Inter Press Service » Migration & Refugees News and Views from the Global South Wed, 04 May 2016 12:50:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Free Press a Casualty of Pakistan’s Terror War Mon, 02 May 2016 14:59:49 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai 0 Pakistani Deportees Thu, 28 Apr 2016 15:34:01 +0000 Arif Azad By Arif Azad
Apr 28 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writer is a development consultant and policy analyst.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Opinion: Unnoticed, We Are Close to Destruction of Our Planet Thu, 21 Apr 2016 07:45:25 +0000 Roberto Savio By Roberto Savio
ROME, Apr 21 2016 (IPS)

On the 17th of April, Italians were called to vote in a national referendum, on the extension of licenses to extract petrol and gas from the seas. The government, the media and those in the economic circles, all took a position against the referendum, claiming that 2000 jobs were at a stake. The proponents of the referendum (among them five regions), lost. Italy is following a consistent trend, after the Summit on Climate Change (Paris December 2015), in which all countries (Italy included) took a solemn engagement to reduce emissions.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Two weeks after the Summit, the British Prime Minister took the initiative to extend the licenses to extract coal, explaining that 10.000 jobs were at stake. Then it was India’s turn, to declare that licenses for coal powered stations would be increased, as the development of the country comes before protection of the environment.

On this, the Polish government declared that it had no intentions to reduce the use of Polish coal, in the short term. Then Hungary made a similar statement about its use of fossil energy.

Meanwhile, no significant initiative for emission’s control has been announced after Paris. And all the Republican candidates have announced that, once installed in the White House, they will declare null and void the agreements reached in Paris, where Obama played a crucial role. In fact, several Republican initiatives are seeking Supreme Court cancellation of measures taken by the administration to limit pollutions. And with different accents, all the xenophobe and right wing parties which are emerging everywhere in Europe, have indicated that they do not consider the Paris agreement as a priority in their agenda.

The main criticism of the scientific community, on the Paris agreements, was that while the accepted goal was to limit the increase of the global temperature to 2 degrees, compared with that of the beginning of the industrial revolution (while accepting that 1.5 degrees would have been an adequate target), in reality the sum total of all individual targets freely established by the countries, was coming to at least 3.5 degrees.

The idea was that with further negotiations, the target of 2 degrees would finally emerge, also thanks to new technologies. Now, an equally crucial flaw is emerging. No control of implementation of the agreement will take place before 2030. Until then, each country is responsible for implementing its target, and also for checking the implementation of its commitment.

It would have been interesting to see a similar philosophy, adopted on tax levels. Every citizen could decide how much tax he or she pledges to pay, and be responsible until 2030 to check that this engagement or commitment is met. Then only in 2030, mechanisms of verification would fall in place. And those mechanisms would bear no enforcements or penalties. They would only indicate public shaming of those who did not keep their engagements.

Of course, the fact that industrialized countries, like Italy and United Kingdom, far from reducing sources of pollution, is not a good example for developing countries, who are now coming into industrialization, and have to limit their emissions because since early 19th century industrialized countries have been polluting the world.

In fact, subsidies to the fossil industries, according to the World Bank, run now at 88 billion dollars per year. According to a report from the Overseas Development Institute G20 countries spend more than twice of what the top 20 private companies are spending on finding new reserves of oil, gas and coal, and do so with public money. Meanwhile, the Fund for helping underdeveloped countries to adopt new technologies, established at 100 billion in Paris, has yet to be completed. Of course a check up is due by 2030.

Well, every week we receive alarming data on how the climate is deteriorating much faster than we thought. I am not talking about the uninterrupted news on natural catastrophes. I am talking about the alarming cries by the scientific community from all over the world.

The National Centre for Climate Restoration from Australia has published a sort of summary about all those calls, in an alarming report by Prof. Kevin Andersen of the UK Tyndall Centre for Climate Change in which it says:

…According to new data released by the US National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration, measurements taken at the Marina Loa Observatory in Hawaii show that carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration jumped by 3.08 parts per million (ppm) during 2015, the largest year-to- year increase in 56 years of research. 2015 was the fourth consecutive year that CO2 grew more than 2ppm.Scientist say that they are shocked and stunned by the “unprecedented NASA temperature figures for February 2016, which are 1.65”C higher than the beginning of the nineteen century and around 1.9”C warmer than the pre-industrial level…..

This means, according to Prof. Michael Mann “we have no carbon budget left for the 1.5 degrees target and the opportunity for holding the 2 degrees is rapidly fading unless the world starts cutting emissions rapidly and right now. The current el Niño conditions have contributed to the record figures, but compared to previous big El Niños, we are experimenting blowout temperatures.” For a glimpse into what lies in our future, we have only to look at Venezuela, where now public offices work three days per week to cut water and power usage.

Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute of Climate Change Research says “In 2012, the US National Academy of Science analyzed in detail how a major drought in Syria – from 2007 to 2010 – was a crucial factor in the civll war that began in 2011. More than a million people left their farms to go to crowded and unprepared cities, where they were inspired by the Arab Spring to rise against a dictatorial regime which was not providing any help.

Journalist Baher Kamal, who is the Inter Press Service IPS Advisor for Africa and Middle, East did publish a two part series on the impact of Climate Change on the Middle East and North of Africa region, which makes clear the region, could become largely uninhabitable by the year 2040. Just to give an example, the Nile could lose up to 80% of its flow. Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are all at very high risk. But so are also Algeria, Iraq, Jordan Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen.

Dr. Moslem Shathout, deputy chairman of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space, considers that Arab North African countries are the most affected, by large, by the climate change impact.

In other words, we have to expect a mass of displaced people, on the shores of the Mediterranean, and therefore of Europe. The category of climate refugees does not exist in any legislation.

While it is a fact that Europe’s population was 24% at the beginning of the nineteen-century, it will be 4% at the end of the present one. Europe will lose 40 million people that will need to be replaced by immigrants, to keep productivity and pensions running.

The arrival of 1.3 million people, two thirds young and educated, has created a massive political crisis, and the unravelling of Europe.

The climate refugees will be of all ages, and many from the agricultural sector, the most conservative and uneducated in the Arab world.

Do Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and British Prime Minister David Cameron – who for electoral reasons play the chord of a few lost jobs from the fossil industry – have any idea on how to face this imminent future?

Probably not, but they do not care. This problem will not be during their tenure. So climate change is not in the political agenda as a very top priority. And media follows events, not processes, so no cries of alarm; yet, from one to the next, a continuation of disasters lead to catastrophes…

When, everybody will realize as the saying goes, God pardons, man does sometimes, but nature never.


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The Unknown Fate of Thousands of Abducted Women and Girls in Nigeria Fri, 15 Apr 2016 16:16:23 +0000 IPS Africa This 15 year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, was abducted by Boko Haram and spent four months in captivity. Photo credit: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

This 15 year-old Nigerian refugee at the Minawao refugee camp in northern Cameroon, was abducted by Boko Haram and spent four months in captivity. Photo credit: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

By IPS Africa Desk
Apr 15 2016 (IPS)

The plight of 219 Chibok schoolgirls abducted two years ago is all too common in Nigeria’s conflict-affected north-eastern communities, and up to 7,000 women and girls might be living in abduction and sex slavery, senior United Nations officials on 14 April 2016 warned.

“Humanitarian agencies are concerned that two years have passed, and still the fate of the Chibok girls and the many, many other abductees is unknown,” said Fatma Samoura, Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

At the hands of their captors, they have suffered forced recruitment, forced marriage, sexual slavery and rape, and have been used to carry bombs. “Between 2,000 and 7,000 women and girls are living in abduction and sex slavery,” said Jean Gough, Country Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Women and girls who have escaped Boko Haram have reported undergoing a systematic training programme to train them as bombers, according to UNICEF. And 85 per cent of the suicide attacks by women globally in 2014 were in Nigeria.

In May 2015, it was reported that children had been used to perpetrate three-quarters of all suicide attacks in Nigeria since 2014. Many of the bombers had been brainwashed or coerced.

As the Nigerian military recaptures territory from Boko Haram, abducted women and girls are being recovered. Over and above the horrific trauma of sexual violence these girls experienced during their captivity, many are now facing rejection by their families and communities, because of their association with Boko Haram.

“You are a Boko Haram wife, don’t come near us!” one girl reported being told. Effective rehabilitation for these women and girls is vital, as they rebuild their lives.

Chibok Abduction Not Isolated Incident

Children have suffered disproportionately as a result of the conflict. The Chibok abduction was not an isolated incident, the UN reports. In November 2014, 300 children were abducted from a school in Damasak, Borno, and are still missing.

A UNICEF report, released earlier this week, states that 1.3 million children have been displaced by the conflict across the Lake Chad Basin, almost a million of whom are in Nigeria. Similarly, Human Rights Watch have reported that 1 million children have lost access to education.

Thousands of people, mainly women and children, are scattered across the arid land of Nguigimi, Niger, after fleeing Boko Haram violence in Nigeria. Photo credit: WFP Niger/Vigno Hounkanli.

Thousands of people, mainly women and children, are scattered across the arid land of Nguigimi, Niger, after fleeing Boko Haram violence in Nigeria. Photo credit: WFP Niger/Vigno Hounkanli.

“The abducted Chibok girls have become a symbol for every girl that has gone missing at the hands of Boko Haram, and every girl who insists on practicing her right to education,” said Munir Safieldin, Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria.

More needs to be done by the Nigerian Government and the international community to keep them safe from the horrors other women and girls have endured. Safe schools are a good start, but safe roads and safe homes are also needed.

“We Cannot Forget the Girls from Chibok”

Marking two years since Boko Haram abducted 276 girls in Nigeria, a United Nations child rights envoy on 13 April reiterated a call to bring them back, stressing that the international community must “be their voice” and help give children of Nigeria and the region the peaceful, stable lives they deserve.

“It is up to us to be their voice and give them back the life they deserve,” said Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, in a message on the anniversary.

