Inter Press ServiceIndigenous Rights – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 After More Than a Decade, Rights of Indigenous Peoples Not Fully Realizedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/decade-rights-indigenous-peoples-not-fully-realized/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=decade-rights-indigenous-peoples-not-fully-realized http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/decade-rights-indigenous-peoples-not-fully-realized/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 05:58:41 +0000 Miroslav Lajcak http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155326 Miroslav Lajčák, is President of the UN General Assembly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, they are not enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In particular, we should look at the following questions:

Which venues and forums are most suitable?

What modalities should govern participation?

What kind of participants should be selected?

And how will this selection happen?

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

Finally, next steps.

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

Miroslav Lajčák, is President of the UN General Assembly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Destined for overseas export

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

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

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

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

Rich in natural resources

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

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

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

Efforts to save the forests

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

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

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

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

Flaws and fiasco

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

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

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

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

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

Struggle for landless peasants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poverty and conflicts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calling for Inclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curb Your Corruption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Race to the Top

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Drowning for Progress in Cambodiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/drowning-progress-cambodia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drowning-progress-cambodia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/drowning-progress-cambodia/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 22:57:27 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155226 Suddenly the road ends. The cart track disappears under the water. A vast lake stretches out in front of me. I have to transfer from a motorbike to a canoe. “Tuk laang,” my guide says coolly. “The water is rising.” This started eight months ago, when the hydroelectric power station closed its gates for the […]

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The Cambodian village of Kbal Romeas is slowly vanishing beneath the rising waters of a lake formed by the Lower Sesan II (LS2) dam. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

The Cambodian village of Kbal Romeas is slowly vanishing beneath the rising waters of a lake formed by the Lower Sesan II (LS2) dam. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
KBAL ROMEAS, Cambodia, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

Suddenly the road ends. The cart track disappears under the water. A vast lake stretches out in front of me. I have to transfer from a motorbike to a canoe. “Tuk laang,” my guide says coolly. “The water is rising.”

This started eight months ago, when the hydroelectric power station closed its gates for the first time. Ever since, the road to Kbal Romeas sinks a little deeper under the slow waves every day."Beware of the branches above your head," the guide says. "The pythons and the cobras have climbed into the trees."

According to the level gauge on the road, the water behind the concrete barrage has risen up to 75 meters, higher than the intended 68 meters. Nobody knows why, and the government doesn’t provide any information.

Three sturdy men are unloading planks from a canoe. The houses of flood refugees are being dismantled in order to sell the wood.

The village is a world away from Phnom Penh. In Cambodia’s capital, saffron-robed monks are tapping on their smartphones and purple Rolls Royces are negotiating hectic traffic. But 450 kilometers to the north, Kbal Romeas is hidden deeply in the jungle. Here no shops, restaurants or traffic lights are to be found. And for a few months now, no roads either.

I’m undertaking the journey with Vibol. He is studying in the provincial capital and returns home often. “My parents are having a hard time since our village is flooded. The government wants us to leave, but we will never do that,” he says.

The expansive forests of Stung Treng – a province as large as Lebanon with barely 120,000 inhabitants – are the home of the Bunong, the ethnic minority to which Vibol belongs. Their way of life has been in sync with nature for 2,000 years, while they’ve been fiercely resisting modern influences from outside. But the small community now risks being washed away, quite literally.

Concrete vs. water

A few kilometers from the village, a gigantic wall towers over the trees. The ‘Lower Sesan II’ (LS2) dam is a powerful symbol for the economic growth of Southeast Asia, but also for man-made disasters. In September the gates were closed, thus creating a lake that soon will expand over 360 square kilometers, the size of Dublin. The livelihood of a unique culture will be wiped out.

The ten-year-old son of my guide navigates the canoe that will bring me to Kbal Romeas. Skillfully, he avoids crashing into the trees of the submerged forest. “Beware of the branches above your head,” his father says. “The pythons and the cobras have climbed into the trees.” There’s a shorter way to get to to the village, via dry land, but that’s not an option for a foreign journalist. The army closed off the whole area. No snoopers allowed.

I have to take the long detour over water, a surreal two-hour trip through a drowned jungle.

“The trees still bear fruit, but soon they will die,” the guide says. There is also less fish and the water has become undrinkable. Since the dam unhinged their lives, the Bunong have to pay for water and fish. But money is an alien concept for animist forest dwellers who are used to living in complete harmony with nature.

My canoe floats gently into the main street of the village. Thanks to their stilts, the typical Cambodian dwellings are still dry, even if the road lays one meter beneath the water’s surface. It is dead quiet. Until some children appear in doorways. “Soë-se-dei!” “Hello!”

A villager from Kbal Romeas paddles between two partly submerged houses. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

A villager from Kbal Romeas paddles between two partly submerged houses. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

About 250 people still live in the flooded village of Kbal Romeas; about half of the original population. I clamber from the canoe into a house. The lady of the house offers me some rice and spiced pork.

“We used to have everything we need here. But since the water started rising, we have to go to the market,” says Srang Lanh, 49. She has the face of someone who has lived a hard life.

“During the dry season it takes us about three hours to get there. In the rainy season we can’t use the road at all.”

The government has built a new village, on higher ground. “But we do not intend to move,” says Vibol. “The Buddhist Cambodians don’t understand our religion. We can’t leave our cemetery.” He wants to show me the graveyard. Small corrugated iron roofs are barely above the water. They used to give shade to the late loved ones.

I ask the former cemetery supervisor how many people are buried here beneath the flood tide. His reacts emotionally. “Thousands! Everyone who has ever lived in Kbal Romeas is buried here.”

Every day another grave disappears into the tidal wave of progress coming from this Chinese dam. “The spirits of our ancestors can’t leave here. To abandon them would be a disgrace,” says Vibol. The Bunong believe they are protected by the ancestors. Leaving means disaster.

In Kbal Romeas, the cursed dam is called ‘Kromhun’, the Company. The Chinese group Hydrolancang invested 800 million dollars in the LS2 dam and will be operating it for the next 30 years. Theoretically speaking, a dam producing 400 megawatts might seem a good idea, as this country lives in the dark. Three quarters of the Cambodian villages are not connected to the electrical grid.

However, Kbal Romeas will never see one single watt of the Kromhun. Ninety percent of the electricity in Cambodia goes to capital city Phnom Penh and is used for air conditioners, neon publicity signs and garment factories.

Noah’s Ark

There’s a little ceremony for the visitor, the first foreigner since the army shut this area down in July. Ta Uot is the most important guardian spirit of Kbal Romeas. His temple is nothing more than a hut on poles, now surrounded by water. But since the patriarch told the Bunong through his visions where his shrine has to be put, it cannot be moved.

In the temple are some holy branches and rocks; from their canoes the attendees throw grains of rice towards them while they say prayers in the old Bunong language. They inform Ta Uot about the visit of a foreigner. They also mention the latest water level. A newly born child is being blessed. In spite of the upcoming flood, this is a lively village with a simple shed as a spiritual Noah’s ark.

Set Nhal, 89, has been living here his whole life. He remembers the French colonists, the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese soldiers who came to chase away the genocidal regime. And now the Chinese. “We were always confident that the French and the communists would leave one day. But the Chinese will never go away; this dam will stay where it is,” he says.

Meng Heng, an activist of the outlawed NGO Mother Nature, knows Kbal Romeas very well. “The government succeeded in hiding a catastrophe,” he says. “As a result of the LS2-dam, one tenth of the fish population will disappear. The dam disrupts critical breeding migration routes for fish and the fish will become extinct.”

Not just a trifle, as 70 million people depend on the Mekong for their daily needs. As we speak, 200 dams are in use, being built or in preparation. LS2-dam is only one of them.
For the Bunong, a day in ancient times is as important as yesterday. But their days are numbered. Once the rainy season will start, in June, Kbal Romeas will be history.

After dark, a motorbike takes me back to the rest of the world, using a last scrap of dry land. The jungle is black as soot and the bouncing moto passes by a deserted army checkpoint, unmanned at night.

I’m dropped off at a gas station, an oasis of neon lights where they promise me there will be a bus soon. I ask Vibol if I can do something for him when I’m back in Phnom Penh.

“No one knows what’s happening here,” he says. “Tell our story.”

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Latin American Indigenous People Fight New Plunder of Their Resourceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-american-indigenous-people-fight-new-plunder-resources/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-indigenous-people-fight-new-plunder-resources http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/latin-american-indigenous-people-fight-new-plunder-resources/#respond Sat, 17 Mar 2018 18:14:20 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154868 Indigenous communities in Latin America, who have suffered the plunder of their natural resources since colonial times, are reliving that phenomenon again as mega infrastructure are jeopardising their habitat and their very survival. On the island of Assunção in Northeast Brazil, the village of the Truká indigenous people was split in two when the flow […]

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A street in the village of the Truká indigenous people, whose territory was divided in two by the diversion of the São Francisco River, on Assunção island in Northeast Brazil. Large-scale infrastructure projects, and the oil and mining industries have directly affected indigenous people in Latin America. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

A street in the village of the Truká indigenous people, whose territory was divided in two by the diversion of the São Francisco River, on Assunção island in Northeast Brazil. Large-scale infrastructure projects, and the oil and mining industries have directly affected indigenous people in Latin America. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
ISLA DE ASSUNÇÃO, Brazil , Mar 17 2018 (IPS)

Indigenous communities in Latin America, who have suffered the plunder of their natural resources since colonial times, are reliving that phenomenon again as mega infrastructure are jeopardising their habitat and their very survival.

On the island of Assunção in Northeast Brazil, the village of the Truká indigenous people was split in two when the flow of the São Francisco River was diverted.

“The Truká people have always been from this region. We are an ancient people in this territory. We have always lived on the riverbank fishing, hunting, planting crops. We did not need a canal,” lamented Claudia Truká, leader of the village in the municipality of Cabrobó, in the state of Pernambuco."However, the peasant and indigenous communities of the region - continually subjected to persecution, dispossession and defamation - have historically resisted, and continue to resist, encroachment." -- Luciana Guerreiro

The transfer, officially called the São Francisco River Integration Project, seeks to capture the river’s water through 713 km of canals, aqueducts, reservoirs, tunnels and pumping systems.

According to the government, the largest national infrastructure work of this type will ensure the water security of 12 million people in 390 municipalities in the states of Pernambuco, Ceará, Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte and will benefit rural and riverbank communities.

But the project, according to what Truká told IPS, will hinder the process of demarcation of indigenous territories and will not bring them any benefits.

“The transfer will have many negative effects. It affects the vegetation and our animals, and it draws water from the river, not to bring water to those who are thirsty but to favour agribusiness. There are other ways to solve the lack of water,” she said.

“We were already colonised by the Casa de la Torre (an estate transformed into a sort of barracks from which ranchers conducted raids of indigenous lands in the seventeenth century), which together with the Capuchin (Cacholic Franciscan order) favoured that process. Once again the Truká people are going through a process of colonisation,” she said.

In the department of Madre de Dios, in the Amazon jungle in southeastern Peru, the Harakbut indigenous people are suffering the impacts of another megaproject.

In 2006, the U.S.-based Hunt Oil company was granted a concession to a plot of land for the exploration and exploitation of natural gas, overlapping with the Amarakaeri Communal Reserve, in the ancestral territory of the Harakbut.

In 2017, the company handed over that land because it had obtained no conclusive results within the deadlines for the exploration. However, there are five other producers interested in resuming the megaproject, Andrea Cardoso, a professor at the Arturo Jauretche National University, told IPS from Argentina.

