Inter Press Service » Africa http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Fri, 19 Dec 2014 20:20:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.3 Europe Dream Swept Away in Tripolihttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/138323/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=138323 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/138323/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 09:54:42 +0000 Karlos Zurutuza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138323 Sub-Saharan migrant garbage collectors push their carts through the streets of Tripoli´s old town. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

Sub-Saharan migrant garbage collectors push their carts through the streets of Tripoli´s old town. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS

By Karlos Zurutuza
TRIPOLI, Libya, Dec 18 2014 (IPS)

It’s easy to spot Saani Bubakar in Tripoli´s old town: always dressed in the distinctive orange jumpsuit of the waste collectors, he pushes his cart through the narrow streets on a routine that has been his for the last three years of his life.

“I come from a very poor village in Niger where there is not even running water,” explains the 23-year-old during a break. “Our neighbours told us that one of their sons was working in Tripoli, so I decided to take the trip too.”

Of the 250 Libyan dinars [about 125 euro or 154 dollars] Bubakar is paid each month, he manages to send more than half to his family back home. Accommodation, he adds, is free.

“We are 50 in an apartment nearby,” says the migrant worker, who assures that he will be back in Niger “soon”. It is not the poor working conditions but the increasing instability in the country that makes him want to go back home.

Thousands of migrants remain detained in Libyan detention centres, where they face torture that includes “severe whippings, beatings, and electric shocks” – Human Rights Watch
Three years after Libya´s former ruler Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed, Libya remains in a state of political turmoil that has pushed the country to the brink of civil war. There are two governments and two separate parliaments – one based in Tripoli and the other in Tobruk, 1,000 km east of the capital. The latter, set up after elections in June when only 10 percent of the census population took part, has international recognition.

Accordingly, several militias are grouped into two paramilitary alliances: Fajr (“Dawn” in Arabic), led by the Misrata brigades controlling Tripoli, and Karama (“Dignity”) commanded by Khalifa Haftar, a Tobruk-based former army general.

The population and, very especially, the foreign workers are seemingly caught in the crossfire. “I´m always afraid of working at night because the fighting in the city usually starts as soon as the sun hides,” explains Odar Yahub, one of Bubakar´s roommates.

At 22, Yahub says that will not go back to Niger until he has earned enough to get married – but that will probably take longer than expected:

“We haven´t been paid for the last four months, and no one has given us any explanation,” the young worker complains, as he empties his bucket in the garbage truck.

While most of the sweepers are of sub-Saharan origin, there are also many who arrived from Bangladesh. Aaqib, who prefers not to disclose his full name, has already spent four years cleaning the streets of Souk al Juma neighbourhood, east of the capital. He says he supports his family in Dhaka – the Bangladeshi capital – by sending home almost all the 450 Libyan dinars (225 euros) from his salary, which he has not received for the last four months either.

“Of course I’ve dreamed of going to Europe but I know many have died at sea,” explains Aaqib, 28. “I´d only travel by plane, and with a visa stamped on my passport,” he adds. For the time being, his passport is in the hands of his contractor. All the waste collectors interviewed by IPS said their documents had been confiscated.

Defenceless

From his office in east Tripoli, Mohamed Bilkhaire, who became Minister of Employment in the Tripoli Executive two months ago, claims that he is not surprised by the apparent contradiction between the country´s 35 percent unemployment rate – according to his sources – and the fact that all the garbage collectors are foreigners.

“Arabs do not sweep due to sociocultural factors, neither here nor in Egypt, Jordan, Iraq … We need foreigners to do the job,” says Bilkhaire, Asked about the garbage collectors´ salaries, he told IPS that they are paid Libya´s minimum income of 450 Libyan dinars, and that any smaller amount is due to “illegal subcontracting which should be prosecuted.”

Bilkhaire also admitted that passports were confiscated “temporarily” because most of the foreign workers “want to cross to Europe.”

According to data gathered and released by FRONTEX, the European Union´s border agency, among the more than 42,000 immigrants who arrived in Italy during the first four months of 2014, 27,000 came from Libya.

In a report released by Human Rights Watch in June, the NGO claimed that thousands of migrants remain detained in Libyan detention centres, where they face torture that includes “severe whippings, beatings, and electric shocks.”

“Detainees have described to us how male guards strip-searched women and girls and brutally attacked men and boys,” said Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher in the same report.

In the case of foreign workers under contract, Hanan Salah, HRW researcher for Libya, told IPS that “with the breakdown of the judicial system in many regions, abusive employers and those who do not comply with whatever contract was agreed upon, can hardly be held accountable in front of the law.”

Shokri Agmar, a lawyer from Tripoli, talks about “complete and utter helplessness”:

“The main problem for foreign workers in Libya is not merely the judicial neglect but rather that they lack a militia of their own to protect themselves,” Agmar told IPS from his office in Gargaresh, west of Tripoli.

That is precisely one of the districts where large numbers of migrants gather until somebody picks them up for a day of work, generally as construction workers.

Aghedo arrived from Nigeria three weeks ago. For this 25-year-old holding a shovel with his right hand, Tripoli is just a stopover between an endless odyssey across the Sahara Desert and a dangerous sea journey to Italy.

“There are days when they do not even pay us, but also others when we can make up to 100 dinars,” Aghedo tells IPS.

The young migrant hardly lowers his guard as he is forced to distinguish between two types of pick-up trucks: the ones which offer a job that is not always paid and those driven by the local militia – a false step and he will end up in one of the most feared detention centres.

“I know I could find a job as a sweeper but I cannot wait that long to raise the money for a passage in one of the boats bound for Europe,” explains the young migrant, without taking his eyes off the road.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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Anti-Gay Legislation Could Defeat Goal to End AIDS in Zimbabwe by 2015http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/anti-gay-legislation-could-defeat-goal-to-end-aids-in-zimbabwe-by-2015/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=anti-gay-legislation-could-defeat-goal-to-end-aids-in-zimbabwe-by-2015 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/anti-gay-legislation-could-defeat-goal-to-end-aids-in-zimbabwe-by-2015/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 00:04:34 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138316 Zimbabwe has criminalised gay relationships, striking fear into the hearts of many gays like these two walking side by side in the country’s capital, because they are being left out in strategies to combat HIV/AIDS. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo

Zimbabwe has criminalised gay relationships, striking fear into the hearts of many gays like these two walking side by side in the country’s capital, because they are being left out in strategies to combat HIV/AIDS. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo

By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE, Dec 18 2014 (IPS)

Despite a mandate to eradicate HIV/AIDS under the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Zimbabwe has done little or nothing to reduce the rate of infection among vulnerable gays and lesbians, say activists here.

The MDGs are eight goals agreed to by all U.N. member states and all leading international development institutions to be achieved by the target date of 2015. These goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education.

Gays and lesbians activists here say more needs to be done because population groups such as men who have sex with men and transgender people remain at the periphery of the country’s intervention strategies.

“In as far as combatting HIV/AIDS is concerned, there are no national programmes targeted for minority groups or interventions that can easily be accessible by the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community on prevention and care within the public healthcare system,”Samuel Matsikure, Programme Manager of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), told IPS.“Whether the Zimbabwean government likes it or not, it has to face the reality that gays and lesbians exist and should therefore cater for their HIV/AIDS needs in emerging with strategies to combat HIV/AIDS just like it does for all other citizens, for how do we end the scourge if we ignore another group of people who will certainly spread the disease” – civil society activist Trust Mhindo

“There are knowledge gaps of healthcare workers on the needs and best methods on prevention, treatment and care for the HIV-positive LGBTI individuals,” adds Matsikure.

GALZ is a voluntary association founded in 1990 to serve the needs and interests of LGBTI persons in Zimbabwe, pushing for social tolerance of sexual minorities.

But 24 years after GALZ was founded, Zimbabwe’s Sexual Offences Act still criminalises homosexuality. According to Section 4.78 of Zimbabwe’s new constitution, persons of the same sex are prohibited from consensual sex or marrying each other.

Civil society activists say the Zimbabwean government has to accept the reality that gays and lesbians exist.

“Whether the Zimbabwean government likes it or not, it has to face the reality that gays and lesbians exist and should therefore cater for their HIV/AIDS needs in emerging with strategies to combat HIV/AIDS just like it does for all other citizens, for how do we end the scourge if we ignore another group of people who will certainly spread the disease,” Trust Mhindo, a civil society activist, told IPS.

HIV/AIDS activists here rather want the legislation on gays and lesbians changed. “We need to fight for a change of laws so that gays and lesbians are given recognition, without which fighting HIV/AIDS among LGBTI will remain futile,” Benjamin Mazhindu, Chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Network for People Living with HIV (ZNPP+), told IPS.

Globally halting the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015 is part of the U.N. MDGs, but with members of the LGBTI sidelined in fighting the disease in Zimbabwe, the battle may be far from over.

“Most healthcare facilities in Zimbabwe are not friendly to LGBTI persons, hindering disclosures of ailments like anal STIs [sexually transmitted infections]while sexual and reproductive health information for the LGBTI community is non-existent, creating a vacuum with healthcare facilities for minorities,” GALZ director Chester Samba told IPS.

“If you today walk into any government healthcare centre, be sure not to find any information or literature on gays and lesbians in as far as HIV/AIDS is concerned,” he added.

And for many Zimbabwean gays like 23-year-old Hillary Tembo, living with HIV/AIDS amounts to a death sentence because he fears accessing medical help from government healthcare centres.

“I’m HIV-positive and ridden with STI-related sores in my anus and truly I’m afraid to show this to health workers, fearing victimisation owing to my sexuality,” Tembo told IPS.