Two years ago, in the middle of the night, 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram from their school dormitory in Chibok, in Nigeria’s northeast. Fifty-seven escaped hours later but what happened to the remaining 219 girls has been unknown.

In the past two years, the conflict has continued to grow and Boko Haram’s activities have spilled over into the neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Chad and Niger. More children have been abducted. Hundreds of boys and girls have been killed, maimed and recruited by Boko Haram.

Children Used as Suicide Bombers

In what has become one of the armed group’s most gruesome tactics, women and children, girls in particular, have been forced to serve as suicide bombers in crowded markets and public places, killing many civilians, according to Leila Zerrougui.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui (centre), meets displaced children and their families in northeastern Nigeria, in January 2015. Credit: UN

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Leila Zerrougui (centre), meets displaced children and their families in northeastern Nigeria, in January 2015. Credit: UN

“It is no surprise that in the midst of such violence, families decided to flee to safer areas in Nigeria, and to neighbouring countries. With over two million people displaced, including more than one million children, often separated from their families, the UN has described these massive displacements as one of the fastest growing crises in Africa.”

In the past year, as the Government of Nigeria has retaken control of some territory in the country’s northeast, Boko Haram captives were liberated or have been able to escape, including many children.

“Girls and boys told distressing stories about their captivity, including how entire villages were burned to the ground, and recounted stories of rape and sexual violence, recruitment and use of children by the group, as well as other violations,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

“These children yearn for the safety of their families, but going back to their communities can mean persecution and mistrust,” she said. “Girls who come back as young mothers face even greater challenges. These traumatised children require assistance and our support to fight stigma and rejection.”

Missing Out on Education

The conflict’s impact on education has been no less profound. Over 1,500 schools in North Eastern Nigeria have been destroyed and the teachers are gone. Hundreds of thousands of children are missing out on their education. The international community’s efforts to support initiatives to bring children back to school are essential and must be maintained.

Much has been done to help children reintegrate back into their communities and return to school, but the need far exceeds the resources available.

“It is our collective responsibility to keep shining a spotlight on these children in need and ensure they have a future in which they can overcome these challenges,” she said.

The abduction of the Chibok girls catalysed international action, including in the Security Council. In June 2015, Council members adopted resolution 2225 that made the act of abduction by an armed group or force a trigger to list them in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, she noted.

This means future acts of abduction, like in Chibok, can translate into a listing for those perpetrators and increase pressure on them by the international community.

“We cannot tolerate the abduction of children. We cannot forget the girls from Chibok,” she said.


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OPINION: Wake Up! We Need Statesman and Values but We Get Selfish Politicians and Cynicism… Fri, 15 Apr 2016 14:14:01 +0000 Roberto Savio Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News]]>

Roberto Savio, IPS news agency founder and president emeritus and publisher of Other News

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Apr 15 2016 (IPS)

A total indifference has accompanied the number of refugees injured by Macedonian police in Idomeni, where more than 12 000 people, including 4 000 children have been trapped, since Austria asked Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, to prevent the continuing passage of refugees. Austria has now informed the Italian government that it will send several hundred troops to its border with Italy.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The illegal agreement with Turkey, that Angela Merkel pushed to defuse her growing unpopularity in Germany, is conducted in a way that has obliged both the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and Doctors without Borders, to refuse to participate in a brutal operation that effectively violates the UN Charter and the European Treaty by bribing the Turkish government.

The use of tear gas and rubber bullets against refugees in Idomeni is deplorable and plays into the hands of growing support among Europe’s right wing parties and even ISIS, which supposedly calls for the dignity and freedom of the Arab world and supports the creation of a war of religions.

What many seem to have forgotten is that the Austrian police actually carried out a survey of refugees and discovered that they were better educated than the Austrians.

Now the group of experts and academicians who monitors migration has published a study entitled Unpacking a Rapidly Changing Scenario, which proves the obvious. The million people , who risked their lives to come to Europe in 2015, are in large measure middle class, uprooted due to conflicts. Two-thirds of the refugees have college or university level education, and those with a university degree are one-third of all refugees. Two-thirds had a stable job before leaving their country.

Merkel originally accepted the refugees because Germany is in a dire need of workers. She had not however anticipated that the right wing parties would so effectively use the present climate of uncertainty and frustration. Now in Germany there are 2 000 racial incidents a month, and Alternative for Germany (AFD), the new right wing party, looks poised to become the third German party.

Unfortunately, no statesman is currently in the offing. That is someone who would risk votes, to educate electors to unpopular truths, like the simple fact that Europe is not viable without a large immigration. The statistics are clear. This vast tide of refugees, the largest since World War two, are on average 23 years old – half the European average – 82 percent are younger than 34, and two-thirds have a high level of education.

The European Commission, in 2015, projected that Europe would need to support an increasingly elderly population. There will be an uninterrupted decline in jobs between 2010 and 2060. The population at working age (20-64) has been declining steadily since 2010, and in 2060 will have fallen by 50 million from 310 million in 2010, to 260 million in 2060, likely to result in a probable bankruptcy of the pension system. The total number of those in the employable age bracket of 20 to 64 will shrink from 210 million in 2010, to 200 million in 2060. The issue is,who is going to replace the missing 10 million people needed to keep Europe at its present stage of global competitiveness. Who is going to pay the contributions of those who have gone into retirement?

The lack of jobs and the probable bankruptcy of the pensions systems will occur in a considerably older population. While we need 2.1 children per couple, to keep the population stable, present projections indicate that it will fall to 1.22 children per couple.

The average age of maternity, currently 31.7 years, will increase to 33 years in 2064, and the number of woman of childbearing age (between 15 and 49 years) will fall by 4.3 million.
Finally, life expectancy, currently 80 years of age for men and 85.7 for woman, will reach 91 by 2064 for men and 94.3 years for woman. It is estimated that those aged over 100 years will represent about 10% of the population.

In other words, the world we know today, will no longer exist. We are debating whether the retirement age should be 65 years. Children born today have a life expectancy of 82 years, and according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), those who are now between 18 and 25 years will go into retirement with an average pension of around Euro 630 per month, because many will be precariously employed, will not be able to meet their pension contributions, and even fewer will be able to buy property.

The ILO also found that while today parents and grandparents provide a safety social net that alleviates the pain of unemployment, the current generation that can look forward to a relatively decent pension will have disappeared in three decades, and those who will be parents will not able to help their children in the same way that their parents were able to help them. It means that we will live in a world of old people, where young people will face a much harsher destiny.

And yet today, few talk about that future. On the contrary, we listen to the xenophobes and right wing parties, which in every European country keep growing in every election, riding on the tide of frustration and fear. What they do is to call for a return to a better yesterday, for a pure Europe, where others will be deported thus leaving jobs free for Europeans. At the same time, the politicians play their game, instead of discussing a serious immigration policy.

The difference between past European statesmen, the likes of Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi and Robert Schuman, with a clear vision and ability to communicate to their citizens (like abandoning nationalism for a European dream), are dramatically absent today. The Dutch referendum against Ukraine (an unexpected gift for Putin, who beside being a smart player is also a lucky one), will hasten the decay of Europe.

The scandals associated with the massive participation of political leaders in the Panama Funds will also hasten the decline of legitimacy of the political class, and therefore of democracy. The
American elections are also proceeding in this direction. That Ted Cruz, who is a modern incarnation of the Great Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada, an ISIS dream, has become the solution to Donald Trump. And in a campaign that will cost over $4 billion, few contributors will cover the costs. The Koch brothers, the king of coal, have announced an investment of 900 million dollars.

If a republican wins, we can forget any real attempt to control climate change, which is already forgotten, in spite of the alarming evidence of future disaster. In a normal world, a statesman would attempt to motivate young people, to consider their future. He would create new alliances, transcend traditional politics, which look to the past, and attempt to shape a debate about the future.

The tragedy of Idomeni is not only a crime against humankind and the values of justice and solidarity: it is a crime of stupidity and cynicism, a crime committed against young Europeans, who are not aware of their future world. And Federico Mayor is right, when he says that the European Central Bank has no problem adding $20 billion a month to the $60 billion already going to the financial system, indicating clearly where priorities lie. The generational betrayal is going ahead, amidst generalized indifference.

Only history will speak of the Angela Merkels, the François Hollandes, the David Camerons, the Mariano Rajoys, the Matteo Renzis, and the Mark Ruttes, as those who looked to politics as a crutch for their survival instead of a tool for a better world, but it will be too late.


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Desert Locust Invading Yemen, More Arab States Wed, 13 Apr 2016 16:32:31 +0000 Kareem Ezzat Juvenile desert locust hoppers. Photo: FAO/G.Tortoli

Juvenile desert locust hoppers. Photo: FAO/G.Tortoli

By Kareem Ezzat
CAIRO, Apr 13 2016 (IPS)

Now that Yemenis begin to hope that their year-long armed conflict may come to an end as a result of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Nations sponsored round of talks between the parties in dispute, scheduled on 18 April in Kuwait, a new threat to their already desperate humanitarian crisis has just appeared in the form of a much feared massive desert locust invasion.

“The presence of recently discovered Desert Locust infestations in Yemen, where conflict is severely hampering control operations, poses a potential threat to crops in the region,” the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned.

On 12 April the FAO also urged neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran, to mobilise survey and control teams and to take all necessary measures to prevent the destructive insects from reaching breeding areas situated in their respective territories.

The desert locust threat poses high risks not only to the Southern region of the Gulf, but also to North of Africa, FAO said and warned that strict vigilance is also required in Morocco and Algeria, especially in areas south of the Atlas Mountains, which could become possible breeding grounds for Desert Locust that have gathered in parts of the Western Sahara, Morocco and Mauritania.

Climate change appears among the major causes of the destructive plague, as groups of juvenile wingless hoppers and adults as well as hopper bands and at least one swarm formed on the southern coast of Yemen in March where heavy rains associated with tropical cyclones Chapala and Megh fell in November 2015.

