Inter Press ServiceHuman Rights – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 19 Apr 2018 17:23:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Football Greats Line up for Match for Solidarityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/football-greats-line-match-solidarity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=football-greats-line-match-solidarity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/football-greats-line-match-solidarity/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 14:50:57 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155351 A host of footballing greats have confirmed their participation in the Match for Solidarity organised by UEFA and the United Nations in Geneva. 013 – Ronaldinho and Figo to captain all-star teams to raise money for charity in joint UEFA-UN initiative A host of footballing greats, including two top coaches and numerous legendary players, have […]

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Credit: UEFA.com

By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Apr 19 2018 (IOM)

A host of footballing greats have confirmed their participation in the Match for Solidarity organised by UEFA and the United Nations in Geneva.

013 – Ronaldinho and Figo to captain all-star teams to raise money for charity in joint UEFA-UN initiative

A host of footballing greats, including two top coaches and numerous legendary players, have confirmed their participation in the Match for Solidarity, a joint UEFA-United Nations charity game which will take place on Saturday 21 April (kick-off 16.00CET) at the Stade de Genève in Geneva, Switzerland.

The line-ups of the two teams comprise stellar names from the world of football, including numerous former UEFA EURO, UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup winners.

The list of players who have confirmed their participation in the Figo & Friends team, coached by Didier Deschamps, is an impressive one: Luis Figo (captain), Dida, Vítor Baía, Míchel Salgado, Frank de Boer, Rio Ferdinand, Cristian Chivu, Dejan Stanković, Robert Pirès, Jari Litmanen, Christian Karembeu, Andrea Pirlo, Raúl, Robbie Keane, Kelly Smith and Nuno Gomes.

The glittering list of legendary players, who will be coached by Carlo Ancelotti and will join the Ronaldinho & Friends team, includes: Ronaldinho (captain), David James, Antonis Nikopolidis, Juliano Belletti, Cafu, Edmílson, Casey Stoney, Éric Abidal, Michael Essien, Youri Djorkaeff, Gaizka Mendieta, Ronald de Boer, Henrik Larsson, Alexander Frei, Patrick Kluivert and Célia Šašić. The renowned former Italian referee Pierluigi Collina will officiate the match.

The match is aimed at promoting peace, human rights and well-being in the world, through the Sustainable Development Goals as set out by the United Nations. The proceeds from this event, as well as from the charity dinner and a unique digital football auction, will go to the UEFA Foundation for Children. The funds will be used to finance humanitarian and development projects to help children with disabilities both at a local and global level.

This year’s local beneficiary will be Autisme Genève, a non-profit organisation founded in Geneva in 2007 under the initiative of parents whose children live with autism spectrum disorders. At an international level, the funds will be used to support projects in Africa, Asia and South America.

The projects will be selected by a committee of representatives from UEFA, the United Nations Office in Geneva and the Fondation du Stade de Genève.

The match at the Stade de Genève, which will be distributed to a global audience via the European Broadcast Union, will kick off at 16.00CET. Tickets, priced from CHF 10 up to CHF 22, are available at ticketcorner.ch. More details on the digital football auction, which includes some of the finest memorabilia from the world’s leading players, can be found here.

To celebrate diversity and multiculturalism as a tool for youth development and as a vehicle for peace, pre-match activities involving local and international children will be organized about one hour before kick-off. The UEFA Foundation for Children has invited the ‘Eleven Campaign’, a non-profit organisation, to organise a children’s football match (kick-off at 14.45CET) and complete a documentary which has been two years in the making. The game, will feature 11 youngsters from 11 different countries, who will meet for the first time and will play against a team of children from the Geneva area.

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Homebound: Hardship Awaits Internally Displaced Iraqishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/homebound-hardship-awaits-internally-displaced-iraqis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=homebound-hardship-awaits-internally-displaced-iraqis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/homebound-hardship-awaits-internally-displaced-iraqis/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 19:28:13 +0000 Ann-Kathrin Pohlers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155335 With upcoming elections in May, the Iraqi government is urging Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to return home. After the defeat of ISIS in December 2017, an increase in security and number of returnees to their region of origin is expected; however, many IDPs see no way to leave the camps just yet. While two million […]

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Civilians leaving old Mosul. This boy is going to fall of exhaustion just after this picture is taken. Credit: Herve Jakubowicz

By Ann-Kathrin Pohlers
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 18 2018 (IPS)

With upcoming elections in May, the Iraqi government is urging Internally Displaced People (IDPs) to return home. After the defeat of ISIS in December 2017, an increase in security and number of returnees to their region of origin is expected; however, many IDPs see no way to leave the camps just yet.

While two million people have returned to their homes, three million people farther remain displaced. The eruption of ISIS in January 2014 and the following years of violence have led to a humanitarian disaster; on top of that, the number of IDPs displaced between 2006 and 2007 is still at approximately one million.

Nearly 9 million Iraqis require humanitarian assistance of which 5 million are in critical need of safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A drastic reduction in armed conflict is anticipated for this year, however, the complex pattern of second displacements may continue to occur even though Iraq expects an increase in returns, according to UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children Report.

“There is an impetus for people to return to their area of origin ahead of elections in May,” Melany Markham, media coordinator for the Norwegian Refugee Council, told IPS. The May elections were originally scheduled for September 2017, but were delayed by six months due to the Iraqi civil war.

The Muttahidoon, the Uniters for Reform Coalition and Iraq’s largest Sunni political alliance, called for a further six months’ delay to allow enough time for IDP voters to return home, however, Iraq’s Supreme Court ruled a second delay unconstitutional.

In camps east of Mosul, the numbers of arrivals after their second or even third displacement now surpass the number of departures of returnees. “We cannot go back to Mosul without guarantees and international guarantees to be safe and to be some people to protect us,” an unidentified IDP told NPR correspondent Jane Arraf.

A similar development can be witnessed in Anbar Province. “At least one in five of the displaced people who left the Kilo 18 camp in Anbar Province in December returned back to the camp because they couldn’t go home. Sometimes it’s an issue of safety and sometimes they return because their homes have been destroyed or they are occupied by others,” said Melany Markham.

“In our consultations, it doesn’t seem to be ISIS that is posing the threat. The threat is of tribal violence or retribution towards people who have proven or suspected affiliations with ISIS. Other people are afraid or unexploded ordinances,” stated the spokesperson for the Norwegian Refugee Council. “In order to mitigate these threats, land needs to be decontaminated or cleared before people can go home. Those who fear violence from the community will need to be able to settle in other places – more permanent solutions for these people must be found.”

On April 3, Iraq’s Ministry of Justice published the country’s 2018 federal budget. After voting in favor of the $88 billion draft on March 3, President Fuad Masum ordered to publicly share the document after previous weeks of dispute over the reduction of Iraq’s Kurdish region’s share from 17 percent to 12 percent.

A girl at a refugee camp in Erbil doing daily chores. Credit: Giulio Magnifico

The tense relations between Baghdad and the regional government in Erbil worsened after Kurdistan’s September referendum with 93 percent overwhelmingly endorsing the secession from Iraq. The budget cuts will affect the region around Erbil and Mosul, where ISIS caused a tremendous devastation and a surge of refugees.

In retaliation, Iraqi forces closed Erbil International Airport, took disputed territories, including the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, from Kurdish control, and shut down border crossings with Iraq’s neighboring countries. At Baghdad’s request, Iran closed seven unofficial border crossings with Kurdistan in support of the measures taken to isolate the Kurdish region.

The effects of Iraq’s political and financial crisis in retaken areas like Erbil and Mosul impact the establishment of a stable, safe environment for IDPs to return to. About $30 billion were pledged for the rebuilding of infrastructure at a recent reconstruction conference in Kuwait. Yet, the World Bank estimated that a total $88 billion dollars of damage has been caused.

Outside of refugee camps, Iraq’s public services such as water networks and health systems, essential but costly, remain overburdened in the war-affected regions, struggling to provide service to returnees. It will take time to restore Iraq’s infrastructure.

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After More Than a Decade, Rights of Indigenous Peoples Not Fully Realizedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/decade-rights-indigenous-peoples-not-fully-realized/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decade-rights-indigenous-peoples-not-fully-realized http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/decade-rights-indigenous-peoples-not-fully-realized/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 05:58:41 +0000 Miroslav Lajcak http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155326 Miroslav Lajčák, is President of the UN General Assembly

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A UN press conference on indigenous peoples. Credit: UN Photo

By Miroslav Lajčák
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 18 2018 (IPS)

First, I want to talk about how we got here.

It was nearly 100 years ago, when indigenous peoples first asserted their rights, on the international stage. But, they did not see much progress. At least until 1982 – when the first Working Group on Indigenous Populations was established.

And, in 2007, the rights of indigenous peoples were, finally, set out in an international instrument.

Let us be clear here. Rights are not aspirational. They are not ideals. They are not best-case scenarios. They are minimum standards. They are non-negotiable. And, they must be respected, and promoted.

Yet, here we are. More than a decade after the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted. And the fact is, these rights are not being realized.

That is not to say that there has been no progress. In fact, we heard many success stories, during yesterday’s opening of the Permanent Forum.

But, they are not enough.

Which is why, as my second point, I want to say that we need to do much more.

Last September, the General Assembly gave my office a new mandate. It requested that I organise informal interactive hearings – to look at how indigenous peoples can better participate at the United Nations.

So, that is why we are all sitting here. But, before we launch into our discussions, I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

I know that many of you were disappointed, with the General Assembly’s decision last year. After two years of talking, many of you wanted more than these interactive hearings.

We cannot gloss over this. And that is why I want to address it – from the outset. But I must also say this: Things may be moving slowly. But they are still moving.

When our predecessors formed the first indigenous working group, in 1982, their chances were slim. Many doubted whether an international instrument could be adopted. And, frankly, it took longer than it should have. But, it still happened.

So, we need to acknowledge the challenges, and frustrations. We cannot sweep them under the rug.

But we also cannot let them take away from the opportunities we have, in front of us.

And that brings me to my third point, on our discussions today.

This is your hearing. So, please be blunt. Please be concrete. Please be innovative.

Like I have said, we should not pretend that everything is perfect. Major problems persist – particularly at the national level. And, we need to draw attention to them. Today, however, we have a very specific mandate. And that is, to explore how we can carve out more space, for indigenous peoples, on the international stage.

That is why I ask you to focus on the future of our work, here, at the United Nations. And to try to come up with as many ideas and proposals as possible.

In particular, we should look at the following questions:

Which venues and forums are most suitable?

What modalities should govern participation?

What kind of participants should be selected?

And how will this selection happen?

We should also try to form a broader vision. This will allow us to better advise the General Assembly’s ongoing process to enhance indigenous peoples’ participation.

Finally, next steps.

As you know, this is our very first informal, interactive hearing. There will be two further hearings – next year, and the year after.

Then – during what we call the 75th Session of the General Assembly – negotiations between governments will start up again.

Turning back to today, the immediate outcome of our hearing will be a President’s Summary. But, I am confident that the longer-term outcome will be yet another step, in the direction of change.

So, this is where I will conclude. My main job, now, is to listen.

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Excerpt:

Miroslav Lajčák, is President of the UN General Assembly

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Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 17,461 in 2018; Deaths Reach 559http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-17461-2018-deaths-reach-559/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-17461-2018-deaths-reach-559 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-17461-2018-deaths-reach-559/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 18:13:45 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155323 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 17,461 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through the first 105 days of 2018, with about 43 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece (36%) Spain (20%) and Cyprus (less than 1%). This compares with 37,046 at this point in 2017 and […]

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By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Apr 17 2018 (IOM)

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 17,461 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea through the first 105 days of 2018, with about 43 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece (36%) Spain (20%) and Cyprus (less than 1%).

This compares with 37,046 at this point in 2017 and over 175,000 at this point in 2016.

IOM Rome’s Flavio Di Giacomo said Monday the Spanish Military Ship “Santa Maria” brought 483 migrants to Augusta, Italy. The migrants were rescued on Friday from three dinghies during three separate operations carried out by the Santa Maria, the NGO SeaWatch and the Italian Coast Guard.

According to Di Giacomo, the migrants left from the Libyan city of Al Khoms on Thursday night. He said that according to official figures from Italy’s Ministry of the Interior, the 7,495 migrants arriving in Italy by sea this year represents a 75 per cent drop from this time last year, when over 30,000 migrants had arrived during the same period.

Halfway through the month of April – traditionally early in the busiest season on the Mediterranean’s Central route – traffic is down to just under 1,200 men, women and children, or less than 100 per day. That’s about twice the rate as arrivals in March yet still the lowest level at least since 2016.

