Inter Press ServiceInequity – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 25 May 2018 13:52:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/agricultural-trade-liberalization-undermined-food-security/#respond Mon, 21 May 2018 10:17:58 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155846 Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’ For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate […]

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Agricultural Trade Liberalization Undermined Food Security - Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury
KUALA LUMPUR AND SYDNEY, May 21 2018 (IPS)

Agriculture is critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes, ‘From ending poverty and hunger to responding to climate change and sustaining our natural resources, food and agriculture lies at the heart of the 2030 Agenda.’

For many, the answer to poverty and hunger is to accelerate economic growth, presuming that a rising tide will lift all boats, no matter how fragile or leaky. Most believe that market liberalization, property rights, and perhaps some minimal government infrastructure provision is all that is needed.

Tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food. As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security

The government’s role should be restricted to strengthening the rule of law and ensuring open trade and investment policies. In such a business-friendly environment, the private sector will thrive. Accordingly, pro-active government interventions or agricultural development policy would be a mistake, preventing markets from functioning properly, it is claimed.

The possibility of market failure is denied by this view. Social disruption, due to the dispossession of smallholders, or livelihoods being undermined in other ways, simply cannot happen.

 

Flawed recipes

This approach was imposed on Africa and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s through structural adjustment programmes of the Bretton Woods institutions (BWIs), contributing to their ‘lost decades’. In Africa, the World Bank’s influential Berg Report claimed that Africa’s supposed comparative advantage lay in agriculture, and its potential would be best realized by leaving things to the market.

If only the state would stop ‘squeezing’ agriculture through marketing boards and other price distortions, agricultural producers would achieve export-led growth spontaneously. Almost four decades later, Africa has been transformed from a net food exporter into a net food importer, while realizing only a small fraction of its vast agricultural potential.

Examining the causes of this dismal outcome, a FAO report concluded that “arguments in support of further liberalization have tended to be based on analytical studies which either fail to recognize, or are unable to incorporate insights from the agricultural development literature”.

In fact, agricultural producers in many developing countries face widespread market failures, reducing their surpluses needed to invest in higher value activities. The FAO report also noted that “diversification into higher value added activities in cases of successful agriculture-led growth…require significant government intervention at early stages of development to alleviate the pervasive nature of market failures”.

 

Avoidable Haitian tragedy

In the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010, former US President Bill Clinton apologized for destroying its rice production by forcing the island republic to import subsidized American rice, exacerbating greater poverty and food insecurity in Haiti.

For nearly two centuries after independence in 1804, Haiti was self-sufficient in rice until the early 1980s. When President Jean-Claude Duvalier turned to the BWIs in the 1970s, US companies quickly pushed for agricultural trade liberalization, upending earlier food security concerns.

US companies’ influence increased after the 1986 coup d’état brought General Henri Namphy to power. When the elected ‘populist’ Aristide Government met with farmers’ associations and unions to find ways to save Haitian rice production, the International Monetary Fund opposed such policy interventions.

Thus, by the 1990s, the tariff on imported rice was cut by half. Food aid from the late 1980s to the early 1990s further drove food prices down, wreaking havoc on Haitian rice production, as more costly, unsubsidized domestic rice could not compete against cheaper US rice imports.

From being self-sufficient in rice, sugar, poultry and pork, impoverished Haiti became the world’s fourth-largest importer of US rice and the largest Caribbean importer of US produced food. Thus, by 2010, it was importing 80% of rice consumed in Haiti, and 51% of its total food needs, compared to 19% in the 1970s.

 

Agricultural subsidies

While developing countries have been urged to dismantle food security and agricultural support policies, the developed world increased subsidies for its own agriculture, including food production. For example, the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) supported its own farmers and food production for over half a century.

This has been crucial for ensuring food security and safety in Europe after the Second World War. For Phil Hogan, the EU’s Agriculture & Rural Development Commissioner, “The CAP is at the root of a vibrant agri-food sector, which provides for 44 million jobs in the EU. We should use this potential more”.

Despite less support in some OECD countries, farmers still receive prices about 10% above international market levels on average. An OECD policy brief observed, “the benefits from agriculture for developing countries could be increased substantially if many OECD member countries reformed their agricultural policies. Currently, agriculture is the area on which OECD countries are creating most trade distortions, by subsidising production and exports and by imposing tariffs and nontariff barriers on trade”.

 

Double standards

If rich countries can have agricultural policies, developing countries should also be allowed to adopt appropriate policies to support agriculture, to address not only hunger and malnutrition, but also other challenges including poverty, water and energy use, climate change, as well as unsustainable production and consumption.

After all, tackling hunger is not only about boosting food production, but also about enhancing capabilities (including real incomes) so that people can always access sufficient food.

As most developing countries have modest budgetary resources, they usually cannot afford the massive agricultural subsidies common to OECD economies. Not surprisingly then, many developing countries ‘protect’ their own agricultural development and food security.

Hence, a ‘one size fits all’ approach to agricultural development, requiring the same rules to apply to all, with no regard for different circumstances, would be grossly unfair. Worse, it would also worsen the food insecurity, poverty and underdevelopment experienced by most African and other developing countries.


Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was Assistant Director-General for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organization, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.
Anis Chowdhury, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.

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Fighting Inequality in Asia and the Pacifichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fighting-inequality-asia-pacific http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fighting-inequality-asia-pacific/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 13:46:12 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155771 Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand, May 15 2018 (IPS)

Inequality is increasing in Asia and the Pacific. Our region’s remarkable economic success story belies a widening gap between rich and poor. A gap that’s trapping people in poverty and, if not tackled urgently, could thwart our ambition to achieve sustainable development. This is the central challenge heads of state and government will be considering this week at the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). A strengthened regional approach to more sustainable, inclusive growth must be this Commission’s outcome.

Shamshad Akhtar

It’s imperative, because ESCAP’s Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report shows that at the current rate of progress, Asia and the Pacific will fall short of achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda. There has been some welcome progress, including in some of the least developed countries of our region. Healthier lives are being led and wellbeing has increased. Poverty levels are declining, albeit too slowly. But only one SDG, focused on achieving quality education and lifelong learning, is on track to be met.

In several critical areas, the region’s heading in the wrong direction. Environmental stewardship has fallen seriously short. The health of our oceans has deteriorated since 2015. On land, our ecosystems’ biodiversity is threatened. Forest conservation and the protection of natural habitats has weakened. Greenhouse gas emissions are still too high. But it’s the widening inequalities during a period of robust growth that are particularly striking.

Wealth has become increasingly concentrated. Inequalities have increased both within and between countries. Over thirty years, the Gini coefficient increased in four of our most populous countries, home to over 70 per cent of the region’s population. Human, societal and economic costs are real. Had income inequality not increased over the past decade, close to 140 million more people could have been lifted out of poverty. More women would have had the opportunity to attend school and complete their secondary education. Access to healthcare, to basic sanitation or even bank accounts would have been denied to fewer citizens. Fewer people would have died from diseases caused by the fuels they cook with. Natural disasters would have wrought less havoc on the most vulnerable.

The uncomfortable truth is that inequality runs deep in many parts of Asia and the Pacific. There’s no silver bullet, no handy lever we can reach for to reduce it overnight. But an integrated, coordinated approach can over time return our economies and our societies to a sustainable footing. Recent ESCAP analysis provides recommendations on how to do just that.

At their heart is a call to in invest in our people: to improve access to healthcare and education.

Only a healthy population can study, work and become more prosperous. The universal basic healthcare schemes established by Bhutan and Thailand are success stories to build on. Expanding social protection to low income families through cash transfers can also help underpin a healthy society.

Increasing investment in education is fundamental to both development and equality. Here the key to success is making secondary education genuinely accessible and affordable, including for those living in rural areas. Where universal access has been achieved, the focus must be on improving quality. This means upskilling teachers and improving curricula, and tailoring education to future labour markets and new technologies.

Equipping people to exploit frontier technologies is becoming more important by the minute. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a rapidly expanding sector. It can quicken the pace of development. But it is also creating a digital divide which must be bridged. So investment in ICT infrastructure is key, to support innovative technologies and ensure no one is left behind. Put simply, we need better broadband access across our region. Geography can’t determine opportunity.

This is also true when it comes to tackling climate change, disasters and environmental degradation. We know these hazards are pushing people back into poverty and can entrench inequality. In response, we need investment to help people to adapt in the region’s disaster hotspots: targeted policies to mitigate the impacts of environmental degradation on those most vulnerable, particularly air pollution. Better urban planning, regular school health check-ups in poorer neighborhoods, and legislation guaranteeing the right to a clean, safe and healthy environment into constitutions should be part of our response.

The robust growth Asia and the Pacific continues to enjoy, gives us an opportunity to take decisive action across all these areas. But for this to happen, fiscal policy needs to be adjusted. More effective taxations systems would increase the tax take, and better governance would increase people’s willingness to contribute. Public expenditure could then be made more efficient and progressive, the proceeds of growth shared more widely, and inequalities reduced.

My hope is that leaders will seize the moment, strengthen our commitment to fighting inequality on all fronts and put us back on track to sustainable development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Excerpt:

Shamshad Akhtar is the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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A Free Press Is Indispensable for Good Governance and Transparent Societies Chair of the Geneva Centre for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 07:40:02 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155573 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, May 3 2018 (IPS)

On the occasion of the 2018 World Press Freedom Day commemorated on 3 May 2018, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, highlighted the importance of promoting freedom of the press to facilitate “good governance and transparent societies.”

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Dr. Al Qassim noted that media, often referred to as the fourth estate, plays a central role in promoting the plurality of opinions and ideas in open and tolerant societies. “A free press acts as a voice for the public and as a watchdog. It provides checks and balances and holds leaders accountable to the public. A free press is indispensable for facilitating good governance and transparent societies,” Dr. Al Qassim said.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman likewise cautioned against the rise of hate speech and online bigotry targeting religious communities. The “misconceived conflation between terrorism and Islam” – he noted – “has given rise to marginalization, bigotry and discrimination threatening the social harmony of multicultural societies worldwide. It has contributed to exacerbating animosities and artificial divisions between people.

“Media must play a more influential role in addressing prevailing misconceptions and misunderstandings that exist between people. Press freedom should not be used as a vector and catalyst for hate speech, bigotry and fear of the Other. The rise of hate speech and online bigotry – encompassing inflammatory and discriminatory smear campaigns singling out religious and ethnic groups – is a threat to press freedom and tests the boundaries of free speech.

“In the context where social media contributes to the dissemination of fake news without accountability, traditional media have an important role to play to promote awareness of false and inaccurate information. They may enlighten world public opinion by offering alternative narratives on contentious issues contributing to plurality of views and offering a voice to the voiceless,” Dr. Al Qassim asserted.

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre also noted that the lack of protective mechanisms for whistle-blowers challenges the concept of a free and open press. “The practice of silencing whistle-blowers constitutes a threat to press freedom and justice,” Dr. Al Qassim said.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman added that the return to the founding principles of press freedom – encompassing inter alia accountability, liability and transparency – is key to addressing the challenges to press freedom. Dr. Al Qassim said respect for press freedom and the safety of journalists are key pre-requisites to promote peace, justice and strong institutions as stipulated in SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Geneva Centre’s Chairman said:

“This year’s annual theme ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’ illustrates the importance of the interplay between access to information, freedom of expression and access to justice. Journalists have the right to work free from the threat of violence so they can carry out their important duties on behalf of the public. They must not be subjected to censorship, restrictive legislation, intimidation and violence.

“Societies that demonstrate respect for press freedom and the safety and freedom of journalists will make a valuable contribution to the fulfilment of the provisions set forth in SDG 16.”

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Excerpt:

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

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Wider Views for More Equal Societieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wider-views-equal-societies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wider-views-equal-societies http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/wider-views-equal-societies/#comments Wed, 02 May 2018 01:08:45 +0000 Oscar A. Garcia http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155570 Inequalities are on the rise. Since 1980, 1% of the richest people have received double income than the 50% of the poorest. After several years of decline, hunger is also on the rise. The report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World estimates that the number of chronically undernourished people in […]

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By Oscar A. Garcia*
ROME, May 2 2018 (IPS)

Inequalities are on the rise. Since 1980, 1% of the richest people have received double income than the 50% of the poorest. After several years of decline, hunger is also on the rise. The report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World estimates that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world increased from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016. If we go deeper into the analysis we observe that three-quarters of the world’s extremely poor and food-insecure people live in rural areas.

Oscar A. Garcia

Poorest and excluded

Along the path to economic growth, millions of people are excluded. They are individuals who belong to groups that are discriminated against and excluded within their own societies. This discrimination may be on grounds of religion, ethnicity, gender and/or disability. Inequalities are multi-dimensional, multi-layered and cumulative; untangling such complexities is a challenge we must act on. Without understanding the root causes of inequalities, we cannot remove the inequalities themselves, along with the immense barriers they create and which prevent the world’s poorest – those at the “bottom of the pyramid” – from thriving. Without transforming the restrictions that reinforce the deep-seated causes of chronic poverty, substantial progress is unlikely.

Comprehensive analysis to enlighten the path

The discourse needs to shift its focus to the structural issues of inequality, whether economic, political or social. Why is it that tens of millions of people are without clean water? Why is it that poor women do not have access to land? Why is that millions are without food and adequate living conditions? The answers and the realities go far deeper than the issue of poverty alone, and we must arrive at the last corner of those realities and the spaces where people are discriminated against.

Countering inequalities requires robust evidence and more disaggregated data. It also requires going beyond traditional approaches. We need to improve our analytical frameworks, ask the right evaluation questions, talk to poor people and understand their needs, based on which a revitalized development agenda on inequality will emerge. High levels of inequalities can be brought down if we are able to create redistributive policies geared toward shared prosperity, social justice, and democracy for all people.

These and other issues will be discussed at the International Conference “Rural Inequalities: Evaluating approaches to overcome disparities“, organized by the Independent Office of Evaluation of IFAD, and held on 2-3 May in Rome.