But Zimbabwean Health Minister David Parirenyatwa told IPS: “When a person visits a healthcare centre, nothing is asked about one’s sexual orientation.”

According to Samba, although there are no reported cases of HIV-positive LGBTI people being denied antiretroviral treatment on account of their sexual orientation, “there is need for a national HIV/AIDS response to address the barriers preventing members of the LGBTI community from accessing services that address their HIV/AIDS health care needs, including access to information that is relevant to them.”

However, faced with a constitution forbidding gay relations, government here finds it an uphill task to consider a group of people that it constitutionally does not recognise in combatting HIV/AIDS.

“We can’t arm-twist our supreme law which does not condone homosexuality to fit in to the needs of a small group of people who are disobeying the law,” a top government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told IPS.

And for gays and lesbians in this Southern African nation, whether the U.N. MDGs matter or not, to them suffering may continue as long as they remain a forgotten lot in fighting HIV/AIDS.

“As homosexuality is illegal in Zimbabwe, it is difficult for prevention programmes to reach men who have sex with men (MSM) and all MSMs living with HIV/AIDS are often unable to access HIV treatment, care and support,” Samba told IPS.

Asked how many HIV-positive LGBTI persons there were in Zimbabwe, the GALZ director said that he could not give figures because “there are no mechanisms at national level to capture data based on one’s sexual orientation.”

However, in its yet-to-be published 2014 research on the impact of HIV/AIDS on LGBTI persons, GALZ says that of the 393 MSMs tested for HIV/AIDS this year, 23.5 percent were found positive while of the 179 women having sex with women (WSWs) tested for HIV/AIDS, 32.6 percent were found positive in Zimbabwe.

According to the National Aids Council in Zimbabwe (NAC),1.24 million people in the country are living with HIV/AIDS, which is approximately 15 percent of the country’s over 13 million people. LGBTI persons are part of this percentage.

Statistics from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency this year show that LGBTI persons in Zimbabwe contribute about four percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS.

With a membership of 6,000 gays and lesbians, GALZ says 15 percent of these are living with HIV/AIDS, with five of its members having succumbed to HIV/AIDS since January. The organisation claims that it normally loses 5 to 10 people each year. “Statistics we have so far are of GALZ-affiliated members, not representative of the national statistics,” said the GALZ director.

For many HIV-positive Zimbabwean gays like Tembo, as the world rushes towards the deadline for attainment of the U.N. MDGs, without clearly defined strategies to fight HIV/AIDS within the LGBTI community, the war against the scourge may be far from over.

“How can we triumph over HIV/AIDS when among the LGBTI community we are without strategies from government to combat the disease?” Tembo asked rhetorically.

(Edited by Lisa Vives/Phil Harris)

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Kenya’s Economy Sees Growth at Top But No ‘Trickle-Down’http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/kenyas-economy-sees-growth-at-top-but-no-trickle-down/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kenyas-economy-sees-growth-at-top-but-no-trickle-down http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/kenyas-economy-sees-growth-at-top-but-no-trickle-down/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 23:03:42 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138313 David Kamau on his farm in Nyeri County, Central Kenya. Although he now grows carrots for sale in addition to maize, he says his efforts are yet to pay off. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

David Kamau on his farm in Nyeri County, Central Kenya. Although he now grows carrots for sale in addition to maize, he says his efforts are yet to pay off. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Dec 17 2014 (IPS)

David Kamau is a small-scale maize farmer in Nyeri, Central Kenya, some 153 kms from the capital Nairobi. He recently diversified into carrot farming but is still not making a profit.

He says that inputs cost too much and if this trend continues he will sub-divide and sell his five hectares.

This is the story of many small-scale farmers in this East African nation, where agriculture accounts for about one-quarter of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). But small-scale farmers – accounting for about 75 percent of total agricultural produce – barely break even.

“A 150 kg bag of carrot is now going for about 27 dollars, up from 22 dollars, but as prices go up, so does the cost of inputs,” says Kamau.“The growth of both urban and rural slums is an indication that more people are falling on hard times” – Dinah Mukami of the Bunge la Mwananchi pro-poor social movement

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, an estimated five million out of about eight million Kenyan households depend directly on agriculture for their livelihoods. Yet agriculture fails to provide an adequate return to farmers because their sector is significantly underfunded, explains Jason Braganza, an economic analyst based in Nairobi.

The percentage of the budget for the agricultural sector is 2.4 percent, down 0.6 percent from the 3 percent in the 2012/2013 budget and well below the threshold of the 2003 African Union Maputo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, which mandated that at least 10 percent the national budget should be allocated to agriculture.

The result, says Kamau, is that “farmers are slowly moving out of the farms and trying other economic ventures, Central Kenya used to be a breadbasket but farmlands are being replaced by residential and commercial complexes.”

Farming is not the only sector feeling an economic downslide. Small businesses in Kenya are faced with a lack of essential business support services, especially financial services. Two-thirds of Kenyans do not have access to basic financial services such as banking accounts.

“The growth of both urban and rural slums is an indication that more people are falling on hard times,” according to Dinah Mukami of the Bunge la Mwananchi [People’s Parliament] pro-poor social movement.

She says that the group is planning to hold the government responsible regarding the use of the information in the ‘Socio-Economic Atlas of Kenya’ which the government released last month. The report exposes significant disparities in poverty levels across the country.

“The Atlas is a powerful tool, but whether the government will use the information to change lives and improve living standards remains to be seen,” she says.

Felix Omondi, a resident of Kibera, a division of Nairobi considered the largest slum in Africa, and a member of the Unga Revolution, a local activist group, is one of those who believes that the Atlas is doing some good.

He told IPS that that a programme is under way to upgrade slums and said that this is “one of the ways that the government is using the Atlas to improve the lives of people in the slums.”

In the last three months, the government has been working with residents of the slums to establish income-generating projects and provide basic amenities such as toilets, lighting and drainage.

At least 3,000 youths in Kibera will benefit from these projects. Omondi, a beneficiary, says that he is running one of the posho (corn meal) mills set up by the government to generate income.

Kenya now officially a “middle-income country”

Meanwhile, in autumn the news came out that Kenya had seen its economy grow 25 percent after statistical revision and is now officially a “middle-income country”. A few months ago, a similar type of revision brought Nigeria’s economy to the top of African countries in terms of the size of the economy, surpassing South Africa for the first time.

A growing middle class population is an important driver of this growth, but what does that middle class look like? The recently revised Kenyan figures indicate that the Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is 1,160 dollars against the World Bank’s “middle income” threshold of 1,036 dollars.

The latest income-distribution indicators for Kenya (which date back to 2005) show the following:

  • 45.9 percent of the population was at the national poverty line;
  • The income share held by the top 10 percent was 38 percent.

This out-of-date, official information excludes the informal economy, observes Africa Arino, professor of strategic management at the IESE Business School in Spain.

“A taxi driver makes KES 15,000 a month (about 178 dollars or 132 euro), and pays KES 3,500 (close to 25 percent of his income) to rent a room where he lives with his wife and two children,” Arino explains.

“They don’t have a kitchen or a bathroom: these are facilities shared with others in the same building lot. His income is pretty much the average salary of a driver, according to the Kenya Economic Survey 2014. Is he middle class?”

According to Braganza, one of the main challenges facing Kenya is that while the country’s economic growth is real and sustainable, the structure of the economy has remained unchanged. Resources have not shifted into the most productive sectors of the economy which would increase overall productivity and an increase in remunerative employment.

Braganza says that for people to feel the trickledown effect of the economic growth, there must also be structural transformation. “There is a need for more investment in the more productive sectors, as well as investment in emerging sectors. This will contribute towards a reduction in unemployment and poverty.”

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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UNIDO Development Initiative Gains Momentum in ACP Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/unido-development-initiative-gains-momentum-in-acp-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unido-development-initiative-gains-momentum-in-acp-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/unido-development-initiative-gains-momentum-in-acp-nations/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 00:48:32 +0000 Valentina Gasbarri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138303 By Valentina Gasbarri
BRUSSELS, Dec 17 2014 (IPS)

The inclusive and sustainable industrial development (ISID) initiative of the U.N. Industrial Development Organisation to promote industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalisation and environmental sustainability is gaining momentum in the countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group. 

A concrete sign of this trend came on the occasion of last week’s ACP Council of Ministers meeting in the Belgian capital where UNIDO Director-General Li Yong met with ACP representatives to explore how to further promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in their countries and possible ways of scaling up investment in developing countries.

UNIDO Director-General Li Yong at the !00th ACP Council of Ministers  meeting in Brussels, where he explored how to further promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in ACP countries. Credit: Courtesy of ACP

UNIDO Director-General Li Yong at the !00th ACP Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels, where he explored how to further promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation in ACP countries. Credit: Courtesy of ACP

During the opening session of the ministers’ meeting, outgoing ACP Secretary-General Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni had already highlighted the key role of the ISID programme in promoting investment and stimulating competitive industries in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

In December last year in Lima, Peru, the 172 countries belonging to UNIDO – including ACP countries – unanimously approved the Lima Declaration calling for “inclusive and sustainable industrial development”.

The Lima Declaration clearly acknowledged that industrialisation is an important landmark on the global agenda and, for the first time, the spectacular industrial successes of several countries in the last 40 years, particularly in Asia, was globally recognised.

According to UNIDO statistics, industrialised countries add 70% of value to their products and recent research by the organisation shows how industrial development is intrinsically correlated with improvements in sectors such as poverty reduction, health, education and food security.“We need to move away from traditional models of industrialisation, which have had serious effects on the environment and the health of people” – UNIDO Director-General Li Yong

One major issue that the concept of ISID addresses is the environmental sustainability of industrial development. “We need to move away from traditional models of industrialisation, which have had serious effects on the environment and the health of people,” said Li.