Last year, during the first 15 days of April, 5,837 men, women and children arrived in Italy on this route; in 2016 the total for the first 15 days of April was 3,023. This year’s April total this far comes to less than one-fifth of 2017’s volume and just over one third of the 2016 total (see chart below).

The 559 deaths on the three Mediterranean Sea routes so far this year compare with 918 at this time in 2017, a decline of about 40 per cent year-on-year.

Worldwide, IOM’s Missing Migrants Project has recorded 938 deaths and disappearances during migration in 2018. On the US/Mexico border, 66 migrants are estimated to have died this year. Most recently, the remains of two men were recovered by Mexican civil protection authorities from the Río Bravo in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico: they drowned on 12 April when attempting to cross to the US.

In Mexico’s southern state of Tabasco, a young pregnant woman from Honduras was gravely injured after falling from the freight train known as La Bestia on 12 April. She died of her injuries a few hours later, leaving behind a young son and daughter in the community of La Ceiba in Honduras.

In Ceuta, Spain’s enclave in North Africa, the bodies of two young men from Sub-Saharan Africa were retrieved in less than 24 hours near the border fence with Morocco on Friday, 13 April and Saturday, 14 April. The results from the autopsy have confirmed that both men died of a cardiac arrest. A third migrant who crossed the border fence with them alerted authorities upon his arrival to the migrant temporary stay centre in Ceuta.

Missing Migrants Project data are compiled by IOM staff but come from a variety of sources, some of which are unofficial. To learn more about how data on migrants deaths and disappearances are collected, click here.

For latest arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean, please visit: http://migration.iom.int/europe
Learn more about the Missing Migrants Project at: http://missingmigrants.iom.int

For more information, please contact:
Joel Millman at IOM HQ, Tel: +41 79 103 8720, Email: jmillman@iom.int
Mircea Mocanu, IOM Romania, Tel: +40212115657, Email: mmocanu@iom.int
Dimitrios Tsagalas, IOM Cyprus, Tel: + 22 77 22 70, E-mail: dtsagalas@iom.int
Flavio Di Giacomo, IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean, Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email: fdigiacomo@iom.int
Hicham Hasnaoui, IOM Morocco, Tel: + 212 5 37 65 28 81, Email: hhasnaoui@iom.int
Kelly Namia, IOM Greece, Tel: +30 210 991 2174, Email: knamia@iom.int
Julia Black, IOM GMDAC, Germany, Tel: +49 30 278 778 27, Email: jblack@iom.int
Christine Petré, IOM Libya, Tel: +216 29 240 448, Email: chpetre@iom.int
Ana Dodevska, IOM Spain, Tel: +34 91 445 7116, Email: adodevska@iom.int
Myriam Chabbi, IOM Tunisia, Tel: +216 28 78 78 05 (mobile) office: +216 71 860 312 EXT. 109 Email: mchabbi@iom.int

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DR Congo’s Mai-Ndombe Forest ‘Savaged’ As Landless Communities Strugglehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/dr-congos-mai-ndombe-forest-savaged-landless-communities-struggle/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 16:10:51 +0000 Issa Sikiti da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155317 Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally […]

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The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change. Credit: Forest Service photo by Roni Ziade

By Issa Sikiti da Silva
INONGO, Democratic Republic of Congo, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

Thousands of logs loaded into makeshift boats at the port of Inongo at Lake Mai-Ndombe stand ready to be transported to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Inongo is the provincial capital of the Mai-Ndombe Province, a 13-million-hectare area located some 650 km northeast of Kinshasa. The logs have been illegally cut from the Mai-Ndombe forest, an area of 10 million hectares, which has some trees measuring between 35 and 45 meters.“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest." --Marine Gauthier

Destined for overseas export

“We witness this kind of spectacle every day, whereby tons and tons of logs and timber find their way to the capital either via the Congo River or by road, where they will eventually be shipped overseas, or just sold to the black market,” environment activist Prosper Ngobila told IPS.

Mbo, the truck driver who brought the load, confirmed: “This stock and others that are already gone to the capital are destined for overseas export. I’m only a transporter, but I understand that the owner of this business is a very powerful man, almost untouchable.”

Thousands of logs cut from trees 20 meters in height are currently lying in the Mai-Ndombe forest waiting to be hauled off, while thousands more have been left there to rot for years, Ngobila added.

“It’s shocking to say the least,” he said.

Rich in natural resources

The forests of Mai-Ndombe (“black water” in Lingala) are rich in rare and precious woods (red wood, black wood, blue wood, tola, kambala, lifake, among others). It is also home to about 7,500 bonobos, an endangered primate and the closest cousin to humans of all species, sharing 98 percent of our genes, according to the WWF.

The forests constitute a vital platform providing livelihoods for some 73,000 indigenous individuals, mostly Batwa (Pygmies), who live here alongside the province’s 1.8 million population, many of whom with no secure land rights.

Recent studies also have revealed that the province – and indeed the forests – boasts significant reserves of diamond, oil, nickel, copper and coal, and vast quantities of uranium lying deep inside the Lake Mai-Ndombe.

Efforts to save the forests

The WWF and many environmental experts, who deplore the gradual destruction and degradation of these forests for their precious wood and for the benefit of agriculture, continue to plead and lobby for their protection.

The DRC has the world’s second largest rainforest, about 135 million hectares, which is a powerful bulwark against climate change.

In an effort to save these precious forests, the World Bank in 2016 approved DRC’s REDD+ programmes aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fight forest’s deforestation and degradation, which it would fund to the tune of 90 million dollars annually.

The projects, which are currently estimated at 20, have since transformed the Mai-Ndombe Province into a testing ground for international climate schemes. And as part of the projects, indigenous and other local people caring for the forests and depending on them for their livelihoods were supposed to be rewarded for their efforts.

Flaws and fiasco

However, Marine Gauthier, a Paris-based expert who authored a report on the sorry state of the Mai-Ndombe forest, seems to have found serious flaws in these ambitious programmes.

The report, released a few days before the International Day of Forests on March 21 by the Rights and Resources’ Initiative (RRI)), cited weak recognition of communities’ land rights, and recommended that key prerequisites should be addressed before any other REDD+ funds are invested.

In the interim, it said, REDD+ investments should be put on hold.

Gauthier, who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to stop the funding from doing more damage to the people of the forest, told IPS in the aftermath of the report’s release, “In DRC and more specifically in the Mai-Ndombe, the history of natural resources management has always been done at the expense of local communities.

“Industrial logging concessions have been granted on their traditional lands without their consent and destroyed their environment without any form of compensation, and protected areas have been established on their lands prohibiting them to access to the forest where they hunt, gather, conduct traditional rituals, hence severing them from their livelihood and culture – again, without their consent.”

Struggle for landless peasants

Under the DRC’s 2014 Forest Code, indigenous people and local communities have the legal right to own forest covering an area of up to 50,000 hectares.

Thirteen communities in the territories of Mushie and Bolobo in the Mai-Ndombe province have since asked for formal title of a total of 65,308 hectares of land, reports said, adding that only 300 hectares have been legally recognised for each community – a total of only 3,900 hectares.

Alfred Mputu, a 56-year-old small scale forest farmer who is among the people still waiting for a formal title, told IPS: “I have been working and living in this land for decades, but as long as I don’t have a formal title that gives me the right to own it, I wouldn’t say it belongs to me.

“What if the government decides to sell it to foreign companies or to some rich and powerful people? Where will we go to live?”

The consequences of these communities living in and around these forests with no secured land rights could be dire, according to experts.

Zachary Donnenfeld, Institute for Security Studies (ISS) senior researcher for African futures and innovation, told IPS: “They could have their land sold out from under them by the government, likely to a private multinational company.

“Even if they are allowed to stay on their land, the environmental degradation caused by this industry could cause a noticeable deterioration in the quality of life for people in the area.”

Pretoria-based Donnenfeld added: “My guess is that the government is more interested in selling these resources to multinationals than it in seeing it benefit the community.

“To be fair, the government could be trying to sort out competing claims among the local groups. There could have been some overlap, for example communities bidding for the best land, and the government could be deciding what’s fair based on historical use or something. That said, my guess is that communities won’t get most of this land – at least in a secured land rights sense.”

Poverty and conflicts

Gauthier pointed out that these situations create poverty and conflicts between project implementers and communities, as well as between communities.

“Instead, when communities get secured land rights and are empowered to manage their lands themselves, studies show that it is the best way to protect the forest and even more efficient than government-managed protected areas.

“REDD+ opens the door to more land-grabbing by external stakeholders appealed by carbon benefits. Local communities’ land rights should be recognised through existing legal possibilities such as local community forest concessions so that they can keep protecting the forest, hence achieving REDD+ objectives.”

Gauthier said if their land rights are not secured, they can get evicted, as has already happened elsewhere in the country, such as South Kivu in the Kahuzi Biega National Park where 6,000 pygmies were expelled.

“Evicting the guardians of the forest risks losing the forest, when enabling them to live in and protect the forest as they have always done is the best way to keep these forests standing.”

Many observers say situations such as these impact negatively on the most vulnerable – women and children – who are already bearing the brunt of a country torn apart by dictatorship, economic mismanagement, corruption and two decades of armed conflict.

Chouchouna Losale, vice-coordinator of the Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development in the DRC, told IPS that a humanitarian crisis has ensued in the Mai-Ndombe Province after the savannahs donated to women were ‘given’ to an industrial logging company.

“There are now cases of malnutrition in the area,” Losale said.

The Coalition of Women for the Environment and Sustainable Development advocates for the recognition of rights and competence of women in general, and aboriginal women in particular, in the Congolese provinces of Mai-Ndombe and Equateur.

“I urge the government to advance the process of land reform in order to provide the country with a clear land policy protecting forest-dependent communities,” Losale said, adding that proper consultation with communities should be done to avoid conflict.

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A Child of War Dedicates Herself to Peacehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-war-dedicates-peace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-war-dedicates-peace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/child-war-dedicates-peace/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 15:22:06 +0000 Mary de Sousa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155315 UNESCO Courier*

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Dalia Al-Najjar, Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace. Credit: Vilde Media

By Mary de Sousa
PARIS, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

“I was so angry, I felt like I wanted to blow up the whole world, but I didn’t. I decided I wouldn’t be pushed to become evil. I would choose peace.”

Dalia Al-Najjar has crammed a great deal into her short life. At 22, the Palestinian refugee has already lived through three wars and has spent every spare moment between siege and ceasefire studying, volunteering, working, blogging, on the daily struggle to live in Gaza – and planning how to change the future.

A good deal of her energy goes into her role as Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace, a non-partisan children’s charity dedicated to building trust, friendship and reconciliation between Israeli and Palestinian children, aged 4 to 17, and their communities.

Dalia says she is fuelled by anger and hope, but also that she draws heavily on a family culture that values education. She has consciously used learning as a means to realize her dreams, the greatest of which is to find solutions to violence and hatred.

“My family has always made me aware that education is hugely important,” she said.

Dalia experienced her first siege when she was just 12, followed by two major conflicts.

“I was in ninth grade when the first war started, and everything fell apart. I didn’t understand: why were people killing each other? I thought it would last only a few weeks,” she said.

She continued to study throughout, finally graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the Islamic University of Gaza, her life reduced to the intermittent bursts of electricity in the city.

“In those days I never went to school without watching the news first, and everything depended on the power schedule. So I woke up when there was electricity, or studied by candlelight, which destroyed my eyes. I would often fight with my brother and sister to get the candle.”

“Wars and Peace”, from the Cartooning for Peace international network of editorial cartoonists, supported by UNESCO.

The 2014 war proved a turning point for Dalia. “After the war, my ideas became much clearer. I didn’t want anybody else to have to live like this. I chose to be optimistic, because if not, I don’t live. Not living wasn’t a choice for me,” she said.

Dalia was invited on a short scholarship to the United States, and began a blog and YouTube show. She is also a member of the World Youth Alliance, a New York-based international coalition, which works with young people worldwide to build a culture that nurtures and supports the dignity of the person – through advocacy, education and culture.

But it is Dalia’s work as a Goodwill Ambassador for Children of Peace that has changed her most profoundly.

“It is easy to stay on your own side and demonize the other. Now I have Israeli friends and we realize we have been given different narratives, and we have to find our way through that together, using critical thinking,” she explained.

“Being on one side of a conflict makes it much easier to dehumanize someone than to accept that there is trauma on both sides.”

