Inter Press Service » Migration & Refugees http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 26 Apr 2017 20:28:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.17 Middle East, Engulfed by a ‘Perfect Storm’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/middle-east-engulfed-by-a-perfect-storm/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-engulfed-by-a-perfect-storm http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/middle-east-engulfed-by-a-perfect-storm/#comments Fri, 21 Apr 2017 13:35:21 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150079 In Mazrak, Yemen, a five year-old girl, diagnosed as malnourished, is given a pink wristband to wear to show she has not been getting enough to eat. Credit: UNHCR/Hugh Macleod

In Mazrak, Yemen, a five year-old girl, diagnosed as malnourished, is given a pink wristband to wear to show she has not been getting enough to eat. Credit: UNHCR/Hugh Macleod

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 21 2017 (IPS)

A perfect storm has engulfed the Middle East, and continues to threaten international peace and security.

Hardly anyone could sum up the Middle East explosive situation in so few, blunt words as just did Nickolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

Reporting to the UN Security Council on the “dire situation across the Middle East region, marked by the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War, fractured societies, proliferation of non-State actors and unbelievable human suffering,” Mladenov reiterated the need for a surge in diplomacy for peace to ease the suffering of innocent civilians.

The UN Special Coordinator also warned that “the question of Palestine remained a ‘potent symbol’ and a ‘rallying cry’, “one that is easily misappropriated and exploited by extremist groups.”“The question of Palestine remained a “potent symbol” and “rallying cry,” one that is easily misappropriated and exploited by extremist groups,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.

“Let us not forget that behind the images of savagery [there] are the millions [struggling] every day not only for their own survival but for the true humane essence of their cultures and societies,” he on 20 April 2017 told the Security Council.

“Today, a perfect storm has engulfed the Middle East, and continues to threaten international peace and security,” he said, noting that divisions within the region have opened the doors to foreign intervention and manipulation, breeding instability and sectarian strife.

“Ending the occupation and realising a two-state solution will not solve all the region’s problems, but as long as the conflict persists, it will continue to feed them.”

Mladenov also informed the 15-member Security Council of sporadic violence that continued to claim lives and reported on Israel’s approval of the establishment of new settlements and declaration of “State land” in the occupied Palestinian territory.

On the Palestinian side, he noted multiple worrying developments that are “further cementing” the Gaza-West Bank divide and dangerously increasing the risk of escalation.

Turning to the wider region, Mladenov briefed the Security Council members on the on-going crisis in Syria that continues to be a “massive burden” for other countries and called on the international community to do more to stand in solidarity with Syria’s neighbours.

“Strong, Loud Alarm”

“The statement that Mr. Mladenov has just made should sound a strong, loud alarm,” a retired Arab diplomat told IPS on condition of anonymity.

“We should always have in mind that the United Nations envoys and special coordinators use to be extremely careful when choosing their wording, in particular when it comes to reporting to the UN Security Council. This is why his words should be taken really seriously,” the diplomat emphasised.

Displaced families from Reyadeh and 1070 neighbourhoods take shelter at a kindergarten in western Aleppo city. Conditions are still extremely basic. Credit: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa

Displaced families from Reyadeh and 1070 neighbourhoods take shelter at a kindergarten in western Aleppo city. Conditions are still extremely basic. Credit: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa

According to this well-informed source, several Middle East analysts and even regional political leaders “harbour mixed feeling and even confusion about what some consider as “errant” foreign policy of the current US administration.”

“What is anyway clear is that a new Middle East is now “under construction”. Such process will not be an easy one, in view of the growing trend to embark in new cold war between the US and Russia,” the diplomat concluded.

Further in his briefing, the UN Special Coordinator spoke of the situation in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen as well as of “social exclusion and marginalisation that tend to provide fertile ground for the rise of violent extremism.”

Recalling UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for a “surge in diplomacy for peace”, Mladenov urged UN Member States, especially through a united Security Council, to assume “the leading role in resolving the crisis.”

“Multilateral approaches and cooperation are necessary to address interlinked conflicts, cross-border humanitarian impacts and violent extremism.”

“Grave Danger”

Just one week earlier, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told the UN Security Council in the wake of yet another dire turn in the Syrian crisis, that the United States and the Russian Federation “must find a way to work together” to stabilise the situation and support the political process.”

In his briefing on 12 April, de Mistura added that the previous week’s reported chemical weapons attack, the subsequent air strikes by the US and intensified fighting on the ground have put the fragile peace process is in “grave danger.”

A seven-year-old child stands in front of her damaged school in Idleb, Syria. October 2016. Credit: UNICEF

A seven-year-old child stands in front of her damaged school in Idleb, Syria. October 2016. Credit: UNICEF

“This is a time for clear-thinking, strategy, imagination, cooperation,” said de Mistura.

“We must all resolve that the time has come where the intra-Syrian talks move beyond preparatory discussions and into the real heart of the matter, across all four baskets, to secure a meaningful negotiated transition package,” he added.

Prior to the reported chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun area of Idlib, modest but incremental progress were made, the UN envoy noted, highlighting that though there no breakthroughs, there were also no breakdowns. The most recent round of talks, facilitated by the UN in Geneva, wrapped up three weeks ago.

However, the reported attack and subsequent events have placed the country between two paths: one leading more death, destruction and regional and international divisions; and the other of real de-escalation and ceasefire, added de Mistura.

The UN Special Envoy reiterated that there are no military solutions to the strife in the war-ravaged country.

“You have heard it countless times, but I will say it again: there can only be a political solution to this bloody conflict […] regardless of what some say or believe,” he expressed, noting that this is what Syrians from all walks of life also say and something that the Security Council had agreed upon.

“So, let us use this moment of crisis – and it is a moment of crisis – as a watershed and an opportunity perhaps for a new level of seriousness in the search for a political solution.”

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Nikki Haley’s ‘Historic’ Debate on Human Rights Left a Small Impressionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/nikki-haleys-historic-debate-on-human-rights-left-a-small-impression/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nikki-haleys-historic-debate-on-human-rights-left-a-small-impression http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/nikki-haleys-historic-debate-on-human-rights-left-a-small-impression/#comments Wed, 19 Apr 2017 17:11:08 +0000 Dulcie Leimbach http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150050 Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting focused solely on human rights. Credit: Rick Bajornas /UN Photo

Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the UN, with Liu Jieyi, China’s ambassador, before the April 18 Security Council meeting focused solely on human rights. Credit: Rick Bajornas /UN Photo

By Dulcie Leimbach
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 19 2017 (IPS)

Nikki Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, presided over what she was determined to sell as “an historic meeting exclusively on human rights” in the UN Security Council. But her brief speech in the April 18 meeting fell far short of introducing innovations to confront violations of human rights or prevent them in such places as Syria, Burundi and Myanmar.

“If this Council fails to take human rights violations and abuses seriously, they can escalate into real threats to international peace and security,” Haley began. “The Security Council cannot continue to be silent when we see widespread violations of human rights.

“Why would we tell ourselves that we will only deal with questions of peace and security, without addressing the factors that bring about the threats in the first place?”

The debate, ponderously titled “Maintenance of international peace and security: human rights and prevention of armed conflict,” gave an “opportunity to reflect on the way the Security Council directly addresses human rights issues in its work,” according to a concept note from the US mission to the UN.

The afternoon meeting among the Council’s 15 permanent and elected members turned political in no time. Ukraine referred to a “human-rights phobia” in the UN and blasted away at Russia’s annexation of Crimea; Uruguay said it was the responsibility of governments to protect its citizens’ human rights as well as people “in transit.” A low-level Russian diplomat rejected the whole notion of the Council concentrating on human rights in its forum.

Yet what shone through the two-hour meeting was not Haley’s remarks but the consistent messages of other Council members, who commended the UN Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights as indispensable partners with the Security Council. France, for example, said it was very “attached” to the Human Rights Council. Britain was effusive.

“Two institutions of the United Nations are particularly vital to delivering this joined up approach to human rights,” said Matthew Rycroft, the British ambassador to the UN. “First, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office provide invaluable support to UN peace operations.” Second, he added, is the Human Rights Council.

Rights experts had hinted that Haley’s session on human rights was an attempt to undermine the UN Human Rights Council, which is based in Geneva. She has pointed to the Council as “corrupt” and said she planned to visit it in June to whip it into shape.

António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, reinforced the primary role of the UN human-rights monitoring bodies. He said that “close cooperation between the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and all relevant United Nations bodies, including the Security Council, enhances general awareness of potential crisis situations, and our collective ability to address them.”

Guterres described the Security Council’s own “decisive action” on human rights, citing the establishment of the international criminal tribunals for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere as well as the Council’s referral of atrocity cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

As a matter of course, human-rights abuses are raised often by Council members as an early warning — or “prevention” — method.

As if stuck on a sales pitch, the US emphasized in the weeks before the meeting that it was holding the first exclusive session in the Council on human rights. But that is debatable, say some rights experts, since the topic has been written specifically into 15 peacekeeping mission mandates, sanctions, investigations, resolutions, special-envoy responsibilities and other matters relevant to the Council.

Even Haley acknowledged these tools of the Council, admitting their relevance and value.

Haley’s office fudged how well the Council accepted the purpose of the debate, saying that “through negotiations the United States convinced all 15 Council members to agree to put the meeting on the POW” – program of work. But the meeting was technically positioned under the international peace and security umbrella and not listed as an agenda item, a threshold that some council members refused to cross.

The US concept note for the meeting posed five questions to Council members to consider when they came to the session, as if they were being asked to write a high-school essay. The first question read, “What types of measures should the Security Council take to respond to serious human rights violations and abuses?” (The US did not appear to answer that.)

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted in the lead-up to the meeting, is the “human rights discussion serious?” He added: “Are particular countries named? Do they include allies?”

In the Council’s early decades, human rights rarely crept into its deliberations because of Article 2, paragraph 7 of the UN Charter, which said, “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. . . . ”

Sensitive political realities kept the topic from going too deep when it did arise, according to “The Procedure of the UN Security Council,” a reference book by Loraine Sievers and Sam Daws. When a Council member wanted to raise a human-rights issue in a certain country — not unusual throughout the Cold War — ambassadors needed to show that the abuses could ripple outside the country.

Famously, the topic of Myanmar (Burma) was brought up in 2006 when the US representative and other Council members voiced concerns over the deteriorating situation in that country. They noted that Myanmar’s outflow of refugees and illegal drugs as well as contagious diseases could destabilize the region, the Sievers-Daws book said. But China objected to putting Myanmar on the Council’s agenda, denying its problems presented an international threat.

Nevertheless, the Council has not avoided taking on high-profile rights-abuse cases. The rise in abuses in Burundi last year prompted the Council to call on the government to cooperate with UN human-rights monitors — or else. And a UN commission of inquiry on North Korea declared the regime responsible for crimes against humanity, with the Council elevating the matter to its regular agenda.

In Burundi, the UN’s top human-rights official, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said on April 18 that he was alarmed by what appeared to be a “widespread pattern” of rallies in Burundi in which members of a pro-government youth militia chant a call to “impregnate” or kill opponents. Burundi has been seized on and off by violence since its president, Pierre Nkurunziza, won a disputed third term in 2015.

(Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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Fighting Xenophobia & Inequality Together in the Age of Trumphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fighting-xenophobia-inequality-together-in-the-age-of-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fighting-xenophobia-inequality-together-in-the-age-of-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/fighting-xenophobia-inequality-together-in-the-age-of-trump/#comments Wed, 19 Apr 2017 14:25:23 +0000 Ben Phillips http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150042 Ben Phillips is Co-Founder #fightinequality alliance]]> Credit: UN photo

Credit: UN photo

By Ben Phillips
NAIROBI, KENYA, Apr 19 2017 (IPS)

As the world marks 100 days of the Trump Presidency, we can see that we are now in a new era of crisis, that it goes well beyond one man and one country, and that only a profound and international response can get us out of the state we are in.

The crises of xenophobia and inequality embodied by the Age of Trump are profound and are worldwide. Refugees without safe haven; ethnic and religious minorities facing officially sanctioned discrimination; women facing an aggressive onslaught of misogyny.

Civil society leaders supporting marginalized people are seeing an upsurge of these injustices in every continent. We are witnessing a world in danger not just of a slow down in social progress but of a reverse in it.

For leaders of civil society, four things are clear.

First, this is a global challenge. The whirlwind first hundred days of the Trump administration in the US have both epitomized and exacerbated worrying global trends in which an increasingly economically divided world is becoming an increasingly angry and intolerant one.

Secondly, we must take sides against intolerance. We must unashamedly support the oppressed and commit ourselves to resisting forces of division – whether it be hate speech at refugees in Hungary, xenophobic attacks in South Africa, extrajudicial killings of activists in Latin America, discrimination against religious minorities in South Asia, or unconstitutional bans on migrants in the USA. We will work together with others to help foster societies built on respect for diversity, and open to refugees from war and persecution.

The rapid rise in xenophobia and the rise in inequality which is helping to drive it need not be accepted, and can be defeated. When we stand together.
Thirdly, to tackle the forces of intolerance we must also confront the ever widening inequality that is driving societies apart. Progressive values are put under massive strain when economies cast millions aside. We know from history that 1929 economics can lead to 1933 politics, and that when people lose hope fascists ascend. Growth must benefit ordinary people, economies must be reoriented to create jobs, decent jobs, and not see wealth ever more concentrated in the hands of a view.

Fourthly, we must work together as one. There is an old saying, “the people united will never be defeated”. Sadly, that is not always true. But what is true is that the people divided will always be defeated. The challenge to foster societies of equality and solidarity can not be achieved by one organization or even one sector alone. That is why we have come together as many different leaders in NGOs, trade unions, and social movements in a joint call to #fightinequality, and to build power from below.

The stakes could not be higher. The forces of ever widening inequality, and of ever increasingly intolerance, are mobilizing. But so are the forces of solidarity and equality.

We are more united than ever to fight inequality and intolerance. Inspired by the great campaigns of old – anti-slavery, anti-colonialism, votes for women, anti-apartheid, drop the debt – and by the determined young people of today – in Fees Must Fall, Black Lives Matter, Gambia Has Decided – we will work to bend the long arc of the universe towards justice. The rapid rise in xenophobia and the rise in inequality which is helping to drive it need not be accepted, and can be defeated. When we stand together.

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Yemen, World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/yemen-worlds-largest-humanitarian-crisis/#comments Wed, 19 Apr 2017 05:10:44 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150034 Yemen 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Credit: Fragkiska Megaloudi / OCHA

Yemen 2017 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Credit: Fragkiska Megaloudi / OCHA

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 19 2017 (IPS)

With 18.8 million people –nearly 7 in 10 inhabitants– in need of humanitarian aid, including 10.3 million requiring immediate assistance, Yemen is now the largest single-nation humanitarian crisis in the world, the United Nations informs while warning that the two-year war is rapidly pushing the country towards “social, economic and institutional collapse.“

More worrying, the conflict in Yemen and its economic consequences are driving the largest food security emergency in the world, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has reported.