“The extent of current Desert Locust breeding in Yemen is not fully known since survey teams are unable to access most areas. However, as vegetation dries out along the coast, more groups, bands and small swarms are likely to form,” said Keith Cressman, FAO Senior Locust Forecasting Officer.

Cressman noted that a moderate risk exists that Desert Locusts will move into the interior of southern Yemen, perhaps reaching spring breeding areas in the interior of central Saudi Arabia and northern Oman.

There is a possibility that this movement could continue to the United Arab Emirates where a few small swarms may appear and transit through the country before arriving in areas of recent rainfall in southeast Iran.

For its part, the Cairo-based FAO Regional office for the Middle East and North of Africa reported that the organisation is currently assisting technical teams from Yemen’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in conducting field survey and control operations in infested coastal areas.

As for the North of Africa, the UN agency has also warned that in the North Western region, small groups and perhaps a few small swarms could find suitable breeding areas in Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria. In addition, some small-scale Desert Locust breeding is likely to occur in South Western Libya, but numbers should remain low.

Elsewhere, the situation remains calm with only low numbers of adults present in northern Mali and Niger, South West Libya, southeast Egypt and North East Oman.

A Force of Nature?

Desert Locust hoppers can form vast ground-based bands. These can eventually turn into adult locust swarms, which, numbering in the tens of millions can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind.

Female locusts can lay 300 eggs within their lifetime while an adult insect can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day — about two grams every day.

A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people and the devastating impact locusts can have on crops poses a major threat to food security, especially in already vulnerable areas.

Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Photo: FAO/Giampiero Diana

Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Photo: FAO/Giampiero Diana

Locust monitoring, early warning and preventive control measures are believed to have played an important role in the decline in the frequency and duration of plagues since the 1960s; however, today climate change is leading to more frequent, unpredictable and extreme weather and poses fresh challenges on how to monitor and respond to locust activity.

FAO operates a Desert Locust Information Service that receives data from locust-affected countries. This information is regularly analysed together with weather and habitat data and satellite imagery in order to assess the current locust situation, provide forecasts up to six weeks in advance and if required issue warnings and alerts.

It also undertakes field assessment missions and coordinates survey and control operations as well as assistance during locust emergencies. Its three regional locust commissions provide regular training and strengthen national capacities in survey, control and planning.

A Disastrous Year

2015 was a disastrous year for Yemen, which is home to around 27 million people living over an area of more than 528,000 km2. Already the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country, the rise of the Houthi insurgency and Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes intended to oust them from power led to a full-blown humanitarian disaster. And then in November, coastal regions were hit by the most powerful storm in decades, causing displacement and flooding.

Services are the largest economic sector in Yemen (61.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product-GDP), followed by the industrial sector (30.9 per cent), and agriculture (7.7 per cent). Of these, petroleum production represents around 25 per cent of GDP and 63 per cent of the State revenue.

In recent decade, agriculture represented between 18–27% of the GDP, but this percentage has been shrinking due to emigration of rural labour, among others. Main agricultural commodities produced in Yemen include grain, vegetables, fruits, pulses, gat, coffee, cotton, dairy products, fish, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, camels), and poultry.

Nevertheless, most Yemenis are employed in agriculture. Sorghum is the most common crop. Cotton and many fruit trees are also grown, with `mangoes being the most valuable.

Regarding the on-going humanitarian crisis, one year on into the conflict in Yemen, tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed or injured, one in 10 are displaced and nearly the entire population is in urgent need of aid, the top UN humanitarian official in the country stated on 22 March 2016.

Credit: Almigdad Mojalli / IRIN

Credit: Almigdad Mojalli / IRIN

“It has been a terrible year for Yemen, during which a war peppered with airstrikes, shelling and violence had raged on in the already impoverished country,” added Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.

Shelling of ports and airports, resulting in blockades and congestion, is one of the drivers of the humanitarian crisis, McGoldrick said, noting that health workers cannot reach patients and some 90 per cent of the food has to be imported.

“The country had extremely high levels of poverty before the war, and currently, the war has escalated, in an already fragile environment,” said the aid official.

Some 6,400 people have been killed in the past year, half of them civilians, and more than 30,000 are injured, with 2.5 million people displaced, according to figures from the UN World Health Organization (WHO). And more than 20 million people, or 80 per cent of the population, require some form of aid – about 14 million people in need of food and even more in need of water or sanitation.

The UN has appealed for 1.8 billion dollars for food, water, health care and shelter and protection issues, but only 12 per cent has been funded so far.

Bettina Luescher, senior communications officer for the World Food Programme (WFP) recently said in Geneva that shortages have forced the agency to cut rations to 75 per cent of a full ratio so that enough people could eat. “Yemen should not be forgotten, with all the attention focused on the Syria crisis,” she said.


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Baby Steps on Long Road to Justice for Atrocities in Syria Mon, 11 Apr 2016 22:08:57 +0000 Neil Sammonds Neil Sammonds is Amnesty International’s Syria, Lebanon and Jordan Researcher. ]]>

Neil Sammonds is Amnesty International’s Syria, Lebanon and Jordan Researcher.

By Neil Sammonds
GENEVA, Apr 11 2016 (IPS)

The negotiations on April 11, 2016 in Geneva and the recent reduction of hostilities in Syria may represent important steps towards a peaceful solution to more than five years of turmoil. Few would not welcome the guns falling silent once and for all and for an end to the suffering of civilians.

With war crimes, crimes against humanity and other abuses being committed with impunity in Syria it is essential that justice, truth and reparation form a key part of any agreement. Those who ordered, carried out or allowed such crimes to happen must be brought to justice. Yet this crucial pillar is not on the agenda in Geneva and risks being sacrificed in the interests of political expediency.

The absence of a tribunal in Syria capable of tackling the justice deficit is patently clear. The judicial system in Syria is mostly subservient to the political authorities and the security and intelligence agencies. Over the last five years, tens of thousands of civilians have been detained without trial, often forcibly disappeared. Thousands have died in custody.

The gravity and scale of abuse and impunity in Syria became evident within the first few months of the crisis. Yet the UN Security Council has abjectly failed to refer the situation in Syria for investigation by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), despite repeated calls by international organizations, at least 65 states and the UN’s own Secretary General. An ICC investigation would have sent a powerful warning to commanders ordering war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Security Council could also have established an ad hoc international criminal tribunal, as it did with the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia; at the moment this remains a remote possibility. Another option would be to establish an internationalised criminal court for Syria, as occurred for Sierra Leone and Cambodia. It is hard to imagine that such a court could be established and be effective without the consent of the Syrian government—which is currently inconceivable.

Alternatively, a neighbouring country might consent to a tribunal being set up on its own territory, but this too remains an elusive prospect particularly as many of Syria’s neighbours have themselves been directly involved in the conflict.

These obstacles mean that the only realistic avenue to address impunity at this time is for national authorities of other countries to exercise universal or other extraterritorial jurisdiction over crimes under international law—including crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The flow of people out of Syria presents fresh opportunities to gather evidence of abuses from victims and witnesses and to investigate and prosecute suspected perpetrators. These include people seeking refuge or participating in business or negotiations. Amnesty International firmly holds that anyone who has sought refuge from the conflict in Syria should be granted sanctuary.

Countries have both the right and the obligation to carry out investigations into allegations that individuals under their jurisdiction may have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity or other serious human rights abuses.

In the event of such suspects having diplomatic or other privileged status, checks should be carried out into whether such status may grant immunity and under what, if any, circumstances that status may be removed and by whom. Civil society organizations and others should be vigilant and well-informed as to which legal organizations and individuals may be best able to advise and potentially file criminal complaints.

Opportunities for international justice may come at short notice and require preparedness to act promptly and decisively.

At least, 166 countries are able to exercise universal jurisdiction over at least one crime under international law—usually war crimes—regardless of the nationality of the suspect or of the victim. In recent months countries including Germany, Sweden and France, have opened such investigations into suspected international crimes in Syria. In January 2016 there were reports that a Syrian man was arrested in Germany on suspicion of war crimes relating to the kidnapping in Syria of a UN observer.

In Sweden, a Syrian asylum-seeker appeared in court accused of war crimes committed in Syria. In France, a Syrian asylum-seeker is being investigated for his alleged involvement in torture and killing of government opponents. Just last month a Syrian asylum-seeker in Sweden had criminal charges filed against him regarding his suspected involvement in the killing of captured government soldiers.

States whose nationals have travelled to Syria to fight should also investigate any allegations of crimes under international law and, where sufficient admissible evidence exists and laws provide, seek to prosecute them before their national courts.

States that have ratified the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance have an express obligation to exercise jurisdiction over those crimes allegedly committed by their nationals abroad.
Sweden and Germany are also actively investigating returnees from the conflict in Syria and in December 2015, Sweden sentenced two of its nationals to life imprisonment for their role in killings by the armed group calling itself the Islamic State (IS).

These moves by the international community are small but deeply significant steps in the right direction. The crimes they relate to and the individuals affected are greatly eclipsed, however, by the colossal scale of the violations and impunity in Syria.

There are some misgivings that suspected perpetrators on the government side, whose forces are responsible for the overwhelming majority of serious violations in Syria, are less likely to travel outside the country.
But that may well change. And states with the capacity and commitment to undertake investigations and trials should make sure that they are prepared to act quickly.

As it stands, the enormity of the injustice and impunity reigning in Syria dictates that the road to justice, truth and reparation has to start somewhere and as such, any opportunities that arise must be seized and built upon.


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International Community Falls Short on Syrian Resettlement Thu, 31 Mar 2016 15:57:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS

Syrian refugee children learn to survive at a camp in north Lebanon. Credit: Zak Brophy/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

“We cannot respond to refugee crises by closing doors and building fences,” said UN High Commissioner For Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi in his opening address to a high-level event in Geneva.

By the end of the meeting, however, the international community remained reluctant to welcome refugees.

The conference, which brought together representatives from 92 countries, along with governmental and nongovernmental organizations on 30 March, was convened by UNHCR to explore pathways for refugees and asylum-seekers to help relieve the pressure on Syria’s neighbouring countries.

