Inter Press ServiceHuman Rights – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 28 Jun 2017 07:01:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Why Is International Human Rights Law Such an Easy Target?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/international-human-rights-law-easy-target/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-human-rights-law-easy-target http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/international-human-rights-law-easy-target/#respond Tue, 27 Jun 2017 14:40:21 +0000 Zeid Raad Al Hussein http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151064 Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking at the Law Society in London

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Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaking at the Law Society in London

By Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
LONDON, Jun 27 2017 (IPS)

“Earlier this month, Britain’s Prime Minister called for human rights laws to be overturned if they were to “get in the way” in the fight against terrorism. Specifically, Theresa May said there was a need “to restrict the freedom and movement of terrorist suspects when we have enough evidence to know they are a threat, but not evidence to prosecute them in full in court.”

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

For an increasingly anxious public, shaken by the recent and dreadful terrorist attacks, her remarks no doubt reflected real anger and frustration, but they also seemed intended to strike a chord with a certain sector of the electorate, and it is this expectation that truly worries me.

British Government officials would probably claim the comments should be understood in the context of a tough electoral campaign, and would presumably try and reassure us quietly that the government’s support for human rights remains steadfast and unchallengeable.

Whatever the intention behind her remarks, they were highly regrettable, a gift from a major Western leader to every authoritarian figure around the world who shamelessly violates human rights under the pretext of fighting terrorism. And it is not just the leaders.

A few days ago, citing Prime Minister May, a former Sri Lankan rear admiral delivered a petition to the President of the Human Rights Council. He demanded action be taken against my Office for “forcing” Sri Lanka to undertake constitutional reforms, and for exerting pressure on them to create a hybrid court to try perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity – when in reality, he claimed, all they had engaged in was fighting terrorism.

My first question: Why is international human rights law such an easy target? Why is it so misunderstood, so reviled by some, feared by others, spurned, attacked?

My second: If the Prime Minister meant what she said, which universal rights would the UK be willing to give away in order to punish people against whom there is insufficient evidence to justify prosecution? What, exactly, are the rights she considers frivolous or obstructive? The right to privacy? The right to liberty and security of person? Freedom of expression? Freedom of religion and belief? The principle of non-refoulement? The prohibition of torture? Due process?

And why are we fighting the terrorists in the first place, if not to defend both the physical well-being of people and the very human rights and values the Prime Minister now says she is willing, in part, to sacrifice – in order to fight the terrorists? And where would it stop?

Foregoing some rights now may have devastating effects on other rights later on. If we follow this reasoning to its logical conclusion, the eventual complete unwinding of human rights would transform us – both states and international organizations. To quote Nietzsche: “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster”. We would be in danger of becoming virtually indistinguishable from the terrorists we are fighting.

So why did Prime Minister May say this? At least part of the answer may lie in market conditions. Human Rights law has long been ridiculed by an influential tabloid press here in the UK, feeding with relish on what it paints as the absurd findings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

This viewpoint has some resonance with a slice of the public unaware of the importance of international human rights law – often seen by far too many people as too removed from everyday life, very continental, too lawyerly, too activist, ultimately too weird. How can the Court consider prisoners’ voting rights, and other supposedly frivolous claims, when set against the suffering of victims? The bastards deserve punishment, full stop!

This may be understandable, at some emotional level. However, one should also acknowledge that British ink, reflecting an enormously rich legal tradition, is found throughout the European Convention on Human Rights.

And for good reason. To recognise that even a criminal has rights is the basis of enlightened thought, a principle enshrined in common law. It lies at the very core of human civilization, and distinguishes us from a primeval horde wrapped only in retribution and cruelties. I believe, like so many others, that criminals, too, have fundamental rights, because whatever evil they have wrought, they remain human beings. Frequently their pathological behaviour has been influenced by trauma inflicted on them by others.

Let me take one, perhaps extreme, example. In Iraq, there are people who argue for the killing of as many child soldiers of Da’esh as possible, and would perhaps even support torturing them, given how monstrous their actions have been. But in Sierra Leone, many child followers of Foday Sankoh, who were once hacking off the limbs of other small children, have now largely been rehabilitated, in no small measure due to the efforts of the UN. They were children even while they were terrorists – and they have to be seen as children first.

I seek in the course of this short lecture to examine some of these attacks on international human rights law, on international law generally. You have honoured me with the request that I speak to the legacy of Hugo Grotius. What would Grotius say today, were he to be brought back to life for a few moments? Would he be surprised, almost 400 years after publication of his treatise On the Law of War and Peace, by the overall achievement? The extent of the current backlash? The struggle? Or perhaps he would not be at all surprised by any of it.

While promoting an international “society” governed by law, not by force, he well may have been surprised it took a further 300 years of treaty-making and immense bloodletting, capped by two world wars, before humanity embraced a system of international law. Or, put another way, reason alone had proven itself to be insufficient.

Only the death of some 100 million people in two world wars and the Holocaust could generate the will necessary for a profound change. Humanity had fallen off a cliff, survived, and, having frightened itself rigid, became all the wiser for it. The prospect of nuclear annihilation also sharpened post-war thinking. And soon after, States drew up the UN Charter, reinforced international law – codified international refugee law, further elaborated international humanitarian law, and created international human rights law and international criminal law.

It is precisely these bodies of international law that are now endangered.

While I ought to, in this lecture, examine all the threats to public international law, from Russia’s seizure and annexation of Crimea to the almost enthusiastic derogation by European powers of their obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention, or the seemingly deliberate bombing by major state actors of facilities protected under IHL – such as clinics and hospitals in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan – I shall confine myself for the sake of brevity to those principal threats directed against international human rights law, and pay special attention to the absolute prohibition on the use of torture. In doing so, I hope to illustrate how they are symptomatic of a broader cynicism emerging in defiance of international law more generally.

Let me first return to the struggle against terrorism, and how it is being exploited by governments the world over to roll back the advances made in human rights. The curtailing of the freedoms of expression and association – which threatens to wipe out dissent completely in countries like Egypt, Bahrain, and Turkey – is closing what is left of a democratic space, and all under the banner of fighting terrorism. And this contagion is spreading, fast.

When I emphasise this point, and highlight the excesses of government action, I am sometimes accused of showing sympathy with the terrorists, which is outrageous. I wish to be clear. I condemn terrorism unreservedly. It can never be justified, on the basis of any grievance, real or perceived.

The Da’esh, Al Qa’eda, Al Nusra, Al Shabab, Boko Haram manifestation does have a distinct ideology, and it must be dismantled at the source. If it is to be fought from a security perspective, through intelligence networks and military force, the actions must also be extremely precise. In other words, the arbitrariness and imprecision that are the hallmarks of target selection on the part of terrorists require a diametrically opposite reaction from states. The laser-like application of the law, consistent with universal human rights standards and guarantees, is the only workable antidote if this struggle is ever to be successful.

The detention, and in some cases torture, of individuals whose association with a terrorist group is non-existent but who are nevertheless charged under a vaguely-worded counter-terrorism law – simply because they have criticized the government – is not just wrong, it is dangerous and entirely self-defeating.

It transforms not only one individual, falsely charged, into a person who hates the state, but also their families, friends, possibly even their communities. Some may even go further than simple hatred. Arbitrary detention serves the terrorists, not the state; it fuels recruitment. And yet arbitrary detentions are commonplace in those states grappling with terrorism. In fact, if you believe the rhetoric of many governments, every lawyer or journalist is almost by definition a terrorist, particularly if they are human rights-focused. Present company included!

Moreover, given that prisons often become factories for converting petty criminals into violent extremists, the lawful deprivation of liberty ordered by Courts should be reserved for the most serious offenses, and non-custodial remedies sought for lesser offenses. This is not what is happening.

Instead, we see in the United States a renewed resort to very long prison sentences for those convicted of drug offenses. And rather than focus on potentially violent individuals driven by Takfiri ideology, or any other extreme ideology, the Trump Administration is pursuing its executive orders on the travel bans all the way to the Supreme Court, despite their being struck down as unconstitutional in the lower courts.

Likewise, in the weeks following the vicious terrorist attacks in Paris, in November 2015, the French authorities took broad aim and closed down 20 mosques and Muslim associations, while also undertaking some 2,700 warrantless house searches. In the United Kingdom, the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 constituted one of the most sweeping mass surveillance regimes in the world, permitting the interception, access, retention and hacking of communications without a requirement of reasonable suspicion.

Refugees and migrants were increasingly viewed as Trojan horses for terrorists. Hysteria raged in political circles across Europe, and the terrorists must have been grinning. When it came to the management of the public’s reaction, instead of adopting a common-sense approach, fever set in.

To overcome terrorism, governments must be precise in the pursuit of the terrorists. Pretending to seal off borders — with or without walls decorated with solar panels — is an illusion, and a nasty one. Migrant children should not be detained. There should be no refoulement. Nor should there be collective push back, or decisions taken at borders by police officers, instead of judges. Or indeed, returns to countries that are manifestly not safe.

The EU deal with Turkey, in our view, has failed on several of these key points; most especially when it comes to the right of every asylum seeker to individual assessment. Taken together with the emergency measures being rushed through a number of European parliaments, which also derogate from the 1951 Refugee Convention, Europe – as a sentinel for the observation of refugee and human rights laws worldwide – finds itself enmeshed in gross hypocrisy.

The demagogues and populists across Europe and in many other parts of the world, as well as the tabloids in this country, have for years remorselessly stoked xenophobia and bigotry – the fuel that gave rise to these unwise policies. And this seemed to be paying off, with a windfall of popular support gathering in their favour.

After the referendum here in the UK, dominated as it was by the whipped-up fear of foreigners and foreign institutions, came the outcome of the US election, and the populist bandwagon seemed to be on an unstoppable roll.

The default condition of the human mind is, after all, fear. Primordial fear. That innermost instinctive mechanism protecting us from harm, from death. An emotion every extremist, skilled populists included, seeks to tap or stimulate. By manipulating it, and obliterating deductive reasoning drawn from knowledge, they more easily mould the movements they lead, and their political ambitions are well-served – at least for a while.

The emotional mechanism in the mind of a human rights defender works rather differently. To do good in our lives, and not just to some, but to all; to defend the human rights of all – this requires a continuous investment of thought, where the natural prejudices lying deep within each of us must be watched out for and rejected every day of our lives.

The default flow in the minds of humanity may be reptilian; but the internal battle to overcome it is profoundly human. To think of all, to work for all: these are the two fundamental lessons learned by those who survived the two world wars – whether we speak in relation to the behaviour of individuals or states. And they are etched into the UN Charter.

The two words “human rights” were not placed in the preamble of the UN Charter by its final author, Virginia Gildersleeve, as a literary flourish. They were written into the text – almost at the beginning, in the third line – because human rights was viewed as the only choice possible for that first beat of a new pulse. Because on 26 June 1945, the day of the Charter’s signing, killing on a scale hitherto unknown to humans had only just come to an end, with cities across the world pulverized and still smoking, monuments to immense human malevolence and stupidity.

Only by accepting human rights as the cornerstone could the rest of the edifice – success in economic development, durable peace – become possible. It is a point that even today – perhaps especially today – needs to be absorbed by the numerous political actors who only see human rights as a tiresome constraint. Indeed, many people who have enjoyed their rights since birth simply do not realise what these principles really mean. Like oxygen, they lie beyond our daily sensory perception, and only when suddenly deprived of it do we fathom their enormous significance.

To advocate for the universal rights of every human being, every rights holder, is another way of saying that only by working together, do we – as humans and as states – have a hope of ridding ourselves of the scourges of violence and war.

Tragically, the nativistic reflexes once again being peddled by populists and demagogues still seem to work. They sell supremacy and not equality, sow suspicion rather than calm, and hurl enmity against defined categories of people who are vulnerable – easy scapegoats, and undeserving of their hatred. This brand of politician seems more intent on profiting from the genuine fear of specific constituencies than promoting care for the welfare of the whole.

Thankfully, change is afoot. The populist or nationalist-chauvinistic wave in the western world, which crested in the US, has broken for now, dashed against the ballot boxes of Austria, the Netherlands and France. There may yet be other waves. Nevertheless, in Europe, the anti-populist movement, as some have called it, is now up and running.

In other parts of the world, threats to international law and the institutions upholding them are thus far unaffected by these recent, more positive developments.

The US is weighing up the degree to which it will scale back its financial support to the UN and other multilateral institutions. It is still deciding whether it should withdraw from the Human Rights Council and there was even talk at one stage of it withdrawing from the core human rights instruments to which it is party.

Last year, it was also reported that nine Arab states – the coalition led by Saudi Arabia fighting the Houthi/Saleh rebels in Yemen – made the unprecedented threat of a withdrawal from the UN if they were listed as perpetrators in the annex of the Secretary General’s report on children and armed conflict.

The Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, the Inter-American Court, the Southern African Development Court, and the International Criminal Court have also not been spared such threats. Fortunately, in almost all these cases, either the threat of withdrawal has fizzled out, or, even if one or two countries did withdraw, no chain reaction ensued. But the regularity of these threats means it is increasingly probable the haemorrhaging will occur someday – a walk-out which closes the book on some part of the system of international law.