According to OCHA, over 17 million people are currently “food insecure,” of whom 6.8 million are “severely food insecure” and require immediate food assistance, and two million acutely malnourished children. The Yemeni population amounts to 27,4 million inhabitants.

“We can avert a humanitarian catastrophe, but need 2.1 billion dollars in funding to deliver crucial food, nutrition, health and other lifesaving assistance,” the UN estimates.

UN, Sweden, Switzerland

The world organisation plans to hold a high-level pledging meeting for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Sweden, the conference will take place at UN in Geneva on 25 April 2017.

Credit: OCHA

Credit: OCHA

“The time is now to come together to prevent an “impending humanitarian catastrophe” in Yemen, the organisers warn.
OCHA has also reminded that even before the current conflict escalated in mid-March 2015, Yemen had faced “enormous levels” of humanitarian needs stemming from years of “poverty, under-development, environmental decline, intermittent conflict, and weak rule of law.”

Meantime, it has stressed the need to protect civilians. “The conduct of hostilities has been brutal. As of 31 December 2016, health facilities had reported nearly 48,000 casualties (including nearly 7,500 deaths) as a result of the conflict.” These figures significantly under-count the true extent of casualties given diminished reporting capacity of health facilities and people’s difficulties accessing healthcare.

Massive Violations of Human Rights

OCHA stressed the impact of this crisis in which “all parties appear to have committed violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”

On-going air strikes and fighting continue to inflict heavy casualties, damage public and private infrastructure, and impede delivery of humanitarian assistance, it explains, adding that parties to the conflict and their supporters have created a vast protection crisis in which millions of people face tremendous threats to their safety and well-being, and the most vulnerable struggle to survive.

According to the UN humanitarian body, since March 2015, more than 3 million people have been displaced within Yemen. Roughly 73 per cent are living with host families or in rented accommodation, and 20 per cent in collective centres or spontaneous settlements. A substantial numbers of returnees live in damaged houses, unable to afford repairs and face serious protection risks.

Economy, Destroyed

The Yemeni economy is being wilfully destroyed, OCHA informs. Preliminary results of the Disaster Needs Assessment estimated 19 billion dollars in infrastructure damage and other losses – equivalent to about half of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2013.

“Parties to the conflict have targeted key economic infrastructure. Mainly air strikes – but also shelling and other attacks – have damaged or destroyed ports, roads, bridges, factories and markets. They have also imposed restrictions that disrupt the flow of private sector goods and humanitarian aid, including food and medicine.”

For months, nearly all-basic commodities have been only sporadically available in most locations, and basic commodity prices in December 2016 were on average 22 per cent higher than before the crisis, reports OCHA.

At the same time, Yemen is experiencing a liquidity crisis in which people, traders and humanitarian partners struggle to transfer cash into and within the country. Lenders have become increasingly reluctant to supply credit to Yemeni traders seeking to import essential goods.

Basic Commodities, Scarcer, More Expensive

On this, it informs that at the end result is an economic environment in which basic commodities are becoming scarcer and more expensive just as people’s livelihoods opportunities and access to cash are receding or disappearing altogether.

And that humanitarian partners face growing pressure to compensate for the entire commercial sector, which is beyond both their capacity and appropriate role. Essential basic services and the institutions that provide them are collapsing due to conflict, displacement and economic decline.

“Yemeni authorities report that Central Bank foreign exchange reserves dropped from 4.7 billion dollars in late 2014 to less than 1 billion in September 2016, and the public budget deficit has grown by more than 50 per cent to 2.2 billion dollars.”

In addition, salaries for health facility staff, teachers and other public sector workers are paid erratically, often leaving 1.25 million state employees and their 6.9 million dependents – nearly 30 per cent of the population – without a regular income at a time of shortages and rising prices.

“As a result, social services provided by public institutions are collapsing while needs are surging.” In August 2016, the Ministry of Public Health and Population in Sana’a announced it could no longer cover operational costs for health services, and by October, only 45 per cent of health facilities in the country were fully functional.

Absenteeism among key staff – doctors, nutrition counsellors, teachers, etc. – is reportedly rising as employees seek alternatives to provide for their families, according to the UN. On top of pressure to compensate for a faltering commercial sector, humanitarian partners are increasingly fielding calls to fill gaps created by collapsing public institutions.

90% of Food, Imported – 8 Million Lost Livelihoods

According to OCHA, Yemen relies on imports for more than 90 per cent of its staple food and nearly all fuel and medicine.

Authorities in Sana’a and other areas also at times deny or delay clearances for humanitarian activities, including movement requests for assessments or aid delivery. Restrictions on workshops, humanitarian data collection and information sharing have also been intermittently introduced and rescinded.

These restrictions are at times resolved through dialogue, but the time lost represents an unacceptable burden for people who desperately need assistance. Positive developments since November 2016 indicate that these restrictions may substantially improve in the immediate coming period.

An estimated 8 million Yemenis have lost their livelihoods or are living in communities with minimal to no basic services, the UN informs, adding that about 2 million school-age children are out of school and damage, hosting IDPs, or occupation by armed groups.

Yemen is an Arab country situated in the Southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is the second-largest country in the peninsula, with nearly occupying 528,000 km2, and its coastline stretches for about 2,000 kms.

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The Unbearable Cost of Drought in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-unbearable-cost-of-drought-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-unbearable-cost-of-drought-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/the-unbearable-cost-of-drought-in-africa/#comments Wed, 12 Apr 2017 13:51:01 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149928 People living in the Melia IDP camp, Lake Chad, receiving WFP food. Most of the displaced come from the Lake Chad islands, that have been abandoned because of insecurity. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

People living in the Melia IDP camp, Lake Chad, receiving WFP food. Most of the displaced come from the Lake Chad islands, that have been abandoned because of insecurity. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 12 2017 (IPS)

Nearly 50 per cent of all emergency multilateral food assistance to Africa is due to natural disasters, with advancing droughts significantly threatening both livelihoods and economic growth, warns the African Union through its ground-breaking extreme weather insurance mechanism designed to help the continent’s countries resist and recover from the ravages of drought.

The mechanism, known as the African Risk Capacity (ARC) provides participating African states with quick-disbursing funds in the event of drought, and assists countries in developing drought response contingency plans to implement timely and effective responses.

“The result is significant economic and welfare benefits for participating countries and vulnerable households.”

As currently structured, ARC reports, the cost of responding to extreme weather events in Africa, particularly droughts, is borne largely by the international community.

To give an order of magnitude using World Food Programme (WFP) operations as a proxy for international aid flows, in 2012 WFP assisted 54.2 million people in Africa, spending US $2.7 billion –66 per cent of WFP’s global expenditure that year, it adds.

Droughts significantly threaten record Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth in sub-Saharan Africa, ARC warned, while explaining that 1-in-10 year drought event could have an estimated adverse impact of 4 per cent on the annual GDP of Malawi for example, with even larger impacts for 1-in-15 and 1-in-25 year events.

“Such decreased productivity detracts from economic growth, causes major budget dislocation, erodes development gains and resilience, and requires additional emergency aid from the international community in the future.” One dollar spent on early intervention through ARC saves 4.40 dollars spent after a crisis unfolds.

Devastating Effects for Households

The African Union’s extreme weather insurance mechanism also informs that at the household level, the consequences of drought can be devastating in countries with low resilience where large sectors of population rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood.

A mother holds up an empty cooking pot as she crouches alongside her daughter inside their makeshift home at a settlement near the town of Ainabo, Somalia, Thursday 9 March 2017. Photo: UNICEF/Kate Holt

A mother holds up an empty cooking pot as she crouches alongside her daughter inside their makeshift home at a settlement near the town of Ainabo, Somalia, Thursday 9 March 2017. Photo: UNICEF/Kate Holt

Experts from Oxford University and International Food Policy Research Institute conducted a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) to examine household coping actions when faced with a drought, and the likely long-term cost impacts of these actions, according to ARC.

The study estimated the economic benefits of early intervention and thus protecting a household’s economic growth potential –that is, intervening in time to prevent households’ negative coping actions such as reduced food consumption, livestock death, and distressed productive asset sales, which, in the absence of external assistance, have increasingly pronounced negative consequences.

“The CBA calculated that the economic benefit of aid reaching households within the critical three months after harvest could result in nearly 1,300 dollars per household assisted in terms of protected economic gains.”

A further analysis shows the potential benefit of ARC outweighs the 4.4 times compared to traditional emergency appeals for assistance, as a result of reduced response times and risk pooling.

Lake Chad Basin – Extreme Emergency

The ARC report about the impact of droughts in Africa came out shortly before the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) chief’s visit to some of the affected areas in North-Eastern Nigeria, where conflict has forced an estimated 2.5 million people to leave their homes and livelihoods.

The Sub-Saharan Lake Chad Basin, which is the main source of water in the region, between 1963 and 2013 lost 90 per cent of its water mass, with massive impact on the population, according to FAO.

Across the region, (encompassing parts of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger), which is currently faced with one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, some 7 million people risk severe hunger during the lean season and require immediate food and livelihood assistance.

“There are fifty thousand people on the brink of famine in the region, on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is famine, they are already at level 4”, FAO director general Graziano da Silva warned.
Following three years of drought, agriculture including livestock and fisheries can no longer be left unattended, he said.

Agriculture produces food and sustains 90 per cent of the local population. Many of the people in the area have already sold their possessions including seeds and tools and their animals have been killed by the armed groups.

“Pastoralists and fishers need to be supported as well for animal restocking. Otherwise if internally displaced persons don’t have their animals and their jobs back, they will remain in the refugee camps, “ the FAO DG emphasised.

Contribution to Long-term Resilience and Growth in Africa Low resilience households must grow by more than 3 per cent annually in real terms to withstand a 1-in-5 year drought.

For many countries in Africa, a small shock in terms of a rainfall deficit or elevated food prices can precipitate a call for a major humanitarian intervention and emergency response. The resilience in such countries is significantly low such that they struggle through most years, let alone during a drought.

For example, in a country such as Niger, where households currently display very low resilience, the ARC team has calculated that to event, the income of the most vulnerable households would have to grow by an annual average of 3.4 per cent over the next five years in real terms to build sufficient resilience in order to adequately cope without requiring external assistance.

In the meantime, insurance is not the ‘correct’ tool to deal with this chronic risk. In order to improve such countries’ resilience to natural disasters, thereby enabling sustained growth on the continent, two key elements are required: risk management and investment.

Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster, according to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent, it reports, adding that as populations increase, especially in dryland areas, more and more people are becoming dependent on fresh water supplies in land that are becoming degraded.

“Water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century. The Global Risks report published by World Economic Forum ranks ‘water crisis’ as the top risk in the coming decade and it has a place in the Sustainable Development Goals where a specific goal has been dedicated to water.”

Drought and water scarcity are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts, UNCCD informs.

The African Risk Capacity was established as a Specialized Agency of the African Union to help Member States improve their capacities to better plan, prepare and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters, therefore protecting the food security of their vulnerable populations.

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Can António Guterres Fend Off America’s War on the UN?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/can-antonio-guterres-fend-off-americas-war-on-the-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-antonio-guterres-fend-off-americas-war-on-the-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/can-antonio-guterres-fend-off-americas-war-on-the-un/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 22:27:30 +0000 Dulcie Leimbach http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149919 António Guterres has traveled to Africa, Europe and the Middle East since becoming UN secretary-general in January 2017. He arrives at the Mogadishu airport in Somalia, above, on March 7, 2017. TOBIN JONES/UN PHOTO

António Guterres has traveled to Africa, Europe and the Middle East since becoming UN secretary-general in January 2017. He arrives at the Mogadishu airport in Somalia, above, on March 7, 2017. TOBIN JONES/UN PHOTO

By Dulcie Leimbach
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 11 2017 (PassBlue)

When António Guterres was chosen by the United Nations Security Council in October to become the next leader of the UN, neither he nor anyone else could have predicted precisely who would be commanding the Oval Office of the White House in January 2017, just as Guterres’s term opened.

Now that Donald Trump has assumed the presidency of the United States, Guterres not only inherited a caseload of hellish problems to control with limited powers but he must also manage Trumpian plots to minimize if not gut the UN’s core work.

As a European ambassador summarized the situation for Guterres: “The terms of engagement have changed since he got the job. This is very different from anything we’ve ever seen before.”

While the wars in Yemen and Syria rage on and people die there with not one person sent to jail or prosecuted for war crimes; and as terrorism persists, famine looms in parts of the world and millions of refugees hang in limbo, Guterres surely knew his job would be ridiculously challenging.

To put it graphically, Guterres has inherited “a real pile of shit,” said Thomas G. Weiss, a New York scholar on the UN.

Raised a Catholic in Lisbon, Guterres wanted to become secretary-general to act as a savior. Having spent 10 years visiting refugee camps as head of that UN agency and given his Socialist tendencies to remember the poor and fix human injustices, Guterres might have innocently assumed he had the backing of the richest country in the world, America.

“His deep caring and pain were evident when he confessed that there was one question that always weighs heavy on his heart. ‘That is: how can we help the millions of people caught up in conflict, suffering massively in wars with no end in sight?’ ” said Kairat Umarov, the ambassador of Kazakhstan to the UN and an elected member of the Security Council.

But support from Trump, who tweeted revenge for what he perceived as the UN’s anti-Israel bias and clubby ways right before he moved into the White House, couldn’t be more unreliable than at any time in the last 10 years for the world body. This is not the first secretary-general to withstand serious blows by US administrations that were striving to win points from a broad swath of American voters, who are generally clueless about the UN.

“The other time it was like this was in the early days of [Ronald] Reagan — rocky,” recalled an American who held a top political affairs post at the UN. Moreover, with John Bolton, a US ambassador to the UN under the George W. Bush administration, the American noted, “things could have been hairy.” Yet everything, he concluded, worked out in the end for the UN.

In talking with ambassadors who represent their countries at the UN as well as policy specialists and academics, most people expressed instant empathy for Guterres as he copes in his first months in his new job, especially regarding his relationship with the US. People who commented on Guterres — mainly on background — want him to succeed.

Advice to Guterres came from many quarters. He should frame his interests and agenda “in a way where he convinces the Trump administration that he’s their ally, not their opponent,” said Melissa Labonte, a professor of political science at Fordham University in the Bronx who has written about the UN.

Trump’s fast moves to defund parts of the UN has made the normally confident Guterres “very troubled,” said a South American diplomat. Trump recently cut millions of dollars of contributions to the UN Population Fund, which provides lifesaving maternal-health care — and contraceptives — to the world’s poorest women.