“The withdrawal of Hunt Oil from Harakbut territory does not mean that the problem has been solved, the impacts on the forest continue and have left their marks,” she said.

According to Cardoso “the presence of the oil company has generated divisions in the communities, even within families.”

“The company’s so-called public relations officers have convinced many indigenous people to work for them, or to accept goods or money. But other members of the communities continue to work on raising awareness about the oil industry’s irreversible impacts on the forests,” she said.

In addition, the camps of company workers “generate diseases and the breakdown of the social fabric,” Cardoso said.

An "oca", a traditional and ceremonial construction of the Truká indigenous people, where they celebrate their rituals, has a wooden cross on the outside, a vestige of the Portuguese Catholic colonisation, in the Truká village on Assunção island in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

An “oca”, a traditional and ceremonial construction of the Truká indigenous people, where they celebrate their rituals, has a wooden cross on the outside, a vestige of the Portuguese Catholic colonisation, in the Truká village on Assunção island in the northeastern state of Pernambuco, Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo Gaudenzi / IPS

The oil industry activity there is being carried out at the headwaters of several rivers, “which are the only sources of water for more than 10,000 people, including indigenous people and non-native colonists,” she added.

For that reason, she said, “the rivers get polluted, with solid and liquid waste dumped directly into the forests and rivers, contaminating the soil and water and therefore also fish, one of the main sources of food for these communities.”

The researcher pointed out that the indigenous people of the Amazon basin, shared by eight South American countries, “know their territory better than anyone else. They are adapted to their environment and have great knowledge of the soils, flora and fauna, as well as their own technologies to take advantage of their natural resources, playing a role as guardians of the environment.”

According to Cardoso, the case of the Harakbut people must be analysed in a broader Latin American context.

Since the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, she said, “indigenous movements in Latin America have been at the centre of the political and social scene, in the framework of neoliberal practices implemented by different governments of the region,” with the influx of transnational capital for exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels.

“It’s in this context that there has been a loss of control over the common goods of nature and of indigenous peoples’ territories, as a consequence of the territorial dispossession, in a cycle of transnational extractivism that threatens our Americas,” she concluded.

In Ecuador, René Unda, from the Salesian Polytechnic University, highlighted the case of the Mirador-San Carlos Panantza Project, in the Condor mountain range, on the Amazonian western border with Peru, which plans to mine for gold, silver and copper “compromising several watersheds, nature reserves and forests that play a protective role.”

Unda said from Quito that one of the most affected indigenous peoples in the initial exploration stage are the Shuar, on both the Ecuadorian and Peruvian sides.

In a fragile ecosystem, a mining project of this scope “involves a profound transformation of their ways of life and their modes of survival,” he told IPS.

They are guardians of the environment “with their struggle and resistance. Not only against the coalitions that represent the interests of the government and of the corporations, but also against sectors of their own peoples who support the mining projects,” said Unda.

Luciana Guerreiro, an expert in indigenous autonomy processes at the University of Buenos Aires Gino Germani Research Institute, said that in Argentina, “one of the main threats to indigenous populations is the expansion of large-scale mining.”

One emblematic case is in Andalgalá, in Argentina’s northwestern province of Catamarca, where the Minera Alumbrera mining company has operated the first open-pit mine in Argentina for more than 20 years, currently in the process of closure and clean-up, she told IPS.

Guerreiro explained that “these ventures not only plunder the mineral resources and wealth of the territories they exploit, but also the water, a fundamental element in areas where it is scarce, leaving local people and their main traditional productive activities devastated and impoverished” and affecting their spirituality and their relationship with nature.

Another case is that of the Diaguita community of Aguas Calientes, in the north of the same Argentine province, which is fighting to keep out mining companies such as Buena Vista Gold.

“In these cases the only thing the communities can do is resist, protest and stop by their own means those who try to steal their land,” said the expert.

“The defence of the territories carried out by the Diaguita communities becomes a socio-environmental defence, since their territories also include the Laguna Blanca Biosphere Reserve, a protected natural area of great planetary importance for its biodiversity,” she said.

The Diaguita communities, she stressed, “maintain a close link with nature, which means protecting and respecting it; a spiritual relationship, with what they consider mother earth or ‘Pachamama’.”

According to Guerreiro, the “pattern of development” in Latin America “responds to the logic of the global financial markets…and keeps alive colonial relations, denying the specificity of territories and populations with their own ways of life, and recreating relations of subordination and exploitation.”

“However, the peasant and indigenous communities of the region – permanently subjected to persecution, dispossession and defamation – have historically resisted, and continue to resist, encroachment,” she said.

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Rohingya Crisis May Be Genocide, UN Officials Sayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rohingya-crisis-may-genocide-un-officials-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rohingya-crisis-may-genocide-un-officials-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/rohingya-crisis-may-genocide-un-officials-say/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2018 09:51:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154806 In the wake of persistent violence against the Rohingya community, UN officials have expressed growing fears that genocide is being incited and committed in Myanmar. Since violence renewed in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017, almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have fled to neighboring Bangladesh. Often arriving to limited food and shelter, refugees have brought […]

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A Rohingya refugee woman carries relief supplies to her makeshift shelter. Credit: Umer Aiman Khan/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

In the wake of persistent violence against the Rohingya community, UN officials have expressed growing fears that genocide is being incited and committed in Myanmar.

Since violence renewed in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017, almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees have fled to neighboring Bangladesh.

Often arriving to limited food and shelter, refugees have brought with them stories of serious human rights abuses including extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, and the deliberate burning of entire villages.

“I am becoming more convinced that the crimes committed following 9 October 2016 and 25 August 2017 bear the hallmarks of genocide and call in the strongest terms for accountability,” UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee told the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

She expressed concern that the “repressive practices of previous military governments were returning at the norm once more.”

Spreading Hate through Social Media

Lee highlighted the toxic use of social media to incite violence and particularly pointed to the role of Facebook in spreading high levels of hate speech against the Rohingya minority in the Southeast Asian nation.

“Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar…it was used to convey public messages but we know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities,” she said.

A UN fact-finding mission also recently found that social media had a “determining role” and was “substantively contributing” to the violence in Myanmar.

Most recently, Facebook suspended the account of Buddhist monk Wirathu who is known for his nationalist, anti-Muslim messages particularly disseminated through social media.

Though he has denied fueling violence in Rakhine, Wirathu recently claimed that the state was experiencing “terrorism of Bengalis,” a label implying that Rohingya are from Bangladesh rather than Myanmar.

“I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast,” Lee said.

A Systematic Removal

Having been denied access to the country, Lee presented a report to the council this week based on her visits to neighboring countries of Bangladesh and Thailand which revealed the extent of Myanmar’s human rights violations.

Among the issues raised by refugees, the Special Rapporteur was especially saddened by the targeting of Rohingya children.

She estimates that at least 730 children under the age of five were killed in the first month of violence alone.

While approximately 60 percent of the refugee population is children, the UN estimates that up to 200,000 children are still in Rakhine.

Earlier this month, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) found that Rohingyas who try to leave their villages “are taken away and never return” and found a “recurring theme” of women and girls being abducted.

The agency also found an ongoing systematic campaign of “terror and forced starvation” which are forcing Rohingya out of the country.

In a recent report, Amnesty International reported that forces are bulldozing land and building military bases where Rohingya villages were burned down.

Not only does this prevent refugees from returning, but it also hides authorities’ crimes.

“The bulldozing of entire villages is incredibly worrying. Myanmar’s authorities are erasing evidence of crimes against humanity, making any future attempts to hold those responsible to account extremely difficult,” said Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Director Tirana Hassan.

This has raised concerns for both Amnesty International and the Special Rapporteur over the Bangladesh-Myanmar arrangement to repatriate Rohingya refugees as they will return to find their homes gone and face continued discrimination.

“No one should be returned to Myanmar until they can do so voluntarily, in safety and dignity – something that is clearly not possible today,” Amnesty International said.

Accountability for Peace

In light of Myanmar’s denial that any atrocities were committed, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, who also suggested acts of genocide may be taking place, called for the case to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“What we’re saying is…there are strong suspicions, yes, that acts of genocide may well have taken place. But only a court, having heard all the arguments, will confirm this,” he said.

In her report, Lee urged for steps towards accountability in order to bring long-lasting peace and stability in Myanmar.

“This must be aimed at the individuals who gave the orders and carried out violations against individuals and entire ethnic and religious groups…the government leadership who did nothing to intervene, stop, or condemn these acts must also be held accountable,” she told the Council.

Lee called for an impartial and comprehensive investigation not only in Myanmar, but also into actions by the UN system in the lead-up to and after the reported attacks in 2016.

“The external review should assess whether the UN and international community could have prevented or managed the situation differently,” she said.

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For the Rural Poor of Peru, the Social Agenda is Far Awayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/rural-poor-peru-social-agenda-far-away/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-poor-peru-social-agenda-far-away http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/rural-poor-peru-social-agenda-far-away/#respond Thu, 22 Feb 2018 22:20:25 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154459 “The day will come when people do not have to go to the cities to overcome poverty,” says Elmer Pinares, mayor of an Andean highlands municipality in Cuzco, in southern Peru, where malnutrition and lack of support for subsistence farming are among the main problems. “If I were president of Peru, I would reactivate the […]

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The central square of Huaro, with a colonial church that is a national monument, in the middle of the typical Andes highlands landscape. This Peruvian rural municipality of 4,500 people feels alone in its efforts to reduce the high levels of poverty. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

The central square of Huaro, with a colonial church that is a national monument, in the middle of the typical Andes highlands landscape. This Peruvian rural municipality of 4,500 people feels alone in its efforts to reduce the high levels of poverty. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

By Mariela Jara
HUARO, Peru, Feb 22 2018 (IPS)

“The day will come when people do not have to go to the cities to overcome poverty,” says Elmer Pinares, mayor of an Andean highlands municipality in Cuzco, in southern Peru, where malnutrition and lack of support for subsistence farming are among the main problems.

“If I were president of Peru, I would reactivate the Andes highlands by supporting small-scale agriculture and training women and men in the face of climate change, so that communities can take advantage of their resources and families can have a good quality of life,” the mayor of Huaro, a town of 4,500 inhabitants located at 3,100 meters above sea level, told IPS.

Huaro is one of the 12 districts (municipalities) of the province of Quispicanchi, in turn one of the 13 that make up Cuzco, a department with high rates of inequality and poverty, despite being Peru’s epicentre of tourism and source of high-protein foods, such as quinoa, tarwi (Lupinus mutabilis) and amaranth (Amaranthus caudatus)."In our administration, we aim to combat chronic child malnutrition and we have focused our efforts on guaranteeing food security for families in a situation of extreme poverty, then we will sell outside if there is a surplus." -- Enrique Achahui

These problems translate into high rates of child malnutrition and anemia in the highlands areas, curtailing opportunities for the rural population from early childhood, said Pinares, who after finishing his three-year term in 2019 is determined to return to teaching at the local school.

At total of 38,533 girls and boys under the age of three are malnourished in the Andean communities of Cuzco, where the population is predominantly native Quechua, he said.

Peru, a country of 32 million people, has made progress in reducing child malnutrition in the last decade, but official figures show that in this region of 1.4 million people malnutrition remains high at 53.1 percent of children, almost 10 percentage points above the national average of 43.5 percent.