*Oscar A. Garcia, is Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, a specialized agency of the United Nations.

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From Declaration to Action: Improving Immunization in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/declaration-action-improving-immunization-africa/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:04:40 +0000 Joyce Nganga http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155459 Joyce Nganga is policy advisor with WACI Health, an African regional health advocacy NGO headquartered in Kenya.

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Inviolate Akinyi, a 46-year-old grandmother, got her granddaughter immunized using a mix of private and public clinics. Credit: Veronique Magnin – Habari Kibra Volunteer

By Joyce Nganga
NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

Inviolate Akinyi, a 46-year-old grandmother, is certain that her grand-daughter needs to get all her vaccines for her to grow up healthy and strong. She uses a mix of private and public clinics in Kibera, one of the largest informal settlement in Nairobi, to get the 15-month-old the shots she needs.

Mary Awour, mother to two-year-old Vilance Amondi, also believes immunization is important to protect her child against infectious diseases. She got all the required vaccines for him at the public Kibera South Hospital.

But many children in Africa are not as fortunate as these two children. Instead, they are faced with health threats like diphtheria, measles, mumps, whooping cough, rubella, tetanus, diarrhea, pneumonia and other childhood disease.

While immunization is a critical intervention for preventing these diseases, millions of children do not have access to them because of state fragility or conflict, lack of parental education, religious practices–and too often—inability to access the vaccines because of cost or geographic location. Children in remote rural or mountainous areas face greater barriers to vaccine access.

As recently as 2000, slightly under 10 million children died globally from vaccine preventable deaths before their fifth birthday. The numbers declined to 6.3 million by 2013 but sub -Saharan Africa accounted for 50 percent of the under-five deaths worldwide.

Mary Awour mother to two-year-old Vilance Amondi said she got all the required vaccines for him at the Kibera South Hospital which is government facility. Credit: Veronique Magnin – Habari Kibra Volunteer

While Africa has made significant gains in immunization in the last 15 years, one in five children still do not have access to life-saving vaccines. Of the more than 19 million children worldwide who did not get the three doses of Diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus (DPT) in 2013, 40 percent or 7.6 million were from sub-Saharan Africa.

According to a UNICEF report, in 2016, more than half of all children unvaccinated for DTP3 lived in just six countries, three of them in Africa: Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

That same year, African leaders signed the Addis Declaration of Immunization (ADI), pledging to ensure that everyone receives the full benefits of available vaccines to inoculate them against infectious diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, polio, tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis.

The Declaration, which was ratified in January 2017, contains ten commitments including: increasing vaccine-related funding, strengthening supply chains and delivery systems, attaining and maintaining high quality surveillance for targeted vaccine preventable diseases, developing an African research sector to enhance immunization implementation, and making universal access to vaccines a cornerstone of health and development effort in Africa.

These steps to scale up immunization rates on the content in line with the rest of the world and achieving the targeted Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) rate of 90 percent national coverage, and 80 percent coverage in every district or administrative by 2020. To date, representatives from 50 African countries have signed, and three statements of support were signed by civil society organizations, religious leaders and parliamentarians to support implementation of the ADI.

At only 80 percent coverage in Africa, routine immunization is the lowest of any region in the world. This is unsatisfactory since immunizations have long been proven as a cost-effective way to improve global health—and in the current age, a critical pathway to attaining the sustainable development goals.

Worldwide, more than three million deaths are prevented annually as a result of vaccinations. In the case of debilitating diseases like polio and meningitis, vaccines prevent permanent disabilities as well. Effective immunization programs are being heralded now for the impending eradication of the polio virus. One of the most lethal childhood infections, only eight cases were recorded in the world last year—in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, universal access to immunization is central to enabling individuals lead productive lives and for the continent to reach its full potential. Increasingly, we recognize that good health is a major driver of economic growth and must be at the center of all development plans. The cornerstone of this is strong immunization programs and sustainable systems.

As the world and Africa commemorates this year’s immunization week, in the full glare of GAVI transition, a challenge to universal access to immunization for poor and middle-income countries, our call to government is to re-examine their commitments and contributions towards domestic resources to ensure all children access immunization and that the gains made, will be sustained and even surpassed.

Women like Inviolate and Mary demonstrate the commitment of mothers to protect their children. It is up to government to remove the barriers, create the policy environment and make the resources available to fund routine immunization for every child.

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Excerpt:

Joyce Nganga is policy advisor with WACI Health, an African regional health advocacy NGO headquartered in Kenya.

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Ten reflections on today’s crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/ten-reflections-todays-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ten-reflections-todays-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/ten-reflections-todays-crisis/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 18:51:49 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155221 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

It is now clearly evident that w e are in a period of transition, even though we remain uncertain as to its outcome.

The political, economic and social system that has accompanied us since the end of the Second World War is no longer sustainable.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The exponentially growing inequalities have, according to Amnesty International, taken us back almost to levels seen in Victorian times – albeit now at a global level. Ten years ago, 652 people had the same wealth as 2.3 billion people. Now there are eight.

Today’s eighteen-year-olds, according to projections of the International Labour Organization, will retire with an average pension of 632 Euros a month.

Despite official warnings, we are, with great indifference, breaching the 2 degrees centigrade temperature limit beyond which our planet will undergo irreversible changes.

Our financial system today operates largely disentangled from the economy in a parallel world privy of international controls, and where financial transactions on any given day are forty times higher than the production of goods and services around the planet.

The main banks have paid, since 2009, over $800 billion in fines for illegal operations. We must also note that political participation (voting in elect ions) has declined, from an average of 86% in 1960, to 63.7% today.

A profound analysis is very complex and involves all aspects of our life. But it is possible to identify important points for reflection and debate and on which we can jointly explore.

Hopefully they will also lead us to reflect on other points, since the theme of the crisis is in fact holistic and touches on all aspects of our lives. Reflect ions such as these are always subjective. What follows are facts that this writer experienced personally.

REFLECTION NO. 1: The crisis has distant roots.

It was in 1973 that the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted a global governance plan, which aimed at reducing inequalities among its members: it was called the New International Economic Order. This plan was born with the support of the United States (even though originally launched by Mexico and Algeria).

The post-war international system, including the United Nations, was put together on the initiative of the United States, by the principal victors of the Second World War.

They were keen on preserving peace and pursuing development, after a war in which they lost about half a million soldiers out of a total population of 140 million people (in comparison, Germany lost more than 15 million out of 78 million inhabitants, and more than two million civilians, against none in t he United States and twenty million in the Soviet Union).

The United Nations was therefore born with Washington’s commitment to contribute 25% of its budget (contrast this with the present day when the T rump administration threatens US withdrawal).

But until the Cancun Summit in 1981, which brought together the twenty-two most important heads of state in the world (communist countries excluded), we lived with the illusion of the end of inequality, based on a world democracy, where the majority of countries decide the course to follow for the common good.

At Cancun, the newly elected US President Ronald Reagan announced that the United States no longer accepted to be subject to the rules of an abstract world democracy.

The United States was an exceptional country, and on this basis would decide her foreign and economic policy.

Attending the same meeting was the UK Premier, Margaret Thatcher, who would become Reagan’s most important European ally.

In Cancun, a different vision of the world was born: society does not exist – only individuals (Thatcher). It is not the factories polluting, but the trees (Reagan). Poverty produces poverty: wealth produces wealth. As such, the rich should be taxed as little as possible because they distribute wealth.

REFLECTION NO. 2: Shortly after Cancun, in 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and with it, the end of ideologies, the straitjackets that gave us both Nazism and Communism.

The driving idea that followed was that we must be pragmatic. Politics must solve concrete problems, not pursue utopias. But the solution of a given problem without consideration for the final vision of the society (right or left, does not matter) is actually called utilitarianism; and politics aimed at administration and not at ideas reduces political participation and increases corruption.

Without programs driven by ideals, the politician’s personality (possibly telegenic), measured on TV and not in the streets, became the main tool for electoral campaigns supported by marketing campaigns, not ideas or programs.

REFLECTION NO. 3: At the same time, neoliberal globalization became the single most powerful guiding thought – think of Thatcher’s TINA “There is n o alternative”.

It was based on the socioeconomic and political model of the so-called Washington Consensus, the development paradigm imposed by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the US Treasury. It envisaged the adoption of the following reforms: macroeconomic stabilization, liberalization (of trade, investment and finance), privatization and deregulation.

It eliminated the barriers of national protection everywhere, reduced non-productive expenditure (education, health, social assistance), and promoted free competition among states.

Known as Kissinger’s dictum: “the new paradigm of American supremacy”, developing countries were forced to submit to the economic rules imposed by the North.

Kissinger did not see that once free trade was imposed, China and other countries would emerge as winners.

It is interesting to note that before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the term globalization does not appear in the media.

REFLECTION NO. 4: The reaction of the left to this “pensee unique” was the “Third Way” which was successfully proposed and promoted by Tony Blair.

In substance, it argued that it was time to abandon the old ideas of the le ft and ride the wave of globalization, accepting the lack of alternatives.

Social democracy, from Blair (in UK) to Renzi (in Italy), sought to transform itself into a transversal party, one that embraced the center, with an active policy on concrete facts stripped of outdated ideological cages.

The result? The parties of the left were abandoned in droves by their voter s, and the 2008 crisis, largely due to the absence of controls on American banks and subsequently those in Europe (and with left-leaning governments in power in most Western countries), eliminated its ability to redistribute surpluses.

Blue-collar workers and middle classes in crisis, all victims of globalization, sought new defenders who promptly appeared in the form of Le Pen, Farage, Wilders and so on, and today will still vote for Salvini and the 5 Star Movement (in Italy).

REFLECTION NO. 5: Numerous historians believe that greed and fear were amongst the main engines of change in history.

Riccardo Petrella, in his latest book “In the Name of Humanity”, believes t hat these engines were made using three traps: In the name of God, in the name of the nation and in the name of profit.

There is no doubt that since the fall of the Wall, the values of globalization (competition, profit, individualism, exaltation of wealth), together with t he disappearance of social justice, solidarity, transparency, equity, etc. from political debate have created an ethics based on greed.

And twenty years later, in 2009, the economic and financial crisis, first in the United States with the sub-prime collapse, and then in Europe with sovereign bonds, gave way to a second cycle – that of fear.

REFLECTION NO. 6: The cycle of fear, in whose grip we are fully now (without having abandoned that of greed, and the traps of God, the Nation and Profit are once again being put to good use) has led to the emergence of a new right – which is not based on ideas, but emotions.

Brexit and Trump are easy-to-see phenomena. But the phenomenon is much deeper. We are in a liquid society, not structured around ideologies or class. And in such societies, it is easy for leaders, riding the waves of fear and greed, to easily rise to the forefront.

The 2009 crisis kicked off the massive immigration from countries invaded b y the West, to depose dictators and automatically introduce democracy (but the disintegration of Yugoslavia, a modern and European country, after Tito’s death, should have warned us).

Democracy did not immediately take over – rather we have seen chaos, civil war, bloodshed and destruction. In 2003, George W Bush began the invasion of Iraq.

In 2011, civil war broke out in Syria and rapidly became a confrontation between Arab, European, American and Russian forces (leading to over six million displaced persons and over half a million dead).

In 2013, Sarkozy pushed for an invasion of Libya ostensibly to depose Gaddafi.

From the ruins of Iraq we have seen the emergence of ISIS, terrorism in the name of God, for a return to original Islam (Wahhabism, financed by Saudi Arabia in excess of 80 billion dollars in the last twenty years).

All of this took place fifteen years after the veterans of the US-funded war against the Russian occupation in Afghanistan gathered together as Al-Qaeda under B in Laden to launch the first attack in history on American soil.

As the famous cartoonist El Roto in El Pais remarked, “we send bombs and they send us refugees”. The resultant refugees are caught in the jaws of two traps: in the name of God and of the country.

Today in Europe, the identity and sovereignty parties are the second largest political force, outnumbering the socialists. If European elections were held today, the radical right would have forty million votes.

It is in government in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria, but it also plays a key role in the governments of the Netherlands and now, Germany, since the AFD won 92 seats in the last elections.

Viktor Orban of Hungary has launched the so-called “illiberal democracy”, Poland denounces the secularism of the European Union and has called for a great m arch with the populists and sovereigns of all Europe, to the cry of “In the name of God”.

The Visegrad Group (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and now Austria) denounces the capitulation of Europe to Islam and is creating an East-West fracture of a Europe, which joins the North-South fracture on the vision of economy: austerity or solidarity.

But there is something new. The United States is intervening in Europe, openly supporting nationalist and xenophobic right-wing parties, which at the same time look not only to Trump but also to Putin (who is also intervening in Europe an elections), as a point of reference.

As Italy’s Salvini shouted at an electoral campaign rally at Piazza del Popolo in Rome “good work Putin and Trump”.

As a result, in a rapidly aging Europe (for example, in Italy young people between 18 and 25 years are only 3% of those entitled to vote), immigration has become a great flag of the populist and xenophobic right wing.

Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund has launched a warning: Europe needs to rapidly absorb 20.5 million immigrants, to support its pension system and productivity.

Statistics show that immigrants contribute to the system more than they cost; they constitute the great majority of the new small businesses; that their dream is to be quickly integrated into the system. But there is no debate on migration, and what kind of immigrants to welcome.

They are now all seen as dangerous invaders, intent on destroying European identity, on crime, and taking work away from European citizens, the latter victims of intense unemployment.

Even Trump, in a country made up of immigrants, has made immigration control one of his battle cries. A tragic phenomenon is that young people, much les s so than pensioners, are no longer politically active.

Since time immemorial, young people burst onto the political scene to change the world they found. Had they voted, Brexit would not have happened.

But the political system, by and for the elderly, ignores them. In Italy, t he Renzi government allocated 30 billion Euros to save four banks. In the same year the total in the budget for Italian youth was a paltry two billion.

From the creation of the United Nations in 1945, we have gone from a global population of 2.5 billion people to 7.5 billion people today.