Now studying for her Master’s degree in Human Resources in Sakarya, Turkey, Dalia has an exciting new project. She attended the Young Sustainable Impact (YSI) conference in Oslo in 2017, as an ‘earthpreneur’ (someone who uses entrepreneurship to work towards a sustainable planet), where she was tasked with proposing a startup that addressed one of the Sustainable Development Goals.

When she learned that more people die as a result of waterborne diseases than from conflict, she co-founded Xyla Water Filtration Technologies. The company aims to commercialize a filter made from plant tissue that costs less than $10 and can provide clean water for a family of seven for a year.

And she has another goal. “I want to be prime minister,” she said, matter-of-factly.

*Available online since March 2006, the UNESCO Courier serves readers around the world in the six official languages of the Organization (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish), and also in Esperanto and Portuguese. A limited number of issues are also produced in print.

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Excerpt:

UNESCO Courier*

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Keeping Power in Check – Media, Justice and the Rule of Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/keeping-power-check-media-justice-rule-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=keeping-power-check-media-justice-rule-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/keeping-power-check-media-justice-rule-law/#respond Tue, 17 Apr 2018 14:02:58 +0000 Alison Small http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155311 Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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Newspaper kiosk in Istanbul's Kadiköy district. Credit: Joris Leverink/IPS

By Alison Small
NAPIER, New Zealand, Apr 17 2018 (IPS)

Rarely has the press been as powerful as it is today. Thanks to the advent of social media, the use of which has grown exponentially, the combination of the formal press, newspapers, television and radio is now strengthened, and itself even kept in check by social media. Jo and Joanne citizen have found a voice, not infrequently with the power of a political and social tsunami.

Alison Small

What does this mean for the greater good? Is this helpful to governments to have so much feedback, so quickly?

The role of global policeman has changed from one powerful government or several governments to what used to be called the Fourth Estate, the press frequently on the back of social media.

In many developed and developing countries public opinion has rarely been so vocal, gone are the days of the so called silent masses.

From the Arab spring to the near independence of Catalonia, the plight of Rohingha refugees to name just a few, the negative effects of climate change, the driving force has been the voices of ordinary people, fleshed out by effectively 24-hour analysis by news agencies, newspapers, blogs and just about anyone with access to the internet.

This new role of public opinion is weighty, often meaning that the weight of opinion can condemn before due process has had a chance to examine both sides of an argument.

At this point it is up to the media to step in and to try to analyse with some objectivity the groundswell from so many voices pronouncing on an event or events. It means that only the most determined governments, those determined to censor or limit both traditional and social media, can make laws without the huge onslaught of public opinion holding sway.

We need the media to raise awareness to help governments create, regulate and enforce laws but we also need to ensure that uninformed opinion does not dominate and cause as much if not more harm than is already possible at the government level.

That said, the latest scandal that has hit social media giant Facebook and the abuse of data provided by users, whether voluntary or involuntary, means that the integrity of social media platforms is now heavily in question.

On the other hand, the formal media come into their own at this point as newspaper, TV and radio revel in a blow by blow analysis of the problems facing the governance and security of social media, thus the press versus the informal press creates a degree of self regulation.

Facebook is now obligated by the US and other governments to provide more security to users. Thus even the social media has its own checks and balances. Whether they will be sufficient to self-regulate in the future will depend on how vigilant users are themselves and the ethics of the platform administrators, owners and big business which through advertising keeps social media alive.

The fact remains that despite actual and potential abuses of press freedom to influence voters and the public in general or governments to change policies or address issues, we have effectively gone too far to turn back.

More to the point, with political parties everywhere dependent on their ability to influence voters through their appeal to the media and more lately social media, or for that matter, the public to lobby governments and or the private sector to raise awareness about anything from politics to environmental, social and health issues, we rely on the media to convey information, whether the traditional media or social media platforms.

The real issue is whether or not the media at large has sufficient ability to self-regulate or has it already spiralled out of control in terms of influencing opinion, be it about the evils of unlimited plastic consumption or mass migration, to bringing down governments and major private interests.

We need the media to raise awareness to help governments create, regulate and enforce laws but we also need to ensure that uninformed opinion does not dominate and cause as much if not more harm than is already possible at the government level.

If we limit the power of social media, we are limiting citizens’ rights to make their voices heard and yet in all things a degree of control is needed. Can we therefore trust those who would undertake such controls not to go too far so that social media, as has happened with the traditional media, is not used as a weapon in itself. This is the dilemma that Facebook is confronting, the outcome of that debate will be the ultimate litmus test for scial media, and in a sense for traditional media as well.

The post Keeping Power in Check – Media, Justice and the Rule of Law appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Alison Small is a communications expert and a former United Nations official.

 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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IOM Grantees Preserve the Custom of Making Ukrainian Craftshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/iom-grantees-preserve-custom-making-ukrainian-crafts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=iom-grantees-preserve-custom-making-ukrainian-crafts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/iom-grantees-preserve-custom-making-ukrainian-crafts/#respond Mon, 16 Apr 2018 15:49:49 +0000 Varvara Zhluktenko http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155305 A man living in the Government-controlled part of the conflict-affected eastern Ukraine and two women, who moved from the non-government controlled area to Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, have chosen folk crafts for their business. With curly clay ornaments and the sophisticated traditional embroidery stitches, they earn their living, and, to some extent, try to put […]

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By Varvara Zhluktenko
Apr 16 2018 (IOM)

A man living in the Government-controlled part of the conflict-affected eastern Ukraine and two women, who moved from the non-government controlled area to Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv, have chosen folk crafts for their business. With curly clay ornaments and the sophisticated traditional embroidery stitches, they earn their living, and, to some extent, try to put the country back together.

The city of Sloviansk is located some 70 kilometres from the so-called contact line in eastern Ukraine. An industrial zone, once known for the mud-bath resort in its outskirts, has a complicated recent history. For three months in the spring of 2014, at the very start of the outbreak of the conflict, the city was in the hands of armed groups. In July 2014, the Government of Ukraine restored control over Sloviansk, however, the city is only a hundred kilometres from Donetsk, the centre of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Pottery has been a traditional product and ‘brand’ of the city since the times of the Soviet Union.

“There were several big industrial factories, that also produced housewares as a small side business. When the main factories were shut down, people who worked at these small manufacturers opened their own private small factories. Currently there are about 300 such small enterprises, and each one tries to create something unique,” says Evhen, an IOM grantee as he gives a tour of his pottery factory.

All Evhen’s products have elaborate decorations.

Eagerly showcasing his production line of cups, mugs, kettles, bowls and vases, Evhen explains the details of the complicated process. For instance, his factory does not use paints, but a mix of different colour clays.

Evhen was supported though IOM Ukraine’s economic empowerment programme as a vulnerable member of a community hosting internally displaced persons. He has a disability and runs his business to provide for his wife and two children.

With funding from the British Embassy in Ukraine, IOM supported Evhen with computer equipment, enabling his factory to craft pottery with raised designs and coats of arms. Now, Evhen has more clients ordering mugs and other souvenirs with their corporate logos.

“Before the conflict, our main market was Ukraine and Russia. Since 2014, both internal and external sales have dropped,” says Evhen. “The other owners of pottery factories and I would really like to export our products to the European Union. However, we need guidance and facilitation. Also, the intermediaries make the process complicated and disadvantageous for us. At the same time, we can produce whatever the client wants and our pottery is of a good quality.”

One of the items produced for export

Currently Evhen’s factory produces souvenir pottery for export to Romania and Moldova. Another order they have received is from a company selling souvenirs in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains. So, some of the souvenirs to be sold in the heart of Western Ukraine are now produced in the Donetsk region city of Sloviansk.

Tetiana, a retired piano teacher, and Oksana, a former veterinarian clinic employee, were Evhen’s neighbours until 2014. At the outbreak of the conflict, they moved from their native Donetsk to Kyiv. Now, they also have a business built around a traditional Ukrainian craft – embroidery. The discreet beauty of their products immediately attracts attention of the visitors at IOM-organized business fairs. “No, this is not machine embroidery, this is hand-made,” Tetiana explains, with a kind smile to a customer at a fair held by IOM in the northern Ukrainian city of Zhytomyr.

The simple beauty of the clothing produced by Tetiana’s and Oksana’s atelier always attracts attention

Embroidery has been Tetiana’s hobby for many years. While still in Donetsk, she was one of the leaders of a project involving 17 craftswomen from all over Ukraine, who were embroidering designs, collected at the end of 19th century by Olena Bdzhilka, a Ukrainian ethnographer, writer, translator and activist, as well as the mother of famous Ukrainian poet Lesya Ukrainka. The aim of the project was to preserve and promote traditional Ukrainian embroidery which has over 200 stitching techniques.

Tetiana (right) and Oksana (left) presenting their goods at an IOM-organized fair

After relocation to Kyiv, Tetiana decided to turn her hobby into a business. She found a local business partner, as well as some new friends and supporters, at a thematic internet forum. Now, they have a registered trade mark, and an exciting professional life.

“We make everything, but our favourite type of work is modern clothing with traditional Ukrainian embroidery. We aim to preserve this rich folk craft. Traditional embroidery should be applicable in modern life, using it for modern clothing is the way to make it live,” says Tetiana.

One of the first ready-to-wear collections with traditional embroidery was created by Tetiana soon after her relocation to Kyiv. Due to limited funds, old jeans collected from friends were used for the production.

Tetiana and her colleagues also conduct master classes on hand embroidery at different museums in Kyiv. They have also written books on traditional embroidery. Impressively, the royalties from one of their publications allowed them to buy the first sewing machine for their atelier.

With an IOM grant, provided with funding from the British Embassy in Ukraine, they received another machine, and a tablet which allows them to show their collections to potential customers and anyone interested in traditional embroidery and tailoring at fairs and similar events.

Embroidered ties are a part of Tetiana’s ready-to-wear collection

In addition to ready-to-wear clothing collections, the atelier also produces high-end replicas of folk costumes for individual clients and musical ensembles.

Oksana studies embroidery and sewing from Tetiana, and is in charge of the promotion and marketing of the business. The team would like to grow, but for now they are limited due to budget constraints that prevent them from renting larger premises and hiring more staff.

“It was a mix,” says Tetiana with a knowing smile, when asked about the traditional embroidery of the Donbas and its place in the history of Ukrainian crafts of the 19th-20th centuries. “A mix featuring both traditional folk stitches brought to the Donbas by migrants from western parts of Ukraine, and the cross-stitched ornaments from the Russian albums, which copied Italian, German, or Dutch designs.”

In 2018, the conflict in eastern Ukraine marks its fourth anniversary. Many of the 4.4 million Ukrainians affected, including 1.5 million internally displaced, have depleted their resources, or cannot return home to rebuild their lives. Given Ukraine’s protracted humanitarian crisis, the international community’s involvement is vital both in assisting the most vulnerable people in need and supporting millions of conflict-affected Ukrainians, while also strengthening resilience and recovery.

“The people of Ukraine must be supported to get back on their feet and build a future filled with hope,” says Thomas Lothar Weiss, IOM Ukraine’s Chief of Mission.

IOM supports both internally displaced persons and the communities which host them. With over 10 years of experience in empowering vulnerable migrants in Ukraine through entrepreneurship opportunities, IOM currently provides business training to internally displaced persons and host community members, as well as equipment to start and develop their businesses.

Since 2014, IOM, with funding from its international donors, supported almost 7,000 conflict-affected people with grants for self-employment, micro-enterprise and vocational training.

“There are many internally displaced people and host community members, who have shown resilience, knowledge, experience and passion to develop their businesses in a new place despite all the challenges they face. We just provide them with additional resources – assets and some training – but it is their motivation and determination that are key to their own business success,” says Thomas Weiss.

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Getting Away with Murder in Slovakiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/getting-away-murder-slovakia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=getting-away-murder-slovakia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/getting-away-murder-slovakia/#respond Mon, 16 Apr 2018 00:57:17 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155283 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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World Press Freedom Day: A protester in the Slovak capital, Bratislava holds up a picture of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests across the country in the weeks after the killing, eventually forcing the resignation of the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

A protester in the Slovak capital, Bratislava holds up a picture of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests across the country in the weeks after the killing, eventually forcing the resignation of the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, Apr 16 2018 (IPS)

Sitting in a cafe in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, Zuzana Petkova admits that like many other investigative journalists in the country today, she is scared.

She explains how she and colleagues investigating possible links between the country’s politicians, businessmen and the Italian mafia, have started using special methods to remain as anonymous as possible in their work – encrypting emails, using anonymous communication groups and foregoing bylines, among others.“The rising authoritarianism and illiberalism of countries, such as Poland and Hungary for example, will lead to more censorship and, in the long term, increase the likelihood of violence.” --Ilya Lozovsky

She recalls how just days before she had been walking down a dimly-lit alley when she heard footsteps behind her and turned to see a man in a hooded top walking towards her. Scared, she froze until he had walked past her and she realized he was just a passerby.

