Inter Press ServiceAfrica – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 16 Dec 2017 15:00:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.4 South Sudan: a Nation Tormented by a Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-sudan-nation-tormented-crisis/#respond Thu, 14 Dec 2017 11:05:56 +0000 Kujiek Ruot http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153553 I come from Panyijar County, South Sudan, just south of where famine was declared in February this year and one of thousands of places badly hit by the conflict which enters its fifth year today. With each year the fighting continues, the hopes that I and my fellow South Sudanese had when voting for independence […]

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Oxfam in South Sudan

By Kujiek Ruot, Oxfam, South Sudan
PANYIJAR COUNTY, South Sudan, Dec 14 2017 (IPS)

I come from Panyijar County, South Sudan, just south of where famine was declared in February this year and one of thousands of places badly hit by the conflict which enters its fifth year today. With each year the fighting continues, the hopes that I and my fellow South Sudanese had when voting for independence in 2011 are dimmed.

Home has become a place where our worst memories are made in recent times. Another year passes and I wonder if I should start to ignore it, to move on and avoid more hurt. But how can you forget home? This is my home. My South Sudan.

Let me tell you a bit about my home.

If I ask you to imagine what my old home looked like, most people would picture the bad bits. You might think of the fighting that has forced people to flee for their lives, of barren lands, and of the suffering that thousands of people are currently going through.

But for me, Panyijar was always somewhere completely different; a beautiful and natural place with some of the kindest people around. It’s because of these memories that I cry when I see what is happening there today.

Panyijar County sits in the heart of huge swamps, some of the largest in the world. The waters are dotted by dozens of small islands, with lilies and natural vegetation floating in between. Rare eagles compete with the roosters to wake you in the morning. Not much plastic has reached here yet, so the waters are clear of rubbish.

The people of Panyijar have maintained the natural state of this palm tree-laden land. Were South Sudan a peaceful and developed nation, tourism would be a big earner here! And then there are the people.

Panyijar is famous for its culture of giving and sharing. Caring for others is encouraged from childhood. People tell folk tales of the perils of greed to discourage selfishness. It has even been known for families to trace the lineage of potential spouses for meanness, before getting married.

I remember you could move from one corner of the county to the next, meeting friendly faces all the way. You worried little about where to find food or a place to spend the night: someone would always welcome you. Because people had more, they had more to share when others were in need.

I cannot say there were no challenges before the conflict, but Panyijar was peaceful at least. Today, it’s a different story; a story of crisis. When the guns started blazing, thousands of people fled to the islands where they found some kind of safety but little to survive on except boiled water lily bulbs. With few latrines and clean water difficult to find, deadly diseases and suffering have followed.

The talk of the towns was once of cattle arriving from towns nearby. Now you hear of desperate people arriving, forced to flee from their homes. Diseases seem to be killing more than ever.

When, as a child, I felt unwell in the morning, my mother would give me some herbs and by late afternoon I would be back in the field playing with friends. The difference? Back then I ate nutritious food until I was full to the brim, but now the children are almost always hungry.

Food production has declined. There are few places safe enough to farm and fewer young people to do the work as many of them have been sucked into the conflict. We all keep giving and sharing whatever we may have, but with less to go around, our efforts are stretched thin.

It’s heart-breaking to see the state of a place with such huge potential. On my recent return I saw some signs that there can be better days. Community gardens set up with Oxfam’s help were flourishing, supplying some of the only vegetables in the markets.

It can’t be enough to feed the ever-growing population of the islands, but hopefully in better times more people will adopt them. I want nothing more than this place of natural beauty and wonderful people to grow and flourish.

For now, we must avert disaster. Aid agencies like Oxfam are doing all they can to stop things getting even worse and we must all keep working together to bring back my home’s lost glory and better times for South Sudan.

Peace is where it all begins.

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Libya: Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants, Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/#comments Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:37:53 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153523 “European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya. In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International […]

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In Libya, dozens of migrants sleep alongside one another in a cramped cell in Tripoli's Tariq al-Sikka detention facility. Credit: UNHCR/Iason Foounten

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

“European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.

In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International (AI) details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.

The Geneva-based UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of migrants trapped in Libya could amount to up to one million, and it is now rushing to rescue the first 15,000 victims through a massive repatriation emergency plan. A major airlift is underway as IOM starts flying 15,000 more migrants from Libya before year end.“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses... they are complicit in them” -- John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, AI’s Europe Director, on Dec 12.

“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses,” Dalhuisen affirmed.

“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognise that refugees exist, said Dalhuisen, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused.

Another EU ‘Shame’ Pact

AI’s revelation of such collusion between the European Union and Libya comes amidst a worldwide wave of denunciations against the measure adopted in 2016 by the EU member states –particularly Italy—aiming at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean.

These measures have been implemented with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders, AI said, adding that Europe’s cooperation with Libyan actors has taken the following three-pronged approach:

Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.

Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.

Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.

UNHCR teams in Libya have been responding to the urgent humanitarian needs in and around Sabratha, a city located some 80 kilometres west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Credit: UNHCR

“Auctioned as Merchandise”

Meanwhile, after shocking images showing an auction of people were captured on video, UN human rights experts have urged the government of Libya to take immediate action to end the country’s trade in enslaved people.

“We were extremely disturbed to see the images which show migrants being auctioned as merchandise, and the evidence of markets in enslaved Africans which has since been gathered,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.

It is now clear that slavery is an “outrageous reality” in Libya, they affirmed, adding that the auctions are reminiscent of “one of the darkest chapters in human history, when millions of Africans were uprooted, enslaved, trafficked and auctioned to the highest bidder.”

Slavery, Trafficking, Extortion, Rape, Torture…

The UN human rights experts also warned that migrants in Libya are “at high risk of multiple grave violations of their human rights, such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, arbitrary and indefinite detention, exploitation and extortion, rape, torture and even being killed.”

“The enslavement of migrants derives from the situation of extreme vulnerability in which they find themselves. It is paramount that the government of Libya acts now to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further, and to bring about urgent improvements in the protection of migrants.”

The UN member states must “stop ignoring the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, must urge countries to suspend any measures,” they urged.

AI, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries campaigning to end human rights abuses, has also warned that the criminalisation of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in “mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.”

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) provides lifesaving equipment to Libyan authorities as part of a wider intervention to strengthen the Government’s humanitarian capacity. Credit: UN Migration Agency

“Horrific Treatment”

Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to detention centres where they endure “horrific treatment,” AI warned.

Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.

Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the “soul-destroying cycle of exploitation” to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money, AI informs.

“If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.”

Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress, AI has denounced.

IOM Moves to Relieve Plight of Migrants

Backing an African Union-European Union plan, adopted in the two blocs’ summit (29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire), IOM’s director general William Lacy Swing committed his organisation to fully support this initiative to alleviate the plight of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya.

In the wake of “shocking reports about rampant migrant abuse and squalid and overcrowded conditions across multiple detention centers” in Libya, talks at the AU-EU Summit led to a major stepping up of measures to tackle smuggling and mistreatment of migrants on the central Mediterranean migration route, which claimed 2,803 migrant lives to drowning this year alone, IOM on 1 December informed.

IOM is now rapidly scaling up its voluntary humanitarian return programme, which has brought more than 14,007 migrants back to their home countries so far in 2017.

A large-scale airlift is already underway in which IOM expects to take a further 15,000 migrants home from detention in Libya by end of the year. The establishment of a planned joint task force with all concerned parties is aimed at ensuring that the migration crisis in Libya is dealt with in a coordinated way.

“Scaling up our return programme may not serve to fully address the plight of migrants in Libya, but it is our duty to take migrants out of detention centers as a matter of absolute priority,” IOM director general Swing said.

He added that IOM intends to work with all UN partners and ensure proper coordination and prompt referral of any persons for whom return may not be suitable. These initiatives come following the IOM director general’s discussions with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, as well as with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini and UN Secretary General.


Addressing the UN Security Council, Secretary-General António Guterres highlights the need for global solidarity to tackle the security challenges in the Mediterranean.

Up to One Million Migrants Trapped in Libya

To date IOM has registered more than 400,000 migrants in Libya, and it estimates their number to be more than 700,000 to 1 million. The scaling up of the assistance will also include migrants wishing to go back home but who are not in detention centers.

“Large numbers of migrants are held in overcrowded detention centers, in conditions that fall far short of basic and humane standards. A large number of those migrants have expressed a wish to return to their countries of origin and IOM is now scaling up its air operations out of Libya to assist those men, women and children who may wish to return home.”

IOM’s initial effort will focus on 15,000 migrants, which it aims to help return and reintegrate in countries of origin before the end of the year. “This is a choice people make voluntarily, hoping for a new start at home,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s chief of Mission in Libya.

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Migrants in Italy: “Shame Is Keeping Us Here”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 22:40:04 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153510 Despite deplorable living conditions, loneliness and unemployment, many African migrants in Italy choose to stay – even when they have the means to return. “Shame is keeping us here,” says one young man named Bamba Drissa. “We cannot go home empty-handed.” Drissa, who hails from the Ivory Coast, arrived in Europe at the height of […]

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Bamba Drissa from Ivory Coast was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Bamba Drissa from Ivory Coast was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
RIGNANO GARGANICO, Italy, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Despite deplorable living conditions, loneliness and unemployment, many African migrants in Italy choose to stay – even when they have the means to return.

“Shame is keeping us here,” says one young man named Bamba Drissa. “We cannot go home empty-handed.”“I had no idea or no preconception of what Europe would be like. Work and sending money home, that was all.” --Bismark Asoma

Drissa, who hails from the Ivory Coast, arrived in Europe at the height of the so-called European migrant crisis. He was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. That same month, 370 died during an attempt to reach Europe. With a total of 4,713 fatalities, the Libyan corridor would become the deadliest crossing in the world and 2016 the deadliest year at sea.

Trailer on the east side

After a year and a half of traveling around Italy, Bamba Drissa ended up in the ‘Granghetto’ of Rignano Garganico, an illegal settlement of several hundred mostly West Africans without documents. The camp consists of tents and barracks and is located in the middle of the Southern Italian Capitanata plane, only accessible after eight kilometers on dilapidated, potholed streets.

The barracks now only cover a fraction of the original surface of the illegal settlement. On March 1 of this year, police and army started a mass evacuation of the site. It led to a fire that left the bulk of the camp in ashes and killed two Malians in their thirties. The evacuation had been ordered by the anti-Mafia Brigade in Bari due to reported criminal infiltration in the camp. Despite the police action, the brothel, operated by victims of Nigerian smuggling, today is still there.

Residents whose campers or barracks were burnt in the fire bought tents. The tents are still there, on the western side of the camp, protected from the strong wind on the Capitanata plane by the remaining barracks.

When he arrived here six months ago, Bamba Drissa still had enough money to purchase a moldy caravan on the east side of the camp. A month ago he was making money working on Italian farms. Now the harvest is over, the temperature on the plain drops day by day, and the fields where the barracks are built have turned into a sea of mud.

Returning empty-handed

“Life here is much harder than where I come from,” he says. “I have a lot of regrets of coming here.” But returning, the young Ivorian adds, is impossible. “I made my choice to come here. Others chose to stay and build their lives there. I cannot return home empty-handed, this was my choice and now I have to make it happen.”

“It is shame that is keeping me here,” he concludes. “I cannot disappoint my family. They are the reason why we are here. We are here to help them confront their problems. Before we succeed in doing that, we can’t go back.”

Bismark Asoma, 20, from Ghana has been on European soil for three years. He is constantly looking for work and lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans in the area around the village of Cerignola, about an hour’s drive south from Rignano Garganico.

The Ghanaian tells a similar story: his father died when he was five. Because his mother struggled to take care of him, his five-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister, he chose to travel to Europe to help her.

“Working and sending money home was the only thing I thought about before leaving,” he says. “I had no idea or no preconception of what Europe would be like. Work and sending money home, that was all.”

Bismark Asoma, 20, migrated from Ghana to Italy. He lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Bismark Asoma, 20, migrated from Ghana to Italy. He lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Remittances

The scale and importance of remittances for the African continent can’t be underestimated. The 2017 Economic Outlook Report of the African Development Bank states that remittances are a ‘major and stable source of external finance for Africa.’ In Western African countries like Liberia and Gambia, money transfers even account for twenty percent of GDP. From 2000 to 2016, remittances grew from 11 billion dollars to 64.6 billion.

While being less volatile than development aid and foreign direct investment the report states, migrant remittance flows also have the advantage of ‘increasing inversely with the economic situation of recipients.’ In other words: migrants are likely to send more money when difficult situations arise in their country of origin.

A son in Europe

Not only in Brong-Ahafo, the region where Bismark Asoma comes from, but in many other West African countries and regions, the prospect of remittances has made the fact of having a son in Europe a matter of prestige.

“The money sent from Europe to Africa improves the economic situation of the family and substantially increases their status in the community,” says Senegalese migration researcher Linguere Mbaye, economic consultant for the African Development Bank Group and research affiliate at IZA, the Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn*.

The Ghanaian Ministry of Migration confirms the logic mentioned by Mbaye and even points out that in some cases, families who do not have children in Europe are looked down upon.

From rural to urban

Though a matter of prestige in African communities, the majority of migrants still leave home out of poverty. A study conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya last year showed that 80 percent of migrants left home because of economic hardship. Seven percent left because of a lack of basic services such as education or health care in their home country, and only five percent fled violent conflicts.

An analysis of interviews with migrants who had just arrived at Lampedusa that was published earlier this year by the World Food Program (WFP) confirmed these findings. When speaking to West Africans, the WFP noted that they mainly left home because of a lack of job opportunities. Young men interviewed by the WFP told similar stories to those of Bamba Drissa or Bismark Asoma: they were sent out, “leaving their family with the promise of remittances and hopes of a future reunion.”