The growth will stop only in 2050, when we will be 9.5 billion people. In the period to 2050, Africa will double her population. Either we are able to find accords to govern mobility flows according to needs, or we will have to shoot on immigrants, as some already propose.

REFLECTION NO. 7: Intellectuals and political scientists are increasingly surprised by the passivity of citizens who seem completely anaesthetized and no longer react to anything, even if politics goes against their interests. The history of Brexit, for instance, has been the subject of many analyses.

How is it possible that the most depressed areas, which received so much from Europe, voted to leave Europe?

How is it that Poland, the largest recipient of European funds (three times the Marshall plan) votes against Europe?

How is it possible that Trump, who promised to drain the swamp from the special interests in favour of the people ignored by the same special interests and government, now is a firm ally of big capital and the military (not excluding his family interests) and the voters remain faithful?

Today 92% of those who voted for him say they are ready to re-elect him.

There are many possible interpretations to this paradoxical situation. But as Talleyrand said, every people has the government it deserves.

And we should recognize that since the 2009 crisis, the political class has lost the most credit. We should be examining the impact of reality shows like “Big Brother” TV since 1989: the feeling of extraneousness from political power.

Like the shelter of a virtual space, like the Internet, it has contributed to an individualism that is the result of frustration and the lack of debate on ideas.

The macroscopic example of this anesthesia is climate change. Citizens see it every day in their daily lives: impressive photos of disappearing glaciers, snowfall in the Sahara, hurricanes, forest fires, storms …

They also have all the data of the scientific community, which in Paris, obliged the world’s governments to sign an insufficient agreement without controls. But they do not need to study, to know.

They can also see how governments speak, but do not act. They continue to spend to finance the fossil (fuel) industry three times what they invest in the renewable energy industry.

Italy even called a referendum to continue exploiting the oil fields in the South. The Spanish government is fighting its electricity producers, who want to c lose their coal-fired power stations.

In the same Spain, pensioners have organized an impressive march to defend their pensions: but no country has announced a march to raise awareness on the climate peril we face.

On the surprising absence of citizens’ reactions to vital problems, one could write a lot. And this is the basis of the epochal change in which we find ourselves.

REFLECTION NO. 8: The impact of technology: Let us consider the impact of the imminent fourth industrial revolution.

Let us recall: the first was at the beginning of the 1800s, when mechanization replaced the individual work, with mechanical looms taking over. It was easy to recycle the workers, who passed from the frame of the house to that of the factory.

The second was at the end of the 1800s, thanks to the use of machines powered by mechanical energy and the use of new energy sources such as the use of steam which led to the birth of, and development of railway networks, the construction of steam ships and faster means of communication, to important discoveries in the chemical and medical fields, to the assembly line, electricity, telephone, etc.

Even here, thanks to the transfer from the fields to the factories, humans remained vital for production. And the political battles born out of the desire for a fair recognition of work done gave way to what we now consider modern politics.

The Third Revolution began after the end of the Second World War, where technology increasingly changed the way people work, culminating in the internet revolution today.

And we are now on the cusp of the fourth revolution, which is based on Artificial Intelligence and robotics.

Today this accounts for 17% of the production of goods and services but it is estimated that this will be 30% by 2030.

The automation of the transportation sector will lay waste to six million jobs as taxi drivers, truck drivers, drivers of public transport in Europe find their services no longer needed. This automation will totally change the transport system, the automotive industry, insurance companies, etc.

But this time, will the taxi drivers be able to recycle themselves in a society that will privilege technological knowledge over traditional work?

We are rushing headlong towards a structural problem, which politics, with its short-term horizons, seems determined to ignore.

Will this transition risk increasing unemployment, fear, social and political tensions? It is just an example of how large the gap between politics, technology, finance and globalization has become.

REFLECTION NO. 9: The crisis of multilateralism: From the ruins of the Second World War, the conscience was born that only through multilateral cooperation could one seek lasting peace, after the tragedies provoked by nationalism and the idea of domination over others.

International organizations such as the United Nations, with all its agencies and funds, from UNICEF to FAO, from the World Health Organization to the International Atomic Energy Agency, were born; and in Europe the great project of the European Community, together with all the regional projects, from ASEAN to the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of American States, Mercosur, etc.

Today, the whole multilateral system is in crisis. Trump’s trade wars are destroying the multilateral trade system.

From Roosevelt’s world democracy to Reagan’s free trade and competition, we have moved on to American interests only, America first.

Next on the horizon are monetary wars. The idea of competing and not cooperating, greed as a value to replace the value of cooperation, which helps the weak and controls the powerful is ending.

But just as Kissinger did not see that free competition would one day turn against the United States, Trump does not see that opening a politics of confrontation could turn against the United States one day. Russia, China and the United States are returning to the era of gunboat policy, which seemed to have disappeared.

The present and the immediate future seem a dangerous re-enaction of the Thirties, which resulted in the Second World War.

Are those who vote for nationalism aware of this? As Pope Francis says, we are already in a fractional Third World War … we have exceeded the number of refugees at the time. To wars in the name of the homeland in Africa, we are adding those in the name of God, from Rohingya to Burma, to Islamic terrorists … we have spent decades breaking down walls, and we are creating more than before …

The future seems to go against the interests of humanity, which now knows planetary threats that did not exist in the 1930s, from climate to nuclear, in a process of social and economic Darwinism whose outcome we can only imagine.

REFLECTION NO. 10: It is evident that the final reflection is the need to find a governability of globalization and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. It is not true that we lack ideologies.

Neoliberal globalization is an ideology of an unprecedented force, which ha s produced new phenomena, such as global finance, a multinational system stronger than governments, where the example of the use of Facebook to use citizens as merchandise, to influence political and commercial choices, shows us how profound the crisis of democracy is.

We are entering a dystopian world described by the pioneers of science fiction: the world of Orwell and Clark, based on the machines and power of the few.

Only ten years ago, the ascent to total power like Xi in China, Erdogan in Turkey or Putin in Russia was unthinkable. Both Brexit and Trump were unthinkable.

It was unthinkable that tax havens could amass the colossal figure of 80 trillion dollars. It was unthinkable that eight people could have the same wealth as 2.3 billion people. It was unthinkable that Norway would see a winter whose temperatures would be close to those of spring.

Ten years ago, the financial crisis opened a period of deep and dramatic transformations. With this rhythm of the acceleration of history, as Toynbe e called it, where will we be in ten years?

We must immediately find a dialogue between everyone, which can only be based on the rediscovery of common values, on the construction of peace and cooperation, on international law as a basis for relations between states, and rediscover the sense of sharing, peace and social justice as the basis for cohabitation, which brings man back to the center of society – not capital, finance or greed, and which frees us from fear.

Will we be able to find the way to do it?

In these 10 reflections, I have found it useful to consider where we have come from and contemplate as to where we are headed.

We are called upon to reflect keenly as to our fate: ours is a society that is increasingly becoming barbaric, one in which we read and dialogue less.

We spend twice as much on advertising as we do on education; the average voter is today lost and without a compass to guide them.

The reader is not obliged to agree with me. You are welcome to your own views and reflections. After all, what matters is that we reflect!

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Africa Lags Behind in Bridging Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/africa-lags-behind-bridging-inequalities/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 13:09:31 +0000 Richard Munang and Robert Mgendi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155213 Dr. Richard Munang is UN Environment’s Africa regional climate change programme coordinator and Robert Mgendi is UN Environment’s adaptation policy expert.

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Effect of climate change. A dead tree in Namibia’s Namib desert.
Credit: World Bank/Philip Schuler

By Richard Munang and Robert Mgendi
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

“If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today”—so goes an African proverb, crystallising the solutions to the continent’s socio-economic inequalities.

Africa is second only to Latin America in economic inequalities. Dollar millionaires in Africa doubled to 160,000 between 2000 and 2015, while people living on less than $1.25 a day—the poverty threshold—increased from 358 million to 415 million between 1996 and 2011, according to the Brookings Institution, a US-based research group and think tank. Brookings Institution adds that by 2024 the number of African millionaires will rise 45%, to approximately 234,000.

The effects of climate change compound Africa’s worsening inequality, constricting productivity in economic sectors that are critical to inclusive growth. Climate experts therefore posit that a first step in denting inequality is for governments to channel investments into sectors that can create socio-economic opportunities, enhance ecosystems’ resilience and combat climate change by offsetting carbon emissions.

African governments agree with climate experts on the sectors to target for investments. Meeting in Libreville, Gabon, last June, under the auspices of the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), the continent’s environment ministers identified two sectors requiring investments to bridge the inequality gap: energy and agriculture driven by ecosystem-based adaptation (EBA).

An EBA-driven agriculture relies on biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to climate change effects. The ministers said that both sectors can boost agricultural productivity through value addition and curtail postharvest losses, which are currently about $48 billion per annum.

In addition to the huge postharvest losses is the $35 billion African governments spend annually on importing food. Reversing postharvest losses would mean recovering lost food while saving billions that could be invested in other sectors.

Labour productivity on the continent is currently 20 times lower than in developed regions, notes the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Report 2016. An optimised agro-value chain and its ancillary chains of clean energy and logistics could create high-value jobs and increase labour productivity.

Deploying clean energy to power EBA-driven agriculture will achieve the twin goals of combating climate change and creating economic opportunities.

An example of such an integrated approach can be found in Cameroon’s Jakiri municipality, where UN Environment, based on its EBA for Food Security Assembly (EBAFOSA) policy-action framework, is supporting efforts to use an off-grid micro-hydro power to support the processing of EBA-produced cassava and Irish potato into varied product lines. The farmers subsequently use a mobile app to link these products to markets and supply chains.

The off-grid micro-hydro power offsets carbon emissions in energy generation, incentivizes EBA use for climate adaptation and creates income opportunities along the agriculture, clean energy and ICT value chains—all enhancing socio-economic resilience.

Studies show that EBA-driven agriculture increases production by 128%. For instance, in Jakiri, 10 youth groups of 700 each were engaged in ICT, clean energy and marketing since 2016. They created many green jobs for young people, while giving over 5,000 women access to value addition services.

The youth groups reduced postharvest losses and enhanced income stability and food security.

A growing middle class

The 350 million Africans in the middle class could potentially enhance ongoing efforts to achieve a single market. Minimizing postharvest losses in a consolidated agro-market dominated by raw commodity exports could rake in an extra $20 billion annually, according to the World Bank.

Experts project the raw commodity value added, currently $150 billion, to increase to $500 billion by 2030. Such a market could significantly boost agricultural industries. At 12% of its total trade, Africa has the lowest rate of intra-regional trade for any region. (Europe’s rate is 65%, North America’s 45% and Southeast Asia is 25%).

Forty countries have so far adopted an EBAFOSA initiative known as a compliance standard in their energy and agriculture sectors. The initiative guarantees quality control along the value chain, in addition to consolidating the markets of all 40 countries, including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.

The compliance standard builds on the acclaimed International Organization for Standardization standards and other national standards already in use in different countries to ensure that certified products can be exported to other markets. For example, under EBAFOSA’s standard, attiéké, a Côte d’Ivoire staple food made from processed cassava, is to be marketed in Kenya and the rest of East Africa.

Africa’s development experts anticipate the consolidation of a continental food market in the coming years, hoping that Africa’s 54 countries will eventually adopt the compliance standard.
Plans for a consolidated African food market may face headwinds, including restrictive intra-Africa air travel. Although in 2002, 44 countries signed the Yamoussoukro Decision to promote seamless intra-Africa air travel, many countries still restrict their air services markets to protect local airlines, especially state-owned carriers.

Climate change effect

Also, African countries have some of the strictest visa requirements in the world. Only 11 of Africa’s 54 nations offer 100% access to other Africans. This contrasts with the European Union, where member states’ citizens enjoy 100% freedom of movement within the EU countries.

Strict visa requirements constrict deployment of continental labour and complicate efforts to create income opportunities and combat poverty. The poor are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change, as they lack the resources to adapt to, or quickly recover from, climate shocks, reports the World Bank.

The African Union’s plan for a visa-free continent for Africans by 2020, if fully implemented, will foster human capital flow for income generation and, by extension, increased climate resilience.

To address development needs, Africa cannot rely only on traditional public assistance, including the rapidly dwindling official development assistance (ODA), according to the African Development Bank. Currently ODA accounts for only 3% of the continent’s GDP, which accentuates the need for innovative approaches to financing development projects.

In its 2015 African Adaptation Gap report, UN Environment proposed domestic and innovative financing approaches, suggesting among other things that African central banks leverage the continent’s cash reserve to strengthen their lending capacity and adopt a unitary credit policy that guarantees commercial loans are issued to enterprises whose operations mitigate carbon emissions and enhance ecosystem resilience. EBA-driven agriculture like Jakiri’s will boost food security and create income opportunities.

What should be Africa’s next steps in tackling inequalities?

Another African proverb sets the tone: “To get lost is to learn the way.” While Africa lags behind other regions in bridging inequalities, it has also demonstrated that it can learn.

Many landmark policy frameworks, such as the AU Agenda 2063, the Yamoussoukro Decision on open skies, the Sirte Declaration on the African Central Bank and recently the 16th AMCEN Decision on Innovative Environmental Solutions, coupled with practical policy implementation frameworks such as EBAFOSA, prove that the continent is making the right choices.

For these policies to work, however, Africa must start lifting the stones of implementation. In other words, Africa must begin to implement strategies that create incomes out of its catalytic sectors while combating poverty and its accompanying climate vulnerabilities.

These are the authors’ views, not necessarily those of the institution they represent.

The link to the original article follows:
Africa Renewal
https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2017-march-2018/tackling-inequality-%E2%80%98lifting-stones%E2%80%99

The post Africa Lags Behind in Bridging Inequalities appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr. Richard Munang is UN Environment’s Africa regional climate change programme coordinator and Robert Mgendi is UN Environment’s adaptation policy expert.