Until a few weeks ago, Petkova, a well-known investigative journalist at the Slovak current affairs and news weekly ‘Trend’, would probably not have paid any attention to the footsteps.

A seasoned reporter – “I’ve been through a few things,” she says – she has been taken to court numerous times, had the country’s serious crime squad investigate her, and had anonymous threats made to her in the past. However, she has brushed all these off with little real fear for herself.

But the murder in late February of her some-time colleague Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, both 27, at Kuciak’s home in Velka Maca, 40 miles east of Bratislava, changed things.

Across Central Europe, media watchdogs have pointed to an alarming erosion in press freedom in recent years, highlighting how governments in some countries have used legislation, takeovers and shutdowns of media outlets, criminal libel cases, crippling fines and repeated denigration of media and individual journalists to silence critics.

In Slovakia, investigative journalists had got used to what some dub ‘psychological’ pressure from the government in the form of repeated police hearings and court summonses over articles into corruption, as well as public attacks on their integrity.

But few had really thought that anyone would use physical force to try and stop them doing their work. After Kuciak’s murder, they fear that may no longer be the case.

“None of us ever thought something like this would happen. Doing investigative journalism, there’s always some kind of risk, I knew that. But it’s only now that I, that all of us doing it, are fully aware of it,” she tells IPS.

At the time of his death, Kuciak had been working on a story about the links between the ‘Ndrangheta mafia and people in Smer, the senior party in the governing coalition. In the days after the killing, there was feverish speculation about mafia or political involvement in the murder and that it had been carried out as a clear warning to other journalists.

Investigating police say they are working on the assumption the killing was connected to Kuciak’s work.

But while local journalists have their own varied theories about who may have been behind the murder, they largely agree that years of government hostility towards journalists and public attacks on critical media may have emboldened the killers.

Just after the murder, the Slovak Section of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) released a statement saying the killing had been “a dire consequence of the climate engendered by systematic long-term aggressive verbal attacks on journalists by various leading state representatives“.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was forced to resign in a political crisis in the wake of the murder, had repeatedly insulted and criticised journalists while in office. Just last year he was attacked by international press watchdogs for labelling local journalists “dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes” and only days after Kuciak’s murder publicly insulted one of the dead journalist’s colleagues.

Ilya Lozovsky, Managing Editor of the international investigative reporting platform, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), told IPS the problem of hostile rhetoric against journalists should not be underestimated.

He said: “When a politician publicly mocks or threatens journalists, often other actors will take things into their own hands, without the government having to do anything. Russia is well known for this – various independent actors -(individuals, institutions – will often do something as a ‘gift’ to Putin, without him having to direct anything himself. Journalists and opposition leaders are often killed this way.”

Worryingly, verbal attacks and other intimidation of journalists by politicians are far from uncommon in other parts of Central Europe, especially in countries with governments widely seen as populist, increasingly authoritarian, and corrupt.

In Hungary, critics say that since coming to power in 2010, the government led by populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken a tight grip on the media, using legislation, taxes on independent media and takeovers and forced closures of opposition media outlets to silence critics.

After a political rally last summer at which Orban spoke of the need to “battle” local media outlets which he said were actively working against his party, government-friendly media launched a campaign against individual journalists, publishing lists of reporters who had been critical of the government and denigrating them and their work.

Local journalism associations said the list was reminiscent of the practices under the communist regime.

In Poland, where since the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015 the country’s ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index has plummeted from 18 to 54 out of 180, local journalists have spoken of facing unprecedented state pressure.

The PiS has issued reporters with threats of legal action, cut off their access to some officials, taken control of public media, and cut advertising and subscriptions to various news publications. Some Polish journalists also believe they are being spied on by state security agencies.

Meanwhile, Czech President Milos Zeman has never tried to hide his antipathy for journalists. He has sparked controversy with comments likening journalists to animals, jokingly calling for them to be “liquidated” during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and appearing at a press conference last October soon after investigative journalist Daphne Galizia was killed in Malta with a Kalashnikov and the words “for journalists” written on it.

Recent comments accusing public broadcaster CT of bias also infuriated many, prompting thousands of Czechs to join street protests demanding he respect journalists.

The attacks are not, though, simply politicians getting angry with critics, experts say.

Drew Sullivan, Editor at the OCCRP, told IPS: “Populist and nationalist politicians like those who run Slovakia and the Czech Republic do not like journalists acting as watchdogs.

“They’ve learned from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and others that the best way to deal with them is to publicly blame the journalists, attack them, demean them and try to undermine their credibility.”

Corruption scandals are far from uncommon across the region and the links between government corruption and intimidation of those trying to expose it are clear, says Lozovsky.

“As a government grows more authoritarian and secretive, journalists come under more pressure. At the same time, that government will almost always become less accountable to its people and more corrupt. When it becomes more corrupt, there will be greater entanglement with organized crime, and when a corrupt government has connections with organized crime, that’s when the threat of physical violence against journalists starts to grow.

“Both Jan Kuciak and Daphne Galizia were working on the same theme – the nexus between corrupt politics and organized crime. This is no coincidence. When criminals ‘buy’ politicians, they feel more empowered to intimidate and attack journalists because they feel immune from the consequences. “

And he warned: “The rising authoritarianism and illiberalism of countries, such as Poland and Hungary for example, will lead to more censorship and, in the long term, increase the likelihood of violence.”

In Slovakia, investigative journalists are determined to continue their work, despite having to operate in a new climate of fear. Petkova says some journalists considered walking away from the profession after the killing and while none have left yet, many had considered police protection.

However, issues of trust between journalists and police have complicated matters.

There is a widespread perception among the Slovak public that police and other justice institutions are endemically corrupt. Indeed, the mass protests across the country after Kuciak was killed and which eventually forced Fico out of office were driven in large part by the fact many felt the murder would never be investigated properly as any links between the killers and government would be covered up by politically-nominated senior police chiefs.

After Kuciak was killed, it emerged that he had contacted police over a threat made to him by a local businessman with links to the government. Kuciak had said in a Facebook post months after contacting them that the police never investigated.

And Petkova is adamant that the perception of a corrupt or politically-influenced police executive may have prompted the killers to act. “They probably came to the conclusion that they could get away with anything and that they’d get away with this murder,” she says.

Sullivan questioned what effect this has on local journalists’ willingness to approach police for either protection or giving up information to investigators in sensitive criminal cases.

“Many journalists know that elements of their governments are protecting criminal groups, drug traffickers, arms traffickers and others. Nobody knows who is on whose side. The Slovak government is corrupt and has been corrupt. There are many Eastern European and Balkan criminals operating out of Bratislava and the police do nothing.  [A journalist] cannot feel safe in that environment,” he said.

While a new government has been appointed in Slovakia, journalists hold little hope of any improvement in politicians’ approach to them. The new Prime Minister, Peter Pelligrini, was directly appointed by his predecessor, who will now head the ruling Smer party.

Juraj Porubsky, former Editor in Chief of the Slovak daily Pravda, told IPS: “Will politicians treat journalists better after this? No, why would they?”

Meanwhile, as the investigation into Kuciak’s murder continues, Slovak journalists are sceptical anyone will be brought to justice for the killing.

“I don’t think it will ever be properly investigated,” Petkova says, shaking her head sadly. “I don’t think Jan’s killer will ever be found.”

The post Getting Away with Murder in Slovakia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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Pre-election Tension Threatens Free Speech in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/pre-election-tension-threatens-free-speech-brazil/#respond Sat, 14 Apr 2018 21:26:57 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155277 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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A bullet hole (right), in one of the buses hit on Mar. 27 by gunfire during a caravan for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s campaign tour to the south of Brazil, in the tense days before his imprisonment on corruption charges. The caravan suffered attacks and harassment along its journey. Credit: AGPT / Public Photos

A bullet hole (right), in one of the buses hit on Mar. 27 by gunfire during a caravan for former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s campaign tour to the south of Brazil, in the tense days before his imprisonment on corruption charges. The caravan suffered attacks and harassment along its journey. Credit: AGPT / Public Photos

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO, Apr 14 2018 (IPS)

Gunshots, eggs and stones thrown, blocked roads and other forms of aggression against politicians and journalists in recent weeks generated fears that the violence will increase the uncertainty over the October elections in Brazil.

Before going to prison, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was the main target, during the caravan he led through the country’s three southern states, which suffered attacks from adversaries that culminated in gunshots against two buses on Mar. 27, without any injuries.

On the other hand, the demonstrations in support of Lula in the days before he began serving his 12-year sentence on Apr. 7 targeted journalists."The main source of aggressions against journalists since 2013 has been the State, its security forces, as well as the judiciary, with actions that restrict freedom of the press." -- Maria José Braga

In the space of a few days there were “17 cases of attacks, intimidation and curtailment of professional activity,” said the Brazilian Press Association (ABI), in an official note of protest.

The threat to freedom of expression affects journalists and politicians alike, victims of harassment in the months leading up to the official start in August of the electoral campaign for the presidential, parliamentary and regional elections.

“The tendency seen in recent years has been a reduction in violence against journalists,” acknowledged Maria José Braga, president of Brazil’s National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj).

In 2017, there were 99 cases of attacks against journalists, 38.5 percent less than in 2016, when there were 161 acts of violence, according to Fenaj’s annual report on violence against reporters.

In fact, the violence had returned to the levels seen before 2013, when the figure had climbed to 181 attacks, against 81 in the previous year. The outbreak that year coincided with massive protests, throughout the country, against poor urban public services, which turned violent towards the end.

“In 2018 we have a different political scenario, with the country in a de facto state of emergency, in which the judicial branch and part of the media have been taking part, and this may result in an increase in attacks against journalists,” Braga told IPS.

The president of Fenaj shares the view of much of the left, especially of the Workers Party (PT), founded by Lula, and which ruled the country between 2003 and 2016, that the removal of former president Dilma Rousseff two years ago amounted to a coup d’état, with the complicity of judges and the major media outlets.

“Since then, institutions and the rule of law have been subject to threats, including freedom of expression, social movements, society in general, and that is a factor leading to more violence,” said the journalist.

“The main source of aggressions against journalists since 2013 has been the State, its security forces, as well as the judiciary, with actions that restrict freedom of the press,” she said.

A "democratic vigil" held Apr. 11 by supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, near the headquarters of the federal police where he has been imprisoned since Apr. 7, in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. Some journalists who covered events in defense of the leftist leader, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges, have been victims of assaults. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert / Public Photos

A “democratic vigil” held Apr. 11 by supporters of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, near the headquarters of the federal police where he has been imprisoned since Apr. 7, in the southern Brazilian city of Curitiba. Some journalists who covered events in defense of the leftist leader, who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on corruption charges, have been victims of assaults. Credit: Ricardo Stuckert / Public Photos

For years, the police have been the main perpetrator of such violence, accounting for 19.2 percent of the total, Fenaj’s 2017 report says.

Two journalists arrested by the Military Police, one when covering a traffic accident in Campo Grande, capital of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and another while recording the way agents treated people suspected of harassing a woman in Vitoria, capital of the state of Espírito Santo, are examples mentioned in the report.

The second group of perpetrators of aggression are politicians, sometimes through their aides, and the third are judicial authorities, who use their power to restrict freedom of the press.

“We are now, six months before the elections, at the height of political tension,” which increases the abuses, violence and fears, said Fatima Pacheco Jordão, a sociologist who specialises in public opinion.

“The strong polarisation between the left and the right, aggravated by the great unpopularity of the government of President Michel Temer and the uncertainty with respect to the elections, accentuate the pessimism, but once it is clear who the candidates will be, and the electoral process is on track, the tension and violence will decrease,” Jordão told IPS.

In general terms, “elections contribute to freedom of expression, and reduce censorship in newspapers and newscasts,” she said. But when this is not the case, what happens is that the violence is accentuated and this can prevent the elections themselves, “which is worse for everyone,” she said.

The absence of Lula, who has become legally ineligible after his conviction was upheld on appeal, “reduces the polarisation since he exited the electoral battle at a moment of decline (of his leading role on the political scene), as his PT has been losing electoral strength for years,” she argued.

Supporters of Lula as candidate to president – about 35 percent of respondents according to the polls – “will be divided between several possible candidates, not just from the left,” when it is confirmed that the former president is out of the race, said the sociologist.

For Jordão, this confirms that Lula’s popularity is due more to his personal leadership than to a leftist idea or programme, since he is the poll favorite.