Economic growth objectives should be pursued while protecting the environment and health, and by making business more environmentally sustainable, they become more profitable and societies more resilient.

ISID in the Post-2015 Agenda

“For ISID to be achieved,” said Li, “appropriate policies are essential as well as partnerships among all stakeholders involved.” This highlights the importance of including ISID in major development frameworks, particularly in the post-2015 development agenda that will guide international development in the coming decades.

With strong and solid support from the ACP countries, ISID has already been recognised as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the U.N. Open Working Group on SDGs – to take the place of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) whose deadline is December 2015 – and confirmed last week by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in ‘The Road to Dignity By 2030’, his synthesis report on the post-2015 agenda.

In fact, goal 9 is specifically devoted to “building resilient infrastructure, promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation.”

In this context, Mumuni told the Brussels meeting of ACP ministers that “in building the competitiveness of our industries and facilitating the access of ACP brands to regional and international markets, UNIDO is regarded by ACP Secretariat as a strategic ally.”

ACP-UNIDO – A Strategic Partnership

A Memorandum of Understanding approved in March 2011 and a Relationship Agreement signed in November 2011 represent the solid strategic framework underlying the strategic partnership between ACP and UNIDO, and highlight how the two partners can work together to support the implementation of ISID in ACP countries.

Key is the establishment and reinforcement of the capacity of the public and private sectors in ACP countries and regions for the development of inclusive, competitive, transparent and environmentally-friendly industries in line with national and regional development strategies.

On the basis of these agreements, ACP and UNIDO have intensified their policy dialogue and concrete cooperation. One example reported during the ministers’ meeting was the development of a pilot programme entitled “Investment Monitoring Platform” (IMP), funded under the intra-ACP envelope of the 9th European Development Fund (EDF) with the support of other donors.

This programme is aimed at managing the impact of foreign direct investments (FDI) on development, combining investment promotion with private sector development, designing and reforming policies that attract quality investment, and enhancing coordination between the public and private sector, among others.

This programme has already reinforced the capacity of investment promotion agencies and statistical offices in more than 20 African countries, which have been trained on methodologies to assess the private sector at country level.

Implementing ISID in ACP Countries

In Africa, the strategy for the Accelerated Industrial Development of Africa (AIDA) prepared with UNIDO expertise, is a key priority of Agenda 2063  – a “global strategy to optimise use of Africa’s resources for the benefit of all Africans” – and of the Joint Africa-European Union Strategy.

In the Caribbean, high priority is being given to private sector development, climate change, renewable energy and energy efficiency, and value addition in agri-business value chains, trade and tourism.

The CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum in London in 2013 clearly articulated the need for more innovation, reliable markets and private sector information, access to markets through quality and the improvement of agro-processing and creative industries.

In the Pacific, the 2nd Pacific-EU Business Forum held in Vanuatu in June this year called for stronger engagement in supporting the private sector and ensuring that innovation would produce tangible socio-economic benefits.

Finally, in all three ACP regions, interventions related to quality and value chain development are being backed in view of supporting the private sector and commodity strategies.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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OPINION: Give Peace a Chance – Run with Youthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/opinion-give-peace-a-chance-run-with-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-give-peace-a-chance-run-with-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/opinion-give-peace-a-chance-run-with-youth/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 16:21:41 +0000 Ettie Higgins http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138288 Children at play at the Yida settlement in Unity state, in northern South Sudan. Opened in 2011, Yida has over 70,000 refugees. Some 85 percent are children and women from the Nuban Mountains of South Kordofan, who fled bombardments and violence there. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Children at play at the Yida settlement in Unity state, in northern South Sudan. Opened in 2011, Yida has over 70,000 refugees. Some 85 percent are children and women from the Nuban Mountains of South Kordofan, who fled bombardments and violence there. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Ettie Higgins
JUBA, Dec 15 2014 (IPS)

Rambang “Raymond” Tot Deng was 18 and attending his final year of school when fighting erupted in South Sudan’s capital Juba, one year ago. In the ensuing violence, as Raymond’s schoolbooks burned, thousands of South Sudanese were killed, including two of his cousins.

Many fled to U.N. bases for protection or to neighbouring countries. “I saw children killed and women killed and everybody was crying,” Raymond recalls.“Let all youth in the world facing the same thing we are, know that forgiveness is the first priority. Give us the tools, and we will create peace.” -- Rambang “Raymond” Tot Deng

It was never meant to be this way. The bells of celebration that rang around South Sudan just two years ago are today emergency sirens. And while South Sudan is a crisis for children and of young people, sparse global attention has been paid to them. This must change.

The well of pain runs deep in many parts of Africa, and yet it is young people who offer the best chance for true conflict resolution, and lasting peace. Conflict-affected youth are often the most ambitious, the hardest workers.

They want back what was taken from them: opportunity. They want an education and they want to earn a livable wage.

Since conflict began, an estimated 1.8 million South Sudanese have fled their homes. Many remain on the move, while tens of thousands are living in camps in South Sudan, such as the UN Protection of Civilian camp #1 on the outskirts of southern Juba.

Here Raymond lives alongside 10,000 other youth. Whilst ever grateful for the protection the camp offers, Raymond says: “Life in the camp is difficult. You can see people just lying, sitting down, there’s nowhere people can go, nothing for them to do.”

Raymond’s experience of war, violence and suffering has been shared by hundreds of thousands across the region. But during the past two to three decades, it has consistently been young people who have been most affected by the conflicts that have raged.

This early experience of conflict leaves young people in a kind of no man’s land. Education interrupted, opportunities crushed. In South Sudan 400,000 young people have lost the chance to have an education, in this year alone.

Hundreds of thousands more are jaded, frustrated and disconnected, putting them at a critical crossroads, do they fight or fight for peace?

“Some of the youth with whom I was together outside [the camp] joined the rebellion,” says Raymond. “They would say, ‘if I could be in this dire situation we are now in, why should I be here’?”

And yet Raymond offers an important caveat: “Fighting cannot take everybody everywhere. Only peace can unite people as one.”

How then to do this? UNICEF believes one answer is through providing essential services, and in particular, education. Basic education and vocational-skills training can lift people out of poverty by providing opportunity.

But an education can be so much more, teaching war-torn children things many of us take for granted. At school children learn about the environment, about sanitation, and the importance of good nutrition. In turn, they become agents of change, conveying good practices to their families.

Importantly, children who go to school are less likely to be recruited by armed groups. UNICEF, through Learning for Peace, our Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme, is helping to rebuild and improve schools in both conflict and former conflict zones in South Sudan, providing materials and psychosocial support to help children cope with the traumas they have suffered.

UNICEF believes a key strategy for governments, the African Union, IGAD and development agencies is to counter insecurity through harnessing and connecting with youth.

On this, Raymond should be a poster child. Despite the horror he experienced a year ago, the boredom of the camp and the frustrations of having his education suspended, he is a born peacemaker. Now part of a youth forum in the Juba camp, he leads discussions on the root causes of conflict and reconciliation.

Raymond deserves to have his voice heard. “Let all youth in the world facing the same thing we are, know that forgiveness is the first priority, he says. “Give us the tools, and we will create peace.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Renewable Energy: The Untold Story of an African Revolutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/renewable-energy-the-untold-story-of-an-african-revolution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=renewable-energy-the-untold-story-of-an-african-revolution http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/renewable-energy-the-untold-story-of-an-african-revolution/#comments Sat, 13 Dec 2014 09:32:55 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138251 By Wambi Michael
LIMA, Dec 13 2014 (IPS)

Africa is experiencing a revolution towards cleaner energy through renewable energy but the story has hardly been told to the world, says Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Steiner, who had been advocating for renewable energy at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, said Africa is on the right path toward a low carbon footprint by tapping into its plentiful renewable resources – hydro, geothermal, solar and wind.

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

“There is a revolution going on in the continent of Africa and the world is not noticing it. You can go to Egypt, Ethiopia Kenya, Namibia, and Mozambique. I think we will see renewable energy being the answer to Africa’s energy problems in the next fifteen years,” Steiner said in an interview with IPS.

Sharing the example of the UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya, Steiner told IPS that the decision was taken that “if UNEP is going to be centred with its offices in the African continent on the Equator, there can be reason why we are not using renewable energy. So we installed photovoltaic panels on our roof which we share with UN Habitat, 1200 people, and we produce 750,000 kilowatt hours of electricity every year, that is enough for the entire building to operate.”

He noted that although it will take UNEP between eight and 10 years to pay off the installation, UNEP will have over 13 years of electricity without paying monthly or annual power bills. “It is the best business proposition that a U.N. body has ever made in terms of paying for electricity for a building,” he said.

According to Steiner, the “revolution” is already happening in East Africa, especially in Kenya and Ethiopia which are both targeting renewable energy, especially geothermal energy.

“Kenya plans to triple its electricity generation up to about 6000 megawatts in the next five years. More than 90 percent of the planned power is to come from geothermal, solar and wind power,” he said. “If you are in Africa and decide to exploit your wind, solar and geothermal resources, you will get yourself freedom from the global energy markets, and you will connect the majority of your people without waiting for thirty years until the power lines cross every corner of the country” – Achim Steiner, UNEP Executive Director

Kenya currently runs a geothermal power development corporation which invites tenders from private investors bid and is establishing a wind power firm likely to be the largest in Africa with a capacity of 350 megawatts of power under a public-private partnership.