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, is busy hammering away at peacekeeping missions, regardless of what any mission may do — like fight Al Qaeda terrorists in the Sahel region of Africa — or whether she has ever visited these precarious sites. She skipped a UN Security Council trip to the Lake Chad basin in West Africa, what some media and political leaders are calling the world’s most neglected crisis. Instead, she tweeted that she was home, not feeling well and watching “Lone Survivor.”

Prompted by Haley, who has admitted she is still learning on the job, Guterres sent a memo to UN program leaders to “adjust” to US cuts. Reductions to other UN aid programs hover as the US sharpens its knife to its own development arm, USAID.

“All objectives — the SDGs, peace and security — will not be achieved in the short- to medium-term,” the South American diplomat said. Guterres, who has been traveling nearly nonstop around the Middle East, Africa and Europe, would prefer to stay in New York more often. But if you consider where he has traveled — to such places as Berlin, Brussels and oil-rich Middle East nations — it may indicate he is seeking money to fill a widening US hole.

Some diplomats noted with alarm that with the US retrenching financially and criticizing it in blanket ways — always a simple target — China is eager to step into the void. Japan, which is the second-largest donor to the UN general budget, after the US, and the third-largest to the peacekeeping budget (after US and China), said it was tracking such moves by its giant neighbor.

Yet a Japanese diplomat said in an interview that it was “premature” to declare whether his country would increase its financial donations to the UN peacekeeping budget and other operations.

“China is obviously more active on the international front,” the diplomat said. “We will see what China will do in the UN” and “observe what China is going to do on the ground.”

Guterres, who is 67 and goes by Tony, is married to Catarina Vaz Pinto, who has stayed in Lisbon as the deputy mayor for cultural affairs. Guterres did his homework when he arrived on the 38th floor of the UN secretariat: his roomy office offers stunning views of New York from his aerie above the East River, including densely packed Queens, a microcosm of UN nationalities. His goal was “conflict prevention,” a mantra he invoked as a candidate for secretary-general, and his rhetoric was rooted in practicality: he wanted to keep conflicts from happening rather than unwind them as they tore places and people apart.

He was also more than willing, he said repeatedly, to reform the UN bureaucracy to be more deliberate.

“We expect Mr. Guterres to continue to work on a number of important agendas”: peace and security, reform and development and ridding peacekeeping of sexual abuses, the Japanese diplomat noted.

Angela Wells, the communications officer for the Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs at Fordham University, has worked with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Africa. She said she appreciated Guterres’s focus on conflict prevention, but that he needs to give more attention to protecting humanitarian workers, who have been increasingly killed on the job.

“In South Sudan, where historically humanitarian workers could work free from any substantive insecurity, we’re not seeing that anymore,” Wells said. “They are continually under threat in places like Yemen and Syria. He needs to emphasize that there must be no immunity for these crimes. Once humanitarian workers lose access, the whole response can collapse.”

Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the UN, in red, at the April 7 Security Council meeting reacting to the chemical-weapons attack in Syria. RICK BAJORNAS/UN PHOTO

Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the UN, in red, at the April 7 Security Council meeting reacting to the chemical-weapons attack in Syria. RICK BAJORNAS/UN PHOTO


The Trump administration’s proposed money cuts to parts of the UN — most of which must go through Congress — could provide an opportunity for Guterres to change the world body, like sharing control more evenly among the 193 member nations, a few people suggested.

“The UN at large and Secretary-General Guterres, in particular, should regard these cuts as an opportunity to welcome greater contributions from the many emerging political and economic powers to better reflect the new multipolar world order,” said Mona Ali Khalil, a legal adviser for Independent Diplomat, an international group that represents nonstate actors in peace negotiations.

Guterres, Khalil added, could also achieve more diversity and regional representation in what remains a permanent-five-centric “distribution of leadership positions over the substantive departments of the Secretariat.”

UN staff members cheered on Guterres when he arrived for his first day at the UN in New York on Jan. 3. His jaunty enthusiasm struck a new tone for the UN, downtrodden by the inability of the former secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, to halt the war in Syria — stuck by Russia and China on the Security Council and unsuccessful diplomacy by the US, Britain and France, the other permanent Council members.

Guterres ran into political flak immediately with the US as he chose a special envoy for the UN’s “support mission” in Libya. Salam Fayyad, a well-respected former prime minister of Palestine, may have gotten the imperative green light from Nikki Haley, but she was apparently overruled by the White House. This embarrassment for Guterres revealed how much he needed to clear his decisions deep within the US presidency. Such direct approval has not been necessary for previous secretaries-general.

As a counterweight, Guterres had also planned to pick Tzipi Livni, the Israeli politician, for another top envoy spot in the UN. That idea vanished amid the Fayyad flap.

Another first step for Guterres was to revive the dormant Cyprus peace talks on political reunification of the island, now divided into Greek and Turkish sections. Much fanfare was made as Espen Barth Eide, the UN envoy for Cyprus and a Norwegian, met with the two sides in the Cyprus standoff early in the year. After many photo opportunities and sessions, the talks have fallen off the map.

Some analysts and media accuse the Russians for interfering in the negotiations, as they try to maintain control of offshore gas development near the island and their offshore banking interests in Cyprus.

The first Trump immigration ban, announced on Jan. 27, symbolized Guterres’s inner conflicts as the new secretary-general: should he speak against the ban on seven Muslim-majority countries to the US or relegate that tricky role to other UN officials, like the low-key refugee chief, Filippo Grandi, an Italian? Guterres took days to remark publicly on the ban, which was blocked (as was the one trotted out in March), taking heat on Twitter and from the media at the UN for his days of silence.

Since then, Guterres has held only two meetings with journalists who cover the UN in New York; for a man who vouched he would be a transparent secretary-general, his distance has provoked anger from reporters. His “discreet diplomacy,” as his office calls it, has meant not automatically issuing statements about meetings with VIPS like the ex-mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, and some government leaders, such as Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, who stopped by the UN last week.

Other crucial private discussions include half-dozen conversations with Haley, who said she found the UN “misguided.” (When asked by a reporter about what “worked” at the UN, Haley said “the diplomats” – who are not, of course, staff members of the UN.)

Haley is rumored to be forging a national name for herself through her ambassadorship to the UN, starting with unpopular tactics like decreasing the size of UN peacekeeping missions and closing others. Haley hammered the Congo operation first, despite violent politics in the country and the recent murder there of an American working for the UN, Michael Sharp. (Another UN colleague, Zaida Catalan, from Sweden, was also murdered, along with a Congolese translator.)

Haley’s approach to UN peacekeeping is not strictly about numbers, said an Italian diplomat; otherwise, “we would oppose that.” Instead, peacekeeping reform by Haley — and by Guterres — represents “an evolution” in fleshing out which missions need to be reviewed.

An accountant who ran South Carolina for nearly two terms as governor, Haley, the daughter of Indian immigrants, has endorsed Trump’s refugee bans, calling them necessary for keeping America safe. Her profile at the UN has spiked as she condemned the chemical weapons assault in Syria on April 4 and justified the retaliatory US missile strikes two days later. Yet her contradictions linger, as the week before those events she said that removing Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, was not a US priority. Her immediate boss, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has also been contradictory on US foreign policy in Syria, but he has grown more consistent on his stance as he heads to Russia for a visit this week.

Haley came to the UN after turning down Trump’s offer of secretary of state, she confirmed, and as her second term as governor had one year left, with term limits stopping her from a third try in the near future. Her reputation in South Carolina was built on combining stern warnings with “Happy Monday” greetings. A big win for her was preventing a Boeing plant from unionizing in a state that never embraced collective bargaining by employees.

Haley’s blunt disdain for the Human Rights Council — “so corrupt” — echoes ancient sentiments from previous US administrations. Except, that is, for Obama’s, which determined that participating in the Council was smarter diplomacy than abandoning it. Haley’s foreign-policy contradictions extend to the Council’s membership: as Trump welcomed Egypt’s leader, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to the White House, he and Haley didn’t mention that Egypt may be one of the big spoilers on the Council.

Inner sanctum: António Guterres and Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, on April 6 in the UN’s secretariat, New York. MARK GARTEN/UN PHOTO

Inner sanctum: António Guterres and Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, on April 6 in the UN’s secretariat, New York. MARK GARTEN/UN PHOTO


“Ambassador Haley has said she is looking for ‘value’ in the Council, which she called ‘corrupt’ and filled with ‘bad actors’ — ignoring that it has, for example, established important investigations and reports on North Korea, Iran, Syria, Belarus, Mali and other countries,” said Felice Gaer, the director of the American Jewish Committee’s Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights.

Meanwhile, Guterres, Gaer noted in an email, “hasn’t defended the Council when it should be defended, nor criticized it directly. (In Geneva he said it had to be balanced, and credible, but attached no country names to his remarks which seemed to be aimed at the Council’s treatment of Israel — but might have just as easily been soothing word for Iran or Syria.)

“He needs to focus more directly on fixing the Council’s obsession with Israel, including by conveying to states that they need to end the biased treatment and should treat Israel like other countries.”

Guterres is also lagging in his goal to inject fresh blood in his ranks. He kept Ban’s communications team in place and reappointed Western officials to the most influential jobs, like peacekeeping (France), political affairs (US) and disarmament (Japan) — all men. His vow to shape a more equal UN by gender and by region is flagging. His senior appointments by gender, however, are much more advanced than under the previous secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, according to the New York University Center on International Cooperation.

In addition, his deputy, Amina Mohammed, a Nigerian who was environment minister until March and the orchestrator of the UN’s 17 global development goals, made a splash when she arrived at the UN but has not been seen much since.

Guterres’s most powerful ally among UN member states is France. France wanted Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, in the UN job from the get-go, reflecting the Socialist agenda of François Hollande, who leaves office as president of France this year, as well as other Western European governments. South Americans, like Brazil, a Portuguese-speaking nation, rallied close to him, too.

Most ambassadors interviewed for this article offered sympathetic assessments on Guterres: a Russian diplomat — as if mirroring his own plight — said Guterres was a “strong man” working under “huge pressures.” The American who worked in UN political affairs under Reagan and George W. Bush said that Guterres was “hitting the right notes” on peace and security issues while not getting “into arguments with the incoming administration” of the US.

After all, he added, “They [Trump administration] don’t know what they’re doing.”
Member states, explained an African ambassador on the Security Council, were banding together to optimize Guterres’s position with the US. “We are helping him by talking to America on how to improve this issue,” the diplomat said.

“If any man can deal with that government” — the US — “it’s António Guterres,” said Terje Rod-Larsen, a Norwegian who runs the International Peace Institute, a think tank located across the street from the UN.

A low bar for Guterres could be his most important advantage, said Thomas Weiss, the academic expert, given that Guterres followed Ban Ki-moon — a “disaster.”

“Never take a job after someone who has done a terrific job,” Weiss said. “You can’t possibly do it better. So, Guterres has the good fortune of following Ban Ki-moon rather than Kofi Annan.”

Kacie Candela contributed reporting to this article.

(Courtesy PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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World Must Act Now on Lake Chad Basin Crisis: FAO DG Graziano da Silvahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/world-must-act-now-on-lake-chad-basin-crisis-fao-dg-graziano-da-silva/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-must-act-now-on-lake-chad-basin-crisis-fao-dg-graziano-da-silva http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/world-must-act-now-on-lake-chad-basin-crisis-fao-dg-graziano-da-silva/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 14:52:37 +0000 Eva Donelli http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149907 Lake Chad Basin: a crisis rooted in hunger, poverty and lack of rural development. Credit: FAO

Lake Chad Basin: a crisis rooted in hunger, poverty and lack of rural development. Credit: FAO

By Eva Donelli
ROME, Apr 11 2017 (IPS)

Food assistance is a priority and the only way to prevent the crisis from worsening in the Lake Chad Basin, is to support food production according to José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

“We need to take action now and there is no doubt that hungry people need food, but an emergency approach doesn’t tackle the roots”, he said in a press conference following his three day visit to some of the affected areas in northeastern Nigeria, where conflict has forced an estimated 2.5 million people to leave their homes and livelihoods.

Lake Chad, which is the main source of water in the region, between 1963 and 2013 lost 90 percent of its water mass, with massive impact on the population.

Across the region, (encompassing parts of Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad and Niger), which is currently faced with one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, some 7 million people risk severe hunger during the lean season and require immediate food and livelihood assistance.

“There are fifty thousand people on the brink of famine in the region, on a scale from 1 to 5, where 5 is famine, they are already at level 4”, Graziano da Silva warned.

The FAO chiefexplained that this conflict cannot be solved only with arms. This is a war against hunger and poverty and rural development must be promoted and resilience built. A combination of food assistance and food production support is the only way to avoid further escalation of the serious humanitarian crisis.

Following three years of drought, agriculture including livestock and fisheries can no longer be left unattended. Agriculture produces food and sustains 90 percent of the local population. Many of the people in the area have already sold their possessions including seeds and tools and their animals have been killed by the armed groups. “Pastoralists and fishers need to be supported as well for animal restocking. Otherwise if internally displaced persons don’t have their animals and their jobs back, they will remain in the refugee camps, “ the FAO DG emphasized. “The region is approaching a critical time in the agricultural calendar, with the main planting season beginning in May/June 2017 and we need the money now to plant”, he stressed. There is a huge shortfall in international assistance to meet the emergency needs. Of the USD 62 million requested under the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Nigeria, FAO has so far received only about USD 10 million.

FAO Director-General meets Prime Minister of Chad, Albert Pahimi Padake. Credit: FAO

FAO Director-General meets Prime Minister of Chad, Albert Pahimi Padake. Credit: FAO


FAO has developed a Lake Chad Basin Response Strategy (2017-2019) to improve food security and nutrition and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities in the affected areas and more than 1.16 million people will receive assistance in the coming months across the region. Key activities will include the distribution of cereal seeds, animal feed and the provision of cash transfers and veterinary care.

In response to a question by IPS, Graziano Da Silva said he will soon be discussing with David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme about the crisis and work together with other organizations such as UNHCR, UNICEF and UNDP “to integrate their different mandates to tackle the crisis.

Graziano da Silva stated further that according to Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno State, the current globally high levels of food insecurity reflect a sustained lack of investment in rural development over the last 30 years that has generated and exacerbated the conflicts, pushing millions of people into hunger. The FAO DG explained further that in addition to emergency assistance, there is a need to gradually move to higher investments, in particular for equipment and training of farmers in modern irrigation techniques. In reply to a question at the press conference , he noted, “the capital of Borno State is a secure city”. He pointed out that governors must ensure safe market environments.“Small markets are opening in the villages, even inside the camps, so giving them cash would stimulate the market”, he added. “What is crucial now for organizations on the ground is not to work independently but to have a good interaction with local governors, to face the challenge.”

In fact, Graziano da Silva concluded, “we are monitoring the crisis and we have a lot of detailed data; what we need is to raise awareness and inform donors on the dimension of the crisis”.

