives in accordance with the constitutional provisions.”

When the apex court ordered for the compensation, the criminal case against the rapists was still on in the lower court.

The judgement was very significant because such a huge amount was never given to a rape victim in India and that too awarded to a foreigner.

In numerous cases, Indian High Courts in different states and the Supreme Court have ordered the state governments concerned to pay compensations to rape victims for their failure to protect their dignity.

In India, the compensation process is independent of the trial process.

In Bangladesh the situation is different than that of countries like the UK and the USA. The government of Bangladesh does not need to pay compensation to a rape victim for its failure to protect the victim’s fundamental rights as a woman.

“As far as I know, there is no such case in which the government has compensated the rape victim,” said advocate Fahmida Akhtar, case manger of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association, an organisation that works for women who have been victims of sexual violence and abuse.

Asked, ZI Khan Panna, a Supreme Court lawyer, says they do not need to pray to the court seeking compensation from the state in sexual violence case as the offenders are made to pay compensation, if necessary.

“The court certainly will order the state to compensate the victims if the situation arises,” he told The Daily Star.

Advocate Fahmida Akhtar says special tribunals dealing with offences against women and children, in some cases, have ordered the accused to compensate their victims.

“But the path to the compensation is long, as the accused filed appeals with the higher courts against the tribunal’s orders. Disposal of the appeals takes a long time,” she told The Daily Star.

Eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik says many countries compensate rape victims. Bangladesh should also take responsibility for compensating the rape victims, he added.

“Jurisprudence in this regard should evolve,” he told The Daily Star referring to the practice in India.

The Supreme Court, in the State vs. Md. Moinul Haque and Others case in 2000, emphasised the need for compensating the victims for their rehabilitation.

It, however, observed that victims of rape should be compensated by giving them half of the property of the rapists should be given to the victims to rehabilitate them.

At present, the Woman and Child Oppression Prevention Act 2000 empowers tribunals set up under this law to hold trial of the sexual crimes against women and children for compensating the victims.

As per the law says, the tribunal may imposes any monetary fine on convicted persons and order the district collector to sell the confiscate the convicted person’s movable and immovable assets and sell them on auction. Then the collector will deposit the money to with the tribunal that will award the money to the victim as compensation.

But the completion of the process may take a long time if the convicted person files an files appeal.

So, there is no scope for a sex crime victim to get any compensation before the conclusion of her case.

PRACTICE IN OTHER COUNTRIES

A rape victim in UK is entitled to get compensation from the government. To provide the compensations to blameless victims of violent crimes including rape, the government has set up Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority–CICA.

People who have been physically or mentally injured can apply to the CICA for compensation ranging from £1,000 to £500,000.

A victim of sexual assault or rape has a right to claim compensation. The CICA in its official website says rape is a horrendous experience to endure and it can have a life long physical and psychological effect on the victim – although compensation will never put things right or reverse what has happened it can still come as invaluable financial help for treatment and counselling should you need it. Claiming compensation can help a rape victim gain back control and closure, it states.

In the United States, rape is generally prosecuted as a crime at the state level. U.S. The principal victim compensation programs for rape victims are found at the state level. However, the most significant victim compensation programs at the state level are funded by the federal Crime Victims Fund, which was established by the federal Victims of Crime Act of 1984.

A rape victim in Hong Kong is also entitled to get compensation from the state under the Criminal and Law Enforcement Injuries Compensation Scheme.

Under the Crime Victim Protection Act, a rape victim in Taiwan, a rape victim and victims of sexual assault crimes and family members of deceased victims get compensation.

INDIAN JUDICIARY SET EXAMPLES

In March, 2014, India’s Supreme Court has ordered the West Bengal government to pay 5 lakh rupees to a tribal woman who was gang-raped in January on orders of village elders.

The judges said the state had failed to protect the victim’s fundamental rights as a woman.

“No compensation can be adequate nor can it be of any respite for the victim but as the State has failed in protecting such serious violation of a victim’s fundamental right, the State is duty bound to provide compensation, which may help in the victim’s rehabilitation,” it stated.

In the Llatest case, in February this year, the Supreme Court directed all states and Union Territories to formulate a uniform scheme to provide compensation to the victims or dependents who have suffered loss as a result of such crime.

“Indisputable, no amount of money can restore the dignity and confidence that the accused took away from the victim. No amount of money can erase the trauma and grief the victim suffers. But this aid can be crucial in the aftermath of the crime,” said a SC bench headed by Justice MY Eqbal.

In this case, the court ordered the Chhattishgarh government to grant a compensation of Rs 8,000 per month compensation to an 18- year old blind girl who was subjected to sexual violence.

The SC also refused to stay the orders of Chhattishgarh High Court in which the convict was sentenced to seven years of rigorous imprisonment.

The trial court awarded him the accused seven year a jail sentence of seven years for raping a 18-year-old the blind and illiterate girl on the false promise of marriage. The order was upheld by the Chhattishgarh High Court.

The apex court said the states should consider and formulate programmes for such victims in the light of the scheme framed in Goa which provides compensation of up to Rs 10 lakh.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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West Papuans Turn to Africa for Support in Freedom Bidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/west-papuans-turn-to-africa-for-support-in-freedom-bid-2/#comments Sat, 30 Apr 2016 06:30:44 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144913 Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, voiced his support for West Papuan political aspirations during a meeting with West Papuan indigenous leader, Benny Wenda, at Ghana's 59th Independence celebrations in March this year. Credit: Benny Wenda

Former President of Ghana, John Kufuor, voiced his support for West Papuan political aspirations during a meeting with West Papuan indigenous leader, Benny Wenda, at Ghana's 59th Independence celebrations in March this year. Credit: Benny Wenda

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, Apr 30 2016 (IPS)

For more than half a century, the indigenous people of West Papua, located on the western side of the island of New Guinea, who are related to the Melanesians of the southwest Pacific Islands, have waged a resistance to governance by Indonesia and a relentless campaign for self-determination.

But despite regular bloodshed and reports of systematic human rights abuses by national security forces, which have taken an estimated half a million West Papuan lives, the international community has remained mostly unwilling to take concerted action in support of their plight.

Now Benny Wenda, a West Papuan independence leader who has lived in exile in the United Kingdom since 2003, is driving a mission to build the support of African states. Following a visit to Senegal in 2010 and two visits to South Africa last year, Wenda was welcomed at the 59th Independence anniversary celebrations in Ghana in March this year.

“There has been widespread attention and further pan-African solidarity for West Papua renewed following my diplomatic visits to these African countries, both at parliamentary and grassroots levels,” Wenda told IPS.

In Ghana, Wenda met with political and church leaders, including former Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John Kufuor.

‘We are honoured to fight for your people. We share a similar history. It is no surprise to me that you had support from Ghana at the UN in 1969 and that we accepted West Papuan refugees in the 1980s,’ Jerry John Rawlings said to the Ghanaian media.

The alliance which Wenda is forging is based on a sense of shared historical experience.

“Africa is the motherland to all people and we Melanesians feel this strongly….our affinity primarily lies in our shared ancestral heritage, but also in our recent history because Africa has also suffered the brutalities of colonialism,” Wenda said.

Following decolonisation of the Dutch East Indies, Indonesia gained independence in 1949, but there was disagreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia about the fate of Dutch New Guinea, which the former was preparing for self-determination. A United Nations supervised referendum on its political future, named the ‘Act of Free Choice,’ was held in 1969, but less than 1 per cent of the region’s population was selected to vote by Indonesia, guaranteeing an outcome for integration, rather than independence.

At the time, Ghana and more than a dozen other African states were the only United Nations members to reject the flawed ballot.

During Wenda’s visit to South Africa last February, other leaders, such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, Chief Nkosi Zwelivelile ‘Mandla’ Mandela MP, added their solidarity.

‘I’m shocked to learn that West Papua is still not free. I call on the United Nations and all the relevant bodies, please, do what is right, as they know, for West Papua,’ Tutu said in a public statement.

The momentum continued when the Nigeria-based non-government organisation, Pan African Consciousness Renaissance, held a pro-West Papua demonstration outside the Indonesian Embassy in Lagos in April 2015.

Indonesia’s refusal to recognise secessionist aspirations in its far-flung troubled region is often attributed not only to concerns about national unity, but the immense mineral wealth of copper, gold, oil and natural gas which flows to the state from ‘West Papua’, the umbrella term widely used for the two Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.

Since coming to power in 2014 populist Indonesian President, Joko Widodo, has vowed to increase inclusive development in the region and called on security forces to refrain from abusive measures, but the suffering of West Papuans continues. In May last year, there were reports of 264 activists arrested by police ahead of planned peaceful protests. Twelve Papuans were shot by security forces in Karubaga in the central highlands in July, while in August three people were abducted and tortured by police in the Papuan capital, Jayapura, and two shot dead outside the Catholic Church in Timika.

West Papua’s political fate stands in contrast to that of East Timor at the end of last century. East Timor, a Portuguese colony militarily annexed by Indonesia in 1975, gained Independence in 2002. The positive result of an independence referendum in 1999 was widely accepted and further supported by a multi-national peacekeeping force when ensuing violence instigated by anti-independence forces threatened to derail the process.

But in the political climate of the 1960s, Wenda says “West Papua was effectively handed over to Indonesia to try and appease a Soviet friendly Indonesian government….our fate was left ignored for the sake of cold war politics.” Now Indonesia staunchly defends its right of sovereignty over the provinces.

In the immediate region, West Papua has obtained some support from Pacific Island countries, such as the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu which have voiced concerns about human rights violations at the United Nations.

And last year the Melanesian Spearhead Group, a sub-regional intergovernmental organisation, granted observer status to the United Liberation Movement for West Papua coalition. However, Indonesia, a significant trade partner in the Pacific Islands region, was awarded associate membership, giving it an influential platform within the organisation.

“Luhut Pandjaitan’s [Indonesia’s Presidential Chief of Staff] recent visit to Fiji suggests that Indonesia is continuing its efforts to dissuade Pacific states from supporting West Papua and is willing to allocate significant diplomatic and economic resources to the objective,” Dr Richard Chauvel at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute commented to IPS.

In contrast to Indonesia’s Pacific Island neighbours, Dr Chauvel continued, “African states mostly do not have significant trade, investment, diplomatic and strategic interests with Indonesia and do not have to weigh these interests against support for the West Papuan cause at the UN or elsewhere.”

How influential south-south solidarity by African leaders will be on West Papua’s bid for freedom hinges on whether championing words translate into action. In the meantime, Benny Wenda’s campaign continues.