In this context, most worrisome to me is the persistent flirtation by the President of the United States, throughout his campaign and soon thereafter, with a return to torture. We are now told the US Army field manual will not be redrafted, and the US Secretary of Defence is guiding the White House on this. For now there is little danger of a return to the practice of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”, a euphemism that dupes no-one. The mood in the US could of course change dramatically, if the country were at some stage to experience a gruesome terrorist attack. And, mindful of how the American public has, over the last ten years, become far more accepting of torture, the balance could be tipped in favour of its practice – and destroy the delicate position the Convention Against Torture is in.

It is worth recalling that the Convention against Torture, ratified by 162 countries, is the most unyielding of any existing instrument in international law. Its prohibition on torture is so absolute, it can never be lifted – not even during an emergency that “threatens the life of the nation.”

And yet, notwithstanding its broader recognition as jus cogens, and the crystal clarity of Article 2 of the Convention, the existence of so many surviving victims of torture, who remain unacknowledged, unsupported, denied justice or redress, forms a living testimony to the dreadful persistence of torture worldwide.

While only a small number of states appear to practise torture systematically, as part of state policy, 20 countries (and they are listed on our website) do not recognize the competence of the Committee Against Torture under Article 20. Accordingly, they refuse a priori any scrutiny of the alleged widespread violations.

A much larger number of states are host to isolated – or not so isolated – acts of torture and ill-treatment. Disturbingly, states in this group are simply not taking their obligations seriously enough. The levels of impunity are very high, given that most of those individuals who are found culpable face only administrative sanctions; and so-called evidence obtained under torture remains, in many states, admissible in court.

There are also a number of states – and this group may possibly be increasing – which, while having no record of practising torture, are nevertheless acquiescing to it by, for example, disregarding the principle of non-refoulement as contained in Article 3 of the Convention.

Another large majority of states parties also fully or partially disregard their obligations under Article 14 of the Convention for the redress and rehabilitation of victims, no matter where the torture occurred or by whom it was perpetrated.

Eleven years ago, noticeable progress was made with the entry into force of the Optional Protocol, which enables preventive visits to be made by the Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture to any place of deprivation of liberty, at any time. Some fifty national preventive mechanisms have been created, and the Sub-Committee has conducted 54 visits. However, many national preventive mechanisms are under-resourced and not empowered to deliver real results.

The fragility of the Convention is underscored by the fact that no country abides by all of its terms. No country would admit publicly that it engages in torture, but abundant evidence shows that torture is systematically practised by at least some states – that first category I referred to earlier.

It would seem all governments have been participating in a theatrical pretence of conforming with the Convention. And this may be more crucial than we initially realise, because it implies a sense of shame. Consider the alternative.

The president of the Philippines has spoken openly about extra-judicial killings. And the president of the United States of America has said that torture could be necessary in certain circumstances. There is no longer any pretence. They are breaking long-held taboos.

If other leaders start to follow the same rhetorical course, undermining the Convention with their words, the practice of torture is likely to broaden, and that would be fatal. The Convention would be scuttled, and a central load-bearing pillar of international law removed.

The dangers to the entire system of international law are therefore very real.

Today, the 26th of June, is the international day in support of victims of torture, and earlier I participated in a panel at King’s College organised by the International Bar Association to raise awareness about the absolute prohibition of torture, and the need for the legal profession to take a far more active role in preventing its use.

Human progress never glides; it will always stagger and sometimes even temporarily collapse. The common effort, for a common cause, within a common frame of understanding and regulation, will always be attacked by those more committed to the pursuit of narrower personal or national interests.

These extreme practitioners of the assertive, thin agenda are apt to dismiss many of today’s international laws and post-war institutions as anachronisms. And because, to the non-lawyer, the system of international law is so complicated, the human rights system so indecipherable to many lay-persons, it is hard to rally the general public, who may not see any immediate threat to themselves.

This brings me to the central threat to human rights today: indifference. The indifference of a large part of the business community worldwide, who would still pursue profit even at the cost of great suffering done to others. The indifference of a large segment of the intelligence and security community, for whom the pursuit of information eclipses all the rights held by others, and who describe challenges to terrible, discriminatory practices as treachery.

Some politicians, for whom economic, social and cultural rights mean little, are indifferent to the consequences of economic austerity. They view human rights only as an irritating check on expediency – the currency of the political world. For others, indifference is not enough. Their rejection of the rights agenda is expressed in terms replete with utter contempt for others, a parade of meanness.

Our world is dangerously close to unmooring itself from a sense of compassion, slowly becoming not only a post-truth but also a post-empathetic world. It is so hard for us now in the UN to generate the sums needed for humanitarian action worldwide. Our appeals for funds for the most destitute are rarely met at levels over 50%; the final figure is often far less.

What is happening to us?

My hope lies not primarily with governments, but with those people who reject all forms of terrorism, reject extreme, discriminatory counter-terrorism, and reject the populisms of the ideological outer limits. My hope lies with those who choose to elect more enlightened political leaders.

My hope also lies with the most courageous of us: the human rights defenders, often victims of violations themselves who, armed with nothing beyond their minds and voices, are willing to sacrifice everything, including seeing their children and families, losing their work, even their lives, to safeguard rights – not just their own, but the rights of others.

How stunningly beautiful is that? I am moved by them. We should all be. It is they who ensure we retain our equanimity, and it is they, not us, who bear the greater burden of defending this crucial part of our system of international law. It is they who will save us, and we in turn must invest every effort in protecting them.

I don’t think Grotius would be surprised by any of this.

The reptilian urge of the human brain is not easily overcome, and humanity will for centuries remain untrustworthy and unreliable. Our behaviour, and the behaviour of states, will long require legal scaffolding to keep what we recognize as human civilization in place. Grotius would be grateful we are still fighting, standing up, for his international society and perhaps even crack a wry smile when thinking just how prescient he was, those four centuries ago.

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Putting the Spotlight on Women Migrant Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 22:25:30 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151040 Migrant workers, and their economic contribution to the development of both the country of origin and the host country, have caught the eye of governments and policymakers worldwide. But the hardships faced by women migrants, who disproportionately bear the brunt of discrimination at work, are often swept under the rug. This is why, experts from […]

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Eni Lestari Andayani Adi (Indonesia), Chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), addresses the opening segment of the United Nations high-level summit on large movements of refugees and migrants. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2017 (IPS)

Migrant workers, and their economic contribution to the development of both the country of origin and the host country, have caught the eye of governments and policymakers worldwide.

But the hardships faced by women migrants, who disproportionately bear the brunt of discrimination at work, are often swept under the rug.

This is why, experts from UN Women and the United Nations University (UNU) in New York came together this week to discuss and raise awareness about migrant women workers’ rights.

In 2015, female migrant workers, who number 117 million, contributed about half of the world’s total remittance flow.

As labour markets shuffle in the new world order, two distinct patterns have emerged. Women have increasingly moved to hospitality and nursing industries, or the “domestic” economy, as well as areas previously dominated by men, such as agriculture. Demand has continued to rise in developed countries, but women’s contributions have been severely underappreciated.

By contributing to the gaps of the labour economy, women have lifted the working age population, and contributed to technological and human capital. By virtue of their soft skills, they have closed the gaps of a receding tax base, undermined by an aging population, and have come to the assistance of the elderly in the chaos of cutbacks in the health sector.

In the Philippines, for instance, which is the world’s third highest remittance receiving country, women migrant workers have been the sole breadwinners for their family. Typically, women largely migrate to Europe and North America.

Still, with the change in the world order and the growth of newer economies, this flow is likely to change. Experts predict that the flow from the Global North to the Global South will shift, as migrants move into the fast growing economies of Asia, like China and India.

“Migration is going to continue because a single country will not have all the resources in and of itself. Even if technology advances, we are not going to put our children in the hands of a robot,” Dr. Francisco Cos Montiel, a senior research officer at UNU, told IPS.

Inkeri Von Hase, an expert on gender and migration issues, told IPS that “we have to prioritise women’s empowerment so they are able to realise their full potential.” The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was adopted in 2016 with this very aim to protect and empower migrant workers, has largely failed to take into account specific rights for women’s protection.

Still, all this is not to say that all women migrant workers are necessarily victims of sexual assault and discrimination at work. Many have found a renewed sense of agency and purpose, for instance, the women who have fled violence in Guatemala and El Salvador. To ensure they can continue to tread this path, however, it becomes crucial to adopt newer policies today.

It is also significant that many migrants have become de-skilled in the process of migration, and have settled for the first jobs they found, in a bid to earn money to send home.

The new recommendations by experts in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration report could be crucial to ensure the autonomy and independence of women migrant workers across the world.

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Global Devaluation of Work Drives Up Unemployment in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-devaluation-work-drives-unemployment-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-devaluation-work-drives-unemployment-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/global-devaluation-work-drives-unemployment-brazil/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 03:04:37 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151034 In addition to driving up the number of unemployed people to 14.2 million, the severe recession of the last two years led Brazil to join the global trend of flexibilisation of labour laws in order to further reduce labour costs. Creating more jobs without affecting rights is the basic argument of the government and advocates […]

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In addition to driving up unemployment to 13.7%, the severe recession led Brazil to the flexibilisation of labour laws to further reduce labour costs

Police officers use tear gas to crack down on a May 24 trade union march heading towards the Brazilian Congress to protest the projected labour and social security reforms which cut social rights. Credit: UGT

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jun 24 2017 (IPS)

In addition to driving up the number of unemployed people to 14.2 million, the severe recession of the last two years led Brazil to join the global trend of flexibilisation of labour laws in order to further reduce labour costs.

Creating more jobs without affecting rights is the basic argument of the government and advocates of the reform that has made its way through the lower house of Congress but is pending a vote in the Senate, announced for the end of the month.

“Increasing job insecurity will be the consequence of this measure,” said Ricardo Antunes, sociology professor at the University of Campinas, in the southern state of São Paulo.

This process, which “completely undermines labour rights,” according to the academic, also includes a law on outsourcing in force since March, and a social security reform still in the initial stages in parliament, and whose approval is unlikely given the requirement of a special two-thirds majority in both houses.“Outsourcing does away with the employee-employer relationship, with workers frequently moved from one worksite or job to another. Workers lose their identity, no longer knowing if they are steelworkers or service providers, or to which category they belong.” -- Wagnar Santana

“This is a global trend that advances in a country depending on the level of resistance it runs into: slower where the trade union movement is strong, like in Germany and France, and faster where trade unionism is weaker, such as Great Britain and the United States,” Antunes told IPS.

In Brazil, workers are facing this offensive already weakened by unemployment, which is projected to remain high for a long time to come.

According to the state Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), unemployment stood at 13.7 per cent in the first three months of 2017, or 14.2 million people in a country of 207.6 million with a workforce of 103.1 million.

But underemployment amounted to 24.1 per cent, or 26.5 million people who work part-time or just a few hours a week or are considered only “potential” workers, the IBGE reported.

In addition, the lineup of forces in Congress is highly unfavourable to labour rights, with the government of President Michel Temer enjoying a vast majority, although it is vulnerable to allegations of corruption against the president and almost all of the leaders of the ruling coalition, who face possible prosecution in the Supreme Court.

The legislation proposed by the government “de-regulates labour relations, with arguments that reveal ignorance or bad faith,” argued Wagnar Santana, president-elect of the Union of Steelworkers of the ABC region, an industrial region in greater São Paulo that gave rise to the Workers’ Party (PT) and the CUT central union.

“This de-regulation did not increase employment in countries such as Spain, Mexico and Portugal, but instead drove up the rate of informal work. In Mexico, people who work for Volkswagen need another job as well to have a decent standard of living,” said the trade unionist, who works for the German car-maker.

Keeping formal labour rights such as a weekly day off and health coverage on the books means little without the possibility of enforcing them, due to the growth of informal work, employment instability and outsourcing, and the weakness of the trade union movement, he told IPS.

“Outsourcing does away with the employee-employer relationship, with workers frequently moved from one worksite or job to another. Workers lose their identity, no longer knowing if they are steelworkers or service providers, or to which category they belong,” complained Santana.

Trade unions have trouble organising, in the construction industry for example, where job rotation is frequent, he said.

If collective bargaining agreements between workers and employers trump labour laws, as the government’s proposed reform stipulates, the rights of workers would be undermined.

The strongest and best organised trade unions, such as the ones in large industrial cities, could negotiate better agreements and ensure that they are respected, but many others would not be able to. “That would end up weakening all of us, since we are not isolated,” said the trade unionist.

There are other factors that conspire against labour in Brazil, besides the high unemployment and the economic crisis aggravated by political troubles. The process of deindustrialisation weakens even the most combative trade unions, such as the steelworkers union.

The union of ABC, which represented up to 150,000 workers in the 1980s, currently has only 73,000 members, based in the municipalities of São Bernardo do Campo, Diadema, Ribeirão Pires and Rio Grande da Serra, after many ups and downs over the two past decades, Santana noted.

