Inter Press Service » Africa http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 24 May 2016 10:13:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.11 Natural Capital Investment Key to Africa’s Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 17:49:31 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145267 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/natural-capital-investment-key-to-africas-development/feed/ 0 Humanitarian Summit: Too Big to Fail?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:14:27 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145254 A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

With a line up of heads of state or government telling all what they did to alleviate human suffering and promising to do more, along with leaders of civil society and humanitarian
organisations denouncing lack of honest political will to act while governments continue spending trillions of dollars in weapons, the two-day World Humanitarian Summit kicked off today May 23 in Istanbul.

In fact, while the United Nations reports that the international community spends today around 25 billion dollars to provide live-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). estimates world’s military expenditure in 2015 was over 1.6 trillion dollars.

“Never mind–this Summit is too important to fail,” a high-ranking Asian diplomat on condition of anonymity said to IPS. “The leaders of the richest countries, especially in Europe and the Gulf Arab states, are perfectly aware of the magnitude of the humanitarian challenges facing them,” the diplomat added.

“Some of them will be sincerely sensitive to human suffering; others will be more concerned with their ‘political’ peace of mind… Most industrialised countries, in particular in Europe, are eager that the humanitarian crises are dealt with and solved out of and beyond their borders.”

It is about the fear that this unprecedented crisis, if it grows exponentially as predicted, would inevitably lead to more conflicts and more instability affecting their [those leaders] political and economic welfare, according to the diplomat.

In this regard, the facts before the 5,500 participants in this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit are that over the last years conflicts and natural disasters have led to fast-growing numbers of people in need and a funding gap for humanitarian action of an estimated 15 billion dollars, according to UN estimates.

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

“This is a lot of money, but not out of reach for a world producing 78 trillion dollars of annual Gross Domestic Product,” says the report of a UN promoted high-level panel on humanitarian financing. “Closing the humanitarian financing gap would mean no one having to die or live without dignity for the lack of money,” it adds.

The report addressing the humanitarian financing gap, says that this “would be a victory for humanity at a time when it is much needed.

As part of the preparations for the WHS, the UN Secretary-General had appointed a nine-person panel of experts to work on finding solutions about this widening financial gap.

The panel identified–and examined three important and inter-dependent aspects of the humanitarian financing challenge: reducing the needs, mobilising additional funds through either traditional or innovative mechanisms, and improving the efficiency of humanitarian assistance.

The report is also relevant in the context of adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It states that only by focusing the world’s attention on the rapidly growing numbers of people in desperate need will we be able to achieve the SDGs.

The panel recognises that the best way to deal with growing humanitarian needs is to address their root causes. “This requires a strong determination at the highest level of global political leadership to prevent and resolve conflicts and to increase investment in disaster risk reduction.”

“Because development is the best resilience-builder of all, the panel believes that the world’s scarce resources of official development assistance (ODA) should be used where it matters most—in situations of fragility,” the report concludes.

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Humanitarian Summit Aims to Mobilise Up to 30 Billion Dollarshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 09:08:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145245 Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

The two-day World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), opening today May 23 in Istanbul, aims at mobilising between 20 and 30 billion dollars to face the on-gowing, worst-ever humanitarian crises, said Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs andEmergency Relief Coordinator.

“Let us not underestimate the gravity of what lies before us in these coming days: A once in a generation opportunity to set in motion an ambitious and far-reaching agenda to change the way that we alleviate, and most importantly prevent, the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people,” O’Brien added in an interview with IPS.

Asked about most civil society organisations increasing concern that the financial resources the WHS is aiming to moblise would come at the very cost of current, already extremely short funding to longer-term objectives, such as the sustainable development goals, O’Brien said, “Not at all; we expect the international community fo be more generous.”

The Istanbul Summit is both about fresh thinking and building on the best, and the change that’s necessary to deliver for our fellow men and women who need us most, said O’Brien.

“Disasters, both man-made and natural, are becoming more frequent, more complex and more intense. More than 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and violence. At this summit, humanitarian partners around the world will commit to take concrete action to address this,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliassonin at a press conference on the eve of the Istanbul Summit.

The United Nations estimates that more than 130 million people are in need of assistance and protection across the world today.

Every year, humanitarian needs continue to grow and more people need more help for longer periods of time. This also drives up the costs of delivering life-saving assistance and protection. UN-led appeals have grown six-fold from 3.4 billion dollars in 2003 to nearly 21 billion dollars today.

Representatives of 177 countries, including 68 heads of state and governments, and crises-affected communities, civil society organisations, the private sector and UN agencies attend this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.

The WHS follows an extensive global consultation with 23,000 stakeholders world-wide to identify the key humanitarian challenges of our time.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General laid out the United Nations’ vision for the Summit in an Agenda for Humanity focusing on a set of core commitments: to prevent and end conflicts; uphold the norms that safeguard humanity; leave no one behind; change people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need; and invest in humanity.

In addition to the Summit’s plenary sessions starting May 23, series high-level leaders’ round tables are scheduled on: Leaders’ Segment for Heads of States and Governments on day one.

The Leaders’ Segment will discuss the five core responsibilities of the Agenda for Humanity.

These five core responsibilities are: one, Political Leadership to Prevent and End Conflict; two, Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity; three, Leave No One Behind; four, Change People’s Lives – from Delivering Aid to Ending Need; and five, Invest in Humanity.

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Africa: Resolved to Address African Problems Using African Solutionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 17:31:28 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145238 Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission.

Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission.

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey , May 22 2016 (IPS)

The African Union (AU) representing 54 countries and home to 1,2 billion inhabitants, will be in Istanbul to participate in the May 23-24, 2016, first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) with two key demands—that the international humanitarian system be redefined, and a strong, firm own commitment to itself, to the continent and its people, anchoring on the primacy of the states.

In an interview with IPS on the eve of the WHS, the Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission, Olabisi Dare said “All the key concerns that the AU will be raising at the World Humanitarian Summit is that there is a need for the redefinition of the international humanitarian system; this redefinition should take the form of a reconfiguration of the system.”

The Nigerian career diplomat and international civil servant with over 27 years international field and desk experience in Asia, Africa, Europe and America, added that the requested redefinition “should take the form of a reconfiguration of the system, it being understood that the existing system which is predicated on the UN Resolution 46 182 is to say the least not being faithfully implemented.”

It is therefore in this context that the African Union is going to Istanbul with its own commitments to itself, that is its own commitment to the continent and its people and one of the key things of this commitment is to anchor on the primacy of the states itself, “the State has the primary responsibility to its own people to satisfy their needs and to take care of their vulnerabilities,” said Olabisi.

“We look at these in several forms:

  1. The African Union feels the State has to play the primary role of coordinating any and all humanitarian action that may take place within its territory; the States have in their efforts to alleviate the needs of its people; the States have also to maintain humanitarian space and have a responsibility to guarantee the safety of both the humanitarian workers and humanitarian infrastructure.
  2. We note that the State has the capability and capacity in key areas like use of military assets in assisting humanitarian action–a key  example is the use of military forces in Liberia and other acted countries the military was deployed to serve as the first line of defense to combat the spread of the disease.

That said, Olabisi remarked “We can’t over-emphasise the role of the State in ensuring that humanitarian action and relief is dispensed in an effective manner and we see that this in itself will effect humanitarian action more readily on the continent.”

“Africa however is resolved to begin addressing its own problems using African solutions to African problems.“ - Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission
Asked what are the African needed solutions that the AUC brings to the WHS, Olabisi, who was also senior Political/Humanitarian Affairs Officer at the African Union Mission in Liberia, with extensive experience in various aspects peace-building in a post conflict environment, including serving on the Technical Support Team to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, reaffirmed “The African Union will make proposals in terms of what it considers as the reconfiguration of the International Humanitarian systems.”

“Part of the solution is that there is a need for governments to play the primary role and a greater coordination role in order to fulfill the attributes of state in terms of its predictive and responsive nature and other attributes and this in itself is as part of what Africa has committed  to do and if this find its way to the Secretary General’s report as part of the recommendation, this would be very good.”