(End)

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“Together, Civil Society Has Power”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/together-civil-society-has-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=together-civil-society-has-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/together-civil-society-has-power/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 22:53:55 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144908 Participants in the biannual International Civil Society Week 2016, held in Bogotá, waiting for the start of one of the activities in the event that drew some 900 activists from more than 100 countries. Credit: CIVICUS

Participants in the biannual International Civil Society Week 2016, held in Bogotá, waiting for the start of one of the activities in the event that drew some 900 activists from more than 100 countries. Credit: CIVICUS

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

When Tamara Adrián, a Venezuelan transgender opposition legislator, spoke at a panel on inclusion during the last session of the International Civil Society Week held in Bogotá, 12 Latin American women stood up and stormed out of the room.

Adrián was talking about corruption in Venezuela, governed by “Chavista” (for the late Hugo Chávez) President Nicolás Maduro, and the blockade against reforms sought by the opposition, which now holds a majority of seats in the legislature.

The speaker who preceded her, from the global watchdog Transparency International, referred to corruption among left-wing governments in South America.

Outside the auditorium in the Plaza de Artesanos, a square surrounded by parks on the west side of Bogotá, the women, who represented social movements, argued that, by stressing corruption on the left, the right forgot about cases like that of Fernando Collor (1990-1992), a right-wing Brazilian president impeached for corruption.“Together, civil society has power…If we work together and connect with what others are doing in other countries, what we do will also make more sense.” -- Raaida Manaa

“Why don’t they mention those who have staged coups in Latin America and who have been corrupt?” asked veteran Salvadoran activist Marta Benavides.

Benavides told IPS she was not against everyone expressing their opinions, “but they should at least show respect. We don’t all agree with what they’re saying: that Latin America is corrupt. It’s a global phenomenon, and here we have to tell the truth.”

That truth, according to her, is that “Latin America is going through a very difficult situation, with different kinds of coups d’etat.”

She clarified that her statement wasn’t meant to defend President Dilma Rousseff, who is facing impeachment for allegedly manipulating the budget, or the governing left-wing Workers’ Party.

“I want people to talk about the real corruption,” she said. “In Brazil those who staged the 1964 coup (which ushered in a dictatorship until 1985) want to return to power to continue destroying everything; but this will affect everyone, and not just Brazil, its people and its resources.”

In Benavides’ view, all of the panelists “were telling lies” and no divergent views were expressed.

But when the women indignantly left the room, they missed the talk given on the same panel by Emilio Álvarez-Icaza, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), who complained that all of the governments in the Americas – right-wing, left-wing, north and south – financially strangled the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Emilio Álvarez-Icaza, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the last one on the right, speaking at an International Civil Society Week panel on the situation of activism in Latin America. Credit: Constanza Vieira/IPS

Emilio Álvarez-Icaza, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the last one on the right, speaking at an International Civil Society Week panel on the situation of activism in Latin America. Credit: Constanza Vieira/IPS

He warned that “An economic crisis is about to break out in the Inter-American human rights system,” which consists of the IACHR and the Court, two autonomous Organisation of American States (OAS) bodies.

“In the regular financing of the OAS, the IACHR is a six percent priority, and the Inter-American Court, three percent,” said Álvarez-Icaza.

“They say budgets are a clear reflection of priorities. We are a nine percent priority,” he said, referring to these two legal bodies that hold states to account and protect human rights activists and community organisers by means of precautionary measures.

He described as “unacceptable and shameful” that the system “has been maintained with donations from Europe or other actors.”

There were multiple voices in this disparate assembly gathered in the Colombian capital since Sunday Apr. 24. The meeting organised by the global civil society alliance CIVICUS, which carried the hashtag ICSW2016 on the social networks, drew some 900 delegates from more than 100 countries.

The ICSW2016 ended Friday Apr. 29 with the election of a new CIVICUS board of directors.

Tutu Alicante, a human rights lawyer from Equatorial Guinea, is considered an “enemy of the state” and lives in exile in the United States. He told IPS that “we are very isolated from the rest of Africa. We need Latin America’s help to present our cases at a global level.”

Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang has been in power for 37 years. On Sunday Apr. 24 he was reelected for another seven years with over 93 percent of the vote, in elections boycotted by the opposition. His son is vice president and has been groomed to replace him.

“Because of the U.S. and British interests in our oil and gas, we believe that will happen,” Alicante stated.

He said the most interesting aspect of the ICSW2016 was the people he met, representatives of “global civil society working to build a world that is more equitable and fair.”

He added, however, that “indigenous and afro communities were missing.”

“We’re in Colombia, where there is an important afro community that is not here at the assembly,” Alicante said. “But there is a sense that we are growing and a spirit of including more people.”

He was saying this just when one of the most important women in Colombia’s indigenous movement, Leonor Zalabata, came up. A leader of the Arhuaco people of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, she has led protests demanding culturally appropriate education and healthcare, and indigenous autonomy, while organising women in her community.

She was a keynote speaker at the closing ceremony Thursday evening.

A woman with an Arab name and appearance, Raaida Manaa, approached by IPS, turned out to be a Colombian journalist of Lebanese descent who lives in Barranquilla, the main city in this country’s Caribbean region.

She works with the Washington-based International Association for Volunteer Effort.

“The most important” aspect of the ICSW2016 is that it is being held just at this moment in Colombia, whose government is involved in peace talks with the FARC guerrillas. This, she said, underlines the need to set out on the path to peace “in a responsible manner, with a strategy and plan to do things right.”

The title she would use for an article on the ICSW2016 is: “Together, civil society has power.” And the lead would be: “If we work together and connect with what others are doing in other countries, what we do will also make more sense.”

In Colombia there is a large Arab community. Around 1994, the biggest Palestinian population outside the Middle East was living in Colombia, although many fled when the civil war here intensified.

“The peaceful struggle should be the only one,” 2015 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Ali Zeddini of the Tunisian Human Rights League, who took part in the ICSW2016, said Friday morning.

But, he added, “you can’t have a lasting peace if the Palestinian problem is not solved.” Since global pressure managed to put an end to South Africa’s apartheid, the next big task is Palestine, he said.

Zeddini expressed strong support for the Nobel peace prize nomination of Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader serving five consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison. He was arrested in 2002, during the second Intifada.

 Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: Illicit Financial Flowshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-illicit-financial-flows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-illicit-financial-flows http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/opinion-illicit-financial-flows/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 14:34:23 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144905 Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007. ]]>

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

International capital flows are now more than 60 times the value of trade flows. The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) is now of the view that large international financial transactions do not facilitate trade, and that excessive financial ‘elasticity’ was the cause of recent financial crises.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Illicit financial flows involve financial movements from one country to another, especially when funds are illegally earned, transferred, and/or utilized. Some examples include:
• A cartel using trade-based money laundering techniques to mix legal money, say from the sale of used cars, with illegal money, e.g., from drug sales;
• An importer using trade mis-invoicing to evade customs duties, VAT, or income taxes;
• A corrupt public official or family members using an anonymous shell company to transfer dirty money to bank accounts elsewhere;
• An illegal trafficker carrying cash across the border and depositing it in a foreign bank; or
• A terrorist financier wiring money to an operative abroad.

Global Financial Integrity (GFI) estimated that in 2013, US$1.1 trillion left developing countries in illicit financial outflows. Its methodology is considered to be quite conservative, as it does not pick up movements of bulk cash, mispricing of services, or most money laundering.

Beyond the direct economic impact of such massive haemorrhage, illicit financial flows hurt government revenues and society at large. They also facilitate transnational organized crime, foster corruption, undermine governance and decrease tax revenues.

Where Does The Money Flow To?
Most illicit financial outflows from developing countries ultimately end up in banks in countries like the US and the UK, as well as in tax havens like Switzerland, the Cayman Islands or Singapore. GFI estimates that about 45 per cent of illicit flows end up in offshore financial centres and 55 per cent in developed countries. University of California, Berkeley Professor Gabriel Zucman has estimated that 6 to 8 per cent of global wealth is offshore, mostly not reported to tax authorities.

GFI’s December 2015 report found that developing and emerging economies had lost US$7.8 trillion in illicit financial flows over the ten-year period of 2004-2013, with illicit outflows increasing by an average of 6.5 per cent yearly. Over the decade, an average of 83.4 per cent of illicit financial outflows were due to fraudulent trade mis-invoicing, involving intentional misreporting by transnational companies of the value, quantity or composition of goods on customs declaration forms and invoices, usually for tax evasion. Illicit capital outflows often involve tax evasion, crime, corruption and other illicit activities.

How Low Can You Go?
In the 1960s, there was a popular dance called the ‘limbo rock’, with the winner leaning back as much as possible to get under the bar. Many of today’s financial centres are involved in a similar game to attract customers by offering low tax rates and banking secrecy. This has, in turn, forced many governments to lower direct taxes not only on income, but also on wealth. From the early 1980s, this was dignified by US President Ronald Reagan’s embrace of Professor Arthur Laffer’s curve which claimed higher savings, investments and growth with less taxes.

With the decline of government revenue from direct taxes, especially income tax, many governments were forced to cut spending, often by reducing public services, raising user-fees and privatizing state-owned enterprises. Beyond a point, there was little room left for further cuts, and governments had to raise revenue. This typically came from indirect taxes, especially on consumption, as trade taxes were discouraged to promote trade liberalization. Many countries have since adopted value added taxation (VAT), long promoted, in recent decades, by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and others as the superior form of taxation: after all, once the system is in place, raising rates is relatively easy.

A progressive tax system would seek to ensure that those with more ability to do so, pay proportionately more tax than those with less ability to do so. Instead, tax systems have become increasingly regressive, with the growing middle class bearing the main burden of taxes. Meanwhile, tax competition among developing countries has not only reduced tax revenue, but also made direct taxation less progressive, while the growth of VAT has made the overall impact of taxation more regressive as the rich pay proportionately less tax with all the loopholes available to them, both nationally and abroad. Overall tax incidence in many developing countries has not only long been regressive, but has also become more regressive over time, especially since the 1980s.

Although there are many reasons for income inequality, hidden untaxed wealth has undoubtedly also increased wealth and income inequality at the national and international level.

(End)

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Can the UN Security Council Stop Hospitals Being Targets in War?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/can-the-un-security-council-stop-hospitals-being-targets-in-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-the-un-security-council-stop-hospitals-being-targets-in-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/can-the-un-security-council-stop-hospitals-being-targets-in-war/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 13:41:36 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144901 The Agency Headquarters Hospital (AHH) in Bajaur Agency, shortly after a Taliban suicide bomb attack in 2013. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

The Agency Headquarters Hospital (AHH) in Bajaur Agency, shortly after a Taliban suicide bomb attack in 2013. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Lyndal Rowlands
Apr 29 2016 (IPS)

Hospitals, health care workers and patients in war zones are supposed to be protected under international humanitarian law yet recent attacks from Syria to Afghanistan suggest that they have become targets.

The seeming lack of respect for the sanctity of health care in war zones has prompted UN Security Council members in New York to consider a new resolution designed to find new ways to halt these attacks.