From the steelworkers of São Bernardo do Campo emerged trade unionist and political leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who founded the Workers Party (PT) in 1980, which he led to power the first day of 2003 and with which he governed Brazil until the last day of 2011, when he handed over the presidency to his fellow party member Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office in August 2016.

The crisis and international competition also contributed to the rise in unemployment and to lower participation by industry in Brazil’s GDP.

But it is the devaluation of work at a global scale which Antunes attributes to the transnationalization of large companies, the new modes of production and the hegemony of finance capital, which has led to the setback in labour standards that is being pushed through in Brazil.

It is a return to “archaic” labour relations that is almost like a return to slavery, according to the expert in the sociology of labour. “Slaves used to be sold, now they are rented” through outsourcing, he said.

In 1995, Antunes published the book “Goodbye to Work?”, in which he discusses the trend towards increasing informality and precariousness of labour, and “21st century slavery”. “Precarious work used to be an exception, now it has become the rule,” he said.

One example is the British “zero-hour contract” where the employer is not required to provide any minimum working hours. One million people in the UK are working under these contracts, which puts them at the disposal of the company, to be called in to work when needed, and earning only for the hours they work, without full labour rights, said Antunes.

In Brazil this modality was included in the labour reform as “intermittent employment”.

The incorporation to the labour market of China’s huge reserves of labour power contributed to the devaluation of work around the world.

“They are qualified workers that the revolution fed and educated. Five years ago China offered poor quality industrial goods, today they have cutting-edge technology,” said the sociologist, adding that Asia has an enormous cheap labour force in countries like India, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The reduction of costs is widespread. “In Italy they are closing factories that are reopening in Poland or Hungary, cutting monthly wages from 2,000 to 300 euros,” he said, to illustrate.

“There is a new morphology of labour. In Brazil we have 1.5 million workers in ‘telemarketing’ that did not exist before. Remote work, through on-line connection by cellphone or computer, has become widespread,” he pointed out.

But the working class has grown, although it is “more fragmented and diverse than before, and subjected to online work”. New forms of protest are emerging, including “picketing and roadblocks”, in Argentina for example, instead of strikes, he said.

“The outlook for the future is one of struggle, rebellions, as well as repression, massacres. The 21st century will be one of social upheavals”, concluded Antunes.

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“Torture Works” — in All the Wrong Wayshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/torture-works-wrong-ways/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=torture-works-wrong-ways http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/torture-works-wrong-ways/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 19:09:46 +0000 Victor Madrigal Borloz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151031 Victor Madrigal-Borloz is Secretary-General of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, Copenhagen, representing 153 centres in 76 countries, and a Hilton Humanitarian Prize Laureate

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June 26 - International Day in Support of Torture Victims

Prisoners held at S-21, the Khmer Rouge regime's main torture centre, on display at what is now a genocide museum in Phnom Penh. Credit: Irwin Loy/IPS

By Victor Madrigal-Borloz
COPENHAGEN, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

“Torture works” might rank among the most sweeping generalisations ever uttered, one brutal in its disregard of the pain and suffering created by this abhorrent practice. Indeed, torture works, but to all the wrong ends.

Torture is effective at creating enormous pain, severe trauma, and lasting damage. Victims suffer psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, withdrawal and self-isolation, confusion, flashbacks, memory lapses and other cognitive symptoms; as well as fatigue, insomnia and recurrent nightmares.

This can naturally lead to permanent physical impairment and is psychologically scarring, leaving victims with long-lasting illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and deep depression.

In rehabilitation centers worldwide, victims of torture report suicidal feelings and of being easily frightened and suspicious, making it extremely difficult to maintain social relationships, or to work and function in society. They often describe being disconnected from the world and from the feeling of being less than human.

In addition to psychiatric disorder, it is strongly believed that PTSD results in later serious medical problems such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and possibly dementia.

So, if the intent is to inflict severe pain and lasting suffering, torture is the tool.

Torture is also an effective mechanism to corrode the social fabric. The necessary conditions for torture include alienation — the mechanism through which the perpetrator ceases to regard his or her victim as human.

What this does to a society is difficult to describe in the abstract, but easy to perceive in any conversation with a Chilean, a Cambodian, a Croatian or a Congolese survivor of torture. All will describe how it has taken decades, and will take many more, to restore the trust among neighbors, and sometimes even family.

So, if the goal is to divide communities, torture will do.

Torture, not surprisingly, also ensures long lasting damage to democratic structures. In states in which torture is systematic or widespread, human rights defenders are invariably under threat. Justice is carried out at the peril of the prosecutor. The independence of judges is curtailed. How can you expect people to speak freely, to claim their rights or to organize politically if the response from the state is torture?

So, as a way to weaken democracy, torture does the trick. What does torture not achieve?

Torture does not work to produce reliable intelligence, to solve crime or to prevent terrorism. In her foreword to the Senate’s Intelligence Committee on the CIA Detention and Interrogation Program, Senator Diane Feinstein registered this conclusion pristinely: “Prior to the attacks of September 2001, the CIA itself determined from its own experience with coercive interrogations that such techniques ‘do not produce intelligence,’ ‘will probably result in false answers,’ and had historically proven to be ineffective.”

Yet the global consensus on an absolute prohibition of torture is vociferously questioned. Despite the vacuum of evidence of benefits, politicians across the political spectrum jump to vouch for the necessity of torture.

This shift in public discourse away from a universal and total prohibition of torture is now leading to other challenges. Traditional national donors are shrinking from their commitments and responsibilities by decreasing or stopping funding. This at a time of unprecedented demand for the crucial services performed by human rights organisations.
Despite these challenges, dedicated staff at rehabilitation centres continue, often at great personal sacrifice and sometimes at great risk, to provide outstanding physical and psychological treatment while assisting their clients to re-integrate into societies.

There is a lot of pending work in relation to torture victims. The member centres of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims treat some 100,000 victims around the world every year, but we know that this is a minuscule proportion of all affected children, women and men.

Our movement is resilient. Today, we speak with one voice to let demagogues and extremists know that, more than ever, we stand resolutely for what is right, and we are ready to work with anyone wishing to improve the lives of torture victims. We invite the support of those members of the public who share our aspiration to safer societies and understand that torture is not the answer, and who recognize that all victims of this despicable crime have the right to full rehabilitation to rebuild their lives.

As the world marks the United Nations International Day in Support of Torture Victims, Monday June 26, please join your voice to ours at http://irct.org

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The World Is Burninghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-world-is-burning/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-world-is-burning http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/the-world-is-burning/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 10:23:33 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151014 Record high temperatures are gripping much of the globe and more hot weather are to come. This implies more drought, more food insecurity, more famine and more massive human displacements. In fact, extremely high May and June temperatures have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, the […]

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Extremely high temperatures for May and June have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States

A view of rusted, abandoned ships in Muynak, Uzebkistan, a former port city whose population has declined precipitously with the rapid recession of the Aral Sea. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

Record high temperatures are gripping much of the globe and more hot weather are to come. This implies more drought, more food insecurity, more famine and more massive human displacements.

In fact, extremely high May and June temperatures have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) reported, adding that the heat-waves have arrived unusually early.

At the same time, average global surface temperatures over land and sea are the second highest on record for the first five months of 2017, according to analyses by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA-Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting Copernicus Climate Change Service.

Europe

In Portugal, extremely high temperatures of around 40 degrees Celsius contributed to the severity of the devastating, fast-moving weekend wildfires that ripped through the country’s forested Pedrógão Grande region, some 150 kilometres (95 miles) north-east of Lisbon, leaving dozens dead and more injured.

WMO on 20 June also reported that Portugal is not the only European country experiencing the effects of the extreme weather, as neighbouring Spain – which had its warmest spring in over 50 years – and France, have seen record-breaking temperatures. France is expected to continue see afternoon temperatures more than 10 degrees above the average for this time of year.

Meantime in Spain, spring (from 1 March to 31 May 2017) has been extremely warm, with an average temperature of 15.4 ° C, which is 1.7 ° C above the average of this term (reference period 1981-2010), the UN specialised body informs. Many other parts of Europe, including the United Kingdom, also witnessed above average temperatures into the low to mid 30°s.

United States

On the other side of the Atlantic, the US is also experiencing record or near-record heat, WMO reported. In parts of the desert southwest and into California, temperatures have hovered near a blistering 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).

Media reports on 20 June suggested that some plane traffic was halted in and out of Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport in Arizona because it was too hot to fly. The flight cancellations came amidst of one of the hottest days in the past 30 years of record keeping in the US state.

Near record-to-record heat has also been reported in the desert South West US and into California, with highs near 120°F (49°C) in places. More than 29 million Californians were under an excessive heat warning or advisory at the weekend. Phoenix recorded 118°C (47.8°C) on 19 June. A number of flights to Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport were reportedly cancelled because it was too hot to fly.

And the so-called Death Valley National Park, California, issued warnings to visitors to expect high temperatures of 100°F to over 120°F (38°C to over 49°C). Death Valley holds the world record for the highest temperature, 56.7°C recorded in 1913.

Herders collect water with camels at one of the few remaining water points in drought-affected Bandarero village, Moyale County, Kenya. Credit: Rita Maingi/ OCHA

North Africa, Middle East and Asia

Meantime, temperature in United Arab Emirates topped 50°C on 17 May, while in the centre of Iran’s Kuzestan province in the South-East of the country, neighbouring Iraq, temperatures reached 50°C on 15 June, said the UN specialised agency.

The heat-wave in Morocco peaked on 17 May, when there was a new reported record of 42.9°C Larach Station in northern Morocco.

The high June temperatures follow above average temperatures in parts of the world at the end of May. The town of Turbat in South-Western Pakistan reported a temperature of 54°C. WMO will set up an international committee of experts to verify the temperature and assess whether it equals a reported 54°C temperature recorded in Kuwait last July.

Unprecedented Record of Displacements

Meanwhile, the world has marked New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Second. Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) informed in its report Global Trends, released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20.

The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence.

Such an unprecedented high records of human displacements is not only due to conflicts. In fact, advancing droughts and desertification also lay behind this “tsunami” of displaced persons both out of their own countries and in their own homelands.

On this, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) on the occasion of the World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on June 17, alerted that by 2025 –that’s in less than 8 years from today– 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.

Now it is feared that advancing drought and deserts, growing water scarcity and decreasing food security may provoke a huge ‘tsunami” of climate refugees and migrants. See The Relentless March of Drought – That ‘Horseman of the Apocalypse’

Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, reminded that the world’s drought-prone and water scarce regions are often the main sources of refugees. Neither desertification nor drought on its own causes conflict or forced migration, but they can increase the risk of conflict and intensify on-going conflicts, Barbut explained. See: Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?

An Urgent, Potentially Irreversible Threat

In Parallel, the United Nations leading agency in the fields of agriculture has issued numerous warnings on the huge impacts that droughts have on agriculture and food security, with poor rural communities among the most hit victims.

As a ways to help mitigate the effects of the on-going heat waves, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 20 June signed with WMO an agreement to deepen cooperation to respond to climate variability and climate change, “represents an urgent and potentially irreversible threat to human societies, natural ecosystems and food security.”

Through this joint work, the two organisations will work on strengthening agro-meteorological services and making them more accessible to farmers and fishers; improve global and region-specific monitoring for early warning and response to high-impact events like droughts.

The agreement was signed on June 19 by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas on the sidelines of an international seminar on drought organised by Iran, the Netherlands, and FAO in Rome.

“Saving livelihoods means saving lives – this is what building resilience is all about,” said Graziano da Silva.
Recalling the 2011 drought in Somalia that saw over 250,000 people perish from hunger, he said, “People die because they are not prepared to face the impacts of the drought – because their livelihoods are not resilient enough.”

“For years, the focus has been responding to droughts when they happen, rushing to provide emergency assistance and to keep people alive,” he said, noting that while “of course, that is important,” investing in preparedness and resilience is essential.

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UN Response Teams Underfunded as Costs Hit Staggering $23.5 Billionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/un-response-teams-underfunded-costs-hit-staggering-23-5-billion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-response-teams-underfunded-costs-hit-staggering-23-5-billion http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/un-response-teams-underfunded-costs-hit-staggering-23-5-billion/#respond Fri, 23 Jun 2017 05:24:11 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151009 UN response teams that help the most vulnerable people in the world are still largely underfunded, a new status report has revealed. The funding available to the teams is no match for the record number of people—141 million—who need assistance today. Newer and protracted conflicts have raised the bar of funding requirements to a staggering […]

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A wide view of a briefing on the humanitarian affairs segment (scheduled to take place in Geneva, 21 to 23 June) of the 2017 session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 23 2017 (IPS)

UN response teams that help the most vulnerable people in the world are still largely underfunded, a new status report has revealed.

The funding available to the teams is no match for the record number of people—141 million—who need assistance today.

Newer and protracted conflicts have raised the bar of funding requirements to a staggering 23.5 billion dollars. International donors, since the launch of Humanitarian Appeal in 2016 by the UN and its partners, have contributed to a total of 6.2 billion dollars.