Olabisi, who was involved in the return and rehabilitation programme of over 300,000 Liberian refugees from across the West Africa sub-region, added “We are also going to call for the re-engineering of resolution 46182 Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian emergency assistance of the United Nations to reflect  Africa’s views, to reflect the need to elevate the role of the state primarily to be to deliver to its people.”

The Resolution 46182 that Olabisi refers to, was adopted in 1991, setting as “Guiding Principles” that humanitarian assistance is of cardinal importance for the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies and must be provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality.

Guiding Principle 3 clearly states, “The sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States must be fully respected in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. In this context, humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country and in principle on the basis of an appeal by the affected country.”

“Each State has the responsibility first and foremost to take care of the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies occurring on its territory. Hence, the affected State has the primary role in the initiation, organization, coordination, and implementation of humanitarian assistance within its territory,” states also the Guiding Principle 4.

And Guiding Principle 9 stresses, “There is a clear relationship between emergency, rehabilitation and development. In order to ensure a smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation and development, emergency assistance should be provided in ways that will be supportive of recovery and long-term development. Thus, emergency measures should be seen as a step towards long-term development.”

Common African Position (CAP). Courtsey of the African Union Commission

Common African Position (CAP). Courtsey of the African Union Commission

For its part, Guiding Principle 10 stresses, “Economic growth and sustainable development are essential for prevention of and preparedness against natural disasters and other emergencies. Many emergencies reflect the underlying crisis in development facing developing countries.

“Humanitarian assistance should therefore be accompanied by a renewal of commitment to economic growth and sustainable development of developing countries,” it adds. ”In this context, adequate resources must be made available to address their development problems.”

“Contributions for humanitarian assistance should be provided in a way which is not to the detriment of resources made available for international cooperation for development,” says Guiding Principle 11.

Obalisi then recalled “When you look at the Common African Position (CAP) [on the post 2015 development agenda], you find  that the first pillar speaks to the privacy of the state; all the other 9 pillar speak the same in one form or another.”

Africa will be calling on itself to be able to deliver more on resources and allocate more resources to humanitarian action, he added. “This is because it is mindful of the fact that the resource portals are dwindling from the north.”

Asked what are the outcomes that Africa would most expect from the WHS, Olabisi said that Africa expects the guarantee that international humanitarian system will be reconfigured to conform with new demands and address the issues faced by the humanitarian system at the moment – one of the main outcome the Summit will deliver.

“Africa is making these commitments to itself-due to the non-binding nature of the summit. The commitments Africa has made go beyond the WHS whether the summit is binding or not it will not affect what Africa is committed to, in its own self-interest and this is one of the key recommendations we will be taking to WHS.”

He stressed that Africa’s commitments are not to the WHS but the Summit “gives us an opportunity to discuss a paradigm shift in terms of the way we do things in the humanitarian field in Africa and also to see that we can positively add to the mitigation and alleviation of the sufferings of our people when disasters and displacements occur.”

“One of the key things to note is that Africa will go ahead with its own commitments, “our resolve to come up with something that is workable, pragmatic, and something that will make us see ourselves in a light that puts us in a position to help ourselves despite the grand bargain on Africa being shut out of the whole system,” Olabisi emphasised.

“Africa however is resolved to begin addressing its own problems using African solutions to African problems.“

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Humanitarian Summit Must Address Weapons Shipments Toohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 17:04:43 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145235 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-must-address-weapons-shipments-too/feed/ 2 County Governments in Kenya Must Take Lead in Fight for Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/county-governments-in-kenya-must-take-lead-in-fight-for-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=county-governments-in-kenya-must-take-lead-in-fight-for-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/county-governments-in-kenya-must-take-lead-in-fight-for-gender-equality/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 13:32:26 +0000 Tarja Fernandez and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145222 Ms Tarja Fernandez, @fernandeztarja, is the Ambassador of Finland to Kenya. Siddharth Chatterjee @sidchat1, is the UNFPA Representative to Kenya.]]> Ambassador Tarja Fernandez speaks at the International Women’s Day on 08 March 2016. Photo Credit: Embassy of Finland, Kenya

Ambassador Tarja Fernandez speaks at the International Women’s Day on 08 March 2016. Photo Credit: Embassy of Finland, Kenya

By Ambassador Tarja Fernandez and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, May 22 2016 (IPS)

The 3rd Devolution Conference that took place in Meru, Kenya between 19 and 21st April was an opportunity to discuss how the post-2015 development agenda will be localized and how county governments will deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

President Uhuru Kenyatta has said that devolution is vital in helping the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And this is beautifully aligned to Kenya’s own Vision 2030, which is to create a globally competitive and prosperous Kenya with a high quality of life by 2030.

Devolution is all about inclusion and participation. Devolution is therefore also an opportunity to champion gender equality.

So the SDG goal number 5, is about, “Achieving gender equality and empower all women and girls” is one of the key drivers of sustainable development. Half of the population should not be left behind. Inclusion of women and girls must be at the core of the development plans will accelerate potential for economic growth and well-being of the societies at large.

In order to address gender and other inequalities county governments need to know about them.

As was evident with the Millennium Development Goals, data derived from national surveys tend to miss the marginal numbers and thus downplay serious regional disparities, as the averages used in reporting progress mask the suffering of many.

For instance, while national data indicates that Kenya’s total fertility rate is 3.9, parts of the country have a total fertility rate of up to 7.8. This represents women who have limited decision making power about when or if they should have children, for reasons ranging from lack of family planning information and services to religious and cultural practices.

The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS, 2014) indicates that the national prevalence of female genital mutilation is 21%. However, among the communities where the practice is still intractable, the rates go up to 98%.

Clearly, there are populations whose concerns are going unheeded.

It is the voices of such populations that county governments have an opportunity to amplify as they seek to find relevance for the SDGs.

How can this be done? By providing opportunities for women of all ages to participate in county planning and budgeting processes. Being aware of their rights and listening to their needs. Building county governments’ capacities to analyze gender issues and address them in the County Integrated Development Plans. Sensitizing men on the benefits of providing more space for women to participate decision making, both at home and in public spheres of life. Moreover, including men consistently in discussions related to gender equality.

For gender responsiveness to be met, the equity principle must underlie the identification of priorities, planning, budgeting and service delivery. Collecting county disaggregated data will be a key to identification of development needs, and culturally acceptable solutions. In addition, community participation will be crucial to ensuring that the voices of women and girls, the youth and the marginalized, will no-longer be left unheard.

Counties now have the opportunity to identify their own priorities and to design service delivery mechanisms suitable for local needs. Each county in Kenya has its own unique challenges and circumstances, but also the resources to solve its problems. Respecting and utilizing valuable local traditions that do not violate human rights can be a rich resource from which development plans can draw knowledge, legitimacy and participation.

Though recent surveys such as the DHS 2014 have quality data from the regions, the counties themselves need a lot of support to generate, access and utilize disaggregated data with measurable indicators. As observed recently by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, tackling inequalities and measuring progress towards sustainable development is constrained by a lack of core population data and under-developed capacity to use such data for development.

Changing entrenched gender inequalities is, however, not an easy task. There are deep social, economic and cultural forces that drive stereotyping and discrimination and these will not disappear without deliberate actions.

These actions by all counties are a key approach to nationalizing the SDGs, reducing inequalities, especially gender inequality, while unlocking the potential that women have for delivering sustainable change.

At the 60th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women which took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York from 14th-24th March 2016, President Kenyatta was among the 80 leaders that made commitments to advance gender equality and ensure equal opportunity. He said, “I’m convinced that our nations and the world stand to gain tremendously if we continue to embrace that progress for women is progress for us all. Investing in women is more than a matter of rights; it is the right thing to do.”

As development partners in Kenya we are committed to work with Government of Kenya and the county authorities to advance gender equality and empowerment.