The Security Council is expected to vote on the resolution on May 3, just days after Al Quds Hospital in Aleppo, Syria was bombed. Twenty seven staff and patients were killed in the airstrike on the hospital on Wednesday night, Dr Hatem, the director of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo told The Syria Campaign.

Among the victims was Dr Muhammad Waseem Maaz, who Dr Hatem described as “the city’s most qualified paediatrician.”

Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria told journalists in Geneva Wednesday that Dr Maaz was the last paediatric doctor left in Aleppo, although IPS understands there is another paediatrician in the Aleppo countryside.

Dr Hatem said that Dr Maaz used to work at the children’s hospital during the day and attend to emergencies at the Al Quds hospital at night time.

“Dr Maaz stayed in Aleppo, the most dangerous city in the world, because of his devotion to his patients,” said Dr Hatem.

Dr Hatem said that “hospitals are often targeted by government and Russian air forces.”

“When the bombing intensifies, the medical staff run down to the ground floor of the hospital carrying the babies’ incubators in order to protect them,” he said.

As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia will be expected to vote on the proposed new resolution reinforcing the protection of hospitals, doctors and patients in war zones.

“When the bombing intensifies, the medical staff run down to the ground floor of the hospital carrying the babies’ incubators in order to protect them.” -- Dr Hatem, director of the Children’s Hospital in Aleppo.

Another Security Council Member accused of bombing a hospital, the United States, is expected to release its report Friday of its own investigation into the attack on the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan on Oct. 3 2015.

MSF say that 42 people we killed in the sustained bombing of the hospital, including 24 patients and 18 staff.

Roman Oyarzun Marchesi, permanent representative of Spain to the UN said that the “the wake up call (for the Security Council resolution) came from organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres who are forced to stay out of certain areas or countries due to the lack of protection on the ground.”

“Attacks against the provision of health care are becoming so frequent that humanitarian actors face serious limitations to do their jobs,” said Marchesi at an event held to discuss the proposed resolution at the International Peace Institute earlier this month.

The event brought together representatives from the medical community with the five Security Council members drafting the resolution, Egypt, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and Uruguay.

Speaking on behalf of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), whose hospitals have come under frequent attacks in recent months and years, Jason Cone, Executive Director of MSF America called for greater accountability.

“As of today suspected perpetrators get away with self-investigating and there’s no independent follow-up of attacks,” said Cone.

“It is a critical moment for member states to reaffirm the sanctity of the medical act in armed conflict,” he said.

The current situation does not reflect the respect given to health care in war from the earliest stages of the Geneva conventions, Stéphane Ojeda, Deputy Permanent Observer to the United Nations, International Committee of the Red Cross told the meeting.

“The protection of the wounded and sick has been at the heart of International Humanitarian Law since the start,” said Ojeda.

“Indeed the wounded and sick and the medical personnel taking care of them were the first categories of protected persons under international humanitarian law because in the 1864 first Geneva Convention,” he said.

The principle that health care personnel should not be punished for caring for the wounded and sick also needs to be respected, said Ojeda.

“If you start questioning this that’s a whole pillar of humanity starting to collapse,” he said.

Cone also added to Ojeda’s calls for the duties of doctors in caring for the wounded and sick to be respected.

“We can not accept any criminalisation of the medical act, any resolution should reinforce and strengthen protection for medical ethics,” he said.

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A long, Insulting Walk to Justice for Rape Victims in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-long-insulting-walk-to-justice-for-rape-victims-in-bangladesh/#comments Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:32:39 +0000 Tamanna Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144899 Raped, they drown in humiliation while seeking punishment to culprits ]]>

Raped, they drown in humiliation while seeking punishment to culprits

By Tamanna Khan
Apr 29 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The dead do not feel anything, but those who survive do. The horrendous experience of the insensitive two-finger test after rape. The courtroom insults during trial because a draconian law permits the accused to question the victim’s character. The families suffer no less humiliation as they wait for justice. While nations around the world have overhauled relevant laws with provisions that shield the rape victims, ours still favour the offender instead. Isn’t it time we were a little more sensitive towards the victims of a crime now regarded as a crime against society? In the wake of Tonu murder after suspected rape, The Daily Star tries to shed some light on all these aspects.
Today, the first two instalments of a three-part series.

rape_4__Her dark-circled, deep-set eyes gave her a hollow look. The eyes were full of fear and mistrust.

The girl gave sideways glances as she hesitantly walked into the office of the One-stop-Crisis Centre (OCC) at Dhaka Medical College Hospital last month. She looked afraid, and when she noticed a man sitting in the room, she immediately cringed.

She is a rape victim.

For about a week after her rescue, she hardly spoke, OCC officials recall.

Her trauma and fear is shared by another rape survivor, a married woman, who was rescued from a sex racket in India last year.

“It’s not easy to tell even your closest family members what has happened to you,” the woman told The Daily Star recently. Humiliation and shame initially prevented her from telling her husband about the sexual assault when he found her in a shelter home in India months after her rescue. Her husband later came to know about it from others.

But Joya (not her real name), a teen girl, did not need to tell anyone anything. When she was found lying unconscious beside a road by her cousin four years ago, the marks on her body said it all.

“My cousin took me to a hospital. I hardly remember anything as my mind was all confused,” she told this correspondent recently by telephone from a shelter home run by Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association (BNWLA).

The Daily Star is withholding all the victims’ names.

In 2012, Joya was abducted by her stalker who “confined and raped her at gunpoint”. Later, her unconscious body was dumped by a road. When her family tried to seek justice, the alleged rapist and his cronies attacked her house and killed her father.

In between long pauses and painful sighs, she described the difficult path she had been walking to get justice. The first blow came at the police station where there were no women’s cells or woman law enforcers.

“I felt very afraid. I couldn’t trust any one of them. They were all men,” she described her feelings at the police station.

“I didn’t want to talk, I felt groggy… screams went through my head and my heart wrenched. I kept on wondering why no one could hear my cries or see my tears.”

Then came the time for medical examination — the two-finger test — and the girl, now 16, had no idea about its insensitive nature.

For the test, doctors use their index or middle finger to check the condition of the hymen and also to look for injuries on the vaginal wall.

So when a female doctor proceeded to do the test, the girl put up resistance at first. But eventually she had to give in because, as her aunt told her, there was no other way to get justice.

Adding to her ordeal, she had to narrate the sexual assault in details repeatedly not just to the police but also to journalists against her will.

“I felt very bad, embarrassed and hurt. But I told myself I needed to do this for justice,” said the girl, who is now in class nine.

Four years on, the hearing of her case has not started yet.

But for those who have gone through the trial, the court proceedings have been a nightmare: character assassination, insensitive and even vulgar questions, cross-examinations for hours are in the defence lawyers’ arsenal to further traumatise the victim.

Fahmida Akhter Rinky, a lawyer for BNWLA dealing with rape cases at the lower court for six years, spoke about the torment a nine-year-old girl went through during a trial recently.

“The child was only about four years old when she was raped. So the judge was careful and talked with the girl softly but the defence lawyer was shouting at her and accusing her of lying about how she was raped,” said Rinky.

This is despite the medical examination documents and other evidence clearly showing that the girl was raped.

“The child was so embarrassed and ashamed that she shrunk in fear,” said Rinky.

The girl recoiled from the humiliation in the courtroom full of people and kept on looking at Rinky.

“I felt so bad that she had to go through that,” said the lawyer.

Often, defence counsels “decidedly” choose a line of questioning aimed at maligning the victim in efforts to make the crime look like the victim’s fault, said Laily Maksuda Akhter, director of Legal Aid Unit of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad.

To save themselves from all this, especially the two-finger test which law activists vehemently oppose, many rape victims do not report the assault to the police.

“Many victims get so traumatised that they do not want to go through the forensic examination. Children in particular scream, because they fear they would get hurt again,” said Tahmina Haque, psychological counsellor at the OCC.

However, according to Bilkis Begum, coordinator of the OCC, there is no alternative to the two-finger test for women older than nine years. “It is part of any gynecological examination. Injuries cannot be detected without it.”

In many countries, including the UK and the US, doctors use the specula, a medical tool, for the test instead of fingers.

But the main problem lies in the report itself, said Ishita Dutta, project facilitator, SHOKHI, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST). “It is not for the doctors to determine if a victim has been raped or not. But that is what they write down in the reports.”

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Violence Against Women Journalists Threatens Media Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/violence-against-women-journalists-threatens-media-freedom/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:38:18 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144892 A journalist from Radio Bundelkhand in India conducts an interview. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

A journalist from Radio Bundelkhand in India conducts an interview. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
NEW YORK, Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

For women journalists, violence and intimidation don’t just happen in conflict zones, they are every day experiences.

“You don’t even have to be in a conflict zone to be violated anymore,” New York Times reporter and author of the Taliban Shuffle Kim Barker said Wednesday at the launch of a new book documenting the daily violence and harassment which women journalists experience.

After writing an opinion-editorial on her experience of sexual harassment in the field, Barker said that an online commenter called her “fat” and “unattractive” and told her that “nobody would want to rape you.”

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) chose to focus its 2016 edition of the Attacks on the Press book series on the gender-based online harassment, sexual violence and physical assault experienced by women journalists, because of the impact of this violence on press freedom.

“In societies where women have to fight to have control over their own bodies, have to fight to reassert their right in the public space—being a woman journalist is almost a form of activism,” said Egyptian broadcast journalist Rawya Rageh who also spoke at the launch.

Much of the abuse takes place online where attackers can hide behind the anonymity of online comments.

“Our words, our will, can prevent the silencing of voices, the violation of our freedom of expression…and we, as journalists, have a huge responsibility in this regard." -- Jineth Bedoya Lima.

According to the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Internet users have experienced some form of online harassment. Though men are also subject to harassment, online abuse towards women tends to be more severe, including sexual harassment and threats of violence.

For example, one journalist reported to the The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) that a troll had threatened to “human flesh hunt” her.

Alessandria Masi, a Middle East correspondent for the International Business Times, recalled the comments she received in an essay in CPJ’s book: “I have been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army for writing an article that was critical of Syrian President Bashar Assad and asked how many people I have to have sexual relations with to get my article published.”

Online abuse is a symptom of deep-seated and pervasive sexism, many note. University of Maryland Law Professor and Author of “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” Danielle Keats Citron stated that online gender harassment “reinforce(s) gendered stereotypes” where men are perceived as dominant in the workplace while women are sexual objects who have no place in online spaces.

But the threats do not just stay online, they also often manifest in the real world.

Deputy Editor of a Colombian Newspaper Jineth Bedoya Lima was kidnapped and raped in 2000 after exposing an underground network of arms trafficking in the country.