“This is the reality in the highland communities of the Peruvian Andes, which the national government ignores,” said Pinares, who during his term has promoted the development of productive projects for the benefit of families, with the support of a small team of local technicians.

And the situation in Huaro, IPS found during a tour of rural communities in the area, is repeated in other districts located over 3,000 meters above sea level, which forms part of the territory where rural poverty is concentrated in Peru.

According to the latest data from the National Institute of Statistics and Information, from 2016, overall poverty in Peru stands at 20.7 percent of the population, but rural poverty climbs to 43.8 percent, and of that proportion, 13.2 percent live in extreme poverty.

For this group of Peruvians, food security is still a distant goal, as acknowledged by another government study from 2017.

Communities feel alone

It is in this context that the local authorities of the most neglected communities of Peru, who with limited resources try to boost development in their territories, feel like they have been left on their own by the central government.

Along with a small technical team, Huaro Mayor Elmer Pinares, from his office in the Andes highlands region of Cuzco, in southern Peru, promotes projects aimed at improving the living conditions of local families, and in particular at reducing child malnutrition, a sensitive subject for him, as a teacher. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

Along with a small technical team, Huaro Mayor Elmer Pinares, from his office in the Andes highlands region of Cuzco, in southern Peru, promotes projects aimed at improving the living conditions of local families, and in particular at reducing child malnutrition, a sensitive subject for him, as a teacher. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

“In our administration, we aim to combat chronic child malnutrition and we have focused our efforts on guaranteeing food security for families in a situation of extreme poverty, then we will sell outside if there is a surplus,” Enrique Achahui, the municipal manager of the district of Andahuaylillas, told IPS.

In his town, at almost 3,200 m above sea level, another new and urgent problem is the lack of water, because the streams in the Andes are shrinking due to climate change.

“Here most families are engaged in small-scale agriculture, where they get their food, but without water there will be no food. Despite the serious nature of the situation, the central government has not put a priority on addressing this problem,” the official said.

A little higher up, at 3,553 m above sea level, the municipal authorities of the district of Quiquijana, also in the province of Quispicanchi, are committed to promoting economic development with productive projects carried out by peasant families.

“In highlands communities, child malnutrition exceeds 50 percent and may increase because crops are lost due to climate change. We are developing capacities for planting crops and harvesting water, creating organic bio-gardens and raising guinea pigs for food,” municipal official Efraín Lupo told IPS.

His colleague, Rosmary Challco, added that unexpected frost and hailstorms are destroying crops.

“Families lose money, work, and food, and this is a very serious problem for highlands communities. Unfortunately there are no initiatives from the central government to initiate change,” she said with dismay.

She also called attention to the need to promote public policies focused on Andean territories to reinforce local intervention and raise public awareness about changes in social patterns to improve the lives of communities.

“We need to eradicate the machismo that prevents girls and women in communities in highlands areas from getting an education and from living lives free of (gender) violence, so that they can have a profession, develop and provide for their families,” she explained.

For Janed Nina, education was the door that opened up opportunities for her to realise her dreams.

She had the support of her family to pursue university studies after finishing high school, and today, as an agronomist, she contributes to the growth of the family farm located in the community of Saclla in the district of Calca.

“We plant more than 40 kinds of vegetables, which enrich our diet. We sell the surplus to have an income that helps us develop the farm,” she told IPS.

After graduating as an agronomist, agroecological farmer Janed Nina returned to her community, Saclla, high in the Peruvian Andes, to apply her knowledge on the family farm and also share it with other local farmers. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

After graduating as an agronomist, agroecological farmer Janed Nina returned to her community, Saclla, high in the Peruvian Andes, to apply her knowledge on the family farm and also share it with other local farmers. Credit: Mariela Jara / IPS

She, along with her two brothers who are also agricultural engineers, is dedicated to working on the family farm and sharing their achievements.

“Here we offer training in agroecology to women farmers, as well as internships for people interested in learning,” she said.

For Nina, the weakness of small-scale agriculture has to do with the lack of vision of the central government, which does not include it as a strategic area of production, and with the fact that instead of promoting productive training in the communities, it limits itself to providing social assistance.

“We need to work and take advantage of our resources,” she said.

In the district of Cusipata, at 3,100 m altitude, with a population of 4,700, the main concern of the authorities is to create conditions for the population to improve their food security and thus reduce the rates of anemia and malnutrition among local children.

“We seek to work with organised groups of women. Associations of flower growers, artisans and guinea pig breeders have been formed. But we need to maintain the technical assistance in order to make their projects sustainable,” said Vladimir Boza, economic development manager of the municipality.

From distant Lima, he told IPS, the government has little understanding of the reality in the highlands areas, hence the weak and ineffective policies.

“For example, they talk about helping farmers specialise in producing agroexport crops, and this is not possible in high altitude areas because monoculture is not feasible with climate change,” he said.

“On the contrary, what needs to be promoted is diversification,” he said, based on his experience.

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Survival of Indigenous Tribes in Bangladesh Starts at Schoolhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/survival-indigenous-tribes-bangladesh-starts-school/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=survival-indigenous-tribes-bangladesh-starts-school http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/survival-indigenous-tribes-bangladesh-starts-school/#respond Mon, 05 Feb 2018 07:02:06 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154171 Just before sundown on Jan. 30, a group of women day labourers from the Shantal indigenous community are in a rush to wind up their work harvesting potatoes in a field in the village of Boldipukur, some 15 km away from Rangpur district in northern Bangladesh. One young girl looked indifferent and didn’t seem to […]

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Indigenous Peoples & Local Communities Vital to the Global Environmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/indigenous-peoples-local-communities-vital-global-environment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-local-communities-vital-global-environment http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/indigenous-peoples-local-communities-vital-global-environment/#respond Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:52:29 +0000 Katie Reytar and Peter Veit http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154016 Katie Reytar and Peter Veit, World Resources Institute

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Indigenous groups and local communities occupy about half the world's land, but hold legal rights to only a fraction of it. Credit: Michele Solmi/Flickr

By Katie Reytar and Peter Veit
WASHINGTON DC, Jan 25 2018 (IPS)

Indigenous Peoples and local communities are some of the best environmental stewards. Their livelihoods and cultures depend on forests, clean water and other natural resources, so they have strong incentives to sustainably manage their lands.

LandMark, the first global platform to provide maps of land held by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, last month released new carbon storage, tree cover loss, natural resource concessions, dam locations and other data layers that shed light on the environment in which these lands exist. Now anyone, anywhere can view and analyze indigenous and local communities’ environmental contributions and identify threats to specific lands.

Five maps illustrate just how critical indigenous and community lands are to the planet:

1) Indigenous Peoples and communities hold a considerable amount of the world’s land.

More than 50 percent of the world’s land is community land, collectively held by Indigenous Peoples and other local communities and managed primarily under customary tenure arrangements. The map below shows indigenous land in orange and community land in blue across Amazonia, with the darker colors indicating lands documented with a title or land certificate. Community land is found on all continents of the world, except Antarctica, with Africa having more than any other continent.

However, Indigenous Peoples and other communities hold legal rights to only a fraction of the lands they occupy; even less of their land is formally registered and documented with the government. This makes community land vulnerable to being taken by governments, corporations and other powerful elites.

2) Tenure-secure indigenous lands often have lower deforestation rates than other areas.

Rapid deforestation accounted for 80 percent of Bolivia’s total annual carbon emissions from 2000-2010, and forest loss isn’t slowing down. Farmers and cattle ranchers are clearing more and more forests, especially in Bolivia’s Santa Cruz province (shown in map below), where soy production is booming.

However, deforestation is significantly lower within formally recognized indigenous-held lands. A recent WRI report found that in Bolivia, deforestation rates are 2.8 times lower within “tenure-secure” indigenous lands — lands that are legally recognized by the government and protected from external threats and competing claims — than outside of them.

By giving indigenous groups legal rights to the lands they occupy, Bolivia could avoid 8-12 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year, equivalent to taking more than 1.7 million vehicles off the road.

These benefits extend beyond Bolivia and across the Amazon — average annual deforestation rates inside tenured indigenous forestlands were 2-3 times lower than outside of them from 2000 to 2012. Securing these lands would generate billions of dollars in climate, environment and economic benefits over the next 20 years.

3) Indigenous Peoples manage some of the richest carbon stocks in the world.

Research shows that indigenous and community lands store about 25 percent of the world’s aboveground carbon, making these lands critically important in the global fight to curb climate change. For instance, the Ikahalans in the Philippines have protected their ancestral forests for generations.

LandMark’s new carbon storage analysis tool estimates that the trees in the Ikahalan’s domain (outlined in blue in the map below) holds nearly 3 million tonnes of carbon, with an average of 96 tonnes per hectare across their entire territory. The total carbon stored in their lands is equivalent to the yearly greenhouse gas emissions from 2.3 million passenger vehicles.

By providing this data, LandMark can help communities like the Ikahalan access additional sources of income through forest conservation programs like REDD+ or carbon accounting and sequestration projects.

4) Dams are flooding indigenous and community lands.

Around the world, dams and hydropower projects have flooded collectively held lands, including homesteads, family farms, burial grounds and sacred sites. In the Brazilian Amazon alone, more than 80 large dams are currently under construction.

The map above focuses on the Brazilian states of Mato Grosso and Rondônia, showing projects that threaten to harm rivers, destroy forests and create significant hardships for Indigenous Peoples. In these two states, 20 large dams are under construction, 86 are operational and an additional 224 dams are either inventoried or planned.

5) Natural resource concessions are a growing threat to indigenous and community lands.

Mining for precious metals such as gold, copper and zinc is among the most widespread threat to indigenous lands, particularly in the Amazon. In Peru alone, the government has granted some 55,000 mining and exploration concessions that cover more than 18.5 million hectares, about 15 percent of the country. The map below shows the indigenous Santiago de Chocorvos land, which has 95 concessions on it. Illegal mining, not illustrated on the map, also runs rampant and threatens local communities across Peru.

The short-term profits of mineral extraction usually spell long-term hardship for Indigenous Peoples and communities; companies clear forests and pollute waterways, leaving little left to support traditional livelihoods. Titling of community lands and the right of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC), which gives communities a powerful voice in all decisions affecting their lands, is paramount for preventing the widespread loss of critical ecosystems.

A Fight for Legal Recognition and Tenure Security

Maps are a powerful tool for making visible the lands that Indigenous Peoples and local communities hold. LandMark shows the dynamic environment in which these lands exist – both the benefits that they provide when land rights are secure, as well as the mounting pressures that threaten rural livelihoods and the planet. These communities and their advocates can use the platform to help protect indigenous land rights, negotiate fair payments for land use, and participate in decisions that affect their lands and livelihoods.

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Excerpt:

Katie Reytar and Peter Veit, World Resources Institute

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Why the #MeToo Movement Disrupts the Creeping Commodification of Feminismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/creeping-commodification-feminism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=creeping-commodification-feminism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/creeping-commodification-feminism/#comments Mon, 08 Jan 2018 16:43:12 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153782 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN SDG Fund

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Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN SDG Fund

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 8 2018 (IPS)

As the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York draws near, women from every corner of the world will convene to deliberate on the theme of CSW 2018: Challenges and Opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. This year, the theme of empowerment has added significance. The #MeToo movement has shocked our collective conscience and made it impossible to ignore that empowerment goes far beyond economic agency.

Rangita de Silva de Alwis

Women’s economic empowerment has enormous consequence. Research from McKinsey & Company shows that gender equality adds U.S. $12 trillion to the global economy, yet women are conspicuously absent from board rooms and in some communities, school rooms. The evidence is now clear, when women are absent from the market place, the market suffers.