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‘We Cannot Keep Jumping from Crisis to Crisis’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/we-cannot-keep-jumping-from-crisis-to-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-cannot-keep-jumping-from-crisis-to-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/we-cannot-keep-jumping-from-crisis-to-crisis/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 15:04:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145208 Josefina Stubbs, IFAD's Chief Development Strategist, visits an IFAD-funded program in Guatemala’s Verapaces region, Arminda Cruz. The micro-irrigation project is improving the livelihoods and food security of thousands of smallholder farmers, especially women, in the country. Credit: IFAD

Josefina Stubbs, IFAD's Chief Development Strategist, visits an IFAD-funded program in Guatemala’s Verapaces region, Arminda Cruz. The micro-irrigation project is improving the livelihoods and food security of thousands of smallholder farmers, especially women, in the country. Credit: IFAD

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 20 2016 (IPS)

“We cannot keep jumping from crisis to crisis. We have to invest in long-term development that helps people cope with shocks so that they can continue to grow enough food for their communities and not require emergency aid.”

With this clear warning, Josefina Stubbs, Chief Strategist of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has just launched a strong message for leaders who will gather at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey next week.

Recalling that more than 60 million people across the world are reeling from the drought caused by the weather phenomenon known as El Niño, Stubbs warns, “The demand for emergency assistance cannot keep up with the supply.”

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Climate change is causing more extreme weather events and natural disasters resulting in an average displacement of 22.5 million people a year – equivalent to 62,000 people every day, says IFAD.

This movement of people can lead to local and regional instability. And when people are pushed away from rural areas and farming, it can threaten the food security of entire countries, it adds.

“Poor people in developing countries are disproportionately affected by disasters because they do not have the resources to cope with the impacts and bounce back,” says IFAD’s Associate Vice-President and Chief Strategist.

People Are Not waiting for Hand-Outs

“These people are not waiting for hand-outs. They are looking for opportunities to keep earning incomes even in the face of disasters. Our focus should be on creating these opportunities.”

The current El Niño drought has had a catastrophic effect on crops around the world causing almost 32 million people in southern Africa alone to go hungry.

“This number is expected to rise to 49 million by the end of the year. The UN estimates that at least 3.6 billion dollars is required to meet emergency needs resulting from this drought. Less than half of this has been provided.”

Ethiopia is the worst hit in Africa, with 75 per cent of its harvests lost and emergency food assistance required for at least ten million people. IFAD has been working with small-scale farmers in the country for more than a decade to make them more resilient to the impacts of drought.

With investments in irrigation, water-harvesting techniques and early warning systems, and training in sustainable water usage, none of these communities have required any food aid during the current drought, says this UN agency, which since 1978 has provided about 17.7 billion dollars in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 459 million people.

“At IFAD we have seen that building resilience to disasters does work and saves communities from suffering,” says Stubbs. “But there has to be a global commitment to invest in long-term development.”

Changing Climate, Scarcity of Natural Resources

“The changing climate and the increasing scarcity of natural resources are also impacting the already precarious situation of the estimated 60 million people who have been forcibly displaced by conflict.”

Long-term investments are urgently needed to stimulate the economies of the rural areas of host countries where the majority of refugees live.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialised United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub. It invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience.

The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit takes place on 23 and 24 May and originates from a growing concern about the protracted nature of recent humanitarian crises and the limited capacity of the global community to respond to them.

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Some 6,000 world leaders and humanitarian and development agencies will gather in Istanbul to make commitments to help countries better prepare for and respond to crises.

“Human suffering from the impacts of armed conflicts and disasters has reached staggering levels,” the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, portrayed the current humanitarian drama, explaining why the UN has decided to hold the WHS.

For his part, in an interview to IPS, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), Stephen O’Brien, said “Every humanitarian crisis is inherently unique and context-specific.”

“However, taken together, there are 125 million people in need of aid in the world today as a result of conflicts and natural disasters and over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced. These are the highest numbers we have on record since WWII,” O’Brien told IPS.

It is not about one humanitarian crisis, but multiple crises happening at the same time, from the crisis in Syria and the region to the impact of El Niño, which currently affects 60 million people in the world, O’Brien said.

Herve Verhoosel, WHS spokesperson, wrote in an editorial for IPS “We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.”

More than 20 billion dollars is needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts. Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030,” Verhoosel stressed.

Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before, he wrote, and added, “The situation has hit home. We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters.”

“We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards. We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.”

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China’s Silk Geopoliticshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/chinas-silk-geopolitics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chinas-silk-geopolitics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/chinas-silk-geopolitics/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 12:18:25 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145203 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]> The modern Silk Road linking East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. www.bulwarkreview.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

The modern Silk Road linking East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. www.bulwarkreview.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, May 20 2016 (IPS)

China is changing world geography, or at least trying to do so.

Not in the sense of land and water like the Netherlands, but in the sense of weaving new infrastructures on land, on water, in the air, and on the web.

It is not surprising that a country with some Marxist orientation would focus politics on infrastructure–but as means of transportation-communication, not as means of production.

Nor is it surprising that a country with a Daoist worldview focuses politics on totalities, on holons and dialectics, forces and counter-forces, trying to tilt balances in China’s favor. How this will work depends on the background, and its implications.

Two recent books, Valerie Hansen, Silk Road: A New History (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Knopf, 2015) see them as arteries connecting the world, globalization, before that term became a la mode. Not that loads of goods moved all the way in both directions, parts of the way, maybe further. Europe had much less to offer in return; however:

“Viking traders from–Norway–coarse, suspicious men, by Arab account–were moving down the great rivers of Russia–trading honey, amber and slaves–as early as the ninth century–returning home to be buried with the silks of Byzantium and China beside them”. (Frankopan)

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

The Silk Roads–so named by the German geographer von Richthofen in 1877–connected China and Europe (Istanbul) over land from -1200; more precisely from Xi’an to Samarkand by a northern and southern road (Hansen for maps). And the Silk Lanes connected East China and East Africa (Somalia) from +500 till +1500 (when Portuguese-Spanish and English naval expansion started a Western takeover by colonization).

For long periods run by Buddhists in the East and Muslims in the West; Islam using them to expand, from Casablanca to the Philippines. Frankopan sees the high points in the Han dynasty (-207-220, capital Xi’an for West Han), the Tang dynasty (618-902, capital mainly Xi’an) and under Mongolian, Yuan rule–for goods, ideas, faiths, inventions.

Xi’an, 3,000 years old, served as a starting point, both for Silk Roads and for the Silk Lanes, traveling the Yangzi River, or over land, to the East China Sea coast. Till the military uprising against the Tang emperor in 755 (Hansen, Ch. 5, “The Cosmopolitan Terminus on the Silk Road”); but Xi’an is destined always to play major roles.

China is now reviving the past, adding Silk Railroads from East China to Madrid via Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany-France, to Thailand, from East to West Africa–from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic–from North to South Africa. Silk Flights. And Silk Web.

A silky cocoon is being woven, by worms in China. Too much?

Two features stand out in this approach to geopolitics.

First, weaving together Eurasiafrica, three “continents” by old-fashioned geography. Second, leaving out the other two “continents”, separated by oceans from Eurasiafrica: the Americas, Australia-NZ.

However, South-South-South trade opens lanes to Latin America-Caribbean from West Africa, and Australia-New Zealand are much closer to China than to their colonial origins in England. That leaves us with Anglo-America, USA-Canada, isolated by two oceans that served as their protection, really left out of silky road and lane nets.

USA does not like that, hence a “pivot” to Asia, based on alliances and TPP. With some major differences: China builds on a millennia old tradition, the USA on one and half century since Perry “opened up” East Asia. China’s domination in “their” Himalayas-Gobi-Tundra-Sea “pocket” is millennia old; U.S. massive killing in Korea and Vietnam is recent; fresh in people’s memory.

However, the key difference is between U.S. “everybody but China” policy and China’s silk nets open to everybody. Roads, railroads, lanes, flights are two-way. Chinese goods move on China-built infrastructure available to others as well. Prognosis: states in East Asia will play on both, thereby favoring China more than USA.