In 2012, after reporting on the dangers of female genital mutilation, Liberian journalist Mae Azongo received death threats including that she will be caught and cut if she does not “shut up.” She was forced to go into hiding with her nine-year-old daughter.

A year later, Libyan journalist Khawlija al-Amami was shot at by gunmen who pulled up to her car. Though she survived, she later received a text message warning her to “stop your journalism” or be killed.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) journalists also face similar threats, CPJ added. Most recently, Xulhaz Mannan, editor of Bangladesh’s only LGBT magazine, was hacked to death in his home.

However, many do not report their cases.

“It was almost like this dirty little secret, you didn’t talk about it…because you had to seem like you were just like one of the guys,” Barker said. She pointed to Lara Logan’s case as the dividing point.

While covering the Egyptian Revolution for CBS, Logan was violently sexually assaulted by a mob of men. During an interview on “60 Minutes,” she described how she was pulled away from her crew, her clothes ripped off, beaten with sticks and raped.

When asked why she spoke out, Logan said that she wanted to break the silence “on what all of us have experienced but never talk about.”

One key reason that many journalists do not speak out is the fear of being pulled out of reporting because of their gender or sexual orientation.

“It’s a catch-22,” said Rageh to participants. “I don’t want to reinforce this idea of who I am or what I am is going to curtail my ability to cover the story, but of course there’s an issue that needs to be addressed,” she continued.

CPJ’s Vice Chair and Executive Editor of the Associated Press Kathleen Carroll noted that the threat of sexual violence has long kept women out of the field of journalism. But there are ways to handle such threats that do not lead to the exclusion of women, she said.

Carroll stated that good tools and training should be provided to journalists, both women and men alike. IWMF established a gender-specific security training, preparing women to be in hostile environments. This includes role-play scenarios, risk assessments and communication plans.

Effective, knowledgeable and compassionate leaders are also needed in news agencies in order to help staff minimize threats, Carroll added.

Panelists urged for reform, noting that women are needed in the field.

“The more women you have out there covering those stories, the more those stories get told,” Barker said.

In an essay, Lima also reflected on the importance of women’s voices, stating: “Our words, our will, can prevent the silencing of voices, the violation of our freedom of expression…and we, as journalists, have a huge responsibility in this regard. Our words can stir a fight or bury the hope of change forever.”

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UN Predicts 40 Percent Water Shortfall by 2030http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/un-predicts-40-percent-water-shortfall-by-2030/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-predicts-40-percent-water-shortfall-by-2030 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/un-predicts-40-percent-water-shortfall-by-2030/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 19:04:20 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144889 The pastoralists of Ethiopia’s Somali region are forced to move constantly in search of pasture and watering holes for their animals. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

The pastoralists of Ethiopia’s Somali region are forced to move constantly in search of pasture and watering holes for their animals. Credit: William Lloyd-George/IPS

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

Ten presidents and prime ministers from around the world will work together to resolve the growing global water crisis amid warnings that the world may face a 40 percent shortfall in water availability by 2030.

The figures continue to be staggering:  despite improvements, at least 663 million still do not have access to safe drinking water.

And projecting into the future, the United Nations says an estimated 1.8 billion people – out of a total world population of over 7 billion – will live in countries or regions with water scarcities.

The crisis has been aggravated by several factors, including climate change (triggering droughts) and military conflicts (where water is being used as a weapon of war in several war zones, including Iraq, Yemen and Syria).

The High Level Panel on Water, announced jointly by the the United Nations and World Bank last week. is expected to mobilise financial resources and scale up investments for increased water supplies. It will be co-chaired by President Ameenah Gurib of Mauritius and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. The other eight world leaders on the panel include: Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Australia; Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; János Áder, President of Hungary; Abdullah Ensour, Prime Minister of Jordan; Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands; Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa; Macky Sall, President of Senegal; and Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan.

At a UN panel discussion last week, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson of Sweden said water lies at the nexus between sustainable development and climate action.

"If the water service fee is beyond a household’s ability to pay, it is a human rights violation.” -- Darcey O’Callaghan, Food and Water Watch.

Referring to the two extremes in weather patterns– droughts on the one hand and floods on the other – Eliasson said one of his colleagues who visited Pakistan after a huge flood, remarked: “Too much water and not a drop to drink.”

When world leaders held a summit meeting last September to adopt the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, they also approved 17 SDGs, including the elimination of extreme poverty and hunger and the provision of safe drinking water to every single individual in the world – by a targeted date of 2030.

But will this target be reached by the 15 year deadline?

Sanjay Wijesekera, Associate Director, Programmes, and Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at the UN children’s agency UNICEF, told IPS: “As we enter the SDG era, there is no doubt that the goal to get ‘safely managed’ water to every single person on earth within the next 15 years is going to be a challenge. What we have learned from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is that water cannot be successfully tackled in isolation.”

He said water safety is compromised every day from poor sanitation, which is widespread in many countries around the world, particularly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Currently, nearly two billion people worldwide are estimated to be drinking water which may be faecally contaminated.

As a result, UNICEF and others working on access to safe water, will have to redouble their efforts on improving people’s access to and use of toilets, and especially to end open defecation.

“As we address water, sanitation and hygiene, we must also take into account climate change. Droughts, floods, and extreme weather conditions all have an effect on the availability and the safety of water,” said Wijesekera.

He also pointed out that some 160 million children under-5 live in areas at high risk of drought, while around half a billion live in flood zones.

Asked how best the water crisis can be resolved, Darcey O’Callaghan, International Policy Director at Food and Water Watch, told IPS the global water crisis must be addressed in two primary ways.

“First, we must provide clean, safe, sufficient water to all people because water is a human right. Affordability is a key component of meeting this need. Second, we must protect water sustainability by not overdrawing watersheds beyond their natural recharge rate.”

“If we allow water sources to run dry, then we lose the ability to protect people’s human rights. So clearly, we must address these two components in tandem,” she said.

To keep water affordable, she pointed out, it must be managed by a public entity, not a private, for-profit one. Allowing corporations to control access to water (described as “water privatization”) has failed communities around the globe, resulting in poor service, higher rates and degraded water quality.

Corporations like Veolia and Suez — and their subsidiaries around the world—are seeking to profit off of managing local water systems, she said, pointing out that financial institutions like the World Bank and regional development banks often place conditions on loans to developing countries that require these systems to be privatized.

“But this is a recipe for disaster. Profits should not be the priority when it comes to providing water and sanitation services to people”, said O’Callaghan.

Asked if the public should pay for water, she said there is no longer any question that water and sanitation are both human rights. What the public pays for is water infrastructure upkeep and the cost of running water through the networks that deliver this resource to our homes, schools, businesses and government institutions.

“The UN has established guidelines for water affordability –three percent of household income—and these guidelines protect the human right to water. If the water service fee is beyond a household’s ability to pay, it is a human rights violation.”

One approach that has shown promise are public-public partnerships (PPPs). In contrast to privatization, which puts public needs into the hands of profit-seeking corporations, PPPs bring together public officials, workers and communities to provide better service for all users more efficiently.

PUPs allow two or more public water utilities or non-governmental organizations to join forces and leverage their shared capacities. PPPs allow multiple public utilities to pool resources, buying power and technical expertise, she said.

The benefits of scale and shared resources can deliver higher public efficiencies and lower costs. These public partnerships, whether domestic or international, improve and promote public delivery of water through sharing best practices, said O’Callaghan.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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How We Can Keep Press Freedom from Withering Away?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/how-we-can-keep-press-freedom-from-withering-away/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-we-can-keep-press-freedom-from-withering-away http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/how-we-can-keep-press-freedom-from-withering-away/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 18:37:05 +0000 Farhana Haque Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144887

While a free press means that a journalist has rights, it does not mean that she or he is right.

This article forms part of a series by IPS for World Press Freedom Day, May 3.]]>


While a free press means that a journalist has rights, it does not mean that she or he is right.

This article forms part of a series by IPS for World Press Freedom Day, May 3.

By Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General, Inter Press Service
ROME, Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

Media freedoms appear increasingly under siege around the world, with concerning signs that achieving middle-income status is no guarantee for an independent political watchdog in the form of the press.

Farhana Haque Rahman

Farhana Haque Rahman

The news is constant and disheartening.

The death this week of a LGBT magazine editor in Bangladesh shows that around the world, those who speak up are too often themselves tragically silenced.

In Mexico, journalists are knocked off – by criminal gangs, or maybe by colluding public authorities – and only rarely is their death punished. The fact that the government has a special prosecutor for such crimes does not seem to have any impact.

In South Africa, a new bill on national security allows for whistle blowers to be jailed for decades – the first legislation since the end of apartheid that curtails a freedom many once fought for.

The arrest of newspaper editors in Turkey is alarming. In Tunisia, the media’s main enemy is no longer tyranny in the form of a dictator, the new constitution tried to make defamation and libel – often flexible categories – punishable by fines only, but those the government often insist on use the penal code. A pending bill that would criminalize “denigration” of security forces.

Security threats, not always well-defined, are increasingly cited to promote further restrictions – in France, Belgium and beyond. The U.S. Senate has proposed requiring Internet companies to report “terrorist activity” and a UN Security Council committee recently called for Internet platforms to be liable for hosting content posted by extremists – even though the Islamic State alone posts an estimated 90,000 posts a day and has been known to taunt the social media platforms they use for trying to stop them.

Proposed Internet regulations are not just about terrorism or alleged civil war. They can be used to muffle news about deadly industrial accidents, government corruption and more. China wants to forbid foreign ownership of online media.

Censorship can use commercial pressure. Many feel the reason a major Kenyan daily sacked its editor was out of fear criticism of the government would lead to an advertising boycott and the risk of bankruptcy. The recent purchase of Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post by Alibaba’s founder, widely seen as close to Beijing, will be watched closely.

Looser defamation laws – proposed in the U.S. by a presidential candidate – have a long history of being used to silence people through long Kafka-esque judicial action.

One of the stranger cases – yet no less symptomatic of the trend – was the Indian government’s firing of an educational newspaper’s editor for having published a story suggesting that iron is an important nutritional element and can be obtained from beef or veal – a taboo food according to the ideological Hinduism championed by the current ruling party.

What to do?

There is a broadly-agreed narrative that claims a free and independent press is an essential part of any genuine democracy. It has long been held that while there may be stages along the way for developing countries, upholding media freedom is a strong sign of commitment that bodes well for improved governance across the board and thus better human welfare for all.

I have not heard one coherent argument claiming that this is no longer the case. Political leaders should be pressured to state publicly that they do not believe in media freedom’s merits – which few will do – rather than hide behind vague security threats that often sound like the rumour mill that preceded the guillotines of the French Revolution. This can work, as shown last year when international pressure led President Joko Widodo of Indonesia to force a senior minister to drop new rules curtailing the rights of foreign journalists in the country.