Although the cost analysis is important, the #MeToo movement has helped unmask the way in which sometimes women’s economic participation pays lip service to women’s power, while serving those in power. Feminism’s urgent charge is not to commodify women through glossy stories and data, but to pierce those veils to identify the underlying power structures and structural barriers that prevent women’s access to and retention in the market.

Feminism’s latest incarnation, “economic feminism,” poses a complicated challenge to the pursuit of gender equality around the world. By providing legal economic rights to women empowerment is thus framed as voluntary, and structural barriers are normalized.

Herein the champions of economic feminism proudly parade entrepreneurial women as proof of gender equality, a byproduct of a transformation in a society that sees value in women. In this cultural shift, if a woman is not in the marketplace, it is because she has made a choice not to work – and not because of debilitating structural inequalities.

However, this thinking masks patriarchy’s power over women. Economic feminism, in its unquestioned authority, can pose a threat to women’s advancement around the world. The importance attached to economic instrumentalist arguments for women’s rights can hide unexamined challenges.

Without a doubt, the plethora of recent research confirming gender equality significantly boosts economic growth from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), as well as the aforementioned McKinsey study, is to be celebrated for giving a tangible economic reason for countries to improve the status of women.

Unfortunately, this message has been warped by some economies, and economic policies such as Abenomics in Japan supplant important social change policies on sexual abuse and hold back feminism’s goal of full realization of gender equality under law. The reality is that women continue to face inequality that goes beyond just economic opportunity.

Several countries, notably Japan, have put forward “win-win” economic policies, but they ignore controversial and difficult social policies such as violence against women. This approach is similar to the nations that peddled the “Asian Values” theory in the 1990s. The better approach is to reveal the interconnectedness of women’s economic participation with equal protection of laws.

For example, in many corners of the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, women have unequal access to property and land. Globally, women’s unequal access to citizenship, residency, inheritance, and decision-making in public and private often subordinate women’s economic participation.

Gender equality in all laws, most importantly family laws, have a profound impact on shaping and advancing women’s economic participation. In many countries, laws that regulate women in their families require women to get permission from their husbands to travel and disallow married mothers to confer citizenship on their children. Several nations have legislation that do not recognize women as heads of household and control their free movement.

Further, laws around the world permit underage and forced marriage for girls. Every two seconds, a girl is forced into marriage. Women married as children will reach one billion by 2030, according to UNICEF.

Martha Minow, the former Dean of Harvard Law School, has argued that the rules of family law construct not only roles and duties of men and women, but can shape rules about employment and commerce, and perhaps the governance of the state.

And not to be forgotten is that violence is one of the most insidious barriers to women’s economic empowerment. Where a woman suffers sexual and other forms of abuse, her capacity to work and function are severely impaired – Fortune estimates that it costs the US $500 billion, but the human cost cannot be computed.

Fortune argues that when talking about equality, the focus should include violence, or more specifically, violence against women. And according to McKinsey, violence is one of the biggest factors holding American women and all other women back.

Feminism’s and the #MeToo movements’ power lies in its potential to disrupt seemingly immutable gender norms. The international women’s rights community, as it convenes in New York in March, should not be swayed by the promise of economic opportunity alone, it must continue to press on issues of violence, sexual abuse and discrimination that disallow women from participating in economic activity, and inhibit women’s full empowerment.

The post Why the #MeToo Movement Disrupts the Creeping Commodification of Feminism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School & Advisor, UN SDG Fund

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Perpetrators of Crimes against Humanity Must be Brought to Justicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/perpetrators-crimes-humanity-must-brought-justice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=perpetrators-crimes-humanity-must-brought-justice http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/perpetrators-crimes-humanity-must-brought-justice/#respond Wed, 20 Dec 2017 11:46:11 +0000 Geneva Centre http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153631 On the occasion of the 2017 International Day of Human Solidarity observed on 20 December, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim calls for peace for and human solidarity with, the Rohingya minority in Myanmar. The Chair of the Geneva Centre emphasized that […]

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By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Dec 20 2017 (IPS)

On the occasion of the 2017 International Day of Human Solidarity observed on 20 December, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim calls for peace for and human solidarity with, the Rohingya minority in Myanmar.

The Chair of the Geneva Centre emphasized that the forcible expulsion of more than 600,000 Rohingya from Myanmar to neighbouring Bangladesh has aggravated the dire human rights and humanitarian situation of the Rohingya.

He remarked inter alia that international decision-makers, members States of the United Nations and NGOs have a “moral responsibility to stand in solidarity with the Rohingya minority in Myanmar and other persecuted people worldwide.”

In this regard, Dr. Al Qassim stated that “the Geneva Centre took the initiative on 11 and 12 October 2017 to call upon the members of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations to hold a special session in solidarity with the Rohingya people and to address the situation in Myanmar.

Our call for peace, solidarity and justice in Myanmar was heard; on 5 December 2017 a special session was convened at the United Nations Office in Geneva to identify a common platform to end the atrocities committed on the Rohingya people guided by the principles of justice and human solidarity. It is only through joint action and human solidarity that world society can respond with a unified voice to address the plight of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State and in Bangladesh,” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

Although the holding of the special session on the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslim population and other minorities in the Rakhine Sate of Myanmar reached its objective, the world society must keep its gear high in calling for peace and social justice. Dr. Al Qassim added:

Our efforts to address the situation in Myanmar will be in vain if the international community limits its action to include the adoption of resolutions and declarations in support of the Rohingya people.

Endemic poverty, violence and stark inequalities remain high in Rakhine State. Once the Rohingya refugees start to return to their home societies as envisaged in the ‘Arrangement on Return of Displaced Persons from Rakhine State’ signed on 23 November between Bangladesh and Myanmar which presupposes that it will become safe for them to do so, the main task will lie in rebuilding a safe, stable and inclusive society for all.

The Rohingya people and other minorities in Rakhine State must be allowed to enjoy full and unconditional legal protection and fundamental freedoms. I appeal to the government of Myanmar to review and revoke the 1982 Citizenship law that degrades the status of the Rohingya people and other minorities to second-class citizens. All citizens of Myanmar are entitled to enjoy equal and inclusive citizenship rights,” stated Dr. Al Qassim.

In conclusion, he added that perpetrators of crimes against humanity must be brought to justice. Strengthening accountability and transitional justice in post-conflict Myanmar are imperative to end impunity and bring peace and stability to the region.

Myanmar must take its future into its own hands and address all human rights concerns deriving from the current situation in Rakhine State. Decision-makers in Myanmar must remain committed to developing a peaceful and inclusive society in which the Rohingya people and other minorities are considered as integral components of the society of Myanmar and the international community must continue to assist victims to ensure their livelihoods and Bangladesh to enable it to be in a position to provide them with decent shelter,” concluded Dr. Al Qassim.

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Civil Society Meeting Calls for Solidarity, Radical Change to Deal with Global Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-meeting-calls-solidarity-radical-change-deal-global-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civil-society-meeting-calls-solidarity-radical-change-deal-global-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/civil-society-meeting-calls-solidarity-radical-change-deal-global-crises/#respond Fri, 15 Dec 2017 17:52:01 +0000 Amy Taylor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153581 Amy Taylor is Chief Networks Officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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Amy Taylor is Chief Networks Officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

By Amy Taylor
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 15 2017 (IPS)

Our strategies have failed us. We can no longer respond to the crises facing us in the same way. We have to be more radical, more creative — together — to build the future we want.

This was one of the resounding messages to emerge from a key global gathering of more than 700 leading thinkers, influencers and doers from more than 100 countries in Suva, Fiji in early December.

Organised by global civil society alliance, CIVICUS and the Pacific Islands Associations of Non-governmental Organisations (PIANGO) and including a diverse set of events by more than 40 partner organisations, International Civil Society Week 2017 brought to the world stage critical issues from the Pacific region such as the reality of climate change for small island states. This, whilst delegates made personal connections that we hope will translate into global solidarity.

We heard repeatedly about the transformational power of connecting across regions and thematic areas of work. Many said that the experience had changed them; they had a new understanding of the struggles of our brothers and sisters in the Pacific Islands. In short, we achieved what we set out to do.

But ICSW, organised under the theme, “Our Planet. Our Struggles. Our Future”, also brought home the gravity of our responsibility to act on this knowledge, to address the urgent, inter-related challenges threatening our planet and our humanity before it is too late.

The conversations that took place within the “Our Planet” programme track took us beyond the usual discourse on the Paris Climate Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We heard about how an economic system built on greed and exploitation is creating unequal societies, perpetuating climate change and threatening livelihoods, food security and political stability.

But these are abstract concepts. It was the emotional and passionate accounts from Pacific Islanders whose homes, traditions, cultures and very identities are under threat that brought home the real and urgent nature of the challenge. Climate change is not some futuristic scenario depicted in a sci-fi film, it is happening right now with devastating consequences.

The “Our Struggles” programme track explored the extent of the global crisis of democracy and clampdown on people’s rights. We learned that more than half the world’s people live in countries where it is very difficult to exercise the freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly. This alarming and growing trend is limiting civil society participation and progress on social justice struggles from rising inequality to women’s rights.

Moreover civil society efforts to create peaceful societies are being threatened. President Trump’s recent announcement that the United States now considers Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital (disregarding international law) was made the same day that International Civil Society Week partners hosted an event on illegal settlements and land rights in Palestine.

The bright sparks of hope during the week were found in the “Our Future” track, which considered how we can innovate and support new leaders. We were reminded of the importance of giving young people the space and trust they need to drive this change.

We learned how to develop ‘sharing economies’ that build a sense of community where distrust prevails. We heard about the divestment campaign from fossil fuels that challenges the economic system propping up the extractive industry. Perhaps most importantly, we reconfirmed the need to build solidarity across diverse movements, mobilisations and initiatives.

It’s time to do things differently, to take on challenges collectively and in a holistic way. And if there’s one thing we hope ICSW 2017 delegates take home with them, it’s the willingness to stand together and take bold actions.

One concrete initiative that exemplifies this aspiration is the Declaration on Climate-Induced Displacement that was launched during the CIVICUS World Assembly on the final day of the conference. The Declaration was drafted by a cohort of global and Pacific Island organisations representing civil society, development actors, human rights defenders, faith-based organisations, environmental activists and progressive governments.

The intention is to build an influential, global movement in support of the inclusion of climate-induced displacement in the global compact for migration to be adopted by the United Nations General Assembly next year. If we succeed, it is because together, we are stronger.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji, 4 December through 8 December for International Civil Society Week.

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Excerpt:

Amy Taylor is Chief Networks Officer for global civil society alliance, CIVICUS.

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A Voice of Inspirationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/a-voice-of-inspiration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-voice-of-inspiration http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/a-voice-of-inspiration/#respond Wed, 13 Dec 2017 15:12:30 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153476 The lights are switched off and the dirty dishes are being cleaned. But on their way home, the participants of the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) still have a lot to chew on. Last week they collected new ideas and insights on civil society during the week long global event. For the first time ICSW was hosted in the Pacific, to focus on some of the world’s most vulnerable islands.

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By Pascal Laureyn
SUVA, Fiji, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

More than 700 activists gathered in Suva, Fiji’s capital, to explore the latest trends – from climate change to human rights, from innovation to social justice. Anything that can help empower and mobilise citizens. The lively debates in panel discussions, workshops and lectures made the event look like a carnival of creative new ideas and tested knowledge.