While highlighting the need to globally share responsibility, Grandi said it cannot be “business as usual,” leaving the burden to a handful of states.

“Offering alternative avenues for the admission of Syrian refugees must become part of the solution, together with investing in helping the countries in the region,” Grandi added.

The five-year conflict in the Middle Eastern nation has forced over 4.8 million civilians to flee while displacing another 6.5 million within its borders.

Though many seek refuge in Europe, the majority of refugees have stayed in the region.

Turkey currently hosts over 2.5 million Syrians, making it the largest refugee-hosting country. In Lebanon, a country of just four million hosting more than 1 million refugees, one in five people are Syrian.

Unable to cope with the unprecedented numbers, neighboring countries have found their economic resources exhausted.

According to a UN and World Bank study, 90 percent of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon live under the national poverty line.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also pressed for action, noting that the world must “step up” with concrete actions, including the fulfillment of governments’ resettlement promises. Countries have so far pledged 179,000 resettlement places for Syrians.

However, according to an Oxfam report, wealthy nations, which have made the majority of resettlement pledges, have only resettled 1.39 percent of all Syrian refugees.

Only three countries, including Germany, Norway, and Canada, have made resettlement pledges that have surpassed their “fair share,” calculated according to the size of their economy.

Canada, while working with UNHCR, was able to resettle over 26,000 Syrian refugees in less than four months.

The Secretary-General and High Commissioner also urged countries to also allow other pathways for admission, including family reunification, labor mobility schemes, and student visas and scholarships.

“Today, they are refugees. Tomorrow, they can be students and professors, scientists and researchers, workers and caregivers,” Ban said in his address.

In a recent report, the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) said that though these channels already exist, they are often “blocked by practical, technical and political obstacles.”

While speaking to delegates, Razan Ibraheem, a Syrian journalist who reached Ireland with a student visa, said she had met a woman who had taken a boat to Greece with her sister’s four children and her own five children because a family unification application had failed.

“Had her application been processed, those children would have been saved the horrors of crossing the Mediterranean,” she stated. She stressed that countries must expand resettlement programmes and speed up other channels including family reunion.

UNHCR has called for resettling or providing other avenues of admission for 10 percent of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, or 480,000, over the next three years.

Other organizations have followed suit, but have called for the resettlement of 10 percent by the end of 2016.

Despite appeals, the conference ended with doors remaining closed on Syrian refugees.

Grandi announced that countries have pledged just an additional 6,000 resettlement spaces, falling short of the refugee agency’s request.

International organizations including Oxfam and Save the Children expressed their disappointment in a joint statement, saying that governments have shown a “shocking lack of political and moral leadership.”

“Almost all states attending have failed to show the level of generosity required,” they continued.


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Streamlining opportunities to migrate Wed, 30 Mar 2016 12:48:05 +0000 Bjorn Lomborg By Bjørn Lomborg
Mar 30 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

In Bangladesh, remittances from people living and working abroad added up to nearly Tk. 1.2 trillion last year—more than four times the nearly Tk. 250 billion that foreign aid agencies spent in the country.

Almost 5 percent of the total working age population is now migrant workers, and every year, roughly half a million more people leave the country to work overseas. Bangladesh Bank estimates that they send the equivalent of 7.4 percent of GDP back to family and friends, from 2001-2015; this totalled to Tk. 9.6 trillion.

Despite these remittances from overseas migrants, Bangladeshis reap fewer benefits from migration than they could. The informal process of migration is overly costly and has become riddled with expensive middlemen.

How can low-skilled migrant workers, the major contributor of remittance inflows to Bangladesh, boost their earnings and access better opportunities overseas? Bangladesh Priorities can offer solutions to this and many other challenges. The project, a partnership between the Copenhagen Consensus Centre and BRAC, has commissioned dozens of top economists from the country, region, and world to study how Bangladesh can do the most good for every taka spent on her development efforts.

New research suggests strategies that can make migration cheaper and make migrants more productive. The researchers – Wasel bin Shadat, Lecturer of Econometrics at the University of Manchester, and Kazi Mahmudur Rahman, Assistant Professor of Development Studies at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh – examined various proposals. The most promising was to formalise the migration process with existing union digital centres or UDCs.

The average cost to migrate ranges from about Tk. 168,900 to 216,600 – equal to three years of income for many Bangladeshis. It often takes two years of working abroad for migrants to recover these costs. One reason the costs are so large is that multiple layers of middlemen force migrant workers to pay inordinate fees for visas and other expenses. They take advantage of the fact that most lower-skilled migrants have very little information about either the process of migrating or the country they are moving to.

Using UDCs to formalise the process, however, could yield tremendous benefits. There is already much interest in formal migration – in 2013, after the national government signed an agreement with Malaysia to formalise the process through a government-to-government (G2G) arrangement, nearly 1.4 million people registered online through UDCs. The G2G process has been extended to G2G plus, engaging the private sectors of both countries, and the present research examined the role that UDCs could play in connecting millions of less-skilled migrant workers with the formal migration process.

More than 4,500 UDCs currently operate across the country, providing public and private services to millions of Bangladeshis. Adding migration services would be inexpensive and straightforward, given the experience UDCs have in providing such services. You would simply have to add a migration “department” – a few more desks and workers – to UDCs to bring formal migration services closer to the people who need them most, especially in rural areas.

At a UDC migration desk, which could be funded either by government subsidy or revenue earnings of UDC entrepreneurs, aspiring overseas workers would get services that range from basic forms and photo identification to employment information and visa processing to printing and internet services. And conveniently, UDCs can collect fees on behalf of the government.

The experts estimate that it would require Tk. 172,800 of initial investment to set up a migration department in each UDC, and annual operating costs would be Tk. 44,500. The total cost across Bangladesh’s 4,500 UDCs would be Tk. 785 million upfront, plus Tk. 203 million per year in operating costs.

But the benefits would be substantial. Services offered by UDCs would allow a conservative estimate of 50,000 people – about 11 people per UDC – to migrate to Malaysia in the first year of operations, with 5,000-10,000 additional workers in subsequent years. As a result, the cost for one person to migrate would fall to Tk. 36,500 – a savings of up to 83 percent. More than three quarters of the remaining migration cost would be for air fare. Thanks to the elimination of middlemen and their exorbitant fees, visa costs would fall from over Tk. 117,000 to just Tk. 1,092 – the actual cost of the visa.

With the most optimistic aspirations, each taka spent toward formalising international migration through UDCs could produce Tk. 40 worth of benefits. It is also clear, however, that the current process with Malaysia has delivered less than originally hoped. Currently, it looks likely that each taka has done much less good. That is why the researchers expect that realistically, improving the process to streamline international migration through the UDCs could generate Tk. 22 of good for every taka spent.

Using UDCs could help get more people to migrate, but you could also focus on increasing the skill levels of the people who migrate. Migrants from Bangladesh predominantly work in positions such as labourers, cooks, or security guards. From 2005-2012, for example, about three-quarters of migrant workers to Saudi Arabia were “less-skilled,” and only 4 percent were in the so-called “semi-skilled” category. Lower-skilled workers not only earn less but also have less bargaining power with employers.

Helping migrants move up the skill ladder would equip them with knowledge and qualifications to gain access to better jobs. Training could allow them to work as painters or carpenters, for example, or perhaps even become supervisors or nurses with enough education. Spending on training programmes for migrant workers would do an estimated Tk. 3 of benefits per taka spent.

What do you think is the best way for Bangladesh to realise her development goals? Join the conversation at, where you can also read about other exciting opportunities for Bangladesh. We want to know what you think as we continue to search for how the country can prosper most.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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HUMANISTANBUL: World Humanitarian Summit Tue, 29 Mar 2016 15:44:02 +0000 Mevlut Cavusoglu By Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu
Mar 29 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Despite worldwide shock and indignation, it looks like little Aylan Kurdi’s tragic death last summer changed little. This is a sad – but brutal – comment on our collective humanity, if such a thing still exists.

The power of images and social media, so effective for celebrity purposes, seems to have fallen flat on its face in mobilising assistance to those less fortunate. Indeed, since Aylan’s death six months ago, countless more innocents – men, women and children – have died completely preventable deaths.

It is true that we are now faced with major humanitarian crises, unlike anything since the last World War. But, there can be no excuse for the global indifference on display.

While major natural disasters continue to be a significant cause of death and displacement, what is most alarming today is that a great majority of humanitarian crises are conflict-related and of a recurrent or protracted nature. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Syria, where a mass murderer has, with outside help, targeted his own people indiscriminately and with impunity.

Beyond Syria, whether in the Middle East, Asia, Africa or elsewhere, humanitarian crises are transcending borders. Today, 125 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance around the globe. The number of displaced persons, 60 million, has almost doubled in just a decade. These numbers stand as testament to the human suffering caused by the growing complexity of humanitarian crises, our inability and unwillingness to tackle them, and the widening financial gap between increasing needs and limited resources.

Something has to be done and Turkey is leading the way, not only in terms of setting an example, but also in working to galvanise the international community towards action.

Today, while a major humanitarian donor, Turkey also hosts the largest refugee population – 2.7 million and counting – in the world. This is largely due to the war in Syria. Providing shelter and vital services such as free health care, schooling and vocational training for these refugees is a major financial burden that Turkey has had to assume largely on its own.

But our humanitarian diplomacy is not limited to our immediate region. Having received vulnerable persons, irrespective of race, religion or ethnicity as far back as in the late 15th century, Turkey today is responding to all manner of humanitarian crises from Haiti to Nepal, Guinea to Somalia and the Sahel to Indonesia. Our humanitarian efforts seek, not only to relieve symptoms but also to treat the disease. This holistic approach covers humanitarian and development assistance, but also seeks to address the root causes and push factors of humanitarian crises. This approach is demand-driven and can best be seen in the countries of the Sahel or in Somalia, where Turkey has pursued an integrated policy conducted with a multi-stake holder approach. It has combined official aid with the active involvement of the business sector and civil society, and has managed to dramatically improve countless lives.