In addition, society in this country of 208 million people has shifted toward more conservative positions, as evidenced by the fact that 60 percent did not approve progressive ideas in recent polls, she said.

A change that, in her opinion, “seems natural in rich countries, such as in Europe, but not in Brazil, where we have so much inequality, violence against women and violations of rights, where the voice of society is outside the parties, which do not address their most pressing demands.”

Violence against politicians and journalists sometimes becomes lethal. One victim who shook the country was Marielle Franco, a city councilor for the leftist Socialism and Freedom Party in Rio de Janeiro, who was shot dead on Mar. 14, near the center of the city.

The apparent motive was her denunciation of crimes committed by police against poor Rio communities, although the investigations have not made progress in clarifying the murder of the emerging political leader.

“Violence tends to happen more in municipal elections than in national or state elections,” said Felipe Borba, who teaches politics at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro and is the author of a study that identified 79 candidates killed in Brazil from 1998 to 2016.

Of them, a majority of 63 were running for the municipal councils in small cities.

This year’s elections should be less violent because the heads of the executive and legislative branches are chosen at a national and state level, but the situation “is unpredictable, given the polarisation between ideologically opposed currents, which fosters violence,” he told IPS.

“It will depend on the attitude of the more radical candidates, who can fuel animosities,” said Borba, mentioning the case of Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right candidate who ranks second in the polls, where Lula is still favorite even after being imprisoned.

Bolsonaro is a retired army captain who openly defends the 1964-1985 military dictatorship, including its torturers.

That freedom of expression is often a victim of electoral violence, as well as of police repression against political demonstrations, is reflected by the notable increase in attacks suffered by journalists in 2013 and 2016, years of massive street protests in Brazil.

The post Pre-election Tension Threatens Free Speech in Brazil appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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Middle East: a Threat to World Peace & Security, Warns UN Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/middle-east-threat-world-peace-security-warns-un-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-threat-world-peace-security-warns-un-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/middle-east-threat-world-peace-security-warns-un-chief/#respond Fri, 13 Apr 2018 16:47:38 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155274 UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the Security Council

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the Security Council

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

The situation in the Middle East is in chaos — to such an extent it has become a threat to international peace and security.

The region is facing a true Gordian knot – different fault lines crossing each other and creating a highly volatile situation with risks of escalation, fragmentation and division as far as the eye can see with profound regional and global ramifications.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

We see a multiplicity of divides. The first is the memory of the Cold War. But to be precise, it is more than a simple memory.

The Cold War is back — with a vengeance but with a difference. The mechanisms and the safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present.

Second, the Palestinian-Israeli divide. Third, the Sunni-Shia divide, evident from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. It is important to note that apparent religious divides are normally the result of political or geo-strategic manipulations.

Finally, a wide range of different factors — from opposing attitudes in relation to the role of the Muslim Brotherhood or the status of the Kurds, to the dramatic threats to communities that have been living in the region for millennia and are part of the rich diversity of Middle Eastern societies.

This multiplicity of divides is reflected in a multiplicity of conflicts with different degrees of interconnection, several of them clearly linked to the threat of global terrorism. Many forms of escalation are possible.

We see the wounds of the Palestinian- Israeli conflict deepening once again. The recent violence in Gaza has resulted in many needless deaths and injuries.

I repeat my call for an independent and transparent investigation into these incidents.
I also appeal to those concerned to refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and, in particular, any measures that could place civilians in harm’s way.

This tragedy underlines the urgency of revitalizing the peace process for a two-state solution that will allow Palestinians and Israelis to live in two democratic states side by side in peace and within secure and recognised borders. I reaffirm the United Nations’ readiness to support these efforts.

In Yemen, we are witnessing the worst humanitarian disaster in today’s world. There is only one pathway to ending the Yemeni conflict and addressing the humanitarian crisis – a negotiated political settlement through inclusive intra-Yemeni dialogue.

My Special Envoy Martin Griffiths is doing everything possible to facilitate that political settlement — and he will brief the Council next week.

In Libya, I encourage all parties to continue to work with my Special Representative Ghassan Salamé, as he engages in the political process with a broad range of Libyan interlocutors across the country to implement the UN Action Plan. It is high time to end the Libyan conflict.

Iraq demonstrates that progress is possible with concerted local, regional and global commitment. With the defeat of Daesh, and after overcoming the risk of fragmentation, the Government of Iraq must now focus on reconstruction, reforms and reconciliation. I hope the upcoming elections will consolidate this progress.

At the recent Paris and Rome conferences, the international community reaffirmed its support for Lebanon’s sovereignty, stability and state security institutions.

It is absolutely essential to avoid a new Israel-Hezbollah conflict that could inevitably result in many more victims and much greater destruction than the last war.

I reiterate the critical importance to act on key principles and commitments on Lebanon, including Security Council resolutions such as 1701, and the policy of disassociation. The dangers of the links to the Syrian conflict are evident in the recent confrontations between Iran and Israel in Syria.

Syria indeed today represents the most serious threat to international peace and security.

In Syria, we see confrontations and proxy wars involving several national armies, a number of armed opposition groups, many national and international militia, foreign fighters from everywhere in the world, and various terrorist organizations.

From the beginning, we have witnessed systematic violations of international humanitarian law, international human rights law, and international law tout court — in utter disregard of the letter and spirit of the United Nations Charter.

For eight long years, the people of Syria have endured suffering upon suffering. I reiterate: there is no military solution to the conflict.

The solution must be political through the Geneva intra-Syrian talks, as stipulated in resolution 2254 of the Security Council, in line with the consistent efforts of my Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura.

Syrians have lived through a litany of horrors: atrocity crimes, sieges, starvation, indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, the use of chemical weapons, forced displacement, sexual violence, torture, detention and enforced disappearances. The list goes on.

In a moment of hope, the Security Council adopted resolution 2401 demanding that all parties cease hostilities without delay for a durable humanitarian pause.

Unfortunately, no such cessation of hostilities ever really took place. That is the bleak panorama of Syria today.

In this panorama, I am outraged by the continued reports of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

I reiterate my strong condemnation of the use of chemical weapons by any party to the conflict and under any circumstances. Their use is abhorrent and a clear violation of international law.

The seriousness of the recent allegations requires a thorough investigation using impartial, independent and professional expertise.

In this regard, I reaffirm my full support for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – the OPCW — and its Fact-Finding Mission in undertaking the required investigation into these allegations.

The Fact-Finding Mission should be granted full access, without any restrictions or impediments to perform its activities. I take note that the Syrian government has requested it and committed to facilitate it.

The first team of the OPCW is already in Syria. A second is expected today or tomorrow. But we need to go further.

In a letter to the Council two days ago, I expressed “my deep disappointment that the Security Council was unable to agree upon a dedicated mechanism to attribute responsibility for the use of chemical weapons in Syria”, following the end of the mandate of the Joint Investigative Mechanism, or JIM.

I want to repeat today that the norms against chemical weapons must be upheld.

As I wrote in the same letter: “Ensuring accountability for a confirmed use of chemical weapons is our responsibility, not least to the victims of such attacks.

A lack of accountability emboldens those who would use such weapons by providing them with the reassurance of impunity. This in turn further weakens the norm proscribing the use of chemical weapons and the international disarmament and non-proliferation architecture as a whole.

I urge all Member States to act responsibly in these dangerous circumstances.

I appeal to the Security Council to fulfil its duties and not give up on efforts to agree upon a dedicated, impartial, objective and independent mechanism for attributing responsibility with regard to the use of chemical weapons. I stand ready to support such efforts.”

Increasing tensions and the inability to reach a compromise in the establishment of an accountability mechanism threaten to lead to a full-blown military escalation.

In my contacts with you — especially with the Permanent Members of the Security Council — I have been reiterating my deep concerns about the risks of the current impasse and stressed the need to avoid the situation spiralling out of control.

This is exactly the risk we face today – that things spiral out of control. It is our common duty to stop it.

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Excerpt:

UN Secretary-General António Guterres in an address to the Security Council

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UN Cracks Down on Peacekeeping Troops over Human Rights Abuseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-cracks-peacekeeping-troops-human-rights-abuses/#respond Fri, 13 Apr 2018 15:48:18 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155272 The United Nations, whose peacekeepers have come under increased scrutiny because of widespread charges of sexual abuse and human rights violations, claims it is now committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the “highest standards of conduct, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.” And there are […]

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MINUSMA peacekeepers patrolling the village of Bara in northeastern Mali. It is one of the most dangerous UN peacekeeping missions. Credit: UN Photo/Harandane Dicko

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations, whose peacekeepers have come under increased scrutiny because of widespread charges of sexual abuse and human rights violations, claims it is now committed to ensuring that all personnel serving with the UN meet the “highest standards of conduct, competence and integrity, including respect for and commitment to human rights.”

And there are no exceptions to this rule, which applies to over 100,000 civilian, military and police personnel currently deployed in 14 UN peacekeeping operations and 23 special political missions around the world.

Nick Birnback, UN Peacekeeping spokesperson, told IPS “member States that provide personnel to UN peacekeeping operations have the responsibility to certify that all these personnel have not been involved, by act or omission, in violations of international humanitarian law or human rights law, and have not been repatriated on disciplinary grounds from a UN operation.”

The most recent test case under investigation is the deployment of 49 Sri Lankan troops to the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) who did not undergo the required vetting process, this time by the local Human Rights Commission based in Colombo.

Taking a tough stand, the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has requested that “the Sri Lankan government immediately prioritize the completion of the screening for the 49 officers already deployed to UNIFIL”.

“If concerns arise regarding the 49 personnel already deployed to UNIFIL, DPKO may request that they be repatriated and replaced at the Government’s cost,” Birnback warned.

“In the case of Sri Lanka where there are specific human rights concerns”, he pointed out, the UN has put in place additional screening measures in 2016 to help ensure that deployed personnel meet our standards.

Prior to their deployment to UNIFIL, he said, the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations provided an attestation certifying that the contingent had not been involved in any violations.

“However, in February 2018, we learned that the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission — which the Government of Sri Lanka had agreed it would undertake human rights screening of all Sri Lankan personnel — had not yet completed the screening when the rotation of the unit in UNIFIL started. UN Peacekeeping immediately raised this with the Sri Lankan authorities and the deployment was stopped.”

“Meanwhile, we’ve asked the government of Sri Lanka to formalize the screening arrangements with the Sri Lankan Human Rights Commission. Compliance with these arrangements will be required before the UN can receive any further deployments or rotations from Sri Lanka. The government is cooperating with us in this regard,” Birnback said.

According to DPKO, the United Nations Charter requires that all UN personnel must maintain the highest standards of integrity and conduct. The UN is committed to ensuring that all its personnel deployed globally serve with professionalism, courtesy and dignity.

The UN Standards of Conduct apply to all categories of personnel deployed in UN missions. There is a three-pronged strategy to address misconduct: prevention, enforcement of the UN Standards of Conduct, and remedial action.

In July 2008, the Department of Field Support (DFS) launched the Misconduct Tracking System (MTS), a global, restricted-access database and confidential tracking system for all allegations of misconduct.

The UN Standards of Conduct are based on three key principles: highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity; zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and accountability of those in command and/or leadership who fail to enforce the standards of conduct, according to DPKO.

Meanwhile, as sexual abuse and paternity claims continue to rise against UN peacekeepers, the United Nations is actively collaborating with troop contributing countries in collecting DNA samples: a protocol introduced back in 2014.

The number of paternity claims – or potential paternity claims – has increased significantly: from 12 each in 2013 and 2014, to 15 in 2015, 33 in 2016 and 56 in 2017.

These are victims of “sexual exploitation and abuse,” according to the United Nations.

Providing an update on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) in the UN system– in line with the Secretary-General’s initiative on increasing transparency on ongoing allegations– UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters February 22 that from 1 October to 31 December 2017, “we have received 40 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners. Not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase.”

Out of the 40 allegations, 15 are reported from peacekeeping operations. These 15 are not new allegations — they have all been uploaded on the Conduct and Discipline database as they have come in. And that is a publicly available website.

The remaining 25 allegations are reported from agencies, funds and programmes, and include 8 allegations relating to implementing partners.

Of the 40 allegations, 13 are categorized as sexual abuse, 24 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature. The 40 allegations involve 54 victims — 30 are women, 16 are girls (under the age of 18), the ages of 8 others are unknown; 12 of the 40 allegations occurred in 2017, 7 in 2016, 3 in [2015] or prior, and the dates are unknown for 18 of them, Dujarric said.