The Innovation Lab brought together human rights defenders to share their tools, tactics and strategies. Oxfam addressed the long term problems that the 300 nuclear tests in the Pacific had caused. And the Public Interest Registry taught participants how to inspire donors to give and supporters to take action.

A lot of attention went to activist stars like Kumi Naidoo (Greenpeace, CIVICUS, …), Helen Clark (former prime minister of New Zealand) and José Ramos-Horta (former president of Timor-Leste). The youthful and charming winners of the ‘Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Innovation Awards’ won many hearts when the annual prize was handed out.

Special focus on the Pacific

For the first time this global event was hosted in the Pacific. The conference focussed on the plight of small islands affected by rising sea levels and more frequent and extreme weather.

“The peoples of the Pacific, like those in other small island states, have to tackle the devastating impacts of climate change alongside other development challenges,” says Danny Sriskandarajah, secretary general of CIVICUS.

CIVICUS, an alliance for citizen participation, organized the conference in cooperation with PIANGO, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisation.

Fiji has taken a leading role in the Pacific to address climate change. The republic has already presided over the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in Bonn and co-hosted the UN Oceans Conference in New York earlier this year. It collaborates closely with other Pacific states and territories.

Brianna Fruean, a 19 year old student from Samoa, is one of the Pacific Climate Warriors, a cooperation between 12 island nations. “My grandfather liked to take me to the markets to look at the rich variety of fish. But the corals are devastated due to climate change. If you go to the fish markets now it’s not so plentiful anymore. That’s how my passion for climate change began.”

“It is critical that every person on this planet recognizes the importance of what is going on in the Pacific,” says Danny Sriskandarajah. “Everybody must act. Whether it is change in their consumption behavior or putting pressure on their local and national authorities.”

Many inspirational voices

Speaking at the closing event, Joanna Kerr – the Canadian head of Greenpeace – said that the problem of climate change will require enormous civil society mobilisation to address. “The problem is so huge it can be hard to stay optimistic. But the hope and resilience of the Pacific gives us hope.” She applauded the ordinary Pacific peoples’ appreciation for climate change.

Another inspirational voice of hope was that of Victor Ugo, a Nigerian doctor. He came to ICSW to collect his ‘Nelson Mandela – Graca Machel Innovation Award’ for his work on developing awareness on mental health in Nigeria. He experienced several eye-openers at the conference.

“I’m eager to go home and try out all the things that I’ve learned here in Fiji. I want to help people with mental illnesses to speak out so they can achieve something in their communities. There is still an awful lot of work to do in Nigeria on mental health. But challenges are not restrictions,” Ugo said.

If conferences are about motivating people to keep on going forward, then ICSW has done its job.


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific and small island states who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

The post A Voice of Inspiration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The lights are switched off and the dirty dishes are being cleaned. But on their way home, the participants of the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) still have a lot to chew on. Last week they collected new ideas and insights on civil society during the week long global event. For the first time ICSW was hosted in the Pacific, to focus on some of the world’s most vulnerable islands.

The post A Voice of Inspiration appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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A Responsibility to Prevent Genocidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/responsibility-prevent-genocide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=responsibility-prevent-genocide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/responsibility-prevent-genocide/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 07:43:12 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153474 Almost 70 years since the Genocide Convention was adopted, the international community still faces a continued and growing risk of genocide. On the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide, the UN launched an appeal for member states to ratify the 1948 convention by the end of 2018. […]

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Thousands of new Rohingya refugee arrivals cross the border near Anzuman Para village, Palong Khali, Bangladesh. Credit: UNHCR/Roger Arnold

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Almost 70 years since the Genocide Convention was adopted, the international community still faces a continued and growing risk of genocide.

On the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide, the UN launched an appeal for member states to ratify the 1948 convention by the end of 2018.

“Genocide does not happen by accident; it is deliberate, with warning signs and precursors,” said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“Often it is the culmination of years of exclusion, denial of human rights and other wrongs. Since genocide can take place in times of war and in times of peace, we must be ever-vigilant,” he continued.

The Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng echoed similar sentiments, stating: “It is our inaction, our ineffectiveness in addressing the warning signs, that allows it to become a reality. A reality where people are dehumanized and persecuted for who they are, or who they represent. A reality of great suffering, cruelty, and of inhumane acts that have at the basis unacceptable motivations.”

The Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” This includes not only killing members of the group, but also causing serious bodily or mental harm and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group.

Despite the comprehensive definition of genocide in the Convention, genocide has recurred multiple times, Guterres said.

“We are still reacting rather than preventing, and acting only when it is often too late. We must do more to respond early and keep violence from escalating,” he said.

One such case may be Myanmar.

After a year of investigation, the organization Fortify Rights and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said that there is “mounting” evidence that points to a genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar with Burmese Army soldiers, police, and civilians as the major perpetrators.

“The Rohingya have suffered attacks and systematic violations for decades, and the international community must not fail them now when their very existence in Myanmar is threatened,” said Cameron Hudson from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Without urgent action, there’s a high risk of more mass atrocities,” he continued.

More than half of Myanmar’s one million Rohingya have fled the country since violence reignited in August.

“They tried to kill us all,” 25-year-old Mohammed Rafiq from Maungdaw Township told researchers when recalling how soldiers gathered villagers and opened fire on them on 30 August. It has been the largest and fastest flow of destitute people across a border since the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

“There was nothing left. People were shot in the chest, stomach, legs, face, head, everywhere.”

Eyewitness testimony revealed that Rohingya civilians were burned alive, women and girls raped, and men and boys arrested en masse.

“These crimes thrive on impunity and inaction…condemnations aren’t enough,” said Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights Matthew Smith.

On the other side of the border, refugees find themselves living in overcrowded camps with limited access to food, water, and shelter. They are in need of treatment for not only their physical injuries, but also the mental and emotional scars from their traumatic experiences.

IOM spoke to some of the survivor who made the treacherous journey by boat to Bangladesh including 8-year-old Arafat. His entire family including his parents, two brothers, and a sister drowned when the fishing boat carrying them capsized in stormy weather.

“Where will I go now,” he cried, transfixed with shock.

The government’s strict restrictions on Rohingya’s daily lives also point to signs of genocide.

In 2013, authorities placed a two-child limit on Rohingya couples in two predominantly Muslim townships in Rakhine State.

Others have come forward to claim that the crisis in Myanmar may constitute genocide such as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein and the British parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

“Considering Rohingyas’ self-identify as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture – and [that they] are also deemed by the perpetrators themselves as belonging to a different ethnic, national, racial or religious group – given all of this, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?” al-Hussein asked.

Though the UN Human Rights Council recently condemned the systematic and gross violations of human rights in Myanmar, the Security Council has failed to act on the crisis.

As the UN appeals for the remaining 45 member states to ratify the Genocide Convention, what about nations like Myanmar who are already party to the document?

The Convention requires all states to take action to prevent and punish genocide. Not only Myanmar, but the entire international community has failed to protect Rohingya civilians from mass atrocities.

“The world has reacted with horror to the images of their flight, and the stories of murder, rape and arson brought from their still smoldering villages in North Rakhine State. But this horror will have to be matched by action on the part of the international community, if we are to avert a humanitarian disaster on both sides of the border,” said IOM’s Director-General William Lacy Swing.

Perhaps the international community may need to consider additional mechanisms to address and prevent genocide, making sure ‘never again’ really means never again.

To date, a total of 149 member states have ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.

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“Banging on the Door” – Women Fight for a Voice and Space in Civil Societyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/banging-door-women-fight-voice-space-civil-society/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=banging-door-women-fight-voice-space-civil-society http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/banging-door-women-fight-voice-space-civil-society/#respond Sat, 09 Dec 2017 14:51:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153427 The space for civil society organizations is shrinking around the world, with particular impacts on women activists and human rights defenders who face additional barriers due to their gender or sexual orientation. Civil society organizations (CSOs) and activists from around the world convened in Fiji over the last week to tackle some of the world’s […]

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Women activists demanding a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

Women activists demanding a fair share of power. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 9 2017 (IPS)

The space for civil society organizations is shrinking around the world, with particular impacts on women activists and human rights defenders who face additional barriers due to their gender or sexual orientation.

Civil society organizations (CSOs) and activists from around the world convened in Fiji over the last week to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges.Two years before she was murdered, indigenous and environmental rights activist Berta Caceres said that it was her gender as much as her work that threatened her life.

Participants attended workshops and donned shirts saying “activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet” and “we will never give up on our beautiful planet.”

Among the challenges discussed is the rise in populism which has lead to restrictions in rights to expression and public assembly and thus actions taken by CSOs.

According to civil society alliance CIVICUS, only 2 of every 100 people live in a country with decent protections for civil society.

From Venezuela to Russia, state actors have put significant pressure on CSOs, preventing them from accessing foreign funding and registrations due to their role in defending human rights.

“When there is little or no support from government, the activist is in danger of discrimination and abuse by police and other authorities,” Pacific Women Advisory Board member Savina Nongebatu told IPS.

Human rights defenders (HRDs) have been increasingly subject to intimidation, harassment, and are at times killed for the work they do around the world.

Last year was the deadliest year ever recorded for HRDs with almost 300 killed across 25 countries, 49 percent of whom were defending land, indigenous, and environmental rights.

In addition to threats they face for their work, women human rights defenders (WHRDs) are frequently targeted because of their gender or sexual orientation, experiencing attacks that are traditionally perpetrated against women including rape, defamation campaigns, and acid attacks.

In August 2016, Turkish activist Hande Kader was brutally raped and murdered for her outspoken work in lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgender (LBGT) rights.

Human rights later Bertha de Leon was subject to a sexualized smear campaign as photos circulated suggesting she had a sexual relationship with a judge who ruled favorably in a case in which she was involved in El Salvador.

Indian tribal rights activist Soni Sori who has been an outspoken critic of police violence towards her community was attacked with a chemical substance in February 2016.

Two years before she was murdered, indigenous and environmental rights activist Berta Caceres said that it was her gender as much as her work that threatened her life.

“We are women who are reclaiming our right to the sovereignty of our bodies and thoughts and political beliefs, to our cultural and spiritual rights—of course the aggression is much greater,” she said.

Analysts have found that the trend of closing civic space and restrictons to civil society often go hand in hand with the intensification of a fundamentalist discouse on national identity and traditional patricarchal values.

Such threats and actions work to silence WHRDs, limiting their resources and capacity to do work in already restricted civic spaces.

“When we have defenders with limited resources and capacity, the possibility of not being heard or consulted is high,” Nongebatu said.

“The ability to work and build partnerships rests squarely on the few women activists who may have learnt to work smarter from lessons learnt in their journey,” she added.

Such threats and restrictions do not stay isolated within borders, but are often brought over to international fora like the UN.

During International Civil Society Week (ICSW) in Fiji, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and former UN Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark noted UN’s continuous struggle to include civil society voices, reminding participants that the UN Charter begins with the words “We the peoples.”

“It doesn’t say we the countries or we the member states,” she said, adding that barriers to civil society participation often comes from member states.

“Not all member states like civil society very much…you just have to keep banging on the door and force it to respond,” Clark said.

LGBT rights have been particularly long contested at the UN. In 2016, Russia with the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) banned 11 LGBT organizations from attending a UN High-Level meeting on Ending AIDS.

And it was only recently that women were formally recognized for their role in climate action during the UN Climate Change Conference in Germany, kickstarting a process to integrate gender equality and human rights into climate action.