The lack of funding is especially worrying as many countries have seen a resurgence in violent conflicts – for instance, rapid escalation of fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s central Kasai province. Many others are threatened by natural disasters, such as the drought in Kenya, or flooding in Peru. Still others, almost 20 million people, are at risk in countries at the brink of a famine, such as northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

However, teams have worked hard to reach people, and have provided crucial assistance to many. The numbers, although small in comparison to the people who need aid, is worthy of recognition to the commitment of the UN Humanitarian Appeal. Some 5.8 million people in war-torn Yemen, and 3 million people in famine-struck South Sudan have, for instance, received life-saving assistance.

“Funding to response plans is a high-impact investment as they are prioritized on the basis of thorough needs assessment and analysis. Supporting the plans also provides the most neutral and impartial aid,” said Stephen O’Brien, the Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

The report highlights the pressing need for financial aid to support people across 37 countries, and urges donors to step up their contributions.

“With generous donor support, humanitarian partners have swiftly scaled up to deliver record levels of life-saving assistance in challenging and often dangerous environments. Donors have invested in these efforts but we are in a race against time. People’s lives and well-being depend on increasing our collective support,” said O’Brien.

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) brings together Member States, United Nations entities, humanitarian and development partners, private sectors and affected communities at the Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS) to discuss urgent humanitarian issues each year in June. The event this year runs from 21st until 23rd June

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“Big Reflection” Needed on Opioid Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/big-reflection-needed-opioid-crisis/#comments Thu, 22 Jun 2017 14:26:39 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151003 Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency. In its annual World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found concerning trends in drug use around the world. In 2015, an estimated quarter of a billion people used drugs at […]

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Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency UNODC

Intravenous drug users in Pakistan. Credit: Fahim Siddiqi/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 22 2017 (IPS)

Opioids are among the most devastating drugs and are creating a crisis of epidemic proportions, said the UN drug agency.

In its annual World Drug Report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found concerning trends in drug use around the world.

In 2015, an estimated quarter of a billion people used drugs at least once. Of these, almost 30 million suffered from drug use disorders including dependence. UNODC found that opioids were the most harmful drug type, accounting for 70 percent of negative health impacts associated with drug use disorders worldwide, and its production is only increasing.

“[Opioid use] is a really dramatic epidemic…they are really, in terms of burden of disease, at the top of the scale,” said UNODC’s Chief of Drug Prevention and Health Branch Gilberto Gerra to IPS.

The use of opioids, including heroin, morphine, and fentanyl, heighten the risks of acquiring diseases such as HIV or hepatitis C through unsafe injecting practices as well as overdoses and death.

Globally, there are an estimated minimum of 190,000 premature deaths related to drugs that were mostly avoidable. A large proportion of those deaths is attributed to the use of opioids.

Though affects many countries in the world, the opioid crisis is particularly prevalent in the United States.

Mostly driven by opioids, approximately one quarter of the estimated drug-related deaths worldwide occur in the U.S.

Overdose deaths in the North American nation more than tripled from almost 17,000 to over 52,000 annually between 1999 and 2015, and increased by 11 percent in the past year alone, reaching the highest level ever recorded.

In fact, more Americans died from the misuse of opioids in 2016 than in the entirety of the Vietnam War, noted Gerra.

In the state of Maryland, opioid-related deaths quadrupled since 2010 and deaths from fentanyl increased 38-fold in the past decade. In response to the crisis, Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency, stating: “We need to treat this crisis the exact same way we would treat any other state emergency…this is about taking an all-hands-on-deck approach so that together we can save the lives of thousands of Marylanders.”

Though some states have begun the place restrictions on the accessibility of pharmaceutical opioids, including a Florida bill that aims to restrict painkiller prescriptions to a five-day supply, Gerra stressed the importance of focusing on not only supply, but also the demand side of opioids.

“If so many people are consuming this opioid medication including legal opioids from the pharmacy, when you restrict the pharmacy’s opioid medication, they will start to turn to things like heroin,” he told IPS.

In the U.S., heroin use has increased significantly, and the Centers for Disease Control has suggested that it is linked to prescription opioid abuse.

“There needs to be a big reflection on this issue in North America,” Gerra said.

However, the potential changes in healthcare in the U.S. may impact access to treatment.

In particular, the current health care bill proposes cuts to expanded Medicaid, which is used by many states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic to boost their response by paying for medication, therapy, and other treatment services.

Health advocates criticised the proposed cuts during President Trump’s first meeting of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis which is charged with finding solutions for the epidemic.

“If we make it harder for people to get health care coverage, it is going to make this crisis worse,” said North Carolina’s Governor Roy Cooper.

A similar scenario is found around the world as availability of and access to treatment of drug use disorders remain limited. Fewer than one in six persons with drug use disorders are provided with treatment each year, UNODC found.

Gerra highlighted the importance of treatment, pointing to the need for personalised interventions and close supervision by doctors or therapists in order to avoid opioid misuse.

He also added that people possessing drugs for personal consumption should not be criminalised as it steers them away from seeking treatment for fear of punishment.

Though approaches to global drug policy have been contentious and diverse, countries in the General Assembly session on the world drug problem (UNGASS) in 2016 unanimously agreed for the first time to a people-centered approach which sees the drug problem as a health disorder rather than a criminal or moral issue.

“We cannot respond to people trapped by drugs with a punitive approach. We have to tell them that we are here, we are aware of your condition and behaviour, you are aware that you are in trouble, please come and we will do what we can to help you and your family to overcome this problem in a very humane and human-rights, science-based way,” Gerra told IPS.

Gerra called for a continuum of care approach to help keep people using drugs like heroin safe through services like needle exchange programs and to provide long-term accessible and affordable treatment once users are ready.

“No one should be left behind in the delivery of prevention and treatment interventions,” UNODC said in its report.

Gerra noted that prevention is by far the most cost-effective intervention in the long run, but approaches must be science-based in order to be effective.

“People don’t understand that there is a science behind prevention—they continue to use initiatives that are well-intentioned but completely not science-based [and] then they say prevention is not working,” he said, pointing to science-based methodologies such as life skills education and drug education to children.

The globally agreed Sustainable Development Goals, whose motto is to leave no one behind, includes a target to strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse.

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No Wall for Ethiopia, Rather an Open Door—Even for Its Enemyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/no-wall-ethiopia-rather-open-door-even-enemy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-wall-ethiopia-rather-open-door-even-enemy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/no-wall-ethiopia-rather-open-door-even-enemy/#respond Thu, 22 Jun 2017 00:01:37 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150998 It’s one thing to read about the exodus of souls flowing out of Eritrea, it’s quite another to look into the tired eyes, surrounded by dust and grime, of a 14-year-old Eritrean girl who’s just arrived on the Ethiopian side of the shared border. She is carrying a scruffy plastic bag. Inside are a few […]

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Ethiopia's refugee population now exceeds 800,000—the highest number in Africa, and the 6th largest globally.

Eritrean teenagers and young men, aged from 16 to 20, waiting at the Badme entry point to be moved to the screening registration center. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
ADINBRIED, Ethiopia, Jun 22 2017 (IPS)

It’s one thing to read about the exodus of souls flowing out of Eritrea, it’s quite another to look into the tired eyes, surrounded by dust and grime, of a 14-year-old Eritrean girl who’s just arrived on the Ethiopian side of the shared border.

She is carrying a scruffy plastic bag. Inside are a few clothes, an orange beaker, and a small torch whose batteries have nearly run out.“We are the same people, we share the same blood, even the same grandfathers.” --Estifanos Gebremedhin, head of the legal and protection department for Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs

With her are four men, two women and five younger children, all of whom crossed the Eritrea-Ethiopia border the night before. Ethiopian soldiers found them and took them to the town of Adinbried.

The compound of simple government buildings where they were dropped off constitutes a so-called entry point, one of 12 along the border. It marks the beginning of the bureaucratic and logistical conveyor belt to assign asylum status to those arriving, before finally moving them to one of four refugee camps designated for Eritreans in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

“It took us four days traveling from Asmara,” a 31-year-man among the group says about their trek from the Eritrean capital, about 80 kilometres north of the border. “We travelled for 10 hours each night, sleeping in the desert during the day.”

In February 2017, 3,367 Eritrean refugees arrived in Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA). There are around 165,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Ethiopia, according to the UN refugee agency.

Ethiopia’s open-door policy is in marked contrast to the strategies of migrant reduction increasingly being adopted in many Western societies.

And its stance is all the more striking due to the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments forever accusing the one of plotting against the other amid an atmosphere of mutual loathing.

But it appears the Ethiopian government is willing to treat ordinary Eritreans differently.

“We differentiate between the government and its people,” says ARRA’s Estifanos Gebremedhin. “We are the same people, we share the same blood, even the same grandfathers.”

Before Eritrea gained independence, it was Ethiopia’s most northern region. On both sides of today’s border many people still share the same language—Tigrinya—as well as Orthodox religion and cultural traditions.

Shimelba was the first Eritrean refugee camp to open in 2004. It now houses more than 6,000 refugees. About 60 percent of its population come from the Kunama ethnic group, one of nine in Eritrea, and historically the most marginalised.

“I have no interest in going to other countries,” says Nagazeuelle, a Kunama who has been in Ethiopia for 17 years. “I need my country. We had rich and fertile land, but the government took it. We weren’t an educated people, so they picked on us. I am an example of the first refugees from Eritrea, but now people from all nine ethnic groups are coming.”

Discussion among refugees in Shimelba camp of governmental atrocities ranges from accusations of genocide against the Kunama, including mass poisonings, to government officials shopping at markets and then shooting stall owners due to disagreements over prices.

“The world has forgotten us, apart from the U.S., Canada and Ethiopia,” says Haile, an Eritrean in his fifties who has been a refugee for five years. He says his father and brother died in prison. “What is happening is beyond language, it is a deep crisis—so why is the international community silent?”

Ethiopia's refugee population now exceeds 800,000—the highest number in Africa, and the 6th largest globally.

Eritrean soldiers—now deserters—arriving at the Adinbried entry point. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

There are some, however, who argue the situation in Eritrea isn’t as bad as claimed. A UN report last year accusing Eritrea’s leadership of crimes against humanity has received criticism for being one-sided, failing to acknowledge Eritrea’s progress with the likes of providing healthcare and education, and thereby entrenching a skewed negative perspective dominant in policy circles and Western media.

“It is real, nothing is exaggerated,” says Dawit, a Shimelba resident of eight years. “We have the victims of rape, torture and imprisonment in our camp who can testify.”

About 50 kilometres south of Shimelba is Hitsats, the newest and largest of the four camps with 11,000 refugees, of whom about 80 percent are under 35 years of age.

“In Sudan there are more problems, we can sleep peacefully here,” says 32-year-old Ariam, who came to Hitsat four years ago with her two children after spending four years in a refugee camp in neighbouring Sudan.

Refugees say the Eritrean military launches missions into Sudan to capture refugees who have fled.

Ethiopia also hosts refugees from a plethora of other strife-torn countries. Its refugee population now exceeds 800,000—the highest number in Africa, and the 6th largest globally.

“Ethiopia strongly believes that generous hosting of refugees will be good for regional relationships down the road,” says  Jennifer Riggan, an associate professor of International Studies at Arcadia University in the US, and analyst of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

Others point out how there is also an increasing amount of money involved with refugees. The likes of the UK and Europe are providing Ethiopia with financial incentives to keep refugees within its borders—similar to the approach taken with Turkey—so they don’t continue beyond Africa.

Meanwhile, despite the apparent welcome given to Eritrean refugees, frictions remain.

“People recognise the shared culture and ethnic background, and that helps for many things, but there’s still distrust because of the 30-year-war [for independence],” says Milena Belloni, an anthropologist who is currently writing a book about Eritrean refugees. “There’s a double narrative.”

While both sides talk of the other as brothers, she explains, historically Eritreans have looked down on Tigrayans—based on them working as migrant labourers in Eritrea during its heyday as a semi-industrialised Italian colony—while Tigrayans viewed Eritreans as arrogant and aloof.

Either way, Ethiopia appears to be looking to better assimilate refugees by embracing the 2016 Leaders’ Summit on Refugees—pushed by former U.S. President Barack Obama—that called for better integration and education, employment and residency opportunities for refugees wherever they land around the world.

“Ethiopia’s response is to manage the gate, and figure out how it can benefit from these inevitable flows of people,” Riggan says. “I definitely think Ethiopia’s approach is the wiser and more realistic one.”

About 10 miles north of Adinbried the military forces of Ethiopia and Eritrea straddle the border, eying each other suspiciously through binoculars overlooking derelict military emplacements that serve as grim reminders of a former two-year war and ongoing fraught relations between the two countries.

In 1998 Eritrea invaded the small and inconsequential-looking border town of Badme before pushing south to occupy the rest of Ethiopia’s Yirga Triangle, claiming it was historically Eritrean land.

Ethiopia eventually regained the land but the fighting cost both countries thousands of lives, billions of dollars desperately needed elsewhere in such poor and financially strapped countries, and sowed rancour and disagreement festering ever since.

Because despite the internationally brokered peace settlement that followed the 2000 ceasefire ruling Badme return to Eritrea, Ethiopia still occupies it—the government felt the Ethiopian public wouldn’t tolerate the concession of a now iconic town responsible for so many lost Ethiopian lives—and the rest of the Yirga Triangle jutting defiantly into Eritrea.