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Humanity and Social Justice, a Must for the Future of Work – Ryderhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/humanity-and-social-justice-a-must-for-the-future-of-work-ryder/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanity-and-social-justice-a-must-for-the-future-of-work-ryder http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/humanity-and-social-justice-a-must-for-the-future-of-work-ryder/#comments Mon, 10 Apr 2017 14:43:10 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149890 Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 10 2017 (IPS)

“The future of work must be inspired by considerations of humanity, of social justice and peace. If it is not, we are going to a dark place, we are going to a dangerous place,” said the head of the leading world body specialised on labour issues.

With a forecful call to make social dialogue between governments and the social partners a key instrument for building a world of work that leaves no one behind, Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organization (ILO) summed up a landmark event on the future of work.

“We now need to transform our thinking into results, into concrete outcomes,” Ryder added at the conclusion of the two-day (April 6-7) Global Dialogue: The Future of Work We Want. “We need to address the concerns of that young person, wondering if there is a future of work for them.”

The event, which took place at ILO’s headquarters in Geneva, brought together leading economists, academics and representatives of governments and the social partners (employers’ and workers’ organisations) to discuss the profound changes sweeping the world of work. “The future of work must be inspired by considerations of humanity, of social justice and peace. If it is not, we are going to a dark place, we are going to a dangerous place,” ILO chief, Guy Ryder.

More than 700 participants attended the event in Geneva with several hundreds joining and participating via the Internet and social media.

“We Can’t Leave It All to the Market”

Among the participants was Lord Robert Skidelsky, from the University of Warwick in the UK, who as the keynote speaker at the event said that international solutions are needed to harmonise the process of adaptation to the future of work: “We can’t leave it all to the market. We can’t stop innovation but we can manage it.”

The Geneva meeting also featured a special session on how to shape the future of work for youth, with a particular focus on the transition from school to work, the organisation of the world of work and its regulation.

He reminded that the future of work was a global issue that merited a global response, but also one that requires “taking into consideration the diverse circumstances of our 187 member States” and the importance of sharing experiences among them.

The head of the ILO emphasised the need to promote innovation and development, at the same time as maintaining the Organization’s social objectives.

Work, Technologies, Climate Change, Migration…

The Global Dialogue was part of a broader ILO’s The Future of Work Centenary Initiative to investigate the future of work and better understand the drivers of unprecedented change, including technological innovation, the organisation of work and production, globalisation, climate change, migration and demography, among others.

The initiative is seeking to broadly canvas the views of key actors in the world of work on all of these issues, says ILO.

Guy Ryder, ILO Director General. Credit: ILO

Guy Ryder, ILO Director General. Credit: ILO

More than 167 countries have taken part in the ILO initiative so far, with 107 of them participating in national and regional dialogues that have been or are being held all around the world.

Their conclusions will help inform a High Level Global Commission on the Future of Work, to be established by the ILO later this year. The report of the Commission will feed into discussions on a Centenary Declaration at the 2019 International Labour Conference.

Around the world, profound changes in the nature of work are underway, ILO said, adding that the on-going transformations in the world of labour are disrupting the connection between work, personal development and community participation.

The future of work gains special relevance now that it is estimated that over 600 million new jobs need to be created by 2030, just to keep pace with the growth of the global working age population. That’s around 40 million per year.

Meantime, there is a pressing need to improve conditions for the some 780 million women and men who are working but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of just 2 dollars a day poverty.

Major Issues

On these major issues, which mainly affects the present and future of the youth, and in particular, the most vulnerable groups such as women, migrants, rural communities, and indigenous peoples, the world leading specialised body, had, ahead of the meeting posed the following seven key questions:

Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO

How will societies manage these changes? Will they bring together or pull apart developed, emerging and developed economies?; Where will the jobs of tomorrow come from and what will they look like?; What are the challenges and opportunities young people are facing as they make the transition into the world of work?; What do they see as the path forward to achieve sustainable inclusive growth for future generations?

Also: what are the new forms of the employment relationship and whether and to what extent that relationship will continue to be the locus for many of the protections now afforded to workers? And: what initiatives to revitalise existing norms and institutions and/or create new forms of regulation that may help to meet present and future governance challenges?

Around the world, in economies at all stages of development, profound changes in the nature of work are underway, the UN specialised body explained, adding that numerous and diverse drivers account for these: demographic shifts, climate change, technological innovation, shifting contours of poverty and prosperity, growing inequality, economic stagnation and the changing character of production and employment.

A Worrisome Picture

“We are facing the twin challenge of repairing the damage caused by the global economic and social crisis and creating quality jobs for the tens of millions of new labour market entrants every year,” said Guy Ryder ahead of the meeting.

Economic growth continues to disappoint and underperform – both in terms of levels and the degree of inclusion, he explained, adding, “This paints a worrisome picture for the global economy and its ability to generate enough jobs. Let alone quality jobs.”

According to ILO chief, persistent high levels of vulnerable forms of employment combined with clear lack of progress in job quality – even in countries where aggregate figures are improving – are “alarming.”
.
In fact, ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2017 shows that vulnerable forms of employment – i.e. contributing family workers and own account workers – are expected to stay above 42 per cent of total employment, accounting for 1.4 billion people worldwide in 2017.

Almost one in two workers in emerging countries are in vulnerable forms of employment, rising to more than four in five workers in developing countries, said Steven Tobin, ILO Senior Economist and lead author of the report.

As a result, the number of workers in vulnerable employment is projected to grow by 11 million per year, with Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa being the most affected.

Meanwhile, the global unemployment rate is expected to rise modestly from 5.7 to 5.8 per cent in 2017 representing an increase of 3.4 million in the number of jobless people, a new ILO report shows.

The number of unemployed persons globally in 2017 is forecast to stand at just over 201 million – with an additional rise of 2.7 million expected in 2018 – as the pace of labour force growth outstrips job creation.

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Poland, New Player in Islamophobia Gamehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/new-player-in-polands-islamophobia-game/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-player-in-polands-islamophobia-game http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/new-player-in-polands-islamophobia-game/#comments Sat, 08 Apr 2017 14:55:28 +0000 Claudia Ciobanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149868 A Warsaw protest in solidarity with Ameer Alkhawlany. The banner reads 'Free Ameer'. Credit: TV Kryzys

A Warsaw protest in solidarity with Ameer Alkhawlany. The banner reads 'Free Ameer'. Credit: TV Kryzys

By Claudia Ciobanu
WARSAW, Apr 8 2017 (IPS)

Ameer Alkhawlany moved to Poland in September 2014 to pursue a Master’s in biology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland’s second largest city. Two years later, the Polish state awarded him a scholarship to complete a PhD in the same faculty.

Pawel Koteja, his professor at the institute, told Polish media that Alkhawlany was “very committed to his scientific research, to which he dedicated a lot of time and effort, and was determined to pursue an academic career.”Law and Justice, the party governing Poland since 2015, has a nationalistic and ultra-Catholic discourse, presenting itself as a defender of embattled Poles against its various 'enemies': the European Union, globalisation, Islam.

According to activists in contact with Alkhawlany, the student had an uneventful life in Poland until last summer, when he was allegedly approached by Poland’s secret services (ABW) with the offer to inform on Muslims residing in Poland. He would have to report back from mosques and actively seek out contact with specific people.

Alkhawlany refused. He said he was an atheist so he didn’t attend religious services and that some of the people he was asked to contact were from non-Arabic speaking countries so he might not have a common language with them.
In July, when the man was allegedly approached by ABW, Krakow was hosting the annual Catholic ‘World Youth Day’, attended by the Pope and an estimated three million people. Polish authorities were tightening security.

On October 3, the student was suddenly arrested in the center of Krakow by officials from the Polish Border Guard. He was given no reason for his apprehension. Hours later, during which time he was not allowed to contact a lawyer, a court sentenced Alkhawlany to 90 days of detention followed by deportation to Iraq.

In a letter written from detention by Alkhawlany and published in March by website Political Critique, the man said the court justified its ruling by the fact that the Polish secret services considered him a security threat. Despite the man’s questions, the judge did not offer any explanations as to why he was considered a threat.

“I have been living and studying in Poland since 2014. I have never broken the law ever,” Alkhawlany said to the court, according to his published letter. “I never crossed at the wrong light, never been in the bus without ticket! I did my master’s degree and I started my doctoral studies without any problem. I don’t want to leave Poland!”

At the time of his deportation, Alkhawlany had been detained for six months without break in the detention center for foreigners in Przemysl, in the southeast of Poland.

Polish authorities never explained publicly the reasons why the man was considered a security threat. However, anonymous sources quoted by Polish media claimed the secret services had information that Alkhawlany had been in touch with ‘radicals’ from abroad monitored by other countries’ services.

“The provisions of Polish national law do not provide solutions for a foreigner to defend themselves when the decision of return has been issued on the basis of undisclosed circumstances,” commented Jacek Bialas, a lawyer with the Helsinski Foundation for Human Rights. “This raises doubts as to compatibility with the Polish Constitution, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.”

“It’s as if a controller gave a citation to someone waiting at the bus stop, being sure the person would go on the bus without a ticket,” Alkhawlany commented in a February interview with Wirtualna Polska.

At the time of his arrest, Alkhawlany had just renewed his residence permit in Poland, which was valid until January this year. During his detention, he applied for asylum in Poland arguing that it was unsafe for him to return to Iraq, where the Iraqi military is battling ISIS in the north. He was denied asylum (the final decision following an appeal came April 4) because of confidential information provided by the security services which indicated he was a security threat.

Yet on April 5, after reviewing the same evidence provided by the secret services, the regional court in Przemysl ruled that Alkhawlany should be released from detention as he had been residing legally in Poland and there had been no solid reason for his arrest. The ministry in charge of the secret services retorted that the court ruling ‘did not undermine’ the evidence presented by ABW.

To the surprise of his lawyer and those engaged in a campaign to get him released, Alkhawlany was not released from detention but instead deported on the evening of April 5. Neither his lawyer nor his brother also residing in Poland were informed about the deportation decision.

Alkhawlany himself called from Iraq upon arrival to inform he had been transported to Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Speaking to Polish media April 6, Marek Ślik, the student’s lawyer, said “The deportation is illegal because I have not yet received any notification about his deportation. The procedure of appeal (after asylum was denied) was never completed as I never got a final notification.”

The Polish Border Guard did not respond to a request to justify the legality of the deportation.

An image from the official website of the Polish Border Guard. It says: ‘We defend Polish men and women. We do not agree to the influx of Muslim migrants.’ Credit: Police Border Guard

An image from the official website of the Polish Border Guard. It says: ‘We defend Polish men and women. We do not agree to the influx of Muslim migrants.’ Credit: Police Border Guard

“The way the Polish secret services dealt with this case was absurd: they just picked a random person because he came from a specific country and expected him to inform on the moves of others,” said Marta Tycner from leftist party Razem, who was engaged in the campaign to free Alkhawlany.

“They think that any person coming from a Muslim country is a suspect of anti-state activity,” Tycner told IPS. “They were incompetent and now they are trying to cover it up by deporting him fast.”

Law and Justice, the party governing Poland since 2015, has a nationalistic and ultra-Catholic discourse, presenting itself as a defender of embattled Poles against its various ‘enemies': the European Union, globalisation, Islam. It has overblown fears of a potential terrorist attack by Islamists – although no incidents of this kind or actual threats of it were recorded in Poland – to strengthen its control over society.

Last year, Law and Justice adopted a new anti-terror law which gives authorities the power to fingerprint foreigners or listen to their phones and check their emails without any court order. It also imposed restrictions on the right to protest and online activity.

The right-wing and Catholic media, which are essential in harnessing popular support for the party, routinely associate Muslims with violence. The leader of Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, infamously declared last year that migrants carry ‘very dangerous diseases long absent from Europe’. Alongside Hungary, Poland has been staunchly opposed to hosting refugees under the European Union’s system of relocation quotas.

Poland is one of the world’s most homogeneous countries, with over 97 percent of the population declaring themselves ethnically Pole. Despite very low rates of migration to the country, the most recent ‘European Islamophobia Report‘ showed that over 70 percent of Poles want to see migration of Muslims to Europe restricted, the highest rate among all European countries surveyed. Negative attitudes to refugees increased significantly in the last years.

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No U.S. Refuge for Syrians Even After Military Strikeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-u-s-refuge-for-syrians-even-after-military-strikes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-u-s-refuge-for-syrians-even-after-military-strikes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/no-u-s-refuge-for-syrians-even-after-military-strikes/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 23:31:19 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149866 Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN holding up pictures of victims of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria which prompted the Trump administration to launch an airstrike against the Assad government. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Nikki Haley, U.S. Permanent Representative to the UN holding up pictures of victims of the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria which prompted the Trump administration to launch an airstrike against the Assad government. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 7 2017 (IPS)

U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday night described the deepening Syrian refugee crisis as partial justification for the first direct U.S. airstrike against the Syrian government, even though the United States still bans all refugees from Syria.

Several rights groups responded Friday, calling on Trump to repeal the ban, which applies to migrants from Syria and 5 other countries in Africa and the Middle East.

“Trump was using very strong words last night to describe the cruelty and the horrors that children and civilians in general are enduring (in Syria),” Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, co-director of the US Program at Human Rights Watch told IPS.

“To try to keep refugees out of the United States is cruel,”McFarland Sánchez-Moreno added. “It’s contrary to the values that the U.S. has traditionally claimed to hold dear and inconsistent with some of the words that President Trump himself used last night.”

Speaking from Palm Beach, Florida on Thursday night Trump described how “even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered” in the alleged chemical weapons attack which took place earlier this week.

“Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed, and failed very dramatically.  As a result, the refugee crisis continues to deepen and the region continues to destabilize…” Trump continued.

“If we truly want to help protect the people of Syria, we must also be willing to offer the Syrians assistance as they flee attacks in search of safety," -- Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America

However despite the airstrike marking a change in direction in Syria for the Trump Republican administration, there is no indication the administration is considering a similar shift in its policy towards Syrian refugees.

Reactions from the 15 member states of the UN Security Council to the airstrike on Friday were mixed, with some supporting the strikes even though the United States carried out the unilateral attack without the backing of the council. Others, including Bolivia, which called the meeting, strongly opposed the attack.

Lord Steward Wood of Anfield, Chair of the UN Association of the UK, a civil society organisation questioned the United States decision to take “unilateral action without broad international backing through the UN,”

He said that such action “without a clear strategy for safeguarding civilians, and through further military escalation risks further deepening and exacerbating an already protracted and horrific conflict, leaving civilians at greater, not lesser, risk of further atrocities.”

“In the meantime, if President Trump wishes to help the victims of Assad’s atrocities, he could pledge to play a leading role in resettling the survivors,” Wood added.

Meanwhile Noah Gottschalk, Oxfam America’s Senior Humanitarian Policy Advisor called for the United States to “change course” on Syrian refugees following the airstrikes.

Gottschalk said that the “innocent families” that Trump referred to “who were killed in Idlib are no different than the people who are attempting to seek refuge in the U.S.”