The path most migrants follow from the moment of departure is summarized as follows: they “firstly moved within their own countries, mostly from rural areas to bigger urban areas or the capital city. In general, they moved one or two times before migrating across the border.”

According to the report, the search for stable employment leads them increasingly further from home. “On the way, they would locally collect information about transiting routes and following steps. The journey continued in this incremental way, following a general path that eventually brought them towards Europe.”

Three factors

Of course there is a subgroup that wants to make the trip to Europe immediately. According to migration researcher Linguere Mbaye, this migration is triggered by three separate factors: “First, the perception that you cannot achieve anything in your own country. You see with your own eyes how much money is sent home by cousins ​​or friends who do make it, while you keep struggling to get a job.

“Secondly, there is a biased perception of salaries in Europe,” says the researcher. “My research shows that the expectations are much higher than the actual wages in for instance France or Spain.”

Thirdly, there is the effect of networks and family members abroad, “who can give all information about where to go and how to fund migration.”

Poverty reduction is not the solution

Contrary to what intuition suggests, relieving poverty will not necessarily lead to a decline in migration. “On the contrary,” says Mbaye. “Research shows that people who are richer have more aspirations and more resources at their disposal to start the journey.”

“Reducing poverty is of course an aim in itself,” she adds, “but there are other factors to consider if we want to decrease illegal migration. Moving away is sometimes seen as the only way to be successful in life. So the only way to help reduce migration pressure is by making it one of the many options in life. We must create a situation in which a person can choose either to migrate safely or invest in a productive activity at home.’

Linguere Mbaye underlines that in this discussion, migration should not be considered “a bad thing it itself. And for many people it is a way to deal with adverse shocks. It is thus important to find ways to make migration safe and regular.”

*All opinions expressed here are hers and do not represent those of the African Development Bank.

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For Freedom from Poverty, Universal Health Coverage Is a Musthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/freedom-poverty-universal-health-coverage-must/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=freedom-poverty-universal-health-coverage-must http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/freedom-poverty-universal-health-coverage-must/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 07:29:14 +0000 Siddharth Chatterjee and Githinji Gitahi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153471 Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Kenya. Dr Githinji Gitahi is the Global CEO of Amref Health Africa.

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Nearly one million Kenyans are pushed below the poverty line and remain poor as a result of healthcare expenses. Credit: Paul Nevin

By Siddharth Chatterjee and Dr Githinji Gitahi
NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Today is 12 December 2017 is an auspicious day, as it marks Kenya’s independence from colonial rule in 1963. Today is also Universal Health Coverage Day. It is the anniversary of the first unanimous United Nations resolution calling for countries to provide affordable, quality health care to every person, everywhere.

In Kenya illness can mean financial ruin.

Every day families are forced to sell their assets, rely on community support or see their modest life savings wiped out by medical bills.

Ill-health is a substantial burden not only on Kenyan families, but also on the country’s economic growth. Every year, nearly one million Kenyans are pushed below the poverty line and remain poor as a result of healthcare expenses.

Out-of-pocket expenses at point of treatment in Kenya make up a third of the country’s total health expenditure, far above the World Health Organization’s suggested 15 or 20%.

Universal health coverage should be [viewed] as a rights issue,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization (WHO). “Many families are getting into poverty because they are spending their savings for health care services.”

Across the globe there is a strong correlation between high rates of out-of-pocket expenses and catastrophic and impoverishing health expenditure. It is a powerful factor in inequality of access to healthcare, often forcing the poor to forgo medical treatment. It also increases costs, because when poor people finally seek treatment it’s either too late or else complications caused by delay have worsened their condition.

Approximately four out of every five Kenyans have no access to medical insurance, so the cruel reality is that most are just an accident or illness away from destitution. Among the poorest quintile a mere 3% have health insurance, this provided by the government’s National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). This rises to 42% of the wealthiest fifth where private cover is also more common. Additionally, there are stark disparities between rural and urban populations, where rates of coverage are an average of 12% and 27% respectively.

“Over the next 5 years, my Administration will target 100% Universal Healthcare coverage for all households”. Credit: State House

To its credit, the Kenyan government is taking steps towards reducing these inequalities. Payments for primary and maternal health services in public facilities have been abolished, resulting in increased utilization and improved outcomes, particularly among the poorest. President Uhuru Kenyatta at his inaugural speech emphasized, “Over the next 5 years, my Administration will target 100% Universal Healthcare coverage for all households”.

Devolution of health care provision to county governments should also ensure more efficient resource distribution, accountable health services and improvements in equity that will eventually help decongest the overstretched Referral Hospitals.

Recent initiatives by the NHIF–such as inclusion of outpatient care and introduction of health insurance subsidies for the poor–are helping to expand coverage beyond those in formal employment. As a result, roughly 88.4% of households with health insurance are covered through the NHIF.

But as long as 33.6% of Kenyans survive on less than US$1.90 per day, there are still millions who cannot access quality healthcare.

Affordability is not the only barrier. Lack of public awareness, high loss ratios due to fraud, and reluctance among insurers to underwrite cover for the poor are also important.

Health insurance contributes only about 13% to national health expenditure, with the balance made up of out-of-pocket expenses at point of treatment, government and tax revenues, and donor funding. Such statistics undermine Kenya’s ability to achieve universal health coverage, enshrined in Kenya’s Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development Goal 3.

There is a clear need to develop low-cost, innovative solutions for expanding insurance coverage and technology must form part of such solutions. Technology-backed automation can improve efficiency and enhance transparency, both key requirements.

Mobile money can perform faster, more transparent and targeted health payments through health e-vouchers. Technology can process claims and enable healthcare consumers and providers to interact more efficiently, while offering more customized products to people of all incomes.

Efficient storage and sharing of patient data could reduce the cost of care by, for instance, tracing false claims, preventing repeat tests, or avoiding misdiagnosis.

Technology can also offer substantial savings in administration costs, which currently swallow a staggering 40% of the NHIF’s revenue, far in excess of the industry norm of 3-4%. Effective IT systems would help to reduce this astonishing disparity, as would improved governance and transparency. A lack of analytical capacity hobbles the NHIF’s ability to forecast and respond to increasing costs, hindering strategic planning and development. Better technology can address this.

However, such innovation must be accompanied by increased efficiency in health spending, through partnerships with institutions working to improving access to healthcare for the poor, and through policy dialogue between government and other stakeholders.

First Lady Margaret Kenyatta holds a new born baby when she visited Makueni County Referral Hospital during the handing over of the 30th Beyond Zero mobile clinic. Credit: State House

Ultimately, sustainability demands increased investment in preventive care and primary health. Diverting cash away from the 60% of the health budget that currently goes to curative care will pay dividends. Better primary care reduces ill-health and catches disease at an earlier stage, when treatment is cheaper and more effective. It also frees up resources to expand insurance coverage for the poor.

Launching the country’s SDG Platform with the United Nations in New York during the UN General Assembly in 2017, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Dr. Amina Mohamed remarked, “As a government we have clearly prioritized the Universal Health Coverage agenda because it is one of the ways to protect our people from the consequences of out-of-pocket health expenditure which in Kenya forms about a fifth of family spending”.

This Independence Day, let us join hands to free every Kenyan from the tyranny of poverty by achieving universal health coverage. It is the foundation for economic development and prosperity.

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Are Value Chains a Pathway to Nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/value-chains-pathway-nutrition-sub-saharan-africa/#respond Mon, 11 Dec 2017 08:56:51 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153436 Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

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Raghav Gaiha is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Shantanu Mathur is Lead Advisor, Programme Management Department, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Rome, Italy. The views are personal.

By Raghav Gaiha and Shantanu Mathur
NEW DELHI, Dec 11 2017 (IPS)

Although difficult to ascertain whether it is a trend reversal, two recent FAO reports (2017a, b) show a rise in hunger globally as well as in Africa. The number of undernourished (NoU) in the world suffering from chronic food deprivation began to rise in 2014 –from 775 million people to 777 million in 2015 – and is now estimated to have increased further, to 815 million in 2016. The stagnation of the global average of the proportion of undernourished (PoU) from 2013 to 2015 is the result of two offsetting changes at the regional level: in Sub-Saharan Africa, the share of undernourished people increased, while there was a continued decline in Asia in the same period. However, in 2016, the PoU increased in most regions except Northern Africa, Southern Asia, Eastern Asia, Central America and the Caribbean. The deterioration was most severe in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Eastern Asia (FAO 2017a,b).

Raghav Gaiha

In 2016, weak commodity prices were partly responsible for a slowdown in economic growth across Sub-Saharan Africa to 1.4 %, its most sluggish pace in more than two decades. With the population growing by about 3 % a year, people on average got poorer last year, and, by implication, more undernourished. The greater frequency and intensity of conflicts and crises further aggravated undernourishment.

Food systems are changing rapidly. Globalization, trade liberalization, and rapid urbanization have led to major shifts in the availability, affordability, and acceptability of different types of food, which has driven a nutrition transition in many countries in the developing world. Food production has become more capital-intensive and supply chains have grown longer as basic ingredients undergo multiple transformations. Expansion of fast food outlets and supermarkets has resulted in dietary shifts. The consumption of low nutritional quality, energy-dense, ultra-processed food and drinks, and fried snacks and sweets has risen dramatically in the past decade.

The concomitant shift to the more market-oriented nature of agricultural policies means that agricultural technology and markets play a more important role in determining food prices and rural incomes, and more food is consumed from the marketplace rather than from own production. The greater market orientation of food production and consumption has increased the bidirectional links between agriculture and nutrition: agriculture still affects nutrition, but food and nutritional demands increasingly affect agriculture. Increasing demands for energy-intensive products exacerbate environmental impacts of food value chains: for example, excessive use of agricultural chemicals to extract more dietary energy from every hectare while contaminating the very food it produces, along with groundwater and the soil; and the greenhouse gas emissions from livestock industries to feed the ever-increasing demand for meat and dairy products (Carletto, 2015).

Shantanu Mathur

Value chain concepts are useful in designing strategies to achieve nutrition goals. Central to this approach is identifying opportunities where chain actors benefit from the marketing of agricultural products with higher nutritional value. However, value chain development focuses on efficiency and economic returns among value chain transactions, and the nutritional content of commodities is often overlooked.

A food value chain involves a series of processes and actors that take a food from its production to consumption and disposal as waste. In a value chain, the emphasis is on the value (usually economic) accrued (and lost) for chain actors at different steps in the chain, and the value produced through the functioning of the whole chain as an interactive unit. A value chain is commodity specific, and thus involves only one particular food that is relevant within a diet.

As value chains are crucial in determining food availability, affordability, quality, and acceptability, they have potential to improve nutrition. What is required is to identify opportunities where value chain actors benefit from supplying the market with agricultural products of higher nutritional value. Value chain development, however, has rarely focused attention on consumers—consumers are simply considered as purchasers driving the ultimate source of demand. In this light, the value chain strategy is likely to be enriched by a stronger consumer focus, and, in particular, a focus on consumer nutrition and health. The empirical evidence on the role of value chains in improving nutrition is, however, scanty and mixed.

Basically, nutrition results from the quality of the overall diet, not just from the nutrient content of an individual food. In value chains, the focus is generally commodity specific, rather than on how to integrate multiple chains to contribute to an enhanced quality of diet. There may be offsetting impacts such that, if one value chain works better and consumption of the associated food increases, consumption of other foods may decline.

On the demand side, the central issue is how to promote consumption of nutritious foods by target populations that may not be able to afford a healthy diet. Similarly, on the supply side, an important concern is the feasibility of targeting the poorest smallholders and informal enterprises along the value chain, particularly, involving women.

An example from Nigeria elucidates the potential of value chains for enhancement of nutritional value and the constraints that must be addressed. Chronic undernutrition is pervasive in Nigeria, with rates of stunting and underweight alarmingly high and little progress over the last decade. There are major disparities in nutrition outcomes between the wealthy and poor, between the north and south, and between urban and rural areas. Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread across social groups. Vitamin A deficiency, for example, is associated with 25% of child and maternal deaths. Together with direct nutrition interventions, it is necessary to improve the functioning of food value chains and provide access to nutrient-dense foods to the urban and rural poor.

Cowpeas make a substantial contribution to the nutrition of poor populations in Nigeria. Cowpea grains contain an average of 24% protein and 62% soluble carbohydrates. They are rich in thiamine, folates and iron, and also contain zinc, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin B6 and calcium, as well as the amino acids lysine and tryptophan. Markets for cowpea products are mainly informal, and the majority of products are produced by small-scale businesses and sold locally. Few formal sector businesses have invested in cowpea products, and there is limited innovation in value-added products. A merit of cowpea foods is that they are readily acceptable to diverse populations, widely available across the country and can be distinguished from less nutritious alternatives. However, affordability and availability of cowpeas is constrained by major supply-side problems. Cowpea prices fluctuate between seasons, due to the susceptibility of grains to degradation and low use of improved storage technologies. Although simple, safe and low-cost technologies are available in the form of improved storage bags, these are not prominent in wholesale and transport stages of the value chain. Besides, existing preservation techniques make use of pesticides that create risks of toxic contamination. Improving use of storage technologies along the value chain, including on-farm facilities, transportation and storage facilities in markets would help alleviate this constraint-especially for smallholders.

So the challenges are creating incentives for businesses to focus better on nutritional foods and conditions enabling smallholders to integrate better into these chains.

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South-South Cooperation Key to a New Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 14:36:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153298 “There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.” This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation […]

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Mongolian farmers harvest carrots as part of an FAO South-South Cooperation Programme between China and Mongolia. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

“There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.”