With regard to the status of the 40 allegations, two have been substantiated by an investigation; three are not substantiated; 15 are at various stages of investigation; 18 are under preliminary assessment; two are under review with limited information provided to the investigating entity, he added.

Currently, there are 14 UN peacekeeping operations worldwide, seven of them in Africa. The more than 100,000 troops and civilian personnel come from 123 countries, with the five largest troop-contributing countries (TCC) being Ethiopia (8,326 troops), India (7,471), Pakistan (7,161), Bangladesh (6,772) and Rwanda (6,146).

The approved budget for UN peacekeeping operations for the fiscal year of July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017 was $7.87 billion, which is slightly smaller than its previous fiscal year’s budget.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has pointed out that UN’s peacekeeping budget – “less than one half of one per cent of global military spending — is money well spent.”

“It is a fraction of the cost of allowing conflict to spread and erode the gains of economic development. The investment is multiplied by the economic growth and prosperity that follow from stability and security after successful peacekeeping missions,” he declared last March.

He also said “UN peacekeepers are often under-equipped, under-prepared and unready [and] there are gaps in command and control, in culture, in equipment and in training.”

Speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council, he declared: “Our peacekeepers are vulnerable, and they are targeted for attack,” he added.

Last year, he said, 59 peacekeepers lost their lives as a result of malicious act – highest number ever and a sharp increase over the year before when the figure was 34.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Food Is the Answer: Perugia International Journalism Festivalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/food-answer-perugia-international-journalism-festival/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-answer-perugia-international-journalism-festival http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/food-answer-perugia-international-journalism-festival/#respond Fri, 13 Apr 2018 14:59:00 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155266 The twelfth International Journalism Festival on April 12-15 has drawn 710 speakers from 50 different countries, becoming the biggest journalism festival in Europe. A panel discussion titled “End poverty, protect the planet, ensure prosperity for all? Food is the answer” took place on the opening day in the Sala del Dottorato hall in the center […]

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Food Is the Answer: Perugia International Journalism Festival

Credit: Riccardo Gregori – Penumbria Studio #ijf18

By IPS World Desk
PERUGIA, Italy, Apr 13 2018 (IPS)

The twelfth International Journalism Festival on April 12-15 has drawn 710 speakers from 50 different countries, becoming the biggest journalism festival in Europe.

A panel discussion titled “End poverty, protect the planet, ensure prosperity for all? Food is the answer” took place on the opening day in the Sala del Dottorato hall in the center of Perugia, held under the auspices of the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition (BCFN).

Lucio Caracciolo, President and Director of MacroGeo and Limes, presented a report prepared by the BCFN Foundation in collaboration with MacroGeo and CMCC (Centro euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici). The report “Food & Migration: Understanding the geopolitical nexus in the Euro-Mediterranean” , is a research tool “to explore through a geopolitical perspective, flows and trends of the current and future nexus of migration and food in specific areas, particularly the Mediterranean countries.”

Caracciolo emphasized the deep links between migration flows and food security in the Mediterranean region and how addressing the latter could be part of the solution to the former.

Luca di Leo, Head of Communications at BCFN, highlighted the crucial importance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN, shedding light on the clear linkages between the 17 SDGs and food choices.

The Director General of IPS Farhana Haque Rahman and IPS Data Analyst Maged Srour participated as panellists.

Food systems are facing the enormous challenge of feeding increasingly growing and urbanised populations generally demanding a more environmentally intensive diet, while restoring and preserving ecosystems for the health of the planet.


Haque Rahman spoke about the urgent need to enhance the capacity of developing country journalists for them to be able to write analytical commentary to enhance awareness of communities on food sustainability and climate change and influence the food choices of the general public while also drawing attention of decision makers to take the right measure on policies.

She highlighted media capacity building and training undertaken by IPS on the SDGs in both developed and developing countries. The IPS Director-General shed light on the importance of giving access to ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) to poor farmers to enable them to better manage planting and marketing their products.

Maged Srour explained the nexus between water and security (the latter in terms of geopolitical security). Srour shared data on water insecurity, specifically in the Mediterranean region, and went on to explain how the increase in variability of water resources also affects the way countries interact.

“Most of the water in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region is actually shared by two or more nations. So, at the moment we also have climate change hitting this area and consequently an increase in water stress. This obviously increases tensions among those states,” he said.

“Climate change, in combination with the increasing population of the world, is definitely a source of instability which could exacerbate migration flows, and could become fertile grounds for extremism and for conflict,” he warned.

The Mediterranean region was at the heart of the panel discussions with most of the speakers discussing the nexus of food security, water security, climate change, migration and geopolitical security in the region.

Ludovica Principato, a researcher at the Barilla Foundation, presented data and in depth analyses on the Food Sustainability Index, which was developed in collaboration between the BCFN Foundation and the Economist Intelligence Unit, to promote knowledge on food sustainability. The index is a global study that measures facts on nutrition, sustainable agriculture and food waste, collecting data from 34 countries across the world.

“Food systems,” said Principato, “are facing the enormous challenge of feeding increasingly growing and urbanised populations generally demanding a more environmentally intensive diet, while restoring and preserving ecosystems for the health of the planet.”

IPS Director General Farhana Haque Rahman spoke about IPS’s work since it was founded in 1964, especially capacity building activities across the world to raise awareness of communities on topics such as food sustainability and climate change. She shed light on the importance of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) in the enhancement of sustainable farming and in the overall communication among smallholder farmers to become more productive and consequently climb out of poverty.

Laura Garzoli presented an innovative project which won the 2017 BCFN YES! (Young Earth Solutions) award granted by the BCFN Foundation to encourage innovative projects in the field of food sustainability.

Garzoli’s project, YES!BAT, “promotes Integrated Pest Management strategy to enhance ecosystem services provided by bats in rice agroecosystems”. Employing bat boxes in rice fields, it encourages insect-eating bats into areas where there are few roosting sites.

For those who missed the conference, it was live-streamed and is available here:

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Joint efforts to Strengthen Collaboration in Afghanistan on Returns and Reintegrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/joint-efforts-strengthen-collaboration-afghanistan-returns-reintegration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=joint-efforts-strengthen-collaboration-afghanistan-returns-reintegration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/joint-efforts-strengthen-collaboration-afghanistan-returns-reintegration/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 19:20:30 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155258 The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Afghanistan are working closely to ensure sustainable return and reintegration in Afghanistan in close collaboration with the Government of Afghanistan and other partners. On return to Afghanistan, UNHCR as the UN Refugee Agency provides humanitarian assistance to registered Afghan […]

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IOM, UNHCR launch joint report on returns to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran.

By International Organization for Migration
KABUL, Apr 12 2018 (IOM)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Afghanistan are working closely to ensure sustainable return and reintegration in Afghanistan in close collaboration with the Government of Afghanistan and other partners.

On return to Afghanistan, UNHCR as the UN Refugee Agency provides humanitarian assistance to registered Afghan refugees returning to Afghanistan, while IOM as the UN Migration Agency provides assistance to undocumented Afghan returnees. Together with the Government of Afghanistan and the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, UNHCR and IOM have been actively coordinating the provision of humanitarian post-arrival and reintegration assistance since 2002 and 2007 respectively.

UNHCR and IOM have launched a joint -first in its kind- report on returnees to Afghanistan for 2017 that underlines close partnership between the two organizations.

“This joint report reflects our shared commitment to assist the most vulnerable,” said IOM’s Chief of Mission, Laurence Hart. “In spite of the inherent challenges of returning home after many decades abroad, IOM and UNHCR are working hand in hand to ensure sustainable solutions are provided to returning Afghans”.

“We continue to assist Afghan refugees who voluntarily return home each year. As our report details, the challenge lies in a whole-of-community response that leaves no one behind,” UNHCR Country Representative, Fathiaa Abdalla said. “UNHCR and IOM work together to complement each other’s efforts in areas of high return, with partners and the Government of Afghanistan, for greater efficiency and to ensure support to those communities to mitigate protection risks.”

Each year, registered Afghan refugees and undocumented Afghans make the decision to return home from the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan, notwithstanding the difficult environment in Afghanistan. Since 2002, more than 5.24 million registered Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan of whom over 58,000 in 2017 as detailed in the report. Given the scope of the ongoing conflict, high levels of internal displacement, already overstretched services and difficulty finding jobs, returning Afghans face protection risks and significant barriers to sustainable reintegration.

In early February, the two organizations held a strategic consultation workshop in Kabul to strengthen collaboration in Afghanistan. Speaking at the Workshop, UNHCR’s Country Representative, Fathiaa Abdalla and IOM’s Chief of Mission, Laurence Hart, emphasized the importance of “building upon existing synergies, to better serve persons of concern and bring positive change to the most vulnerable”. On 20 March, the UNHCR and IOM Representatives in Afghanistan attended the joint UNHCR-IOM meeting in Islamabad to discuss the current situation of Afghans in Pakistan and returns – and to explore potential areas for joint activities and collaboration.

Access the latest report here.

For further information please contact:
IOM Afghanistan: Eva Schwoerer, Email: eschwoerer@iom.int, Tel. +93729229129
UNHCR Afghanistan: Nader Farhad, Email: farhadm@unhcr.org

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First They Came for the Rohingyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/first-came-rohingya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-came-rohingya http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/first-came-rohingya/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 17:31:48 +0000 Azeem Ibrahim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155256 Other ethnic minorities will be Myanmar’s next victims.

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Rohingya people wait after arriving to Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh. Credit: IPS

By Azeem Ibrahim
Apr 12 2018 (IPS)

In recent months, international media coverage of Myanmar has focused on the plight of the Rohingya people in the west of the country. And for good reason: Since August 2017, brutal army attacks on this Muslim ethnic minority have sent more than 750,000 people — 90 percent of the Rohingya population living in Rakhine state — fleeing over the border to Bangladesh, in what can only be described as a coordinated campaign of genocide.

The numbers are staggering, but the hate isn’t new: The Rohingya, one of the world’s largest stateless groups, have long been a favorite target for persecution by the country’s Buddhist central authorities. The Rohingya have a different religion, a different skin color, and speak a different language than most of their neighbors.

The campaign against the Rohingya has radically expanded the military’s capacity for ethnic cleansing and, perhaps more importantly, seems to have emboldened it, as the bulkof the population appears to support the army’s aggression toward the group.

Yet their well-publicized tragedy has obscured a darker truth about Myanmar: The country is in the midst of one of the longest multifront civil wars in the world. Each facet of this conflict cleaves along ethnic or religious lines — often both. The assault on the Rohingya is thus far from Myanmar’s only active military campaign against a minority group. And as soon as the Rohingya are completely removed from the country, the military will be free to redeploy its resources elsewhere.

When that time comes, Myanmar’s remaining minorities are likely to experience similar treatment. Many of these groups have been in the military’s crosshairs for more than half a century. Yet the persecution to come will far exceed anything they’ve suffered before. The campaign against the Rohingya has radically expanded the military’s capacity for ethnic cleansing and, perhaps more importantly, seems to have emboldened it, as the bulk of the population appears to support the army’s aggression toward the group.

To understand why all these conflicts have endured for as long as they have and why they are accelerating now, consider Myanmar’s demographic and political dynamics. Sixty-eight percent of the country’s population is Bamar (ethnic Burmese). The Bamar are primarily concentrated around the Irrawaddy Valley, the country’s heartland. Myanmar is also 88 percent Buddhist, and the majority of that group adheres to the conservative Theravada doctrine.

Surrounding the Irrawaddy Valley are a range of border areas home to a plethora of ethnic and religious minorities — almost all of which have sought independence from the central government at one time or another since 1948, when Myanmar, then known as Burma, gained independence from the British.

These secessionist movements stem from the fact that, soon after independence, Bamar Theravada Buddhists won overwhelming control of the government and the military and soon stamped theirs as the official identity of the state. In the years that followed, as a succession of military dictatorships attempted to build a unified nation, they systematically marginalized and repressed religious and ethnic minorities using a variety of extremely heavy-handed measures.

Numerous groups were denied citizenship, saw their villages demolished, and had their marriage rights curtailed. Authorities in Rakhine state have limited the number of children Rohingya Muslims are allowed to have — typically a maximum of two, just below the population replacement rate.

In the past few years, skirmishes between the army and the secessionist movements have intensified once again as the federal army has found new resolve. In 2011, battles between Myanmar’s military and the separatist Kachin Independence Army in the country’s north displaced nearly 100,000 Kachin people. Seven years later, the displaced are still living ininternal refugee camps, with few prospects for rebuilding their lives. And in the last two years, the army has increasingly taken to shelling targets in or near the civilian camps and villages.