“Oxfam is urging the President to change course on his discriminatory ban that blocks Syrian civilians from finding refuge in the United States,” he said. “If we truly want to help protect the people of Syria, we must also be willing to offer the Syrians assistance as they flee attacks in search of safety.”

Although this is the first time that the United States has directly targeted Bashar Al-Assad’s government, airstrike monitoring project Airwars reports that there have been 7912 US-led coalition strikes targeting the so-called Islamic State since 2014. Airwars has also reported a spike in civilian casualties related to coalition air strikes in March 2017, rating 477 civilian casualties reports as ‘fair’.

However Airwars also reported that the U.S. strike on Shayrat Airfield in Homs in the early hours of Friday 7 April destroyed “up to 12 aircraft” describing this result as “significant” considering that “the primary cause of civilian deaths by (the) Syrian regime remains airstrikes.”

Earlier this week spokesmen for the UN Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said that the Secretary-General was “deeply disturbed by the reports of alleged use of chemical weapons in an airstrike in the Khan Shaykhun area of southern Idlib, Syria.”

“The Secretary-General expresses his heartfelt condolences to victims of the incident and their families.”

Guterres had not yet commented on the U.S. airstrike against the Syrian government as of Friday evening.

Almost five million people have fled Syria since the conflict began over six years ago. Many areas of Syria are besieged and inaccessible to humanitarian assistance as well as UN monitors. This makes it difficult for the UN to monitor attacks such as the alleged chemical weapons attack which took place this week. This is also why the UN no longer provides an official death toll for the conflict, however in April 2016, UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura said that it is likely more than 400,000 people had been killed.

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UN Strengthens Kenya’s Resilience to Disasterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/un-strengthens-kenyas-resilience-to-disaster/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-strengthens-kenyas-resilience-to-disaster http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/un-strengthens-kenyas-resilience-to-disaster/#comments Fri, 07 Apr 2017 00:09:50 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149845 Drought still accounts for at least 26 percent of all people affected by climate-related disasters. Millions in Kenya are currently relying on wild fruits and vegetables. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

Drought still accounts for at least 26 percent of all people affected by climate-related disasters. Millions in Kenya are currently relying on wild fruits and vegetables. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Apr 7 2017 (IPS)

Kenya’s lack of capacity to cope with wide-scale disaster has seen thousands of households continue to live precarious lives, especially in light of erratic and drastically changing weather patterns.

If millions are not staring death in the face due to the raging drought, they are fighting to remain afloat as their homes are swept away by surging waters.For every dollar spent on disaster risk reduction, a country is likely to save four to seven dollars in humanitarian response.

“Drought accounts for an estimated 26 percent of all disasters and floods for 20 percent,” warns the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

UNISDR serves as the focal point in the United Nations system for the coordination of disaster risk reduction and has been running various interventions to make the country more disaster-resilient.

Government statistics confirm that drought still accounts for at least a quarter of all people affected by climate-related disasters. The country is at the threshold of the 12th drought since 1975.

Against this backdrop, for seven months now Ruth Ettyang and her household of seven have continued to rely on wild fruits and vegetables to survive the deepening drought in the expansive Turkana County, Northern Kenya.

Temperatures are unusually high even for the arid area and the situation is becoming even more dire since people have to compete with thousands of livestock in this pastoral community for the scarce wild vegetation and dirty water in rivers that have all but run dry.

“When rains fail it is too dry. When they come it is another problem as houses are destroyed and people drown,” Ettyang explains.

Turkana is not a unique scenario and is reflective of the two main types of disasters that this East African country faces.

Additionally, Turkana is among two other counties – Nakuru and Nairobi – which account for at least a quarter of all people killed by various disasters, according to UNISDR.

There is no doubt that Kenya is a disaster-prone country and in the absence of a disaster risk management policy or legislation, the situation is dire.

“The pending enactment of Kenya’s Disaster Risk Management Bill and Policy, which has remained in a draft stage for over a decade, is a critical step in enhancing the disaster risk reduction progress in Kenya,” Amjad Abbashar, Head of Office, UNISDR Regional Office for Africa, told IPS.

Government’s recent call on the international community and humanitarian agencies to provide much needed aid to save the starving millions is reflective of the critical role that humanitarian agencies play in disaster response but even more importantly, in disaster risk reduction.

“Disaster risk reduction aims to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risk, while strengthening preparedness for response and recovery, thus contributing to strengthening resilience,” Abbashar said.

UNISDR supports the implementation, follow-up and review of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, adopted at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in March 2015 in Sendai, Japan, and endorsed by the UN General Assembly.

“The Sendai Framework is a 15-year voluntary, non-binding agreement that maps out a broad, people-centered approach to disaster risk reduction. The Sendai Framework succeeded the Hyogo Framework for Action that was in force from 2005 to 2015,” Animesh Kumar, Deputy Head of Office, UNISDR Regional Office for Africa, told IPS.

“This global agreement seeks to substantially reduce disaster risk and losses in lives, livelihoods and health and in the economic, physical, social, cultural and environmental assets of persons, businesses, communities and countries,” Kumar added.

According to UNISDR, the disaster risk reduction institutional mechanism in the country is structured around the National Disaster Operations Centre, the National Drought Management Authority, and the National Disaster Management Unit. The UN agency works with these institutions.

Within this context, UNISDR has supported the establishment of a robust National Disaster Loss Database housed at the National Disaster Operation Centre.

“This database creates an understanding of the impacts and costs of disasters, its risks as far as disasters are concerned and to steer Kenya to invest in resilient infrastructure,” Abbashar said.

“Systematic disaster data collection and analysis is also useful in informing policy decisions to help reduce disaster risks and build resilience,” he added.

UNISDR is also assisting Kenyan legislators through capacity building and support in development of relevant Disaster Risk Management laws and policies.

Though the country is still a long way from being disaster resilient, UNISDR says that there have been some key milestones.

“We have collaborated towards ensuring that a National Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction has also been instituted to monitor national disaster risk reduction progress,” Kumar observes.

A National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015-2018) has been developed to implement the Sendai Framework in Kenya.

At the county level, County Integrated Development Plans (CIDPs) have been undertaken, which have integrated some elements of disaster risk reduction and peace and security.

Due to UNISDR work in the Counties, Kisumu city in Nyanza region, is one of five African cities that are pioneering local-level implementation of the Sendai Framework in Africa.

“The establishment of the Parliamentary Caucus on Disaster Risk Reduction that was formed in 2015 with a membership of over 35 Kenyan parliamentarians with support from UNISDR is a key policy milestone,” Abbashar explains.

The Kenyan Women’s Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) is also advocating for the enactment of a Disaster Risk Management Bill and its establishment was the result of joint efforts between UNISDR and parliament.

UNISDR remains steadfast that the role of women as agents of change in disaster risk reduction must be emphasized.

But the work that this UN agency does in Kenya would receive a significant boost if just like women, children too were involved as agents of change.

“Incorporation of disaster risk reduction in school curricula can lead to a growing population that is aware of disaster risk reduction as well as a generation that acts as disaster risk champions in future,” Abbashar said.

Setting aside a sizeable amount for disaster risk reduction in the national budget is extremely important.

For every dollar spent on disaster risk reduction, “a country is likely to save four to seven dollars in humanitarian response and multiple times more for future costs of development,” he stressed.

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Work, What Future? Seven Big Questions Needing Urgent Responsehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/work-what-future-seven-big-questions-needing-urgent-response/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=work-what-future-seven-big-questions-needing-urgent-response http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/work-what-future-seven-big-questions-needing-urgent-response/#comments Thu, 06 Apr 2017 14:31:38 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149839 Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 6 2017 (IPS)

Around the world, profound changes in the nature of work are underway, that’s clear. So it is a fact that the on-going transformations in the world of labour are disrupting the connection
between work, personal development and community participation.

The future of work gains special relevance now that it is estimated that over 600 million new jobs need to be created by 2030, just to keep pace with the growth of the global working age population. That’s around 40 million per year.

Meantime, there is a pressing need to improve conditions for the some 780 million women and men who are working but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of just 2 dollars a day poverty.

On these major issues, which mainly affects the present and future of the youth, and in particular, the most vulnerable groups such as women, migrants, rural communities, and indigenous peoples, the world leading specialised body, the International Labour Organization (ILO), has posed seven key questions:

• How will societies manage these changes?
• Will they bring together or pull apart developed, emerging and developed economies?
• Where will the jobs of tomorrow come from and what will they look like?
• What are the challenges and opportunities young people are facing as they make the transition into the world of work?
• What do they see as the path forward to achieve sustainable inclusive growth for future generations?
• What are the new forms of the employment relationship and whether and to what extent that relationship will continue to be the locus for many of the protections now afforded to workers?
• What initiatives to revitalise existing norms and institutions and/or create new forms of regulation that may help to meet present and future governance challenges? “Economic growth continues to disappoint and underperform – both in terms of levels and the degree of inclusion. This paints a worrisome picture for the global economy and its ability to generate enough jobs. Let alone quality jobs.” - Guy Ryder, ILO Chief

These questions are at the top on the agenda of a two-day (6-7 April) symposium, The Future of Work We Want: A Global Dialogue, organised by ILO at its headquarters in Geneva.

The event is an important step to gain greater understanding of the changes the world is witnessing and to develop effective policy responses that can shape the future of work, says ILO.

Why?

Around the world, in economies at all stages of development, profound changes in the nature of work are underway, the UN specialised body explains, adding that numerous and diverse drivers account for these: demographic shifts, climate change, technological innovation, shifting contours of poverty and prosperity, growing inequality, economic stagnation and the changing character of production and employment.

“The transformations we witness now challenge us to imagine the future of work over the long term in order to steer this evolution in the direction of social justice. Rising widespread anxiety about whether the future will produce greater polarisation within and between countries brings urgency to this task.”

Recognising the pressing need to begin marshaling global expertise to make the future of work the one we want, the ILO launched the The Future of Work Centenary Initiative.

Under it, the symposium has been structured around four “centenary conversations” — work and society; decent jobs for all; the organisation of work and production, and the governance of work

The event has gathered international thinkers and actors who are at the forefront of debates on each topic.

A special session has been devoted to discussing the perspectives for and views of young people –including representatives of the social partners– in the future of work they will experience.

Economic Growth Both Disappoints and Underperforms

“We are facing the twin challenge of repairing the damage caused by the global economic and social crisis and creating quality jobs for the tens of millions of new labour market entrants every year,” said ILO Director-General, Guy Ryder.

Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO


Economic growth continues to disappoint and underperform – both in terms of levels and the degree of inclusion, he explained, adding, “This paints a worrisome picture for the global economy and its ability to generate enough jobs. Let alone quality jobs.”

According to ILO chief, persistent high levels of vulnerable forms of employment combined with clear lack of progress in job quality – even in countries where aggregate figures are improving – are “alarming.”

In fact, ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2017 shows that vulnerable forms of employment – i.e. contributing family workers and own account workers – are expected to stay above 42 per cent of total employment, accounting for 1.4 billion people worldwide in 2017.

In fact, almost one in two workers in emerging countries are in vulnerable forms of employment, rising to more than four in five workers in developing countries, said Steven Tobin, ILO Senior Economist and lead author of the report.

As a result, the number of workers in vulnerable employment is projected to grow by 11 million per year, with Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa being the most affected.

Meanwhile, the global unemployment rate is expected to rise modestly from 5.7 to 5.8 per cent in 2017 representing an increase of 3.4 million in the number of jobless people, a new ILO report shows.

The number of unemployed persons globally in 2017 is forecast to stand at just over 201 million – with an additional rise of 2.7 million expected in 2018 – as the pace of labour force growth outstrips job creation.

Unemployment Acute in Latin America, Caribbean, Sub-Saharan Africa

The report’s authors warn that unemployment challenges are particularly acute in Latin America and the Caribbean where the scars of the recent recession will have an important carry-over effect in 2017, as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is also in the midst of its lowest level of growth in over two decades.

Credit: ILO

Credit: ILO


By contrast, unemployment should fall in 2017 among developed countries bringing their rate down to 6.2 per cent (from 6.3 per cent). But the pace of improvement is slowing and there are signs of structural unemployment.

In both Europe and North America, long-term unemployment remains stubbornly high compared to pre-crisis levels, and in the case of Europe, it continues to climb despite the receding unemployment rates.

Another key trend highlighted in the report is that the reductions in working poverty are slowing which endangers the prospects of eradicating poverty as set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The number of workers earning less than 3.10 dollars per day is even expected to increase by more than 5 million over the next two years in developing countries.

Social Unrest, Migration

At the same time, it warns that global uncertainty and the lack of decent jobs are, among other factors, underpinning social unrest and migration in many parts of the world.

Between 2009 and 2016, the share of the working age population willing to migrate abroad has increased in almost every region of the world, except for Southern Asia, South-Eastern Asia and the Pacific.

The largest rise took place in Latin America, the Caribbean and the Arab States.

Both regions are confronted with strong growth in the numbers of individuals entering working age.

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Feast and Famine in Africa’s Dubaihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/djibouti-looks-to-the-stars-but-risks-forgetting-those-at-its-feet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=djibouti-looks-to-the-stars-but-risks-forgetting-those-at-its-feet http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/djibouti-looks-to-the-stars-but-risks-forgetting-those-at-its-feet/#comments Wed, 05 Apr 2017 00:02:17 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149809 Djibouti’s strategic and commercial relevance at the junction of Africa, the Middle East and Indian Ocean is further bolstered by its increasing network of ports. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Djibouti’s strategic and commercial relevance at the junction of Africa, the Middle East and Indian Ocean is further bolstered by its increasing network of ports. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
DJIBOUTI CITY, Apr 5 2017 (IPS)

As balmy night settles over Djibouti City, the arc lights come on at its growing network of ports as ships are offloaded 24 hours a day and trucks laden with cargo depart westwards into the Horn of Africa interior.

Not that long ago Djibouti was known for little more than French legionnaires, atrocious heat and its old railway line to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Nowadays, however, this tiny republic of only about 900,000 people on the Horn of Africa coast has big plans, including turning its capital into the Dubai of Africa.Befitting a crossroads nation, a heady melting pot culture exists: cafés brewing coffee in the traditional Ethiopian style, Yemeni restaurants serving the specialty poisson Yemenite, and haggling at open-air markets in rapid-fire Somali.

Since gaining independence from France in 1977, Djibouti has steadily carved out a regional role through its strategic and commercial relevance at the junction of Africa and the Middle East, and at the confluence of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, overlooking a passage of water used by 30 percent of the world’s shipping transiting from and to the Suez Canal.

“It’s a weird place, really,” says an Addis Ababa-based foreign diplomat. “Djibouti’s also important strategically. I don’t know why more isn’t reported about it.”