In Ethiopia, expansion of the Aluto-Langano geothermal power plant will increase geothermal generation capacity from the current 7 MW to 70 MW. The expansion project is being financed by the Ethiopian government (10 million dollars), a 12 million dollar grant from the Government of Japan, and a 13 million dollar loan from the World Bank.

Renewable energy has costs but also benefits

Phillip Hauser, Vice President of GDF Suez Energy Latin America, told IPS that geothermal power is a good option for countries in Africa with that potential, but it comes with risks.

“It is very site-dependent. There can be geothermal projects that are relatively cost efficient and there are others that are relatively expensive. It is a bit like the oil and gas industry. You have to find the resource and you have to develop the resource. Sometimes you might drill and you don’t find anything – that is lost investment,” Hauser told IPS.

Steiner admitted that like any other investment, renewable energy has some limitations, including the need for upfront initial capital and the cost of technology, but he said that countries with good renewable energy policies would attract the necessary private investments.

“We are moving in a direction where Africa will not have to live in a global fuel market in which one day you have to pay 120 dollars for a barrel of crude oil, then the next day you get it at 80 dollars and before you know it, it is doubled,” he said.

“So if you are in Africa and decide to exploit your wind, solar and geothermal resources, you will get yourself freedom from the global energy markets, and you will connect the majority of your people without waiting for thirty years until the power lines cross every corner of the country,”Steiner added.

A recent assessment by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) of Africa’s renewable energy future found that solar and wind power potential existed in at least 21 countries, and biomass power potential in at least 14 countries.

The agency, which supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future, has yet to provide a list of countries with geothermal power potential but almost all the countries around the Great Rift Valley in south-eastern Africa – Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania among others – have already identified geothermal sites, with Kenya being the first to use a geothermal site to add power to its grid.

Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Adnan Amin, Director-General of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin told IPS that the agency’s studies shows that not only can renewable energy meet the world’s rising demand, but it can do so more cheaply, while contributing to limiting global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius – the widely-cited tipping point in the climate change debate.

He said the good news in Africa is that apart from the resources that exist, there is a growing body of knowledge across African expert institutions that would help the continent to exploit its virgin renewable energy potential.

What is needed now, he explained, is for countries in Africa to develop the economic case for those resources supported by targeted government policies to help developers and financiers get projects off the ground.

The IRENA assessment found that in 2010, African countries imported 18 billion dollars’ worth of oil – more than the entire amount they received in foreign aid – while oil subsidies in Africa cost an estimated 50 billion dollars every year.

New financing models for renewable energy

According to Amin, renewable energy technologies are now the most economical solution for off-grid and mini-grid electrification in remote areas, as well as for grid extension in some cases of centralised grid supply.

He argued that rapid technological progress, combined with falling costs, a better understanding of financial risk and a growing appreciation of wider benefits mean that renewable energy would increasingly be the solution to Africa’s energy problem.

In this context, Africa could take on new financing models that “de-risk” investments in order to lower the cost of capital, which has historically been a major barrier to investment in renewable energy, and one such model would include encouragement for green bonds.

“Green bonds are the recent innovation for renewable energy investments,” said Amin. “Last year we reached about 14 billion dollars, this year there is an estimate of about 40 billion, and next year there is an estimate of about 100 billion dollars in green finance through green bonds. Why doesn’t Africa take advantage of those?” he asked.

During the conference in Lima, activist groups have been urging an end to dependence on fossil fuel- and nuclear-powered energy systems, calling for investment and policies geared toward building clean, sustainable, community-based energy solutions.

“We urgently need to decrease our energy consumption and push for a just transition to community-controlled renewable energy if we are to avoid devastating climate change,” said Susann Scherbarth, a climate justice and energy campaigner with Friends of the Earth Europe.

Godwin Ojo, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth Nigeria, told IPS that “we urgently need a transition to clean energy in developing countries and one of the best incentives is globally funded feed-in tariffs for renewable energy.”

He said policies that support feed-in tariffs and decentralized power sources should be embraced by both the most- and the least-developed nations.

Backed by a new discussion paper on a ‘global renewable energy support programme’ from the What Next Forum, activists called for decentralised energy systems – including small-scale wind, solar, biomass mini-grids communities that are not necessarily connected to a national electricity transmission grid.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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AIDS Response Is Leaving African Men Behindhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/aids-response-is-leaving-african-men-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aids-response-is-leaving-african-men-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/aids-response-is-leaving-african-men-behind/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 22:13:34 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138253 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/aids-response-is-leaving-african-men-behind/feed/ 2 What Future for the ACP-EU Partnership Post-2015?http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/what-future-for-the-acp-eu-partnership-post-2015/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-future-for-the-acp-eu-partnership-post-2015 http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/what-future-for-the-acp-eu-partnership-post-2015/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 20:04:37 +0000 Valentina Gasbarri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138244 The 100th session of the ACP Council of Ministers, held in Brussels from Dec. 9 to 12, discussed prospects for a meaningful partnership with the European Union. Credit: Courtesy of ACP

The 100th session of the ACP Council of Ministers, held in Brussels from Dec. 9 to 12, discussed prospects for a meaningful partnership with the European Union. Credit: Courtesy of ACP

By Valentina Gasbarri
BRUSSELS, Dec 12 2014 (IPS)

“There are still prospects for a meaningful ACP-EU partnership, capable of contributing and responding concretely and effectively to the objectives of promoting and attaining peace, security, poverty eradication and sustainable development,” according to the top official of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP).

ACP Secretary General Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni was speaking at the 100th session of the ACP Council of Ministers held here from Dec. 9 to 12, during which ACP and European Union representatives took the opportunity to renew their commitment to working closely together, particularly in crafting a common strategy for the post-2015 global development agenda.

Besides discussing trade issues, development finance, humanitarian crises and the current Ebola crisis, the two sides also tackled future perspectives and challenges for the ACP itself and for its partnership with the European Union.“We must speed up our efforts. 2015 will not be the end of the road. The 2015-post development agenda presents us with the chance to go even further. We can play a role together. This is why the Joint ACP-EU Declaration on the Post-2015 Development Agenda … is so valuable” – European Development Commissioner Neven Mimica

It was agreed that comprehensive cooperation built on collaborative approaches, creative methods and innovative interventions in all the countries of the ACP will be the inspiration for a joint initiative in 2015, in the context of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Lomé Convention, the trade and aid agreement between the ACP and the European Community first signed in February 1075 in Lomé, Togo, and the forerunner to the Cotonou Agreement.

The European Union will also be celebrating European Year for Development in 2015, which is also the deadline year for the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The convergence of these three events, and the anticipated adoption by the international community of the development framework which is to replace the MDGs, “together represent a unique opportunity for the ACP and the European Union to demonstrate in a concrete fashion that they have and continue to strive for impactful relations in the future,” said Bhoendratt Tewarie, Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development of Trinidad and Tobago, who chairs the ACP Ministerial Committee on Development Finance Cooperation.

While acknowledging the current economic and financial difficulties being experienced by the European Union and the efforts under way to address them, it was stressed that these do not undermine the validity and strength of the ACP-EU partnership, that the rationale behind the partnership remains valid and that efforts must be redoubled for mutual benefit.

Proof of the commitment to help ACP countries meet the objectives of the Cotonou Agreement was identified in the concrete efforts being undertaken by both sides to improve the quality of life of the most impoverished and vulnerable countries – as  well as other countries, including middle income and upper middle income countries – of the ACP which continue to experience serious developmental challenges.

European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said that the post-2015 development agenda and the post-Cotonou framework – to succeed the current ACP-EC Partnership Agreement signed in Cotonou, Benin, in 2000 – “will shape development policy for the next decade.”

“We can agree on the need for an enhanced approach, building further on our partnership, incorporating overarching principles, such as respect for fundamental values, and taking account of specific realities in countries and regions,” he told the meeting.

The New EU Commission and EDF Programming

The Council of Ministers’ session was also the occasion for ACP members to meet with members of the new European Commission, which took office on Nov. 1, including the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, Development Commissioner Mimica as well as European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides.

Under the new Commission, the eleventh edition of the European Union’s main instrument for providing development aid to ACP countries, the European Development Fund, has been approved for the period 2014-2020 fora total of 31.5 billion euro, but has not yet entered into force.

Pending a further six ratifications on the European side, which are expected by mid-2015, a “bridging facility” amounting to 1.5 billion euro sourced from unused funds from previous EDFs, will allow priority actions to continue in ACP countries in 2014 and 2015.

To date, 53 national indicative programmes (worth up to 10 billion euro for the period 2014-2020) have been signed, with the remaining programmes to be signed by early 2015.

At the regional level, there is broad agreement on the content – sectors and financial breakdown – of the programmes, which should be signed by the first semester of 2015. The Intra-ACP cooperation strategy will be also be adopted and signed during the first semester of 2015.

“But we must not be complacent,” said Mimica. “We must speed up our efforts. 2015 will not be the end of the road. The 2015-post development agenda presents us with the chance to go even further. We can play a role together. This is why the Joint ACP-EU Declaration on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which was adopted last June in Nairobi, is so valuable.”

The Joint Declaration represents the springboard for building greater consensus and contributing towards meaningful and ambitious outcomes in July and September next year, looking forward to a post-Cotonou framework.

“Transforming the ACP Group into a Global Player”

Meanwhile, the ACP Group is currently reflecting on its institutional aspects, such as leadership, organizational mandate, and implementation of reforms which aim at making it a more effective and accountable stakeholder in the international political context, while working on reducing poverty and promoting sustainable development in member states.