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UN’s Highest Policy-Making Body to Break Male Domination— Momentarilyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-highest-policy-making-body-break-male-domination-momentarily/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uns-highest-policy-making-body-break-male-domination-momentarily http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/uns-highest-policy-making-body-break-male-domination-momentarily/#respond Tue, 03 Apr 2018 14:14:46 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155127 The 193-member General Assembly – one of the highest policy-making bodies at the United Nations – will get a much-needed break, come September, when a woman will preside over its 73rd session, only the fourth in the history of the world body. The two who are in the running are: Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake, Permanent […]

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The opening of the 72nd session of the General Assembly in September 2017. Credit: UN Photo

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 3 2018 (IPS)

The 193-member General Assembly – one of the highest policy-making bodies at the United Nations – will get a much-needed break, come September, when a woman will preside over its 73rd session, only the fourth in the history of the world body.

The two who are in the running are: Mary Elizabeth Flores Flake, Permanent Representative of Honduras, and María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador—both from the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) group.

On the basis of geographical rotation, the LAC Group claims the upcoming presidency—an elected high ranking UN position which has been overwhelmingly dominated by men.

The break comes even as the United Nations has continued to vociferously preach gender empowerment to the outside world but failing to practice it in its own political backyard—despite scores of resolutions adopted by member states.

Since 1945, the Assembly has elected only three women as presidents: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa of Bahrain (2006).

And that’s three out of 72 Presidents, 69 of whom were men.

The track record of the 15-member Security Council is infinitely worse because it has continued to elect men as UN Secretaries-General, rubber-stamped by the General Assembly, and most recently in October 2016 – despite several outstanding women candidates.

And that’s zero out of nine male UN chiefs: Trygve Lie of Norway, Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden, U. Thant of Burma (now Myanmar), Kurt Waldheim of Austria, Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, Kofi Annan of Ghana, Ban Ki-moon of South Korea and, currently, Antonio Guterres of Portugal.

The two highest ranking political positions at the UN have long been identified as the intellectual birthright of men. And in terms of diplomatic protocol, the President of the General Assembly (PGA) has the status of a head of state in international fora.

Will the election of a fourth woman as the 73rd PGA later this year augur a new era? Or is it just a flash in the pan?

Asked for his response, Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia, President of the current 72nd session of the General Assembly, told IPS: “I am committed to fostering greater gender parity throughout the work of the General Assembly. The history of the United Nations is filled with the contributions of strong women who have shaped its evolution since 1945. Yet, as of today, there have only been three women Presidents of the General Assembly”

He said it is important to ensure that women leaders’ voices are heard on all matters in the United Nations and having a woman as the next President of the General Assembly would be a major step in this regard.

“As President of the General Assembly, I have taken tangible steps to ensure that women play a key role in our work,” he noted.

For example, he said, he has appointed gender-balanced teams of Ambassadors to lead almost all General Assembly processes.

“Meanwhile, in my own office, I have seen to it that 70 per cent of the staff are women, and that women and men are represented equally at the managerial level. I believe that making our work at the United Nations more gender-balanced and inclusive will have a positive impact around the world,” he declared.

Barbara Crossette, a former UN Bureau Chief for The New York Times (1994-2010), and who has written extensively on gender empowerment, told IPS both candidates seem to bring some interesting resumes and welcome commitments to the work of the General Assembly—“and Latin American women can be quite fearless, as you know”.

“But I can’t really judge how real all this is. In both cases, however, the presidency would be a prestigious prize for either nation. But that’s not of international importance.”

“Now whether a woman makes a difference per se — or breaks a chain of male domination — is hard to judge in advance”, said Crossette, currently UN correspondent for The Nation, a senior fellow of the Ralph Bunche Institute at the City University of New York, contributing editor at PassBlue.com, and a freelance writer on foreign policy and international affairs

She also pointed out that if one or the other is chosen, what she could accomplish would affect how the member nations (or more important, informed public opinion) would react to the idea that a woman in the presidency is a good thing and should happen more often.

This is also the case with appointments to headquarters staff and high-level jobs, she noted.

Antonia Kirkland, Program Manager, Legal Equality, at the New York based Equality Now, told IPS:”It is completely unacceptable that only three women have been elected president of the UN’s General Assembly in the last 72 years. The UN needs to set a better example and live up to its promise of achieving gender parity throughout the UN system. Bringing women into the highest levels of decision making should be a top priority.”

She said achieving gender equality, development and peace, will never be realized without women’s equal access to positions of decision-making power.

The upcoming election of the President of the General Assembly is a perfect opportunity for member states to implement the commitments they have made to increasing women’s political access she added.

“Member states must also promote women’s leadership within their missions and ministries of foreign affairs so that there is equality at the ambassadorial level”, said Kirkland who represents a civil society organization which, since 1992, has been using the law to protect and promote the human rights of women and girls worldwide.

“We hope promoting women’s and girls’ rights around the world, particularly ending sexual violence and ending impunity for sexual assault and sexual harassment by UN staff members, will be a top priority for the next President of the General Assembly,” she declared.

Meanwhile, the General Assembly last year decided to establish a new process for the selection of the President of the General Assembly.

In its resolution 71/323 entitled “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, the Assembly decided to conduct informal interactive dialogues with candidates for the position of President of the General Assembly, thus contributing to “the transparency and inclusivity of the process”, according to the PGA’s website.

Furthermore, the General Assembly has also called upon candidates to present to the Assembly their vision statements.

The new process will be in full respect of the established principle of geographical rotation and the General Assembly resolution 33/138 of 19 December 1978.

Consequently, the President of the 73rd session of the General Assembly is to be elected from the Latin American and Caribbean Group.

In line with the new process, the President of the 72nd session of the General Assembly will convene informal interactive dialogues with the candidates in early May 2018.

In accordance with Rule 30 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, the Assembly shall elect a President and twenty-one Vice-Presidents at least three months before the opening of the session over which they are to preside.

The election of the President of the 73rd session of the General Assembly will take place on Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Indonesia’s Women Activism– Beyond Suffragehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/indonesias-women-activism-beyond-suffrage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indonesias-women-activism-beyond-suffrage http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/indonesias-women-activism-beyond-suffrage/#respond Fri, 30 Mar 2018 15:36:41 +0000 Devi Asmarani http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155113 Devi Asmarani is Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Jakarta-based feminist webmagazine Magdalene.

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President Sukarno with leaders of the Indonesian Women's Congress in June 1950. Credit: topenMuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures / CC BY-SA 3.0

By Devi Asmarani
JAKARTA, Indonesia, Mar 30 2018 (IPS)

More than a century has passed since Putri Mardika, Indonesia’s first ever women’s organization, was established but challenges persist in the efforts to influence national politics to bring progress to all women.

Like many countries with a colonial past, it was not suffrage that first ignited early women activism in what is now Indonesia. Rather it was nationalistic aspiration and basic women’s empowerment issues such as education and women’s rights in marriage that mobilized the movement.

Indeed, Indonesian women’s movement emerged alongside the nationalist movement under the Dutch colonial rule, and remained mostly a part of that movement for the first half of the 20th Century until independence.

Education was seen as crucial in elevating women’s status, so early women’s organizations were mainly involved in activities such as literacy campaigns and courses on domestic sciences or sewing. Some also issued publications that disseminated ideas on women’s emancipation.

The first women’s congress was held on 22 December 1928 and involved 1,000 delegates from 30 women’s organizations across Indonesia and led to the formation of a national women’s federation.

Devi Asmarani. Credit: Berto Werdhatama / Magdalene

The various women’s groups only began to work together to achieve common gender objectives on 22 December 1928, when the first women’s congress was held. Involving 1,000 delegates from 30 women’s organizations, the congress aimed at discussing important gender issues and creating a united voice to represent Indonesian women.

It led to the formation of a national women’s federation that lasted until the three-year occupation by the Japanese from 1942. But on the important issue of polygamy, the federation was split between the secular organizations that wanted to ban it, and Islamic associations that refused to condemn it.

In the end, the women’s groups agreed to set aside the issue and focus on the needs of the nation, a compromise that would continue for many decades to come.

On 17 August 1945, nationalists led by Sukarno, Indonesia’s founding president, declared the independent Republic of Indonesia. It was followed by the struggle in subsequent years to maintain control over the archipelago as the Dutch tried to reclaim its colony.

But the new republic showed a clear democratic and egalitarian stance on gender, proclaiming in the 1945 Constitution that all citizens were equal before the law. This, however, did not always translate to gains for women’s rights in practice.

The proclamation of the 1945 Constitution that all citizens were equal before the law did not always translate to gains for women’s rights in practice

Though women’s organizations flourished in the 1950s, the emphasis on their role to support nation-building and as mothers continued to challenge efforts to assert individual rights. The organizations were highly diverse too, divided into religious, political party-affiliated, wives or professional organizations, making it difficult to become a unified political bloc. In addition, the friction between religious and secular organizations over matters like polygamy continued.

So despite the political rights and political space, post-independence Indonesian women’s movement failed to capture the political agenda. Women were keen to vote, but few were elected. The campaign for a marriage law that would grant women more rights also continued to fail until three decades later—and even then the demand to ban polygamy was not met.

Under the three-decade New Order administration under the country’s second president Suharto in 1966, the women’s movement was subverted as the regime suppressed any vocal political opposition.

At the core of its ideology, the New Order expected women to perform their motherly duty to ensure social stability, implement development plans and reduce the high birth rate. Wives’ organizations thrived, epitomized by the massive Dharma Wanita organization for the wives of civil servants, whose activities were linked to the state-sponsored Family Guidance Movement.

Under the three-decade New Order by President Suharto, women were expected to perform their motherly duty to ensure social stability, implement development plans and reduce the high birth rate.

But by the 1980s, new independent women’s organizations emerged, many with a strong human rights bent. The women’s non-government organizations included: Kalyanamitra, which focused on developing a centre of information and communication for women; the legal rights organization for women LBH APIK; the Annisa Swasti Foundation, which organized women workers; Rifka Annisa, which worked on reproductive health issues; and Solidaritas Perempuan (Women’s Solidarity), which worked to empower and organize women migrant workers. Their work was important amid continued government’s suppression of civil society.

The end of the New Order and Suharto’s resignation in 1998 led to the growth of new women’s organizations. There was more recognition for the importance of gender issues, as seen in the shift in the role of the Ministry for Women’s. Suharto’s fall had been preceded by race riots, during which dozens of ethnic Chinese women became victims.

The tragedy mobilized women’s groups to push for the government’s accountability, leading to the establishment of the National Commission on Violence Against Women, or Komnas Perempuan.

Indeed, violence against women became one of the most important fields of work for Indonesian women’s organizations in the post-1998 period, helping unite women in pushing for crucial laws like the 2004 Law on Domestic Violence.

The National Commission on Violence Against Women was established as result of the push for government accountability by women’s groups following the tragedies that surrounded the race riots preceding Suharto’s fall.

Another important legal initiative was the campaign for the 30-per-cent quota for women’s candidates imposed since 2003 on political parties contending legislative elections. This and the introduction of direct regional elections provide more opportunities for women’s representation in politics (link Paywall).

The last two decades of post-New Order democratization has also given women more space to participate in public decision-making processes, to make planning and budgeting more gender-responsive.

But a lot remains to be done. Despite an increasing number of women holding top government positions such as Cabinet minister, supreme justice and governor, politics has remained the domain of men overall. Political parties are still run under a system of highly patriarchal patronage and, in general, they do not show much interest in advancing gender equality.

In addition, the emergence of political Islam, increasing religious conservatism and widespread sharia-based bylaws of the past few years have posed a major setback for women across Indonesia. It has led to increasing efforts to emphasize women’s domestic role, and to limit women’s mobility and regulate sexuality.

More than a century has passed since Putri Mardika, Indonesia’s first-ever women’s organization was established, but similar challenges remain in the efforts to influence national politics to bring progress to all women. Only when united in a massive and organized way—the way they were over the domestic violence legislation—can women’s groups overcome these challenges. ###

This article was first published in the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung blog FES-CONNECT
https://www.fes-connect.org/popular-posts/detail/fighting-the-colony-women-activism-beyond-suffrage/

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Excerpt:

Devi Asmarani is Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Jakarta-based feminist webmagazine Magdalene.

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Fashion Paradigm That Does Not Pollute the Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fashion-paradigm-not-pollute-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fashion-paradigm-not-pollute-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/fashion-paradigm-not-pollute-planet/#respond Thu, 29 Mar 2018 13:52:29 +0000 Kaya Dorey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155081 Kaya Dorey* is one of six United Nations Environment Young Champions of the Earth

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By Kaya Dorey
VANCOUVER, Canada, Mar 29 2018 (IPS)

Fashion is meant to be trendy. It’s fast-paced: in one season, out the next. If you want to keep up, you had better update your wardrobe – that top you bought last summer is already outdated. While things may have been built to last a life-time a generation ago, today they don’t even last a year.

But the world is finite, and so are the resources in it. What we wear is every bit as important as what we eat when it comes to environmental sustainability. If we’re serious about preserving our world, we’re going to have to shift our current linear fast-fashion paradigm to a slower more circular one that doesn’t pollute the planet.

When I learnt about fast-fashion and textiles waste, it was the ‘make, consume, scrap it’ attitude that made me think. I realized that most of our clothing is produced in a linear production line where we take from nature, consume and throw away when we are done. But nothing is ever really “away”. Even if it’s natural, nothing biodegrades in a landfill. I had to do something.

Synthetic clothing is petroleum-based – just like plastic. That means it’s part of our global plastic problem, which is clogging our oceans and damaging our ecosystems. More than 8 million tonnes of plastic leaks into the ocean each year – equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic every minute.

But sustainability as a concept doesn’t work when you guilt trip people into it. It also doesn’t work when you force it on people. The sustainable choice has to be cool, and undeniably the best option in terms of quality and style – sustainability aside. It also has to be accessible and affordable compared with other options.