Nongebatu also told IPS of the “North and South divide” where larger civil society organizations take up more resources and space and urged for them to ensure that all women who work in human rights are consulted.

She also called on the UN to be inclusive of those in the Pacific Islands who often are unable to make the long journey to New York.

Despite the numerous challenges, Nongebatu remained motivated and asked women activists to stay determined.

“Intersection of all issues is inevitable!…The work we do is never done! Don’t give up! We need to keep fighting!”


This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific and small island states who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world met in Suva, Fiji from 4-8 December for International Civil Society Week.

 

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Indigenous People, Guardians of Threatened Forests in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/indigenous-people-guardians-threatened-forests-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-people-guardians-threatened-forests-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/indigenous-people-guardians-threatened-forests-brazil/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 18:33:52 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153313 Indigenous peoples, recognised as the best guardians of the world’s forests, are losing some battles in Brazil in the face of intensified pressure from the expansion of agriculture, mining and electricity generation. The Brazilian indigenous lands (TI), called “reserves” or “reservations” in other countries, are the most protected in the Amazon rainforest. They cover 22.3 […]

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Brazilian Indigenous people during one of their regular protests in Rio de Janeiro demanding the demarcation of their lands and to be taken into account in environmental and climate measures. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Brazilian Indigenous people during one of their regular protests in Rio de Janeiro demanding the demarcation of their lands and to be taken into account in environmental and climate measures. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO , Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

Indigenous peoples, recognised as the best guardians of the world’s forests, are losing some battles in Brazil in the face of intensified pressure from the expansion of agriculture, mining and electricity generation.

The Brazilian indigenous lands (TI), called “reserves” or “reservations” in other countries, are the most protected in the Amazon rainforest. They cover 22.3 percent of the territory and the deforested portion represented just 1.6 percent of the total deforestation in the region up to 2016, according to the non-governmental Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA)."They are destroying our culture, our consciousness and our economy by destroying our forests, which we defend because they are our life and our wisdom." -- Almir Narayamoga Suruí

The conservation units, under state protection for research, limited sustainable use or as biological reserves, suffered much higher losses, although deforestation has declined drastically in recent years.

The expansion of these two preservation instruments would be decisive for Brazil to fulfill its nationally intended determined contribution to the mitigation of climate change: to reduce greenhouse gases by 43 percent as of 2030, based on 2005 emissions, which totalled just over 2 billion tons.

But deforestation in indigenous reserves demarcated in the Amazon increased 32 percent in August 2016 to July 2017, compared to the previous period, while throughout the Amazon region, made up of nine states, there was a 16 percent reduction.

It is little in absolute terms, but it has other dramatic effects.

“They are destroying our culture, our consciousness and our economy by destroying our forests, which we defend because they are our life and our wisdom,” protested Almir Narayamoga Suruí, a leader of the Suruí people in the September Seven TI, where nearly 1,400 indigenous people live, in northwestern Brazil.

The destruction is caused by loggers and “garimpeiros” or informal miners of gold and diamonds that have invaded the Suruí land since the beginning of 2016.

The complaints and information offered by the indigenous people have not obtained any answers from the government, said Almir Suruí, who became internationally known, as of 2007, for using Google Earth technology to monitor indigenous lands with the aim of preventing invasions and deforestation.

“It’s a good alliance, we have access to a tool that facilitates and allows us to have key information. But the government is not cooperating,” he said in a conversation with IPS.

Deforestation due to the expansion of livestock farming dominates the landscape near Alta Floresta, a southeastern gateway to the Brazilian Amazon. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Deforestation due to the expansion of livestock farming dominates the landscape near Alta Floresta, a southeastern gateway to the Brazilian Amazon. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

His suspicion is that government corruption, widely revealed in the last three years through investigations by the Public Prosecutor’s Office, weakens the government agencies that should fight the invasion of indigenous lands: the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources and the National Indian Foundation (Funai).

This is also dividing his people, with some of its members “co-opted” by loggers and “garimpeiros” to facilitate the illegal exploitation of natural resources, Suruí lamented.

The special rapporteur speaks

Indigenous peoples will be among the main victims of climate change, although their way of life practically does not contribute to the environmental crisis, but rather to solutions, according to the United Nations special rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz.

In addition to the fact that many of them live in localities subject to extreme weather events, some projects pointed out as solutions, because they reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, directly affect indigenous life, as is the case of biofuels and hydroelectric power plants, which impact their territories.

In her reports and presentations, Tauli-Corpuz repeatedly calls for compliance with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and International Labour Organization Convention N° 169, to give indigenous people greater participation in decisions that affect them, such as climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

“It is in fact what divided the Suruí people, some of their leaders were involved in the theft of timber with the support of Funai,” said Ivaneide Bandeira, project coordinator of the Kanindé Association for Ethno-Environmental Defence, a non-governmental organisation based in Porto Velho, capital of the northwestern state of Rondônia.

“And the Uru-ue-wau-wau people are facing an even worse situation,” she told IPS.

They are a small community, which has shrunk as a result of massacres and epidemics brought by the invaders in the last four decades, and is now suffering the invasion of thousands of farmers trying to illegally take possession of lands in the reserve west of the Suruís, in Rondônia.

“In Brazil, the TI’s play an important role in curbing the advance of deforestation and in preserving biodiversity, complementing the National Conservation Unit System,” philosopher Marcio Santilli, founder of the ISA, where he coordinates the Politics and Law programme, told IPS.

But some of these lands in the Amazon suffer greater deforestation, given “the intensity of the nearby territorial occupation, the execution of major works, the presence of roads, agricultural expansion fronts and mining or logging activity,” said Santilli, who presided over Funai in 1995-1996.

“That generates an unfavourable correlation of forces”, which exceeds “the capacity of organisation and territorial control of the indigenous people to discourage and even repel invasions,” he explained.

“Targeted actions on some 10 especially affected TI’s, with efficient inspections by government oversight bodies, would reduce deforestation, he suggested. In Brazil there are currently 462 TI’s.

This is what has been happening in general in the Amazon since last year, “through permanent actions by environmental authorities in areas of deforestation pressure”, such as the vicinity of the BR163 highway, a route for transporting soy for export in the Amazon, said Santilli.

Indigenous people are the eyes of the fight against deforestation even outside their reserves, all the sources interviewed agreed. Their information was decisive in guiding the Ríos Voladores Operation through which the police and the Public Prosecutor’s office dismantled a gang that occupied public lands for logging in the Amazon state of Pará.

“The elimination of forests in the surrounding areas have impacts within, such as the drying up of rivers that cross indigenous land and attracting fires,” said Paulo Barreto, senior researcher at the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment (Imazon).

Controlled burns, a traditional form of deforestation, have multiplied and have become more destructive in the Amazon, given the greater frequency and intensity of droughts. More flammable material accumulates and forests are more vulnerable, after the drop in rainfall in 2010, 2016 and this year.

This is added to another debilitating trend in the Amazon: increased forest degradation, caused by the droughts, timber extraction and other phenomena that reduce forest density, Barreto told IPS.

Last year the forest degradation rate reached a record and last October there was an increase of 2,400 percent over the same month of 2016, growing from 297 square km per month to 7,421, according to data from the Deforestation Alert System, created by Imazon.

“The degradation in one month exceeded the deforestation for the whole year. That impoverishes the forests biologically while the fires affect the health of animals and humans with the smoke. Brazil is not prepared to face this phenomenon, which requires strong local prevention measures,” said Barreto.

Restoring forests, mainly at the sources of rivers and along the banks, is a way to mitigate part of the damage, a technique used by the Xingu Seed Network, an initiative of the ISA launched in 2007 along the upper section of the highly deforested basin of the Xingu River in the Amazon rainforest.

In addition to supplying companies and institutions involved in reforestation, it generates income for the approximately 450 mainly indigenous collectors of seeds, plays a role in environmental education, and brings together different actors, such as farmers and landowners, said Rodrigo Junqueira, promoter of the Network and coordinator of the ISA Xingu Programme.

“I learned a lot about trees, life and the importance of nature, in addition to earning money as head of the ‘seed bank’” in Nova Xavantina, 19-year-old student Milene Alves, in the state of Mato Grosso, told IPS.

Her father, a fisherman, “overcame depression” and her mother, a homemaker, changed her life, both by devoting themselves to the collection of seeds, said Alves, who chose to study biology at the university after her experience.

All this is crucial for the future of climate change. Nearly 24 percent of the carbon stored on the earth’s surface is in the tropical forests in indigenous and communal lands, according to the international World Resources Institute.

According to the 2010 census, the indigenous population in Brazil is 897,000, which is 0.45 percent of the country’s total population, while the TI’s cover 1.17 million square km, equivalent to 13.8 percent of the country’s territory, but encompassed mostly in areas especially vulnerable to temperature rises.

This article is part of a series about the activists and communities of the Pacific who are responding to the effects of climate change. Leaders from climate and social justice movements from around the world will meet in Suva, Fiji Dec. 4-8 for International Civil Society Week.

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On Gender Day at Climate Meet, Some Progress, Many Hurdleshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/gender-day-climate-meet-progress-many-hurdles/#respond Wed, 15 Nov 2017 01:42:44 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153031 “Five years ago, when we first started talking about including gender in the negotiations, the parties asked us, ‘Why gender?’ Today, they are asking, ‘How do we include gender?’ That’s the progress we have seen since Doha,” said Kalyani Raj. Raj is a member and co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of […]

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Representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia stage a protest at the COP23 talks in Bonn. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia stage a protest at the COP23 talks in Bonn. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
BONN, Germany, Nov 15 2017 (IPS)

“Five years ago, when we first started talking about including gender in the negotiations, the parties asked us, ‘Why gender?’ Today, they are asking, ‘How do we include gender?’ That’s the progress we have seen since Doha,” said Kalyani Raj.

Raj is a member and co-focal point of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).“The representation of women environment and climate defenders is minimal at the COP as the UNFCCC has built a firewall around it." --indigenous leader Lina Gualinga

Established in 2009, the WGC is an umbrella group of 27 organizations working to make women’s voices and rights central to the ongoing discussions within the UNFCCC and the climate discussions known as COP23 in Bonn.

On Tuesday, as the COP observed Gender Day – a day specifically dedicated to address gender issues in climate change and celebrate women’s climate action – UNFCCC had just accepted the Gender Action Plan, a roadmap to integrate gender equality and women’s empowerment in all its discussions and actions.  For WGC and other women leaders attending the COP, this is a clear indication of progress on the gender front.

“For the first time ever, we are going to adopt a Gender Action Plan. It’s very good and over one year, it will be a matter of implementing it. So that’s where we are,” said Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and former Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Climate Change.

Gender Action Plan: The main points

The creation of a Gender Action Plan (GAP) was agreed upon by the countries at last year’s conference (COP22) in Morocco. All over the world, women face higher climate risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change. Yet they are often left out of the picture when decisions on climate action are made.

The aim of the GAP is to ensure that women can influence climate change decisions, and that women and men are represented equally in all aspects of the UNFCCC as a way to increase its effectiveness.

The GAP is made of five key goals that are crucial for improving the quality of life for women worldwide, as well as ensuring their representation in climate policy. These range from increasing knowledge and capacities of women and men to full, equal and meaningful participation of women in national delegations, including women from grassroots organizations, local and indigenous peoples and women from Small Island Developing States.