Recently-acquired Chinese investment totaling more than 12 billion dollars is funding the building of six new ports, two new airports, a railway, and what is being touted as the biggest and most dynamic free trade zone in Africa, potentially giving the capital, Djibouti City, an edge over its rivals.

“About 2 million African customers travel to Dubai each year,” says Dawit Gebre-ab, with the Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority overseeing the city’s commercial infrastructure development. “We know what is on their shopping lists, and they could be coming here instead.”

Helping secure such ambitions is the fact that Djibouti is viewed as offering some of the most prime military real-estate in the world, both to counter piracy threatening that key shipping lane—since peaking in 2011, when 151 vessels were attacked and 25 hijacked, piracy has steeply declined—and to shore up regional stability.

Another foreign diplomat referred to Djibouti as “an oasis in a bad neighbourhood”.

In 2014, the US military agreed a 10-year extension to its presence—with an option to extend for another 10 years—centered on Camp Lemonnier, its African headquarters.

US president Barack Obama described the camp as “extraordinarily important not only to our work throughout the Horn of Africa but throughout the region.”

A similar perspective happens to be held by China, also. In addition to its Djibouti investments, having invested huge amounts in the rest of East Africa—especially in neighboring Ethiopia, one of the world’s fastest growing economies, and 90 percent of whose imports come through Djibouti—it wants to secure those interests and others throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

On a beach in Tadjoura locals play a traditional Afar game—Djibouti’s population consists mainly of ethnic Somali and Afar—on the sand. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

On a beach in Tadjoura locals play a traditional Afar game—Djibouti’s population consists mainly of ethnic Somali and Afar—on the sand. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Furthermore, ever thirsty for crude oil, China wants to shield its heavy dependence on imports from the Middle East that south of Djibouti pass from the Gulf of Aden into the Indian Ocean and then on to the South China Sea.

In 2016 China finalized plans for a new base in Obock, a small port a couple of hours by ferry from Djibouti City northward across the Gulf of Tadjoura. About 10,000 Chinese personal will occupy the base once complete.

Foreign military already stationed in Djibouti—including from France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Japan—number around 25,000, according to some estimates.

But behind all the construction cranes, flashy hotels and military camps, there still exists a very different side to Djibouti.

Every morning in the small town of Tadjoura, about 40km west of Obock along the coastline, local Djiboutians queue to collect their daily quota of baguettes—a scene repeated across the country.

Djibouti’s former existence as colonial French Somaliland has left an indelible Gallic stamp. Along with Somali, Afar and Arabic, French remains one of the main languages used.

Locals in Tadjoura, a small town across the Gulf of Tadjoura from Djibouti city, buying their daily baguettes, a legacy of French colonial rule. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Locals in Tadjoura, a small town across the Gulf of Tadjoura from Djibouti city, buying their daily baguettes, a legacy of French colonial rule. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

A constant stream of Bonsoirs greet the visitor during an evening wander around Djibouti City’s so-called European quarter and its focal point: Place du 27 Juin 1977, a large square of whitewashed buildings and Moorish arcades named for the date of independence.

South of the quarter’s French-colonial-inspired architecture and orderly avenues and boulevards, lies the dustier and more ramshackle African quarter.

Here, befitting a crossroads nation, a heady melting pot culture exists: cafés brewing coffee in the traditional Ethiopian style, Yemeni restaurants serving the specialty poisson Yemenite, and haggling at open-air markets in rapid-fire Somali all adds to the surprising melting pot within this small capital city.

But whether that lively cultural mix can withstand the brash new modernizing development is a concern for some locals, proud of the country’s past and heterogeneous mix of traditions.

“My fear is not about cultural change, because we need that as this is an ultra-conservative society,” says an elegant Djiboutian professional in her early thirties, her hair covered in the Muslim style, and a cigarette clasped in her slender fingers as the sun dips behind the original old port in the distance.

“It is more about the effects on our customs, such as traditional clothing, food and decorations that symbolize our identity.”

While Djibouti’s maritime commerce and government’s ambitions continue apace, for the average local Djiboutian everyday life remains unaffected by dreams of an African Dubai. Here a lady makes fresh juices on the street to slake the thirsts of sun-blasted pedestrians in Djibouti city’s African quarter. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

While Djibouti’s maritime commerce and government’s ambitions continue apace, for the average local Djiboutian everyday life remains unaffected by dreams of an African Dubai. Here a lady makes fresh juices on the street to slake the thirsts of sun-blasted pedestrians in Djibouti city’s African quarter. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Others are more outspoken in their criticism of Djibouti’s current strategic and economic upswing—a healthy 6 percent a year, and likely to surpass 7 percent amid the construction boom.

Some locals talk of a country run by a business-savvy dictatorship that has reaped profits from its superpower tenants while not doing enough to relieve widespread poverty; having signed an initial 10-year lease for the base, China will pay 20 million dollars per year in rent. The US pays 60 million dollars a year to lease Camp Lemonnier.

“The government only cares about how to collect the country’s wealth,” says a Djiboutian journalist previously arrested for reporting domestic issues. “They do not care about freedom of expression, human rights, justice and equal opportunities of people.”

Dreams of a Dubai-type future don’t appear to have much relevance for most local Djiboutians, 42 percent of whom live in extreme poverty, while up to 60 percent of the labor force are unemployed, according to current estimates.

“Now I can’t stay here,” says Mohammed, a marine engineer, who left Iraq after the 1991 war for Djibouti where he married a local woman. “My three children won’t be able to get good enough jobs. I’m hoping my brother in the US will be able to get us a green card.”

A 2014 US State Department human-rights report on the country cited the government’s restrictions on free speech and assembly; its use of excessive force, including torture; as well as the harassment and detention of government critics.

Even the hugely popular use of khat by locals is manipulated by government officials as a means of repression, critics claim. It’s alleged government affiliates facilitate its sale in the country as a money maker and means of keeping a potentially frustrated populace calm, while handing it when campaign season rolls around to win favor.

Meanwhile, ships endlessly glide to and from the ports, where cranes offload containers to waiting trucks late into the night under the arc lights.

In early 2017, the new Chinese-built 4-billion-dollar railway officially opened linking Djibouti to the Ethiopian interior—the original railway has lain abandoned for years—and which could eventually connect to other Chinese-built railways emerging across the African continent.

Djibouti’s location has always been its most precious resource—devoid of a single river or the likes of extractable minerals, it produces almost nothing.

Nevertheless, for nearly 150 years it has attracted armies, mercenaries, smugglers, gunrunners and traders: anyone and everyone concerned with the movement or control of merchandise. And that trend only seems set to increase.

“Ethiopia has a population 100 times larger than Djibouti’s but it only imports and exports six times as much,” says Aboubaker Omar, chairman and CEO of Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority. “Imagine the day that demand matches Ethiopia’s population size.”

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How to Stir up a Refugee Crisis in Five Steps, Trump Stylehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/how-to-stir-up-a-refugee-crisis-in-five-steps-trump-style/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-stir-up-a-refugee-crisis-in-five-steps-trump-style http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/how-to-stir-up-a-refugee-crisis-in-five-steps-trump-style/#comments Wed, 29 Mar 2017 01:28:52 +0000 Madeleine Penman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149686 The US/Mexico Border is becoming more dangerous. Credit: Hans Maximo Musielik/Amnesty International

The US/Mexico Border is becoming more dangerous. Credit: Hans Maximo Musielik/Amnesty International

By Madeleine Penman
MEXICO CITY, Mar 29 2017 (IPS)

The sight of one of the most infamous borders on earth – roughly 1,000 kilometers of porous metal fence dividing lives, hopes and dreams between the USA and Mexico, is undoubtedly overwhelming, but not in the way we expected it to be.

While it has been one of the most talked about issues since last year’s USA election campaign, the stretch of land that separates the USA and Mexico now lies eerily quiet.

The stream of men, women and children US President Trump predicted would be flooding the area are nowhere to be seen. There is no one working on the “big, powerful wall” Trump promised to build along the entire length of more than 3,000 kilometers of the border. The 5,000 additional border patrol agents that are meant to be “increasing security” in the area have yet to be deployed.

What we recently witnessed along the border, however, is increasing confusion and utter fear. As many advocates described it “the quiet before the storm”. This is not a new situation, things have been building up in the area but they are likely to get devastatingly worse.

Many of these people are seeking protection as they are fleeing extreme violence in their home countries.

Because although President Trump’s promises have not yet been fully acted upon, the machine has been set in motion, building up on years of bad policies and practices along the border. The potential impact the most recently enacted border control measures will have on the lives of thousands of people living in terror of being sent back to extreme violence is becoming notable.

This is how the Trump administration is stirring up what could dangerously become a full blown refugee crisis:

  1. Sow a discourse of hate and fear

Since the start of his campaign for the Presidency, Donald Trump has repeatedly described migrants and asylum seekers, particularly people from Mexico and Central America, as “criminals and rapists”.

He has failed to acknowledge the plight of the thousands of women, children and men who live in “war-like” situations in some of the most dangerous countries on earth, particularly El Salvador and Honduras, and who are effectively forced to flee their homes if they want to live.

Credit: Hans Maximo Musielik/Amnesty International

Credit: Hans Maximo Musielik/Amnesty International

  1. Pass confusing orders with no advice on how to implement them

In the initial raft of Executive Orders passed by President Trump during his first days in office, the administration effectively sought to close the borders to immigrants, including asylum seekers looking for a safe haven in the USA.

The Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements Executive Order of 25 January aims at ensuring that the process of detaining and expelling migrants and asylum seekers is as swift as possible – fully ignoring the fact that some of these people face mortal danger if sent back to their countries.

Furthermore, since the order was issued, it appears border agencies have been left in the dark about how to implement it. We arrived in Arizona just two days after the Department of Homeland Security had released its 20 February Memo detailing how to roll out Trump’s border security executive order. We were told that at least one high-level member of border control had received the memo the same time as the press had, and was none the wiser as to how to implement it.

  1. Turn people back, no questions asked

Each year, hundreds of thousands of people from Central America and other countries around the world cross Mexico’s land border with the USA to seek safety and a better life. As well as Mexicans, many of these people are seeking protection as they are fleeing extreme violence in their home countries (including El Salvador and Honduras).

But we received multiple reports and evidence that rather than allowing people to enter the USA and seek asylum in order to save their lives, US Customs and Border patrol are repeatedly refusing entry to asylum seekers all along the border.

From San Diego, California to McAllen, Texas, we were told that even before Trump arrived on the scene, from as early as 2015, border agents have been known to take the law into their own hands by turning back asylum seekers, telling them they cannot enter. This is not only immoral but also against international legal principles the USA has committed to uphold and USA law itself, which stipulates the right and process to ask for asylum.

One human rights worker on the Mexican side of the border with Arizona, told us how a border patrol agent scorned her for accompanying Central Americans to the border to ensure that their rights were not violated. “How do you feel, aren’t you ashamed to be helping ‘terrorists’?” she was asked.

  1. Turn a blind eye to criminal groups terrorizing asylum seekers

Crossing into the USA without papers means risking your life, as it makes people more vulnerable to gangs and drug cartels who control the border area and are primed to profit from people in desperate situations.

We have received many reports that people smugglers have hiked their rates dramatically since Trump was elected. US Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly recently announced that since November 2016 the rate charged by people smugglers in some areas along the US southwest border has risen from US$3,500 to US$8,000. Yet what Kelly fails to recognize is how this will put people’s lives at further risk. People will not stop fleeing their countries and moving north in search of safety, despite Trump’s border control measures. Criminal groups will only gain more power once the border wall is built, charging vulnerable people fortunes to leave their country and make their way to the USA.

  1. Outsource the responsibility

Multiple questions remain regarding the USA’s plans to further militarize its southern border and deny entry to asylum seekers. One of the biggest questions involves Mexico’s role in this equation.

In recent weeks, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray announced that Mexico would not receive foreigners turned back from the USA under Trump’s 25 January Border Control Executive Order. Yet no one we spoke to on the border understood what this would look like in practice. Would Mexico start raids along its border? Would it carry out more deportations? Or, would Mexico’s refusal to host migrants lead to even more people locked up in immigration detention centres on the US side? Or, would we see ad hoc refugee camps along the Mexican side of the border as asylum seekers wait for their claims to be heard in US immigration courts? Already acutely vulnerable people would be exposed to further harm and human rights abuses by both criminal groups.

Amnesty International spoke to four Mexican government officials stationed at border cities, and it was evident that confusion reigns. “We are going along with our work in a normal way,” one official in Tamaulipas told us. “I don’t think we have any plans regarding how to receive those being turned back,” another official in Chihuahua said.

In this climate of uncertainty and fear, migrants and asylum seekers are more vulnerable to coercion and violations of their rights to due process. Fearful of a USA government that appears quick to detain and deport them, and uncertain of their situation while on Mexican soil, the desperation of migrants and asylum seekers and the abuses they are forced to endure, are bound to rise.

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Food Security in the Middle East Sharply Deterioratedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/food-security-in-the-middle-east-sharply-deteriorated/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 15:41:26 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149663 An Egyptian farmer feeding cows fresh fodder. Credit: FAO

An Egyptian farmer feeding cows fresh fodder. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME/CAIRO, Mar 27 2017 (IPS)

Food security and nutrition levels in the Near East and North Africa have sharply deteriorated over the last five years, undermining the steady improvement achieved before 2010 when the prevalence of undernourishment, stunting, anaemia and poverty were decreasing, a new UN report warns.

According to the FAO Regional Overview of Food Insecurity in the Near East and North Africa, issued on March 27, the deterioration is largely driven by the spreading and intensity of conflicts and protracted crises.

The assessment made by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) shows that the prevalence of severe food insecurity in the adult population of the Near East and North Africa was close to 9.5 per cent in 2014-2015, representing approximately 30 million people.

“The region is facing unprecedented challenges to its food security due to multiple risks arising from conflicts, water scarcity and climate change,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa. “War and conflicts are the worst enemies of food security, ” Graziano da Silva

Countries of the region need to implement long-term and comprehensive sustainable water management to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger by 2030, he added. “A peaceful and stable environment is an absolute pre-condition for farmers to respond to the challenges of water scarcity and climate change.”

“Wars, Conflicts, Worst Enemies of Food Security”

José Graziano da Silva, FAO director general, said in a recent visit to Lebanon, “We are reminded once again that war and conflicts are the worst enemies of food security.

“Our own reports and other have described, sometimes in rather horrible detail, the unrelenting process through which the conflicts in the region are destroying people’s lives and livelihoods, disrupting agriculture production, increasing food prices, stoking fears and insecurity and triggering large-scale displacement of people and alarming flows of refugees.”
Lebanon, a small country that has itself suffered the misfortunes of war and internal conflict, has courageously and generously hosted more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees, da Silva added.

“To put that in perspective, that’s the third of the country’s population, the proportional equivalent of the European Union taking in more than 170 million people… The unprecedented influx of refugees has put extraordinary pressure on Lebanon’s economic and social infrastructure, its food security and its social cohesion.”