As a young person, I thought at first that my voice was a drop in the ocean. How could I possibly make a difference? Yet, the more I studied and the more I learned about the fashion industry, the more I realized: we are the ones who need to change this. Every time we shop, we are making a choice. If we have the right information, we can make more conscious decisions, and bring about real change.

If we work together, we can make a difference. Since I started my sustainable apparel company, I’ve found people who share my passion, values and vision to make apparel that is truly sustainable in terms of materials, dyes and the people making it. I have sourced organic cotton and hemp fabrics, inks that doesn’t have any PVC or heavy metals in them and all my product is made ethically in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

Yet a major hurdle we keep encountering, is that we need bigger players on board to truly make an impact. Big brands have the buying power and the economies of scale to bring down costs associated with truly sustainable apparel. The global fashion industry can still be trendy – we can still change our wardrobes. But when we do, we will do it without killing the planet.

A major shift is needed to turn this thing around, starting with embedding sustainability into school curriculums and design programs. We’re looking at the problem of waste from the wrong angle: at the end of the process. We should be looking at it from the very beginning: before the design process even starts.

Designers – and not just clothing designers – need to design with the end in mind. We need to start innovating, coming up with new ways to eliminate waste from production and taking full responsibility for the products we’re making and what’s left over.

Consumers need to ask more questions and learn about where their clothing is from: what it’s made of; who’s making it? Just as we have started doing with food. If we vote with our dollars, and buy from brands that are more transparent with this kind of information, brands will be forced to improve their supply chains and sustainability practices out of sheer competition to stay in the game.

We also need policy makers to get behind the sustainable agenda. For example, dying processes, and fabrics that contribute to climate change and cause a lot of waste could pay higher taxes. We must create solutions, which pave the way for our societies to change.

Last year, I became one of six United Nations Environment Young Champions of the Earth – an initiative that has supported me to actively make a difference. You can apply now for 2018, or find other initiatives which champion and support your idea to create real environmental change.

Some days it’s tough. Fighting an environmental cause, especially as a young person and within the fashion industry, means looking for solutions which may not be the most lucrative, or appealing to the mainstream. But by joining other designers, fabric suppliers, manufacturers and other fashion industry players, we’re using our networks, speaking up, and finding solutions.

For our fashion industry to be truly sustainable, we need everyone on board. We need big brands to support sustainable innovation within their companies. We, as consumers, need to seek out more natural and organic fabrics when shopping for new clothing, or buy second hand. And we, as designers, need to design with the end in mind and develop closed-loop and zero waste production lines.

I believe that together we will create change, just like Margaret Mead once said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” If we start small and set big goals, we will make a difference. We can shift this fast-fashion paradigm forever, without sacrificing a trendy wardrobe.

*Kaya Dorey is founder of Novel Supply Co, a conscious apparel company that creates, designs and supplies fashionable products that shift the stigma of sustainability, using minimalistic design, natural fabrics and sustainable inks with a focus on zero waste.

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Excerpt:

Kaya Dorey* is one of six United Nations Environment Young Champions of the Earth

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No Ordinary Matchhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/no-ordinary-match/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-ordinary-match http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/no-ordinary-match/#respond Mon, 19 Mar 2018 10:20:38 +0000 David S. Evangelista http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154874 David S. Evangelista is President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia.

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Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta poses with Lions Clubs International President Dr. Naresh Aggarwal and a Unified Football team during the medal ceremony at Loresho Primary school in Nairobi, Kenya- 27 February 2018.

By David S. Evangelista
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 19 2018 (IPS)

The parched earth made for a tough football pitch, but the youth of Loresho Primary school were determined. It was blue against yellow- two teams competing for the coveted prize of pride and victory.

In every way, this was the typical backdrop of a primary school. Pressed uniforms, dust rising from the running feet of an active student body, and the buzz of chatter among the hundreds of students present.

This was anything but the standard schoolyard football match, as could be seen from the profiles of guests who had come to witness it: Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, journalists from leading media organizations, Special Olympics Kenya and Lions Clubs International.

The latter two are civic organizations leading a crusade of support to communities throughout the country under the banner of a partnership titled “Mission: Inclusion.”

What set this match apart had nothing to do with who was off the pitch, and everything to do with who was on it. Youth with intellectual disabilities, the most marginalized population subset across the world, teamed up with mainstream youth- among them the Lions Clubs International youth network Leos- to showcase the transformative power that a simple inclusive football match can have on the way in which people view ‘ability’, ‘disability’, and themselves.

The real score on the day was that of equality. Youth with and without intellectual disabilities teamed up to show a global group of civic, political, and industry leaders that social inclusion is indeed the future of the nation, the continent, and the world.

Special Olympics athletes team up with the Leo youth network of Kenya to play an inclusive Unified Football match at Loresho Primary school in Nairobi, Kenya- 27 February 2018;

Special Olympics Kenya works to improve the lives people with disabilities through the power of sport- and a range of additional services that sport makes possible. The organization, whose patron is First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, provides free health screenings, education, early childhood development and self-advocacy training. It currently works with about 50,000 participating athletes across the country.

Lions Clubs International provides health benefits, family education seminars, and the grass-roots mobilization necessary to support a population largely invisible in developed and developing nations alike. Through their state of the art hospitals, community-based network of volunteers, youth leaders and more- Lions Clubs around the world make the impossible possible for a group very much on the margins.

In addition, and through the simple power of play, Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International are working in communities across the country to ensure that individuals with intellectual disabilities, namely children, have the social protection, health care, and access to education that every citizen is entitled.

At the recent Lions at the United Nations event in Nairobi, the partnership between Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International was highlighted as a strong example of the key role that civil society has in ensuring full achievement of the SDGs.

United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya Siddharth Chatterjee said that the Mission: Inclusion campaign is in keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It also reiterates that persons with disabilities should be seen not only as beneficiaries of support, but as an empowered and empowering source of social, cultural, political, and economic development.

With the recognized link between disability, social exclusion and poverty, development frameworks must mainstream disability if countries are to achieve the SDGs, he said

“The association of Lions with both the United Nations and Special Olympics ensures that we align our strategies to complement the SDGs, but still never lose sight of reaching the most vulnerable and marginalized population in our endeavors,” remarked Lions Past International Director Dr Manoj Shah.

The Lions Clubs International youth network, Leos, play a significant role in the empowerment of youth with disabilities. Through their innovation, vision and enthusiasm, Leos are helping to change the narrative on disability, and are charting a new social dialogue on the role that youth play in transforming their communities- for youth of all abilities.

“The Leos- and the Lions Clubs International family- have a unique and growing role in the movement of Special Olympics,” said Annemarie Hill, Senior Director of Global Development for Special Olympics. “Through their leadership and deep engagement, they are using the power of sport to bring a population long in the shadows of their communities into the spotlight – empowering them to be seen as they are- contributing to the national fabric.”

As the blue and yellow teams gathered to be awarded their medals, an exuberance took over the pitch. In an age where individuals are categorized as winners and losers, the platform of “Mission: Inclusion” offered by Special Olympics and Lions Clubs International has positioned all youth- of all abilities- as the drivers of social change in their communities.

That is a victory for all of us.

The post No Ordinary Match appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

David S. Evangelista is President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia.

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China Needs to Avoid ‘Belt and Road’ Debt Problemshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/china-needs-avoid-belt-road-debt-problems/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-needs-avoid-belt-road-debt-problems http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/china-needs-avoid-belt-road-debt-problems/#comments Wed, 14 Mar 2018 14:21:38 +0000 Scott Morris http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154813 Scott Morris is a senior fellow and director of the U.S. Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development. He served as deputy assistant secretary for development finance and debt at the U.S. Treasury Department during the first term of the Obama administration.

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Scott Morris is a senior fellow and director of the U.S. Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development. He served as deputy assistant secretary for development finance and debt at the U.S. Treasury Department during the first term of the Obama administration.

By Scott Morris
WASHINGTON DC, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

Chinese officials have been adept at ascribing a vision for the “Belt and Road” initiative (BRI) that garners support from a wide array of countries, as well as international institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The panel during the G77 event on debt restructuring. Credit: G77/IPS

The appeal is simple. China is offering to mobilize trillions of dollars in capital for something that all countries, rich and poor, crave: infrastructure. But as the vision moves to implementation, the Chinese government and its BRI partners would do well to address its key vulnerabilities.

High on the list is China’s go-it-alone approach to managing debt problems, evident in high-profile cases like Venezuela and in lesser-known situations like Sri Lanka and Tajikistan. The World Bank and other international institutions, which seek to lend their names to the BRI, have an obligation on behalf of their member countries to press the Chinese on a legacy of opaque and ad hoc debt workout arrangements.

These arrangements often prove to be a bad deal for distressed borrowers and are misaligned with global development objectives, which are pinned on principles of transparency and sustainability. For the Chinese themselves, unilateralism on debt is increasingly problematic.

Not only does it contribute to a political backlash in debtor countries, it makes Chinese financial interests increasingly vulnerable in the absence of the kinds of protections afforded to Paris Club creditors. In fact, this club of rich-country lenders was formed not to look out for the interests of debtors but to use collective action to ensure repayment from recalcitrant borrowers.

In practice, the disciplines, transparency, and predictability of the Paris Club’s approach, working in concert with the IMF and multilateral development banks, has proved to be beneficial for creditors and borrowers alike.

In new research, we identify eight BRI countries that could be pushed into debt distress due to lending under the initiative. That’s a relatively small share of the 68 countries associated with the BRI. But for these eight, which include Pakistan, Djibouti and Laos, China’s past behavior as a creditor ought to be a source of concern.

Unlike the world’s other leading government creditors, China has not signed on to a binding set of rules of the road when it comes to avoiding unsustainable lending and addressing debt problems when they arise. China’s rapid emergence from poor country to the world’s creditor has meant that sound policy frameworks around debt management, such as the approach of the Paris Club, have not caught up to China’s role as lender today.

Given China’s dominant role as an official creditor, it may be asking too much of Chinese officials to simply sign on to the set of rules and disciplines of a G-7-dominated forum like the Paris Club. Whether it is the club itself, or some new arrangement that holds closely to key principles of transparency and collective action, China would do well to step up on the debt front as the BRI gets underway.

Firmer commitments on responsible lending go beyond lending transparency and include clearer disciplines around lending terms and loan volumes, as well as project standards that help to ensure positive economic returns such as open and competitive procurement.

China can claim success when it comes to a vision for the BRI that has gained widespread support. The way forward demands a clear policy framework aligned with global standards, something that has been absent from China’s lending practices to date.

Whether Chinese officials have the will to pursue this approach will be critical in determining the ultimate success or failure of the BRI.

The post China Needs to Avoid ‘Belt and Road’ Debt Problems appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Scott Morris is a senior fellow and director of the U.S. Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development. He served as deputy assistant secretary for development finance and debt at the U.S. Treasury Department during the first term of the Obama administration.

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The Politicization of Humanitarian Aid Through Budget Cutshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/politicization-humanitarian-aid-budget-cuts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=politicization-humanitarian-aid-budget-cuts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/politicization-humanitarian-aid-budget-cuts/#respond Mon, 12 Mar 2018 14:58:19 +0000 Ann-Kathrin Pohlers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154776 Ahead of the pending ‘list of shame,’ the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflicts, child protection actors share concerns about the politicization of humanitarian aid putting child protection capacities at a disadvantage. UNICEF described 2017 a “nightmare year” for children living in war-affected regions. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed […]

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MONUSCO Peacekeepers Help Launch Soccer Schools in Goma, DRC. Credit: UN Photo

By Ann-Kathrin Pohlers
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 12 2018 (IPS)

Ahead of the pending ‘list of shame,’ the Secretary-General’s Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflicts, child protection actors share concerns about the politicization of humanitarian aid putting child protection capacities at a disadvantage.

UNICEF described 2017 a “nightmare year” for children living in war-affected regions.

Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict Virginia Gamba stated the progress made last year was outweighed by the “extremely worrisome situation” for children exposed to escalations of violence and denials of humanitarian aid.

“States don’t want to be on the same list as terrorist groups so they’ll do anything to stay off those lists. Blackmail is the most blatant example of politicization of humanitarian aid,” Dragica Mikavica, Advocacy Officer for Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict, told IPS.

Saudi Arabia was the most recent publicized example of blackmail when former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon removed the Saudi-led Coalition in Yemen from the U.N. blacklist because its supporters threatened to cut U.N. funding. Saudi Arabia denied the allegations.

To deepen Saudi Arabia’s commitment to protecting children, current Secretary-General António Guterres added the Saudi-led Coalition to the annexes again — for killing and injuring 683 children in Yemen and 38 attacks on schools and hospitals in 2016, all incidents verified by the United Nations.

Though, according to Watchlist’s recommendations for the 2018 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict, this year’s report draws a line between parties “that have put in place measures during the reporting period aimed at improving the protection of children” and parties who haven’t.

It’s a ploy to still list but concurrently appease Saudi Arabia.

“They’re on the list but there is a list A and list B. On list A are parties that have not taken any measures to protect children and list B is for parties that have taken “positive measures.” The Saudis went straight to B because they are taking positive measures although none of us know what these measures are,” said Dragica Mikavica.

Child protection actors like Watchlist and Human Rights Watch now demand more transparent updates on the criteria for these lists. “Of course this is in the spirit of trying to be more proactive about efficiency in peacekeeping, it’s just gone under the radar that U.N. agendas have been undermined as a result.”

Mikavica presumes a much more substantial danger for agendas being eroded from below, “Member states essentially use budget negotiations to undermine agendas at the U.N.”

While some contributions are treaty-based and therefore compulsory, the United States provides 22 percent of the United Nations’ operating budget and around 28 percent for peacekeeping.

When the U.S. government pressed to cut financial assistance to member states that vote in favor of the U.N.’s calling for the U.S. to withdraw from its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, they eventually secured a $285 million cut.

The 2015 report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations previously pointed out that “too often, mandates and missions are produced on the basis of templates instead of tailored to support situation-specific political strategies, and technical and military approaches come at the expense of strengthened political efforts.”