Is this possible, with the USA trying to replace Russia in India; playing on China-India conflicts that they, since Zhou Enlai-Nehru, have been good at solving?

Nepal, with long borders to both, tilting toward China, given Indian domination and boycott?

Mongolia, friendly to both Russia and China, making little space for USA?

And 10 ASEAN states in the Southeast that, given the composition have to be friends with all?

There is much (Southern) China in ASEAN; Singapore, as minorities, and culturally–in something for good reasons once called “Indo-China”. We get ASEAN+, and +, playing on all horses.

There is a message in this to the Big Powers, to China and USA, India and Russia: do not press, do not demand exclusive allegiance; offer positive services. China’s silk diplomacy is nonviolent; its defense of what China sees as old patterns to be revived is not. No longer massive People’s Liberation Army defensive defense; with “modern”, provocative arms.

And there is a message to the smaller powers: choose both, even all four; leaning toward one will mobilize the worst in the other(s).

How does this tally with silk diplomacy? Quite well, except for South China Sea. China did not colonize along Silk roads and lanes, nor chinize. Japan japanized rather than colonized and–as opposed to China–fought Western colonialism. Silk nets open for huge tourism and trade both ways, weaving continents together when demand meets supply; that may take some time.

Nevertheless, the symmetry built into Silk diplomacy makes negotiated conflict solutions, and even a (North) East Asian Community, possible. U.S. asymmetry rules out both.

In the South China Sea U.S. demands “freedom of navigation” for U.S. aircraft carriers right off China’s coast, ASEAN has navy exercises, and China militarizes. China has to respect the UN Law of the Sea, demand revision of freedom for military navigation, and make clear that the lanes are open for civilian–U.S., EU, ASEAN, whatever–trade.

All will gain from silk diplomacy; and lose from militarization.

Johan Galtung’s article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 16 May 2016: TMS: China’s Silk Geopolitics

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Now 1 in 2 World’s Refugees Live in Urban Areashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/now-1-in-2-worlds-refugees-live-in-urban-area/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=now-1-in-2-worlds-refugees-live-in-urban-area http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/now-1-in-2-worlds-refugees-live-in-urban-area/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 12:49:22 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145187 A view of an IDP camp in Al-Jamea, Baghdad, where 97 families from Anbar Governorate have found temporary shelter. Photo: ©UNICEF Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

A view of an IDP camp in Al-Jamea, Baghdad, where 97 families from Anbar Governorate have found temporary shelter. Photo: ©UNICEF Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 19 2016 (IPS)

It is true that millions of refugees, especially in Africa and the Middle East, reside in camps. But in all they represent only one-quarter of the total number of refugees.

Meanwhile, more than 1 in 2 of all the world’s refugees live in slums or in informal settlements and on the fringes of cities, in overcrowded neighbourhoods and in areas prone to flooding, sanitation hazards and diseases.

These are some of the facts that United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson has just revealed basing on data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“More than half of the world’s refugees live in urban areas, and often in fragile cities with high levels of inequality,” Eliasson warned at a high-level event on ‘Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants: Critical Challenges for Sustainable Urbanization’ held on May 18 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. CREDIT: UN

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. CREDIT: UN

“Every day, millions of refugee children are unable to attend school. Every day, the dignity and well-being of millions of people is compromised due to lack of basic services and job opportunities.”

The drama of millions of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, and migrants will be top on the agenda of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24 in Istanbul, Turkey.

According to Eliasson, among the issues that must be addressed include the causes of forced displacement; the safety of migrants and refugees as they cross international borders; and support for host countries to integrate newcomers into their communities.

Who Assists Urban Refugees?

The point is that while most of the humanitarian assistance goes to refugees living in camps, the ‘urban refugees’ are largely overlooked, he said.

Eliasson highlighted that in 2009, UNHCR changed its policy and practice towards refugees in cities and towns, and is now working closely with national authorities, municipalities and local communities and authorities to protect urban refugees, respecting their refugee status.

In the same vein, he said that the report of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, prepared for a summit on refugees and migrants being convened by the General Assembly on 19 September, draws attention to the important role of local authorities, which are at the forefront in providing refugees access to housing, education, health care and employment.

“We should bear in mind that refugees and [internally displaced persons] IDPs often are just a small proportion of those who are swelling the ranks of cities, while the speed of urbanization is getting faster,” the Deputy Secretary-General said.

He noted that it is also important to remember that, even if cities struggle to accommodate large flows of migrants, they also largely benefit from their presence and work, since in many countries in the world, immigrants often take up low-paying jobs and provide services in areas like domestic work, agricultural labour and home care.

No Signs The Flow of Refugees Will Diminish Any Time Soon

“As migrants and refugees continue to arrive – and there are no signs that these flows will diminish any time soon – we must resolve to uphold and implement the principle of every human being’s equal value,” Eliasson stressed. “This is a fundamental human right, never to be compromised.”

The international community, for its part, must be concerned about political rhetoric that stigmatises refugees and migrants, and do “everything possible to counter this false and negative narrative,” the Deputy Secretary-General said.

“We must dispel the myths about migrants and migration which tend to poison the public discourse,” he added.

Makeshift shelters and new tents at the new arrivals section of IFO camp, Kenya. file photo.  CREDIT: UNHCR/E.Hockstein

Makeshift shelters and new tents at the new arrivals section of IFO camp, Kenya. file photo. CREDIT: UNHCR/E.Hockstein

A Half-Billion-Dollar Shortfall in Funds

On the same day, May 18, UNHCR) warned that half a billion dollar shortfall in funds for sheltering refugees is severely undermining efforts to tackle the biggest global displacement crisis since World War II, as it launched a new campaign that calls on the private sector to contribute funds for shelter solutions for two million refugees.

“Shelter is the foundation stone for refugees to survive and recover, and should be considered a non-negotiable human right,” stressed Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“As we tackle worldwide displacement on a level not seen since World War II, no refugee should be left outside,” he added.

The Nobody Left Outside campaign is aimed at individuals, companies, foundations and philanthropists worldwide.

At the launch of the campaign, UNHCR underscored that forced displacement, most of it arising from war and conflict, has risen sharply in the past decade, largely as a result of the Syria crisis, but also due to a proliferation of new displacement situations and unresolved old ones.

Worldwide, some 60 million people are forcibly displaced today, the agency said. Of that figure, almost 20 million people are refugees who have been forced to flee across international borders, while the rest are people displaced within their own countries.

“A shelter – be it a tent, a makeshift structure or a house – is the basic building block for refugees to survive and recover from the physical and mental effects of violence and persecution,” UNHCR emphasised.

“Yet around the world, millions are struggling to get by in inadequate and often dangerous dwellings, barely able to pay the rent, and putting their lives, dignity and futures at risk.”

The campaign aims to raise funds from the private sector to build or improve shelter for 2 million refugees by 2018, amounting to almost one in eight of the 15.1 million under UNHCR’s remit in mid-2015. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) cares for the remaining Palestinian refugees.

Millions of Homeless

“Without a safe place to eat, sleep, study, store belongings and have privacy, the consequences to their health and welfare can be profound.”

The UN refugee agency emphasised that as it continues to face high levels of shelter needs and with limited funding available, operations often face the difficult decision to prioritise emergency shelter for the maximum number of people of concern, over an investment in more durable and sustainable solutions.

Outside of camps, refugees rely on UNHCR support to find housing and pay rent in towns and cities across dozens of countries bordering conflict zones.

These operations are expected to cost 724 million dollars in 2016. Yet only 158 million is currently available, a shortfall that threatens to leave millions of men, women and children without adequate shelter and struggling to rebuild their lives.

UNHCR noted that the private sector is one of its increasingly important donor sources, contributing more than 8 per cent of its overall funding in 2015.

According to UNHCR, the regions most in need of assistance are sub-Saharan Africa (255 million dollars needed but only 48 million dollars available) and the Middle East and North Africa (373 million dollars needed, 91 million available).