Newly appointed ACP Secretary General, Ambassador Dr Patrick Gomes from Guyana. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

Newly appointed ACP Secretary General, Ambassador Patrick Gomes from Guyana. Credit: Valentina Gasbarri/IPS

An Eminent Persons Group has been established and a report will be presented to the next ACP Summit with the aim of identifying the most suitable strategic approach for ACP to be more effective, more visible, more accountable in a world of partnership and ownership, incorporating overarching principles such as respect for fundamental values and taking into account the specificities of the realities in countries and regions.

An important sign of the ACP institutional change was also launched during the 100th Council of Ministers with the appointment of the new Secretary General, Patrick Gomes, who will head the ACP Secretariat from 2015 to 2020, a landmark period covering the latest part of the ACP partnership agreement with the European Union.

Appointment of the Secretary General generally follows a principle of rotation among the six ACP regions – West Africa (currently holding the post), East Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.

Gomes is the Ambassador of Guyana to the European Union and the Kingdom of Belgium and the country representative to the WTO, FAO, and the IFAD.

Gomes has led various high-level ambassadorial committees in the ACP system, currently serving as Chair of the Working Group on Future Perspectives of the ACP Group, which transmitted a final report on “Transforming the ACP Group into a Global Player” during the ACP Council of Ministers.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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Africa Sets Demands for Post-2015 Climate Agreementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/africa-sets-demands-for-post-2015-climate-agreement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-sets-demands-for-post-2015-climate-agreement http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/africa-sets-demands-for-post-2015-climate-agreement/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 19:45:59 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138213 Members of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance staging a demonstration at the Climate Change Conference in Lima. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Members of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance staging a demonstration at the Climate Change Conference in Lima. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

By Wambi Michael
LIMA, Dec 10 2014 (IPS)

The post-2015 global climate change agreement should be flexible and fully resourced or else condemn Africa to another cycle of poverty resulting from the adverse effects of climate change.

Echoing this view, African delegates and civil society groups at the ongoing (Dec. 1-12) U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, said that some of the continent’s demands were being relegated, yet they are crucial for the post-2015 period.

Azeb Girma, an environmental activist from Ethiopia, told IPS that he was disappointed with the way the negotiations were proceeding.  “We thought to have a pathway to Paris [venue for the next climate change conference in 2015] but Africa is cheated. Africa is demanding adaptation but this has been pushed away. The discussions are leading nowhere,” said Girma.

Some of the negotiators claimed that developed countries were backtracking on some of the positions earlier agreed to at the Durban Climate Change Conference in 2011.

Dr Tom Okurut, Executive Director of Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), told IPS that in Durban parties had agreed that adaptation was supposed to be part of the post-2015 climate deal but some developed countries were not willing to commit themselves in the draft texts."We have a mandate from science, from our people, from the continent of Africa, and from the United Nations itself to push for enhanced global climate action to cut [greenhouse gas] GHG emissions as well as strengthen adaptation; this remains a priority for us" – Nagmeldin El Hassan, Chair of the African Group at the Climate Change Conference in Lima

“We need a legally binding agreement that binds all parties to whatever has been agreed to, unlike the current protocol where parties can opt out of the process. Right now, everything is voluntary and that is why we are not getting very big output here,” said Okurut.

Since the beginning of the Lima conference, the African Group has been pushing for a multilateral rules-based system with a comprehensive outcome aimed at halting the growing threat of climate change to the African continent.

“We have a mandate from science, from our people, from the continent of Africa, and from the United Nations itself to push for enhanced global climate action to cut [greenhouse gas] GHG emissions as well as strengthen adaptation; this remains a priority for us,” said Nagmeldin El Hassan, Chair of the African Group while addressing a group of African journalist covering the conference.

Among the more thorny debates in this round of talks is the scope and format of country pledges or ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ (INDCS). Some parties, especially the African Group and most of the least developed countries (LDCs), want the focus to be on both mitigation and adaptation, while those in developed countries want the focus only on mitigation.

Earlier in the week, several African environmental groups under their umbrella group, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), held a demonstration at the convention centre urging ministers and other negotiators to back the African position on INDCS.

“We call on all parties to take seriously their responsibility to agree on deep emission cuts and avoid further climate crisis. Time is running out while the negotiations are moving at a very slow pace,” said Nicholas Ndhola, an activist from Zimbabwe.

“We urge and demand all parties, especially the developed countries, to agree on the scope of INDCs to include all elements and not only mitigation which tends to ignore differentiated commitments towards finance, adaptation, technology transfer, means of implementation and capacity-building,”he added.

John Bideri from Rwanda told IPS that the developed countries were seemingly determined to ensure that issues about adaptation and technology transfer are not adequately agreed and defined as the parties agree on framework for the next agreement to be hammered out in Paris in 2015.

Seyini Nafo, spokesperson of the African Group at the Climate Change Conference in Lima and member of the UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Seyini Nafo, spokesperson of the African Group at the Climate Change Conference in Lima and member of the UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

“It is time to come up with an equitable deal. Lima may be the last chance for us to make a breakthrough and end a standoff that has prevented adequate climate action for decades. Please stand with the poor, stand with the vulnerable,” urged Bideri.

The INDCs bring together elements of a bottom-up system – to be put forward by all countries in their contributions in the context of their national priorities, circumstances and capabilities – with the aim of reducing global emissions enough to limit average global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius.

According to the London-based CARE International, there is a need to set clear guidelines on the scope and format of INDCs.

“At the moment we run the risk of having to compare apples with oranges – if we don’t clearly define what countries must include in their national climate commitments towards the new agreement due in Paris next year, then it will be extremely difficult to understand how much progress is being made to curb climate change,” said Sven Harmeling, CARE International’s climate change advocacy coordinator.

However,in a statement in Lima,Miguel Arias Canete, the European Union’s Commissioner for Energy and Climate Action, said that “the European Union and other developed countries must take into account the concerns of developing countries that want more adaptation, finance and technology sharing elements, but it should be in a mechanism or process outside of the INDCs.”

He added that “countries’ intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) should be exclusively devoted to mitigation.”

While Africa has been pushing for adaptation as part of the post-2015 agreement, it is not about to give up the demand for mitigation in areas of sustainable land and forest management, especially carbon finance, under the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) programme.

Dr Ephraim Kamuntu, Uganda’s Water and Environment Minister, speaking at a REDD+ post 2015 discussion organised by the Peruvian government, said that parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been slow in implementing the Warsaw REDD+ Framework.

“We would want our colleagues in developed countries to agree on REDD+ result-based financing. This is a very key issue for us in Africa. We affirm the need to integrate the REDD+ into the overall structure of the 2015 agreement for durable and effective climate change governance,” said Kamuntu.

Critical among Africa’s demands is fulfilment of the financial pledges for climate financing.  At the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, developed countries pledged to scale up climate funding to 100 billion dollars a year from private and public sources by 2020. For the African Group, fulfilling this could make money available for a post-2015 poverty eradication agenda.

Some developed countries, such as Norway and Australia among others, have announced contributions to the Green Climate Fund, bringing the fund to close the 10 billion dollar mark.

Seyni Nafo, African Group spokesperson and a member of the UNFCCC Standing Committee on Finance, told IPS that much more funding was needed.

“Recent pledges to the Green Climate Fund are a small first step, but funding around 2.4 billion dollars per year is not close to the actual need, and is a far cry from the 100 billion dollars pledged for 2020. Lima should provide a clear roadmap for how finance contributions will increase step-by-step up to 2020,” he said.

The European Union has agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030. The United States and China have announced commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a bilateral agreement, sending a strong signal for implementation of an international climate treaty in 2015.

Seyni Nafo said the recent announcements by the European Union, United States and China of their 2030 emission targets were to be commended for proactivity but fall well short of what science requires.

He challenged the European Union and the United States to match stronger mitigation targets with intended contributions on finance, adaptation, technology transfer and capacity-building in accordance with their obligations under international law.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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Starvation Strikes Zimbabwe’s Urban Dwellershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/starvation-strikes-zimbabwes-urban-dwellers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=starvation-strikes-zimbabwes-urban-dwellers http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/starvation-strikes-zimbabwes-urban-dwellers/#comments Tue, 09 Dec 2014 18:51:05 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138176 Faced with starvation, hordes of jobless Zimbabweans in towns and cities here have turned to vending on streets pavements to put food on their tables. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Faced with starvation, hordes of jobless Zimbabweans in towns and cities here have turned to vending on streets pavements to put food on their tables. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE, Dec 9 2014 (IPS)

As unemployment deepens across this Southern African nation and as the country battles to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) ahead of the December 2015 deadline, thousands of urban Zimbabweans here are facing starvation.

The MDGs are eight goals agreed to by all U.N. member states and all leading international development institutions to be achieved by the target date of 2015. These goals range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education.

Zimbabwe has a total population of just over 13 million people, according to the 2012 National Census – of these, 67 percent now live in rural areas while 33 percent live in urban areas.

According to the Poverty, Income, Consumption and Expenditure Survey report for 2011-2012 from the Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (ZIMSTAT), 30.4 percent of rural people in Zimbabwe are “extremely poor” – and are also people facing starvation – compared with 5.6 percent in urban areas.“The current inability of the economy to address people’s basic needs is leading to hunger in most urban households, with almost none of urban residents in Zimbabwe being able to afford three meals a day nowadays” – Philip Bohwasi, chairperson of Zimbabwe’s Council of Social Workers

Social workers find the stay of urban dwellers in Zimbabwe’s cities justifiable, but ridden with hardships.