In nearby northern Shan state, the military and the Taang National Liberation Army recently reopened hostilities — a continuation of a conflict that dates back to 1963. Over the last nine years, fighting between the army and the nearby ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army has sent tens of thousands of refugees over the border to China. To the south, the army has targeted Christians among the Karen people, driving more than 100,000 refugeeinto Thailand over the last couple of decades.

It’s not just such displacements that darkly echo the Rohingya situation. Kachin and Karen women have reported that the military has used rape against them as a form of repression, much like the mass rapes reported by Rohingya refugees.

This story was originally published by Foreign Policy

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Excerpt:

Other ethnic minorities will be Myanmar’s next victims.

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Death Sentences Keep Sliding, Says Amnesty Internationalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/death-sentences-keep-sliding-says-amnesty-international/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=death-sentences-keep-sliding-says-amnesty-international http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/death-sentences-keep-sliding-says-amnesty-international/#comments Thu, 12 Apr 2018 12:49:30 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155253 As the United Nations continues to lead the global fight to abolish the death penalty, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have recorded a significant decrease in death sentences, according to a new report released by Amnesty International (AI). In its 2017 global review of the death penalty, AI has singled out Guinea, Kenya, Burkina Faso and […]

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By IPS World Desk
ROME, Apr 12 2018 (IPS)

As the United Nations continues to lead the global fight to abolish the death penalty, countries in sub-Saharan Africa have recorded a significant decrease in death sentences, according to a new report released by Amnesty International (AI).

In its 2017 global review of the death penalty, AI has singled out Guinea, Kenya, Burkina Faso and Chad for their positive steps amongst abolitionist states in sub-Saharan Africa.

The death penalty has no place in the 21st century — UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Credit: OHCHR

Guinea became the 20th state in sub-Saharan Africa to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, while Kenya abolished the mandatory death penalty for murder. Burkina Faso and Chad also took steps to repeal this punishment with new or proposed laws.

“The progress in sub-Saharan Africa reinforced its position as a beacon of hope for abolition. The leadership of countries in this region gives fresh hope that the abolition of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is within reach,” said Amnesty International’s Secretary General Salil Shetty.

“With governments in the region continuing to take steps to reduce and repeal the death penalty well into 2018, the isolation of the world’s remaining executing countries could not be starker.

“Now that 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, it is high time the rest of the world follows their lead and consigns this abhorrent punishment to the history books.”

According to the report, there was a drop in the number of executing countries across sub-Saharan Africa, from five in 2016 to two in 2017, with only South Sudan and Somalia known to have carried out executions.

However, with reports that Botswana and Sudan resumed executions in 2018, the organization highlighted that this must not overshadow the positive steps being taken by other countries across the region.

Elsewhere in Africa, Gambia signed an international treaty committing the country not to carry out executions and moving to abolish the death penalty. The Gambian President established an official moratorium (temporary ban) on executions in February 2018.

Significant progress all around

Developments across sub-Saharan Africa in 2017 exemplified the positive trend recorded globally, with Amnesty International’s research pointing to a further decrease in the global use of the death penalty in 2017.

Amnesty International recorded at least 993 executions in 23 countries in 2017, down by 4% from 2016 (1,032 executions) and 39% from 2015 (when the organization reported 1,634 executions, the highest number since 1989).

At least 2,591 death sentences in 53 countries were recorded in 2017, a significant decrease from the record-high of 3,117 recorded in 2016. These figures do not include the thousands of death sentences and executions that Amnesty International believes were imposed and implemented in China, where figures remain classified as a state secret.

In addition to Guinea, Mongolia abolished the death penalty for all crimes taking the total of abolitionist states to 106 in 2017. After Guatemala became abolitionist for ordinary crimes such as murder, the number of countries to have abolished the death penalty in law or practice now stands at 142. Only 23 countries continued to execute – the same number as in 2016, despite several states resuming executions after a hiatus, according to the study.

Significant steps to reduce the use of the death penalty were also taken in countries that are staunch supporters of it. In Iran, recorded executions reduced by 11% and drug-related executions reduced to 40%.

Moves were also made to increase the threshold of drug amounts required to impose a mandatory death penalty. In Malaysia, the anti-drug laws were amended, with the introduction of sentencing discretion in drug trafficking cases. These changes will likely result in a reduction in the number of death sentences imposed in both countries in the future.

“The fact that countries continue to resort to the death penalty for drug-related offences remains troubling. However, steps taken by Iran and Malaysia to amend their anti-drugs laws go a long way towards showing that cracks are appearing, even in the minority of countries that still execute people,” said Shetty.

Indonesia, which executed four people convicted of drug crimes in 2016 in an ill-conceived attempt to tackle drug crime, did not carry out any executions last year and reported a slight decrease in the number of death sentences imposed.

Disturbing trends

However, distressing trends continued to feature in the use of the death penalty in 2017.

Fifteen countries imposed death sentences or executed people for drug-related offences, going against international law. The Middle East and North Africa region recorded the highest number of drug-related executions in 2017, while the Asia-Pacific region had the most countries resorting to the death penalty for this type of offence (10 out of 16).

Amnesty International recorded drug-related executions in four countries – China (where figures are classified as a state secret), Iran, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. The secrecy that shrouded capital punishment in Malaysia and Viet Nam made it impossible to determine whether executions for drug crimes occurred.

Singapore hanged eight people in 2017 – all for drug-related offences and double the amount in 2016. There was a similar trend in Saudi Arabia, where drug-related beheadings rocketed from 16% of total executions in 2016 to 40% in 2017.

“Despite strides towards abolishing this abhorrent punishment, there are still a few leaders who would resort to the death penalty as a ‘quick-fix’ rather than tackling problems at their roots with humane, effective and evidence-based policies. Strong leaders execute justice, not people,” said Shetty.

“The draconian anti-drug measures widely used in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific have totally failed to address the issue,” he warned.

Governments also breached several other prohibitions under international law in 2017. At least five people in Iran were executed for crimes committed when they were under 18and at least 80 others remained on death row, and people with mental or intellectual disabilities were executed or remained under sentence of death in Japan, the Maldives, Pakistan, Singapore and the USA.

Amnesty International recorded several cases of people facing the death penalty after “confessing” to crimes as a result of torture or other ill-treatment in Bahrain, China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. In Iran and Iraq, some of these “confessions” were broadcast on live television.

Although the overall number of executing countries remained the same, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates resumed executions after a hiatus. In Egypt, recorded death sentences increased by about 70% compared to 2016.

Looking forward

With at least 21,919 people known to be under sentence of death globally, now is not the time to let up the pressure.

Positive steps were taken in 2017 and the full impact will be seen in the coming months and years. However, with some countries taking steps backwards – or threatening to – the campaign against the death penalty remains as essential as ever.

“Over the past 40 years, we’ve seen a huge positive shift in the global outlook for the death penalty, but more urgent steps need to be taken to stop the horrifying practice of state killing,” said Shetty.

“The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it. We know that by galvanizing the support of people worldwide, we can stand up to this cruel punishment and end the death penalty everywhere.”

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Code for Media & Governmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/code-media-government/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=code-media-government http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/code-media-government/#respond Thu, 12 Apr 2018 05:55:34 +0000 I.A. Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155265 The government and the national media will both find a new set of principles, just unveiled by a group of Commonwealth associations in London, extremely useful in protecting freedom of expression in Pakistan and enabling the media to play its due role in securing the people’s right to good governance. The document titled Commonwealth Principles […]

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By I.A. Rehman
Apr 12 2018 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The government and the national media will both find a new set of principles, just unveiled by a group of Commonwealth associations in London, extremely useful in protecting freedom of expression in Pakistan and enabling the media to play its due role in securing the people’s right to good governance.

I.A. Rehman

The document titled Commonwealth Principles on Freedom of Expression and the Role of the Media in Good Governance has been drafted by a working group of the Commonwealth Journalists Associa¬tion and the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, and will be submitted to the Commonwealth leaders for endorsement and support in implementation.

The inspiration for drafting these principles came from the 2003 enunciation of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values on separation of powers of the three organs of state, and the realisation that “Government transparency and accountability is promoted by an independent and vibrant media, which is responsible, objective and impartial, and which is protected by law in its freedom to report and comment on public affairs”.

What expedited the effort to frame the new principles was the Commonwealth secretary general’s address at a function in April 2017 in which she referred to the killing of scores of journalists across the world each year as “a serious indictment of our collective efforts to build a safer and more inclusive future”. The killings of media persons, their harassment in various ways and their imprisonment made a new effort necessary to protect press freedom and the safety of journalists, uphold the rule of law and fight corruption in public life.

A new set of principles on the freedom of expression must be complied with.

The principles “are intended to serve as a set of guidelines to assist member states and their agencies, as well as Commonwealth legislatures, judiciaries, civil society and media to make appropriate contributions to promoting and developing democratic, accountable and open societies in accordance with Commonwealth values, international norms and standards and the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals”.

The first of the 12 principles reiterates the fact that freedom of expression is a cornerstone of democracy and underpins good governance, public accountability and respect for all human rights, and reaffirms the UN-recognised right to receive and impart information in any form from anywhere.

The second principle describes the nature and scope of restrictions that can be imposed on freedom of expression. These must be in accord with international human rights law, covenants and treaties. Where warranted by incitement to crime etc, the curbs should be prescribed by law and must be necessary and proportionate. The Commonwealth states are urged to revise their press legislation and sedition laws that criminalise free speech. Truth and public interest should be accepted as adequate defence, and sources of information as well as whistleblowers should be protected.

The third principle upholds the right of access to information and urges member states to enact and implement the right to information legislation and construe regulatory and restrictive laws narrowly and subject to the public interest test.

The fourth principle calls for open, two-way flow of information between parliament and the media. All elected bodies should encourage maximum media coverage of their proceedings and respect the media’s right to comment on their performance.

The fifth principle calls upon the judiciaries to promote open justice, and facilitate fair and accurate media coverage of court proceedings. Criminal law and contempt proceedings should not be used to restrict legitimate debate on the judiciary’s affairs. Courts, judges and lawyers must not be threatened or abused.

The media’s right to cover electoral processes is the subject of the sixth principle. Election commissions and other officials should ensure impartiality of electoral processes and equitable access to the media for all parties and candidates.

The seventh principle urges member-states to put in place effective laws and measures to ensure a safe and enabling environment for journalists to work without fear, intimidation and interference. Journalists should be trained and equipped to work during emergencies.

A call to end impunity in cases of killings of or attacks on journalists and to respect the UN plan of action and Unesco’s requests for judicial follow-up to killings of journalists is the theme of the eighth principle.

The ninth principle calls upon the media to set its professional standards and observe its code of conduct and instal a mechanism to address complaints against itself.

The 10th principle defines the limits of plans to regulate the various media forms without interfering with their rights. The last two principles, 11th and 12th, stress the observance of these principles and the upholding of Commonwealth values.

These principles cover some of the ground with which journalists have long been familiar, but they also address their concerns that are of recent origin, such as killings of media persons, demands of duty in conflict areas, and matters related to elections, the judiciary and impunity.

The principles discussed here are more relevant to Pakistan than many other countries of the world. This country has long been identified as one of the most dangerous places for journalists. It is about to hold a general election that is likely to determine the form and substance of democracy the state may be able to practise.

Corruption in public life and administration is endemic, and the state has yet to display the will and capacity to defeat the monster. Neither the much-touted development projects nor the campaign against extremism and militancy meets the minimum standards of transparency and accountability. The national media has a heavier than normal responsibility. It must help both state and society overcome the challenges confronting them with as little pain as possible. It is difficult to find any among the 12 principles that is not applicable to this country.

The government would thus do well to take definite steps to ensure the fullest possible compliance with these principles and support their adoption and implementation by fellow members of the Commonwealth.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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The UN tells private enterprise leaders that “Business as Usual Won’t Work”.http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-tells-private-enterprise-leaders-business-usual-wont-work/#comments Wed, 11 Apr 2018 17:42:20 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155241 As global citizens face an array of issues from unemployment to discrimination, affecting their livelihoods and potential, a UN agency called upon businesses to employ a new, sustainable, and inclusive model that benefits all. Business leaders from around the world convened at the United Nation’s 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) partnership forum to hear […]

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By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 2018 (IPS)

As global citizens face an array of issues from unemployment to discrimination, affecting their livelihoods and potential, a UN agency called upon businesses to employ a new, sustainable, and inclusive model that benefits all.

2018 ECOSOC Partnership Forum. Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Business leaders from around the world convened at the United Nation’s 2018 Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) partnership forum to hear how the private sector can work with governments to improve global economic opportunities.

“The private sector is an indisputable partner in reducing global inequalities and improving employment opportunities for all” the UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told the audience.