While individual efforts like these of Turkey are crucial, the international humanitarian system is being deprived of available funds and the clock is ticking for those affected by the many crises we are witnessing globally. There are simply too many lives at stake, and inaction is not an option.

At this critical juncture, Istanbul will host the first ever UN World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24, 2016. The choice of Turkey as host was hardly coincidental. It constitutes a timely recognition of the successful humanitarian diplomacy that we have been conducting.

The World Humanitarian Summit will provide a vital platform to address the challenges burdening the humanitarian system. In addition to such issues as responding to recurrent/protracted crises and waves of displacement, other pressing issues such as ensuring sustainable, reliable and predictable humanitarian financing will be examined. Other questions such as, what innovative methods could be used, or how to promote localised humanitarian responses through more tailor-made and user-friendly approaches, as well as the question of dignity and safety in humanitarian action, will be addressed at the Summit.

The World Humanitarian Summit will be an occasion for all the nations of the world and their leaders to take action while millions stand on the brink of life and death. As I remember first seeing Aylan’s image, I recall the overwhelming grief that came over me, thinking about how alone and without protection he was as an innocent toddler. I would like to believe that we learnt something from that image and that we do not need more images like this to compel us into action.

We are all responsible for what happens next to those vulnerable persons looking to us for help. Istanbul is an opportunity to step up and shoulder that responsibility. I am calling on all leaders of the world to come to Istanbul for the UN Humanitarian Summit and to work with us to find solutions for those who desperately need humanitarian assistance.

The writer is Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Challenges of Polio Vaccination Tue, 29 Mar 2016 04:41:42 +0000 Ashfaq Yusufzai Noted religious scholar Maulana Samiul Haq administers oral polio vaccine to children. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

Noted religious scholar Maulana Samiul Haq administers oral polio vaccine to children. Credit: Ashfaq Yusufzai/IPS

By Ashfaq Yusufzai
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Mar 29 2016 (IPS)

Pakistan and Afghanistan, the two remaining polio-endemic countries, have joined forces to eradicate poliomyelitis by vaccinating their children in synchronised campaigns.

The two neighbouring countries — sharing a 2,400 kms long and porous border — have been bracketed as the stumbling block in the way of the global polio eradication drive. These militancy-riddled countries have been tackling Taliban’s opposition to the administration of oral polio vaccine (OPV) to children.

Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), one of Pakistan’s four provinces along with the adjacent Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and the adjoining Nangarhar province of Afghanistan has been declared a polio-endemic geographical block by the World Health Organisation.

Since January 2016, “we have started synchronised immunisation campaigns in KP, Fata and Afghanistan with a view to ensure vaccination of all children on both sides of the border”, KP’s health minister Shahram Tarakai told IPS.

“There are about 100,000 children who refuse vaccination on both sides of the border. They pose a threat to the polio eradication campaign. Each child should get vaccinated,” he said.

The government has enlisted support of religious scholars to do away with refusals against OPV, KP’s top polio officer Dr Ayub Roz told IPS.

Taliban have been campaigning against OPV because they consider it a ploy by the US to render recipients impotent, infertile and reduce the population of Muslims.

Ayub Roz says that top religious scholars have been involved in the vaccination campaigns to dispel the impression being created that OPV was against Islam and that it affected the capacity of people to produce children.

Maulana Samiul Haq, chief of famous Darul Uloom Haqqani, who has been tasked to counter Taliban’s anti-vaccine campaign told IPS that the religious scholars have been engaged to accompany the health workers and urge the parents that OPV was important for their kids to safeguard them against disabilities.

“It is the responsibility of the parents to protect their children against diseases and provide them with safe and healthy environments. We have convinced 10,000 parents since January on vaccination of their children,” he said.

Muhammad Rizwan, a resident of Nowshera, one of the 26 districts of KP, says that he had not been vaccinating his children so far under the misconception that it wasn’t allowed in Islam. “As a result, my eldest son, aged four years was diagnosed positive for polio. Now, upon the persuasion of religious leaders, I have been vaccinating my two other sons to let them grow healthy,” Rizwan, a farmer, said.

According to him, Taliban have been warning the people against polio vaccination in the areas but the local clerics have started to woo parents on vaccination. “Parents are responding to religious leaders and are bringing their children for immunisation in droves,” he says.

KP police chief Nasir Khan Durrani says they have been deploying more than 10,000 policemen for the security of health workers.

“Militants have killed 70 health workers during polio campaign from 2012 to 2015 but there were no such incidents in 2016,” he says. Taliban militants want vaccinators to stay away from polio vaccination but we have given them foolproof security, Durrani says.

A new case reported from Afghanistan in February from Kunar province bordering Fata and KP Pakistan has triggered alarm bells, prompting both countries to speed up the immunisation drive in border areas.

More than 60 polio cases reported in 2015 belonged to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Peshawar, capital of KP, registered 10 polio cases of KP’s total 18 in 2015 mainly because of free and unchecked movements of children from Afghanistan as well as Fata where quality vaccination was needed. Two of these polio cases had proven linkages to the virus in Afghanistan.

Dr Ikhtiar Ali, Fata polio officer told IPS that synchronised campaigns stared in Pakistan and Afghanistan from January has paid off.

“The number cases in Pakistan were six and one in Afghanistan as of March 16 2016 because 14 vaccination points on the border has improved vaccination,” he says. Special focus is being laid on strengthening border vaccination.

The quality of vaccination at Torkham, the main border point crossed by hundreds of children per day, wasn’t up to the desired level last year due to which infected children transported the virus across the border, they said.

Ahmed Barakzai, a polio officer in Afghanistan’s Nangrahar province near the border, says the situation with regard to vaccination has shown signs of improvement due to the advocacy campaigns launched with support of community elders and religious leaders.

We have brought down refusals against OPV from 60,000 in 2015 to only 22,000 in 2016, he says. The only way to cope with the poliomyelitis is the quality vaccination of children, he says.

Like KP and Fata, we have also engaged police and religious scholars in the campaign. “In some areas, we have been facing security problems because the vaccinators were sacred of militants but we are using religious leaders to cope with the situation,” he says.

Saira Afzal Tarar says the synchronised campaigns have proved fruitful. “We are going to further strengthen vaccination in border areas,” she said.

Pakistan is home to at least 6 million Afghan refugees … In the past, Afghan children transported virus to Pakistan because of lack of vaccination back home, she says.

Now, every child is getting OPV at the border points due to which the chances of infection to local children have decreased, she says.


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The PELIS Factor Wed, 23 Mar 2016 06:38:45 +0000 Moraa Obiria Peter Wainaina, member of Aberdares Community Forest Association (CFA), at the forest farm harvesting Irish potatoes. Credit: Moraa Obiria/IPS

Peter Wainaina, member of Aberdares Community Forest Association (CFA), at the forest farm harvesting Irish potatoes. Credit: Moraa Obiria/IPS

By Moraa Obiria
NJABINI, West Central Kenya, Mar 23 2016 (IPS)

Peter Wainaina’s focus is on the fresh Irish potatoes he has just harvested. He assembles them into a 90-kilogramme bag while sorting out the unmarketable ones like sliced and tiny tubes. He lives on a small plot of land in Njabini, 600 metres away from a farm in Aberdares forest, west central Kenya, where he has been growing this fast-maturing crop for the past three months.

Communities living in forest ranges depend mainly on farming to raise household incomes and feed their families. Some locals own less than two acres. Others, who include domestic migrants in search for a better avenue of income, access land through rental or leasehold agreements. “I harvest not less than 60 bags of potatoes per acre in the forest farm. This is four times what I get from a quarter of an acre back home,” says Wainaina who harvests an average of 15 bags from his plot.

A bag sells between Sh 1,200 (USD $11.8) and Sh 2,000 (USD$19.7) depending on the season. Fetching better prices is a major problem since brokers largely dominate the crop market. Nevertheless, these returns constitute the backbone of survival for households. The focus must to be to raise productivity to increase earnings. This is where the Plantation Establishment and Livelihood Improvement Scheme (PELIS), a community participation programme to promote forest conservation while enhancing food security, comes into the picture. .

PELIS is a Kenyan government scheme recognised under the Forest Act (2005), managed by the Kenya Forest Service (KFS). Its implementation targets communities with access to the forest for short-term cultivation and ensures achievement of the 10 per cent forest cover target as provided for in the Constitution. The regulations stipulate the creation of CFAs which draws membership from communities living adjacent to forests. Only members one can benefit from PELIS.

Wainaina is one of the 300-member Aberdares CFA which has been operating since 2011. Now, he is a happy father able to comfortably meet the expenses for his two children in high school. “I don’t know how possible it could be for me to raise Sh 60,000 (USD $ 591) a term without this enhanced productivity. Combined harvests from the forest farm and my plot are enough to pay their fees, buy food supplements and save at least Sh 2, 000,” he noted.

The CFAs enter into an agreement with the KFS so that members proactively protect the forest against any destruction, including forest fires, illegal logging and burning logs for charcoal. Members become the watchdogs of the forest reinforcing the vigilance of forest guards. Under PELIS, KFS is bound by law to allocate CFA members acres of land where commercial trees have been harvested by industrial timber traders. The farmers are allowed to intercrop short-term crops such as Irish potatoes, beans, maize and green peas with tree saplings for a period of three to four years.

KFS provides farmers with the certified tree seedlings for replenishment. During the cropping duration, farmers strictly take care of trees as this is an obligation under the CFA-KFS agreement. “I have seen many lives changed through PELIS,” says Anne Wanyoike, chairperson of the Aberdares CFA. “Some of our members are landless. They have rented houses around to do business. I am happy they have progressed. Some have bought motorbikes for business and others expanded their enterprises,” she reveals further. The scheme guarantees households access to a balanced diet since farmers have surplus for sell and purchase of nutritious food, she added.