While Badme hasn’t changed much since those days—it remains a dusty, ramshackle town—it too is involved in current Eritrean migration.

“I crossed after hearing they were about to round people up for the military,” says 20-year-old Gebre at the entry point on the edge of Badme. “I wasn’t going to go through that—you’re hungry, there’s no salary, you’re not doing anything to help your country; you’re just serving officials.”

With Gebre are another 14 males ranging in age from 16 to 20 who crossed to avoid military service, as well as two mothers who crossed with two young children each.

“Life was getting worse, I had no work to earn money to feed my children,” says 34-year-old mother-of-four Samrawit, who left two older children in Eritrea.

She travelled with 22-year-old mother-of-two Yordanos, having met her at the Eritrean town of Barentua, about 50 kilometres north of the border, and the rendezvous point with their smuggler.

Neither knows how much the smuggler earned for driving them to the border and helping them across: payment was organised by their husbands living in Switzerland and Holland.

“I would like to make sure coming here is worth it before my elder two children come,” Samrawit says.

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Refugee Protection an Obligation Under International Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/refugee-protection-obligation-international-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-protection-obligation-international-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/refugee-protection-obligation-international-law/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:40:50 +0000 Antonio Guterres SG http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150992 UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the occasion of the World Refugee Day

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Refugee Protection an Obligation Under International Law

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the refugee camp in Obock, Djibouti. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Secretary-General António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2017 (IPS)

It is impossible to be ten years as High Commissioner for Refugees, doing my best to try to help the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, without changing your life. And, indeed, not only witnessing the suffering of people but also learning [about] the extraordinary courage, resilience and capacity to permanently generate hope of refugees is something that has changed my perspective of the world and, to a large extent, changed my life.

And this was the reason why I became candidate for Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Now we are witnessing the largest number of refugees ever. But it is important to say that refugee protection is not a matter of solidarity or generosity, refugee protection is an obligation under international law – the ‘51 Convention and many regional instruments of binding nature. And, as a matter of fact, during the ten years in which I was High Commissioner for Refugees, I have to say that, by large, international law was respected.

Borders were, in general, open, very few situations where refugees were rejected or sent back to their countries of origin, where they might face persecution – what is technically called refoulement. The number of resettlement opportunities offered by developed countries for refugees living in camps and other dramatic situations in the developing world has doubled during those ten years and there was, in general, a strong acceptance by Member States that refugee protection was something that was needed and had to be granted.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

The situation has considerably changed now. It’s true that we are still witnessing a very large number of countries doing an enormous effort to provide protection to refugees in very dramatic circumstances. I’ll be flying tonight to Uganda. Uganda has been receiving, very generously, refugees from the neighbouring countries – it has now more than 1.3 million refugees, 950,000 from South Sudan alone – and providing them not only with protection, but even with plots of land and the capacity to live not in camps, but in the society, in a way that is much more humane but, of course,, that requires a much stronger solidarity from the country itself.

We are still witnessing many remarkable examples of solidarity in today’s world. But at the same time, we are seeing more and more borders being closed, we are seeing more and more refugees being rejected and, namely in countries of the developed world, we are seeing the opportunities for resettlement in richer countries of refugees coming from the global South being decreased in number at the present moment.

And this is particularly worrying, especially when associated to forms of political populism, xenophobia, racism, in which refugees become a target, many times being accused of being part of the terror threat when refugees are not terrorists – they are the first victims of terror, they are fleeing terror; that is why they are refugees. And this is the reason why I believe it is important to make today five very strong appeals to the international community. Five very strong appeals that I believe are absolutely necessary for the right of refugees to be again fully respected.

First: I call Member States that are not doing it, to re-establish the integrity of the international protection for refugees regime, which means to have the right, obviously, to manage their borders in a responsible way, but managing them also in a protection-sensitive way, and not refusing entry to those seeking asylum and deserving protection, which means asking countries not to send back people to where they might face persecution, which means asking countries to increase their resettlement quotas and to grant protection to a larger number of refugees that are living in very dramatic circumstances in crowded camps or in the slums of cities in abject poverty.

Second: recognizing that there is no humanitarian solution for the refugee plight, the solution is political and it is related to the solution of the conflict that generate refugees in larger numbers; to ask all parties to different conflicts in the world and all countries that have an influence on the parties to each conflict to come together and understand that all those conflicts are now conflicts that are causing tremendous suffering in which nobody is winning, everybody is losing, that are becoming a threat not only to the refugees themselves but a threat to the whole world, as those conflicts are becoming also more and more interlinked to problems of global terrorism.

Third: humanitarian support for refugees is still largely underfunded. I believe that, grosso modo, appeals made are funded at about 50%. That means that the majority of the refugees live below the poverty line — that many cannot bring their children to school, that many cannot guarantee adequate nutrition to their children, that many have not adequate health support, that most of them have no jobs and no hopes or perspective to have a dignified life. It is absolutely crucial that humanitarian appeals are fully funded and that international solidarity is expressed in relation to refugees, not forgetting that 80% of the world’s refugees live in the developing world.

Fourth: I appeal to countries in the developed world to be able to express a much stronger solidarity to countries of first asylum in the global South; those that host, as I mentioned, 80% of the world’s refugees, and sometimes with a dramatic impact on their economy, on their society, not to mention the impact on their security with the conflict next door.

If one looks at countries like Lebanon, where one third of the population is refugees, if one looks at countries like Uganda or Kenya or Ethiopia – they have now more than one million refugees- in societies that are poor, that lack resources, that have huge development gaps and huge development problems; it is absolutely crucial not only to support refugees but to support those communities. And that requires effective development cooperation with these countries.

I must praise the World Bank that was able to create new financial instruments, namely for middle-income countries that are hosting a large number of refugees, in the cases of Lebanon and Jordan innovating financially, to allow these countries to have a little bit more support than the one that they were receiving from the international community.

But the truth is that at the same time, countries are asking those in the developing world that host the largest number of refugees to keep them but are not providing the necessary support for that to be possible. Stronger solidarity with refugee-hosting countries in the global South is absolutely a must.

And finally: I ask countries in the developed world to increase their resettlement quotas at least to the levels that we had two or three years ago, to be able to offer an effective responsibility-sharing with those that are hosting millions of refugees in the deep South.

Just to give you an idea about the differences between the global North and the global South, I’m going to Uganda, as I mentioned. Uganda, last year, received three times more refugees from South Sudan than those crossing the central Mediterranean, and you all know the enormous impact in public opinion and in political debates that the movement through the central Mediterranean caused last year. Well, Uganda received three times more, and Uganda is a tiny country with a relatively small economy and with an enormous generosity in the hearts of the people and the decisions of the Government.

I’d also like to remind you that beyond those that are able to cross the border to seek protection outside their country, we have an even larger number, probably about double, of people that are displaced within the borders of their own country, internally displaced people. And those are under the authority either of their Governments or of different non-State actors that occupy parts of the territory.

And they have been systematically, in many parts of the world, victims of dramatic violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. And so I also would like to make a very strong appeal to all actors in all the conflicts to respect international humanitarian law and to respect human rights law and for the international community to be able to implement those methods of accountability to make sure that those that are responsible for the worst atrocities to be effectively accountable and to be punished for what they are doing, because that’s probably the only way to stop the kind of tragic impact we are having in the life and dignity of now more than 65 million people around the world.

I also think it’s important to underline that the difficulties faced by refugees are also linked to the fact that the migration debate has become quite irrational in today’s world. We are talking about two different situations: refugees crossing borders, fleeing conflict or prosecution, [and] economic migrants who aspire legitimately to have a better life and move from one country to another, aiming at a better future for them and their children.

They do not have the same rights as refugees, countries are not forced to grant them protection, but they also have human rights that also need to be respected and their dignity needs to be respected. Now, the truth is that the debate about the migration became largely an irrational debate. Migration has been present in the world since [forever], and as a matter of fact, if one looks at demographic and economic projections of different parts of the world, migration is a necessary element of establishing different forms of equilibrium in the global society and the global economy.

In my country, my mother is assisted by some people, she is 93 years old, and those that are assisting her – they are not Portuguese. They are from different countries, they are migrants in my country, and Portugal is a relatively poor country in the context of the European Union. And so migration is necessary. If something is necessary, it’s better to control it and to do it regularly than to let smugglers and traffickers be in charge of these movements.

And so my strong appeal in relation to migration is that a rational debate become possible about migration, that of course countries have the right to apply their own migration policies, but that they do that in full respect of human rights, that at the same time, development cooperation policies are able to address the problems of human mobility, to create opportunities in countries of origin for migration to be out of choice, not out of necessity, and much stronger cooperation of States among themselves to crack down on smugglers and traffickers, but also a much big offer of opportunities of legal, regular migration.

I think if migration can be discussed in a rational way, that will create a much better environment in our societies that are all multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious, and at the same time that will also help refugees benefit more easily from the protection rights they are entitled to receive.

We will have two very important debates in the General Assembly next year for two compacts: on migration and refugees. And my appeal to all Member States is to engage positively in those debates and to allow for the international community to be able to define, both in [terms of] refugees and in migration, adequate policies that are assumed by the whole of the international community, respecting human rights, taking into account the legitimate interests of States, but also the opportunities that are generated by human mobility in our world.

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Sexual Violence Fuels Vicious Recruitment Cycle in Congolese Militiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/sexual-violence-fuels-vicious-recruitment-cycle-congolese-militia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sexual-violence-fuels-vicious-recruitment-cycle-congolese-militia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/sexual-violence-fuels-vicious-recruitment-cycle-congolese-militia/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 20:00:45 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150988 In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the active recruitment of young girls by armed militias has produced disastrous effects—facing social stigma when they’re freed, many girls find their way back to these violent groups and rejoin them. Half of the girls, employed as what are called “operation units”, are sexually assaulted by soldiers. Among […]

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While measures such as the Child Protection Code brought back 46,000 children from armed groups, only seven percent of those freed were girl soldiers

Former soldiers who have returned to school successfully in Congo. Credit: Child Soldiers International

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the active recruitment of young girls by armed militias has produced disastrous effects—facing social stigma when they’re freed, many girls find their way back to these violent groups and rejoin them.

Half of the girls, employed as what are called “operation units”, are sexually assaulted by soldiers. Among these violent defensive militias in DRC, also known as Mai Mai, girls accounted for up to 40 percent of all underage soldiers.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict, celebrated June 19 and commemorated three years ago by the UN, Child Soldiers International (CSI) released an important report outlining the aftermath of this violence.

“I left [to join the Mai Mai] after they raped my mother in front of all of us, even my father. I felt shame, pity, anger. One day I decided to take up arms to avenge my mother,” a former girl soldier, who is 19, explained.

Most of the girls, who were interviewed in early 2016, were abducted by groups such as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), M23, and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

At a young age, the girls often endured sexual violence, which became a routine event.

“Sometimes I didn’t even know the name of the man who abused me at night,” said a 16-year-old girl. “I wanted to escape but saw what they did to those who tried… I was too scared.”

While measures such as the Child Protection Code of 2009 brought back 46,000 children from armed groups, only seven percent of those freed were girls.

Things didn’t get much better at home. The girls were often shunned by their families, and blamed for their status as victims as of sexual assault.

“Not two days goes by without neighbours making us feel we have known men,” a 14-year-old girl said. “We are not allowed to associate with their daughters.”

Facing a lack of aid or counseling, many went back to the groups. They long to speak with their families, and go to school, the report says. Instead, they are turned away. This injures their psyche, and can lead to low self-esteem. More has to be done, Sandra Olsson, the programme manager at CSI, told IPS.

“Community reintegration and tackling the stigma and rejection these girls face needs to be at the centre of reintegration programmes for these girls. We hope that our research and recommendations will help the DRC government develop girl specific reintegration strategies,” she said.

The report, she told IPS, hopes to raise awareness, provide long term assistance to the girls, and finally, end sexual violence in conflicts.

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Half of World’s Civilian War Deaths Occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 19:38:13 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150985 Between 2010 and 2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, a major independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence informs. According to a new report ‘I Saw My City Die‘ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), […]

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Between 2010-2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq & Yemen, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross

On the road going east from Mosul, people fleeing the fighting cross through Gogjali, a Kurdish village located on the way to Al Khazer displaced camp. Credit: CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / ICRC / A. Qusay

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Between 2010 and 2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, a major independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence informs.

According to a new report ‘I Saw My City Die‘ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), five times more civilians die in offensives carried out in cities than in other battles.

“Over the past three years, our research shows that wars in cities accounted for a shocking 70% of all civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria”, said the ICRC’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Robert Mardini.

“This illustrates just how deadly these battles have become. This is all the more alarming as new offensives get underway in cities like Raqqa in Syria, or intensify in Mosul, Iraq. A new scale of urban suffering is emerging, where no one and nothing is spared by the violence.”

The research findings are based on preliminary analysis of battle trends and data over the past three years in Iraq and Syria.