“Remaining in towns and cities for many here is better than living in the countryside as every slightest job opportunity often starts in urban areas in spite of the expensive living conditions in towns and cities,” independent social worker Tracey Ngirazi told IPS.

According to Philip Bohwasi, chairperson of Zimbabwe’s Council of Social Workers, urban starvation is being caused by loss of jobs – the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates unemployment in Zimbabwe to be at 60 percent of the country’s total population.

“The current inability of the economy to address people’s basic needs is leading to hunger in most urban households, with almost none of urban residents in Zimbabwe affording three meals a day nowadays,” Bohwasi told IPS.

True to Bohwasi’s words, for many Zimbabwean urban residents like unemployed 39-year-old qualified accountant Josphat Madyira from the Zimbabwean capital Harare, starvation has become order of the day.

“Food stores are filled to the brim with groceries, but most of us here are jobless and therefore have no money to consistently buy very basic foodstuffs, resulting in us having mostly one meal per day,” Madyira told IPS.

Madyira lost his job at a local shoe manufacturing company after it shut down operations owing to the country’s deepening liquidity crunch, thanks to a failing economy here that has rendered millions of people jobless.

Asked how city dwellers like him are surviving, Madyira said: “People who are jobless like me have resorted to vending on streets pavements, selling anything we can lay our hands on as we battle to put food on our tables.”

The donor community, which often extends food aid to impoverished rural households, has rarely done the same in towns and cities here despite hunger now taking its toll on the urban population, according to civil society activists.

“Whether in cities or remote areas, hunger in Zimbabwe is equally ravaging ordinary people and most of the donor community has for long directed food aid to the countryside, rarely paying attention to towns and cities, which are also now succumbing to famine,” Catherine Mukwapati, director of the Youth Dialogue Action Network civil society organisation, told IPS.

Apparently failing to combat hunger in line with the MDGs, over the years Zimbabwe has not made great strides in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger due to the economic decline that has persisted since 2000.

As a result, earlier this year, the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in partnership with the Zimbabwean government, extended its monthly cash pay-out scheme to urban areas.

Under this scheme, which started at the peak of Zimbabwe’s economic crisis in 2008, families living on less than 1.25 dollars a day receive a monthly pay-out of between 10 and 20 dollars, depending on the number of family members.

Economists and development experts here say that achieving the MDGs without food on people’s tables, especially in cities whose inhabitants are fast falling prey to growing hunger, is going to be a nightmare, if not highly impossible for Zimbabwe.

“Be it in cities or rural areas, Zimbabwe still has a lot of people living on less than 1.25 dollars a day, which is the global index measure of extreme poverty, a clear indication that as a country we are far from successfully combating hunger and poverty in line with the U.N. MDGs whose global deadline for world countries to achieve is next year,” independent development expert Obvious Sibanda told IPS.

According to the 2013 Human Development Index of the U.N. Development Programmer (UNDP), Zimbabwe is a low-income, food-deficit country, ranked 156 out of 187 countries globally and UNDP says that currently 72 percent of Zimbabweans live below the national poverty line.

Although hunger is now hammering people in both urban and rural areas, government sources also recognise that the pinch is being felt more by urban dwellers.

“The decline in formal employment, mostly in towns and cities, with many workers engaged in poorly remunerated informal jobs, has a direct bearing on both poverty and hunger, which is on a sharp rise in urban areas,” a top government economist, who declined to be named, admitted to IPS.

For the many hunger-stricken Madyiras in Zimbabwe’s towns and cities, meeting the MDGS by the end of next year matters little.

“Defeating starvation is far from me without decent and stable employment and whether or not my country fulfils the MDGs, it may be of no immediate result to many people like me,” Madyira told IPS.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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OPINION: Addressing Climate Change Requires Real Solutions, Not Blind Faith in the Magic of Marketshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/opinion-addressing-climate-change-requires-real-solutions-not-blind-faith-in-the-magic-of-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-addressing-climate-change-requires-real-solutions-not-blind-faith-in-the-magic-of-markets http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/opinion-addressing-climate-change-requires-real-solutions-not-blind-faith-in-the-magic-of-markets/#comments Mon, 08 Dec 2014 13:41:27 +0000 Kristen Lyons http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138145 “The darker side of green” – plantation at Bukaleba, Uganda. Credit: Kristen Lyons

“The darker side of green” – plantation at Bukaleba, Uganda. Credit: Kristen Lyons

By Kristen Lyons
BRISBANE, Dec 8 2014 (IPS)

Norwegians know something of life in a climate change world. Migratory birds arrive earlier in spring, trees come into leaf before previously expected, and palsa mires (wetlands) are being lost as permafrost thaws.

Norwegians are currently waiting while geologists try to predict if, and when, Mount Mannen might collapse, destroying homes in its path, after torrential rain in the region.

Kristen Lyons

Kristen Lyons

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), this will be just the beginning for Norway – and the rest of the world – unless urgent and immediate action is taken to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

While reducing our dependence on the dirty fossil fuel industries is widely lauded as representing the fastest and most effective strategy to reduce our global emissions, much of the world’s attention – including that of many governments and industry – has been captured by the promise of carbon trade markets.

There are hopes that pricing and selling carbon just might be the magic bullet to solve the crisis, while at the same time generating lucrative returns for investors.

Carbon markets are being established on the assumption that if the ‘right’ price is placed on carbon, private companies and their financial backers will be driven to invest in so-called ‘green’ projects that capture and store carbon, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the world’s atmosphere.“Expecting some of the poorest of the poor to carry the social and ecological burdens of monoculture plantation forestry projects for carbon offset is both socially unjust, and ecologically just does not add up”

Carbon markets are championed by those who believe that carbon emissions taking place in one part of the world can be offset by their capture or sequestration in another. Plantation forestry is a key sector in the carbon market, with many projects established in some of the poorest parts of the world, based on the assumption that they will confer benefits to the environment and the local people.

But does all the hype about carbon markets really stack up?

Research on the Norwegian company Green Resources – engaged in plantation forestry and carbon offset on the African continent – raises many questions about who benefits from the carbon market projects. In-depth research over two years in Uganda, where Green Resources has licence to over 11,000 hectares of land, demonstrates how local communities are the losers of such projects.

A recent reportThe Darker Side of Green: Plantation Forestry and Carbon Violence in Uganda,  published by the Oakland Institute, contributes to the critical conversation about the role of carbon markets in addressing climate change.

The report identifies profound adverse livelihood impacts associated with Green Resources’ activities, including loss of land and heightened food insecurity, as well as destruction of sites of cultural significance. It also demonstrates the failure of Green Resources to engage in meaningful community engagement with affected villages, so as to deliver positive community development outcomes.

Yet this REDD [Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation] type project (referring to any project that involves forestry carbon credits), and the audit mechanisms to which it must comply, fail to detect and/or challenge the impacts of Green Resources’ activities.

Nor do they detect the extent to which environmental problems – including land clearing for animal grazing and crop cultivation – may simply be relocated from inside licence areas to other, often ecologically sensitive landscapes.

Importantly too, carbon market audits fail to consider the carbon capture enabled by local agro-ecological and organic farming systems, on which most subsistence and peasant farmers rely.

We are faced with a number of options in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, something we all know is urgently needed. Despite the promise by many that the magic of climate markets will solve the current climate crisis, the findings presented in the report discard this fairy dust, shining a light on the structural violence and inequities on which carbon markets are built.

Expecting some of the poorest of the poor to carry the social and ecological burdens of monoculture plantation forestry projects for carbon offset is both socially unjust, and ecologically just does not add up. (END/IPS COLUMNIST SERVICE)

(Edited by Phil Harris)

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Cameroon’s Anti-Terrorism Law – Reversal of Human Freedomshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/cameroons-anti-terrorism-law-reversal-of-human-freedoms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cameroons-anti-terrorism-law-reversal-of-human-freedoms http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/cameroons-anti-terrorism-law-reversal-of-human-freedoms/#comments Fri, 05 Dec 2014 23:23:00 +0000 Ngala Killian Chimtom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138134 By Ngala Killian Chimtom
YAOUNDE, Dec 5 2014 (IPS)

Legislators in Cameroon have voted in a draft law proposing the death sentence for all those guilty of carrying out, abetting or sponsoring acts of terrorism. The draft law, which is now being examined by the Cameroon Senate, call for punishment acts of terrorism committed by citizens, either individually or in complicity, with death.

The draft law also prescribes the death penalty for persons who carry out “any activity which can lead to a general revolt of the population or disturb the normal functioning of the country” and for “anyone who supplies arms, war equipment, bacteria and viruses with the intention of killing.”

The same applies for people guilty of kidnapping with terrorist intent, as well as for “anyone who directly or indirectly finances acts of terrorism” and for “anyone who recruits citizens with the aim of carrying out acts of terrorism.”“This [anti-terrorism] law is manifestly against the fundamental liberties and rights of the Cameroonian people … In the guise of fighting terrorism, the government’s real intent is to stifle political dissent” – Kah Wallah, leader of the Cameroon People’s Party

The draft law also punishes people and companies found guilty of promoting terrorism, as well as people who give false testimony to administrative and judicial authorities in matters of terrorism, with various fines and prison terms.

The anti-terrorism law has sparked a wave of criticism across the political chessboard – from opposition political leaders to civil society, church ministers and trade unions.

“This law is designed to terrorise the people and kill their freedoms,” opposition leader, John Fru Ndi told IPS.

Kah Wallah, the lone female leader of a political party in Cameroon [the Cameroon People’s Party], added that “the government is taking us back to the worst days of the most barbaric dictatorship … This law is manifestly against the fundamental liberties and rights of the Cameroonian people … In the guise of fighting terrorism, the government’s real intent is to stifle political dissent.”