This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation at an event marking the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation on 12 September, just few weeks ahead of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey (27 to 30 November).

The statement came a few weeks ahead of US President Donald Trump’s announcement that his country was revoking its commitment to the September 2016 UN-promoted global pact that aims at guaranteeing the human rights of migrants and refugees worldwide, in what is widely considered as his third blow to multilateralism in less than one year since he took office after US withdrawal from both the Paris Climate Agreement and UNESCO.

Solutions and strategies created in the South are delivering lasting results around the world, said Amina Mohammed, the UN deputy secretary-general, on the occasion of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation.

“Nearly every country in the global South is engaged in South-South cooperation,” she added, citing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India’s concessional line of credit to Africa, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Strategic Association Agreement by Mexico and Chile as few examples.

The deputy UN chief, however, also cautioned that progress has been uneven and extreme poverty, deep inequality, unemployment, malnutrition and vulnerability to climate and weather-related shocks persist, and underscored the potential of South-South cooperation to tackle these challenges.

Not a Substitute for North-South Cooperation

Significantly, Amina Mohammed highlighted that the support of the North is crucial to advance sustainable development.

“South-South cooperation should not be seen as a substitute for North-South cooperation but as complementary, and we invite all countries and organizations to engage in supporting triangular cooperation initiatives,” she said, urging all developed nations to fulfil their Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments.

A Kenya delegation discuss with Indonesia goverment official about food security in their country. Credit: FAO

She also urged strengthened collaboration to support the increasing momentum of South-South cooperation as the world implements the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Further, noting the importance of the upcoming high-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation to be hosted by Argentina on 20-22 March 2019, she said, “It will enable us to coordinate our South-South efforts, build bridges, cement partnerships, and establish sustainable strategies for scaling up impact together.”

The UN General Assembly decided to observe this Day on 12 September annually, commemorating the adoption in 1978 of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.

Key to Overcoming Inequalities

At the opening of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey, Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), on 27 November said that as the most vulnerable countries continue to face serious development challenges, South-South cooperation offers “enormous opportunities and potential” to effectively support them in accelerating progress on implementing globally agreed goals.

“These are all countries faced with complex and unique development challenges which lend themselves to exploring how and where we can maximize South-South cooperation and leverage global partnerships to support countries’ efforts toward sustainable and inclusive futures,” said Utoikamanu.

The 2017 Global Expo gathered 800 participants from 120 countries, senior UN officials, government ministers, national development agency directors, and civil society representatives, to share innovative local solutions and push for scaling up concrete initiatives from the global South to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The central promise of the 2030 Agenda is to ‘leave no-one behind,’ and thus is about addressing poverty, reducing inequality and building a sustainable future of shared prosperity,” she explained. “But it is already clear that these noble Goals will be elusive if the 91 countries my Office is a voice for remain at the bottom of the development ladder.”

As such, she added, South-South collaboration has led to increasing trade between and with emerging economies, investors, providers of development cooperation and sources of technological innovations and know-how. “This trend is confirmed by trade preferences for [least developed country products], enhanced trade finance opportunities, but also innovative infrastructure finance emerging.”

“The complex and pressing challenges the vulnerable countries experience demand that we further strengthen and leverage South-South cooperation,” said Utoikamanu, adding that South-South cooperation is “not an ‘either-or’ – it is a strategic and complementary means of action for the transfer and dissemination of technologies and innovations. It complements North-South cooperation.”

Science, Technology, Innovation

The Antalya week-long Global South-South Development Expo 2017 focused on a number of key issues, including how to transfer science, technology and innovation among developing countries and, in general, on solutions ‘for the South, by the South.’

The future will be determined by the abilities to leverage science, technology and innovation for sustainable growth, structural transformation and inclusive human and social development, said Utoikamanu. “It is proven that innovative technologies developed in the South often respond in more sustainable ways to the contextual needs of developing countries. Last, but not least, this is a question of cost.”

In all this, the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries has a major role to play in boosting science, technology and innovation capacity. “It must facilitate technology transfer and promote the integration of [least developed countries] into the global knowledge-based economy.”

Hosted by the Government of Turkey and coordinated by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the Antalya Global South-South Development Expo 2017’ was wrapped up on 30 November under the theme “South-South Cooperation in the Era of Economic, Social and Environmental Transformation: The Road to the 40th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.”

Jorge Chediek, the Director of UNOSSC, said: “Many of the achievements of the expo are not reflected in these very impressive numbers themselves, they are reflected in the partnerships that are being established, in institutional friendships and agreements that are been developed and that will certainly generate results.”


UN Day for South South Cooperation. Credit: United Nations

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Migrant Promoters and Musicians Spread Message of “One Africa”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/migrant-promoters-musicians-spread-message-one-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-promoters-musicians-spread-message-one-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/migrant-promoters-musicians-spread-message-one-africa/#respond Tue, 28 Nov 2017 01:15:18 +0000 Mxolisi Ncube http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153216 The crowd in the park gave out roars of approval as the next act was announced:  Mothusi Bashimane Ndlovu, one of Zimbabwe’s most popular singers and actors, who took to the stage with a small axe in hand. It’s the trademark prop of his most famous role, Madlela Skhobokhobo: a Zimbabwean migrant struggling to make […]

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South African President Jacob Zuma with Maskandi artist Khuzani during the 6th Annual Matomela celebrations, 8 Oct 2016. Credit: GCIS/cc by 2.0

South African President Jacob Zuma with Maskandi artist Khuzani during the 6th Annual Matomela celebrations, 8 Oct 2016. Credit: GCIS/cc by 2.0

By Mxolisi Ncube
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Nov 28 2017 (IPS)

The crowd in the park gave out roars of approval as the next act was announced:  Mothusi Bashimane Ndlovu, one of Zimbabwe’s most popular singers and actors, who took to the stage with a small axe in hand.

It’s the trademark prop of his most famous role, Madlela Skhobokhobo: a Zimbabwean migrant struggling to make it in South Africa. The hearty artist, who now lives in Johannesburg, sent the crowd at Alec Gorschel Park in Hillbrow, Johannesburg, into a frenzy as he belted out one of his comical hits, “Bheyapeya.”"During our shows, attended by both locals and migrants, we preach messages of tolerance. The idea is to build one Africa based on love and unity." --Mcasiseli Gwaza-Gwaza of Bayethe Music

Bashimane was one of many migrant performers spicing up Johannesburg’s Heritage Day celebrations in September, organized each year by Inqama, a wholly Zimbabwean youth cultural group headquartered in Johannesburg.

It was a social cohesion event, of sorts: nine years after South Africa experienced what was arguably its worst xenophobic violence, in which at least 62 people died, thousands were displaced and property worth millions of rands was either looted or destroyed during the attacks in May 2008. Attacks have taken place in several flare-ups since.

But the feel of events like the Heritage Day celebration reflects the attempts by average people on the ground to try and tame the scourge of xenophobia and foster social cohesion between locals and migrants.

While it has largely been seen as the duty of government officials and non-governmental organisations to bring migrants and locals together in peace-building initiatives, these promoters and musicians have seized the initiative. Operating on a low or zero budget, they have held musical shows, built inter-country fan bases for musicians, held inter-country tours, initiated collaborations and brought together some traditional, political and community leaders from the two countries.

There are 2.1 million migrants in South Africa, according to the 2011 census — about 4 percent of the “Rainbow Nation’s” population.

During a regional integration and migration trends briefings in 2015, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said these were a result of push factors that facilitated migration included lax border control, the long and porous borders, internal conflict and dysfunctional governments. Factors that exacerbated regional migration included trafficking in persons, smuggling drugs, arms and money laundering. Poverty was identified as a major push factor.

The largest percentage of migrants in South Africa are said to be Zimbabweans, many of whom are fleeing economic crisis and political repression.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Zimbabwean musicians and music promoters are always at the forefront of organising shows of this nature.

“We have seen it as imperative for locals and migrants to come together in celebratory events, which will build familiarity among different nationals and bring them closer to one another,” said Mcasiseli Gwaza-Gwaza of Bayethe Music, a fledgling music promotions company.

“Usually, xenophobia flares because of problems that affect ordinary South Africans, who then vent their anger on foreigners because they somehow believe migrants are the principal cause of their suffering. During our shows, attended by both locals and migrants, we preach messages of tolerance. The idea is to build one Africa based on love and unity. We therefore, believe it is our duty as promoters to use music to achieve that goal.”

Bayethe Music is just one of the many migrant-owned companies whose activities have brought together Zimbabwean and South African musicians in collaborative work. As a result, more than 20 collaboration songs and a number of festivals have been held by musicians from the two countries.

“Our main aim is to foster grassroots co-operation as a way to achieve social cohesion,” adds Gwaza-Gwaza. “Our events, which pull huge crowds comprising both locals and migrants. We also invite community leaders, politicians and traditional leaders from all over Africa to come and give messages themed around the spirit of Ubuntu (humanity).”

Their efforts are bearing fruit. A number of migrant Zimbabwean musicians are now being recognised by South African promoters, with Zimbabwean maskandi (Zulu traditional music) singers like Zinjaziyamluma, Amabhukudwana, Amachwane Amahle and Insukamini among those that have been a permanent fixture at musical shows previously reserved for South Africans.

As fans continue to warm up to inter-country relations, popular South African maskandi musicians like Igcokama Elisha and Khuzani Mpungose now have Zimbabwean chapters of fans dedicated to them.

“I have enjoyed friendship with many Zimbabwean maskandi singers based in South Africa and received a lot of support from music fans from that country,” said Manqele recently.

“This kind of co-operation has helped us bridge the divide between South Africans and migrants and most music fans are now as united as we wished when we first started this journey,” said Zinjaziyamluma’s manager, Mlungisi Tshabalala. “Both sets of musicians have been able to preach peace to their fans across nationalities.”

Zinjaziyamluma has collaborated with an array of South African acts that include Bonakele Myeza, Mlethwa Majola, Sebedlile Ntshangase, Kaptein, Khandalenja, Zanefa Ngidi, Mshovo and Gearbox Mtshali. Most of the songs preach the need for Africans to unite.

“We have also made great progress as Zinjaziyamluma, having had four branches of our South African fans established in Mnambithi, KwaNongoma, Ethekwini and Mhlathuze, in the KwaZulu-Natal province. We have also taken some of the South African musicians we work with to Zimbabwe every December and this has helped a great deal in fostering co-operation.”

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Uncertain Future for “Diabolic” Free Trade Pacts Between EU and Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/uncertain-future-diabolic-free-trade-pacts-eu-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertain-future-diabolic-free-trade-pacts-eu-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/uncertain-future-diabolic-free-trade-pacts-eu-africa/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 00:00:55 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153207 In the run-up to the fifth EU-Africa summit in Côte d’Ivoire, the future of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between Europe and its former colonies looks bleaker than ever. While most of Europe’s trade partners around the world keep refusing to sign the deals, the African Union’s Commissioner for Trade will most likely announce a […]

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Adolf Ozor, a tomato farmer in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, is struggling to make ends meet after import surges. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Adolf Ozor, a tomato farmer in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, is struggling to make ends meet after import surges. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
BRUSSELS, Nov 27 2017 (IPS)

In the run-up to the fifth EU-Africa summit in Côte d’Ivoire, the future of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between Europe and its former colonies looks bleaker than ever. While most of Europe’s trade partners around the world keep refusing to sign the deals, the African Union’s Commissioner for Trade will most likely announce a moratorium on all EPAs.

Ever since independence, Europe’s former colonies have enjoyed preferential (duty-free) access to the European market. In turn they didn’t need to open their own markets. When in 2000 the World Trade Organization deemed this one-sided market opening unlawful, Europe and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) started negotiating reciprocal trade deals."Trade between neighbors is now more difficult than trade with the EU. We are creating borders within Africa." --Gunther Nooke

The resulting deals, coined Economic Partnership Agreements or EPAs, are not pure free trade deals. Under the agreements, ACP countries are allowed to keep protecting 20 percent of their products – mostly agricultural products – with import tariffs. The other 80 percent will be liberalized gradually over the course of 20 years after the signing and ratification of the deal. The deals were negotiated between the European Commission and seven regions of several countries engaged in economic integration processes.

Stalling the implementation

Seventeen years later only two of the seven negotiated deals have been signed, ratified and implemented, one with the South African Development Community (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) and one with the Caribbean. The EPA with West Africa is currently blocked by Nigeria, Gambia and Mauritania who refuse to sign, while in the East African region, last year Tanzania sued Kenya for signing while Uganda wants to address more concerns – President Museveni travelled to Brussels on a three-day work visit at the end of September for talks.

Almost all ACP countries fear the possible negative impact of the EPAs on their economies and therefore stall its implementation. “They already had the right to export to Europe duty-free,” said Joyce Naar, a lawyer and activist with the ACP Civil Society Forum. “Now they are expected to open up their markets to Europe without getting anything back.”

Especially in Africa, governments and analysts fear an encore of the tomato and chicken scenario. In Ghana, for instance, after IMF and World Bank-enforced tariff reductions, import surges caused the market share for domestic chicken to fall from 100 percent to a mere three percent today in less than three decades. The chicken industry, once the second largest employer in the country, has now been taken over by competing imports from Canada, Brazil, Europe and China.

As for tomatoes, after lowering tariffs Ghana became the second largest importer of tomatoes in the world and according to FAO data, market share for domestic produce dwindled from 92 to 57 percent in only five years.

Industrialization at risk

Aside from agricultural produce, NGOs also fear that entire industrialization of the continent is at risk. At a recent international trade union conference on the issue of EPAs in Togo, this point was repeatedly made. “To industrialize, we need to protect and develop the internal market until we’re ready for international competition, as has been demonstrated by China,” says Georgios Altintzis of he International Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

At the conference, Mariama Williams, senior program officer at the South Center in Geneva, also stressed that increased competition would lead to increasing feminization of work.