The report includes testimony from residents in Syria’s Aleppo, Iraq’s Mosul and Yemen’s Taiz, and expert analysis. It vividly illustrates the effects of siege warfare, the use of explosive weapons and the extensive damage caused to key infrastructure.

The conflicts in these countries have resulted in internal displacement and migration levels unprecedented since WWII, says the Geneva-based ICRC.

Ahmad Ali has just arrived home with a bag of Kudam, a local Yemeni bread. His dry lips tell of his fatigue and the difficult life he leads. He earns a pittance working as a cobbler. “I keep hoping we can soon go back to our home town and the peaceful lives we used to lead. Life here is very difficult. There is no water, no food, no medicine, and no stability,” he says. Credit: CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mohammed Yaseen

17 Millions Fleeing Home

More than 17 million Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis have fled their homes. And these battles risk becoming even more protracted if real political solutions are not found soon, says the report.

Wars in cities are so devastating because of the way in which they are being fought. Armed parties are failing to distinguish between military objectives and civilian infrastructure – or worse, they are using or directly targeting them, it adds.

“It’s beholden on those with power to act. Warring sides must realise the full impact the fighting has on the people they ultimately hope to govern. Will the victors be able to keep the peace if people feel they have respected neither the law nor the basic humanity of local citizens? The consequences of this violence will resonate for generations and there is the very real danger that cities experiencing these conflicts will simply act as incubators for further violence in the future”, said Mardini.

“States supporting parties to conflict must also do their utmost to restrain their allies and ensure better respect for international humanitarian law. And once the guns fall silent, it is local people and organisations which must play a full part in the rebuilding of the communities.”

The report also considers Lebanon’s 15-year civil war and examines the lessons Beirut can offer to help ensure the recovery of urban communities after such overwhelming and protracted violence.

According to ICRC, findings on the proportion of civilian casualties in cities are based on preliminary research in the Iraqi provinces of Anbar, Ninewah and Salahuddin and Syrian governorates of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Rif Damascus and Damascus, based on data available between January 2014 and March 2017.

The proportion of deaths in Iraq, Syria and Yemen is based on a yearly average of around 90.000 global conflict-related deaths between 2010 and 2015, during which time the yearly average of deaths in Iraq, Syria and Yemen was of 42.000 conflict-related deaths i.e. 47 per cent of the total casualties worldwide.

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VIDEO: Yusra Mardini, A Young Refugee, Finds Safety in Her New Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/video-yusra-mardini-young-refugee-finds-safety-new-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=video-yusra-mardini-young-refugee-finds-safety-new-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/video-yusra-mardini-young-refugee-finds-safety-new-home/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:21:56 +0000 UNHCR http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151070 The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year. Yusra Mardini was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN […]

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The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year.

The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year.

By UNHCR
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year. Yusra Mardini was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on 27 April 2017. The video was produced by the Education Outreach Section in support of the Together Initiative to mark World Refugee day on 20 June and highlight the advent of the International Day of Peace on 21 September.

 
 

 
 

Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported.  Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report. In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world.
The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at which conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes.

“We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to be made in terms of conflict and violence that is producing people who have had to flee,” said the Director of UNHCR’s New York Office Ninette Kelley, ahead of World Refugee Day.

In just two decades, the population of forcibly displaced persons doubled from 32 million in 1997 to 65 million in 2016, larger than the total population of the United Kingdom.

Much of the growth was concentrated between 2012 and 2015, and driven largely by the Syrian conflict which, now in its seventh year, has forcibly displaced over 12 million representing over half of the Middle Eastern nation’s population.

 

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Children Now More Than Half of the 65 Million Displacedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/children-now-half-65-million-displaced/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-now-half-65-million-displaced http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/children-now-half-65-million-displaced/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 14:47:16 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150981 Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report. In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world. “We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to […]

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Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report.

Refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border where a makeshift camp had sprung up near the town of Idomeni. The sudden closure of the Balkan route left thousands stranded. Credit: Nikos Pilos/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report.

In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world.

“We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to be made in terms of conflict and violence that is producing people who have had to flee,” said the Director of UNHCR’s New York Office Ninette Kelley, ahead of World Refugee Day.

In just two decades, the population of forcibly displaced persons doubled from 32 million in 1997 to 65 million in 2016, larger than the total population of the United Kingdom.

Of this figure, almost 23 million are refugees while over 40 million are displaced within their own countries. Approximately two-thirds of refugees have been displaced for generations.

Despite the slight decrease in displacement in the last year, the numbers are still “depressing” and “unacceptable,” Kelley told IPS.

“Each individual number really reflects a deep level of human loss and trouble and is experienced every minute and every second of every day,” she stated.

Much of the growth was concentrated between 2012 and 2015, and driven largely by the Syrian conflict which, now in its seventh year, has forcibly displaced over 12 million representing over half of the Middle Eastern nation’s population.

However, the biggest new concern is now South Sudan where renewed conflict and food insecurity is driving the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.

At the end of 2016, 3.3 million South Sudanese were displaced, equivalent to one in four people, and the figures have only continued to rise in 2017.

Kelley particularly pointed to the disturbing rise in displaced children around the world. Though children comprise of 30 percent of the world’s population, they disproportionately make up over 50 percent of refugees.

Over 66 percent of South Sudanese refugees alone are children.

Meanwhile, over 75,000 unaccompanied or separated children applied for asylum, a figure that is assumed to be an underestimate.

“I really ask you to pause and think about your own children or your nieces or your nephews and then think about the journeys that refugees take across conflict areas, across deserts, climbing mountains, giving their lives to unscrupulous traffickers and smugglers. And imagine those journeys of children without their parents or without adult accompaniment—then they arrive, and they are alone,” Kelley said.

The majority of displacements continue to be borne by developing countries which host almost 85 percent of the world’s refugees under UNHCR’s mandate. Such refugee influxes cause additional stress to low and middle income countries which already lack the necessary resources for their own citizens.

Uganda, where 37 percent live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, is now the largest refugee-hosting nation in Africa with over 1 million refugees from South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Burundi.

Already unable to provide adequate health services and other public goods to its citizens, Uganda’s resources have become increasingly stretched.

Despite the bleak picture and severe imbalance in global responsibility sharing, there has been little action or progress in the issue of displacement.

In 2016, a little over 40 percent of UNHCR’s budget was left unfunded, impeding the agency’s ability to meet refugees’ needs including relief items, shelter, and education.

Refugee plans continue to be underfunded, including South Sudan’s regional refugee response plan which is currently 15 percent funded.

Though 189,000 people were resettled in 2016 and a total of 37 countries are now providing resettlement places, both of which represent increases from the previous year, the number of available resettlement spots are still “disappointingly small” relative to refugee flows, Kelley said, urging for new approaches in displacement response.

In addition to highlighting the need for conflict prevention and mitigation, Kelley noted the need for more resettlement places, opportunities for family reunification, education scholars, and work exchange programmes in order to broaden the possibilities for refugees embarking on dangerous journeys due to consequences beyond their control.

She pointed to the historic New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants as a “positive” and comprehensive response framework to assist both refugees and the communities in which they live.

Adopted in 2016, the Declaration also tasks UNHCR with developing a global compact for safe, regular, and orderly migration which is undergoing negotiations in order for adoption by 2018.

Kelley also looked to action and engagement closer to home by individuals themselves, stating: “We can’t see these figures and sit back and say there’s nothing I can do.”

“We can volunteer, we can contribute, we can donate, we can educate, we can advise ourselves, we can try to build bridges within our own communities that seem to be widening day by day,” she concluded.

World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20th to commemorate, raise awareness of, and mobilize action for the millions of refugees around the world.

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:02:36 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150978 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwide

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The world is heading into troubled waters as we are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people – refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – fleeing from misery, poverty and conflicts. The refugee crisis that has swept across Europe and the Middle East is becoming the 21st century’s most protracted crisis with no immediate solution in sight. The world has not witnessed a more complex movement of people since the end of the Second World War; thousands of human beings undertake perilous and treacherous journeys in hope for a better and a safer future. Many of them perish during these hazardous journeys. How can we forget the words the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire who said:

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

The 2017 World Refugee Day is an important occasion to stand united with millions of refugees around the world. This international commemorative day was announced in 2001 following the adoption of Resolution 55/76 by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 February 2001. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the “1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.” Although the traumas of the Second World War reminded the world of the importance of never ignoring the past, the contemporary crisis calls for concerted efforts to resolve the plight of refugees worldwide as a matter of urgency and to address the root causes of mass exodus, as a long-term strategy.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 21 million refugees worldwide. In 2017, there was an estimated 5 million Syrian refugees worldwide. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan – countries located in the Arab region – are also considered as source countries of refugees owing to the proliferation of conflicts and the rise of violent extremism.

The majority of these refugees have sought refuge in countries neighbouring their country of origin. In the Middle East, countries in the Arab region are hosting one of the highest number of refugees. More than 1 million people have found refuge in Lebanon, a country that has already welcomed more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees. Jordan is home to approximately 660,000 refugees, whereas Iraq and Egypt have welcomed around 240,000 and 120,000 refugees respectively despite internal upheavals and civil strife. On top of this, one can also add Turkey that is currently hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees.

On the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, several European countries have showed some support to address the plights of refugees from the Arab region. Germany and Sweden have taken adequate measures to accommodate the influx of refugees by welcoming 400,000 and 100,000 refugees respectively. Other countries such as France and the Netherlands have also pleaded to relocate refugees entrenched in refugee camps in transit countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Although a certain degree of solidarity is being expressed by European countries, the number of refugees being granted protection in rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population compared with countries in the Arab region. Despite being signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many countries have decided to openly defy the acceptance of refugees belonging to certain religious faiths within their societies. Walls have been built in a misconceived attempt to exclude refugees from entering certain countries. The fearmongering and scapegoating of refugees have likewise given rise to a populist tidal wave. Right-wing movements use the contemporary refugee crisis to confer legitimacy on their aspirations to political power through whipping up xenophobia and through conflating Islam with terrorism.

During a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the subject of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” several panellists underscored that these types of practices are contradictory to the core principles of Islam and Christianity preaching love, peace and tolerance towards people in need. Societies should stand united in addressing the rise of populism that is pervasive in many countries.

I would also like to call upon governments in the Middle East and in the West to work jointly to address the protracted refugee crisis. Rich countries have a moral responsibility to provide development assistance to poorer countries to achieve a more equitable burden sharing arrangement for hosting refugees. Countries in the West and in the Middle East need also to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the root causes which have fuelled extremism. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored before refugees can safely return to their home societies. This calls for a radical political change of approach in problem solving in the region.

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New Inhumane Record: One Person Displaced Every Three Secondhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/new-inhumane-record-one-person-displaced-every-three-second/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 11:25:15 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150974 Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported. The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at […]

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After three days on the road, South Sudanese refugees arrive at the newly constructed Gure Shembola Camp in Ethiopia. Credit: UNHCR/Diana Diaz

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported.

The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at which conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes.

The report Global Trends, which as been released ahead of the World Refugee Day on June 20, marks a jump of 300,000 since the end of 2015. “By any measure this is an unacceptable number,” said UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi, urging “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving crisis.”

Grandi also called for properly protecting and caring for the world’s refugees, internally displaced and asylum-seekers – who currently number 22.5 million, 40.3 million, and 2.8 million, respectively.

The Biggest Refugee Producer

According to the report, Syria remains “the world’s biggest producer of refugees” with 12 million people living in neighbouring countries and away from the region. There are 7.7 million displaced Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis.

However, in 2016, South Sudan became “the biggest new factor” when peace efforts broke down in July resulting in some 737,400 people fleeing by the end of the year.

Source: Global Trends – Forced Displacement in 2016 report. Credit: UNHCR

Nyawet Tut, a South Sudanese mother of five in her 30s, described how soldiers set fire to her village and she had to run for her life with her own five children and five others of relatives killed in the conflict.

“My husband was killed in the war which, in addition to the shortage of food, made me decide to leave my home, everything, behind,” she told UNHCR staff during an interview at a temporary way station in Ethiopia.

In total, about 3.3 million South Sudanese had fled their homes by the end of the year, in what is known as the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world.

Youngest Faces of War

About half of the refugee population last year were children younger than 18 years of age, according the report. This is in contrast to the fact that children make up only about 31 per cent of the total world population.

Among its findings, the report noted that some 75,000 asylum claims were received from children travelling alone or separated from their parents. These include youngsters like Tareq, 16, who dodged armed combatants to walk out of Syria into neighbouring Turkey.

“There was no future where we lived,” he told UNHCR. “There was no university and no work. There were troops grabbing young children like me, and they send them to war, and they get killed. I wanted to study.”

South Sudanese refugees spend the night at a way station in Gimbi, Ethiopia while en route to the newly constructed Gure Shembola Camp. Credit: UNHCR/Dina Diaz

Seeking Refuge in Poor Countries

Developing countries are hosting the majority of the world’s refugees, UNHCR reported.

About 84 per cent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries.

“This huge imbalance reflects several things including the continuing lack of consensus internationally when it comes to refugee hosting and the proximity of many poor countries to regions of conflict,” the UN agency said.