Public pressure on governments to make sure legislative threats to the press are reversed and threats against media freedom properly policed are essential. A Swedish law that makes it illegal for a reporter to reveal an anonymous source warrants consideration for emulation. And this highlights how journalists themselves must help achieve the goal.

Self-regulation can work, as Scandinavian countries show. Independent press councils can serve as a powerful forum – ideally enhanced with a public code of ethics that all parties can invoke – both for journalists themselves and readers and other stakeholders who may complain about their work.

After all, while a free press means that a journalist has rights, it does not mean that she or he is right.

To prove effective, a whole ecosystem must be set up. Sweden’s Freedom of the Press Act is now several centuries old, and the country has a constitutional principle requiring that all public records be available to the public. It is true that the experience of the Nordic countries is historically linked to the absence of feudalism, but it is an implicit goal of all democracy to overcome such legacies, so setting up institutions that mutually reinforce the free flow of information is part of any sustainable development in the interest of all – and not a perk upon arrival.

Digital publishing has, to be sure, raised thorny questions, notably about whether expressions that insult cultural sensitivities – whatever they may be – contribute to the culture a free press needs and is meant to foster. Opinions may vary on where appropriate limits may lie. But all authorities – precisely because they hold power – should accept the principle that the free press exists to hold them accountable, and that suppressing journalists will not bolster their power but ultimately erode it.

(End)

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A Tale of Twin Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-tale-of-twin-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-tale-of-twin-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-tale-of-twin-states/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 16:54:10 +0000 I.A. Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144885 By I.A. Rehman
Apr 28 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Pakistani visitors to India, usually beset with anxiety about their country`s future, are sometimes relieved to find a good number of Indians similarly worried about their country.

This is perhaps due to the fact that the twin states face many identical issues, and their people thus try to find solutions in the subcontinent`s shared culture.

For instance, last week in Delhi the discussion at gatherings of left-inclined intellectuals and social activists was dominated by queries as to what will happen to India if the saffron brigade continued to bring all matters under the stamp of Hindutva.

Sparks of resistance were not denied such as the resistance by writers and artists (in renouncing state awards) or the defiance of the Jawaharlal Nehru University student leaders. But generally, the conclusion was that these actions, highly morale-boosting though they were, did not generate the kind of movement for the rejection of humbug that was needed.

One also noticed a receding enthusiasm among optimists. Perhaps most people were more disappointed with the showing of the liberals (who should not be relied upon in any case) than was objectively necessary. But in the end, somebody or the other would cut the discussion short by claiming that India would never go down in the duel with fundamentalism because the traditions of tolerance in its society were so deep-rooted and strong.

One could not help drawing parallels with similar gatherings in Pakistan where those lamenting the uncertainty of civil society (along with the state authorities) see no silver lining on the horizon.

Does this mean that India and Pakistan both are condemned to suffer for a long time at the hands of people who are equipped with mantras that cannot be spurned without inviting the charge of sacrilege? That said, it is impossible not to find the judiciary challenging the executive or the legislature for transgressing its authority. Last time, it was a former Supreme Court judge taking parliament to task for amending the law so that an 18-year-oldcould be hanged.

This time it was Uttarakhand High Court in a fiery mood in the case of the dissolution of the state government by the president. The president can be an exalted person but he can also go terribly wrong, the court said.

The crisis arose when nine of the chief minister`s supporters joined the BJP opposition and the president accepted the establishment`s view that the government had broken down. Now the BJP was eagerly waiting for an invitation to form the state government. Whatever the final outcome, the BJP will be blamed for manipulating the fall of the state government.

For Pakistani students of politics, there is nothing surprising in this story. In the early years of independence, the ruling parties in both India and Pakistan were extremely unwilling to allow any opposition party to form a state-province government, but one thought the process had ended in India after an Andhra chief minister flew into the capital with all his supporters in the assembly and compelled the centre to take back the orders of his sacking. In Pakistan, the process continued somewhat longer and was overshadowed by frequent sacking of the National Assembly by all-powerful presidents.

With regard to judiciary-executive ties, it is not clear if India is now following Pakistan`s example or whether Pakistan was earlier copying an Indian pattern.

Although Pakistani chief justices in distress might have shed tears in private, there is no record of their breaking down before the political authority. But it must be said for Chief Justice T.S. Thakur that he was pleading the cause of justice and not seeking a personal favour.

One hopes, however, that his tearful plea does not embolden the sarkar to the extent of filling the courts with Modi loyalists. Justice Thakur could have a better bargain with the executive by holding firm as the head of his brother judges.

The Delhi state government`s decision to prohibit fee increases by private educational institutions should not fail to remind the people of Punjab of a similar step taken by their provincial government sometime ago.

The reasons advanced by the educational institutions on both sides are the same: mounting expenditures on teachers, rent and extracurricular facilities. The parents complain of their inability to pay fees they consider exorbitant but they are unlikely to win their case in either Delhi or Lahore.

Although the Indian government earned credit for forcing the private institutions to give relief to poor students, the patrons of private schools are likely to surrender to the argument that they cannot wish to have for their kids anything less than the best. The neo-liberal stalwarts are unlikely to cow before parents who admit to being less affluent.

It is not possible to be in Delhi and not be caught by surprise at the expansion of the metro train network or the odd-even scheme to restrict traffic that has increased the gains of operators of public transport.

The privileged car owners make no secret of their tactic to beat the system by having two cars for each user, one for odd number days and the other to be plied on even number days.

What makes Delhi a lively place despite the heat and shortage of water is the pace at which cultural activities continue.

It was good to see the tomb of Abdul Rahim Khan-i -Khana, the son of Bairam Khan who had secured the throne for the child-king Al Journalists in the doghouse: Pakistan enjoys the dubious distinction of being among the most dangerous places for journalists. In Sri Lanka, before the change of government, journalists were commonly meted out unsavoury treatment. Now Bangladesh too has taken to targeting journalists rather indiscriminately.

But what has happened to the democratic government of Nepal that Kanak Mani Dixit has been jailed? He is not afraid of making enemies, if he is being punished for that, but he must be respected as a leading exponent of the South Asian identity.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Democracy Under Constructionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/democracy-under-construction/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=democracy-under-construction http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/democracy-under-construction/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:49:45 +0000 Amitava Kar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144883 Cartoon: The New York Times

Cartoon: The New York Times

By Amitava Kar
Apr 28 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society,” said Mark Twain. In fewer places than Myanmar has the saying held truer where clothed men—uniformed to be more precise—have had all the influence for more than 50 years.

That’s changing with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy winning a decisive majority in the November 2015 elections. She is sending a clear message to the generals: civilians are going to call the shots from now on and she will be in charge.

Barred from becoming president by the military-drafted 2008 constitution “for the good of the mother country”, she assumed three key positions in the government to fortify her leadership—“State Counsellor”, foreign minister and minister in the president’s office. The combination of jobs will allow her to oversee the president’s office, shape foreign policy and coordinate decision-making between the executive branch and the parliament.

Things have started moving. As “State Counsellor”, she bypassed the military-controlled Ministry of Home Affairs and used legal processes to release students who had been jailed last year for protesting the new education reform law. In her first meeting as foreign minister with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, she made it clear that Beijing would have to pursue its interests in Myanmar with her rather than through the Army, as had been the case in the past.

Military members of the parliament denounced the moves as “democratic bullying”. At a parade last month, Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, reminded citizens that “the Army ensures the stability of the country” and “has to be present in a leading role in national politics”. The four-star general, despite reaching the retirement age of 60, will see his term extended for another five years, according to Wall Street Journal. He is in no hurry for the Army to step back from politics.

Suu Kyi cannot send the generals, who kept her under house arrest for 15 years, back to the barracks overnight. They still control three important ministries—home affairs, defence and border affairs. The first allows them to control the state’s administrative apparatus, right down to the grassroots level. Through these centres of power, it dominates the National Defence and Security Council which can dissolve parliament and impose martial law. Amending the constitution remains impossible as it requires a majority exceeding 75 percent in the parliament. Since the army has 25 percent seats reserved by law, it holds a perpetual veto.

The task ahead is daunting. In most key human development indicators, her country sits at the bottom of the pit in Southeast Asia. The new government inherits high inflation, large budget and current-account deficits, an unstable exchange rate and institutions ossified by decades of corruption and authoritarian rule. FDI rose to over USD 8 billion during the last fiscal year, but much of that money remains concentrated in the country’s jade, oil and gas industries—tied to former generals. And as the country opens up further, it is the urban “elites” and big corporations under the control of armed forces that are likely to benefit most from increased liquidity while people in rural and ethnically segregated live in extreme poverty, without basic physical or financial infrastructure.

Other priorities include reaching lasting peace with ethnic minorities along the country’s borders some of whom have been fighting the central government for decades and put an end to laws that have been used to stifle dissent. Most important of all is to redress the vicious persecution of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingyas who have been made stateless by a 1982 law and have been languishing in squalid camps or confined to their villages while thousands more have fled the country, many into the hands of human traffickers. Suu Kyi has to find a way to quash the Anti-Islamic sentiment violently stirred-up among the near 70 percent Bamar population in part by the 969 movement initiated by radical Buddhist monk Wirathu.

Myanmar’s new government will also have to tackle land rights: confusing and poorly enforced laws leave rural farmers vulnerable to confiscation. The NLD’s election manifesto promised land reform, but it is easier promised than delivered as it will have to confront the still-powerful Army on the matter.

As of right now, Myanmar has the world’s goodwill and potential abounds. Washington wants to seize the opportunity to pull the Army away from China’s ambit and towards itself at a time when it is looking for new partners in the Indo-Pacific region to bolster its “pivot” strategy. The country has abundant natural resources and is wedged between the massive markets of China, India and Southeast Asia. A lot of expatriate Burmese are returning home, bringing in ideas, enthusiasm and skills with them. Foreign investment, especially in telecoms and energy, is pouring in. Many believe it can reclaim its title as the world’s leading rice exporter.

The low-hanging fruits of Suu Kyi’s victory have been picked. Further change will rest on deeper, structural changes that will take much longer. “People expect that the NLD will solve all their problems,” said Bo Bo Oo, an MP who spent 20 years in jail for supplying medicine to students. “But it will take at least ten years before we see real change.”

The writer is a member of the editorial team of The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Pakistani Deporteeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/pakistani-deportees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistani-deportees http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/pakistani-deportees/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:34:01 +0000 Arif Azad http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144882 By Arif Azad
Apr 28 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

In March 2016, the EU signed a far-reaching deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants into their union, which has spiked since September 2015. The hastily crafted deal, criticised by the UN for its disregard for human rights safeguards, requires Turkey to accept all migrants currently stranded in Greece, in return for visa-free travel for Turkish citizens to the EU, and a hefty sum of six billion euros.