Asia requires 59 million dollars, with only 8 million available, while Europe requires more help (36 million dollars needed, 10 million available) as the influx of refugees continues.

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Many Cities Don’t Know How Dangerous Their Air Pollution Ishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/many-cities-dont-know-how-dangerous-their-air-pollution-is/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=many-cities-dont-know-how-dangerous-their-air-pollution-is http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/many-cities-dont-know-how-dangerous-their-air-pollution-is/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 05:28:07 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145176 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/many-cities-dont-know-how-dangerous-their-air-pollution-is/feed/ 0 Kenya’s Young Inventors Shake Up Old Technologyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyas-young-inventors-shake-up-old-technology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-young-inventors-shake-up-old-technology http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyas-young-inventors-shake-up-old-technology/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 18:55:49 +0000 Justus Wanzala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145167 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyas-young-inventors-shake-up-old-technology/feed/ 1 ‘Human Suffering Has Reached Staggering Levels’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/human-suffering-has-reached-staggering-levels/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-suffering-has-reached-staggering-levels http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/human-suffering-has-reached-staggering-levels/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 11:05:10 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145153 Stephen O’Brien during a visit to Yemen, Faj Attan neighbourhood of Sana'a. Credit: OCHA /Philippe Kropf

Stephen O’Brien during a visit to Yemen, Faj Attan neighbourhood of Sana'a. Credit: OCHA /Philippe Kropf

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 17 2016 (IPS)

“Human suffering from the impacts of armed conflicts and disasters has reached staggering levels.”

With these one dozen or few words, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, briefly but sharply portrayed the current humanitarian drama, explaining why the UN has decided to hold the first ever World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24 this year in Istanbul, Turkey.

Secretary General Ban documented his statement with specific figures: nearly 60 million people, half of them children, have been forced from their homes due to conflict and violence.

As if this was not enough, the UN chief talked about another man-made tragedy: “The human and economic cost of disasters caused by natural hazards is also escalating. In the last two decades, 218 million people each year were affected by disasters; at an annual cost to the global economy that now exceeds 300 billion dollars.”

Based on these and other facts, experts and UN high officials labelled the on-going, growing human drama, as the “worst humanitarian crisis since World War II”.

How to face this unprecedented human and humanitarian challenge will be the task of around 6,000 delegates expected to attend this World Humanitarian Summit.

Stephen O’Brian, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affair. Credit: UN Multimedia

Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affair. Credit: UN Multimedia

IPS asks the Tanzania-born, British politician and diplomat Stephen O’Brien, who since March this year is the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), taking over from Valerie Amos, also British.

“Every humanitarian crisis is inherently unique and context-specific,” O’Brien responded to IPS in an interview. “However, taken together, there are 125 million people in need of aid in the world today as a result of conflicts and natural disasters and over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced. These are the highest numbers we have on record since WWII.”

According to O’Brien, it is clear that the landscape of humanitarian action has changed significantly over the past years and “collectively we have not been able to adequately keep up with and respond to contemporary challenges.”

The UN Under Secretary General then explains to IPS that it is not about one humanitarian crisis, but multiple crises happening at the same time, from the crisis in Syria and the region to the impact of El Niño, which currently affects 60 million people in the world.

And that the humanitarian needs have grown exponentially while the resources have not been able to follow suit which has created an ever-widening gap.

O’Brien who does not want to take questions prior to the World Humanitarian Summit on the expected specific outcomes of the Summit.

But he says it is a unique opportunity to sustain the momentum for change generated over three years of global consultations with key stakeholders and send a message of solidarity and support to the millions in need of life-saving and life-sustaining assistance.

“We expect key commitments from world leaders to meaningfully act to prevent, prepare for and mitigate the effects of conflict, natural disasters, displacement and other causes of need and move forward on issues such as timely and adequate funding of humanitarian work,” he says.

The interview then comes to another on-going and expected to rapidly grow huge humanitarian crisis—that of the known “climate refugees.”

For the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the consequences of climate change are “enormous”. Scarce natural resources such as drinking water are likely to become even more limited, it says.

And adds that many crops and some livestock are unlikely to survive in certain locations if conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet. Food security, already a significant concern, will become even more challenging.

Recent reports cited by UNHCR indicate that 22 million people were displaced in 2013 by disasters brought on by natural hazard events. And as in previous years, the worst affected region is Asia, where 19 million people, or 87.1 per cent of the global total, were displaced during the year.

That was the situation as far back as three years ago. The numbers have certainly dramatically increased.

People will have to try and adapt to this situation, but for many this will mean a conscious move to another place to survive. Such moves, or the adverse effects that climate change may have on natural resources, may spark conflict with other communities, as an increasing number of people compete for a decreasing amount of resources, says UNHCR.

IPS asks O’Brien about this phenomena and the expected number of climate refugees in the near future.

“In the Secretary-General’s Report One Humanity: Shared Responsibility, he highlights the increased disaster risk fuelled by climate change. As previous crises have shown, each crisis is different, unpredictable and context-specific and may trigger displacement and increased migration. OCHA is however not in a position to speculate or provide estimates in any hypothetical scenario,” he says.

According to O’Brien what is clear is that “we need to break through existing silos to collaboratively work together, anticipate rather than wait for crises to hit, transcend the humanitarian-development divide by working towards collective outcomes, invest more on risk and leverage on available technology and best practices.”

Then IPS asks the UN Under Secretary General if he expects from the Istanbul Summit an effective, immediate implementation of the decisions/recommendations that will be taken there. In other words, if he thinks there is now enough, solid political will to face the humanitarian crisis?

O’Brien states: “A core aim of the summit is the reinvigoration of political will and commitment to take forward the Agenda for Humanity.” And adds “The Summit is a launch pad at the highest level: but what is even more important will be a commitment to follow up and make these actions a reality.”

He also says that UN member States and other stakeholders making commitments during the Summit will be asked to update on progress against their implementation. “Follow-up at the inter-governmental level will begin with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Humanitarian Affairs Segment.

O’Brien adds that the UN Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly will address how each of the core responsibilities will be carried forward and will define the vehicles for assessing progress.

Back to the Istanbul Summit and its expected decisions/recommendations, IPS asks O’Brien if he thinks they may impact the current humanitarian funding in the sense of putting all current, available funds in just one basket, thus giving the same sum total, which is considered short, or new, additional funding?

The UN Under Secretary General responds: ”Existing humanitarian funding generally takes the form of short-term grants even when responses continue for years on end. This can result to fragmentation between all actors and specifically, it can incentivise humanitarian and development actors to operate in isolation.”

Asked to further elaborate, O’Brien states “It is clear that incoherent and inflexible financial structures, which are not equitable nor based on risk analysis are detrimental towards achieving long-term results.

“At the first instance, investment in humanity must of course be increased, says O’Brien.

“However, the aim is also for all actors to commit to financing collective outcomes rather than individual projects and to do so in a manner that is flexible, nimble and predictable over multiple years so that actors can plan and work towards achieving collective outcomes in a sustainable manner and adapt to changing risk levels and needs in a particular context.”

The pooled fund mechanism – both at global level through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and at country level where various funds exist – is one tried and tested mechanism for flexible and readily available funding, concludes O’Brien.

The CERF was the first concrete outcome of the UN Secretary-General’s reform process and the Millennium Summit. It was launched on 9 March 2006 and represents an important international multilateral funding instrument.

“It saves lives by providing rapid initial funding for life-saving assistance at the onset of humanitarian crises, and critical support for poorly funded, essential humanitarian response operations. Each year, CERF allocates approximately US$400 million.”

CERF has three objectives: to promote early and coordinated action and response to save lives; to enhance response to time-crucial requirements based on demonstrable needs, and to strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in under-funded crises.