In addition, the figure “illustrates the need for countries and communities supporting refugees and other displaced people to be robustly resourced and supported,” UNHCR said, warning that the absence can create instability in the host countries.

Fleeing War, Disasters, Persecution

With a record 65.6 million people last year forcibly uprooted from their homes by violence and persecution, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on June 20 called on the international community to provide support and solidarity.

“We reflect on the courage of those who fled and the compassion of those who welcome them,” the Secretary-General said in his video message for World Refugee Day.

He noted that more people than ever in our lifetimes are fleeing war, disasters and persecution.

“Hardship, separation, death,” Guterres said, recalling nightmare stories heard from refugees and displaced persons, whose number rose 300,000 since the end of 2015.

Despite the hardships of fleeing with nothing, “they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world,” Guterres said. “They ask for little – only our support in their time of greatest need and our solidarity.”

The UN chief said it is “so inspiring to see countries with the least doing the most for refugees.”

According to the report, about 84 per cent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries.

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Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya through Innovative Financinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/achieving-universal-health-coverage-uhc-kenya-innovative-financing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=achieving-universal-health-coverage-uhc-kenya-innovative-financing http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/achieving-universal-health-coverage-uhc-kenya-innovative-financing/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 15:56:55 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150956 Siddharth Chatterjee is the UN Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Kenya through Innovative Financing

Right to health as enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and; contribution to economic development as envisioned in Vision 2030. Credit: JACARANDA HEALTH

By Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

Every year, one million Kenyans are driven below the poverty line by healthcare-related expenditures. Poverty predisposes them to disease and slows all aspects of growth in the economy.

Poor health hobbles economic growth. Noble Laureate in Economics Robert Fogel noted in 1993 that better diets, clothing, housing and quality healthcare all play an important role in generating economic growth. Strengthening healthcare systems to increase access to affordable, appropriate and quality health services in any country is a prerequisite for long-term development and structural transformation.

Africa accounts for a quarter of the world’s disease burden but has less than 5 per cent of the world’s doctors. The continent lags far behind in basic healthcare coverage for services such as immunization, water and sanitation, and family planning. Kenya is no exception.

The new Kenyan Constitution devolved responsibility for primary and secondary healthcare services to the newly demarcated 47 counties, leaving the national government to focus on policy and research.

Kenya’s health financing envelope is progressing gradually but falls short of the 2001 Abuja Declaration, in which nations committed to allocating 15 per cent of their national budget to the health sector. In fact, Kenya is outperformed by some of its neighbours in the national budget allocation to health sector. In fiscal year 2014/15, Uganda allocated 8 per cent of its national budget to the health sector compared to Kenya’s 4 per cent.

Kenya’s allocation has been increasing every fiscal year, rising for instance from about US$178.8 million (Ksh 15.2 billion) in 2001/02 to US$382.2 million (Ksh 34.4 billion) in 2008/09 based on exchange rate then. In the current fiscal year, Kenya allocated around US$597 million (Ksh 60.9 billion) for healthcare services compared to US$591.2 million (Ksh 60.3 billion) for fiscal year 2016/17. This is projected to increase in the medium term to US$606.9 million (Ksh 61.9 billion) and US$614.7 million (Ksh 62.7 billion) for 2018/19 and 2019/20, respectively.

The challenges confronting the health sector range from the spread of non-communicable diseases to inadequate funding of health interventions. The devolution of healthcare services, coupled with the Bill of Rights, elicits huge funding demands, making the sustainability of gains made so far in the sector more complex.

In 2015, the international community formally enshrined UHC in Agenda 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals, which will guide development efforts through 2030.

Partnering with mobile phone service providers and charging a small fee for targeted healthcare initiatives can generate the necessary resources to support Universal Health Coverage in the country.

Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. Credit: UNDP

In its Vision 2030, Kenya committed to becoming a competitive and prosperous nation with a high quality of life for all its citizens by 2030. Investing in a quality health delivery system is enshrined in the Vision, an area in which the government has made considerable progress.

Revamping the national health insurance scheme to comprise everyone capable of paying premiums, rather than only those in formal employment has shifted the burden of healthcare costs from the individual to the collective by raising more money for healthcare services.

Nevertheless, four out of every five Kenyans have no access to medical insurance. That is why Kenya needs to adopt more innovative ways of financing its healthcare system.

The 2014 World Bank Group’s Kenya Public Expenditure Review considers the private sector a lead in local healthcare markets. This is because it owns 60 per cent of all primary healthcare facilities, while 40 per cent are government-run. Leveraging this strategic position of the private sector, public-private partnerships (PPP) can be institutionalized for financing UHC in Kenya.

One such case in point is the strong PPP established in 2015 by six private sector companies (Philips, Merck Sharp & Dohme-MSD, GlaxoSmithKline-GSK, Safaricom, Kenya Health Care Federation and Huawei) to improve maternal health in historically marginalized counties. This initiative – targeting Mandera, Marsabit, Migori, Isiolo, Lamu and Wajir and spearheaded by the Government of Kenya and the UN – has yielded positive health outcomes. Similar approaches can be adopted for the health system at both national and county levels.

Kenya is known for developing innovative home-grown solutions to challenges. It can easily move towards a cashless economy, which will be critical for driving Kenya’s socio-economic transformation agenda.

For instance, M-pesa was conceived to address the challenge of rural banking but it has also provided a platform for M-health, the use of mobile devices to support the practice of medicine and public health.

Kenya can institute targeted taxation as an innovative financing policy to complement existing financing mechanisms. Partnering with mobile phone service providers and charging a small fee for targeted healthcare initiatives can generate the necessary resources to support UHC in the country.

An estimated US$122.5 million (Ksh 12.5 billion) is transacted daily in the form of mobile money transactions. By contributing roughly one percent on a graduated scale, Kenya can easily raise US$ 1.2 million (Ksh 125 million) daily to finance UHC.

For example UNITAID, an International Drug Purchase Facility for AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria is supported mainly (70%) through the airline ticket tax. The airline solidarity contribution is an innovative attempt to gain the benefits of a global tax. Kenya can do the same by charging a small tax at its international airports and border crossings for a ring fenced public health account.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, “All roads should lead to universal health coverage.” Credit: UN/DANIEL JOHNSON

There is no one-size-fits-all health financing solution. And Kenya must continuously adapt in the face of rapid technological changes.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the new WHO Director-General has said that, “all roads should lead to universal health coverage.” With its technological prowess, a hotspot for innovation, incredible entrepreneurial spirit and enterprise, Kenya must be at the vanguard on the road to universal health care in Africa.

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Africa: Drought and Jobless, Hopeless Youth, Fertile Grounds for Extremismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/africa-drought-jobless-hopeless-youth-fertile-grounds-extremism/#respond Mon, 19 Jun 2017 06:27:56 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150944 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

“The on-going drought in the Horn of Africa is widespread, triggering a regional humanitarian crisis with food insecurity skyrocketing, particularly among livestock-owning communities, and devastating livelihoods” - FAO. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/OUAGADOUGOU, Jun 19 2017 (IPS)

Ignoring the plight of jobless young people in sub-Saharan Africa is a recipe for political instability and global insecurity, warned a high-level symposium of Africa’s interior, environment and foreign affairs ministers in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.

The high-level symposium, which was held ahead of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17, stressed that Africa’s heavy reliance on the natural resource base for livelihoods is a challenge, and its mismanagement increases household risks and amplifies the vulnerability of millions of people.

This was the first time high-ranking officials drawn from Africa’s foreign affairs, environment and interior ministries met jointly to find solutions to Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men.“Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.” Monique Barbut

Participating ministers called for support to create land-based jobs in the rural areas to ward off the temptation for the most disillusioned to take up alternative but dangerous sources of income.

They called for the identification of sites where tenure or access to land rights can be secured and provided to vulnerable at-risk-groups.

The high-ranking officials also called for partnerships to create 2 million secure land-based jobs through rehabilitation of 10 million hectares of degraded land.

As well, they called for investment in rural infrastructure, rehabilitation tools and skills development and prioritisation of job creation in unstable and insecure areas.

The symposium examined the threats connected to sustainability, stability and security, namely, conflicts linked to access to degrading natural resources, instability due to unemployment of rural youth and insecurity and the risk of the radicalization triggered by social and economic marginalization and exposure to extremist groups.

Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

A young person helps out in his family farm in Gitaramaka village, Karusi Province, Burundi. Today’s generation of young people aged 15 to 24 is the largest in history. Governments around the world face the challenge of providing young people with jobs and opportunities that safeguard their futures. Credit: ©IFAD/Susan Beccio

Drought, Unemployment and Hopelessness, Fertile Grounds for Extremism

Presidents Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali and Mahammadou Issoufou of Niger stressed that drought, food insecurity, water scarcity, unemployment, hopelessness about the future and poverty are fertile grounds for extremism, and a sign of insecurity, instability and unsustainability.

Two days earlier, more than 400 civil society representatives from African participated in their World Day observance, also in Ouagadougou, and organised by Spong, a local non-governmental organisation, to prepare for the International Summit of Non-State Actors titled, Desertif’actions 2017, to be held on 27 and 28 June 2017 in Strasbourg, France, which will be dedicated to land degradation and climate change, bringing together 300 stakeholders from 50 countries.

The outcomes of the Strasbourg Summit will be presented to the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to be held in Ordos, China, in September 2017, and the 23rd session of the Conference of Parties to the Climate Change Convention.

“Frustrations Will Boil over with More Migration and More Conflict”

According to Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, more than 375 million young people will enter Africa’s job market over the next 15 years, of whom 200 million be living in the rural areas.

Africa’s growing challenge of rural youth unemployment that is driving distress migration and radicalisation of disillusioned young men

FAO makes massive strides in famine prevention programme in Somalia. Credit: FAO

“Millions of rural young people face an uncertain future due to the lack of decent rural jobs and continuous loss of livelihoods due to land degradation and falling yields…Frustrations will boil over with more migration and more conflict over a shrivelling resource base.”

The challenge is bigger than just a matter of a million young African’s attempting to make the move towards Europe over the course of a year, she said, adding that the UK Ministry of Defence estimates up to 60 million Africans are at risk of distressed migration as a result of land degradation and desertification pressures in the next two decades.

“Imagine what could happen if each of you committed to rehabilitate 100,000 hectares of land in your respective countries… If young people in Africa were given the chance to bring that natural capital back to life and into production… With the right type of investments in land, rural infrastructure and skills development, the future in your region can be bright.”

During the celebrations, Barbut announced the two winners of the prestigious Land for Life Award: Practical Action Sudan/UNEP from South Sudan; Watershed Organization Trust from India.

The Land for Life China award was given to Ms Yingzhen Pan, Director General of National Bureau to Combat Desertification, China.

The winners show that restoration of degraded land can halt distress migration that is driven by unproductive land resources, Barbut said. “Families and communities are transformed and become more resilient towards climate change when job opportunities are created.”

The 1st African Action Summit by Heads of State and Government held in Marrakesh in 2016 launched the Sustainability, Stability and Security initiative – the 3S Initiative – with a commitment to speed up the restoration and rehabilitation of degraded lands as a means to create jobs for rural youth.

According to Batio Bassiere, Minister of Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change, Burkina Faso, his country, on average, loses 360,000 hectares of land to degradation every year, with significant impacts on 85 per cent of the population that lives off agriculture and pastoral activities.

As stated in the theme of the World Day to Combat Desertification, Our Land, Our Home, Our Future must be preserved against all forms of degradation or desertification, said the minister.

Burkina Faso is now among the 110 countries that to-date have committed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target of land degradation neutrality by 2030, he said.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) is the only legally binding international agreement on land issues. It promotes good land stewardship, and its 196 Parties aim, through partnerships, to implement the Convention and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

According to UNCCD, the end goal is to protect our land, from over-use and drought, so it can continue to provide us all with food, water and energy.

“By sustainably managing land and striving to achieve land degradation neutrality, now and in the future, we will reduce the impact of climate change, avoid conflict over natural resources and help communities to thrive.”

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Housing Refugees of the Middle East Conflicts: Where Will They Go?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 20:39:42 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150927 Prolonged conflicts in the Middle East have led to a deadly humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17.5 million people displaced in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In Syria alone, 11.5 million people have fled their homes—more than three people a minute—since the beginning of war in 2011. Five million have fled the country, and six […]

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Housing Refugees of the Middle East Conflicts: Where Will They Go?

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon signs the ICRC guest book, as Mr. Maurer Looks on; 3rd Oct., 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

Prolonged conflicts in the Middle East have led to a deadly humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17.5 million people displaced in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

In Syria alone, 11.5 million people have fled their homes—more than three people a minute—since the beginning of war in 2011. Five million have fled the country, and six million live in ad-hoc shelters across the country.

The new numbers, in a report by the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) highlight the sheer magnitude of movement in the region, and the struggle of everyday life in first-hand accounts.