“We summon a meeting to ballot soon after KFS informs us of the available land. If you choose a Yes ticket you win for the season and No means waiting for the next season. Each member agrees on the portion he or she needs,” Wanyoike.explains. The forest land is exceptionally cheap and highly productive due to fertile soils compared to private rent. An acre in Njabini, where Wainaina and Wanyoike reside, goes for between Sh 8,000 and Sh 10,000 (USD $98.6) Meanwhile a member pays Sh 125 (USD 1.2) for a quarter an acre to KFS through the CFA, doubles the amount to farm on a half of the acre. An acre goes for Sh 500 (USD $4.9).

PELIS, which rolled out in 2007, is pivotal to ending food insecurity in the country according to Kenya Forestry Research Institute (KEFRI).The scheme generates annual revenues of Sh 14 billion based on its own estimates. Simiyu Wasike, deputy director in charge of Plantation and Enterprise at KFS says the scheme has been instrumental in making farmers millionaires. He said there are more than 150 CFAs in the country with a total membership exceeding 11,000. “We have CFAs which have formed Saccos and cooperatives and they are exporting their produce,” he says.

By 2013, a total of 9,939 hectares were under PELIS, a tremendous increase from 2,933 hectares according to available data from KEFRI. Wasike says PELIS offers a 75 per cent survival rate for the seedlings, thereby effective in increasing forest cover. However, more sensitisation is necessary to recruit more members into the scheme since many living adjacent to the forests are unaware of the benefits and significance of joining the CFA, as the officer indicated.


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Women`s Revolution Sun, 20 Mar 2016 14:16:36 +0000 Bina Shah By Bina Shah
Mar 20 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

For as long as I can remember, people have been talking about the possibility of revolution in Pakistan. They were originally inspired, or perhaps frightened, by the Iranian Revolution in 1979, when ordinary Iranians rose up under the leadership of the clergy and overthrew Western-backed Reza Shah Pahlavi.

As an intellectual exercise, Pakistanis have always wondered whether a similar revolution could take place in Pakistan, and if so, what would that revolution look like? Some envision it as a religious revolution where the Pakistani religious right wing encourages its militants to come out on the streets and seize power and enact Sharia throughout the country. Others imagine a revolution along the lines of the French revolution, where the have-nots slaughter the haves in a bloody uprising, and take control of their land and property.

Most people dismiss the idea of these kinds of revolutions, however, in light of the cloud of apathy in which Pakistanis live. The status quo, they think, is here to stay. Well, the revolution is already here, but it doesn`t quite look like what people imagined it to be.

Nor is it being enacted by the people they expected it to encompass. Pakistan`s revolution is a women`s revolution, and although we`re in its early stages, it`s already looking powerful enough to change a nation.

Although women have always participated in political revolutions around the world, the women`s liberation movement in the 1970s was the first time that women, mostly in the developed world, joined together to agitate for their rights. While many offshoots of feminism, including radical feminism and socialist feminism, developed from this movement, women in countries like Pakistan did not feel its benefits directly in their lives.

Pakistani women had their own problems to deal with when Bhutto started to Islamise Pakistan. Then Gen Zia picked up the baton after deposing Bhutto, hurtling the country towards even greater heights of gender discrimination. And he wielded that baton unmercifully on Pakistani women`s bodies.

Pakistani women have never truly held full authority over their own bodies; their bodies belonged to their families, to their male protectors, fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, who decided how and when to dispose of them through marriage or other means.

Now the state was codifying the control of women`s bodies, prescribing jailing, lashing and even execution for adultery and for the crime of being raped. Encasing them in chadar and chardiwari, repressing their very existence until the practice of pre-Islamic Arabs burying their baby girls at birth started to look less painful compared to how Pakistani women were being symbolicallyburied throughout their lives. And while Zia is long gone, regressive societal attitudes towards women live on.

Reading Ta-nehisi Coates`s excellent book on race in America, Between the World and Me where Coates writes of the state`s ability to enact destruction on black bodies with no repercussions for perpetrators of those attacks, it struck me that the same thing happens to the bodies of women in this country.

Here in Pakistan, families enact the violence, but the state is complicit through its inaction. Without legal and social reform, Pakistan`s girls and women will continue to be shot in the head for trying to exercise their own autonomy. Men will continue to enslave women while pretending to be their protectors and caretakers. Half the country`s population will continue to function as second-rate citizens, and justice and peace will forever remain elusive in Pakistan.

The furore of the religious right against the Women`s Protection Act in Punjab, and the anger and hysteria about something that is morally unarguable a woman`s right tonot be abused, thrown out of her house, even killed proves that a rotten nerve has been exposed to the light. We cannot accept this situation as the status quo anymore. Yet as proven in the American Civil War, men do not give up their slaves easily.

Revolution begins when a human beingsays `Enough.` Pakistan`s women have finally said `enough`. Enough of the domestic violence, the sexual harassment and abuse, the beatings, the acid attacks, the `honour` killings. Enough of keeping girls illiterate, of stopping women from collecting their inheritance, from owning property.

Enough blood their own has been spilled.

Pakistan`s women are raising not just their voices, but their bodies. They are insisting on the right to be educated, to work, to live in safety and security. Women parliamentarians are taking up their cause in the legislature, enacting laws to protect them. Nobody can reverse this social awakening.

It may seem like the path to chaos and societal destruction, but when the smoke clears, it will change Pakistan for the better. This revolution may even rescue us from the morass of degeneracy that has gripped us for so long we no longer know what a normal environment for women looks like.

The writer is an author. Twitter: @binashah

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Europe`s Crisis Sat, 19 Mar 2016 08:02:10 +0000 Mahir Ali By Mahir Ali
Mar 19 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It is wise of Angela Merkel not to have panicked in the wake of setbacks for her Christian Democrats (CDU) in Sunday`s three regional elections. The German chancellor acknowledged the blow, but discounted the likelihood of abrupt changes to her government`s policy on refugees.

That very policy has accounted for a surge in support for the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), a recently formed party with links to the far-right Pegida movement. But that is only part of the picture.

Whereas the AfD`s seats in regional assemblies are based to a large extent on the backing of Germans who previously did not bother to vote, a fairly substantial number of CDU appear to have drif ted to the Green party and the Social-Democrats, notably in situations where CDU candidates sought to distance themselves from Merkel`s generosity.

In Baden-Württemburg, for instance, 30pc of the voters who switched from the CDU to the Greens said their decision was based on the refugee issue. The state`s Green premier has been quoted as saying that he was `praying ever day` for Merkel`s well-being.

Germany`s divisions on this issue were inevitably exacerbated after the appalling sexual assaults and coercive thef ts in Cologne on New Year`s Eve, even though only a tiny proportion of the assailants turned out to be components of the latest wave of refugees that brought more than a million people to Germany last year.

Merkel`s open-borders policy has been held responsible for precipitating a Europewide crisis, with those who are able to make their way from Turkey to Greece and beyond opting for relatively welcoming countries such as Germany. The alternative, though, was to deny entry to Europe to the clearly desperate victims of the strife in Syria in particular.

In some ways, that scenario has lately come to pass, with Macedonia seeking to seal its border with Greece and all too many of its neighbours pursuing similar policies in blatant disregard of the international rules put in place in the wake of the Second World War. Back then, it was Jewish refugees from Germany and Nazi-occupied territories who suffered the consequences of reactionary bigotry.

Not many European countries other than Germany have flung open their doors to the wretched of the earth, with some letting in refugees from Syria and Iraq but refusing access to others from various African countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh. That may seem fair enough in some respects, given Europe cannot be expected to accommodate the all too many economic refugees that international capitalism has spawned.

Levels of desperation are hard to judge, though.Greece`s fear, meanwhile, of turning into what its prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has poetically characterised as a `warehouse of souls` is perfectly legitimate. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Turkey keep on turning up In Greece, with no intention of remaining there, but find their pathway to elsewhere in Europe blocked.

The European Union, meanwhile, has reached an agreement with Turkey whereby all refugees who make it to Greek shores will be returned to Turkish soil, but Europe will accommodate one Turkey-based Syrian for each one sent back. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, and various other human rights organisations have pointed out that such a policy would violate international law.

Whether the agreement will bear fruit remains to be seen. Europe`s handling of the unprecedented crisis thus far has provided plenty of cause for consternation. And former members of the Soviet bloc have been by far the least inclined to adopt a humanitarian approach.The Russian president, meanwhile, has been accused of actively striving to whip up tensions in Europe by funding the anti-immigrant backlash. It`s hard to tell, though, whether that is indeed the case, given thatthe charge has been made by a Latvian official associated with Nato who has an axe to grind vis-à-vis Russia.

That doesn`t necessarily mean he is lying,although Vladimir Putin`s announcement on Monday that most Russian forces will be pulled out of Syria militates against the notion that his intervention was intended primarily to exacerbate Europe`s refugee woes.

Not much hope was held out for the talks on Syria`s future taking place in Europe this week, but it would be folly to completely write off the prospect of some sort of agreement. After all, the ceasefire put in place three weeks or so ago has largely held, contrary to expectations.

It would be unduly optimistic, though, to read into that an indication that the awful conflict in Syria is approaching its conclusion. It would be amazing if that were indeed the case. In the interim, though, the `warehouse of souls` remains in place, and it could very well return to haunt Europe for decades hence unless Merkel`s plea for a Europe-wide humanitarian solution finds at least a few more takers.


This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Food Insecurity in the Far North Fri, 18 Mar 2016 06:52:41 +0000 Mbom Sixtus Yaounde 0 Germany: Reaping What You Sow Thu, 17 Mar 2016 15:40:06 +0000 Roberto Savio Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Mar 17 2016 (IPS)

The recent German elections went as predicted.. A new right wing, xenophobe party, Alternative for Germany, AFD, has emerged with force, and will bein national Parliament in 2017.This development is unprecedented in German politics since the end of the second world war, and it is widely viewedas part of a general trend – the rise of populist and xenophobe forces all over Europe.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The European elections of 2004 rang thefirst warning bell. The euro crisis and social instability saw the beginning of a surge to the right. Since then, every national election has seen a shift in the internal balance. Historical examples of civics and tolerance in the Nordic countries, such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, has changed direction. Tthe Swedish Democrats, a party rooted in the neo Nazi movement, has forced the country to change its famous policy of open door to refugees. The Danish Popular Party last summer emerged as the second choice. In Finland, the True Finns becaoe the third force in 2015, and are now in the governmental coalition. In 2011, the massacre of 78 Norwegians by the neo Nazi Breivik heralded the end of the Nordic political identity.