Political agendas threaten peacekeeping’s principle of aid neutrality.

Negotiations within the United Nation’s budget committee recommended the General Assembly to adopt a $5.3 billion budget for the 2018/2019 biennium, five percent less than the budget approved for the previous biennium.

According to UNA-UK, the $5 billion budget saves member states around one billion dollars, but it’s a
reduction that small missions would not save enough. Resources of large missions need to be drastically reduced, putting particularly child protection capacities at risk, notably in the war-affected regions of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

Last year’s budget negotiations for MINUSCA, the mandate in the Central African Republic, suggested cutting off human rights posts of which 90 were intended for child protection.

In 2016, the number of child casualties in the Congo had increased by 75 percent compared to the previous year. One of the UN’s most complex missions, the Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), will see a budget reduction of $96 million; however, the budget was reduced by much less than the United States had initially demanded.

As of August 2017, due to the lack of access to medical aid and excessive rates of malnutrition among children, over one million South Sudanese have fled to Uganda alone. The 1.0 percent budget cut to UNMISS, the U.N. Mission in South Sudan, came after a significant budget increase request and meant a fall by 10 percent to the number the U.N. projects the Mission will need.

These consequences fundamentally affect the security of children because of their unique vulnerability and exposure to exploitation and violence. “Rapidly shrinking place for the protection of children is given,” Dragica Mikavica concluded.

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Helping Women, Periodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/helping-women-period/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=helping-women-period http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/helping-women-period/#comments Fri, 09 Mar 2018 20:05:38 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154741 The United Nations Headquarters and Brooklyn Bridge were lit up on Thursday night not to help tourists navigate the major landmarks but to bring attention to a key issue that many women and girls face today: period poverty. In commemoration of International Women’s Day, the innovative menstruation-proof underwear company THINX shed the light on period […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 9 2018 (IPS)

The United Nations Headquarters and Brooklyn Bridge were lit up on Thursday night not to help tourists navigate the major landmarks but to bring attention to a key issue that many women and girls face today: period poverty.

In commemoration of International Women’s Day, the innovative menstruation-proof underwear company THINX shed the light on period poverty and urged world leaders to ensure that menstrual equity exists around the world.

“Today of all days on Women’s Day, we want to come together and light the path forward for greater equality,” Vice President of Brand at THINX Siobhán Lonergan told IPS.

But what is period poverty?

The Poor Have Periods Too

Half of the almost 4 billion women around the world are of reproductive age. For these women and girls, menstruation is a natural monthly reality.

However, millions of poor and marginalized women and girls around the world still lack access to basic sanitary products to help manage menstrual bleeding.

“Period poverty is having access to products that basically allow you human dignity to get up and do what you need to do everyday whether that is go to work or go to school,” Lonergan said.

“If you don’t have access to products for a human bodily function that happens every month, then how can you exist? How can you go about your regular everyday functions?” she continued.

In Bangladesh, many families are unable to afford sanitary pads and instead use rags from old clothing.

In India, only 12 percent of women have access to sanitary products leaving others to use materials from old newspapers to sand.

The use of unsanitary materials often has health implications, including reproductive tract infections and cervical cancer.

Approximately one in 53 Indian women are diagnosed with cervical cancer.

The lack of such hygiene products also affects girls’ attendance and participation in school.

In Nepal, 30 percent of girls report missing school during their periods.

This is partly due to the lack of sanitation facilities at schools such as private toilets and clean water needed for girls to clean and manage their menstruation.

Another significant dimension which keep menstruating girls from school is ongoing cultural taboos.

“Untouchable”

Menstruation has long been shamed in many communities, including those around South Asia.

Such stigma has put over 100 million adolescent girls between the ages of 12-14 at risk of dropping out of school in India.

In August 2017, a 12-year-old girl in Tamil Nadu committed suicide after a teacher shamed her over a period stain on her uniform.

The stigma arises from customs such as Chhaupadi which banishes girls and women to a hut outside of the main house for the duration of their period

Translating to “untouchable being”, Chhaupadi dictates that she cannot enter her home, cook, touch her parents, and go to school or temple.

The UN has found reports of pneumonia, attacks from wild animals, and rape when women and girls are banished to a shed.

However, if a woman doesn’t follow the rules, she is told that she will bring destruction and misfortune to their family.

Though Chhaupadi was outlawed in Nepal in 2005, the practice is still widely observed across the South Asian region.

Shopna and Monira, 14- and 17-year-olds from Bangladesh, told the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) of the stigmatization of periods in their community including the ideas that monthly periods are shameful and menstrual blood is dangerous.

“We are taught that things will be spoiled if we touch them during our periods…we can’t touch food, cooking utensils or the kitchen gardens,” Shopna said.

“Hindu girls can’t touch cows or even the cow-shed because cows are holy,” Monira added.

They also described the lack of family support as mothers rarely speak to their daughters about their menstruation.

“The topic of periods has never been at the forefront of conversations, it’s always been this thing that has been kind of brushed underground,” Lonergan told IPS.

Lighting the Way Forward

Lonergan highlighted the importance of menstrual care and as it is a health care issue, governments must take action and provide access to affordable hygiene products.

“If we are working towards true gender equality, we must expand access to menstrual products whether that is in public spaces, schools, or in the workplace. It is really imperative that we have policies that ensure menstrual products are safe and available for those who need them,” she said.

At the grassroots level, citizens have already sprung into action to find ways to make such products accessible, including Arunachalam Muruganantham.

Also known as the ‘Pad Man’, Muruganantham set about to create affordable sanitary pads after discovering that his wife had been using dirty rags during her periods.

“When I asked her why, she said we would have to cut half of our milk budget to buy sanitary pads,” he said.

Muruganantham has become a pioneer of menstrual health after successfully developing a machine that produces low-cost sanitary pads and teaching women how to use it.

Media groups like Inter Press Service (IPS) have also conducted workshops for teachers and students about the importance of healthcare and hygiene in Bangladesh.

Lonergan pointed to the need for women and girls to learn about reproductive health and menstruation.

“It starts with education—a basic understanding of what your period is before it happens and then how to actually manage it and then having access to products to get you there,” she said, adding that both boys and girls must be educated about the natural bodily function.

“Without periods, none of us would be born in the first place,” Lonergan concluded.

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Japan-led Pacific Rim Countries Desperate to Embrace Trumphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/japan-led-pacific-rim-countries-desperate-embrace-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=japan-led-pacific-rim-countries-desperate-embrace-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/japan-led-pacific-rim-countries-desperate-embrace-trump/#respond Thu, 08 Mar 2018 14:05:43 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154703 The grandiose sounding Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will be signed in Santiago de Chile today, 8 March. Instead of doing something to advance the condition of women on International Women’s Day, trade representatives from 11 Pacific rim countries will sign the CPTPP, which some critics argue will further set back the […]

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By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Mar 8 2018 (IPS)

The grandiose sounding Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will be signed in Santiago de Chile today, 8 March. Instead of doing something to advance the condition of women on International Women’s Day, trade representatives from 11 Pacific rim countries will sign the CPTPP, which some critics argue will further set back the progress of humanity, including women who hold up ‘half the sky’.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) originally involved twelve countries, including the USA, namely Japan, Brunei, Australia, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam, now often referred to as the TPP11. Although originally a minor initiative not involving the US, the Obama administration led the negotiations which claimed to have created a model ‘free trade agreement for the 21st century’.

In fact, the resulting 6500 page agreement has, so far, only been used by Obama’s United States Trade Representative (USTR) to derail the already protracted Doha ‘Development’ Round negotiations under the auspices of the World Trade Organization (WTO), e.g., by ‘lame-duck’ USTR Michael Froman at the WTO ministerial in Nairobi in December 2016.

In January last year, newly elected US President Donald Trump withdrew from TPP, effectively killing the agreement. Since then, Japan has worked hard to keep it alive, with discreet help from Australia and others. Apparently, they hope to draw the US back in order to check China’s growing influence in the region while delaying other regional trade negotiations such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

After signing it, at least six countries must ratify the CPTPP for the deal to come into effect. Even before signing, governments have announced plans to drag their feet, indicating they are signing under duress. Incredibly, no details of the new agreement were supposed to be released until after the signing, and few consultations have been held by the signing governments despite promises to do so.

Bad deal not improved by reheating

To make the case for the TPP, its advocates greatly exaggerated its negligible trade benefits. US government studies — by the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and the International Trade Council — projected very modest gains, even with the US in.

Despite the US absence from the CPTPP, its proponents have not hesitated to make even more exaggerated claims about supposed benefits. With already negligible trade gains from the original TPP, purported gains from the CPTPP without the US are even more paltry. Not surprisingly, the TPP11 have become even more desperate for US participation to maintain their original fictitious claims.

The old claim that trade liberalization lifts all boats is increasingly rejected in favour of more nuanced recognition that its costs may be as much as its benefits, and distributed very unevenly. Such recognition has enabled better understanding of the Brexit referendum outcome and Trump’s election following a campaign in which all major candidates were opposed to the TPP.

CPTPP losses, costs and risks are almost as great as with the TPP while actual gains are even more trivial. Meanwhile, CPTPP citizens must surely wonder why their governments are proceeding so secretively without public consultation or even the fig leaf of credible cost-benefit or other analyses.

Seducing Trump

Minor amendments have been made to the original TPP agreement, largely drafted by US corporations during the Obama presidency. But the new CPTPP Preamble can only guide its interpretation, and does not replace problematic TPP provisions. Some TPP11 countries have secured ‘side letters’, exempting them from some of its provisions.

Meanwhile, several onerous provisions have been suspended, including some of those extending the scope and duration of pharmaceutical patents. Well over a thousand provisions remain, most not even challenged by the CPTPP negotiators. The 22 suspended provisions can easily be restored if the US chooses to rejoin the TPP.

At his World Economic Forum charm offensive at Davos in January, Trump stated that he “would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal” despite his anti-TPP presidential campaign and post-election rhetoric. No one can be sure what he means anymore, especially following his more recent declarations celebrating trade warfare.

US positions in the ongoing North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) renegotiations suggest his administration will demand stronger intellectual property rights, especially pharmaceutical patent protection; this can be easily accommodated by the TPP11 by reinstating suspended TPP provisions.

However, in light of the new USTR’s pronouncements, it is likely that the White House will insist on removing ISDS provisions from the TPP to be consistent with Trump’s ‘sovereigntist’ approach of putting ‘America first’. Or worse, ISDS provisions may not be reciprocal, i.e., US corporations abroad can use ISDS, but TPP11 investors cannot make such claims against the US government.

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Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/press-progress-womens-equality-political-participation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=press-progress-womens-equality-political-participation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/press-progress-womens-equality-political-participation/#respond Tue, 06 Mar 2018 15:25:38 +0000 Peter Kagwanja and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154651 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Peter Kagwanja is former Adviser Government of Kenya (2008-2013) and currently the President and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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New University graduates in Kenya. Credit: Nation Media

By Peter Kagwanja and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 6 2018 (IPS)

March 8, 2018 International Women’s Day offers another opportunity to reflect on the progress made towards gender equality and women’s political rights.

True, the annual event, which has been observed for over 100 years, is about women’s rights. Every woman and girl dreams of a world in which they are able to achieve their full human potential, have a life free of harmful social norms and stereotypes.

But the Day is also about reflecting on the stories of sexual exploitation and abuse from Hollywood to politics to the aid world, which needs a whole culture shift. It’s about ending a culture of patriarchy, misogyny and treating women as second class citizens.

However, progress towards gender parity is regressing. Women’s rights are being “reduced, restricted and reversed”, noted the UN Secretary-General Mr. Antonio Guterres in 2017.

As a clarion call to action and to catalyse change towards a more gender-equal world, “Press for Progress” is a fitting theme for International Women’s Day 2018.

Today, we live in a world where global gender gap is widening again for the first time in a decade; where men’s earnings are rising faster than women’s, making the feat of gender equality a pipedream.

In view of the current rate of regression, the Global Gender Gap Report (2017) of the World Economic Forum concluded that the world might take 217 years to reach the 50-50 gender parity.

Key to reversing this trend is by enhancing the role of women in leadership. Parity with women, practically half of the world’s total talent pool, is the best driving force for economic growth, wealth creation and poverty eradication. According to the UNDP 2016 Africa Human Development Report, gender inequality costs sub-Saharan Africa on average $US95 billion a year.

Failure to close the gender gap will mean that achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the world we want by 2030 of ‘leaving no one behind’ will be a mission impossible.

In Kenya, gender equality is needed to ensure successful implementation of the ‘big four pillars’ that President Uhuru Kenyatta unveiled last year—including expansion of manufacturing; affordable housing; universal healthcare; and food security.

Kenya has made gains in women political empowerment. The naming of six women the new cabinet and several others to senior positions is a step in the right direction. Notable Kenya’s new female cabinet secretaries hold commanding posts traditionally reserved for males, including the Ministries of Defence, Public Service, Foreign Affairs, Health, Education and Lands.

Further, Kenya’s 2017 election revealed a positive shift in attitudes towards women’s leadership. Women were voted in as Governors in three counties (Kitui, Kirinyaga and Bomet) and three others as Senators (in Uasin Gishu, Nakuru and Isiolo).

Three women—Fatuma Duulo (Isiolo Senator), Naisula Lesuuda (MP for Samburu West) and Sophia Noor (MP for Ijara)—were elected in marginalized areas in Northern Kenya.

However, even as tokenism gives way to meritocracy, Kenya is yet to achieve the level of gender equality in countries like Rwanda, which boasts the highest proportion of women representatives in parliament at 63.8%.

Participation of women in electoral politics is still low. Out of the 10,918 aspirants in 2017, only 1,749 (16 per cent) were female. Those elected are still far below the two-thirds threshold set by the 2010 constitution. Today, only 68 (19%) women are elected to the National Assembly, 18 (27%) to the Senate and 82 (6%) to county assemblies.