“Women do the worst jobs in the worst conditions,” she stated at the conference. According to Williams, EPAs will have the greatest impact on labour-intensive industries where women are disproportionately employed. An increase of competition would raise the pressure on these sectors while the internal standards and labour conditions remain unchanged.

“Diabolic” agreements or success story?

“There has always been a diabolic whiff about EPAs,” former EPA chief negotiator Sandra Gallina said a few weeks ago at a meeting of trade ministers from all ACP countries in Brussels. “There is nothing diabolic about them, they were just extremely badly communicated. For the last five years I have been fighting a misinformation campaign.”

On the first day of the Brussels meeting, the European Commission published numbers on its website meant to illustrate the benefits of EPAs. In 2012 an agreement entered into force between Madagascar and the EU. By 2016, exports to the EU had risen by 65 percent. The same for South Africa, which signed an agreement one year ago. The last year, exports of processed fish increased by 16 percent and flowers by 20 percent.

According to Marc Maes, trade policy officer at the Flemish North South Movement 11.11.11, the figures should be taken with a grain of salt. “Madagascar is recovering from a period of total chaos,” he said. “Do these numbers show the influence of the EPA or mere economic recovery? In the case of South Africa, the mentioned period consists of just one year. It’s a bit premature to talk about a steady, reliable impact.”

Migration crisis

The criticism isn’t limited to the content of the agreements. The way in which the European Commission concludes them is also widely condemned. As agreements with entire regions are stalled, the Commission now makes agreements with individual states. Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire signed and ratified such interim EPAs a year ago, fearing they would lose preferential access to the European market.

“That’s crazy,” says Gunther Nooke, personal representative in Africa of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and one of the staunchest critics of the EPAs. “Trade between neighbors is now more difficult than trade with the EU. We are creating borders within Africa. ”

According to Nooke, in the midst of a migration crisis the only things that benefits Europe and Africa is more employment in Africa. “This can only be done by protecting the entire African market with the creation of an African Customs Union led by the African Union. African products can be made here and be freely traded across the continent without having to compete with European goods. But now, because of differences in opinion about EPAs, African countries aren’t making any progress in forming a customs union.”

Moratorium

According to Merkel’s envoy, the African Union Commissioner for Trade has already announced that he will call for a moratorium on all EPAs. “And we must respect that,” says the advisor.

Germany is in the perfect position to make its opinion be heard. The country delivers the greatest contribution to the European Development Budget: just over 6.2 billion euros in the period 2014-2020, accounting for 20.6 percent of the total. It is doubtful whether Berlin and Brussels will be able to voice their opinions in unison at the Nov. 28-29 EU-Africa Summit in Abidjan.

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Goodbye Mugabe, Hello New Zimbabwe?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/goodbye-mugabe-hello-new-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=goodbye-mugabe-hello-new-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/goodbye-mugabe-hello-new-zimbabwe/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 22:49:00 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153139 Robert Mugabe – the world’s oldest head of state – is dead, politically at least. After 37 years in power, Mugabe, 93, had become almost synonymous with the country he led. Nothing was said about Zimbabwe without a mention of Mugabe: his rule, his candor and his unforgettable one-liners. It was his wit combined with […]

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Former teacher turned revolutionary leader and Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe. Credit: Al Jazeera/cc by 2.0

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Nov 21 2017 (IPS)

Robert Mugabe – the world’s oldest head of state – is dead, politically at least.

After 37 years in power, Mugabe, 93, had become almost synonymous with the country he led. Nothing was said about Zimbabwe without a mention of Mugabe: his rule, his candor and his unforgettable one-liners.Events of the last fortnight culminated in the removal of one of Africa’s political godfathers and a grandmaster of guile.

It was his wit combined with his political astuteness that made Mugabe more feared than he was adored. Mugabe has missed an opportunity to die in office, a wish he personified by holding on to power for so long.

Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence from the British in 1980, resigned today after facing impeachment by his own party – which a few months back had endorsed him as their sole presidential candidate for the national elections due in 2018. If he had won, Mugabe would have been in office until the age of 98 – another world record.

But at the party Central Committee meeting last week, Minster Obert Mpofu said it was with “a heavy heart” that the Central Committee was removing Mugabe, who had contributed “many memorable achievements.”

The ruling Zanu PF party made a record of its own. It dramatically fired Mugabe as its leader and endorsed a decision to impeach him after Mugabe ignored a Nov. 20 deadline to voluntarily step down.

A diehard dictator forced out

But events of the last fortnight culminated in the removal of one of Africa’s political godfathers and a grandmaster of guile. The sacking of Emmerson Mnangagwa as the country’s Vice-President from the government and ruling party Zanu PF because he was disloyal and accused of plotting to dethrone Mugabe set in motion events that saw Mugabe fighting for his political life.

Mugabe appears to have given in to his wife Grace’s penchant for power. He purged the party’s senior leadership, seen as an obstacle to Grace’s goal of a Mugabe dynasty. It was too much to take for the army, Zanu PF and the people. Enough was enough and Mugabe had to go. Grace – 41 years Mugabe’s junior – had to be stopped.

A joke is told that Mugabe was once asked when he will say goodbye to the people of Zimbabwe, only to retort: “Where are they going for me to say goodbye to them?”

Now Mugabe himself has been forced to say goodbye.

“I have resigned to allow smooth transfer of power,” he wrote in his resignation letter, which was read aloud to applause at a joint session of the Zimbabwean Parliament. “Kindly give public notice of my decision as soon as possible.”

Mugabe ‘s avowed principle that ‘politics shall always lead the gun and not the gun politics’ was reversed when army tanks rolled into the streets of the capital Harare last week, held Mugabe and his family under house arrest and took over the state broadcaster. Their action, justified as a means to rid the country of criminals who had misled the President, was never referred to as a coup. The gun took over the politics, putting Zimbabwe on a new unknown path to change. Yet Mugabe initially brazenly brushed off the events of the past week as no threat to his leadership.

After the last week’s massive public clamour for Mugabe to step down, a frail and feeble Mugabe appeared to give the Zimbabwean populace a middle figure in a rambling speech last Sunday that he would preside over the forthcoming congress of the Zanu PF which has fired him as its leader and head of State.

Lost legacy

A former teacher turned revolutionary leader, Mugabe espoused the reverent statesman, reconciler and nation builder. His pro-development policies are credited with creating educated, savvy citizens, many of whom have made a mark on the global stage. But an educated people quickly understood the suppression of their rights as Mugabe consolidated power. He changed the law to become executive President in 1987, the same year he forged a Unity Agreement between Zanu PF and rival political party, PF Zapu led by his erstwhile opponent, Joshua Nkomo.

“Mugabe is history already. Unfortunately, he has destroyed whatever legacy he had 20 years ago,” says economist and parliamentarian, Eddie Cross. “He will now be remembered as the man who destroyed our agricultural industry, brought hunger to the majority of people’s homes and allowed Africa’s most diversified economy to collapse.”

Cross says under Mugabe’s watch, incomes have declined by two-thirds, agricultural production by two-thirds or more, industry by over 80 per cent and employment is down to less than 10 per cent of the adult population. Mugabe, Cross believes, has driven over 5 million Zimbabweans into the Diaspora, the majority skilled, well-educated people with capacity.

“We are immediately faced with a cash crisis, a fiscal crisis and a complete lack of confidence in the State, the Banking sector and in government policy,” Cross told IPS. “All these issues have to be dealt with simultaneously. The economic wish list is a mile long – very difficult to prioritize but clearly we have to curb recurrent expenditure by the State, we have to increase revenue, we have to balance our budget and we have to restore confidence in our monetary policies and banking industry.”

The new government – when it is in place – will need to form a national government which has both popular support and international credibility if it can address the many problems facing Zimbabwe, economic recovery being one.

Cross is convinced the international community will demand a return to democracy as soon as possible and the full implementation of the Constitution as well as the restoration of the rule of law and adherence to human rights.

“They are going to demand respect for property rights and for strict compliance with an IMF programme,” says Cross, a founding member of the MDC and currently its Policy Coordinator General. “This tough wish list needs a strong government, it needs time and it needs credible and competent and incorruptible leadership.”

Mnangagwa, 75 – an ally and comrade in arms of Mugabe – has been mentioned as the new leader for Zanu PF, with his expulsion reversed this week. Described as a subdued contriver, Mnangagwa served in various portfolios of security, intelligence and justice. He has been seen as Mugabe’s go-to man with an uncanny ruthlessness in dealing with opponents.

In a widely circulated statement attributed to Mnangagwa, the former vice president who fled the country after being fired had urged Mugabe to step down and take heed of public calls.

“Mugabe can be tried domestically, but not by the ICC [International Criminal Court],” says Dave Coltart, a human rights lawyer and former cabinet minister. “Impeachment would be a legal way of terminating his presidency. Mnangagwa needs to comply with the Constitution.”

New faces, old ideologies

Touted as heroes, Zimbabwe’s army has pulled off epic public relations campaign to restore the country’s political and economic fortunes through a new government. But will there be a new order in Zimbabwe? As Zimbabwe remains on edge about what is to come, Coltart warns against celebrating the unclear promises of the military men.

“In all of our euphoria we must never become so intoxicated as to forget that it was the same generals who allowed Mugabe to come to power in 2008 and 2013,” said an opinion piece this week, urging that Zimbabweans should not forget how the military and war veterans spearheaded the violence which followed the March 2008 elections to ensure that Mugabe got back into power.

“So our message to the military must now be ‘thank you for cleaning up the mess you created but you must now return to your barracks as soon as possible and never again get involved in the electoral process,” Coltart said. “The real danger of the current situation is that having got their new preferred candidate into State House, the military will want to keep him or her there, no matter what the electorate wills….We, and the international community, must make it loud and clear to the military that they have no role to play in that election, other than assisting the police to keep the peace.”

A fraught future?

For many decades fear has been a powerful instrument in the hands of Mugabe and his supporters. Fear was used to cajole, silence and eliminate dissent. It worked to keep Mugabe in power, kept his supporters in line and opponents in check.

Jennie Williams, a human rights activist and founder of the movement, Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA), bears emotional and physical scars of crossing swords with the Mugabe régime in calling for change.

“I will be vindicated to hear Mugabe himself saying I resign,” says Williams, who was arrested more than 65 times for criticizing the Mugabe regime. “I am saddened that today the Zanu PF members have realized what we have been saying and calling for all this time but they did not have the courage to tell Mugabe to go.”

Williams, 55, is conflicted on what should be delivered in the post-Mugabe era.

“I am desperate for justice,” she told IPS by telephone. “I wanted justice for this country, for the people, for my family. Many people suffered under Mugabe’s rule and today have no jobs, cannot pay their bills, families have been torn apart but I am happy people have shaken away fear.”

The wish list is long. Zimbabweans seeks a restoration of economic stability, a return to the international fold, the revival of industry and the promise of jobs, peace and security to get on with their lives. Maybe Mugabe had an easy solution:

“We must learn to forgive and resolve contradictions real or perceived in a comradely Zimbabwean spirit,” Mugabe earlier told a stunned nation that was eagerly waiting for his resignation.

It finally came today as his own party introduced a motion to impeach him. According to news reports, after the letter was read by Speaker Jacob Mudenda, once-bitter rivals from ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change shook hands and hugged.

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For Africa to Root out Modern Day Slave Trade, Youth Empowerment Is Crucialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/africa-root-modern-day-slave-trade-youth-empowerment-crucial/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-root-modern-day-slave-trade-youth-empowerment-crucial http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/africa-root-modern-day-slave-trade-youth-empowerment-crucial/#respond Tue, 21 Nov 2017 15:05:45 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153127 Amb (Dr.) Amina Mohamed, EGH, CAV is Kenya’s Foreign Minister. Follow her on twitter.

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Credit: Italian Coast Guard

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 21 2017 (IPS)

If the thought of a man armed with a rifle and driving with whips a group of African men, women, and children to sell them at a slave market makes you marvel at what kind of greed motivated such revolting barbarity centuries ago, the shocking truth is that we are witnessing a 21st century repeat of that abhorrent practice on African soil.

Kudos to the team from CNN led by International Correspondent, Nima Elbagir, who uncovered a human trafficking ring in Libya which specializes in selling human beings as slaves and sex workers.

Now we know.

For those of us who were at the Durban World Conference Against Racism 16 years ago when slavery and slave trade were declared crimes against humanity, our horror and sadness at reports that sub-Saharan migrants are being sold at slave markets in Libya is immeasurable. That the world would be silent as this heinous crime were reported is something we cannot comprehend and tolerate.

That a people and country that claim African citizenry can practice this repulsion in a continent that bears so many scars is scary at so many levels. For several years now, Libya has continued to serve as the primary departure point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa, with more than 90 percent of those crossing the Mediterranean Sea departing from Libya.

Often, migrants to forced labour and forced prostitution through fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt bondage.

Reports of auctioneers advertising a group of West African migrants as ‘big strong boys for farm work’, and references to the migrants as ‘merchandise’ indicates a new low, and human rapacity that is difficult to comprehend in the modern age.

It defies at a horrid level international statutes such as The Universal Declaration of Human Rights that prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude as well as the more recent UN Palermo Protocol that made the abolition of modern-day slavery a part of international law.

The conscience of the Libyan nation must be roused; its propriety must be startled. All Libyans must vehemently reject the inhumane practice of slave auctions that will forever blight their history and shred to pieces their relationship with the rest of humanity. I know that the frightened faces of human beings turned into merchandise and put in cages that haunts our collective psyche also affects Libyans of goodwill.