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Analysis: Why the UN Needs a “Peace Industrial Complex”http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/analysis-why-the-un-needs-a-peace-industrial-complex/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-why-the-un-needs-a-peace-industrial-complex http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/analysis-why-the-un-needs-a-peace-industrial-complex/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 01:38:37 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145143 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/analysis-why-the-un-needs-a-peace-industrial-complex/feed/ 3 Middle East – The Mother of All Humanitarian Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/middle-east-the-mother-of-all-humanitarian-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-the-mother-of-all-humanitarian-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/middle-east-the-mother-of-all-humanitarian-crises/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 13:15:00 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145129 In March 2016, a mother walks through misty weather with her two sons along train tracks in Idomeni, Greece. Credit: ©UNICEF/UN012794/Georgie

In March 2016, a mother walks through misty weather with her two sons along train tracks in Idomeni, Greece. Credit: ©UNICEF/UN012794/Georgie

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 16 2016 (IPS)

When, in March 2015, delegates from the Middle East met in Amman for their regional consultations round in preparation for the May 23-24 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, most likely what they had in mind is the fact that their region was –and still is– the dramatic set of “the mother of all humanitarian crises.”

Nevertheless, as a sort of reminder, the United Nations told them again: “millions of people, from Libya to Palestine, from Yemen to Syria and Iraq, have had their lives completely overturned by violence.”

They were also reminded that the huge numbers of people affected by conflict, violence and displacement did little to convey the real trauma experienced.

The Facts

The United Nations reported “more people are displaced by conflict than at any time since 1945.” Figures are self-explanatory. There are currently an estimated total of 60 million forcibly displaced people –either at home or abroad— across the globe.

Of these:

— 5 million Palestinian refugees are still dispersed mostly in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA);

— 1,5 million people are practically besieged in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in a permanent humanitarian crisis;

— 4 million Syrian civilians so far had to flee war as refugees seeking safety in the region and in Europe, as an immediate consequence of the Syrian five-year long conflict, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates;

— 1 million Syrians have been forcibly displaced from their homes in their own country, according to the United Nations;

— 1 million Libyans are victims of uncontrolled armed fights in their own, unstable state. “There is alarming information coming from Libya about grave acts that could amount to war crimes,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon warned on 6 March 2016;

— 5 million Iraqis have been sentenced to the condition of being either refugees abroad or ‘refugees’ at home. Already in July 2015, the top UN humanitarian official in Iraq declared as “devastating” the closure of life-saving services in Iraq for people in need, citing the most recent shut-downs of basic health care will directly impact more than one million people, including some 500,000 children who now will not be immunised, spreading risk of a measles outbreak and resumption of polio;

— 1 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon. The UN reported six months ago that some 70 per cent of these refugees were living below the extreme poverty line in Lebanon;

— 2 million civilian Yemenis fled to even another war long-hit country–Somalia as result of the on-going armed conflict. More than 15.2 million Yemenis lack access to health care services, well over half the war-torn country’s total population, yet there is a 55 per cent gap in requested international funding to address the crisis, according to the World Health Organisation.

Born into conflict: Every two seconds, a child takes his or her first breath in a conflict zone. Credit: © UNICEF/UN04038/Gilbertson VII

Born into conflict: Every two seconds, a child takes his or her first breath in a conflict zone. Credit: © UNICEF/UN04038/Gilbertson VII

In other words—the Middle East is both the origin of and/or home to 1 in 3 refugees and displaced persons in the whole world.

These major figures refer to the known as ‘traditional’ Middle East region, comprising 22 Arab countries and Israel.

The data go much further when it comes to the so-called “Greater Middle East”, which also include armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The extended region would be in this case origin and home to additional 10 million refugees and displaced persons, this making nearly half of their total numbers all over the planet.

The Ira of Nature

But not only wars and conflicts hit the Middle East–natural disasters do more damage, last longer, and in many places recur before people have even had a chance to recover, according to the United Nations.

So, while all the above is a consequence of armed conflicts, there are other dramatic facts the make of the Middle East ‘the mother of all humanitarian crises’.

Just some examples:

— The Middle East risks to become an ‘uninhabitable’ region due to the impact of climate change

— 2 in 3 Arab countries already suffer from acute water shortage, while the remaining third is considered water unsafe nations;

— The United Nations predicts 40 per cent water shortfall by 2030. The Middle East is expected to be one of the most impacted.

In short, a whole region of nearly 400 million people is already victim of man-made disasters, be these wars and violence or simply the expected response of nature.

“We see it, we live it,…”

The Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit will focus on five key areas: to prevent and end conflict; to respect the rules of war; to leave no one behind; to work differently to end need, and to invest in humanity.

When announcing the Summit, top UN officials, headed by the secretary general Ban Ki-moon, have repeatedly warned that the world is living the worst ever-humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit, recently wrote in IPS “We have arrived at the point of no return. At this very moment the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War Two.”

“We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades,” Verhoosel said.

This makes a total of 400 million victims, the equivalent to some 80 per cent of the entire European population.

Verhoosel gave specific figures: more than 20 billion dollars are needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts.

“Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030. Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before.”

The situation has hit home, Verhoosel said. “We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters. We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards.”

“We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.”

(End)

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Bees and Silkworms Spin Gold for Ethiopia’s Rural Youthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bees-and-silkworms-spin-gold-for-ethiopias-rural-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bees-and-silkworms-spin-gold-for-ethiopias-rural-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bees-and-silkworms-spin-gold-for-ethiopias-rural-youth/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 11:30:41 +0000 Munyaradzi Makoni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145124 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/bees-and-silkworms-spin-gold-for-ethiopias-rural-youth/feed/ 0 Progress of The World’s Least Developed Countries to be Reviewedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/progress-of-the-worlds-least-developed-countries-to-be-reviewed/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=progress-of-the-worlds-least-developed-countries-to-be-reviewed http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/progress-of-the-worlds-least-developed-countries-to-be-reviewed/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 01:05:36 +0000 Aruna Dutt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145105 Progress for Least Developed Countries could be a mixed blessing. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

Progress for Least Developed Countries could be a mixed blessing. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

By Aruna Dutt
UNITED NATIONS, May 13 2016 (IPS)

The United Nations will undertake a major review of progress made in the world’s 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) later this month.

“Many positive steps have been made by the world’s most vulnerable countries, demonstrating what they can do with the right support, but much more needs to be done given the persistent challenges and structural bottlenecks”, Gyan Chandra Acharya, High Representative for Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States said at a press conference here Tuesday.

The Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries will take place in Antalya, in the south of Turkey, from 27 to 29 May.

The countries defined by the UN as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) represent the poorest and under-developed segment of the international community. Two thirds of the 48 countries are in Africa, with the remaining one-third in the Asia-Pacific region, with Haiti the only LDC in the Americas. They comprise more than 880 million people – 12 per cent of the global population – half of which currently lives below the poverty line.

“We do not want to see a situation where a country graduates [from the LDC category] and then comes back again." -- Gyan Chandra Acharya.

In the past five years, the LDCs have made progress, including through access to the internet and telephone networks, infrastructure expansion, access to energy, reduction of child and maternal mortality rates, access to primary education, and women’s representation in parliament.

However development for the LDCs can be considered a mixed blessing, since many special forms of development assistance are directly targeted at these countries.

According to Acharya, this is why so-called graduation from the LDC category is more of a transition which takes place over a period of several years.

“We do not want to see a situation where a country graduates [from the LDC category] and then comes back again as an LDC,” he said.

He pointed to examples of recently graduated countries such as the Maldives and Samoa which are still receiving many of the facilities provided to the LDCs.

Acharya also said that consideration of when a country will graduate from LDC status was not only based on income.

To constitute a country as an LDC, three aspects of development are looked at, Gross National Income (GNI), Human Assets Index (HAI) and the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI).

This reflects other aspects of an LDCs development, including their resilience to set-backs such as conflict, climate change and natural disasters.

According to the Group of 77 plus China (G77) which represents developing countries at the United Nations, “LDCs are the major victims of climate change.”

They are also vulnerable to “major health crises, natural calamities, price fluctuations of commodities, and external financial shocks,” the group said in its most recent statement on the upcoming review.