For Maurice Kamto, a former cabinet minister who resigned to form the Movement for the Revival of Cameroon (MRC), President Paul Biya – now in power for 32 years – is afraid of any popular up-rising that could put his stay in power in jeopardy.

“The president has certainly learnt from the lessons coming from Burkina Faso. A similar uprising here will sweep his failed presidency under the carpet,” he said. Facing mounting pressure, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso was forced to resign on Oct. 31 after 27 years in office.

Various opposition political leaders and civil society exponents have vowed to fight the proposed law to its logical end. “Cameroonians must resist and say no to this other manoeuvre … We will fight this law by every means,” Ndi said, without elaborating.

However, Jean Mark Bikoko,  president of the Public Service Workers’ Trade Union, already has an idea on how to proceed. In a strongly-worded statement released on Dec. 3, Bikoko said that the law “is a veritable declaration of war against the people … The anti-terrorism law has provoked the ire of civil society and we will protest on December 10 – International Human Rights Day.”

But the government has said it will not falter in the fight against terrorism. Justice Minister Laurent Esso told MPs that “Cameroon will never be complicit to those whose only agenda is to cause mayhem and destabilise the normal functioning of the state.”

Counting the costs

In the north of the country, Cameroon’s military are combating cross-border raids by Nigeria’s militant Islamist group Boko Haram. On May 17, President Biya along with other regional leaders and French President François Holland said they were declaring war against Boko Haram.

Cameroon has since deployed thousands of troops in the country’s Far North Region and plans to send still more troops. Defence Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o and Delegate General for National Security Martin Mbarga Nguele have announced that some 20,000 defence and security forces will be recruited within the next two years to reinforce the fight against Boko Haram.

However, as the security crisis in the country continues to worsen, Cameroonian authorities have been counting the costs, not only in terms of human loss, but also in terms of the impacts of the crisis on the economy.

During a special parliamentary plenary session on Nov. 27, Ngo’o said that since the crisis escalated eight months ago, Cameroon has so far lost some forty soldiers, but killed about one thousand Boko Haram fighters. “Our defence forces have simply been formidable,” he said.

But the economic costs of the war are heavy. According to the Minister of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, “the most affected sectors have been the tourism, transport, trade, agriculture and livestock sectors.”

He said  that “almost all tourism enterprises have been shut down, the number of tourists visiting attraction parks like the Waza National Park and the Rhumsiki Mountains have gone down drastically, and the hotel occupation rate has dropped from 50 percent before the crisis to just 10 percent today.”

In addition, there has been a sharp drop in customs revenue. Although customs officials have not tallied the losses, they say they are astronomical.

“There was a border custom post in the Far North Region that used to give us a monthly income of CFA 700 million (1.4 million dollars).That customs post has been closed down. Can you imagine what the state is losing yearly in customs revenue? It’s enormous,” said the Director-General of Customs, Lissette Libom Li-Likeng.

Government spokesman and Communication Minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary told journalists in Yaounde that in view of the human, economic and psychological losses that Cameroon has been incurring as a result of Boko Haram, a stringent law is necessary to contain the militant group.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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OPINION: To Conserve Arctic Species, Take Action in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/opinion-to-conserve-arctic-species-take-action-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-to-conserve-arctic-species-take-action-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/opinion-to-conserve-arctic-species-take-action-in-africa/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 17:10:39 +0000 Jacques Trouvilliez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138091 The Bar-tailed Godwit breeds in the Arctic and migrates down to West Africa. It is one of the 255 migratory waterbird species covered by AEWA. Credit: Andreas Trepte/ cc by 2.5

The Bar-tailed Godwit breeds in the Arctic and migrates down to West Africa. It is one of the 255 migratory waterbird species covered by AEWA. Credit: Andreas Trepte/ cc by 2.5

By Jacques Trouvilliez
BONN, Dec 4 2014 (IPS)

So great are the contrasts between the frozen empty expanses of the far north and Africa’s baking deserts, steamy rain forests and savannahs that any direct connections between the two seem far-fetched – if they indeed exist at all.

In fact, migratory birds provide an environmental tie linking the Arctic and Africa and are the reason why the U.N. Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) and the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna (CAFF), the biodiversity working group of the Arctic Council, have entered a commitment to cooperate.

Courtesy of AEWA

Courtesy of AEWA

The Arctic Council is holding its first Arctic Biodiversity Congress in Trondheim, Norway and far from being of marginal interest to AEWA, its deliberations over the fauna inhabiting the regions around the North Pole could hardly be more relevant.

Following publication of the Arctic Biodiversity Assessment in May 2013, progress is being made in elaborating a strategy under the Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI): a concrete example of where we can collaborate with practical work on the ground.

The habitats could hardly be more different and the distances between them are large, but the waterfowl, shorebird and seabird species – the predominant birds of the Arctic – find the conditions they require at different times of the year in the various habitats of the world.

The birds have adapted to develop the capacity to make their often arduous journeys from their Arctic breeding grounds to wintering sites and back. These wintering sites can be in Europe – but in some cases they even lie as far as in Southern Africa, as is the case for the Red Knot.

Approximately 200 bird species spend time every year in the Arctic, but for many the Arctic provides their only principal breeding site. Of the 255 species and populations covered by AEWA, a large proportion breeds in the far north but heads south in search of more plentiful food or milder weather.

Two of the most seriously threatened species listed under AEWA – the Lesser White-fronted Goose and the Red-breasted Goose – breed in the Arctic.The habitats could hardly be more different and the distances between them are large, but the waterfowl, shorebird and seabird species - the predominant birds of the Arctic - find the conditions they require at different times of the year in the various habitats of the world.

The conditions ideal for breeding waterfowl are too hostile for all but the hardiest of people. This has been a blessing for the animals concerned, as limited human interference has left their habitats relatively unscathed by the encroachments witnessed in other regions, with higher – and growing – numbers of people, converting land to agriculture, building towns and exploiting natural resources.

The Arctic’s human inhabitants have always had a deep respect for nature – its bounty, beauty, and balance. One problem the Arctic does not face is the indifference of its indigenous peoples. Newcomers, however, can be a different matter.

Warmer temperatures have opened the region to oil and gas exploration and sea channels are becoming navigable. This increases not only the risks of pollution, but also human presence, affecting the delicate balance that has persisted for centuries.

The unique and harsh climate of the Arctic makes it difficult for exotic species to gain a foothold, although the range of some is creeping northwards as temperatures rise. For example, the Red Fox is displacing its Arctic cousin by outcompeting it as a predator, which might yet prove to have serious consequences for its prey.

This is just one of the effects of climate change, but this, combined with the rate and extent of thawing tundra, melting sea-ice and phenological changes are leading to unpredictable consequences in the region. It is folly to imagine that climatic disruptions on other continents have no repercussions closer to home.

Despite the apparent lack of geographic connection, the AEWA African Initiative endorsed at the last Meeting of the Parties in La Rochelle in 2012 and AMBI are in fact ideal partners, acting as a bridge spanning the geographic divide and facilitating the international cooperation so fundamental to the conservation of migratory species.

Nature conservation and the sustainable use of wildlife are areas of policy that need the support and commitment of local communities if viable solutions are to be found and implemented effectively.

Lessons learned in one region can be adapted for application in others, and the way local communities in the Arctic manage and sustainably use their wildlife resources provides examples that could prove to be models that others might wish to follow. Migratory birds are often called the ambassadors of biodiversity, because they provide the link between sites that, on first glance, have little in common but on closer examination share so much.

When the great navigators of old sailed into uncharted waters, they began to realise how large the world was. It has taken the age of satellite communication and jet airliners to make us realise just how small it is; something the birds have known for millennia.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Africa Laments as Kyoto Protocol Hangs in Limbohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/africa-laments-as-kyoto-protocol-hangs-in-limbo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-laments-as-kyoto-protocol-hangs-in-limbo http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/africa-laments-as-kyoto-protocol-hangs-in-limbo/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 23:40:32 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138076 By Wambi Michael
LIMA, Dec 3 2014 (IPS)

African countries fought hard for the Kyoto Protocol not to die on African soil at the 2011 Climate Change Conference in South Africa, but they say it is now languishing in limbo because developed countries are taking what they called “baby steps” towards ratification of the Doha Amendment that gave it a new lease of life.

The African Group and other least developed country negotiators at the ongoing (Dec. 1-12) U.N. Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru, say they are concerned about the slow progress towards giving a legal force to the international emission reduction treaty.

Nagmeldin El Hassa, Chair of the Africa Group in Lima – “In our view, the developed countries are reneging, abandoning and weakening the Kyoto Protocol”. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

Nagmeldin El Hassa, Chair of the Africa Group in Lima – “In our view, the developed countries are reneging, abandoning and weakening the Kyoto Protocol”. Credit: Wambi Michael/IPS

“We would like to point out that slow ratification of Commitment Period Two of Kyoto by developed countries does not build confidence. In our view, the developed countries are reneging, abandoning and weakening the Kyoto Protocol,” Nagmeldin El Hassan, Chair of the African Group said at the opening of the conference.

He said failure by developed countries to ratify the Doha Amendment was forcing the least developed countries to assume legal commitments while relaxing the legal commitments of the historical greenhouse emitters. “If this is the game that some think we are ready to entertain, we must make it clear that we will not be party to this game,” El Hassan added.

In December 2012, the Doha Amendment to the Protocol was agreed, extending it into a new commitment period running from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2020. The European Union (EU), its 28 Member States and other developed countries have ratified the protocol.