In brief, the five goals are:

  • Gender-responsive climate policy including gender budgeting
  • Increased availability of sex and gender disaggregated data and analysis at all levels
  • Gender balance in all aspects of climate change policy including all levels of UNFCCC.
  • 100% gender-responsive climate finance
  • 100% gender responsive approach in technology transfer and development.

The adopted draft, however, is a much watered-down version of the draft GAP that the GEC submitted. It has omitted several of the demands, especially on including indigenous women and women human rights defenders in the climate action plan.

“I would have expected a much-expressed acknowledgement of the participation, the voices and the knowledge of the indigenous and local women. We worked very hard to get that in, but it’s not there as much as I would have liked,” said Robinson, before adding that the adoption of the GAP, nonetheless, is “definitely some progress.”

Nobel laureate Mary Robinson poses impromptu before a wall covered in portraits of male leaders at the Bonn climate talks. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Nobel laureate Mary Robinson poses impromptu before a wall covered in portraits of male leaders at the Bonn climate talks. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

Omission leads to disappointment

Not everyone, however, is taking the omissions in the GAP quietly. At Tuesday noon, representatives of over a dozen women’s organizations from Latin America, Africa, the MENA region and Asia gathered at Bula zone 1 – where the negotiations are taking place and held a protest.

“We are here because we want to tell the parties that women human rights defenders are legitimate and critical actors not only in SDG 5, but all the SDGs including combating climate change and all areas of 2030 agenda and Paris Agreement,” said a protester as others nodded in silence, their mouth sealed with black tape.

Prior to the protest, however, Lina Gualinga, an indigenous leader from the Kichwa tribe in Ecuador shared some details of how women environmental activists feel.

“The representation of women environment and climate defenders is minimal at the COP as the UNFCCC has built a firewall around it. So, very few women can actually be here and be part of the COP,” she said.

“In the meantime, the language of the negotiations is drafted and shaped leaving no room to address our concerns. For example, what is sustainable development? For us, it’s nothing but clean water, fresh air, fertile land. Is that reflected in the language of the COP?” she asked.

No access to climate finance

Besides the continuous disappointment over human rights and indigenous issues, accessing finance has emerged as the biggest hurdle for women climate leaders. According to Robinson, the number of women who are getting climate finance is shockingly small.

“The latest figures by OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) shows that only 2 percent of the finance is going to women in the grassroots and southern groups. Only 2 percent! Its tiny. And yet that is where an awful lot of climate work is taking place, where women are trying to make themselves resilient,” Robinson said.

There are three simple ways to solve this, she said:  One, increase local funding. Two, simplify the process to access climate. And three, train women in new, green technologies.

Citing the example of the Barefoot College in India –  a government funded and NGO-run institution that trains women from developing countries in solar technologies before they become “Solar Mamas” or solar entrepreneurs – Robinson said that trainings like this are a great way to include women in climate action at the local level.

“This not only builds their capacity to be more climate resilient, but also helps them become economically empowered,” she said, before admitting that more such initiatives would require more direct funding by local institutions.

Numbers still missing

White the central debate is on mainstreaming gender in the core process of negotiations, some also want to draw attention to the low representation of women in the conference. At the 2015 Paris summit, just over 38 percent of national delegations were women, with Peru, Hungary, Lesotho, Italy and Kiribati among the most balanced delegations and Mauritius, Yemen, Afghanistan and Oman the least.

This year, some countries such as Turkey, Poland and Fiji have 50 percent female delegates while three countries – Latvia, Albania and Guyana – have sent all-female delegations. But the average percentage of female negotiators at country delegations is still 38. Several countries, including Somalia, Eritrea and Uzbekistan, did not include a single women in their delegations.

Noelene Nabulivou, an activist from Fiji, said that it’s time to seriously fill the gender gap at the conference.

“If we are asking for equal opportunity, why can’t we ask for equal participation?” asked Nabulivou.

Meanwhile, Kalyani Raj thinks that quotas could limit the potential scope. “We want a balance, but at the same time, why limit ourselves to a mere 50 percent? It could be anything!” said Raj.

The first report to evaluate the progress on the implementation of the Gender Action Plan will be presented in November 2019.

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‘Never Again’: Investing in Prevention and Early Actionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/never-investing-prevention-early-action/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=never-investing-prevention-early-action http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/never-investing-prevention-early-action/#respond Thu, 02 Nov 2017 17:30:14 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152858 After the Rwandan genocide, the United Nations promised ‘never again.’ But has the international community kept their word? From Mexico to Myanmar, conflicts and humanitarian crises have multiplied. Millions continue to be targeted for their religious, national, racial or ethnic backgrounds, and some are even forced to cross borders to escape violence committed simply because […]

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Adama Dieng (centre), the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, briefs journalists during his visit to the Central African Republic. At left is Vladimir Monteiro, Spokesperson for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Credit: UN Photo/Herve Serefio

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 2 2017 (IPS)

After the Rwandan genocide, the United Nations promised ‘never again.’ But has the international community kept their word?

From Mexico to Myanmar, conflicts and humanitarian crises have multiplied.

Millions continue to be targeted for their religious, national, racial or ethnic backgrounds, and some are even forced to cross borders to escape violence committed simply because of their identity.

IPS spoke to the UN Secretary-General’s Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide Adama Dieng about these complex crises and efforts needed to avoid another Rwandan genocide.

Q: As Special Advisor, what crises today are most concerning and should be paid attention to or acted on?

A. The situations in the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, South Sudan and Syria are some of the places that I have raised concern about recently, although there are many other countries that require attention, including Iraq.

In Syria, the atrocities that have been reported by the Commission of Inquiry have truly shocked the conscience of humanity, from the intensive bombardment of Aleppo last year to the alleged use of chemical weapons, as well as the continued besieging of thousands of civilians in flagrant violation of international law. Despite this, the Security Council has largely failed to take action to protect civilians and provide accountability for victims.

When I visited the Central African Republic earlier this month I was told of serious violations against the civilian population, particularly women and children, for allegedly belonging to certain ethnic or religious groups. Despite progress made towards peace, there are still worrying occurrences of manipulation and incitement to ethnic and religious hatred that needs to be addressed by the government, with the support of the international community, in order to sustain the country’s fragile peace.

Q: What steps can and must be taken in order to prevent genocide?

A. History has shown that genocide and other atrocity crimes take place on a large scale, and are not spontaneous or isolated events; they are processes, with histories, precursors and triggering factors which combined, enable their commission.

If you look at all of these conflicts, whether it is the Central African Republic or Myanmar or Iraq, there is one common denominator: exclusion. People feel that they are not included, so they resort to some form of violence for their rights to be recognized.

So we can link these crises to the lack of respect for human rights, of observance of the rule of law, and also a problem of governance. All of these elements therefore confirm the close link between development, peace, security, and human rights.

This is also one of the reasons why the Secretary-General made prevention a key aspect of his mandate. Unless you invest in prevention, you may not be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or achieve the aspiration of sustaining peace.

There will be no development without peace, and no peace without development.

Unless we manage to make everybody included in whatever we are doing, we are set to fail at the national, local, and international levels.

Unless the member state invests in having strong judiciaries, a strong and courageous parliament, strong and outspoken civil society, it will be hard for those governments to achieve something that is really durable.

And it has to start of course at the local and national levels. If you make sure young people, including women, are included in all of these projects, you have a better chance to win your aspiration for development and peace.

Q: The motto “never again” continues to be used in reference to the Rwandan genocide. Has the international community become better at responding to or acting on atrocities around the world?

A. One of the principal roles of my mandate is to act as an early warning mechanism and a catalyst to mobilize action for the prevention of genocide and other atrocity crimes at the national and international level.

In line with these efforts my office has also developed a Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes that is used by the UN, member states and civil society alike to assess the risk of atrocity crimes and develop strategies to prevent these crimes.

We are today able to identify the risk factors which lead to the commission of these atrocity crimes. We are able to identify those early signs, which is much easier today than it was in the past with new technology spreads information faster.

What is required today more than ever is early action.

For example, I have been calling for the last three years or more the attention of the international community on the situation of the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar but without much success.

I identified the risk factors which were there, and I even went to the extent of writing an op-ed to draw the attention of the public at large.

The main problem is the political will to act at the earliest stage.

I think the Secretary General’s prioritization of prevention will hopefully play a key role in further enhancing the ability of the UN as well as the willingness of member states to act early to prevent situations from escalating to the point where there is a risk of atrocity crimes.

My wish is from now onward is for the international community through the Security Council which has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security to be more determined to address situations before they escalate further.

Preventing atrocities before they start continues to be the best way of ensuring that we live up to our commitment of “never again”.

Q: Is what’s happening in Myanmar a genocide, or could it become a genocide?

A. I think in Myanmar there were several warning signs of the violence we are now witnessing. I have repeatedly raised alarm of the risk of atrocities being committed against the Rohingya, and that is why I welcome readily the position of the Security Council to condemn the violence.

But more needs to be done to act on this condemnation.

What we are witnessing today needs to be thoroughly investigated. From the perspective of my mandate, there is no doubt that we are seeing elements which are very worrying—when you see a population being forcibly moved out of their location, their houses being burned, women being raped, people being murdered, and people having no choice than to cross the borders and when you see this was happening without condemnation from the Myanmar authorities.

When Aung San Suu Kyi took to the floor for the first time, her speech raised more questions than answers.

And that is why I do believe that if this situation is not addressed right now in a very energetic manner, the allegations being made that we are witnessing an ethnic cleansing will be confirmed.

It is time for the Myanmar authorities to first and foremost stop the violence and to allow thorough investigation of the alleged atrocities being committed right now.

Q: In Kenya, some have raised concerns that the persisting ethnic divisions in the country are reminiscent of what happened in Rwanda. What are your thoughts on the situation there, and should it be higher on the radar?

A. What is happening in Kenya is a situation of concern. Ahead of the elections, my office had been monitoring the situation. We identified areas where we see a potential of violence and we invested and gave support to the Kenyan National Committee for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and All Forms of Discrimination. We supported their activities aimed to prevent the commission of atrocity crimes.

Because we all remember that in December 2007 and early 2008, there was a spread of violence following the elections and nearly 1300 people were killed. There was definitely at that time ethnicity at play, and this was even the case that was brought to the ICC.

If you take the 2013 elections, they went almost peacefully and my office as well as other international offices invested a lot in it. But I think we should give credit first and foremost to the people of Kenya who mobilized for peaceful elections in 2013.

Now for the 2017 elections, it is remarkable to see for the first time in history, one may agree or disagree, that the Supreme Court really took a decision and I am glad the decision has been respected by the candidates.

I wish that all actors were in this process and now we also have to make every effort to prevent further escalation of violence, to make sure that there is no hatred or hate speech particularly directed against one or another ethnic group.

During the 2013 election, I made a very strong call to all candidates that whoever will be elected should commit that he or she will fight against tribalism. For the current situation, I now call on all the Kenyan leaders to make every effort to send clear messages to their followers to not go into any form of violence, and particularly using ethnic violence should not be tolerated. The law should prevail.

This is the responsibility first and foremost of the Kenyan government but the entire world has an entire responsibility to contribute to preventing atrocity crimes.

Q: Should the International Criminal Court play a greater role or be given more authority to prosecute those involved such atrocities?

A. Without a doubt.

Where you have a weak judiciary and where you have lack of political will from the government to hold perpetrators of atrocity crimes accountable, then efforts have to be made to refer those cases to the ICC if that state concerned is not a state party to the ICC.