The G77 says that although the Istanbul Programme of Action stressed the importance of building the resilience of developing countries to withstand such shocks, “no visible international support has been devoted to build resilience of the LDCs.”

Acharya is hopeful for the meeting in Turkey, the review “provides an important opportunity for the global community to reaffirm its commitment to the world’s most vulnerable nations,” he said.

“Now is the time for action to ensure that no one is left behind as we build new and transformative partnerships, forging an inclusive and empowering future for millions of people living in Least Developed Countries.”

 

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Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalismshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 13:46:26 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145064 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]>

The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

By Johan Galtung
Antwerp, Alfaz, May 11 2016 (IPS)

We are dealing with mass migration, basically into EU, and European nationalisms, many in favor of exits from the EU.

Why this mass migration, maybe to the point of Völkerwanderung, mainly into EU–but then what kind of EU–and why the European nationalisms now found one way or the other in many member states?

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

The forecast for migration from Africa into Italy in 2016 is about 100,000; 28,000 already arrived in the first quarter, with 1,000 drowning in the Mediterranean (INYT, 6 May 2016). Big numbers. They knew the risks they were taking, so the push away from Africa and the pull towards Italy, and beyond, must have been considerable.

Better think in terms of 50 million migrants over 50 years, from regions considered uninhabitable to inhabitable regions. There seem to be five major causes underlying this basic world asymmetry:

Slavery, four centuries, depriving societies particularly of able-bodied males, by Arabs, then Westerners, cross-Atlantic transportation mainly by the English (Liverpool);
Colonialism, by Muslims after the death of the prophet in 632, from Casablanca to Southern Philippines, till the end of the 15th century, close to nine centuries, then by Christians close to five centuries, till colonialism was officially ended in the 1960s;
Robbery Capitalism, stealing or paying next to nothing for resources processed into manufactured goods, pocketing the value added;
Wars, mainly initiated by the West, killing millions (the USA more than 20 million in 37 countries after WWII), destroying property;
Ecological Factors, like depletion-pollution, often toxic for humans or nature, erratic climate partly due to climate gases, NOX, CO2, CH4.

These are the causes of poverty in some parts of the world but also of wealth in others; creating the asymmetry uninhabitable vs inhabitable by exploitation, becoming rich at the expense of others becoming poor.

That clearly applies to slavery, colonialism, robbery capitalism and many wars (the difference between bombing and being bombed). But the ecological factor hits both; so, the West attends to that factor.

Anyhow, many think: Time has come to share more equitably this wealth.

Of 28 EU members, 11 were colonial powers. 9 in Africa: England, Netherlands, France, Belgium-Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, Portugal, till the end of WWI Germany; all enriching themselves.

To believe that the other 28 – 9 = 19 members will accept “quotas” for migration due to the violence of the 9–England-France particularly, in the Middle East by Sykes-Picot colonization (*)–is simply naive. EU has institutions, but has not managed fusion into a Europe of one for all, all for one.

EU today is an exploitative pyramid: Germany on top; 8 Northern-Germanic countries; 5 Southern-Latin countries with France, Ireland; 12 Eastern countries; Greece at the bottom. With inequity and quotas, not strange that nationalisms flourish, tearing EU apart. Remove the causes: England-France, pick up the bill; EU, flatten the pyramid. (**)

Nevertheless, that only solves the intra-EU problem, not the world problem of mass migration from parts of the world mainly damaged by the West. Migrating into the EU, over land and across the Mediterranean, with a small part into a USA protected by two major oceans from the problems they helped to cause–except for migration via and from Mexico.

Mass migration is now an “industry” with “helpers”, smugglers, drugs and trafficking, dubious migrants, police and military among them. Yet that does not detract from the role of the five root causes, even if all kinds of lesser causes and effects make them less visible.

EU redirects migrant flows from the Middle East to Turkey at high costs; the flow from Africa to Nigeria; NATO patrols the Mediterranean. But these are at most stopgap measures. They are migrants not only from but also to–to the colonial “mother countries”, England and France.

Today they travel on foot, by bus, taxis–tomorrow by submarines (like drug smugglers), planes (many do) or by more massive numbers? Claiming a right to settle, uninvited, where much of their human and natural resources has been processed into the wealth of others–who also settled, uninvited. How do we handle this? Are there solutions?

5 Causes, 2 (groups of) Solutions. For Each, Negative and Positive

Slavery:

Negative: CARICOM [Caribbean Community] leads in denouncing slavery, followed by eLAC Summit meeting in Quito; EU endorsing; joint history books (USA: Frederick Douglass testimony); mapping levels of slavery; museums-memorials.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; negotiate compensation.

Colonialism:

Negative: South Africa leads in denouncing, followed by AU; others should join; joint history books on the experience.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; cover federation-confederation costs for multi-nation states and multi-state nations.

Robbery Capitalism:

Negative: Documentation, like using Sevilla customs data calculating the value as debt of the resources robbed; “Hands Off Africa”.

Positive: Africa processing its own resources; the Gaddafi 3 points; SSS trade also with China; lifting the bottom up; new infrastructure.

Wars:

Negative: Stop killing (bombing, SEALs); how many killed in how many countries, like for USA; denounce events (like Berlusconi for 1911).

Positive:
Use military defensively against IS violence; solve conflicts with “terrorists” (IS)–with “communists” (Vietnam) after they won.

Ecology:
Negative: reduce CO2+CH4 levels controlling fossil fuels and fracking.

Positive: Switch to renewable non-polluting resources like sun, wind; increase diversity of biota and abiota resources; help with symbiosis (enough CO2!); improve light-dark balance to absorb less solar heat.

Much more awareness is needed to understand the damage done. But three positive approaches, from “trickling down” capitalism to lifting the bottom up, from offensive to defensive use of military, from victory to solution, could carry far way, even quickly. Likely?

Notes:

(*) To tilt the WWI power balance in their favor one century ago, the four colonies they created–instead of freedom for the Arabs–have been at the root of most Middle East problems. Take Syria as example, an artificial state constructed by Paris, with 7 built-in conflicts: with Israel-USA blocking for Eretz Israel (Golan is one aspect); with Russia if a government should deny Russia their only base (as opposed to at least 800 US bases); between minority Shia-Alawite dictatorship with tolerance for others and a majority Sunni dictatorship without; between Arab Muslims and others like Kurds, Turks, Christians, Jews; between Shia and Sunni and their countries, the Shia living in the Fertile Crescent; between Al Qaeda+ and foreigners; and between all of the above and the Islamic State. IS wants to undo Sykes-Picot and to recreate the Ottoman Empire and their Caliphate without Istanbul; and see themselves as Islamic responses to the EU and the Vatican.

In so doing IS has a decisive advantage relative to “all of the above” who reify Syria as something sustainable with basic changes. IS relates to a reality where today’s Syria is located that lasted four centuries, 1516-1916. They want to reconstruct a past based on provinces and proceed accordingly. This author would be surprised if Iraq as a state survives beyond 2020 and Syria as a state beyond 2025.

(**) If we collapse the top three and the bottom 2 levels 14 Western and 12 Eastern; with ten islands 28. Add Turkey and the point of gravity moves further East, with Istanbul challenging Brussels. And what happe then to the migrants stranded in Turkey?

Johan Galtung’s op-ed originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 May 2016: TMS: Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalisms

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Biomass Could Help Power Africa’s Energy Transitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/biomass-could-help-power-africas-energy-transition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=biomass-could-help-power-africas-energy-transition http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/biomass-could-help-power-africas-energy-transition/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 10:55:33 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145058 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/biomass-could-help-power-africas-energy-transition/feed/ 1 Kenyan Refugee Camp Closures will have Disastrous Consequenceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/kenyan-refugee-camp-closures-will-have-disastrous-consequences/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 01:04:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145049 An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

An aerial view of the Ifo 2 Refugee Camp in Dadaab, Kenya. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 11 2016 (IPS)

The Kenyan government’s decision to close its refugee camps will have disastrous consequences and must be reconsidered, international organisations have stated.