Earlier, the EU had expanded its monetary and expert support to Greece to ease its burden of hosting migrants. As part of this new deal, Greece has begun expelling migrants to Turkey, which in turn has begun housing refugees on its soil, and is preparing to expel most non-Syrian refugees. As a consequence of this policy, Pakistani migrants in Greece are at the front of the expulsion queue.

On April 4, Greece shipped around 200 migrants to Turkey, including 111 Pakistanis.

Ninety-seven deportees (mostly Pakistanis) were also expelled via land route, according to Greek police. Given the Turkish parliament`s position on the status of Pakistani migrants, our government must be prepared to receive and repatriate a new wave of migrants returning to their (apparent) home country.

This issue has been brewing for years and has been on the policy radar of EU officials who have quietly intimated the Pakistani government of the possibility of impending deportations from their territory. Last December, our government returned over 30 out of 50 deportees who arrived in Pakistan due to lack of proper documentation, the interior ministry claiming that the EU is dumping non-Pakistani deportees on our soil. The EU`s migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, visited to resolve the issue. Yet the crisis has worsened.

The issue of Pakistani migrants in Greece, mostly without papers according to Greek authorities, has been in the spotlight since the Greek financial crisis. Greece has attracted Pakistan migrants since the 1970s; in one study by the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, Pakistani migrants number 40,000-50,000, although of ficial figures put the number at 15,478. The estimated 40,000-50,000 include migrants without residency documents.

Irrespective of their status, the Pakistani migrant community constitutes the largest Asian community in Greece; they have suffered the worst racist abuse and attacks in recent years, as documented in reports by various human rights groups.

The atmosphere of hostility has resulted in a huge spike in administrative expulsions by the Greek government, which peaked at 5,135 in 2012, according to Greek police.This is a huge jump from 2011, where the figure stood at 1,293 administrative expulsions.

Another category of voluntary returns includes another 6,445 migrants, according to combined figures of the International Organisation of Migration and the Greek police. Again, this represents a massive spike from 715 in 2011. Worryingly, before the deportation itself, most of these Pakistani migrants are detained in detention centres in degrading conditions. In some of these, the migrants have taken to hunger strikes to protest their conditions.

Yet this huge number of forced and voluntary repatriation has barely raised any policy ripples in Pakistan. With the new draconian EU-Turkey deal being hastily put into effect with little regard for human rights safeguards, the number of Pakistani deportees is set to rise exponentially especially given Pakistan`s agreement with Turkey to take back all the deportees and repatriate them. Yet this is not the only stream of depor-tees coming Pakistan`s way; the EU, too, is oiling up its deportation machinery.

Given growing hostility to newly arriving migrants in Europe, EU immigration policies are stiffening. One of the policy responses to the migrant issue involves voluntary or forced repatriation of failed applicants, to ease domestic opposition to growing migrant populations.

That means the rate ofasylum refusal is set to grow across the EU, resulting in a greater drive towards deportation and repatriation. With an acceptance rate of 10-50pc for Pakistani applicants, the refused applicants will be put on a fast-track deportation schedule. This will swell the already growing concourse of Pakistan deportees, bringing with it its own set of rehabilitation challenges.

Yet it seems that the Pakistani government is not fully tuned into the scale of the crisis which is slowly brewing in foreign lands but heading for its borders. The response requires energetic planning to address a range of rehabilitation, policy and human rights challenges. Not much is forthcoming on this front. The sooner this multifaceted challenge is faced head-on, the better it is for the desperate and exhausted deportees.

The writer is a development consultant and policy analyst.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Why we need to stand united against governments cracking down on dissenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/why-we-need-to-stand-united-against-governments-cracking-down-on-dissent/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-we-need-to-stand-united-against-governments-cracking-down-on-dissent http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/why-we-need-to-stand-united-against-governments-cracking-down-on-dissent/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 14:33:35 +0000 Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144877 Police use tear gas and water canons in Istanbul to disperse demonstrators protesting the new Internet bill in February 2014. Credit: Emrah Gurel/IPS.

Police use tear gas and water canons in Istanbul to disperse demonstrators protesting the new Internet bill in February 2014. Credit: Emrah Gurel/IPS.

By Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah
JOHANNESBURG, Apr 28 2016 (IPS)

Last month, after receiving threats for opposing a hydroelectric project, Berta Caceres, a Honduran indigenous and environmental rights campaigner, was murdered. A former winner of the Goldman Environmental Prize for her opposition to one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects, Berta was shot dead in her own home.

In the same month, South African anti-mining activist, Sikhosiphi Bazooka Radebe, leader of a fiercely fought campaign to protect a pristine stretch of the Pondoland Wild Coast, was also shot dead.

Across the world, civic activists are being detained, tortured and killed. The space for citizens to organise and mobilise is being shut down; dissenting voices are being shut up. In 2015, at least 156 human rights activists were murdered. 156 that we know of.

The scale of the threat cannot be underestimated. The most recent analysis by my CIVICUS colleagues shows that, in 2015, significant violations of civic space were recorded in over 100 countries, up from 96 in 2014. People living in these countries account for roughly 86% of the world’s population. This means that 6 out of 7 people live in states where their basic rights to freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression are being curtailed or denied. No single region stands out; truly, this is a worldwide trend, a global clampdown.

Hostility towards civil society is becoming normalised as threats emanate from an increasing range of state and non-state actors: corrupt politicians and officials, unaccountable security forces, unscrupulous businesses and religious fundamentalists.

Hostility towards civil society is becoming normalised as threats emanate from an increasing range of state and non-state actors: corrupt politicians and officials, unaccountable security forces, unscrupulous businesses and religious fundamentalists. But perhaps more worrying is the demonisation of civil society in mainstream political discourse. A recent bill in Israel, touted by its supporters as the ‘Transparency Bill’, places rigorous new disclosure demands on any Israeli non-profit organisation that receives more than 50% of its funding from “Foreign Political Entities’, in other words from foreign governments, the EU or UN. Following an escalating global trend, the bill seeks to cast Israeli CSOs as disloyal ‘foreign agents’, demanding that their public communications state the source of their funding and calling for their employees to wear distinctive tags.

In the UK recent government efforts to restrict the lobbying activities of civil society organisations prompted over 140 charities to express their concern. A proposed new grant agreement clause seeks to prevent UK charities from using their funds to enter into any dialogue with parliament, government or a political party. In India, Prime Minister Modi has cautioned his judiciary against being influenced by what he called, ‘five star activists’. Insinuating that the civil society sector is elitist and out of touch with realities on the ground, the comments lent renewed impetus to the country’s ongoing crackdown on critical civil rights activists and NGOs.

The recent proliferation of counter-terrorism measures has also served to further stigmatise and stifle the sector. By suggesting that non-profit organisations are particularly vulnerable to abuse or exploitation by terrorist groups, governments have justified new laws and regulatory restrictions on their legitimate activities and the political space they inhabit. Freedom of speech is being silenced, funding sources cut off; the effect has been debilitating.

State surveillance of online activities is also on the rise as authorities note the power of the internet and social media as a tool for citizen mobilization. Governments have woken up to the power of civil society. The deepest fear of repressive regimes is no longer necessarily the rise of new political opposition parties; it is 100,000 of their citizens taking to the streets in the pursuit of change. And so a concerted push-back has begun, an effort to tame civil society, to smother its ability to catalyse social transformation.

We need to push back on these incursions on civic space, urgently and across the world. We need to be challenging our governments over rights violations, about the murder of activists, about their progress in fighting poverty, climate change and inequality.

There is much cause for hope. Last year, a coalition of Tunisian civil society organisations won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in bringing a country back from the brink of civil war and laying the foundations of a pluralistic democracy. The latest innovations in protest and movement building, in technologies that can liberate and mobilise citizens, in citizen-generated data that can empower campaigners and increase transparency around the monitoring of our global goals: all of these signal a new era of dynamic civic activism. Over the last few days more than 500 leading activists and thinkers gathered at International Civil Society Week 2016 in Bogota, Colombia to plot civil society’s global fight-back. It is fitting that this meeting took place against a backdrop of the peace negotiations that Colombian civil society has played such a key role in making possible.

Our gathering has the potential to be a defining moment for the future of democratic struggles. There will be more setbacks, low points and sacrifices to come but the demands for change won’t go away. Nor will civil society’s ability to affect it. A new, radically different vision for the future of civic action is being formulated. And those of us who believe in a healthy, independent civil society have more responsibility than ever before to keep on making our case. Knowing the threats she faced, Berta Caceres said, ‘We must undertake the struggle in all parts of the world, wherever we may be, because we have no spare or replacement planet. We have only this one and we have to take action’. She was right.

Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah is the Secretary General of CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of IPS.

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In sight but out of mindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/in-sight-but-out-of-mind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-sight-but-out-of-mind http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/in-sight-but-out-of-mind/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 11:02:53 +0000 Upashana Salam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144868 By Upashana Salam
Apr 28 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

This year Bangladesh exceeded all expectations, achieving a GDP rate of over 7 percent. With higher growth, the issue of labour rights is also gaining prominence in our national discourse, with more and more emphasis being given on workplace safety and wellbeing. Those amongst us who are educated are becoming more and more aware of our rights in our workplace, as we unhesitatingly demand for better pay, better facilities, a better life, really. And why shouldn’t we? This is our right as promised by our Constitution and by our state. But there still remains a large portion of our workforce, over 80 percent to be precise, who are not warranted recognition by any of our state apparatuses. When we talk proudly of progress and development, we tend to take for granted that only those who fall under a formalised structure deserve acknowledgement and thereby can demand their rights under the law. We choose to ignore more than half of Bangladesh’s population who, despite their indispensible contribution, are regarded as expendable, replaceable, and thus, undeserving of formal rights or protection.

world_day_for_safety_In Asia, the informal economy accounts for 78.2 percent of total employment. It’s ironic that in a world which still depends on informal employment to run their economies, those working in this sector continue to be treated as necessary but unacknowledged and invisible clogs of society. There is a not-so-subtle disdain for those who make our beds or build our homes; we choose to ignore that as human beings they too might have the same concerns and needs as the rest of us. Most people enter the informal economy because they have no other means to sustain themselves, with no education, skills or capital to participate in the formal workforce. But this does not mean that the risks associated with their work is only theirs to accept; the employment of workers in the informal economy, including housemaids, agricultural labourers, construction workers, day labourers, fishermen, vegetable vendors, etc, might be self-managed but the services they provide is universal.