Young Africans being held to be sold as slaves in Libya. Credit: SAHARA REPORTERS

The African Union Commission has condemned this trade as an ‘egregious abuse of human rights’ and demanded that the culprits be brought to justice and this violation of fundamental human rights be immediately ended. As Africans we will discuss the slave auctions in Libya at all fora, African and otherwise until we finally and conclusively deal with it.

Horrifying as the situation in Libya is, migration elsewhere in the world continues to be an avenue through which many men, women, and children continue to live in modern-day slavery through the scourge of human trafficking.

Unlike the ages gone by, today’s victims may not be in iron fetters, but most are poverty-stricken and forced to migrate for work, believing it presents an opportunity to change their lives and support their families. It is a desperation that comes with extreme costs in the form of modern slavery.

While everyone must denounce everything that serves to perpetuate slavery, African countries must now begin confronting the factors that force thousands of people to risk their lives seeking a fighting chance for survival abroad through illegal migration.

A report from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees has shown that seven in ten of those heading for Europe are not refugees fleeing war or persecution, but economic migrants in search of better lives.

Africa must give special priority to those SDGs that will give the continent a competitive edge through its youth. These include ending poverty, ensuring healthy lives and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education, all which have particular resonance with the challenge of empowering youth and making them effective economic citizens.

With between 10 and 12 million Africans joining the African labour force each year and a continent that creates only 3.7 million jobs annually, there is hard work to be done if we are to extirpate the shame of modern slavery.

The UN Secretary General Mr Antonio Guterres remarked, “Slavery has no place in our world and these actions are among the most egregious abuses of human rights and may amount to crimes against humanity”

Like our forefathers who fought against the obdurate slave-drivers of yesteryears, we too must be determined that development priorities are geared towards nipping all circumstances that abet the horrid human trafficking trade.

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Ethnic Violence in Ethiopia Amid Shadowy Politicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/ethnic-violence-ethiopia-amid-shadowy-politics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ethnic-violence-ethiopia-amid-shadowy-politics http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/ethnic-violence-ethiopia-amid-shadowy-politics/#comments Tue, 21 Nov 2017 00:01:38 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153113 Ethnic animosity unleashed in Ethiopia has displaced hundreds of thousands as well as rendering all manner of usually sacrosanct loyalties obsolete. “I was making my husband dinner in the evening but an hour after he returned from work he kicked me out of our home,” says Zahala Shekabde, a Somali married to an Oromo. “I […]

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Displaced Somali at a camp on the outskirts of the city of Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Displaced Somali at a camp on the outskirts of the city of Dire Dawa in eastern Ethiopia. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
NEAR THE OROMIA-SOMALI REGIONAL BORDER, Ethiopia, Nov 21 2017 (IPS)

Ethnic animosity unleashed in Ethiopia has displaced hundreds of thousands as well as rendering all manner of usually sacrosanct loyalties obsolete.

“I was making my husband dinner in the evening but an hour after he returned from work he kicked me out of our home,” says Zahala Shekabde, a Somali married to an Oromo. “I pleaded with him, told him I loved him and that I have nothing else, but he said he didn’t want to listen and I must go otherwise he would hurt me.”Both regional governments deny their special police were involved while accusing the other of Machiavellian plots.

She left with nothing other than three children from a former marriage—her husband wouldn’t let her take her youngest child from their marriage.

Other displaced ethnic Somali with Zahala from all over Ethiopia’s Oromia region say there was no warning and explanation given for their evictions, other than the local Oromo where they lived, including local officials, telling them it was revenge for what had happened to Oromo in Jijiga, the capital of the Somali region.

Upwards of 50,000 ethnic Oromo had to leave the Somali region and beyond (officials from the opposing Oromia and Somali regions dispute whether the sum applies just to the Somali region or to the Horn of Africa—Oromo have also left Djibouti and Somaliland, where two Ethiopians were reportedly killed in the capital, Hargeisa).

This sequence of tit-for-tat ethnic-based violence and evictions was sparked after Oromo protests on Sept. 12 in the town of Aweday, between  the cities of Harar and Dire Dawa near the border between the two regions, led to rioting that left 18 dead, according to official figures, the majority being Somali traders of khat, the plant that when chewed acts as a mild stimulant. Somali who fled Aweday say it was closer to 40 killed.

Following Aweday, the Somali regional government began evicting Oromo from Jijiga and the region. Officials say this was for the Oromo’s own safety, and that not one Oromo died from ethnic violence in the region—a fact disputed by displaced Oromo.

“My husband was sick at home when I left for work on Sept. 20,” says Fateer Shafee from a village near Jijiga. “Later I got a call from him saying to come and collect the children as there was conflict nearby. When I got back I found the children but our home was burnt with my husband still inside. Everyone was running and hadn’t been able to get him out.”

Displaced Oromo sheltering on an industrial park on the outskirts of the city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Displaced Oromo sheltering on an industrial park on the outskirts of the city of Harar in eastern Ethiopia. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

In the numerous camps that have popped up and public buildings commandeered to absorb the displaced, Oromo and Somali tell equally convincing stories of ethnic violence, primarily carried out, they claim, by each region’s special police, while exhibiting even more convincing physical wounds of that violence.

Meanwhile, both regional governments deny their special police were involved while accusing the other of Machiavellian plots. At the federal level, the government faces accusations ranging from not doing enough to turning a blind eye to even abetting violence for political ends. Another option is it may simply not have the capacity to do enough, so widespread is the violence.

“It’s very difficult to tell if there have been acts of omission or commission at all levels,” says the head of one international humanitarian organization in Ethiopia, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The scale of what’s happened becomes clearer 80km east of Dire Dawa, just over the regional border in the Somali Region, where two giant camps for displaced Somalis are co-located in the lee of the Kolechi Mountains.

In the older camp are 5,300 Somali households—household size varies from 6 to 10 people—displaced by a mixture of drought and ethnic violence since 2015. In the newer camp are 3,850 households displaced by the recent violence.

“It’s uniformed police carrying out the bloodshed,” says one Somali man at the camps.

Another man had to flee Oromia’s Bale zone, hundreds of kilometers to the southwest, though he says that 500 Somali households remain there under constant harassment.

“They are rich farmers and are attacked each day,” he says. “The local Oromo tell the Ethiopian soldiers there one thing and then do another—it’s the worst example of conflict as the farmers are totally isolated and surrounded, and have no way of getting away.”

Displaced Somali at giant camps surrounded by the Kolenchi hills in Ethiopia’s most eastern Somali region. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Displaced Somali at giant camps surrounded by the Kolenchi hills in Ethiopia’s most eastern Somali region. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Inhabitants in both camps pull back clothing to reveal old bullet wounds, scars and lesions from burns, broken bones that never healed, and more.

A number of displaced Somali say they survived thanks to the intervention of soldiers from the national Ethiopian Defense Force. But it wasn’t enough to allow them to remain, or to return.

“If the federal government sends forces to keep the peace they stay for a week or a month and then after they leave it happens again,” says one Somali man. “We can’t risk staying.”

Oromia and Somali are the two largest regions in the country by area size, sharing a border of more than 1,400 km (870 miles). The Oromo constitute the largest proportion of Ethiopia’s population, numbering about 35 million, a factor Ethiopia’s other ethnic groups remain deeply conscious of—especially its 6.5 million Somalis.

Ethnic conflict along the border between the two regions and in the regional rural hinterlands has long occurred, and can be traced to grievances and still standing tensions from the Ethio-Somali war of the 1970s and further back to historical tensions over Oromo migration due to their significant numbers.

But ethnic violence in urban areas well removed from the border is particularly rare. Many say the violence is all the more shocking within communities that integrated peacefully for centuries, and within which intermarriage between Oromo and Somali was the norm.

In 2004, a referendum to decide the fate of more than 420 kebeles around the border—Ethiopia’s smallest administrative unit—gave 80 percent of them to the Oromia Region. This led to thousands of Somalis leaving areas for fear of repercussions.

The referendum still hasn’t been fully resolved, which some say could be one factor behind the current conflict, as may be the on-going drought putting further pressure on pasture and resources—but only to a degree.

“There’s been drought before and no violence happened,” says the vice administrator of one of the Somali regional zones badly hit by the drought. “The main reason is politics and is hidden—this is all man-made.”

Ethiopia’s ethnic federalist system devolves power to regional states. Some observers note how this leaves the government in a quandary of respecting that devolution while also protecting the constitutional rights of Ethiopians, especially minorities, as regions increasingly flex their devolved muscles.

Recent trouble primarily occurred where notable minorities existed: Somali in Aweday, for example, and Oromo in Jijiga. More diverse cities such as Dire Dawa, with a less clear majority, have escaped violence for now.

Meanwhile, accusations go beyond political machinations by regional powerbrokers and the federal government to include the Ethiopian diaspora opposition and social media.

“The Oromo are being directed from Minnesota in America,” says one Somali official. “The Oromo in government don’t have enough respect or influence to coordinate this.”

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Who Are Kenya’s Financially Excluded?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/kenyas-financially-excluded/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-financially-excluded http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/kenyas-financially-excluded/#respond Mon, 20 Nov 2017 17:17:23 +0000 William Cook http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153103 William Cook, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP), World Bank

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Credit: Francis Minien, 2013 CGAP Photo Contest

By William Cook
WASHINGTON DC, Nov 20 2017 (IPS)

The recent 2017 Finscope Tanzania report shows that while mobile money use in Tanzania continues to grow, the percentage of financially excluded adults has risen in parallel — from 27 percent in 2013 to 28 percent in 2017.

After a decade of significant declines in financial exclusion, these new numbers raise the question of whether the strongest mobile money markets, such as those in East Africa, might be reaching a plateau in financial access.

Perhaps the best bellwether is Kenya, where over 70 percent of adults have mobile money accounts. With a majority of people connected to mobile money, Kenya’s financial services and development organizations have increasingly refocused their efforts away from financial access and toward improving account use.

This move is perhaps not without good reason. As more people gain access to mobile money, the question of how it can be used to improve the lives of the poor becomes more critical.

The development of products like digital investment, credit and savings are essential for moving low-income customers from basic transaction accounts to services that meet financial inclusion’s broader promise of lifting people out of poverty.

But what about those people who are still outside the bounds of financial services today?

Based on the 2016 FinAccess survey, 17 percent of Kenyan adults remain fully excluded — meaning they do not have a bank account, use another formal product like mobile money, or even use an informal mechanism like a savings collective.

In a country where over 90 percent of the financially excluded population is aware of mobile money, where 67 percent live within walking distance of an access point, and where trust, financial literacy and comfort with technology do not rate as barriers to obtaining an account, why do these people remain outside the financial system?

FinAccess data provide some basic demographic answers to this question. Compared to the included population, Kenya’s financially excluded are more likely to be:

• Rural (80 percent)
• Older (38 percent are over the age of 45)
• Female (55 percent)
• Poor (42 percent are in the lowest wealth quintile)
• Informally employed or dependent (81 percent)
• Lacking formal education (37 percent have no formal education at all)
• Living in a female-headed household (twice as likely as financially included people)

Already with these data points, a picture begins to form of a population segment that may not have enough money to make financial services worthwhile. Other parts of the survey bolster this hypothesis.

Ninety-four percent of financially excluded FinAccess survey respondents cite lack of funds as a primary reason for not having an account, and 67 percent say they live easily without formal services. A Kenyan in the bottom wealth quintile is seven times more likely to be excluded than a top earner. Ultimately, wealth is a better predictor of financial exclusion than location, gender, marital status or age.

And yet there is one characteristic that easily beats out wealth: education.

A Kenyan with no formal education is 26 times more likely to be financially excluded than someone at the top of the education ladder. Education in this sense does not refer to technological know-how or financial training, but formal primary, secondary and university education.

It may seem surprising that education would weigh more heavily than any other factor in determining the use of financial services, but perhaps it should not. Education often defines livelihood, livelihood defines wealth and wealth, in many cases, defines the need for today’s digital financial services.

These findings imply that expanding access to the last remaining excluded users in countries like Kenya and Tanzania will not be as easy as erecting more cell towers or designing a smoother user experience.

Today’s exclusion might not be easily fixed by companies scaling their current financial products in response to customer demand. As best as we can tell, if you aren’t using mobile money in Kenya today, there is a good chance it is because you have little money to manage and believe the product does not dramatically improve your life.

So when it comes to expanding financial access, what can the financial inclusion community do right now alongside long-term efforts to improve access to quality education and boost incomes? The excluded population represents millions of people in these markets, and it is difficult to generalize about their financial needs. But given the insights above, a few more nuanced questions can be asked to better focus our efforts:

• Are there excluded people near a tipping point, who need only slightly better incentives to start using today’s financial services? How can we make today’s products more attractive for them? CGAP research on topics like merchant payments is attempting to answer this question.

• What portion of the excluded population might be covered by government-to-person (G2P) programs, and will these programs provide access to comprehensive financial services? G2P programs may offer a way to connect people who do not have the means to make more traditional services worthwhile to the financial system. However, the channels governments use to deliver many of today’s support payments are viewed by recipients as cash disbursement mechanisms more than financial products. Graduating the products offered through these channels to more comprehensive financial services solutions should also be a part of the conversation.

• For people who neither receive government payments nor have the resources to make today’s financial services worthwhile, what services are necessary to make financial inclusion more appealing? This is the group that David Ferrand of FSD Kenya refers to as the “missing middle” for financial access. How can markets innovate to not just bring existing products closer to the excluded, but adapt those products to make them more relevant for the excluded?

Mobile money has provided an essential on-ramp to financial services for portions of the developing world, especially those in East Africa. We must continue building on these platforms to help lift people out of poverty.