Mohammed stressed that the private sectors contribution to development was essential if the world is to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

However, in order for this to happen Mohammed said that “business as usual simply won’t work.”

Instead, leaders were challenged to commit to align their business goals with the SDGs by investing in sustainable business models.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to challenge the business leaders present here today to make bold commitments to a more inclusive future for all,” said Marie Chatardova, president of the ECOSOC.

Chatardova reminded the leaders of the UN’s Business and Sustainable Development Commissions recent research that found that investment in sustainable models could create some $12 trillion dollars in economic opportunities by 2030.

“Investing in sustainable development goals – it’s a ‘win-win partnership,” she said.

Calling for Inclusion

Today, 192 million people are unemployed. Eight per cent of the global population live in poverty. There is a mounting youth unemployment crisis. Women, indigenous and disabled persons continue to face barriers to equitable and meaningful employment.

Attendees highlighted the importance of sustainable business models that prioritize diversity and inclusivity by getting women, youth, indigenous and disabled persons into the workforce.

In panel discussions, many business leaders spoke of their companies’ ongoing diversity programs.

Sara Enright, director of the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition (GISC), pointed to Impact Sourcing – an example of inclusive business practice.

Impact sourcing, Ms Enright told the forum is: “when a company prioritises suppliers who are hiring and providing career development to people who otherwise have limited prospects of formal employment.”

The GISC is a global network of 40 business that include – Google, Microsoft, Aegis, and Bloomberg – that have committed to impact sourcing.

In March, GISC members were challenged to hire and provide training to over 100,000 new workers by 2020. Enright said so far ten companies have responded to the challenge, pledging to hire over 12,000 workers across Kenya, Nepal, Cambodia and the United States.

Enright said she expected many more companies to sign up and stressed that the GISC would monitor and measure the outcomes.

The UN applauded GISC’s work as an inspiring example of the private sector working collaboratively and inclusively to meet the SDGs vision.

Curb Your Corruption

Another issue that arose during the forum was corruption in development.

Last year global development funding reached $143 trillion dollars, of which the UN estimates that over 30 percent of funds failed to reach their intended destinations.

The UN told business leaders that if they commit to using technology that better tracks where money goes in development, then it will help curb corruption.

Bob Wigley, chairman of UK Finance, encouraged businesses to invest in technologies like ‘Block Chain’.

Block-chain, or Distributed Ledger Technology, is a digitized public record book of online transactions that was developed in 2008 with the rise of online currency ‘bitcoin’.

It is an entirely decentralized means of record keeping, meaning it is operated on a peer-to-peer basis rather than one central authority.

Wigley said the technology allows the direct tracking of online payments, ensuring that it is delivered correctly.

“If I was the recipient of state aid or wanting to know where my funds are going exactly then I’d be using block-chain systems, not the antiquated bookkeeping that gives rise to potential corruption every time a payment trickles from one set of hands to another,” he said.

“Think of how embracing and enhancing block chain technology could ensure accountability and transparency – things that are critical to meeting the SDGs,” Wigley continued.

A Race to the Top

Whilst many businesses are committing to the SDGs and implementing sustainable initiatives, more still needs to be done to unlock the full potential of the sector.

Kristine Cooper from United Kingdom insurance company Avia said it is a question of creating ‘competition’ between business by tracking them in their commitment and delivery.

“Lots of companies are doing great things in diversity and SDG commitments and how they do business to meet these goals, but it’s hard to know who’s doing really well, there is no consistency with reporting,” Cooper said.

“The system lacks the incentives to make right decisions and make organizations live up their responsibility.”

Ranking companies and holding them accountable, Cooper said, would create a “race to the top” and in the process, truly unleash “the power of the corporate and private sector in meeting development goals”.

Discussion points from this meeting will be further discussed in ECOSOC meetings held in May 2018, as well as at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in July 2018.

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UN Migration Agency Co-hosts Hong Kong Workshop on Public-Private Sector Partnerships to Combat Human Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-migration-agency-co-hosts-hong-kong-workshop-public-private-sector-partnerships-combat-human-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-migration-agency-co-hosts-hong-kong-workshop-public-private-sector-partnerships-combat-human-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/un-migration-agency-co-hosts-hong-kong-workshop-public-private-sector-partnerships-combat-human-trafficking/#respond Wed, 11 Apr 2018 14:20:18 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155238 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in partnership with Justice Centre Hong Kong, today (11/04) hosted a workshop to help private sector companies understand how they can work better with civil society and IOM to meet internationally recognized human rights standards, particularly relating to labour exploitation, including modern day slavery and human trafficking. The event, which […]

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Evidence of forced labour has repeatedly surfaced in the Thai fishing industry – a major supplier of seafood to world markets. Credit: Thierry Falise / IOM.

By International Organization for Migration
HONG KONG, SAR, Apr 11 2018 (IOM)

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, in partnership with Justice Centre Hong Kong, today (11/04) hosted a workshop to help private sector companies understand how they can work better with civil society and IOM to meet internationally recognized human rights standards, particularly relating to labour exploitation, including modern day slavery and human trafficking.

The event, which took place in Hong Kong, was supported by international law firm King & Wood Mallesons and diversified financial group Macquarie.

The issue of modern day slavery remains a major challenge around the world with an estimated 40.3 million victims in 2016. Of these, approximately 25 million were victims of forced labour, notably in the Asia-Pacific region. Over 60 per cent or 16 million victims of forced labour were working for private sector companies.

“Competing in a global market means that many leading companies are outsourcing their business operations overseas to reduce costs. As a result of these global market pressures, companies often find themselves at risk of being publicly associated with severe labour exploitation in their global supply chains,” said Dr. Nenette Motus, IOM Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific. “This event is about exploring how companies can act as powerful drivers of change by forging meaningful partnerships with civil society and IOM to end modern slavery and human trafficking,” she added.

Piya Muqit, Executive Director of Justice Centre Hong Kong, added: “With the publication by the Hong Kong SAR Government of an action plan to tackle trafficking in persons, this event is an opportunity to explore how strategic partnerships can ensure the corporate community are ahead of the policy curve.”

Representatives from over 35 major private sector companies including Starbucks, Adidas, Credit Suisse, HSBC and Atkins participated in the workshop to discuss how corporates can contribute to eliminating modern slavery and human trafficking through building partnerships with civil society and international agencies like IOM.

With the adoption of a Private Sector Partnership Strategy 2016-2020, IOM recognized the significant role of the business community to positively impact and further the benefits of migration.

IOM’s Corporate Responsibility in Eliminating Slavery and Trafficking (CREST), supported by the Development Section of the Embassy of Sweden in Thailand, is designed to help companies undertake and fulfil their due diligence obligations in promoting and upholding universal human rights and labour standards throughout their supply chains.

The Corporate Change Maker project is an evolution of Justice Centre’s evidence-based policy work on human trafficking in Hong Kong. “Since 2014, the Macquarie Group Foundation has been directing efforts towards preventing and responding to modern slavery. Working with organizations across the region, we have supported a range of initiatives, including the Corporate Change Makers project, with the goal of increasing awareness among our peers and governments,” said Ben Way, Asia CEO of the Macquarie Group and a member of the Macquarie Group Foundation Committee.

For more information please contact Nurul Qoiriah, IOM China’s Hong Kong Sub-Office, Tel: 2332 2441, Email: nqoiriah@iom.int

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KSrelief Chief Visits Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh: Saudis Will Help IOM to Deliver Vital Aid During Monsoonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/ksrelief-chief-visits-rohingya-refugee-camps-bangladesh-saudis-will-help-iom-deliver-vital-aid-monsoon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ksrelief-chief-visits-rohingya-refugee-camps-bangladesh-saudis-will-help-iom-deliver-vital-aid-monsoon http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/ksrelief-chief-visits-rohingya-refugee-camps-bangladesh-saudis-will-help-iom-deliver-vital-aid-monsoon/#respond Wed, 11 Apr 2018 13:53:11 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155235 The Supervisor General of Ksrelief – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Centre – Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Rabeeah, today (11/04) visited IOM’s relief operations for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The visit included an inspection of a new logistics base, funded by the Saudi foundation, which will play a key […]

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Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Rabeeah, Head of Ksrelief, handing out rice to Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar today. Credit: IOM

By International Organization for Migration
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Apr 11 2018 (IOM)

The Supervisor General of Ksrelief – Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid & Relief Centre – Dr Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Rabeeah, today (11/04) visited IOM’s relief operations for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

The visit included an inspection of a new logistics base, funded by the Saudi foundation, which will play a key role in getting vital aid to the refugees during the difficult and dangerous conditions expected during the upcoming monsoon season.

The log-base at Nhilla will be a hub for IOM’s distribution of aid to refugees in the southern part of Cox’s Bazar during the wet season, when mud and landslides are expected to create severe access challenges across the entire district. The hub will guarantee aid deliveries remote areas even if established distribution points further north are cut off.

Around 900,000 Rohingya refugees are now sheltering in Cox’s Bazar and are almost entirely reliant on aid. Most arrived after fleeing extreme violence in Myanmar’s Northern Rakhine State that began in August 2017.

IOM, partner aid agencies and the government of Bangladesh are involved in a massive joint effort to develop and upgrade access and improve and ready supply systems before the bad weather hits, perhaps as early as next month.

During his visit, Dr Al Rabeeah also witnessed a WFP distribution of rice – some of 550 MT donated by KSrelief – together with non-food items, including blankets, mattresses and plastic buckets, also donated by his agency.

“I am happy to be at Kutupalang and Balukhali refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar witnessing the joint work of IOM and Ksrelief and IOM’s support to the Rohingya minority. Our work together is a model of joint compassion for those in need and an example of many other excellent partner projects globally, ” said Dr Al Rabeeah, who was an internationally acclaimed surgeon and health expert before joining KSrelief.

KSrelief has currently provided over USD 4.2 million to fund IOM’s shelter and water, sanitation and hygiene support for Rohingya refugees and local Bangladeshis living in the Cox’s Bazar District.

Shortly after the beginning of the crisis, in September 2017, KSrelief also organized an airlift of aid into Cox’s Bazar, which IOM distributed. It included rice, blankets, mattresses and water purification tablets.

IOM and other agencies have worked with the government of Bangladesh to significantly improve conditions in the camps since those early days, but the arrival of the monsoon will bring new dangers and fresh misery for the refugees and the local community. Work is urgently underway to improve shelters, re-locate those most at risk and build resilience among those who will be affected.

Key shelter and other aid items are being stockpiled by IOM to be distributed when the monsoon and cyclone seasons begin. This includes pipeline agreements with partners to ensure that the whole humanitarian community is well stocked with essential aid like tarpaulins.

To help restore access to the refugees quickly in the event of landslides and blocked roads, IOM is working alongside WFP and UNHCR to preposition machinery in key locations for disaster response operations to enable humanitarian access and clear drains and waterways to reduce the risk of flooding.

Work also continues to improve roads and drainage to prevent further erosion on the bare hilly slopes, which were cleared of vegetation during the initial influx by refugees desperate to find a place to put up shelters.

In recent weeks, IOM has provided 22,500 families with shelter-upgrade kits as part of a rollout to help 120,000 households improve and strengthen their living quarters. In addition, 33,550 households have received community training on shelter upgrades and disaster risk reduction. More than 550 families deemed most at risk have already been relocated to safer areas with that number set to increase significantly over the coming weeks, as new sites are prepared.

As well as observing IOM’s work to support the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the Balukhali/Kutupalong makeshift settlement, which is now one of the biggest refugee camps in the world, the KSrelief delegation will also visit medical facilities supporting the refugees and the local community.

After visiting a Malaysian-run hospital in the settlement, they will travel to Cox’s Bazar general hospital. IOM medical staff refer refugees and local people to this hospital for specialist treatment if it is not available any of IOM’s 12 medical clinics in the district.

“This visit comes at a vital time for the humanitarian response to this crisis, as we prepare for the impending monsoon and cyclone seasons,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, who accompanied the KSrelief delegation.

“We are grateful to KSrelief for their support in Cox’s Bazar and around the world and we appreciate this strong partnership. But we are still operating with funding shortfalls, notably in site management and improvement, alternative fuel supplies and shelter. All of these are essential, especially in response to the expected extreme weather over the next few months. Our main priority as always is to save lives,” he added.

In addition to funding IOM’s humanitarian operations in Bangladesh, KSrelief also funds IOM projects in Myanmar, Yemen, Somalia and Greece.

For more information, please contact Fiona MacGregor at IOM Cox’s Bazar, Tel: +8801733335221, Email: mailto:fmacgregor@iom.int

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