Now we have countries which are state parties like Kenya who took the case of the 2007 election violence themselves before The Hague. The case at the end was closed because of lack of evidence but you have to remember, these are very complex crimes.

And today in my view, we need definitely to use the ICC when states are failing to bring criminals before the courts. Impunity is not an option—we have to end impunity everywhere.

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Who is Really Responsible for Collapse of Zimbabwe’s Health Services?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-responsible-collapse-zimbabwes-health-services/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=really-responsible-collapse-zimbabwes-health-services http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/really-responsible-collapse-zimbabwes-health-services/#respond Fri, 27 Oct 2017 14:29:05 +0000 Frederic Mousseau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152765 Frédéric Mousseau* is Policy Director at the Oakland Institute

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Many children under 15 in Zimbabwe discover their HIV status only when they fall critically ill later in life. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/ IPS

By Frederic Mousseau
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, Oct 27 2017 (IPS)

On October 22, 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it had removed Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador following outrage and concerns raised by his appointment just two days before.

A Guardian article cited WHO member states and activists “who noted that Zimbabwe’s health care system, like many of its public services, has collapsed under Mugabe’s regime.” Another article explained “Mugabe, 93, is blamed in the West for destroying Zimbabwe’s economy and numerous human rights abuses during his 37 years leading the country as either president or prime minister.”

Regardless of Robert Mugabe’s fitness for the position, these commentaries do call for a clarification around who and what exactly destroyed the Zimbabwean economy and its health system.

Zimbabwe’s economic collapse started after the land reform initiated in 2000. The reform intended to remedy the skewed land repartition that was inherited from the British colonial era, during which 5,000 white farmers took possession of around half of the country’s land, leaving several million black Zimbabweans on overcrowded, less fertile land.

For many observers, it became clear in the 1990s that giving land back to black farmers was necessary to fight hunger and poverty in Zimbabwe. As stated by the World Bank “land redistribution was critical for poverty alleviation, essential for political sustainability, and imperative for increasing economic efficiency.” However, rich countries rejected the government’s requests for support for a smooth reform.

In a letter to the Zimbabwean government in November 1997, U.K. Secretary of State for International Development, Ms Claire Short bluntly stated: “I should make it clear that we do not accept that Britain has a special responsibility to meet the costs of land purchase in Zimbabwe. We are a new Government from diverse backgrounds without links to former colonial interests. My own origins are Irish and as you know we were colonised not colonisers.”

It is largely this flat rejection that resulted in the radical and violent implementation of the land reform in 2000 through which the white farms were confiscated and transferred to black farmers. Lacking resources, technical skills, and adequate support, the black farmers who resettled in these farms were initially often not able to restore the previous levels of production.

The drop in production and export earnings contributed to the economic crisis faced by the country in the early 2000s. However, ten years later, development experts recognized the reform as a success, having transferred the land occupied by some 4,000 white farmers to over one million black Zimbabweans who had restored agricultural production and improved their livelihoods.

The reform was met with anger by several Western governments, who took punitive measures including economic sanctions and cutting down development aid to the country. In the years following the reform, aid from the UK and the US went through a major shift that prioritized emergency food aid distributed by Western NGOs over public funding to health and agriculture assistance.

In the following years, despite a prevalence of HIV/Aids exceeding 20% – one of the highest in the world- Zimbabwe was excluded from the Global Fund against HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis. The disease claimed 3,000 lives every week – 170,000 per year by the mid-2000s. The number of orphans reached over 910,000 in 2005 – 20 percent of the country’s children.

Life expectancy dropped to 34 years in 2005 compared to 61 in the 1990s. The anti-retroviral drugs remained inaccessible to the majority of HIV/Aids infected people – out of 295,000 persons needing treatment, only 9,000 received it in 2004.

In May 2005, a grant of USD 10 million was provided through the Global Funds against a request for help of more than USD 300 million made by the government. Even with this grant, Zimbabwe remained the least assisted country with just over USD 1 per capita provided by the Global Fund.

A comparison with other countries in the region shows the extent of the punishment: South Africa received five times more per capita funding; Namibia, 58 times; and Swaziland, 112 times. Furthermore, Zimbabwe was also excluded from other aid packages such as the US President Initiative on HIV/Aids and the PEPFAR program.


In March 2005, the Director of UNICEF warned that “despite the world’s fourth highest rate of HIV infection and the greatest rise in child mortality in any nation, Zimbabweans receive just a fraction of donor funding compared to other countries in the region” and appealed to donors “to look beyond politics and to differentiate between the politics and the people of Zimbabwe.”

The extent of Western outrage created by the nomination of Robert Mugabe as WHO Ambassador is an indication that the so-called donors still don’t look beyond politics. They have never been able to digest the land reform –the threatening precedent that Zimbabwe created in the region, where land and agriculture are still much dominated by white farmers and agribusiness corporations (in South Africa, 80 percent of the agricultural land is still controlled by white farmers today).

It is quite ironic that the WHO’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, comes from Ethiopia, a close ally of the US and the UK. Both countries largely subsidize Ethiopia’s economy and don’t miss an occasion to praise its economic policy despite the government-led land grabbing and forced evictions of local farmers and pastoralists for the establishment of large-scale plantations.

Interesting food for thought for the new generation of African leaders.

* Frédéric Mousseau has conduccted numerous reviews and studies for international development agencies, including several research missions to investigate the crisis in Zimbabwe in the 2000s.

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Excerpt:

Frédéric Mousseau* is Policy Director at the Oakland Institute

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Lack of International Action on Rohingya Crisis Called a “Disgrace”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lack-international-action-rohingya-crisis-called-disgrace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lack-international-action-rohingya-crisis-called-disgrace http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/lack-international-action-rohingya-crisis-called-disgrace/#respond Mon, 23 Oct 2017 22:29:40 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152655 As the crisis in Myanmar reaches unprecedented levels, frustration is at its peak as the international community remains slow to respond and act cohesively. Over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh since the renewal of violence on August 25, making it the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world. The UN warns that up to […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 23 2017 (IPS)

As the crisis in Myanmar reaches unprecedented levels, frustration is at its peak as the international community remains slow to respond and act cohesively.

Over 600,000 Rohingya refugees have crossed into Bangladesh since the renewal of violence on August 25, making it the fastest-growing refugee emergency in the world.

Idriss Jazairy. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The UN warns that up to one million—representing the entire Muslim population of Rakhine state—could flee to the neighboring nation by the end of the year if the crisis continues.

Rohingya refugees have provided the outside world with glimpses of their horrific experiences, from villages being burned and attacked to women being raped by Burmese soldiers.

One 26-year-old Rohingya woman recounted her story to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) rapid response team, deployed to Bangladesh to assess the situation on the ground, stating:

“I woke up at 3 a.m. and my house was on fire. There was chaos, everyone was running everywhere, they were shooting to kill us, they took women and dragged them away to rape them. They did not spare anyone—even children were beaten and tortured…I have tried for a long time to live in peace, even during difficult times, but this attack was horrible.”

The High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called the government’s campaign against the minority a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” while others have said that the violations may amount to crimes against humanity.

Those that are able to reach Bangladesh often arrive to no food or shelter and are at risk of disease outbreaks as the resource-strained South Asian nation struggles to cope with the influx.

Despite the evidence for the scale of violence and suffering, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has largely remained silent on the crisis while divisions in Security Council (UNSC) have prevented decisive progress towards any measure.

With no end in sight, IPS spoke to the Special Rapporteur on Unilateral Coercive Measures and the Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue Idriss Jazairy about the crisis in Myanmar, as well as his frustrations and appeals for action.

Q: What is your response to the crisis in Myanmar and what is the Geneva Centre doing to help end the crisis?

I have sent, to all members of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), a letter appealing to them to organize a special session on the desperate situation of the Rohingyas that have been pushed back from Myanmar into Bangladesh.

I have not received one single answer.

About 650,000 people have been pushed out mercilessly—all of their property has been burned or destroyed, many have disappeared in large numbers, women have been raped, children have been killed—and nothing happens.

I know in terms of politics there are all sorts of elements that need to be taken into account, but there comes a time when a situation of a violation of human rights exceeds certain proportion, whatever the politics, we should speak up.

Otherwise it shows that, in the UNHRC, politics have definitely taken precedence over values and this would be the beginning of the end of this Council.

It would be enough to have 16 states taking the initiative for a special session to take place.

Can’t we find, in the whole of the membership, a few others that claim they are sensitive to human rights to respond and take this initiative?

In 2007, the UNHRC held a special session on Myanmar because there were some peaceful demonstrations that had been exposed to violent responses by the military.

The situation today is 100 times worse, so I cannot imagine why there isn’t a similar reaction.

Q: Do the atrocities in Myanmar amount to crimes against humanity or even genocide?

I am not qualified to say but I believe that some more qualified than myself have talked at least about ethnic cleansing.

It is a case of ethnic cleansing but no one has responded to my appeal for a special session which would in fact have had a dual purpose—first, to impose, under UN control, a return of these people that have been brutally thrown out of a country in which they were born and lived for generations and secondly, to come to the help of Bangladesh which is one of the poorest countries that finds it difficult to face these financial consequences of the mass arrival of refugees.

We therefore have a double moral obligation.

The lives of all 650,000 people who have lost their homes—doesn’t that justify just a one-day special session when we have special sessions about every other country, every other crisis in the world?

I do not understand that. My multilateral faith in human rights is being undermined.

Q: If such a special session were to happen, what are you hoping would result from that?

A recognition of the right of the Rohingyas to go back to their land, including a recognition of their status of citizens.

I am aware that this [crisis] is the consequence to a great extent of British colonizers who would take some labor from what was then India and bring them over to Myanmar to work.

The source of the problem goes back centuries but you can’t redo history. These people have been there for generations, sometimes hundreds of years.

There must be a proper law that gives them the right to citizenship—citizenship should not be based on race.

Bangladesh should also be given compensation and people or victims themselves must be given compensation for what they have undergone.

It is true that there has been a group of violent protestors that have carried out some unacceptable violent actions like attacking police stations and we would not condone these actions.

But let us have a commission of inquiry that looks into all the issues and submit an official report, including to determine the nature of the crimes in this awful situation.

Q: If the crisis continues, should the international community take more drastic measures? Some are pushing for an arms embargo or targeted financial sanctions, what are your thoughts on that?

I have always been hesitant about sanctions.

Myanmar was exposed to sanctions and then the sanctions were removed. Neither did they improve their performance when the sanctions were on nor obviously since the sanctions have been removed and it has now become even worse.

So for me, this is not a question of just sanctions.

It is a grave issue—I understand the Secretary-General raised the issue four times in the Security Council (UNSC)—and I hope that the international community and UN system can join forces in addressing every aspect of this situation.

But the UNHRC not having a special session on this now is a disgrace.

Q: What is your response to the current divisions within the Security Council on the crisis as both Russia and China cite issues of sovereignty and ask to exercise “patience”?

This is why I say: I understand the politics behind these issues but I do feel that the situation has reached such a peak that there must be action.

The UNSC provides the politics, and the UNHRC provides the ethics. But where are the ethics now?

Idriss Jazairy is the former Algerian Ambassador and has long worked with the UN and other organizations.

Among other high-level positions, he has been the President of UN agency IFAD and the Chief Executive of a consortium of international organizations ACORD.

In 2015, Jazairy was appointed by the Human Rights Council as the first Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

A ministerial-level pledging conference is set to be held in Geneva on 23 October to help meet the most urgent needs of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

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