Since 2004, the right wing parties just grew. Now they are in power in Hungary and Poland, and few days ago the pro Nazi “People Party for our Slovaquia” (LSNS), is firmly in parliament as the fourth force. And if elections are held today, the Freedom Party of the islamophobe GertWilders, would get the first place in the Netherlands. In France in 2015, the parties had to join forces to block Marine Le Pen from winning the French regional elections.

The weight of The UK Independence Party UKIP has obliged Cameron to call for a referendum on Europe. In Austria the right Freedom Party won 20.5% of the votes and, more recently, it came ahead either of the socialists or the Christian democrats in some state elections, entered in a Socialist-led government in Burgenland and gained more than 30% of the votes in Vienna. In Italy, the votes of the 5 Stars Movement added with those of the League of Matteo Salvini, it is almost 40% of anti Europe vote. Obviously the arrival of more than a million refugees, has given a boost to all xenophobe parties, and the Alternative for Germany’s fast rise has been explained as a punishment to Merkel, who opened the door to refugees, without any consultation, not even with France,

But beside this obvious explanation, it would be time to consider why since the crisis of the 2009, in such a short time, a campaign against Europe, and for a nationalist platform, seems to beso successful. Even without the refugees, the right wing tide has been a clear and evident fact. Refugees have become just an accelerator to what was happening everywhere. And why those right wing parties attract a very variegated electorate, from workers to housewives, from pensioners to young students? And why, suddenly, the dream of a European integration has lost popular support?

Obviously, this would entail a complex and long analysis, that we cannot afford here. But I would like to add an uncomfortable angle of reflection, probably not politically correct. The strict intransigence of the German government (embodied by the Nein fur Allen, no to everything, i.e. the minister of finance Wolfgang Schauble), has contributed to the decline of the European dream. Until the crisis of 2009, there were no serious financial and social problems. Then the crisis came, and Europe is now barely back to the pre crisis level (Italy not yet). This means that during the seven years of austerity imposed byGermany, with an epic fight on Cyprus and then Greece, and splitting Europe with a North-South divide was the only way forward. It would be of course irresponsible to suggest that the South of Europe could have ignored rules and budgets. But to make of the European Union a warden visibly indifferent to the savage cuts in public expenses, from welfare to hospitals, to the emerging dramatic youth unemployment everywhere, was not certainly the best recipe to give an attractive image of the European institutions.

Germany did look a superpower, passionate of its wealth, insensitive to other’s problems, which went by its own way, with no interest in consultation and socialization. It was easy during the seven years of crisis to attract a large number of people who felt left out, ignored by the traditional political parties, who did remember or imagine the good times of national sovereignty. They saw in foreign banks and corporations their enemy, in foreigners those who were robbing their jobs (remember the British campaign against the Polish plumber?) and saw Brussels as a bunch of unelected bureaucrats who did want to intrude in their lives, and decide on the shape of the tomatoes. Berlin did not do anything to correct that trend. It made a moral issue of the deficit of the debtors’ countries, and blocked any attempt to socialize the excedent of its economy with others.

It is may be time to consider that the German intransigence has a responsibility in the surge of the rightwing and nationalist tide, with the message that they did not care about others, intent only to keep their privileged situation; European solidarity is over. One by one its allies went into budget deficits , like Austria, Finland, the Netherlands, without Berlin even noticing. Austerity was a taboo which could not be discussed, like one cannot or must not discuss moral or religious dogmas.

It can be easily said that this is lamentation is from the side of the debtors, and that is usually what they do. Pass on the responsibility to the creditors, instead of making a real and sincere mea culpa. But then, what happens when Brussels, the warden of Europe, calls on Germany for a European responsibility ? Total indifference.

On the March 13, the European Commission did publish a report on the economic situation, and indicated that Spain, Italy and Portugal were the most fragile countries, in the terrible lack of growth in the Eurozone. The report specifically singles out Germany, echoing what already the IMF, the OECD, and the G20 have been stating: Berlin has completely ignored their call for increasing expenditure in infrastructures, as a way of a stimulus, using its huge superavit.

Germany has taken tiny steps in the last decade on all of the EU recommendations. It did not increase its budget in education, in research and development, nor did it improve the fiscal system. Brussels have been asking to increase the retirement age, at no avail. It has recommended to revise the fiscal treatments of the so called minijobs, and to eliminate barriers in the service sector, without any reaction. It asked to increase salaries, to redistribute the state superavit, in a total indifference. The Commission now says clearly that the large commercial superavit makes of Germany a risk for the euro. Brussels considers that Germany is not doing anything in matter of reforms, that must increase its public investment, and concludes that its enormous budgetary asynchrony with the rest of Europe “has adverse implications for the Eurozone”.

Let us not forget that Alternative for Germany was created by a group of academics who were against the euro. They were misplaced by the present leadership, who wants to get rid of the Brussels inference in the life of Germans, and go back to the times of the strong Germany of the past. Is the path of Merkel’s splendid solitude helping or weakening the European dream? No doubt she is a brilliant national leader. But a European one? .


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Will the EU Become a Criminal Union Tomorrow? Thu, 17 Mar 2016 11:26:16 +0000 Jan Oberg Jan Oberg is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.]]>

Jan Oberg is TFF Director & Co-founder, peace studies professor. PhD in sociology, peace and future researcher. Associate professor (Docent) at Lund University, thereafter visiting or guest professor at various universities. Former director of the Lund University Peace Research Institute (LUPRI); former secretary-general of the Danish Peace Foundation; former member of the Danish government’s Committee on security and disarmament.

By Jan Oberg
Lund, Sweden, Mar 17 2016 (IPS)

The EUropean Union – a criminal?

The EU that has peace as its top goal and received Nobel’s Peace Prize?

The EU with Schengen and Dublin?

Jan Oberg

Jan Oberg

The EU with “European” values, humanism and mission civilisatrice that tells others how to live in accordance with international law and in respect for human rights?

We live in times where little shall surprise us anymore. The answer to the question – will EU become a criminal in international law terms? – will be answered on March 17 and 18 when the EU Council meets to decide whether or not to carry through the agreement with Turkey about how to handle refugees.

Amnesty International knows what it is all about. AI uses words such as “alarmingly shortsighted”, “inhumane”, “dehumanising”, “moral and legally flawed” and “EU and Turkish leaders have today sunk to a new low, effectively horse trading away the rights and dignity of some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

And “By no stretch of imagination can Turkey be considered a ‘safe third country’ that the EU can cosily outsource its obligations to,” says Iverna McGowan, Head of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

When Amnesty International expresses itself this way, we should listen very very carefully. I do and I’ve signed Amnesty’s Open Letter to Swedish prime minister Löfvén protesting that Sweden too may join this inhuman and law-violating agreement with Turkey.

Hurry up, it is tomorrow!

Behind every refugee stands an arms trade, stands militarism.

A huge majority of the refugees have fled the wars conducted by irresponsible and narrow-minded EU leaders who, thereby, have already violated international law.

They continue to do so – Denmark being the latest to join the tragedy.

EU countries combined make up the largest economy in the world.

How bizarre that the EU has the resources to fight one war after the other, has huge military budgets and nuclear weapons and puts unlimited resources into wars against terror (that is, to a large extent, a response to U.S./NATO/EU foreign policies) but cowardly believes it can’t find the resources to care for 1,2 million seeking refuge among its 500 million, i.e. 0,24%!

Precisely because EU countries have caused a major part of the refugees to flee, we have a special moral obligation to a) receive them and b) learn to not start wars just like that on somebody else’s territory.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Will the EU anything good, the time is now.

There is no refugee crisis in the EU. There are several other crises:

1) A crisis caused by years of militarism;

2) A crisis of crisis management;

3) A crisis of leadership – or, with the exception of Chancellor Merkel – no leadership for common policies at all; and

4) A crisis of solidarity, humanity and ethics.

You may add a 5) the Euro-racism expressed as Islamophobia.

I am pretty sure that the EU would have acted differently if there had been a huge natural catastrophe or a nuclear power plant meltdown in Israel and 1,2 million Jews had come to Europe or if an EU country had experienced something like that in its own midst.

If on March 16-17, 2016, the EU decides to implement this immoral and law-violating agreement with increasingly authoritarian, war-fighting, terror-supporting and refugee-unsafe country Turkey, the moral decay of the Western world will be obvious.

If not to itself, then to the 92% of the world’s people living outside it.

And the EU will deserve nothing better than it own dissolution. Because it wasn’t for a better but for a worse world.

And technically – what is left when the asylum right, the Schengen and Dublin conventions etc. will be violated by the Council itself?

Either the EU is for a better world or it’s time for another Europe after it!

Jan Oberg’s article was published on 16 March 2016 in: TFF – Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research. Go to Original.

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Myanmar’s Rohingya Humanitarian Crisis Thu, 17 Mar 2016 06:53:13 +0000 Maung Zarni Dr Maung Zarni is a non-resident research scholar, Sleuth Rith Institute, (A permanent Documentation Centre of Cambodia) & former visiting lecturer, Harvard Medical School, USA]]> Dr Maung Zarni is a non-resident research scholar, Sleuth Rith Institute, (A permanent Documentation Centre of Cambodia) & former visiting lecturer, Harvard Medical School, USA]]> 0 A “Colombian Triangle” for Daesh in Libya? Wed, 16 Mar 2016 19:23:16 +0000 Baher Kamal By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Mar 16 2016 (IPS)

Besieged by US, UK, French, Russian and Syrian war crafts and ground intelligence, both in Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (Daesh from its original acronym in Arabic) has reportedly been searching for a new base in the North of Africa, specifically in Libya, in what has been called the “Colombian Triangle.”