At the end of last week, the Kenyan government announced that the “hosting of refugees has to come to an end”, citing economic, security and environmental concerns.

Currently, Kenya hosts over 600,000 refugees, many of whom are from Somalia and South Sudan. The country is also home to the Dadaab complex, the largest refugee camp in the world.-

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

International human rights groups have lambasted the move.

“In a single breath, the Kenyan government recognizes that the Somalis it has been hosting for nearly 25 years are still refugees, but then states it’s finished with them,” said Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) Refugee Rights Program Director Bill Frelick.

Amnesty International’s (AI) Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes Muthoni Wanyeki called the decision “reckless” and an “abdication” of its responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

Similarly, Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Head of Mission in Kenya Liesbeth Aelbrecht said that the move highlights the “continued” and “blatant neglect” of refugees around the world.

The government has already disbanded its Department of Refugee Affairs and is working to close its camps in the “shortest time possible.”

The camp closures mean refugees will be repatriated to their countries of origin.

Aelbrecht stated that in one Dadaab camp alone where MSF works, approximately 330,000 Somalis will be affected and forced to return to a war-torn country with little access to vital humanitarian assistance. Somalia is also facing a drought, exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition in the country. Approximately 4.7 million people—nearly 40 percent—are in need of humanitarian assistance in the East African nation.

The ongoing conflict in neighbouring South Sudan has also displaced and killed millions, worsened access to food and water, and destroyed schools and hospitals.

Wanyeki said that the forced repatriation would be in “violation of Kenya’s obligations under international law.” Frelick echoed these sentiments, stating that though the threat of Al-Shabab is real, Kenya still has to “abide by international refugee law.” HRW also noted that there is no evidence linking Somali refugees to any terrorist attacks in Kenya.

This is not the first time that Kenya has made such calls.

According to Refugees International, in 2012 and 2014, the government ordered all urban refugees to report to refugee camps. Refugees were subsequently bribed, harassed, physically assaulted and arrested by police.

The most recent announcement may therefore increase levels of extortion and abuse by security forces, said Refugees International Senior Advocate Mark Yarnell.

Though they acknowledged the humanitarian consequences of the decision, the Kenyan government stated that they have been “shouldering” the burden on behalf of the regional and international community.

“As a country with limited resources, facing an existential terrorist threat, we can no longer allow our people to bear the brunt of the International Community’s weakening obligations to the refugees,” said Kenya’s Minister for National Security Karanja Kibicho in an editorial.

He noted that there has been a fall in international funding and lack of commitment to resettlement, partly due to a magnified focus on the refugee crisis in Europe.

“The world continues to learn the ruinous effect of these persistent double standards,” Kibicho stated.

In response to the government’s concerns, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) noted the “vital” role Kenya has played as one of the frontline major refugee hosting nations.

Organisations including Oxfam and the International Rescue Committee also acknowledged the “hospitality” and “responsibility” that the Kenyan government has borne over decades in a joint statement.

“The NGO community is committed to continue supporting the Government of Kenya in the search for long-term and sustainable solutions for refugees,” the statement says.

The joint statement calls on the international community to provide predictable and sufficient financial support to Kenya’s refugee programmes and to expand resettlement quotas.

The joint statement, along with UNHCR and MSF, also called on the government to reconsider its decision.

Aelbrecht stated that Kenya, alongside the international community, must continue providing humanitarian assistance and ensure adequate living conditions for the thousands “who desperately need it.”

Wanyeki, while recognizing the slow resettlement process, also urged the government to consider permanent solutions towards the full integration of refugees.

“Forced return to situations of persecution or conflict is not an option,” she concluded.

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WFO Calls for Farmer-Centred Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/wfo-calls-for-farmer-centred-sustainable-development/#comments Mon, 09 May 2016 14:03:53 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145035 By Friday Phiri
LIVINGSTONE, Zambia, May 9 2016 (IPS)

Over 600 delegates representing at least 570 million farms scattered around the world gathered in Zambia from May 4-7 under the umbrella of the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) to discuss climate change, land tenure, innovations and capacity building as four pillars on which to build agricultural development.

Among the local delegates was Mary Nyirenda, a farmer from Livingstone, where the assembly was held.

“I have a 35-hectare farm but only use five hectares due to water stress. With one borehole, I am only able to irrigate limited fields. I gave up on rainfall in the 2013/14 season when I lost about five hectares of maize to drought,” Nyirenda told IPS.

Privileged to be part of the 2016 WFO General Assembly, Nyirenda hoped to learn innovative ways to improve productivity and market access for her garden and poultry produce. But did the conference meet her expectations?

Mary Nyirenda in her garden at her farm in Livingstone, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Mary Nyirenda in her garden at her farm in Livingstone, Zambia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

“Yes it has, especially on market access. I’ve learnt that working as groups gives us a strong voice and bargaining power. I’ve been struggling on my own but now I understand that two is better than one, and so my task from here is to strengthen our cooperative which is still disjointed in terms of producer partnerships,” said Nyirenda, emphasising the power of farmer organisations – for which WFO exists.

Convened under the theme ‘Partnerships for Growth’, the clarion call by delegates throughout the conference was to change the narrative that, while they are at the centre of a multi-billion-dollar food sector, responsible for feeding the whole world, farmers are the world’s poorest people.

And WFO President Evelyn Nguleka says the situation has to change. “It is true that farmers in almost all corners of the world constitute the majority poor, but the question is why?” asked Nguleka while responding to journalists during the closing WFO General Assembly Press briefing.

She said the meeting established that poor organisation and lack of information were the major reasons for farmers’ lack of progress, noting, “If farmers remain in isolation, they will continue to be poor.”

“It is for this reason that we developed a legal tool on contract farming, which will be mostly useful for smallholders whose knowledge on legal matters is low, and are easily taken advantage of,” said David Velde, president of the National Farmers Union in the U.S. and a board member of WFO.

Velde told IPS that various tools would be required to help smallholders be well equipped to fully benefit from their work, especially in a world with an unstable climate, a sub-theme that found space in all discussions at the conference due to its multifaceted nature.

With technology transfer being one of the key elements of the sustainable development agenda as enshrined in the Paris climate deal, delegates established that both innovation and capacity building for farmers to improve productivity cannot be discussed in a vacuum.

“Agriculture is indeed a global sector that needs serious attention. The fact that a world farmers’ organization exists is a sign that food production, food security, climate change are global issues that cannot be looked at in isolation. Farmers need information on best methods and technologies on how best to enhance productivity in a climate conscious manner,” said Zambian President Edgar Lungu in his address to the WFO General Assembly.

In the world’s quest to feed the hungry 793 million people by 2030, and and the projected population growth expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050, more than half in Africa, WFO is alive to the huge task that its members have, which can only be fulfilled through increased productivity.

“WFO is in recognition that the world has two conflicting issues on face value—to feed the world and mitigate climate change. Both require huge resources but we believe that it is possible to tackle both, through increased productivity using latest technology,” said William Rolleston, president of the Federated Farmers of New Zealand.

Rolleston, who is also Vice President of WFO, told IPS that while WFO’s work does not involve funding farmers, it helps its members to innovate and forge partnerships for growth.

It has long been recognised globally that climate change, if not tackled, could be a barrier to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). And this presented, perhaps, the hardest of choices that world leaders had to make—tackling climate change, with huge implications on the world’s productive capacity, which has over the years largely relied on a carbon intensive economy.

By approving the SDGs and the historic climate agreement last year, the world’s socio-economic agenda is set for a complete paradigm shift. However, WFO President Evelyn Nguleka wants farmers to remain the focus of the world’s policies.

“Whatever changes the world decides moving forward, it should not be at the expense of farmers to survive and be profitable,” she stressed.

For Nyirenda, access to markets holds the key to farmers’ productive capacity, especially women, who, according to FAO, constitute half of the global agricultural labour force, while in Africa, the figure is even higher—80 percent.

“My interactions with international organisations such as IFAD and others who are interested in women empowerment was a serious-eye opener moving forward,” she said.

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