But as we do this, it is important to realize that today’s products will not work for everyone. Achieving financial inclusion in the years ahead will require not only applying and building on existing products, but also continuing to innovate to better meet the needs of the excluded.

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Are Prospects of Rural Youth Employment in Africa a Mirage?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/prospects-rural-youth-employment-africa-mirage/#comments Mon, 13 Nov 2017 17:59:35 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153004 (Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

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(Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

By Raghav Gaiha and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

Many recent accounts tend to dismiss productive employment of youth in rural areas in Africa as a mirage largely because they exhibit strong resistance to eking out a bare subsistence in dismal working and living conditions. We argue below on recent evidence of agricultural transformation that this view is overly pessimistic, if not largely mistaken.

Raghav Gaiha

The 15–24-year-old age group represents 20% of SSA’s population today and, unlike in other regions, this youth share will remain high and stable (19% in 2050). In absolute terms, SSA’s youth will grow from nearly 200 million in 2015 to nearly 400 million in 2050, and its share in the labour force will remain the highest in the world, even if following a declining trend. Representing 37% today – in comparison with 30% in India, 25% in China and 20% in Europe – it should still account for 30% in 2050 (ILO, 2016).

Agriculture has a substantial role in meeting the youth employment challenge facing Africa. Even in a most optimistic scenario, non-farm and urban sectors are not likely to absorb more than two-thirds of young labour market entrants over the next decade. But there will be vast opportunities for the innovative young people in agricultural systems as they adapt to a range of challenges in the near future. These challenges relate to raising productivity in a sustainable way, integration into emerging high value chains, and healthy diets.

While the challenges are daunting, the potential benefits of addressing them are enormous. Higher prices, more integrated value chains, widening connectivity to markets in some areas, and greater private and public engagement in the sector are creating new opportunities. A major barrier is, however, strong negative preferences/attitudes of the youth towards agriculture.

A survey of rural in- and out-of school young people towards agriculture, based on field-work in two regions in Ethiopia, is remarkably rich and insightful (IDS Bulletin Volume 43 Number 6, 2012). Life as a farmer was tied to life in a village which most respondents saw as hard and demanding. Yet there was considerable heterogeneity in the views of the young. Participants in both regions concurred that agriculture has changed significantly over the last decade. The introduction and adoption of agricultural inputs such as improved seeds, fertilisers and better farming methods (such as slash ploughing, sowing seeds in rows, water pumps, modern beehives) have produced significant increases in productivity and earnings.

There were competing narratives on whether agriculture was becoming more desirable to young people as a result. Participants felt that these developments were making agriculture more and more profitable and therefore more appealing. But they felt that there was a huge obstacle in engaging in it – scarcity of land. Although the dominant view was that young people are disinterested in agriculture, some participants pointed out that this was not always the case.

A slightly more positive attitude towards agriculture was evident among young people who had left school, either failing to complete high school for various reasons or to qualify for higher level education. Although this group of respondents were equally aware of the grimness of traditional agriculture and the life of the common farmer, many were not dismissive of agriculture as a possible future livelihood, while a few even saw it as a preferred livelihood option, under improved conditions.

Recognizing agriculture as a viable employment option is even more challenging when economic and social restrictions related to access to productive resources (eg land, credit and improved seeds) are taken into account. All these limitations are exacerbated for young women who, in general, have no prospect of land access due to rules of inheritance, and who know that they will mainly have to work for their husbands (ILO, 2016).

Although the government considers rural educated youth as instrumental in bringing about a transformation in agricultural skills, knowledge and productivity, it has not effectively addressed either the attitude of many young people towards agriculture or the obstacles preventing their entry into the sector.

To create opportunities commensurate with the number of young people who will need employment, constraints on the acquisition of capital, land, and skills must be removed or relaxed.

A few selected initiatives are delineated below.

Allowing alternative forms of collateral, such as chattel mortgages, warehouse receipts, and the future harvest, can ease the credit constraints-especially for young farmers. The OHADA7 Uniform Act on Secured Transactions, in effect in 17 Sub-Saharan African countries, was amended at the end of 2010 to allow borrowers to use a wide range of assets as collateral, including warehouse receipts and movable property such as machinery, equipment, and receivables that remain in the hands of the debtor. Leasing also offers young farmers some relief, as it requires either no or less collateral than typically required by loans. A case in point is DFCU Leasing in Uganda, which gave more than US$4 million in farm equipment leases in 2002 for items such as rice hullers, dairy processing equipment, and maize milling equipment. Some outgrower arrangements prefinance inputs and assure marketing channels. In Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia, Rabo Development (a subsidiary of Rabobank) offers management services and technical assistance to financial institutions, which, in turn, finance supply chains with a range of agricultural clients.

The two aspects of land administration that matter most to young entrants to the labour force are the need to improve security of tenure and the need to relax controls on rental. Land redistribution will also enhance young people’s access to land. In general, policies and measures that help the poor to gain access to land will also help young people.

The growing food demand in Africa is a major avenue for agro-processing, which can easily be developed using small and medium-sized entities (SMEs). This option requires less capital, is more labour intensive and facilitates the proliferation of units in rural boroughs and small towns, offering employment and entrepreneurial opportunities, local value added and new incomes. Agro-processing SMEs can also facilitate the resolution of post-harvest problems, which are a significant issue in SSA resulting in a loss of revenue for farmers.

In the Niger Delta, for instance, the IFAD-supported Community Based Natural Resource Management Programme is promoting a new category of entrepreneur-cum-mentor called the ‘N-Agripreneur’. These N-Agripreneurs own and run medium-scale enterprises at different stages of food value chains. They deliver business development services to producers, especially young people, who are interested in agro-based activities, such as farming as a business, small-scale processing, input supply and marketing.

In order to enable young people to respond to the environmental, economic and nutrition challenges of the future, they must develop suitable capacities. A case in point is ICTs which can develop young people’s capacities, while improving communication and easing access to information and decision-making processes. Investing in extending these technologies to rural areas, in particular targeting young people – who are generally more adaptable to their use – has allowed them to keep themselves up-to-date with market information and new opportunities.

In sum, there is an abundance of remunerative employment opportunities for the youth in rural areas that could dispel the mirage through imaginative government policies.

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Aid Groups Sound Alarm on DRC Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-groups-sound-alarm-drc-crisis/#respond Mon, 13 Nov 2017 09:25:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152989 The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn. The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation. In the past year alone, the […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 13 2017 (IPS)

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and the international community must step in before it worsens, humanitarian agencies warn.

The escalation of ethnic clashes in southeastern DRC in recent months has left millions displaced and on the verge of starvation.

In the past year alone, the conflict has displaced nearly 2 million, 850,000 of whom are children and some of whom have fled to the neighboring nations of Angola and Zambia. DRC already had the highest number of new displacements in the world in 2016.

Last month, the UN declared the DRC a level three humanitarian emergency—the highest possible classification on par with Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

“The alarm bells are ringing loud and clear,” said Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) DRC Country Director Ulrika Blom.

“The UN system-wide L3 response is only activated for the world’s most complex and challenging emergencies, when the entire aid system needs to scale up and respond to colossal needs.”

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), over 3 million people in the Kasai region are severely food-insecure, exacerbating hunger and malnutrition.

“As many as 250,000 children could starve in Kasai in the next few months unless enough nutritious food reaches them quickly,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley after a four-day mission to the central African country.

NRC said that over 80 percent of people in displacement camps in Tanganyika province did not have access to clean drinking water, heightening the risk of cholera outbreaks.

Though WFP and NRC are both scaling up assistance, aid agencies are constrained by challenges in funds and access.

The UN’s humanitarian response appeal for DRC is only 33 percent funded, the lowest level of funding for the country in more than 10 years, while WFP has received only one percent of the 135 million dollars needed for the next eight months.

Multiple active militias, poor road networks, and the upcoming rainy season further impede humanitarian access.

Swift intervention is needed now to stop the conflict and address humanitarian needs in order to prevent “long-term chaos,” Beasley said.

Though some families have been able to return to their villages in Kasai, Beasley noted that many could not work on their fields for fear of being attacked again.

“I have met too many women and children whose lives have been reduced to a desperate struggle for survival…that’s heartbreaking, and it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Blom expressed hope that a level three emergency classification will bring in more funds, and highlighted the importance of having such resources be flexible.

For instance, North Kivu, which hosts the largest number of displaced people in the country, is not included within the UN’s emergency classification. Blom said that though North Kivu is not experiencing the same level of violence as seen in Kasai, the conflict’s unpredictable nature could change this.

“Resources coming into the country must be flexible so we can put them to use where needs and gaps arise. Lives depend on it,” she warned.

DRC’s long-standing conflict has left over 8 million people in need of assistance and protection. The most recent iteration of the crisis has partly been fueled by the refusal of President Joseph Kabila to step down after his mandate expired in December 2016

Beasley said he saw the horror in survivor’s eyes as they told stories of beheadings and sexual violence.

“The Kasai region, it was rather appalling in ways that are truly hard to explain, in ways you actually don’t want to explain.”

According to a mission report by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), security forces and militias “actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity.”

Witnesses told OCHR that two pregnant women’s foetus’ were removed and allegedly chopped into pieces, while another two women were accused of being witches and were beheaded.

Among the survivors was a woman who was raped with a rifle barrel four hours after giving birth. “I did not end up like the others because I lied on the ground pretend to be dead…and I hid my baby under my body,” she told OHCHR. Her newborn baby was reportedly shot twice in the head.

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“Refugees Are Nothing but Commodities”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/refugees-nothing-commodities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugees-nothing-commodities http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/refugees-nothing-commodities/#comments Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:14:22 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152952 As countless refugees arriving on Italy’s shores report torture, extortion and forced labour in Libyan detention centers, many say they never intended to make the journey to Europe until the chaos in Libya left them no other choice. “We were still working on the construction site when I was taken apart from the others. The […]

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Refugees from the Choucha camp in Tunisia are demanding recognition of their legal status. Credit: Alberto Pradilla/IPS

Refugees from the Choucha camp in Tunisia. Credit: Alberto Pradilla/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
FOLLONICA, Italy, Nov 9 2017 (IPS)

As countless refugees arriving on Italy’s shores report torture, extortion and forced labour in Libyan detention centers, many say they never intended to make the journey to Europe until the chaos in Libya left them no other choice.

“We were still working on the construction site when I was taken apart from the others. The guard pulled his gun, aimed it at me and told me he’d shoot if I tried to walk away. After ten minutes of trembling with fear, a truck arrived and I was ordered to get in. We drove to a beach where a crowd was being kept at gunpoint by other guards in uniforms. They forced us to board a Zodiac and pushed us into the open sea. The second day we were saved by a European ship.”

Amidou Kone (23) now lives in Follonica, in a refugee center that used to be a tourist campsite in Tuscany. He is one of the 113,722 refugees who made the passage from Libya to Italy, the deadliest crossing in the world with a total of 2,714 fatalities from the start of the year up until now.

Amidou left his home country of the Ivory Coast after his entire family was killed during a raid in the 2011 war. After passing through Burkina Faso and working as a shepherd for a farmer in Niger, he is certain he was sold to Libyan militias after a business trip with his boss to Libya.

“They wanted me to call my family for ransom,” he says, “but didn’t want to believe that everyone had died so they started torturing me.” Amidou shows the scars on his head, caused by blows with Kalashnikov stocks. He points at the blank spots around his right index and right ankle. “They tried to cut off my finger with a knife and then they wanted to beat my foot with a flashlight. Why so much cruelty? I don’t have the faintest idea.”

Kidnapping industry

For over two years, the cruelty of detention in Libyan detention camps has been widely reported and denounced but with no immediate end in sight. Two months ago, the head of MSF Joanne Liu wrote an open letter calling the Libyan detention system “rotten to the bone”, “a thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion.” She accused Europe of being complicit in the situation as the Union, “blinded by the single-minded goal of keeping people outside of Europe”, funds Libya to help stop the boats from departing.

Bai, 19 years old from Mali, arrived on the Sicilian coast in early September. He remembers several mass kidnappings. “There was forty of us living in a house in the city,” he says. “One eventing two men with Kalashnikovs came in, started shouting. They told us to get aboard vehicles waiting in the street. We were locked up, they beat us with sticks and chains. We had to call home. Anyone who could convince their family to send money was allowed to go. My family agreed, but I was caught by another group the following week. There wasn’t any more money left so they put me to work to pay my trip to Europe.”

Under laws passed with Europe’s encouragement during the reign of Muammar Ghadaffi, immigration is illegal in Libya and the country does not offer asylum. Every undocumented migrant is therefore liable for detention.

Various rival governments and militias run networks of detention centers. UNHCR can only enter 29 of them, run by the department to counter illegal migration (DCIM), headed by the Serraj government, the government Europe chose to recognize. The total number of camps is unknown and international funding for “official” camps has ignited a battle for control over these camps by armed groups looking for money or international legitimacy.

Forced to cross

In the meantime, both DCIM officials and militias rent out detainees to local employers for personal profit. Amidou and Boi also fell victim to forced labour while detained. “Two years as a mason,” Amidou tells, “without payment. In those two years, I’ve seen nothing but water and bread.” When he was eventually found to be too weak for work, he was taken to the boat.

“Refugees are nothing but commodities,” says Anaspasia Papadopoulou, senior policy advisor at the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) in Brussels. “Militias use them to make a profit. When they are no longer useful, they need to get rid of them.”

Amidou’s forced crossing is echoed in the stories told by countless other migrants. In fact, many of them them didn’t come to Libya to cross to Europe but turn out to have lived and worked in the country for years.