While those working in the informal economy are not even recognised as ‘workers’ in the Bangladesh Labour Act, 2006, the Informal Sector Survey 2010 by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics asserted that the informal sector was the major source of employment in the country, amounting for 89 percent of the total jobs. As self-managed employment is socially unrecognised as work, it becomes easier for workers to be exploited. Thus, you hear of the brutal murder of 13-year-old Rakib Hawladar, whose former employer killed him in an inexplicably violent manner when he switched jobs. You regularly read stories of construction workers falling to their deaths, due to the lack of safety gears or adequate protection. How many times have you looked up a building to see a person dangling from a scaffolding, with nothing but a rope as a measure of safety? Every time I look up at them, I am overpowered by a sense of dread, and am forced to look away after a few minutes when I start feeling dizzy; but these people continue doing their work in the only way they know how to – with confidence galore and little attention to the risk that they are putting themselves in.

Accidents and deaths on site go largely unreported; in the rare occasions that the death of a worker is reported, there is no follow-up from the police, government, media or their own families who, in their struggle to make ends meet with one less earning member, are unwilling to demand compensation that they will not get or go to the court where their voices will be muffled.

A report published by the Asian Development Bank stated that unlike employees working under a formalised structure, workers with irregular employment don’t have any specified working hours, as they often have to work an average of 54 hours a week “with non-commensurate compensation.” Workplace safety is practically unheard of in the informal economy, and there’s no question of holidays, sick days or downtime. Brick kiln and construction workers have scarce drinking water and no toilet facilities to speak of. With wages being disbursed on a daily basis and no bargaining power with employers, they rarely take days off even when they suffer from ailments resulting from having to work long hours in intense heat. Let’s not talk about education or training opportunities, which cannot even be regarded as luxuries in a sector that is not officially recognised by the law.

Given the dearth of official data, it is difficult to even ascertain the particular health problems faced by people working in the informal economy. However, according to a report titled ‘Health Vulnerabilities of Informal workers’ by the Rockefeller Foundation, there is increased risks of malnutrition, physical and psychological disorder, respiratory trouble, heart attack, etc, due to the nature of their work, where they are forced to endure excessive labour, and an unhealthy work environment. More than a million workers who work in the brick kilns of the country, which produce over 12 million bricks a year, often suffer from skin diseases and are susceptible to bronchial infections. As per the report, workers often take drugs “to boost their physical and mental energy” when their body no longer supports their need to earn a livelihood. Rickshaw pullers, for example, are addicted to various drugs as these help them deal with the intense temperament of their work.

Article 15 of Bangladesh’s Constitution ensures guaranteed employment, work with reasonable wage, recreation and leisure for all workers, while Article 20 argues that employment should be a right for every citizen, insisting that workers should be “treated with justice.” Moreover, Article 10 prohibits social exploitation of any worker. However, in this case, there seems to be a clear divide in the treatment of those who are considered “actual workers” and the unrecognised millions who simple cannot be brought under a structure, thereby making it impossible to ensure them the same rights reserved for everyone else. Equality, once more, becomes a tool to bandy around when talking about the achievements of our country and its legal apparatus.

In fact, the Domestic Workers Protection and Welfare Policy 2015, one of the few measures taken to prevent the exploitation of a segment of the workers of the informal economy, is still to be implemented, even though a draft of the policy has already been approved by the cabinet.

There is an urgent need to change our perception toward informal workers, which can help bring a shift in the way they are treated in law and policy. We need to introduce a feasible wage structure, which runs parallel with their working hours and is in sync with their work environment. Moreover, experts have also stressed the need for a pension/insurance scheme, something that has already been undertaken by the Government of Delhi in September 2013 for the informal workers of India. As suggested by lawyer Kawsar Mahmood in a piece he wrote for the Dhaka Law Review, this will offer security for workers in the informal economy during their sickness or after they retire from work. “On registration, workers will be saving a portion of their income per month or per annum in a provident fund where the government will equally contribute,” he writes.

As human beings, we have the right to demand better pay, better working conditions and fair treatment from our employers. It’ll be a shame if this right continues to be reserved for some of us, while the majority are left stumbling, persisting through life as nameless, faceless beings.

The writer is a member of the editorial team, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Playing Ping Pong with Disabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/playing-ping-pong-with-disability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=playing-ping-pong-with-disability http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/playing-ping-pong-with-disability/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:53:51 +0000 Silvia Boarini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144866 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/playing-ping-pong-with-disability/feed/ 0 Times of Violence and Resistance for Latin American Journalistshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/times-of-violence-and-resistance-for-latin-american-journalists/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=times-of-violence-and-resistance-for-latin-american-journalists http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/times-of-violence-and-resistance-for-latin-american-journalists/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 22:15:37 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144856 Demonstrators in a protest held to commemorate murdered reporter Regina Martínez at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City. Mexico accounted for 14 of the 43 journalists killed in Latin America in 2015. Credit: Lucía Vergara/IPS

Demonstrators in a protest held to commemorate murdered reporter Regina Martínez at the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City. Mexico accounted for 14 of the 43 journalists killed in Latin America in 2015. Credit: Lucía Vergara/IPS

By Daniela Pastrana
MEXICO CITY, Apr 27 2016 (IPS)

Mexico is the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists. In 2015 it accounted for one-third of all murders of reporters in the region, and four more journalists have been added to the list so far this year.

The latest, Francisco Pacheco Beltrán, was shot dead outside his home in the southern state of Guerrero on Monday Apr. 25. Pacheco Beltrán regularly covered crime and violence, which have been on the rise in connection with organised crime and drug trafficking. He worked for several local media outlets in Mexico’s poorest state, which is also one of the most violent.

His murder adds one more chapter to the history of terror for the press in Mexico in this new century, which has not only included the killings of 92 journalists, but also a phenomenon that is almost unheard-of in democratic countries around the world: 23 journalists have been forcibly disappeared in the last 12 years, an average of two a year.

And every 22 hours, a journalist is attacked in Mexico, according to the latest report by the Britain-based anti-censorship group Article 19.

“Violence against the press in Mexico is systematic and widespread,” said the former director of the organisation’s Mexico branch, Darío Ramírez, on the last International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, celebrated each Nov. 2.

But violence and impunity are not the only problems faced by journalists in Mexico and the rest of the region.

Ricardo González, Article 19’s global protection programme officer, told IPS that freedom of the press in Latin America faces three principal challenges: prevention, protection and the fight against impunity; the de-concentration of media ownership; and improving the working conditions of journalists.

“For us, the red zones are Mexico, Honduras and Brazil,” González said.

According to the Federation of Latin American Journalists (FEPALC), 43 journalists were killed in the region in 2015, including 14 in Mexico (besides two that were forcibly disappeared). Mexico is followed by Honduras (10), Brazil (eight), Colombia (five) and Guatemala (three).

Brazil’s National Federation of Journalists reported a 60 percent rise in journalists killed between 2014 and 2015. The highest-profile case was the murder of investigative reporter Evany José Metzker, whose decapitated body was found in May 2015.

Honduras and Mexico have a similar problem: the violence against journalists is compounded by a culture of impunity.

Honduran journalists protest an official secrets law that undermines their work. By means of laws and other mechanisms, some governments in Latin America have restricted access to information, the theme of World Press Freedom Day this year. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Honduran journalists protest an official secrets law that undermines their work. By means of laws and other mechanisms, some governments in Latin America have restricted access to information, the theme of World Press Freedom Day this year. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

“In the first half of 2015, the Commission registered a worrying number of unclarified murders of communicators and media workers,” says the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ (IACHR) annual report on Honduras.

Not just murders

But violence is not the only threat faced by the media in Honduras. One of the Central American country’s leading newspapers, Diario Tiempo, which stood out for its defence of democracy during the 2009 coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya, was recently shut down.

The closure of the newspaper is linked to the downfall of one of the most powerful families in the country: the family of banking magnate Jaime Rosenthal, who is accused by the U.S. Treasury Department of laundering money for drug traffickers.

The freezing of the accounts of businesses in the family’s Grupo Continental conglomerate, as a result of that accusation, led to the closure of the newspaper, announced in October. As a result, the government was accused of taking disproportionate measures against the outspoken publication.

In a public letter, Rosenthal said “the circumstances that led to this suspension are very serious with regard to freedom of speech, social communication and democracy in our country, to the extreme that this is an atypical case in the Western world.”

A newspaper with a similar name, in Argentina, is an example of the other side of the coin in the region. On Monday Apr. 25, journalists from Tiempo Argentina, a Buenos Aires daily that closed down in late 2015, relaunched the publication, this time as a weekly.

Under the slogan “the owners of our own words”, the Tiempo Argentino reporters got their jobs back by forming a cooperative, similar to the format used by factory workers to get bankrupt companies operating again after Argentina’s severe 2001-2002 economic crisis.

“It’s really good to see that the more people organise, the more the competition between companies is overcome,” Cecilia González, a correspondent for the Notimex agency in the countries of Latin America’s Southern Cone region, told IPS from Buenos Aires.

But González said that in Argentina there are plenty of problems as well, and few positive answers like Tiempo Argentino. One of the big problems was President Mauricio Macri’s modification by decree of a law pushed through by his leftist predecessor in 2015 that outlawed monopolies by media companies.

On Apr. 18, Macri, who took office in December, told the IACHR that he would draft a new law with input from civil society. But reporters in Argentina are sceptical.

“Besides the more than 300 media outlets owned by the Grupo Clarín and which it will avoid losing, another monopoly is being built in the shadows, associated with La Nación, and they plan to get hold of the entire chain of magazines,” the Orsai magazine wrote.

But for the IACHR and its special rapporteur for freedom of expression, conservative governments are not the only ones causing problems.

In Ecuador, to cite one example involving a left-leaning administration, President Rafael Correa, in office since 2007, used the strength of the state to sue executives of the El Universo newspaper – Carlos, César and Nicolás Pérez – and its then editorial page editor, Emilio Palacio.

The president sought 80 million dollars in damages and three years in prison for libel after an editorial by Palacio alleged that he ordered police to open fire on a hospital full of civilians during a September 2010 police rebellion.

In December 2015, the IACHR accepted a petition accusing the government of the alleged violation of legal safeguards and freedom of thought and expression, and requesting legal protection.

Correa also took aim against one of Latin America’s best-known cartoonists. In 2014 a cartoon by Xavier Bonilla – who goes by the pen name Bonil – that depicted a raid by police and public prosecutors on the home of a political opposition leader enraged Correa, who launched a campaign against the cartoonist.

“Ecuadoreans should reject lies and liars, especially if the liars are cowards and haters of the government disguised as clever, funny caricaturists,” was one of the president’s outbursts against Bonilla.

As journalists in the region get ready for World Press Freedom Day, celebrated May 3, there are signs of resistance in some countries, although the climate is not the best for media workers.

One example is Veracruz, the Mexican state that has been in the international headlines for the alarming number of reporters who have been assaulted or killed.

On Apr. 28, the fourth anniversary of the murder of Regina Martínez, a correspondent for the local weekly Proceso, journalists belonging to the Colectivo Voz Alterna, who have battled hard in defence of the right to inform, in the midst of a climate of terror, will place a plaque in her honour in the central square of the state capital.