A map of Libya with major cities and settlements.  Credit: United Nations

A map of Libya with major cities and settlements. Credit: United Nations

Located in the South-Western region, the new base would be installed on the borders of Algeria, Niger and Libya itself.

The area is currently controlled by extremist groups, drug dealers and weapons traffickers. This kind of operations represents a strong source of funding for Daesh, but not the only one — oil would be another huge source.

According to Libyan sources, the “Colombian Triangle” was not, however, Daesh’ first choice. In fact, the story began last year, with Daesh expanding its influence in the Northern Libyan region of Sirte, which hosts the largest oil reserves in the country.

There, Daesh carried out several military attacks and even occupied and controlled refineries and huge oil deposits, there and in other producing areas.

Daesh had, nevertheless, to re-think its initial plans which aimed at installing its new base in the Northern oil rich regions in Libya, due to a series of rapid developments, such as the efforts carried out by the UN former Special Envoy, Bernardino Leon, and continued later on by the new one, Martin Kobler, to form a new, national unity government headed by Libyan businessman Fayyez al Sarraj.

This new unity government has been in fact formed as a result of a UN sponsored agreement in Skhirat (Morocco) on mid December 2015.

Daesh’s fears that the new national unity government would be strongly supported, intelligence and militarily wise, by foreign powers, mainly the US-led NATO, especially in Derna, Sirte, Tripoli and Sabratha areas, forced the terrorist group to change plans.

The skies in these regions have been monitored by drones. Local sources could not confirm whether these surveillance operations are controlled the Libyan Armed Forces led by General Khalifa Haftar, or by other states monitoring the activity of extremists in the country.

Some voices spoke also of subsidiary control operations by the United Nations.

Libyan oil fields, pipelines, refineries and storage. Credit: NordNordWest, Yug | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Libyan oil fields, pipelines, refineries and storage. Credit: NordNordWest, Yug | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Anyway, since the end of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the successive new rulers failed to form a strong, stable central authority. Consequently the country was split between the army and several militias.

Sources of the first Libyan government installed in Tripoli after the 2011 military intervention led by NATO forces, estimated that there would be up to 25 million weapons out of state control in the country.

The increasing fragility of Libyan central authorities allowed extremist organizations, including Daesh, to seize control in several cities.

According to a Libyan retired military commander, the Southern town of Traghan already serves as the centre for the «Colombian Triangle”, being surrounded by mountains and sand dunes from almost all sides.

The area has been chosen by the smugglers because of the ease drug shipments across the border, according to this source, away from the eyes of neighbouring countries’ authorities, whether these are Algeria or Niger, with Mali as a first destination.

Mali itself became in recent years a safe haven for extremist groups, including the reportedly pro- Daesh Boko Haram in Nigeria. That area became an arsenal of military equipment, weapons and missiles that had been looted from Gaddafi’s regime military stores.

The retired military commander explained that this mountainous and rugged region, and is now the new headquarters for the pool of extremist groups from Libya and Africa.

Meanwhile, different well-informed sources have been speculating with the expected developments that should come from now on.

Some talk insistingly about an US-NATO-led military coalition’s intervention in Libya against Daesh. Others speak instead of “surgical” military operations against specific targets.

In the last days, a new version has circulated, citing “reports of Libyan intelligence services confirm the presence of intelligence officers from some countries supporting militias and liaising with terrorism in Libya.” In this sense, Dominique Sinclair on March 15, 2016 wrote the French paper Le Monde, a post in which the author asks: “What hides the UN proposal for the establishment of safe corridors to Benghazi?”

According to Sinclair’s post, the UN envoy to Libya [Martin Kobler] had called several times to take into account the need to put an end to military operations in Benghazi with the aim to create safe corridors to allow the exit of the families [trapped] in the fighting zones.

The UN has also spoken in the same direction since combat zones and military operations have been abandoned by all their inhabitants and their families from the beginning of military operations in May 2014, Sinclair adds.

And asks why then Kobler and the Nations United were interested in this question recently by multiplying calls to open safe corridors for the departure of family [trapped] in conflict zones?

According to these versions, other objectives motivate such requirements “such as the existence of reports by Libyan intelligence indicating the presence of intelligence officers from some countries supporting the militias and are in liaison with terrorism in Libya. There would probably be other Western states involved in this case.”

Anyway, should Daesh manage to install its base in the “Colombian Triangle” in Libya, who could ever prevent it from further liaising with Boko Haram in Nigeria and other terrorist groups?


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Are We Entering Into a Long Term Stagnation? Tue, 15 Mar 2016 15:48:55 +0000 Roberto Savio Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Mar 15 2016 (IPS)

Larry Summers, Clinton’s minister of treasury, has made few friends in life. At that time, he was instrumental in eliminating the Glass Stegall Banking Law, which since 1933 separated the bank’s customer deposits from the financial activities of the Stock Exchange, releasing a flood of money which created the present monster financial system.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

He was also Chief Economist of the World Bank, a position he left after polemics. He became the President of the prestigious Harvard Academy, but was obliged to leave on a gender issue. He was the Director of the National Economic Council under president Barack Obama, where is pro-business attitude led to new controversies.

Maybe, for all these reasons, very few paid attention to his predictions about “the new economy”. This is a term created after the crisis of 2009, to indicate that unemployment would be normal, and that the market would be the centre of economy and finance, and social and welfare measures were not any longer part of the economy’s concern.

Summers warns about “a secular stagnation”. In other words, anaemic growth will stay with us for a long time. His warnings were about the fact that there is no real political action to create stimulus, and that “in a world that is one major shock away from a global recession, little if anything directed on spurring demand was agreed. Central bankers communicated a sense that there was relatively little left that they could do to strengthen growth or even to raise inflation”.

Summers was commenting on the last G20 meeting of Ministers of Finance( Feb.26), where unable to agree on any action, concluded with a statement that “markets are worrying too much”. The magnitude of the recent market volatility has not reflected the underlying fundamentals of the global economy, declared Lou Jiwei, the Minister of Finance of China, who hosted the G20 in Shanghai.

The inflexible German Minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schauble, did block the plea for accompanying stimulus to reforms, championed by the American Jack Lew, insisting that now is the time only for structural reforms, and not for any fiscal and monetary policy of stimulus. The case of Greece was present in the minds of all. Later Schauble, commenting on the enormous load of refugees blocked in an already exhausted Greece, declared that while this human tragedy needs attention,” it should not distract Athens from implementing it’s program of structural reforms”.

A few days later, Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), did present a very large program of fiscal stimulus, which is bringing the cost of money to zero, while increasing its monthly infusion of money from 60 t0 80 billions euro per month. The markets did react at first positively, then went down, and now are lookingup again.

But Draghi did warn (as he always did), that central banks cannot do the job of governments.

Inflation, which is part of growth as long as it does go beyond 2%, has been until now at 0,1%.

Growth in the Eurozone, is now at 1.4% in 2016, and hopefully at 1.7% in 2017. It is now five years that we are practically in a stagnation, and Europe has not recovered yet to reach the economic level prior to the crisis.

Of course, this has created a strong howling in Germany. Schauble, who has made economy a branch of moral science, declared that “Easy money brings to perdition”. The general lament is that the ECB is making a policy to bail out the indebted countries of the South of Europe, at the expenses of Germany and the other countries of the North of Europe who do not need a zero cost monetary policy. The President of the Federation of German Wholesale, Foreign Trade and Sevices (BGA) Anton Borner, has declared:”for the German population it is a catastrophe. Their savings have been expropriated. This is a giant expropriation from North to South”.

It is a fact the Germans are big savers. There accounts have over two trillion euro, one third of the total of Eurozone. With zero interest, Union Investment has calculated that they will lose 224 billion, compared with what they would have got with the average historical interest on deposits.

The DZ bank has published a study, which according to the Italian treasury will save 53 billion euro, against 9.5 for Germany. Spain would also save a similar amount: 42 billion euro. The director of the prestigious institute of research Leibniz Institute for Economic Research (IFO), stated” we are facing a policy of subsidies to zombie banks, and States on the verge of bankruptcy”.

All this is further proof of how any dream of a European project is fading away.

German complaints are logical, but only from a very short-sighted and egocentric angle of observation.

Germany cannot ignore that to remain an island of prosperity in a region which provides them with a steady superavit in its balance of trade, and a steady revenue in its inferior cost of borrowing money because of its positive differential with other European countries, is not a recipe for the future. If the Euro zone will keep an anaemic rate of growth, and a very low rate of inflation, stagnation will settle for a long time. It is easy to preach economic reforms, but according to the European Union, United States, China, the BRICS, and Germany should use its superavit atleast to invest in structural costs (like infrastructure), to spur growth.

Instead the German government keeps its earnings tight, and considers that its destiny has nothing to do with the others. It is ready to push the European Union to disburse six billion euro to Turkey to keep refugees from coming, and even to reopen the door to admission, something until now rejected by the German population. The North-South Europe’s divide is not only the result of the lack of discipline from the South, it is also the result of a major European country, who is increasingly acting only for its immediate interests.

Summers view looks increasingly realistic. Cost of petrol will increase, according to the International Energy Agency. The oil rig count in the US has dropped to its lowest level in more than six years, as the low price makes the high-cost rigs un-economical.

The number of oil and gas rigs has sunk to 1,761, the lowest number since 2002.

This is not going to help Africa as a whole, the Chinese crucial recovery, and a large number of Latin Americans and Asian countries, as well Europe.

Trade, a vital economic indicator, has been stagnant for the last five years, an unprecedented data. The debate about structural reforms versus economic and financial stimulus look like a stalemate, which is paralyzing the international community. What happens if “the major shock from a global recession” comes now from the European paralysis? We are entering into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the one where robots will substitute workers. According to the latest book of Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum of Davos, in a decade robots will account for 52% of industrial production, up from its present 12%. This will increase concentration of wealth, and social inequality The debate about our future is nowhere in the political circles. We now discuss about saving accounts…


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