According to FAO, the Syria crisis in particular has deepened during the period 2015-2016, leaving more than half of the population in need of food assistance and 4.8 million refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries. The numbers of food insecure and the internally displaced are also rising in Iraq and Yemen.

The Water Factor

Beyond conflicts and crises, the report argues that water scarcity and climate change are the most fundamental challenges to ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture by 2030.

Workers cleaning up the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal as part of a project to resupply water for agricultural production in Iraq. Credit: FAO

Workers cleaning up the main Al Jazeera irrigation canal as part of a project to resupply water for agricultural production in Iraq. Credit: FAO

Water scarcity is the binding factor to agricultural production in the Near East and North Africa region and the driver of the region’s dependency on food imports.

Building on the evidence accumulated in the framework of FAO’s Regional Water Scarcity Initiative in the Near East and North Africa, the report shows that climate change is expected to affect food security in terms of availability, access, stability and utilisation. Most of the impacts of climate change will affect water availability.

The FAO Regional Overview underlines the urgency to develop and implement strategies for sustainable management of water resources and to adapt to the impact of climate change on water resources and agriculture.

It documents several positive experiences in sustainable management of water resources and climate change adaptation in the region and highlights the importance of accelerating investments aimed at improving water efficiency and water productivity as well as the need for a shift in cropping patterns towards less water-consuming crops.

The report explores other major options for the adaptation to climate change impacts on water and agriculture, including the need for designing and implementing social protection measures for building resilience of farmers to extreme events, cutting food losses and improving trade policies.

The report stresses the importance of building a strong evidence base for assessing the impact of climate change on food security and for the formulation of sound and flexible water adaptation measures and agricultural policies.

It calls for strengthened regional collaboration to face the massive challenge of water scarcity and climate change, building on the strong political will expressed by the leaders of the region and building on the positive experiences in many countries.

Ould Ahmed noted that, “sustainable agriculture and water management should include strategies and policies to improve irrigation efficiency, establish sustainable ground water management, promote incentives for farmers to shift to crops with higher economic returns per drop, cut food losses and waste, and enhance resilience of vulnerable population and farmers to climate-induced shocks.”

“Achieving food security is still at hand, provided we take concerted efforts and make the right moves now.”

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Slaveshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/slaves/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slaves http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/slaves/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 11:33:55 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149659 Young women in Colombia forced into sexual exploitation. Credit: UNICEF/Donna DeCesare

Young women in Colombia forced into sexual exploitation. Credit: UNICEF/Donna DeCesare

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 27 2017 (IPS)

For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, one of the darkest chapters in human history. Slavery is, nevertheless, far from being just a chapter of the past—it still there, with estimated 21 million victims of forced labour and extreme exploitation around the world–nearly the equivalent to of the combined population of Scandinavian countries.

According to the UN report 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, issued in late-December, victims of trafficking are found in 106 of 193 countries. Many of these are in conflict areas, where the crimes are not prosecuted. Women and children are among the main victims.

The legacy of slavery resounds down the ages, and the world has yet to overcome racism. While some forms of slavery may have been abolished, others have emerged to blight the world, including human trafficking and forced and bonded labour.

Add to all the above, the crime of human trafficking, which once more affects millions of women, and girls, who fall prey to sexual exploitation, another form of slavery.“79 per cent of all detected human trafficking victims are women and children,” UN

In fact, millions of women and girls are sold for sexual exploitation and slavery, according to this new report elaborated by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Just as tragically, 79 per cent of all detected trafficking victims are women and children.

From 2012-2014, UNODC estimates that more than 500 different trafficking flows were detected and countries in Western and Southern Europe detected victims of 137 different citizenships.

These figures recount a story of human trafficking occurring almost everywhere.

In terms of the different types of trafficking, sexual exploitation and forced labour are the most prominent.

The report also shows that trafficking can have numerous other forms including: victims compelled to act as beggars, forced into sham marriages, benefit fraud, pornography production, organ removal, among others.

A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal in eastern India. She comes from a village that is known for high levels of trafficking of women and girls to other major cities. Credit: UN Women/Anindit Roy-Chowdhury

A young woman from a fishing community in West Bengal in eastern India. She comes from a village that is known for high levels of trafficking of women and girls to other major cities. Credit: UN Women/Anindit Roy-Chowdhury

The United Nations estimates the total market value of illicit human trafficking amounted to 32 billion dollars in 2005, a figure that most likely has doubled, or even tripled, in view of the massive waves of persons who have been forced to either migrating due to the growing poverty caused by climate change or the deepening inequality, or fleeing brutal armed conflicts.

Human Rights First, a non-profit, nonpartisan international human rights organisation based in New York, Washington D.C., Houston, and Los Angeles, says that human trafficking is a “big business”.

In a detailed report, Human Rights First informs that human trafficking earns profits of roughly 150 billion dollars a year for traffickers, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

The following is a breakdown of profits, by sector:
– 99 billion dollars from commercial sexual exploitation
– 34 billion dollars in construction, manufacturing, mining and utilities
– 9 billion dollars in agriculture, including forestry and fishing
– 8 billion dollars is saved annually by private households that employ domestic workers under conditions of forced labour

While only 22 per cent of victims are trafficked for sex, sexual exploitation earns 66 per cent of the global profits of human trafficking, reminds Human Rights First.

And adds that the average annual profits generated by each woman in forced sexual servitude (100,000 dollars) is estimated to be six times more than the average profits generated by each trafficking victim worldwide (21,800 dollars), according to the Organization for Security and Co operation in Europe (OSCE).

OSCE studies show that sexual exploitation can yield a return on investment ranging from 100 per cent to 1,000 per cent, while an enslaved labourer can produce more than 50 per cent profit even in less profitable markets (e.g., agricultural labour in India).

A close-up from the memorial on the legacy of slavery. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

A close-up from the memorial on the legacy of slavery. Credit: UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz

Meanwhile, the United Nations marks every year on 25 March, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade that, it says, offers the opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system.

The Day also aims to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.

“We must never forget this dark chapter of human history,” UN secretary general António Guterres on March 24 told a General Assembly meeting to commemorate the abolition of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade, ahead of the Day.

“We must always remember the role played by many of our countries – including my own country of Portugal – in carrying out the largest forced migration in history and in robbing so many millions of people of their dignity and often also of their lives,” Guterres said.

The legacy of slavery resounds down the ages, and the world has yet to overcome racism. While some forms of slavery may have been abolished, others have emerged to blight the world, including human trafficking and forced and bonded labour, he stressed.

And Peter Thomson, the president of the UN General Assembly, called for the protection of human rights and an end to racism, xenophobia and modern forms of slavery, including human trafficking, forced labour and child labour.

The consequences of slavery had not ended with emancipation, but continued to this day, he emphasised. Some were negative, but others positive, he said, underscoring the contributions made by descendants of slavery to shaping multicultural societies.

Shortly before, on March 21, the UN marked the InternationalDay for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination under the theme: Racial profiling and incitement to hatred, including in the context of migration.

Every person is entitled to human rights without discrimination, the UN reminds, while adding that the rights to equality and non-discrimination are cornerstones of human rights law.

“Yet in many parts of the world, discriminatory practices are still widespread, including racial, ethnic, religious and nationality based profiling, and incitement to hatred.”

Racial and ethnic profiling is defined as “a reliance by law enforcement, security and border control personnel on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin as a basis for subjecting persons to detailed searches, identity checks and investigations, or for determining whether an individual is engaged in criminal activity,” according to a recent report to the UN Human Rights Council by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

“Refugees and migrants are particular targets of racial profiling and incitement to hatred.”

In the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in September 2016, United Nations member states strongly condemned “acts and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against refugees and migrants, and committed to a range of steps to counter such attitudes and behaviours, particularly regarding hate crimes, hate speech and racial violence.”

This and so many other Declarations, treaties, conventions, etc., are systematically signed by most of world’s countries—not least the US and Europe. Are these countries seriously committed to honour them? When?

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Asia’s Water Politics Near the Boiling Pointhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/asias-water-politics-near-the-boiling-point/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asias-water-politics-near-the-boiling-point http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/asias-water-politics-near-the-boiling-point/#comments Tue, 21 Mar 2017 12:44:57 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149509 Clean drinking water is available to no more than half of Asia’s population. Water is fundamental to the post-2015 development agenda. Manipadma Jena/IPS

Clean drinking water is available to no more than half of Asia’s population. Water is fundamental to the post-2015 development agenda. Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, Mar 21 2017 (IPS)

In Asia, it likely will not be straightforward water wars.

Prolonged water scarcity might lead to security situations that are more nuanced, giving rise to a complex set of cascading but unpredictable consequences, with communities and nations reacting in ways that we have not seen in the past because climate change will alter the reliability of current water management systems and infrastructure, say experts.China plays an increasingly dominant role in South Asia’s water politics because it administers the Tibetan Autonomous Region; the Himalayan mountain range contains the largest amount of snow and ice after Antartica and the Arctic.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2016 said a water crisis is the most impactful risk over the next 10 years. The effects of rising populations in developing regions like Asia, alongside growing prosperity, place unsustainable pressure on resources and are starting to manifest themselves in new, sometimes unexpected ways – harming people, institutions and economies, and making water security an urgent political matter.

While the focus is currently on the potential for climate change to exacerbate water crises, with impacts including conflicts and a much greater flow of forced migration that is already on our doorsteps, a 2016 study by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) warns Asia not to underestimate impact of industrial and population growth, including spiraling urban growth, on serious water shortages across a broad swath of Asia by 2050.

Asia’s water challenges escalate

To support a global population of 9.7 billion by 2050, food production needs to increase by 60 percent and water demand is projected to go up by 55 percent. But the horizon is challenging for developing regions, especially Asia, whose 3.4 billion population will need 100 percent more food – using the diminishing, non-substitute resource in a warming world said the Asian Water Development Outlook (AWDO) 2016, the latest regional water report card from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

More than 1.4 billion people – or 42 percent of world’s total active workforce – are heavily water dependent, especially in agriculture-dominant Asia, according to the UN World Water Development Report 2016.

With erratic monsoons on which more than half of all agriculture in Asia is dependent, resorting to groundwater for irrigation, whose extraction is largely unmonitored, is already rampant. A staggering 70 percent of the world’s groundwater extraction is in Asia, with India, China and Pakistan the biggest consumers, estimates UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

By 2050, with a 30 percent increase in extraction, 86 percent of groundwater extracted in Asia will be by these three countries, finds the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Together India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal use 23 million pumps with an annual energy bill of 3.78 billion dollars for lifting water – an indicator of the critical demand for water, and to an extent of misgovernance and lack of water-saving technologies (AWDO 2016).

AWDO sounds alarm bells warning that we are on the verge of a water crisis, with limited knowledge on when we will tip the balance.

Analysts from the Leadership Group on Water Security in Asia say the start of future transboundary water conflicts will have less to do with the absolute scarcity of water and more to do with the rate of change in water availability.

 

Water, known as Blue Gold, provides a broad range of livelihoods to communities as in India's Kerala state. Here coconut farmers ferry a boatload to sell at tourist spots. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

Water, known as Blue Gold, provides a broad range of livelihoods to communities as in India’s Kerala state. Here coconut farmers ferry a boatload to sell at tourist spots. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

‘Resource nationalism’ already strong in water-stressed Asian neighbours

With just 30 days of buffer fresh water stock, Pakistan’s renewable internal freshwater resources per capita in 2014 measured a perilous 297 cubic metres, Bangladesh’s 660m3 India’s 1116m3 and China’s 2062m3. When annual water access falls below 1700m3 per person, an area is considered water-stressed and when 1000m3 is breached, it faces water scarcity.

ADB describes Asia as “the global hotspot for water insecurity.

By 2050 according to AWDO, 3.4 billion people – or the projected combined population of India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh in 2050 – making up 40 percent of the world population, could be living in water-stressed areas. In other words, the bulk of the population increase will be in countries already experiencing water shortages.

Underlying geo-political standpoints are slowly but perceptibly hardening in Himalayan Asia nations over shared river basins, even if not intensifying as yet, seen in the latest instances last year. They are, as water conflict analysts predict, spurts of bilateral tension that might or might not suddenly escalate to conflict, the scale of which cannot be predicted. The following, a latest instance, is a pointer to future scenarios of geographical interdependencies that riparian nations can either reduce by sensible hydro-politics or escalate differences by contestations.

There was alarm in Pakistan when Indian Prime Minister took a stand in September last year to review the 57-year-old Indus Water Treaty between the two South Asian neighbours. India was retaliating against a purportedly Pakistan terrorist attack on an Indian army base at Uri in Kashmir that killed 18 soldiers.

By co-incidence or design (several Indian analysts think it is the latter), at the very same time China blocked a tributary of the Yarlung Tsangpo River which is the upper course of the Brahmaputra in India, as part of the construction of its 740-million-dollar Lalho hydro project in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The Yarlung Tsangpo River originates in the Himalayan ranges, and is called the Brahmaputra as it flows down into India’s Arunachal Pradesh state bordering Tibet and further into Bangladesh.

China’s action caused India alarm on two counts. Some analysts believed Beijing was trying to encourage Dhaka to take up a defensive stand against India over sharing of Brahmaputra waters, thereby destabilizing India-Bangladesh’s cordial ally status in the region.

The second possibility analysts proffered is an alarming and fairly new military risk. River water, when dammed, can be intentionally used as a weapon of destruction during war.

Pakistan had earlier raised the same security concern, that India may exercise a strategic advantage during war by regulating the two major dams on rivers that flow through Kashmir into Pakistan. Indian experts say China is more likely than India to take this recourse and will use the river water as a bargaining chip in diplomatic negotiations.

South Asia as a region is prone to conflict between nations, between non-state actors and the state. Its history of territorial issues, religious and ethnic differences makes it more volatile than most other regions. Historically China, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have had territorial wars between them. The  wary and increasingly competitive outlook of their relationships makes technology-grounded and objective discussions over the erupting water disputes difficult.

China already plays an increasingly dominant role in South Asia’s water politics because it administers the Tibetian Autonomous Region with the Tibetan Plateau, around which the Himalayan mountain range contains the largest amount of snow and ice after Antartica and the Arctic. The glacier-fed rivers that emanate from this ‘water tower’ are shared across borders by 40 percent of world population, guaranteeing food, water and energy security to millions of people and nurturing biodiverse ecosystems downstream.

The largest three trans-boundary basins in the region – in terms of area, population, water resources, irrigation and hydropower potential – are the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra.

Both India and China have embarked on massive hydropower energy generation, China for industrialization and India to provide for its population, which will be the world’s largest by 2022.

With growing food and energy needs, broad estimates suggest that more than half of the world’s large rivers are dammed. Dams have enormous benefits, but without comprehensive water-sharing treaties, lower riparian states are disadvantaged and this could turn critical in future.