Balde Tcherno (37) from Guinea-Bissau was a shoe salesman for five years, making the trip home once every year to be with his family. On his last trip back in 2011, he was arrested and forced, at gunpoint, to board a boat to Italy. Rockson Adams (27) from Ghana arrived in Libya after the removal of Ghadaffi and got a lucrative job in construction, but after two years he was kidnapped and forced to pay ransom. After killings in his circle of friends and explosions in his area, he decided to pay a smuggler to cross over.

“The refugee flow from Libya is clearly a mix,” says Anaspasia Papadopoulo. “There’s people who already lived in the country and who went there because until a few years back, it was still a rich country. Then there’s the internally displaced Libyans. And of course there’s the Sub-Saharan Africans, Bangladeshis and Syrians who’ve come to Libya with the intention of crossing. Many fall victim to exploitation and into the hands of traffickers instead of smugglers.”

According to some analysts, the situation is making it hard to separate “economic migrants” from “refugees” as many who travelled to Libya for work become victims of exploitation and violence.

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Climate Change Summit a Step Further, Yes… But Where To?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-summit-step-yes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-summit-step-yes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/climate-change-summit-step-yes/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 14:12:41 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152903 The UN Climate Change Summit in Bonn is a step further, most experts say. Fine, but towards what? On the one hand, the organisers – the UN, Fiji and Germany – express strong hopes that it will speed up the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. On the other, a giant contributor to […]

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Scene from Codrington town in Barbuda during the Secretary-General’s visit to survey the damage caused by recent hurricanes. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Nov 6 2017 (IPS)

The UN Climate Change Summit in Bonn is a step further, most experts say. Fine, but towards what?

On the one hand, the organisers – the UN, Fiji and Germany – express strong hopes that it will speed up the implementation of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement.

On the other, a giant contributor to global warming – the United States – decided to desert that milestone Agreement. Meanwhile, major European powers have been, again, prodigious in unmet promises.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn is the next step for governments to implement the Paris Climate Change Agreement and accelerate the transformation to sustainable, resilient and climate-safe development, said Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on this major event, in the former German capital, on 6-17 November 2017.

As such Convention, the Bonn-based UNFCCC is the parent treaty of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the ultimate objective of both treaties is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent “dangerous human interference|” with the climate system.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement entered into force on November 2017 and the era of implementation has begun, reminds Espinosa, emphasising that the Bonn conference will further clarify the enabling frameworks that will make the agreement fully operational and the support needed for all nations to achieve their climate change goals.

“It is also an excellent example of the cooperation and collaboration between nations that will truly meet the global climate change challenge… This meeting is incredibly important.”

The conference –known as the signatory countries or Contracting Parties 23 session (COP 23)– is presided over by the government of Fiji with support by Germany. Prior to its opening, Espinosa encouraged governments, the private sector, and civil society organisations to be ready to work together to “accelerate implementation and take the crucial next steps towards transformative change.”

“We all have a role to play, and COP 23 will shine a light on both action underway and the many possible actions every individual and institution can take moving forward.”

Although small island states contribute the least to climate change, they bear the brunt of its effects. Credit: FAO/Sue Price


The Polluters Do (Not) Pay Principle

This is on the one hand. On the other, the US administration announced that it would promote coal, natural gas, fossil oil and nuclear energy as an answer to the climate change challenge. And the US President Donald Trump spelled out in September this year his decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

In spite of this negative development, the UNFCCC executive secretary expressed optimism ahead of the last Group of the seven more industrialised powers (G 7)–The Web of Paris Cannot Be Broken by One Missing Link, she said on July 7.

The point is that is it is not about the US only. In fact, other major contributors to global warming and gas emissions, such as many European highly industrialised countries, have been heralding day after day their formal commitment to reduce gas emissions, expand the use of alternative sources of energy, and a long etcetera.

So far, major car-makers have been very active promoting the sale of vehicles moved by electric and, hybrid engines.

For now, China as a key source of pollution seems to be addressing the need to slow down the fast process of climate change in a serious manner.

The Visible Dangers

Meantime, the grave impacts of climate change are visible on almost all fronts. See: Floods, Hurricanes, Droughts… When Climate Sets the Agenda

At the same time, the leaders of two top UN specialised organisations, have been warning that Climate change migration is reaching crisis proportions. See: Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050

Another major UN organisation has recently explained the reasons of the massive displacement of people. See: The Roots of Exodus: Why Are People Compelled to Leave their Homes?

In Barbuda, Secretary-General António Guterres walks through Codrington town and meets with returnees. Credit:UN Photo/Rick Bajornas


One key cause of the growing, dangerous impact of climate change is the prevailing economic model consisting of voracious depletion of natural resources in both production and consumption patterns has proved to be one of the world’s main killers due to the huge pollution it causes for air, land and soil, marine and freshwater. See: Pollution or How the ‘Take-Make-Dispose’ Economic Model Does Kill

And the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has warned that pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capita. See: Alert: Nature, on the Verge of Bankruptcy.

On top of this and that, the United Nations weather agency announced on 30 October 2017 that the levels of carbon dioxide (C02) surged at “record-breaking speed” to new highs in 2016.

Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) issued this warning in Geneva, at the launch of the organisation’s Greenhouse Gas Bulletin.

The report indicates that carbon dioxide concentrations reached 403.3 parts per million in 2016, up from 400 ppm in 2015. “We have never seen such big growth in one year as we have been seeing last year in carbon dioxide concentration,” said Taalas.

The WMO chief said “We are not moving in the right direction at all… In fact we are actually moving in the wrong direction when we think about the implementation of the Paris Agreement …”

A Common Cause, Really?

The UNFCCC explains that the Paris Agreement builds upon this Convention and – for the first time – brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.

The Paris Agreement’s central aim –it reminds– is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The central aim should definitely be to prevent the growing everyday human dramas such as the loss of food security and means of survival, the forced need to abandon their homes and families to face death and brutality at the hands of smugglers and human traffickers, to be exploited as “modern” slaves, and to prevent the world’s seas and oceans from being home to more plastic than fish.

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Women and Malnutrition in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-malnutrition-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-malnutrition-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/women-malnutrition-africa/#comments Tue, 31 Oct 2017 15:55:42 +0000 Raghav Gaiha and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152836 Raghav Gaiha, is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

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Raghav Gaiha, is (Honorary) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England; and Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA).

By Raghav Gaiha and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI and PHILADELPHIA, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

Undernutrition is widespread and a key reason for poor child health in many developing countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, around 40 percent of children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth, that is, severely reduced height-for-age relative to their growth potential. Stunting is a result of periods of undernutrition in early childhood, and it has been found to have a series of adverse long-term effects in those who survive childhood. It is negatively associated with mental development, human capital accumulation, adult health, and with economic productivity and income levels in adulthood.

Raghav Gaiha

Vitamin A deficiency is associated with the higher risk of morbidity and mortality, and ocular disorders such as night blindness, xerophthalmia and blindness, affecting infants, children and women during pregnancy and lactation. African regions account for the greatest number of preschool children with night blindness and for more than one-quarter of all children with subclinical vitamin A deficiency.

The central premise is that agricultural development has enormous potential to make significant contribution in reducing malnutrition and the associated ill health. With its close links to both the immediate causes of undernutrition (diets, feeding practices, and health) and its underlying determinants (such as income, education, access to WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene- and health services, and gender equity), the agriculture sector can play a strong role in improving nutrition outcomes.

Women are vitally important agents, both in their roles as producers and as custodians of household welfare. Their importance, moreover, is generally greater in the lowest-income settings and among households with high dependency ratios—in which a large proportion of household members are nonearning and often nutritionally vulnerable dependents.

The resources and income flows that women control often have positive impacts on household health and nutrition. In some countries, women tend to lack access to economic opportunities outside the domestic sphere to which traditional customs often confine them, especially in rural areas. They are also very often severely constrained by time and the multiple—often simultaneous—roles they play as producers and caregivers. Agricultural programmes and policies that empower and enable women and that involve them in decisions and activities throughout the life of the programme achieve greater nutritional impacts.

Vani S. Kulkarni

Although women comprise more than 50% of the agricultural workforce in most of the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region, the productivity gap between men and women farmers persists. To illustrate how wide the gap is, in Tanzania, Malawi, and Uganda narrowing the gender gap in agricultural productivity has the potential of raising the gross domestic product by USD 105 million, USD 100 million, and USD 65 million, respectively (IFAD,FAO and WFP, 2015). Women farmers typically use lower levels of purchased technological inputs, such as fertilizer and high-yielding seed varieties. That women lack access to these key technological inputs explains a significant portion of the productivity gap. They are often hesitant to adopt these technologies if they do not control the benefits that accrue from adopting. Moreover, women also face unique challenges, due to their lifecycle and reproductive roles, which further influence their participation on- and off-farm.

In Kenya, new varieties of sweet potatoes rich in beta-carotene were introduced to women farmers with an end goal of improving vitamin A intake of young children, thereby preventing vitamin A deficiency. There was a significant increase in the intake of vitamin A-rich foods, among children whose mothers received both the production-focused intervention of planting materials and access to agricultural extension services, and the consumption-focused intervention of nutrition education and training in food processing and preparation. By contrast, there was a decrease in vitamin A intake among children whose mothers received only the production-focused inputs. This example suggests that: (a) women’s farm production offers an entry point for interventions that can improve nutrition; and (b) interventions that increase women’s agricultural productivity and increase their health and nutrition knowledge may yield more benefits than ones that target only productivity or only knowledge.

In Ethiopia, a women-focused goat development project was expanded to include interventions to promote vitamin A intake, nutrition and health education, training in gardening and food preparation, and distribution of vegetable seeds. Goat owning households consumed all produced milk; 87% by the adults as hoja; children in the participating households had slightly more diversified diets; they were also more likely to consume milk more than 4 times a day. As substitutions occur between foods, in the absence of anthropometric indicators, nothing definitive could be inferred about improvements in child nutrition.

Women’s employment in agriculture has positive impacts on nutrition in the household when women have decision-making power over resource allocation. In Uganda, for example, evidence from randomized controlled trials showed positive impacts from biofortified crops, including orange-fleshed sweet potato, on vitamin A status among women and children. Ownership of livestock was associated with better household food security in Kampala. However, there were mixed impacts on the links between women’s empowerment, intrahousehold decision-making, and better nutrition outcomes.

Failure to understand cultural norms and the gender dynamics within the household can result in unanticipated outcomes. In the Gambia, for example, a project geared to increasing women’s rice production was so successful that the land it was grown on was reclassified internally within the household. This resulted in output from that land being sold by men as opposed to women. Women therefore lost their original income stream, but remained committed to increased labour.

Vegetables and legumes are often regarded as women’s crops. Recognizing this, a project in Togo was successful because it promoted the introduction of soybeans as a legume rather than as a cash crop. Promotion as a cash crop would have resulted in the crop switching to male control. Interventions promoting the production of animal source foods also assessed their impact on maternal income or women’s control over income. The results were quite mixed. For example, an intervention involving intensified dairy farming in Kenya showed that an important share of the additional income was controlled by women, whereas in Ethiopia men’s incomes benefited significantly more from intensified dairying than did women’s. Whether women’s income is likely to increase depends on the livestock or aquaculture production system, the nature of the intervention, and cultural beliefs and practices relating to gender. Even if the intervention is targeted to women’s livestock and aquaculture activities, women lose control over the income generated by those activities.

In conclusion, it is arguable that there are improved impacts on nutrition if agricultural interventions are targeted to women and when specific work is done around women’s empowerment (for example, through behaviour change communication), mediated through women’s time use, women’s own health and nutrition status, and women’s access to and control over resources as well as intrahousehold decision-making power. That this may be dismissed out of hand is not unlikely either, given the persistence of male dominance.

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Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/sustainable-water-management-lever-green-growth-ethiopia-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-water-management-lever-green-growth-ethiopia-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/sustainable-water-management-lever-green-growth-ethiopia-region/#respond Tue, 31 Oct 2017 14:58:24 +0000 Peter Vos http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152825 Peter Vos is Global Sector Lead Water, Global Green Growth Institute

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Renewable energy sources are not available to every country, never mind their still high capital and installation costs, which can be restraining factors

Credit: Bigstock

By Peter Vos
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 31 2017 (IPS)

Sustainable water supply is imperative for economic growth, but so often gets side-lined in the rush for development. The unanticipated consequence is a global economy that is increasingly stunted by water resource challenges, with worldwide predictions suggesting that global water demand will increase by approximately 75% more than global water supply in the next 30 years!

For most of Africa, economic development, urbanisation and food security have traditionally been linked by a strong but delicate bond, with poor management of national resources threatening to destroy this balance. In Ethiopia, extreme hydrological variability (climate change) has also been a key impediment to sustainable water management, resulting in periods of severe drought for this ‘Water tower of Africa’. The Government of Ethiopia has set ambitious targets for broad-based economic growth in its Second Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP-II), with the ambition of becoming a lower middle-income country by 2025. These targets will heavily depend on and impact available freshwater sources. As a result, water efficiency increase and water conservation are now increasingly seen as critical for ensuring future water resources.

Based on the premise of ‘increased water efficiency’ as opposed to ‘increased water resources’, key policy and investment specialists from both the public and private sector gathered in Addis Ababa on 17 October to discuss Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region, as part of the Global Green Growth Week 2017. Co-moderated by Peter Vos (Global Water Sector Lead of the Global Green Growth Institute) and Kitty van der Heijden (Director of Africa and Europe of the World Resource Institute), the session attracted some 70 actors and stakeholders from the local and international water sector. Featuring six distinguished panellists, the primary question reiterated throughout the session was what are the main impediments to sustainable water management, and what innovative tools can be used to solve these?