“When the siege of east Aleppo started last Ramadan [2016], the situation grew even more difficult as people were stranded for 190 days. The situation there was in a state of paralysis. My son was always hungry as there was nothing to eat or drink. Food was extremely expensive. We were forced to eat different kinds of lentil-based food. As a result, I lost 25 kilos,” said Yasser, a businessman in Aleppo, who watched his son die as his building collapsed after a bombing.

Aleppo, a flourishing economic hub in northern Syria, laid in ruins after four years of hellish fighting between varying warring groups. When the fighting finally ended on Dec. 15, 2016, 35,000 people were evacuated to neighbouring areas in just one week. As residents move back into the city, livable housing remains a major problem.

In Ramadi, Iraq, which was recently liberated from the Islamic State, fighting damaged almost 80 percent of the city. By March, more than a year since the war ended, only 60 percent of its civilians were able to return to the city. Nationwide, even before the Iraqi offensive on Mosul began in October 2016, almost a tenth of Iraqis were uprooted from their homes.

In Mosul, at the beginning of April this year, nearly 274,000 remained displaced from their homes in the city.

In all cases, the extent of damage has been complicated by tactics of urban warfare—firing in densely packed cities, and employing sieges against civilians.

In three cities—Foua, Kefraya and Madaya—in eastern Aleppo, for instance, nearly 60,000 civilians were trapped in a siege that lasted 190 days in 2016. Similarly, in a 15-month siege in Taiz, Yemen, nearly 200,000 people were caught in the cross-fire.

Matters are made worse by continual use of high-impact weapons that destroy urban infrastructure—a single broken pipe, for instance, can deprive 100,000 people of water.

“What we are witnessing is a sustained assault on, and massive disregard for, the provision of health care during times of conflict,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) President Dr Joanne Liu in a co-written editorial for The Guardian.

The report urges parties involved in the conflict to uphold the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), protect urban settings, and work to the pressing concerns of civilians.

On May 3, 2016, spurred by ongoing attacks on volunteers and medical facilities, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2286, which called on all warring parties to protect medical facilities and personnel.

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IFAD’s President Houngbo Calls for Investment in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Poverty-Free Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/ifads-president-houngbo-calls-investment-climate-smart-agriculture-poverty-free-future/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 11:26:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150919 Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) new president Gilbert Houngbo. Approximately 20 million are at the brink of starvation. Over 65 million have been forcibly displaced by conflict. One in five people in developing regions live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, […]

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Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to IFAD's new president Gilbert Houngbo

IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo's first official visit to Uganda where he met with small holder farmers in financial saving groups. Credit: IFAD

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

Implementing climate-smart agriculture is critical to reduce hunger and poverty, according to International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) new president Gilbert Houngbo.

Approximately 20 million are at the brink of starvation.

Over 65 million have been forcibly displaced by conflict.

One in five people in developing regions live on less than 1.25 dollars per day, and many risk slipping back into poverty.

A former Prime Minister of Togo, Houngbo entered IFAD’s presidency at a time of extreme suffering around the world. Though the global picture seems bleak, Houngbo remains optimistic and highlights the importance of long-term investments and development in agriculture in rural areas.

Though often neglected, rural areas are home to 80 percent of the world. Such areas are also responsible for most countries’ agriculture, and small farms in particular account for up to 80 percent of food production in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia.

Agriculture is therefore often the main route out of poverty and food insecurity for rural people, and focus on it will allow for progress in the internationally agreed 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

However, climate change is among the challenges that stand in the way.

As World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought approaches, IPS spoke to Houngbo briefly about the ambitious goals and increasingly complex challenges to make hunger and poverty things of the past.

Q: How realistic is it to eradicate hunger and poverty by 2030? Is this feasible? If not, why? What are or what could be some of the obstacles in trying to achieve those goals?

A: I’m maybe the wrong person to ask this question because I’m always really optimistic. When we started 2000 with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), everybody said that nothing there was realistic. Yet, we know that a lot has been achieved.

I do believe it is doable. Yes, it is very challenging. The point for me is not to say there is no more famine—that can happen as much as it is contained and eradicated quickly and that too is a challenge.

The most important thing for us to increase our chances to achieve the goal by 2030 is to make sure that one, we focus on long-term investment. Second, we also deal with the governance and the leadership dimension to minimize the risk of civil unrest—that’s the nexus of the common famine and the man-made crises.

But the long-term investment and scaling up what has been working really well is important. And I was hoping that with innovation, not only in technology, but among the small-scale or smallholder [farmers] we are focusing on—by adopting much more climate smart agricultural techniques and with innovation, it’s really doable.

Yes, the population is increasing. We need to increase food production by 60 percent by 2050. You have to see that as an opportunity for the smallholders to also increase [yields] and make money. Productivity for me and innovation is really the source.

Q: Would information and communication technologies (ICTs) be helping rural development in terms of food production?

A: Not only food production but also food transformation and access and the linkage to the food system. And to the market at the national level, regional level, or international level.

So we need to also look at agriculture not just as producing food but also business, as a way for the smallholders, for the rural citizens to earn in their daily lives a decent income, so that they don’t feel like they need to move to the city or move out of the country. So we are also talking about a rural transformation.

Q: Do you think advances in ICTs could threaten farmers because of the mechanization of certain jobs?

A: No, I don’t think so.

A couple of year ago a report issued not by IFAD but by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) demonstrated very clearly that yes there will be some jobs that will be lost in some sectors, but also when you think about the jobs that will be created, the net result is a positive. So we should not see that as an issue.

To the contrary, I do not think that commercial farms will ever replace the smallholder farms. In Africa, in Asia today, the smallholders are responsible for 80 percent of the [food] production. What we need to do is to bring technology that will help productivity and that will help with quick access to capital, access to the markets. By bringing that technology, coupled with what I call a rural transformation, then we will make it.

In other words, when you bring the technology here today, in a lot of low-income countries, agriculture contributes 25-35 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP) compared to most advanced economies where agriculture will contribute maybe 5 percent or 2 percent of the GDP.

So it’s true that over time, you will also expect the low-income countries’ agricultural contributions to decrease. That’s why people worry that there will be unemployment. But on the contrary, if you are doing the rural transformation instead of being at the production level, they might be at the transformation level or there may also be a vocational training in other domains yet remain at the rural level.

Q: Do you think that the United States’ announcement to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement is a setback? How are member states strategizing with IFAD to advance climate mitigation and adaptation?

A: First of all, we need to respect the decisions made by member states, whether it be the U.S. or any other country. I want to be very clear that we have to respect their decisions.

Secondly, our plan integrating climate-smart agriculture in our assistance to rural areas is very high on the agenda of all our member states. Obviously, I am concerned about the possible impact on the Green Climate Fund, and therefore the ability of the smallholders to access that financing.

I hope that one way or the other, the international community will find a way to overcome this new challenge.

Q: Do you have a message for the upcoming World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought?

A: For me, it is important that we start really thinking about the techniques that will help us in embedding climate-smart agriculture.

In Africa, for example, it is really affordable and basic irrigation systems and the use of climate or drought-resistant seeds and so forth—that will really help. But really it’s the irrigation dimension that I would like to encourage, to find ways to make it affordable, particularly in Africa because compared to Asia, Africa is very, very much behind.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a UN specialised agency which invests in rural areas of developing countries to help eradicate poverty and hunger.

The post IFAD’s President Houngbo Calls for Investment in Climate-Smart Agriculture for Poverty-Free Future appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Men Who Commit Femicide Lose Rights Over Their Children in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/men-commit-femicide-lose-rights-children-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=men-commit-femicide-lose-rights-children-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/men-commit-femicide-lose-rights-children-argentina/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 00:37:22 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150908 In January 2008, Rosana Galliano was shot to death in Exaltación de la Cruz, a rural municipality 80 km from Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. Her ex-husband, José Arce, who was sentenced to life in prison, had hired hitmen to kill her. Nine years later, Arce was put under house arrest, for health reasons, and lives […]

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Men Who Commit Femicide Lose Rights Over Their Children in Argentina

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

In January 2008, Rosana Galliano was shot to death in Exaltación de la Cruz, a rural municipality 80 km from Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires. Her ex-husband, José Arce, who was sentenced to life in prison, had hired hitmen to kill her.

Nine years later, Arce was put under house arrest, for health reasons, and lives with their children, two boys aged 12 and 13.

Women’s organisations hold that there are dozens of similar situations in Argentina, where society is becoming more aware of cases of gender-based violence.“In most cases, the woman files a complaint, but there is no support or monitoring in place to know what happens to her afterwards. And when the judges issue a restriction order, it is not enforced and the woman is defenceless.” -- Mabel Bianco

People have responded by taking to the streets: since 2015, an extraordinary social mobilisation, which has continued to this day, has installed the issue on the public agenda and forced politicians to address the phenomenon of the high rate of femicides, the term given murders of women for gender-based reasons.

The case of Rosana Galliano’s children was the main catalyst for a law passed by Congress on May 31, which strips parents who kill, injure or sexually abuse their partners of parental rights.

“We have received queries about a number of cases similar to that of Rosana Galliano’s children, which don’t make it to the media because the families of the murdered women don’t want to go public,” said Ada Rico, who heads La Casa del Encuentro, a Buenos Aires-based organisation that combats violence, abuse and discrimination against women.

“We submitted a draft law in 2014 aimed at removing parental responsibility from those who commit femicide,” she told IPS. “It was discussed together with seven similar drafts and a consensus was reached. It is a law that is likely to be copied by other countries.”

In the face of the lack of official statistics, La Casa del Encuentro began in 2008 to gather media reports on gender-based murders of women in this South American country of nearly 44 million people.

That same year these murders were officially defined as femicides, during a meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Follow-up Mechanism of the Belem do Pará Convention, the Inter-American instrument signed in 1994 to prevent and punish violence against women.

 Demonstrators march along the Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, behind a big banner that reads “Students demand ‘Not one less’” during the massive march against gender violence in the Argentine capital on Jun. 3. Credit: Ana Currarino/IPS


Demonstrators march along the Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, behind a big banner that reads “Students demand ‘Not one less’” during the massive march against gender violence in the Argentine capital on Jun. 3. Credit: Ana Currarino/IPS

The Argentine Congress followed suit in 2012, stipulating life in prison for men guilty of murders involving gender-based violence.

Up to then, murders resulting from domestic violence were treated as manslaughter, punishable with a maximum of 25 years in prison.

However, this change did not lead to a decline in violence against women in this country. La Casa del Encuentro’s figures show that femicides have remained fairly stable, at a high level: 255 in 2012, 295 in 2013, 277 in 2014, 286 in 2015 and 290 last year.
Among the hundreds of cases, one completely changed life in the town of Rufino, in the province of Santa Fe, and shook the entire country.

Chiara Páez, a 14-year-old girl, disappeared one Sunday in May 2015.

A large part of the town’s 20,000 people went out to search for her. But eventually the police found her body buried at the house of her boyfriend’s grandparents. Her 16-year-old boyfriend confessed that he had beat her to death. The autopsy revealed that Chiara was pregnant and that she had taken medication to have an abortion.

A few days later, hundreds of thousands of people marched through the streets of Buenos Aires and other large cities to demand a stop to male violence against women. “Not one less” (“Ni una menos”) was the slogan devised by a group of feminist activists and journalists, which was taken up immediately by a good part of Argentine society.

Since then, huge “Not one less” marches have become an annual event. The last one was held on Jun. 3 on the Avenida de Mayo avenue, and one of the main speakers was Nora Cortiñas, renowned leader of the human rights group Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo.

The pamphlet handed out at the demonstration noted that many women are murdered after reporting that they are victims of domestic violence, which makes the government responsible for their protection and their deaths, “as much as the murderers.”

“Not One Less” was the slogan of the Jun. 3 march against gender-based violence in Buenos Aires. Credit: Ana Currarino/IPS

“Not One Less” was the slogan of the Jun. 3 march against gender-based violence in Buenos Aires. Credit: Ana Currarino/IPS

They also demanded an end to discrimination against women in the labour market, and called for legal, safe, free of charge abortion.

“Violence against women will not rapidly decline since it is mainly linked to cultural factors very marked in society, such as the greater value put on men in all fields,” Dr. Mabel Bianco, the head of the Foundation for Women’s Studies and Research, told IPS.

“We are still lacking answers from the government. A protocol that unifies the steps to be followed nationwide in the face of complaints of gender-based violence must be designed,” she said.

She said that “in most cases, the woman files a complaint, but there is no support or monitoring in place to know what happens to her afterwards. And when the judges issue a restriction order, it is not enforced and the woman is defenceless.”

One of the results of the social mobilisation was the start of official record-keeping on femicides in 2015. The Supreme Court keeps these figures, and in late May it presented the statistics from 2016: 254 women were murdered for gender-based reasons, 19 more than in 2015.

In this year’s report, the Court for the first time differentiated between “biological females” and trans women, who were the victims of five of the femicides last year.

Meanwhile, Congress did not stop with the parental responsibility law. The same day it was passed, the Senate gave preliminary approval to two other bills focused on gender-based violence.

One of them establishes financial support by the state for women who cannot afford to leave their abusive partners. The other one implements a subsidy for the families who raise children whose mothers have been victims of femicides. The two draft laws are now pending approval in the lower house of Congress.

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