“We cannot forget, and we cannot just do nothing,” Vera Cruz reporter Norma Trujillo told IPS. Similar sentiments are voiced by reporters working in dangerous conditions around the region.
Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Why the World Needs a UN Leader Who Stands Up for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/why-the-world-needs-a-un-leader-who-stands-up-for-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-the-world-needs-a-un-leader-who-stands-up-for-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/why-the-world-needs-a-un-leader-who-stands-up-for-human-rights/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 22:03:39 +0000 Anna Neistat http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144855 The Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN Photo/Pierre-Michel Virot.

The Human Rights Council in Geneva. UN Photo/Pierre-Michel Virot.

By Anna Neistat
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 27 2016 (IPS)

Last August, Balla Hadji, a 61-year-old truck driver in Bangui in the Central African Republic, was having breakfast with his wife when they heard shots outside. He ran out to call his daughter inside, but troops were already there, and shot him in the back as he ran away. His 16-year-old son, Souleimane, was also shot when he ran towards his father. Balla died on the spot, his son Souleimane the next day.

The soldiers were neither armed groups nor government forces; they wore the famous blue helmet and vest of United Nations (UN) peacekeepers. Witnesses told Amnesty International that instead of helping the wounded father and son, the peacekeepers – who were meant to protect them – fired another round when the daughter tried to cross the street to reach her injured relatives.

What happened to an organization meant to protect and give voice to the world’s most vulnerable people? This is a question that candidates to succeed UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon must address in the process that started at the UN General Assembly earlier this month. In the coming months governments will select the UN’s next leader – who will take up their post in 2017.

This is a crucial turning point for a twentieth century body being shoe-horned into the twenty-first.

The UN showed it can still deliver when it brokered agreements on development and climate goals in 2015, but its response to major crises was woefully inadequate. From its failure to protect civilians in conflicts like Syria and South Sudan to abuses perpetrated by its own forces, the UN is an organization creaking at the seams.

This is largely the fault of governments willfully thwarting UN action aimed at preventing war crimes and crimes against humanity or holding perpetrators to account. The UN Security Council appears less a place where people’s security and rights are protected than a forum where the richest and most powerful countries in the world play politics with their lives.

Four times a Security Council member has vetoed UN efforts to respond to the Syrian conflict. The result: nearly 12 million forced to flee their homes, and more than 250,000 dead.

At the Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia’s western allies did its bidding, obstructing the establishment of a UN-led inquiry into violations by all sides in the conflict in Yemen, even while the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing campaign commits war crimes. The result: a conflict that has taken the lives of more than 2,800 civilians, 700 of them children.

Even when the Security Council has acted and imposed sanctions and arms embargoes they have not been implemented effectively, for example in Sudan.

This cannot go on. I have seen the consequences on the ground in countries like Syria and Yemen: thousands detained, killed, displaced, and disappeared. When the victims and their families ask me if there is an organization that can help them, I know the answer should be the UN. Today I cannot look them in the eye and promise it will.

Failure to protect human rights will sow the seeds of future crises by fueling the injustice and repression that breed instability. Look at the uprisings in the Arab world five years ago, a palpable example of the link between system failure and governments repressing dissent and human rights.

The UN has not failed, yet. But its ability to fulfill its purpose is in grave jeopardy. The governments who select the next Secretary-General have to answer the critics who question whether the organization is fit for purpose in the twenty-first century.

The world needs someone who will champion marginalized people, protect civilians in conflict and prevent mass violations, combat impunity by supporting the International Criminal Court, fight for gender equality, defend activists against repressive governments and deal with the biggest global refugee crisis in seventy years.

That is a tall order, but essential in a world racked by proliferating conflict, deliberate targeting of civilians by states and armed groups, and rising xenophobia.

The next Secretary-General can do that by putting the protection of human rights front and centre. Human rights are meant to be the UN’s third pillar, along with development, and maintaining peace and security. But they risk becoming the third rail of UN politics: too controversial to touch, and a black mark in the eyes of certain Security Council members.

The new Secretary-General must bring human rights and humanitarian crises before the Security Council. When serious human rights violations occur, he or she should use their powers under Article 99 of the UN Charter to bring threats to international peace and security before the Security Council. This power has not been used for decades.

The next Secretary-General must also restore the reputation of an organisation tarnished by sexual exploitation and abuse committed by its own peacekeepers. The UN’s own statistics show 69 allegations of abuse in 2015, 22 of them from its peacekeeping force in the Central Africa Republic. The UN must make sure peacekeepers are punished when they turn predator.

But a critical first step is to have a fair and transparent process to select a highly qualified next leader for the UN. In the past, powerful governments who felt a strong Secretary-General was not in their interest have had too much control over the final decision. The debates held earlier this month kick started a vital opportunity for governments to reinvigorate the UN.

The election of the UN Secretary-General this year may capture a fraction of the attention of the US presidential campaign. Yet for much of the world who stand to benefit from a dynamic UN, it could be just as significant. If not more.

Anna Neistat is Senior Director for Research at Amnesty International. She has conducted more than 60 investigations in conflict areas around the world, including Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Zimbabwe, Nepal, Kenya, Yemen, Chechnya, Sri Lanka and Haiti. Follow her @AnnaNeistat

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of IPS.

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Choose Humanity: Make the Impossible Choice Possible!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:03:47 +0000 Herve Verhoosel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144850 Herve Verhoosel is the Spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24. He was previously leading the Roll Back Malaria office at the UN in New York and was also Head of External Relations, Advocacy and Communication. In this Op-Ed Verhoosel introduces this major event, the first ever of its kind, which will bring together governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector to propose solutions.]]>

Herve Verhoosel is the Spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24. He was previously leading the Roll Back Malaria office at the UN in New York and was also Head of External Relations, Advocacy and Communication. In this Op-Ed Verhoosel introduces this major event, the first ever of its kind, which will bring together governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector to propose solutions.

By Herve Verhoosel
UN, New York, Apr 27 2016 (IPS)

We have arrived at the point of no return. At this very moment the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War Two. We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.

Herve Verhoosel

Herve Verhoosel

More than $20 billion is needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts. Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030. Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before.

The situation has hit home. We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters. We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards. We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.

These are desperate times. With so much at stake, we have only one choice to make: humanity. Now is the time to stand together and reverse the rising trend of humanitarian needs. Now is the time to create clear, actionable goals for change to be implemented within the next three years that are grounded in our common humanity, the one value that unites us all.

This is why the United Nations Secretary-General is calling on world leaders to reinforce our collective responsibility to guard humanity by attending the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.

From May 23rd to the 24th, our leaders are being asked to come together in Istanbul, Turkey, to agree on a core set of actions that will chart a course for real change. This foundation for change was not born overnight. It was a direct result of three years of consultations with more than 23,000 people in 153 countries.

On the basis of the consultation process, the United Nations Secretary-General launched his report for the World Humanitarian Summit titled “One Humanity, Shared responsibility. As a roadmap to guide the Summit, the report outlines a clear vision for global leadership to take swift and collective action toward strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and crisis relief.

Aptly referred to as an “Agenda for Humanity,” the report lays out ground-breaking changes to the humanitarian system that, once put into action, will promptly help to alleviate suffering, reduce risk and lessen vulnerability on a global scale.

The Agenda is also linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically maps out a timeline for the future and health of our world. Imagine the end of poverty, inequality and civil war by 2030. Is it possible? Undoubtedly so. Most importantly, the Secretary-General has called for measurable progress within the next three years following the Summit.

As such, the Summit is not an endpoint, but a kick-off towards making a real difference in the lives of millions of women, men and children. It’s an unprecedented opportunity for global leaders to mobilize the political will to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. So, how to take action?

The Agenda specifies five core responsibilities that the international community must shoulder if we expect to end our shared humanitarian crises. These core responsibilities offer a framework for unified and concentrated action to Summit attendees, leadership and the public at large. Once implemented, change will inevitably follow.

1. Prevent and End Conflict: Political leaders (including the UN Security Council) must resolve to not only manage crises, but also to prevent them. They must analyse conflict risks and utilize all political and economic means necessary to prevent conflict and find solutions, working with their communities – youth, women and faith-based groups – to find the ones that work.

The Summit presents a unique opportunity to gain political momentum and commitment from leaders to promote and invest in conflict prevention and mediation in order to reduce the impacts of conflicts, which generate 80 percent of humanitarian needs.

2. Respect Rules of War: Most states have signed and implemented international humanitarian and human rights laws, but, sadly, few are respected or monitored. Unless violators are held accountable each time they break these laws, civilians will continue to make up the vast majority of those killed in conflict – roughly 90 percent. Hospitals, schools and homes will continue to be obliterated and aid workers will continue to be barred access from injured parties.

The Summit allows a forum for which leadership can promote the protection of civilians and respect for basic human rights.

3. Leave No One Behind: Imagine being forcibly displaced from your home, being stateless or targeted because of your race, religion or nationality. Now, imagine that development programs are put in place for the world’s poorest; world leaders are working to diminish displacement; women and girls are empowered and protected; and all children – whether in conflict zones or not – are able to attend school. Imagine a world that refuses to leave you behind. This world could become our reality.

At the Summit, the Secretary-General will call on world leaders to commit to reducing internal displacement by 50 percent before 2030.

4. Working Differently to End Need: While sudden natural disasters often take us by surprise, many crises we respond to are predictable. It is time to commit to a better way of working hand-in-hand with local systems and development partners to meet the basic needs of at-risk communities and help them prepare for and become less vulnerable to disaster and catastrophe. Both better data collection on crisis risk and the call to act early are needed and required to reduce risk and vulnerability on a global scale.

The Summit will provide the necessary platform for commitment to new ways of working together toward a common goal – humanity.

5. Invest in Humanity:
If we really want to act on our responsibility toward vulnerable people, we need to invest in them politically and financially, by supporting collective goals rather than individual projects. This means increasing funding not only to responses, but also to crisis preparedness, peacebuilding and mediation efforts.

It also means being more creative about how we fund national non-governmental organizations – using loans, grants, bonds and insurance systems in addition to working with investment banks, credit card companies and Islamic social finance mechanisms.

It requires donors to be more flexible in the way they finance crises (i.e., longer-term funding) and aid agencies to be as efficient and transparent as possible about how they are spending money.

Our world is at a tipping point. The World Humanitarian Summit and its Agenda for Humanity are more necessary today than ever before. We, as global citizens, must urge our leaders to come together at the Summit and commit to the necessary action to reduce human suffering. Humanity must be the ultimate choice.

Join us at http://www.ImpossibleChoices.org and find more information on the Summit at https://www.worldhumanitariansummit.org.
@WHSummit
@herveverhoosel
#ShareHumanity

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