 

Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region

Figure 1

 

The audience set the scene on the current water situation in their region, with 77% saying that they were very worried that the lack of water resources could impact economic growth (Figure 1). However, 84% also said that access to clean, reliable water resources has improved over the past 10 years (Figure 2), shining a positive light on the situation. This optimism was echoed by panellist H.E. Dr. Mary Kitutu (Minister of State for Environment of Uganda) and keynote speaker Tesfaye Fichala (Special Assistant to the Minister of Water, Irrigation, and Electricity of Ethiopia), who gave examples of large scale reforestation and wetland restoration success stories in Uganda, and the positive impacts of Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) to date. Sustainable water management, particularly at the energy-water nexus, is essential for both Ethiopia and Uganda who aim to become middle income countries in the next 10 years.

 

Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region

Figure 2

 

Most participants agreed that sustainable water management is primarily a function of the government, with research institutions, civil society and the private sector also having a prominent role (Figure 3). Panellist Joy Busolo (Kenya representative of the 2030 Water Resources Group) stressed the importance for collective action and collaboration, as “the private sector has a role to play in terms of innovative financial mechanisms, and a main priority for 2030 WRG is to crowd more private sector finance”. Panellist Tafese Refera (Director of Public Affairs and Communication of Coca Cola Sabco) shared similar sentiments, stating that water is a major worry for Coca Cola, and increasing the sustainability of water resources is a major concern. In the last two decades, four of the seven boreholes drilled in Ethiopia have completely dried up, and local bottling companies are committed to financially investing a large portion of their profits to sustainable water practices. He stated that it is not simply a case of raising the cost of water, as “by raising costs, we are ultimately marginalising the poor”. Panellist Khalid Bomba (CEO of the Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, ATA) added that from his experience, ownership by local communities is far more important than putting a price tag on water, as local communities will ensure that water use is sustainable.

 

Sustainable Water Management as a Lever for Green Growth in Ethiopia and the Region

Figure 3

 

Both the audience and panellists agreed that effective water policies is one of the most influential tools for promoting sustainable water management. Panellists Khalid Bomba and Dr. Gete Eshetu (Director of the Water and Land Resource Centre, WLRC, Addis Ababa University) stressed the importance of evidence-based policy interventions as a powerful tool for change. An abundance of data is available, but is often scattered and not always easily translated into practical application. “Ensuring that the knowledge base and available data is fully robust, and that decision-makers have access to it and know what to do with it”, is a key challenge that Khalid Bomba has identified for his organisation. In a region where the agriculture sector accounts for more than 70% of water demand, many organisations focus on quantifying water sustainability, with the ATA having mapped 70% of the shallow groundwater, and the WLRC addressing the challenges of land degradation and associated poverty in Ethiopia and the eastern Nile sub-region, to name just a few.

Ethiopia will undoubtedly be confronted by numerous water challenges on its path to economic transformation, but this session serves as a reminder to the wealth of ideas and opportunities that that can arise from collaboration. ‘Accessible data, awareness on all levels, sustainable investments, political willingness, policy coherence, multi-sectoral partnerships, involvement of the private sector, water fees, and land restoration’ are some of the suggested solutions that could guide Ethiopia on a path to sustainable water management.

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Impending Drought? There’s an App for That – Or Should Behttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/impending-drought-theres-app/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=impending-drought-theres-app http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/impending-drought-theres-app/#comments Mon, 30 Oct 2017 20:48:34 +0000 Sam Otieno http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152807 Fostering and harnessing innovative technologies could significantly reduce the negative impacts from climate change, including drought, water scarcity and food insecurity in African countries. According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. […]

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A cornfield in Zimbabwe shrivels under poor rainfall conditions that affected the crop nationwide. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

A cornfield in Zimbabwe shrivels under poor rainfall conditions that affected the crop nationwide. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Sam Otieno
NAIROBI, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

Fostering and harnessing innovative technologies could significantly reduce the negative impacts from climate change, including drought, water scarcity and food insecurity in African countries.

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) by 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two-thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. By 2050, the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 percent.Drought-prone regions also run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for insurgencies, extremism, and terrorism across borders.

Likewise, drought caused as a result of climate change, a complex global phenomenon with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is causing more deaths and displacing more people than any other natural disaster.

UNCCD told IPS that extreme and erratic weather events such as droughts, flash floods, hurricanes, and typhoons increase food insecurity. For instance, droughts create food shortages. Flashfloods erode fertile soil. These phenomena degrade the land, reducing its capacity to absorb and store water, in turn, its productivity.

Therefore, the continent needs a paradigm shift that would lead to the effective mitigation and resilience to the effects of climate change.

For example, implementing early warning systems and new technologies by metrological agencies, use of cell phones to share climate information with local communities, the creation of climate maps and deployment of drones to collect climate data.

“Comprehensive early warning systems would help countries to analyze drought risk, to monitor and predict the location and intensity of an upcoming drought, to alert and communicate in time to the authorities, media and vulnerable communities and to inform affected populations what options or courses of action they can take to pre-empt or reduce the potential impact of an oncoming drought,” said UNCCD.

According to UNCCD, adopting smart tech strategies would help Africa to address the drought challenges in many ways, depending on the action strategy and the technology and its application. For herders and pastoralists in the African drylands, for example, smart techs/mobile applications would help increase the security of pastoral zones by guiding them to the nearest water resources so as to ensure year-round access to grazing and water.

Moreover, it would support them to create networks as they arrive in unfamiliar communities, helping them gather relevant information related to their livestock as well as access to emergency management and weather.

According to the Confronting Drought in Africa’s Drylands: Opportunities for Enhancing Resilience report, while drought is a global phenomenon, the impacts are more severe in developing countries where coping capacities are limited.

In sub-Saharan Africa, drought causes significant food insecurity and famine. It has crippled countries from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe and affected as many as 36 million people in the region.

Drought in sub-Saharan Africa is also associated with social unrest, local conflict, and forced migration. Drought-prone regions run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for insurgencies, extremism, and terrorism across borders.

Nicholas Sitko, Programme Coordinator, Agricultural Development Economics Divisions at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and an expert in rural development with extensive experience in Africa, told IPS that much needs to be done in Africa, where large shares of the population rely directly on agriculture production or indirectly on agriculture.

When farmers have knowledge of impending climate events, they can select more appropriate seed types or crop varieties, or can shift their investments and labor to other activities that are less prone to the climate shock.

“This is really critical for building resilience to climate change. The use of new forecasting models coupled with ICT that can link this information to policymakers and farmers provides new opportunities for adaptation than existed just a few years ago. Yet, they still remain fairly limited in scope and need to be scaled out to more users,” said Sitko.

He noted that there is already a range of on-the-shelf farm practices that can help farmers improve and stabilize yields in the context of climate change, but what is appropriate for a farmer varies considerably by climate region and their economic conditions.

FAO is working with the World Meteorological Organization to better respond to climate variability and climate change on the basis of better and more readily accessible data.

Speaking at a G7 Agriculture Ministers meeting on Oct. 14, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva noted that some 75 countries mainly in Africa, and many Small Island Developing States (SIDS), do not have the capacity to translate the weather data, including longer-term forecasts, data into information for farmers.

“There is an urgent need to take the data which is available globally and to translate it to the ground level,” he said.

Florence Atieno, a smallholder farmer from Western Kenya, would welcome technology that enabled farmers to obtain accurate scientific information on when to plant, to assess the mineral deficiencies in the soil to purchase the right fertilizers, to access knowledge about improved farming techniques and to negotiate better prices for their crop.

She told IPS not all people, systems, regions and sectors are equally vulnerable to drought, stressing that it was important to combine forecasts with detailed knowledge of how landscapes and societies respond to the lack of rain. That knowledge is then turned into an early intervention.

“Africa needs to understand who is vulnerable and why, as well as the processes that contribute to vulnerability in order to assess the risk profiles of vulnerable regions and population groups,” said Atieno.

 

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The Roots of Exodus: Why Are People Compelled to Leave their Homes?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/roots-exodus-people-compelled-leave-homes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=roots-exodus-people-compelled-leave-homes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/roots-exodus-people-compelled-leave-homes/#respond Mon, 30 Oct 2017 12:58:35 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152799 Facts are facts, and one of them is that while everybody talks about the growing forced movement of people –be they migrants or refugees—decision-makers haven’t seriously acted on the root causes of why millions of humans are compelled to leave their homes. There has been a surge in international migration in recent years, reaching a […]

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Children of Peace - Stories and Dreams of Conflict-displaced Children, by Krizia Kaye Viray. Credit: Julie Christine Batula / IOM

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 30 2017 (IPS)

Facts are facts, and one of them is that while everybody talks about the growing forced movement of people –be they migrants or refugees—decision-makers haven’t seriously acted on the root causes of why millions of humans are compelled to leave their homes.

There has been a surge in international migration in recent years, reaching a total of 244 million individuals in 2015. Forced displacement has also reached a record high, with 65.3 million individuals displaced worldwide by the end of 2015 – including refugees, internally displaced persons and asylum seekers.

These figures have been repeated agin and again by the leading world specialised bodies and experts. Most importantly: they have also been explaining the major reasons behind such an unprecedented exodus.

Climate Change

Key Facts

• In 2015, there were 244 million international migrants, representing an increase of 40% since 2000. They included 150 million migrant workers.
• About one-third of all international migrants are aged 15–34. Women account for almost half of all international migrants.
• A large share of migrants originate from rural areas. Around 40% of international remittances are sent to rural areas, reflecting the rural origins of a large share of migrants.
• In many African countries, more than 50% of rural households report having at least one internal migrant.

SOURCE: FAO

Climate change migration is reaching crisis proportions, wrote Robert Glasser, the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction and the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, and William Lacy Swing, the Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Over the last 18 months, some 20 countries have declared drought emergencies, forcing millions off their land, they added. “Often not for the first time and, for many, it may likely be the last time as they turn their backs on the countryside and try to make a life in urban slums and informal settlements.”

For at least the last two years, Glasser and Lacy Swing remind, we have seen more people forced from their homes by extreme weather events than by conflict — according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, over 40 million people have been internally displaced by floods, storms, and, in some cases, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides, in 2015 and 2016.

“And these numbers do not take into account the many people compelled to move every year as a result of slow-onset disasters, such as drought and environmental degradation. Nor do they factor in the millions affected by these disasters who are trapped and unable to flee their consequences.”

Migration flows can be heavily influenced by extreme weather, geophysical and hydrological events, they said. “Part of ensuring that people move as a matter of choice rather than necessity is to strengthen synergies between disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption, ensuring that both agendas take into consideration migration dimensions, including displacement risks.”

Food Insecurity and Conflict

Meanwhile, two other United Nations specialised agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), have been focusing on other major causes why people are forced to abandon their homes and even countries.

Credit: UNICEF


It is recent 2017 report “At the root of exodus: Food security, conflict and international migration,” WFP says that though the initial driver of migration may differ across populations, countries and contexts, migrants tend to seek the same fundamental objective: to provide security and adequate living conditions for their families and themselves.

The study sought to answer some of the following questions: What is it that compels people to leave their homes? What role does food insecurity play in migration? Are these factors common across all international migrants, or do unique root causes spur specific migrant populations to move from their homes?

One major conclusion is that countries with the “highest level of food insecurity, coupled with armed conflict, have the highest outward migration of refugees.” Additionally, when coupled with poverty, food insecurity increases the likelihood and intensity of armed conflicts; something that has clear implications for refugee outflows.

Whenever the term migrant is used in the report, it refers to all migrants, including refugees.

“Food insecurity was also shown as a significant determinant of the incidence and intensity of armed conflict.” And it was also found to be “a critical ‘push’ factor driving international migration, along with income inequality, population growth and the existence of established networks for migration.”

Credit: UNICEF


Further, the act of migration itself can cause food insecurity, given the lack of income opportunities and adverse travel conditions along the journey, in addition to the potentially crippling costs of transit, the report underlines.

“This has clear implications for policymakers who aim to stem the dangerous land and sea journeys many migrants are forced to make.”

The WFP study provides some examples. For instance, among migrants from Bangladesh and East and West Africa, food insecurity and resource constraints are key drivers for outward migration, whereas lack of safety and security were triggers for migration from Afghanistan and Syria, the study says.

Many Afghans and Syrians reported that sustained conflict had destroyed employment opportunities and access to markets, leading to a depletion of assets, adds the study. “Food insecurity is a consequential factor for migration from Afghanistan and Syria.”

For its part, the FAO states that migration should be a choice, not a necessity.

“International cooperation should address the structural drivers of large movements of people and create conditions that allow communities to live in peace and prosperity in their homelands.”


A world on the move: Refugees and Migrants. Credit: UN DESA

FAO underlines that agriculture and rural development can address the root causes of migration, including rural poverty, food insecurity, inequality, unemployment, lack of social protection as well as natural resource depletion due to environmental degradation and climate change.

Therefore, it stresses that investing in sustainable rural development, climate change adaptation and resilient rural livelihoods is an important part of the global response to the current migration challenge.

Working with governments, UN agencies, the private sector, civil society and local communities, FAO plays an important role in addressing the root causes of internal and international migration and displacement and in harnessing the developmental potential of migration, especially in terms of food security and poverty reduction.

Protracted Crises

The UN specialised agency also underlines that agricultural and rural development can contribute to address the root causes of migration and build the resilience of both displaced and host communities, laying the ground for long-term recovery.

For this, it works with relevant stakeholders to strengthen their capacities to provide viable livelihood opportunities in agriculture and rural areas in countries in protracted crises.

It also protects the right to food of all people on the move, while fostering their integration and strengthening the social and economic resilience of host communities.

In short: the causes of the growing massive displacement of human beings are well known. People are forced to leave their homes and families due to the flagrant lack of political wisdom and the capacity of decision-makers to address the roots instead of just complaining and alarming their societies. Do they really think that building walls and wire fences can stop climate change, food insecurity, poverty and conflicts?

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