Political will is needed to implement Article 81 (b) of the Constitution 2010 that requires the two-thirds gender representation in public offices. Twice Parliament has declined to pass the Bill.

We need to change mind-sets in Kenya and globally to dismantle the architecture of gender inequality as a necessary condition to achieve progress and leave no one behind.

According to the UN Deputy Secretary General, Ms. Amina J Mohammed, “our efforts to leave no one behind will be a test of our common vision, resolve and ingenuity. A whole of government and whole of society approach must become our new norm”.

This requires affirmative action and boldly confronting adverse social norms, practices rooted in patriarchy and misogyny, as well as investing in education of girls, women’s health and political empowerment.

The post Press for Progress: Women’s Equality & Political Participation appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8.

 
 
Peter Kagwanja is former Adviser Government of Kenya (2008-2013) and currently the President and Chief Executive of the Africa Policy Institute.

Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.

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Model Trade Deal Conhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/model-trade-deal-con/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=model-trade-deal-con http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/model-trade-deal-con/#comments Mon, 26 Feb 2018 10:08:16 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154487 In early 2016, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement — involving twelve countries on the Pacific Ocean rim, including the USA — was signed in New Zealand. Right after his inauguration in January 2017, newly elected US President Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP, effectively killing the agreement as its terms require the participation of both […]

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Shipping Container - Credit: Bigstock

Shipping Container - Credit: Bigstock

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Feb 26 2018 (IPS)

In early 2016, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement — involving twelve countries on the Pacific Ocean rim, including the USA — was signed in New Zealand. Right after his inauguration in January 2017, newly elected US President Donald Trump withdrew from the TPP, effectively killing the agreement as its terms require the participation of both the US and Japan.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Almost comprehensive, but hardly progressive

On 8 March 2018, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will be signed in the presence of outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. After that, six countries must ratify the deal for it to take effect.

Twenty-two of the original TPP provisions will be ‘suspended’, leaving over a thousand others intact. The 22 provisions have only been suspended, apparently to enable Washington to easily re-embrace the essentially US-drafted 6500-page TPP Agreement.

The CPTPP will include several changes to the TPP, but will otherwise incorporate it. Besides the investment agreement, several onerous intellectual property and other provisions will be suspended. Some ‘side letters’ can exempt some TPP11 countries on some matters. But otherwise, many of the most onerous TPP provisions remain.

The TPP11 countries are likely to give in to US demands. With very modest prospective trade gains from the original TPP, US withdrawal has made the gains from the CPTPP even more paltry, making the TPP11 desperate for US participation. For Japan’s government and some others, the TPP will draw the US back into a stronger anti-China regional coalition.
The CPTPP Preamble can guide interpretation of, but not contradict, let alone override problematic TPP provisions. Meanwhile, some countries will remove all their tariffs on products from other CPTPP parties while others, such as Japan and Canada, will not.

Taking the widely criticized secrecy of such negotiations to a new extreme, no details of the ‘zombie agreement’ will be released until after its signing. Despite promises to “engage with various stakeholders to get their views and feedback”, most signatory governments have not conducted inclusive public consultations about the new agreement.

Already, TPP11 proponents have resumed chanting the mantra that the US-drafted TPP is a ‘model trade deal for the 21st century’, seemingly oblivious of global economic transformations of recent decades and their implications.


Privileging foreign investment

Meanwhile, CPTPP privileging of foreign investment from TPP11 countries may well perversely encourage businesses to incorporate abroad as they will be better able to make demands on the government than they can currently do as nationals.

The CPTPP enables non-TPP11 firms with branches in TPP11 countries to use it to their advantage, e.g., investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions will allow investors from other TPP11 countries to sue the host government, in a special international tribunal, for unlimited compensation and compound interest.

As firms incorporated in other TPP11 countries may also enjoy lower taxes and other incentives, the recent trends of greater outward than inward FDI may well accelerate. China, India and other emerging market economies are already struggling to cope with such ‘roundtrip’ FDI through offshore tax havens, and there is little reason to believe smaller TPP11 developing countries will fare better.

Lower interest rates abroad in recent years due to unconventional monetary policies, such as ‘quantitative easing’, have enabled highly leveraged foreign portfolio investors to increase their ownership of the corporate sector in many emerging market economies.

Capital account liberalization has enabled net capital outflows despite sometimes inducing temporary episodes of massive inflows into emerging market economies. With greater external vulnerability the inevitable consequence, when such portfolio investment inflows are inevitably reversed, capital account management measures may be needed, but disallowed by the CPTPP.

 

Begging for US participation

In their efforts to justify it, CPTPP proponents have again greatly exaggerated trade benefits while ignoring the two US government studies — by the Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and the International Trade Council – both projecting very modest gains from the TPP, despite including the US then.

After the ‘Brexit’ referendum and Trump’s election in 2016, the mixed consequences of trade liberalization are increasingly recognized, replacing the naive claim that globalization would lift all boats. Nevertheless, CPTPP advocates still dismiss research doubting the problematic assumptions of the modelling projections they rely on.

Meanwhile, US President Trump has already announced that he “would do TPP if we were able to make a substantially better deal”. Judging by his administration’s new demands in the ongoing North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) renegotiations, this would presumably involve even stronger pharmaceutical patent protection and greater US corporate control of international e-commerce.

The TPP11 countries are likely to give in to US demands. With very modest prospective trade gains from the original TPP, US withdrawal has made the gains from the CPTPP even more paltry, making the TPP11 desperate for US participation. For Japan’s government and some others, the TPP will draw the US back into a stronger anti-China regional coalition.

Hence, the TPP11 are so keen to bring the US back into the TPP that they are likely to accede to Trump administration demands. By joining the TPP on revised terms, ostensibly ‘putting America first’, Trump can thus ‘prove’ that he is a much better negotiator than his predecessors, especially Obama.

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Robots, Unemployment … and Immigrantshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/robots-unemployment-immigrants/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=robots-unemployment-immigrants http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/robots-unemployment-immigrants/#comments Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:28:26 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154381 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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For every industrial robot introduced into the workforce, six jobs are eliminated.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Feb 19 2018 (IPS)

Amazon has recently introduced Amazon Go, a shop where the customer enters, chooses a product from the shelves, charges the price on a magnetic card and swipes it on the way out, transferring the charge to the customer’s bank account . No queues, no cashiers, fast and easy, and the first shop in Seattle has been a roaring success.

Putting products back on the shelves will soon be fully automated, with robots doing the work previously done by humans. Floor cleaning is already done by a robot, and the aim is to have a fully automated shop, where no human can make mistakes, fall ill, go on strike, take holidays or bring their personal problems to work.

The US petrol industry calculates that the staff required at each well will be reduced from 20 to five within three years. Also within three years it is expected that small hotels will have a fully automated reception – guests arrive, swipe their credit card and a machine supplies the room.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

We are already accustomed to automated telephone for bookings and reservations, and we ourselves now do tasks at an airport which were previously done by clerks, such as checking in.

Contrary to what many think, self-drive vehicles are just around the corner, and car makers think they will be on the market by 2021.

In the United States, according to the ABI Research company, the number of industrial robots will jump nearly 300 percent in less than a decade. The National Economic Research Bureau has reported that for every industrial robot introduced into the workforce, six jobs are eliminated.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has released a “policy brief” indicating what this robotic revolution would mean in Africa, Asia and Latin America. “If robots are considered a form of capital that is a close substitute for low-skilled jobs, then their growing use reduces the share of human labour in production costs. Adverse effects for developing countries may be significant.”

In May 2016, the World Bank’s Digital Dividend Report, calculated that replacing low-skilled workers with robots in developing countries would affect two-thirds of jobs.

China is destined to become the biggest user of robots. China is aiming to become the global leader in high-tech. To take just one example, Foxconn, the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer, reduced its workforce last year from 110,000 to 50,000 in Kunshan, thanks to the introduction of robots. The time of cheap imitations is gone, with China now registering more patents than the United States.

Economists call this wave of automation the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The first started, at the end of the 18th century, with the introduction of machines to do handicraft work, such as in textiles. Its impact become visible in 1811, when the followers of a fictional Ned Ludd started to destroy textile equipment because it left thousands of weavers jobless.

The second industrial revolution occurred in the middle of the same century, when science was applied to production, introducing engines and other inventions, creating the real Industrial Revolution. That meant rural populations migrating to towns to work in the factories. The third revolution in the middle of the last century is considered to be the introduction of the Internet, which once again changed forms of production. Gone were the jobs of secretaries in companies, lino typist in newspapers, accounting, documentation, libraries, archives and other hundreds of professions made obsolete by the ‘net’.

We see the Fourth Industrial Revolution in our daily life. But it is like climate change – we all know it exists, it is before our eyes. We have all the data showing an increase in hurricanes, disappearing glaciers, extreme weather conditions, hotter summers than have been recorded since we began measuring temperatures.

Yet, the outcome of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference means that the world is now geared to producing an increase of three degrees centigrade, while scientists unanimously agree that exceeding 1.5 degrees centigrade would be extremely dangerous.

We even have a president of the United States who withdrew from a non-binding Paris Agreement, declaring that climate change is a “Chinese hoax”. Then his appointment of Scott Pruitt – a person who says that global warming is “positive” – as Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).is like putting Dracula in charge of a blood bank.

The political approach to automation is similar. The 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos was dedicated to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The founder and director of the Forum, economist Klaus Schwab, even went to to the effort of writing a book on the subject for the meeting: it is a book in which he expresses his concern.

Previous industrial revolutions had liberated humankind from animal power, made mass production possible and brought digital capabilities to billions of people. This Fourth Industrial Revolution is, however, fundamentally different. It is characterised by a range of new technologies that are fusing the physical, digital and biological worlds, affecting all disciplines, economies and industries, and even challenging ideas about what it means to be human.

We need to take a concerted global approach in the world, to make the positive override the negative impacts. The theme was practically ignored at Davos 2016, because politicians now only discuss themes in the short term: what has to be dealt with during their period in office.

At Davos in 2016, Schwab called for leaders and citizens to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.”

Clearly, that goes against the tide of nationalism, the new vision for the United States, India, Japan, China, Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Great Britain, Turkey and so on.

Well, like it or not, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is here. Today automation already accounts already for 17 percent of production and services. It will account for 40 percent within 15 years, according to World Bank projections.

But we should also take into account the surprising seeds of development of artificial intelligence (AI) – also known as machine intelligence (MI) – which is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence (NI) displayed by humans and other animals.

We already have robots which can be reprogrammed and their functions changed. Without going into the vitally important relationship between AI and societies, it is important to note the most vibrant debate today concerns how our economy is mutating into an economy of algorithms and data and how this is impacting on politics.

Austrian economist and thinker Karl Polany saw this coming when he made a simple observation: capitalism, without controls and regulations, does not create a market economy but a market society where whatever is necessary for survival has a price, and that is submitted to the laws of the market.

In that kind of society, the state has no alternative but to sustain the system with laws, courts and police to protect private property and to secure good functioning of the market.

The explosion of social injustice, privatisation of common goods and fiscal support for the richest are all consequences of Polany’s analysis. Add to this monopolisation of data by a few giant companies, like Facebook or Amazon, and their impact in the social, cultural and economic sphere, and you can see where we are going. We have become data ourselves, and we are on the market.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution will further reduce the centrality of the human being, who has already been replaced by the market ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall…

All this opens up another crucial issue. Labour was once considered an important cost factor in production, and it was the extent to which workers had rights to the resulting benefits that sparked the creation of trade unions, the modern Left and the adoption of universal values such as social justice, transparency and participation, which were the basis of modern international relations.

The relationship between machines and distribution of the benefits of production has inspired several thinkers, philosophers and economists over the last centuries. It was generally assumed that a time would come in which machines would eventually do all production and humankind would be free of work, maintained from the profits generated by machines.

This was, of course, more a dream than a political theory. Yet today, all managers of artificial intelligence and robotic production argue that the superior productivity of robots will reduce costs, thereby enabling greater consumption of goods and services, and this will generate new jobs, easily absorbing those displaced by machines.

The data we have do not show that at all. According to the Economic Report of the President of the United States, there is an 83 percent chance that those who earn 20 dollars an hour could have their job replaced by robots. This proportion rises to 31 percent for those who earn 40 dollars per hour.

Given that the new economy is an intelligence economy based on technical knowledge, people have a future if they are able to adapt to that kind of society, and the new generations are much more attuned to this. But what will a taxi driver who has had no technical education do to recycle himself?

The statistics show that today, when people lose their jobs at a certain age, any new job they may find will almost always be for a lower remuneration. So robotisation will affect the lower middle class above all, and a new generational divide will be created.

Over the years, a number of economists and influential people have expressed the idea of a universal basic income (UBI), arguing that there is a need to cushion society from tensions, instability and unemployment by giving all citizens a fixed income in order that they would be able to have a dignified life. In addition, by spending their UBI, they would generate wealth and increase demand, which would therefore stimulate growth and make for a just and stable society.

Martin Luther King was an early proponent, like neoliberal economist Milton Friedman. Now the billionaires of Silicon Valley like Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, venture capitalist Mark Andreessen and Democratic Party senator Bernie Sanders have all expressed support for the UBI idea.

Meanwhile, Andrew Yang, an American entrepreneur and founder of Venture for America, is a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate running on a UBI platform. Yang notes that in the 2016 presidential elections, Donald Trump did particularly well in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states which have lost four million jobs because of automation: “The higher the concentration of robots, the higher the number of disgruntled people who vote for Trump.”

Yang plans to cover the two trillion dollars that UBI would cost (half of the US budget) with a new VAT tax and taxation on the companies who profit from automation. Of course, in the United States the idea that people who do not work should receive public money is the closest thing to communism, and UBI faces formidable cultural obstacles. But Yang says that otherwise in a few years there will be “riots in the streets: just think of the one million truck drivers, who are 94 percent male with an average high school education, suddenly all jobless.”

The above leads to a few considerations and a concrete proposal.