While there are river-water sharing treaties between India and Pakistan, and with Bangladesh, there is none with China except a hydrological data sharing collaboration.

Security threats emerge when it becomes difficult to solve competition over scarce natural resources by cooperation. Failure may result in violent conflicts. A ‘zero-sum’ situation is reached, when violence is seen as the only option to secure use of the resource, says a 2016 report by the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change.

When drivers in Asia, like population growth, the need for economic growth, poverty reduction, energy needs, the impact of high rate of urbanization and changing lifestyles, confront resource scarcity, it could bring a zero-sum situation sooner than anticipated.

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“The Struggle Continues” for Human Right to Peace and Inclusion of Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-struggle-continues-for-human-right-to-peace-and-inclusion-of-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-struggle-continues-for-human-right-to-peace-and-inclusion-of-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/the-struggle-continues-for-human-right-to-peace-and-inclusion-of-women/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 20:07:50 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149456 CSW61_Banner-EN_

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

UN officials and activists gathered to discuss the essential relationships between sustainable peace and gender equality during a two week-long UN meeting, begining March 13.

At a side event of the 61st session of the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW), panelists shed light on the important role that women play in peace and development.

“Without peace, no development is possible. And without development, no peace is achievable. But without women, neither peace nor development is possible,” said Former Under-Secretary General and High Representative of the UN Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury.

Despite this, panelists noted that societies have long ignored women’s contributions.

According to an Oxfam report, women carry out up to 10 times more unpaid care work than men. This work is worth approximately $10 trillion per year, which is more than the gross domestic products (GDPs) of India, Japan and Brazil combined.

Research has also shown that almost 60 million unpaid workers are filling in the gaps caused by inadequate health services, majority of whom are women who have had to give up employment or education to carry out this role.

Chowdhury added that there would be 150 million fewer hungry people in the world if women had the same access to resources as men.

Panelists were particularly concerned with the lack of formal recognition of the human right to peace and the inclusion of women in this goal.

Canadian activist Douglas Roche explained the ‘human right to peace’ arose to address new “interconnected” challenges that the current human rights framework, which is based on a relationship between the State and the individual, is unable to do, including increased militarism by both State and non-State entities.

During the panel discussion, UN Independent Expert in the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order Alfred-Maurice de Zayas stated that the human right to peace also allows for the realization of the right to self-determination which is a “crucial conflict prevention strategy.”

After decades of struggling to gain consensus, the General Assembly adopted a Declaration on the Right to Peace in December. Though it was a significant accomplishment achieved largely due to a civil society initiative, many have expressed their disappointment in the document.

“The new declaration is falling far short of the expectation of civil society, many governments,” Chowdhury told IPS.

Among concerns about the declaration is its lack of reference to women which is only mentioned once in the 6 page document.

President of Hague Appeal for Peace and long time peace activist Cora Weiss criicised the document’s language, which calls for women’s “maximum participation.”

“It’s a slippery word,” she told participants, stressing the importance of “equal” inclusion of women to achieve peace.

Weiss was a national leader of the Women Strike for Peace, which organised the largest national women’s protest of the 20th century and contributed to the end of nuclear testing in the 1960s. She was also helped lead the anti-Vietnam war movement, including organising one of the largest anti-war demonstrations in 1969.

“There is no limit to the relationship between women and peace,” Weiss said.

Chowdhury, who led the initiative on Resolution 1325 calling for the increase in women’s representation in conflict management and resolution, echoed similar sentiments to IPS, stating: “Women at the peace table is a very important element at the UN and at the Security Council to take into account. Unless they value the 50 percent of humanity positively contributing to securing peace and security, it will move nowhere.”

Despite the unanimous UN adoption of Resolution 1325, little has been done to enforce and implement it. No woman has ever been the chief or lead mediator in an UN-led peace negotiation.

Panelists also criticised the absence of language around disarmament in the Declaration.

“How are you going to make peace in a world that is awash with weapons?” Weiss asked.

According the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), approximately 15,000 nuclear weapons still exist and are owned by just nine countries. The Arms Control Association (ACA) estimates a higher inventory of 15,500, 90 percent of which belong to Russia and the United States. Almost 2000 of these warheads are on high alert and are ready to launch within minutes, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute found.

More general military spending also continues to dwarf resources provided to development activities including education.

In 2014, global military spending was approximately 1.8 trillion dollars while 26 billion dollars was provided to achieve education for all by the end of 2015.

Zayas highlighted the need to redirect resources used for war to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and address other pressing socioeconomic and environmental challenges.

Chowdhury also told participants that a resolution on peace cannot and should not be adopted by vote.

“Peace is the ultimate goal of the UN,” he said.

The Declaration was approved with 131 vote for, 34 against, and with 19 abstentions, reflecting a lack of consensus on the subject.

Though he expressed fear that progress towards gender equality may be rolled back due to a reversal in trends, Chowdhury said the struggle will continue until the human right to peace is recognized and implemented.

CSW is the largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights, bringing together civil society, academia, and governments. This year’s theme is women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work.

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Travel Restrictions Cast Shadow on UN Women’s Meeting: Rights Groupshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/travel-restrictions-cast-shadow-on-un-womens-meeting-rights-groups/#comments Thu, 16 Mar 2017 04:27:56 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149442 A view of the General Assembly Hall during the opening meeting of the sixty-first session of the Commission on Stats of Women (CSW). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

A view of the General Assembly Hall during the opening meeting of the sixty-first session of the Commission on Stats of Women (CSW). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 2017 (IPS)

Increasing travel restrictions have prevented delegates from attending this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), according to several women’s rights groups.

The travel constraints go beyond U.S. President Donald Trump’s embattled travel ban on refugees and Muslim-majority countries, which was again blocked by a Federal Judge on Wednesday.

Although the Executive Order has not been re-enacted, women’s rights groups perceive that organising internationally is becoming more difficult. They report that some potential delegates were surprised that they were unable to obtain U.S. visas for the UN meeting; others were worried about increasingly strict treatment at U.S. airports; while others were prevented from travelling by their home countries.

The annual Commission on the Status of Women is usually one of the most vibrant and diverse meetings at UN headquarters in New York with hundreds of government ministers and thousands of delegates attending from around the world.

Sanam Amin from the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD) told IPS that two members of the group’s delegation from from Bangladesh and Nepal, countries that “are not listed in the first or second version of (Trump’s travel) ban,” were unable to obtain visas.

“Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials,” said Amin.

Amin also said that she had “been in contact with UN Women in Bangladesh, in Bangkok (ESCAP) and in New York over the visa refusal issue,” for weeks before the meeting, trying to find a solution.

“Those who were refused were expected by us to speak or participate in our side events and meetings with partner organisations and official delegations.” The APWLD, is an NGO which has accreditation with the UN Economic and Social Chamber.

Others unable to attend the event include a youth activist from El Salvador who on Wednesday participated in a side-event she had been meant to speak at, via video. Meanwhile women’s rights activists Mozn Hassan and Azza Soliman from Egypt were unable to attend because the Egyptian government has prevented them from leaving the country

"Multiple civil society organisations representatives from other countries are facing refusals and this is new to us, as we have never faced visa refusals after presenting UN credentials," -- Sanam Amin.

Representatives from civil society having difficulties obtaining visas to travel to attend UN meetings in the United States pre-dates the current Trump-Republican Administration. The U.S. Department of State advised IPS that it could not comment on individual visa cases. However while there are many potential reasons why visas may be refused, several groups perceive travel becoming more difficult in 2017.

“It’s incredibly ominous to have women’s rights activists feel like the revised executive order and overall hate rhetoric from the Trump administration makes them feel unsafe coming to this CSW and that is what we have heard,” Jessica Stern, Executive Director of OutRight Action International told IPS.

“We’ve heard women’s rights activists say that they worried about how they would be treated at U.S. borders and airports. We heard LGBTI activists who were coming to this meeting also worry about their own safety.”

Both Stern and Amin expressed concern about the implications and meanings of the travel ban, even though the courts have continued to keep it on hold, because even the revised ban, specifically restricts travel for nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

“The ban text even cites violence against women – in section one – in the six countries as reason to ‘not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred’,” said Amin.

“In fact, it (would restrict) civil society from those very countries from participating in events such as CSW. Instead, their governments are emboldened to take more regressive positions on women’s human rights, and the U.S., with its Global Gag Rule among other anti-women policies, is taking its place side-by-side with the very countries it has targeted with the ban,” she said.

Stern added that the theme of this year’s CSW – the economic empowerment of women – should not be a politicised issue.

“(It) should be a non-partisan issue that every government in the world can get behind because every government has a vested interest in the eradication of poverty and national economic development and we know that women are the majority of the world’s poor and so if you empower women economically than you empower families communities and nations,” said Stern.

She emphasised the importance of the meeting as a global forum for people who are actively working for gender justice around the world to speak with governments.

At the CSW “thousands of activists for women’s rights and gender justice (speak) with every government of the world to say what struggles they have from their own governments and the kind of accountability that they expect from the international system,” says Stern.

The rights organisations sponsoring the No Borders on Gender Justice campaign include: MADRE, Just Associates (JASS), Center for Women’s Global Leadership, AWID, Urgent Action Fund, Women in Migration Network and OutRight Action International.

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UN FARMS to Create One Million Days of Work for Mideast Migrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-farms-to-create-one-million-days-of-work-for-mideast-migrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-farms-to-create-one-million-days-of-work-for-mideast-migrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/03/un-farms-to-create-one-million-days-of-work-for-mideast-migrants/#comments Wed, 15 Mar 2017 17:18:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149437 Fedah sayah Irshaid (42 years old) tends to some of her grape vines with the help of her husband and daughter. Fedah is a recipient of a Revolving loan for her plant nursery and rabbit raising business. She received the loan from the Al Khaldiyah Cooperative for Military Retired. Copyright: ©IFAD/Ivor Prickett/Panos

Fedah sayah Irshaid (42 years old) tends to some of her grape vines with the help of her husband and daughter. Fedah is a recipient of a Revolving loan for her plant nursery and rabbit raising business. She received the loan from the Al Khaldiyah Cooperative for Military Retired. Copyright: ©IFAD/Ivor Prickett/Panos

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Mar 15 2017 (IPS)

The problem is rather complex and often not recognised: in one of the major regions of both origin and destination for migrants and refugees — the Near East and North of Africa, 10 per cent of rural communities is made up of forcibly displaced persons, while more than 25 per cent of the young rural people plan to emigrate.

This has a strong rural dimension, with large numbers of displaced people originating in rural areas, and now living in rural host communities within or outside their home countries.

In recent years, forced displacement has become a global problem of unprecedented scale, driven by conflict, violence, persecution and human rights violations.

While the total number of displaced people reached an all-time high of more 65 million people, global attention has focused on the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region, where continued conflict and violence most acutely affect Iraq, Syria, Yemen and neighbouring countries.

The total impacted population in the region is estimated at around 22 million people, a fact that generates additional pressure on both the host areas and the sending areas.

The UN, through its Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), designed an innovative response to the on-going crisis: FARMS (Facility for Refugees, Migrants, Forced Displacement and Rural Stability), which was announced at the UN World Summit on Migration held in September last year at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

Internally Displaced, Migrants, Refugees

IPS asked Khalida Bouzar, Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division, who is in charge of FARMS at IFAD, if the Facility is meant for displaced rural persons within each country or if it also includes migrants and forcibly displaced persons fleeing conflicts and/or natural and man-made disasters?

Bouzar explains that in terms of displaced people, FARMS will cover both international refugees (people displaced across borders) and internally displaced people (forced to flee from their homes due to conflict or other extraneous factors but remaining within their country), she adds.

Khalida Bouzar greeting Sudan's Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Badr Al Din Mahmoud Abbas.  Credit: IFAD

Khalida Bouzar greeting Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Badr Al Din Mahmoud Abbas. Credit: IFAD

FARMS will also address the needs of host communities (the local population) to reduce the stress on natural resources and economic opportunities. In origin communities, it will create opportunities for the entire community.

Specifically, Bouzar said that in host areas, the local communities will be supported in coping with the influx of displaced people by making their agriculture more productive and sustainable. The displaced, in turn, will be better able to contribute to their host communities, and better prepared to return home when the situation improves.

Regarding the “sending areas”, economic opportunities will be created so that people who have left have something to return to, and those who remain have a chance to build their livelihoods. “With FARMS, we seek to deliver long-term peace and development dividends. It is paramount to create a healthy climate for economic opportunities, and enable displaced people to return to their communities,” says Bouzar.

So far, about USD 20 million has been identified for the facility, with the goal of reaching USD 100 million.

FARMS resources will be provided in the form of co-financing support for the on-going IFAD portfolio of about USD 1.2 billion in the NENA region as well as stand-alone grants or activities and communication products to raise global awareness of the issues.

According to Bouzar, FARMS will strengthen the resilience of rural host areas to the impacts of large inflows of refugees, and will also create resilient livelihoods in the origin areas to break the cycle of migration and incentivise the eventual return of migrants.

One Million Days of Work

FARMS will create one million days of work, including at least 20,000 opportunities for youth. “This will be achieved over the life of the projects, and therefore over the next 5 to 6 years,” says Bouzar.

Other objectives are to implement at least 500 community infrastructure projects, and to increase social resilience by strengthening community and local government capacity to manage their development, resolve conflicts, and address the needs of refugees.

FARMS also aims at improving governance and management of natural resources, particularly land and water, as well as to improve the policy and regulatory frameworks to address the needs of rural host and sending communities.

Regarding the main causes of displacement, the IFAD’s Director, Near East, North Africa and Europe Division explains that these could be conflict, natural disasters, or climate-change related vulnerabilities and pressures. Often the cause is a combination of different factors.

Ten Priority Countries

Bouzar informs that the initial priority countries include: Djibouti, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, Turkey and Yemen.

In the first phase, the facility will focus on the NENA region where the current crisis is most acute, with the possibility of scaling up globally in the future. In fact, says Bouzar, after the initial pilot of projects in the NENA region, FARMS could be scaled up to potentially include displacement in other regions.

Asked about the countries, which have been supportive of FARMS and about the amount of financial resources allocated to this project, Bouzar says the IFAD has received support from a wide range of IFAD members.

“Countries in the region have stepped up as crucial early partners, too. The Government of Jordan is collaborating with IFAD, and more partnerships are being designed with Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan.”

Why IFAD? According to Bouzar, the Fund is well positioned to be a key partner in bridging the gap between humanitarian and sustainable development responses in rural areas, and is already actively engaged in many of the most affected regions.

In fact, the 2015 Addis Ababa Action Agenda recognised IFAD’s comparative advantage as a major investor in poor rural people and affirmed that rural development could achieve “rich payoffs across the SDGs,” she adds.

IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since its creation in 1978, it has provided 18.5 billion dollars in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached about 464 million people.

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