The first consideration is that Trump and all the other politicians who want to restore a past glorious future totally ignore this debate (unfortunately, it is not part of any political debate). Calling for restoring jobs in mines and fossil fuels, for example, fails to recognise that technological developments have already led to the loss of many jobs, and will continue to do so. So, the rallying of disgruntled people, as was the case in Britain with Brexit, is a consequence of the poverty of the political debate, where traditional political parties (especially on the Left), instead of explaining clearly the world in which we now are, and the one in which we are heading, are trying to piggyback on the feelings of the victims of neoliberal globalisation, often taking up the banners of nationalists.

The second political consideration is that migration has become a major theme in elections. Trump was elected on a strong anti-immigrant platform, which continues in his administration. Governments in Hungary, Austria, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia are based on refusal of immigrants. All over Europe, from the Nordic countries to France, Netherlands and Germany, anti-immigrant feelings are conditioning governments.

In order to take votes away from the xenophobic Matteo Salvini (leader of the right-wing Lega Nord) in the Italian elections (scheduled for March 2018), the old fox of Silvio Berlusconi (former Italian prime minister) has promised that he will expel 600.000 immigrants if he wins the election.

The fear is that immigrants are stealing jobs and resources from citizens in the countries in which they live. However, statistics from the European Union tell us otherwise. The number of non-EU citizens living in Europe (some for a long time) is now 35 million, of whom about eight million are Africans, and seven million Arabs out of a total of 400 million. Those figures also include illegal immigrants.

All statistics show that more than 97 percent of immigrants are totally integrated, that they pay on average more taxes than locals (of course, they worry about their future) and to date those who do not have a job are about 2.3 million people who are still awaiting a decision on their juridical status.

There is not a single study claiming that immigrants have taken the jobs of Europeans in any significant way. It was the same story with the entry of woman into the labour market. An increasing proportion of women have joined the labour force over the last 30 years, but these increases have not coincided with falling employment rates for men. A study on Brexit demonstrated that immigrants had helped to increase GDP, and that the increase in productivity meant a global increase in employment. But we have reached a point where nobody listens any longer to facts, unless they are convenient…

And now the concrete proposal. It is clear that the real threat to employment for the large majority of citizens comes from robotisation, not immigration. No employed person has been fired to be replaced by an immigrant, unless we talk of non-qualified jobs that Europeans do not want in any case.

Truck drivers, taxi drivers, bus drivers and school drivers, to take some examples, do not fear for their jobs because of immigration. Within a very few years, their jobs will become obsolete in any case, and there will be no plans or preparations for that. When the problem explodes, politics might start looking at it.

Perhaps the more responsible thing to do – rather than stoking fear with populism and xenophobia – is that we start to come to terms with the real problem that our society is facing: automation.

And here is a simple proposal: somebody who takes a robot is making money because of its superior productivity, and he is firing somebody. After having paid the robot during usually a couple of years, he might be imagined to have a 100 percent benefit from the firing of a human being. Well, he will not have 100 percent but 60 percent because he will continue to pay the social costs of the human being fired: pension, taxes and health insurance.

That is not as costly as UBI, it is easy to organise and administer, and it will be a way to realise in part the old utopian dream that machines will work for humankind. Can a political debate be started?

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Development, Self-Interest & Countries Left Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/development-self-interest-countries-left-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=development-self-interest-countries-left-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/development-self-interest-countries-left-behind/#respond Wed, 14 Feb 2018 13:43:28 +0000 Sarah Bermeo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154300 Sarah Bermeo is Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science; Faculty Affiliate, Duke Center for International Development at Duke University

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Development, Self-Interest & Countries Left Behind - Open drainage ditch, Ankorondrano-Andranomahery, Madagascar. Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakontondravony/IPS

Open drainage ditch, Ankorondrano-Andranomahery, Madagascar. Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakontondravony/IPS

By Sarah Bermeo
DURHAM, North Carolina, Feb 14 2018 (IPS)

The world’s wealthiest countries today promote development abroad in a way that is relatively new. For centuries, some of these countries colonized the developing world. As former colonies gained independence they were caught in the international power struggle of the Cold War, often led by dictators who found it in their interest to serve as pawns in great power proxy conflicts.

Development, Self-Interest & Countries Left Behind

Sarah Bermeo

A serious attention to development occurred mainly after the end of the Cold War. The focus sharpened in the early 2000s, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 drove home the realization that state failure thousands of miles away can have serious repercussions at home. Promoting development became a matter of self-interest for wealthy states.

The self-interest of developed countries affected policy on foreign aid, trade agreements, and even climate finance, as I argue in my new book, Targeted Development. The focus on development as self-interest did not usher in, as Prime Minister Tony Blair would have us believe, an era of enlightened self-interest where “idealism becomes realpolitik.”

Instead, development is promoted disproportionately when and where it serves the interests of wealthy countries. This will likely aid development in targeted states, but a widening gap will emerge as those not targeted are left further behind.

 

FOREIGN AID AND DONOR SELF-INTEREST

The pattern of aid allocation across countries has changed significantly over time. During the Cold War, geopolitical concerns drove more foreign aid to countries that were militarily important or held key positions, such as membership on the United Nations Security Council.

In the post-2001 period, donors focus more on countries from which they expect the biggest spillovers from underdevelopment: those that are poor, proximate, and populous. They also favor countries that send them higher numbers of migrants and imports. The impact of geopolitical concerns has become less significant during this time.

This is consistent with an increased emphasis on development and with focusing efforts in countries where transmission mechanisms—whether due to proximity, movement of people, or movement of goods—are high. Donors also care more about effectiveness in recent years, conditioning the type of foreign aid on the quality of governance in recipient countries.

Targeting foreign aid to areas where potential spillovers to the donor are high is not only the practice of great powers. Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland have all favored more proximate countries in the post-2001 period—when you control for measures of need such as income, disasters, and civil war.

For Australia, Austria, Denmark, France, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden, aid is also associated with bilateral migrant flows. The more a donor imports from a developing country, the higher aid flows are to that country; this is especially true for Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Taken together, the evidence shows that developing countries already connected to aid donors through proximity, migrant networks, and access to markets also receive more foreign aid. Those less connected are not so lucky. Aggregate data for Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development donors show declines in aid to the poorest countries even while overall aid levels increase. Aid givers do not seem to favor states where development prospects are especially bad.

 

FOREIGN AID IS JUST THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG

This turn toward development promotion in countries of interest has gone beyond foreign aid. The number of preferential trade agreements between high-income and developing countries has increased markedly in recent decades, often tied explicitly to development promotion (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1: Trade agreements between industrialized and developing countries

 

A good example is the United States with Central America. The George W. Bush administration spent considerable political capital to bring about the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement, which opened up trade for the U.S. with a market roughly the size of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The deal was rationalized in terms of self-interest: Helping Central America and the Caribbean develop would increase security and well-being in the U.S. Large amounts of additional foreign aid were funneled to the signatories to help them benefit from the agreement (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2: US development assistance to CAFTA-DR countries annual average for each period

 

This is not an exception. Generally, a high-income state is more likely to sign a trade agreement with more proximate developing countries and with those that already receive a higher percentage of its aid budget. States excluded from such agreements are doubly disadvantaged:

They do not receive preferential access to the most lucrative markets and must compete on unequal terms with countries that do receive such access. The rise in these preferential agreements is in sharp contrast to the failure of the Doha Round at the World Trade Organization, suggesting that wealthy states are more comfortable opening up trade with developing countries in a targeted—rather than universal—manner.

Patterns of giving to finance climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts are also closely related to traditional foreign aid flows, instead of focusing on areas where climate-related aid might do the most good for mitigation or adaptation.

ANOTHER TRAP?

Poorer countries with connections to wealthier states are likely to benefit from the rising emphasis on development. They are more likely to sign trade agreements and receive additional foreign aid and assistance to tackle climate-related problems.

This is the good news—and it is good—because it is an improvement compared with the times where wealthy nations mainly engaged the developing world through colonialism and Cold War competition. For states not targeted, however, the picture is bleak.

Where migration—and hence remittances—is low, foreign aid will also be low. When foreign aid is low, the chances of being granted preferential access to wealthy country markets is lower too. Where geographic distance is great, economic engagement will lag behind.

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Excerpt:

Sarah Bermeo is Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Political Science; Faculty Affiliate, Duke Center for International Development at Duke University

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Combating Africa’s Inequalitieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/combating-africas-inequalities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=combating-africas-inequalities http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/combating-africas-inequalities/#respond Mon, 12 Feb 2018 17:14:53 +0000 Ernest Harsch http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154280 Nelson Mandela, shortly after becoming the first democratically elected president of South Africa, spoke to both his countrymen and women—indeed, for Africans everywhere—when he declared, “We must work together to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth, opportunity and power in our society.” As he spoke those words in 1996, South Africa was just emerging from […]

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A Tanzanian woman walks to the market as a petrol lorry passes by. Credit: Alamy /Wietse Michiels Travel Stock

By Ernest Harsch, Africa Renewal
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 12 2018 (IPS)

Nelson Mandela, shortly after becoming the first democratically elected president of South Africa, spoke to both his countrymen and women—indeed, for Africans everywhere—when he declared, “We must work together to ensure the equitable distribution of wealth, opportunity and power in our society.”

As he spoke those words in 1996, South Africa was just emerging from a racist apartheid past in which non-whites, more than three-quarters of the population, were not only denied the vote but also denied land ownership, skilled jobs, and most basic services.

The country’s poverty rate, after a brief decline, has been on the rebound since 2015. While millions of South Africans have improved their educational and job prospects, overall income inequality in the country remains stubbornly entrenched.

According to a new study by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), South Africa has the highest recorded level of income inequality in the world. And in this, South Africa is not unusual among African nations. Of the 19 most unequal countries in the world, 10 are in Africa, according to the UNDP’s Income Inequality Trends in sub-Saharan Africa, a report released in New York during the opening week of the UN General Assembly this past September.

While many countries in the region, such as Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritius and Rwanda have registered remarkable economic performance over the past decade and a half, lifting millions out of extreme poverty and making schooling and health care available to larger shares of their populations, others have lagged.

One obstacle to higher incomes for all has been the region’s entrenched economic and social inequalities. The contrast between the visible wealth of elites and the daily misery of most ordinary people makes the disparities seem unjust, driving popular anger and contributing to protest and rebellion.

As President Hage Geingob of Namibia—a country that inherited the highest levels of income inequality in Africa when it gained independence from apartheid-era South Africa in 1990—told the UN General Assembly, “As long as the wealth of the country is disproportionately in the hands of a few, we cannot have lasting peace and stability.”

Radical shift

Until recently, income inequality received only sporadic attention from development practitioners and policy makers. Before the 1990s they focused mainly on stimulating economic growth. It eventually became clearer that growing markets alone does not necessarily benefit the poor and that excessive liberalization can in fact hurt them.

When the international community adopted the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000, their focus shifted more towards anti-poverty measures and improvements in social well-being.

Poverty subsequently fell in many African countries experiencing economic growth. Yet despite generally robust growth, nearly half the continent’s people still live on less than $1.25 a day.

Studies have shown that where there is less inequality, the benefits of growth reach wider sectors of the population. In more unequal nations, however, the rich garner the biggest share and the poor get little.

That realization underlay the 2015 negotiations over the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The global goals call not only for ending poverty, but also for reducing inequalities within and among nations. The UNDP terms this a “radical shift” intended to address the “last mile of exclusion” that prevents many people from improving their lives.

In analyzing income inequality in Africa, the UNDP report focuses on 29 sub-Saharan countries (which account for 80% of Africa’s population) for which there is adequate data on household consumption. It shows that between 1991 and 2011, 17 of those countries managed to reduce their degree of income inequality. But the remaining dozen registered an increase in income inequality over the same period.

That divergence reflects the historical, economic, social and political factors affecting income inequality in each country.

Countries with higher—and rising—income inequality are mainly in Southern and Central Africa; they have capital-intensive oil and mining sectors with limited employment or are former settler societies that still have large landholdings.

Countries with declining income inequality, most of which are in West Africa, generally started out with lower levels of inequality and have predominantly smallholder agricultural sectors in which many people stand to benefit from improvements in productivity.

Income inequalities in different countries differ by degree, but the more important distinction is the factors that shape them. The root causes of inequality are rarely the same from country to country and may include restricted access to land, capital and markets; inequitable tax systems; excessive vulnerability to unfavourable global markets; rampant corruption; and the patrimonial allocation of public resources.

Although gender inequalities exist in all countries and are particularly severe in Africa, they are generally underestimated in most standard measures, which rely on household income or consumption data. Such estimates tend to assume equal spending powers among all family members.

While some countries have seen efforts to reduce economic disparities, others have been marked by opposition to such efforts by “incumbent elites,” according to researchers cited in the report.

The marginalization of certain geographical regions or the social and political exclusion of minority ethnic and religious groups can bring especially explosive consequences, the new UNDP report says, contributing to unrest and even armed conflict.

No single solution

Because of the complex, multidimensional factors influencing inequality, “There is no one ‘silver bullet’ to address its challenge,” observes Abdoulaye Mar Dieye, UNDP’s assistant administrator and director of its Africa bureau. “Multiple responses are required.”

Africa Renewal, published by the UN’s Department of Information, examines many existing responses to income inequalities, including inequalities in education, those affecting a vulnerable group (albinos), those relating to business leadership, and those affecting Africa’s trade with other regions.

Whatever a country’s specific history and circumstances, a number of measures have proven especially fruitful in reducing inequalities across the region: increasing productivity among small-scale farmers, ensuring women’s access to land, reversing urban favouritism in services and economic opportunities, promoting labour-intensive industries, setting minimum wages, strengthening capacities to keep the wealthy from evading taxes, introducing strong social protection programmes and ending all forms of exclusion.

Ultimately, such efforts are intended to ensure that all Africans are able to live productive and fulfilling lives and to uphold the SDGs’ pledge to “leave no one behind.”

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