The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, to which the Kyoto Protocol is linked, requires ratification by 144 countries before it can enter into force.“The responses of rich developed countries show no sense of urgency – they have presented less climate finance than last year, have not raised their pollution targets and have not even legally ratified the Kyoto Protocol as they promised two years ago” – Mithika Mwenda, Secretary-General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)

By the end of November 2014, only 20 countries had ratified the Doha Amendment establishing the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Guyana was the latest to ratify as it prepared to join the negotiations in Lima.

El Hassan told IPS that the ratification process needs to be accelerated and clear accounting rules adopted in Lima so that the amendment enters into force by the next Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.

African environment groups and NGOs are also calling on governments to hasten progress on ratification of the much fought for second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol.

Mithika Mwenda, Secretary-General of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) to which more than 30 Africa-based NGOs belong, told IPS that it was demoralised by the “baby step” speed of the developed countries towards ratification.

“Africans have sent their governments to Lima with urgent and creative demands to face the climate crisis,” said Mwenda. “Yet the responses of rich developed countries show no sense of urgency – they have presented less climate finance than last year, have not raised their pollution targets and have not even legally ratified the Kyoto Protocol as they promised two years ago.”

According to Mwenda, the developed countries are determined to delay their participation in the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period.  “They are letting their national interests trump over the global common good and are opting out of multilateral rules.”

Earlier in the week, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said that both developed and developing country Parties to the Kyoto Protocol needed to save the protocol from languishing in limbo by ratifying it.

“I have said this before and let me say it again. For this international legal framework to enter into force, governments need to complete their ratification process as soon as possible. We need a positive political signal of the ambition of nations to step up crucial climate action,” said Figueres.

The African Group is pushing for ratification of the Doha Amendment because it extends a legal commitment to Annex 1 countries – members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) plus a group of countries whose economies are in transition – to contribute towards a global effort to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Ram Prasad Lamsal from Nepal, who chairs the LDC Group, told IPS that “ratification is essential for the Kyoto Protocol to continue to serving as a cornerstone of the multilaterally agreed rules-based system under the [Climate Change] Convention and a full reflection of its principles of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities.”

However, while the African countries are pushing their developed country counterparts to ratify the Doha Amendment, just four of them had ratified it by the end of November – South Africa, Sudan, Morocco and Kenya.

A delegate from European Union speaking on condition of anonymity wondered why the African countries – as well as the LDC Group, the G77 and China – were not ratifying the second commitment period as they mount pressure on developed countries.

Paul Isabirye, Uganda’s UNFCCC Focal Point, told IPS that African countries would easily ratify once the developed countries had taken the lead.

“But even if all the African countries ratified, it still cannot enter into force before our colleagues do it. They have the bulk of the emissions to cut. The issue is not that Africa has lagged behind, the big emitters don’t seem to be coming forward,” said Isabirye.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

 

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Football Stars Join ‘Africa United’ Campaign to Stop Spread of Ebolahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/football-stars-join-africa-united-campaign-to-stop-spread-of-ebola/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=football-stars-join-africa-united-campaign-to-stop-spread-of-ebola http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/football-stars-join-africa-united-campaign-to-stop-spread-of-ebola/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 19:31:19 +0000 Kwame Buist http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138070 “There is Strength in Unity” – public service message for the ‘Africa United’ campaign to prevent the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Credit: African Press Organization (APO)

“There is Strength in Unity” – public service message for the ‘Africa United’ campaign to prevent the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Credit: African Press Organization (APO)

By Kwame Buist
MALABO, Equatorial Guinea, Dec 3 2014 (IPS)

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) has joined a number of football stars, celebrities, international health organisations and corporations in the ‘Africa United’ global health communications campaign aimed at preventing the spread of Ebola in West Africa.

The campaign, which was launched on Dec. 3, is supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation and driven creatively by actor Idris Elba, is designed to recognise the vital role of front-line healthcare workers, as well as to provide critical education and resources for the people of West Africa.

Educational messages will be delivered on local and national radio and TV, billboards and by SMS to audiences in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and neighbouring countries.“Imagine having to sit down and tell your family that you were going to fight this disease. That conversation is happening across West Africa and around the world every day. I am in awe of the bravery of these health workers, who put their lives at risk day in and out to stop the spread of this terrible disease” – actor Idris Elba

In ”West Africa vs Ebola”, a video which has been prepared for the campaign, Elba stars as a soccer coach giving a rousing and educational team talk to a West Africa team in preparation for its “life or death” game against Ebola. Elba explains the symptoms of Ebola and tactics for how to beat the virus, which includes spreading the word and working as a team.

“I wanted to support this campaign for so many reasons. I could not sit back without doing something to help fight Ebola,” said Yaya Touré, Ivorian professional football (soccer) player. “It is important we don’t treat this as something we just discuss with work colleagues or simply follow on the news for updates – instead our focus should be to do something.”

“I also wanted to get involved with this campaign as it pays tribute to the many, many African heroes who are in the villages, towns and cities using their skills, resourcefulness and intelligence to battle Ebola. Those people on the front line are often forgotten. African mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters are doing everything they can to fight Ebola – we have to support them.”

In a TV spot titled ”We’ve Got Your Back”, Elba and a group of football players committed to the fight against Ebola in West Africa, including Yaya Touré, Carlton Cole, Kei Kamara, Patrick Vieira, Fabrice Muamba and Andros Townsend, voice their solidarity with the healthcare workers who are risking their lives every day to fight Ebola.

In the video, the players acknowledge that, although fans regard them as heroes, healthcare workers tackling Ebola are the true heroes. Each player wears the name of a healthcare worker on his back as a symbol of respect for “the world’s most important team.”

“For me the battle against Ebola is a personal one,” said Elba, actor and the creative force behind the development of the campaign public service announcements. “To see those amazing countries in West Africa where my father grew up and my parents married being ravaged by this disease is painful and horrific.”

“Imagine having to sit down and tell your family that you were going to fight this disease. That conversation is happening across West Africa and around the world every day. I am in awe of the bravery of these health workers, who put their lives at risk day in and out to stop the spread of this terrible disease.”

“My hope,” Elba added, “is that, in some small way, through the development of these public service announcements and the creation of the Africa United campaign, we can ensure that these workers get the support they need and that health messages are delivered to people on the ground to help them in their fight.”

The video spots and other multimedia educational materials are being made available on the campaign website in English, French, Krio and additional local languages.

The educational materials are designed to be adapted and distributed by Africa United partners such as ministries of health, health clinics, government and non-governmental organisations, media and sports organisations.

These include the CDC Foundation and current partners Africa 24, SuperSport, ONE, UNICEF and Voice of America. CDC staff working in the affected countries contributed to the development and distribution of the health messages, and Africa United will continue to develop and provide messages to CDC and partners in real time based on changing needs.

The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, infecting nearly 16,000 people with more than 5,600 deaths to date. While the spread of Ebola is a threat to people, health systems and economies around the globe, West African communities in particular are being crippled by the disease as a result of already-strained healthcare systems, mistrust of healthcare workers and fear and stigmatisation of those infected.

“Private and public partnerships like Africa United are critical to aligning organisations fighting Ebola and to ensuring quick, effective responses to changing circumstances and needs,” said Charles Stokes, president and CEO of the CDC Foundation.

“The CDC Foundation remains committed to advancing response efforts in West Africa through public education and resources for use on the front lines of the Ebola battle.”

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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Ebola Overshadows Fight Against HIV/AIDS in Sierra Leonehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/ebola-overshadows-fight-against-hivaids-in-sierra-leone/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ebola-overshadows-fight-against-hivaids-in-sierra-leone http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/ebola-overshadows-fight-against-hivaids-in-sierra-leone/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 23:55:06 +0000 Lansana Fofana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138045 A billboard in Freetown, Sierra Leone, urging people to go to hospital to be tested for HIV. Ebola has stopped people from doing that. Credit: Lansana Fofana/IPS

A billboard in Freetown, Sierra Leone, urging people to go to hospital to be tested for HIV. Ebola has stopped people from doing that. Credit: Lansana Fofana/IPS

By Lansana Fofana
FREETOWN, Dec 1 2014 (IPS)

The outbreak of the deadly Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone has dwarfed the campaign against HIV/AIDS, to the extent that patients no longer go to hospitals and treatment centres out of fear of contracting the Ebola virus.

“It is a big challenge for us. HIV/AIDS patients now fear going to hospitals for treatment and our workers, who are also government health officials, are also afraid of contacting patients for fear of being infected,” Abubakar Koroma, Director of Communications at the National AIDS Secretariat, told IPS.“HIV/AIDS patients now fear going to hospitals for treatment and our workers, who are also government health officials, are also afraid of contacting patients for fear of being infected” – Abubakar Koroma, Director of Communications, Sierra Leone’s National AIDS Secretariat

Sierra Leone records one of the lowest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the West African region. For over five years, the country has managed to stabilise the figures at 1.5 percent, out of a population of 6 million, mainly because of massive countrywide awareness raising. The authorities also offer free medicines and treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS.

But all this may be reversed if the Ebola crisis is not contained soon.

Before the outbreak of the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone in April, one key area of success in the fight against HIV/AIDS had been in curtailing mother-to-child transmission. Today, however, there are concerns that it may surge again because pregnant women are now reluctant to go to hospitals for treatment.

In 2004, the prevalence rate among pregnant women was 4.9 percent but, just before the Ebola in April this year, the figure had dropped to 3.2 percent.

According to Koroma, “between January and now, that service [for pregnant women] has dropped by 80 percent. We are worried that the Ebola crisis may worsen the situation.” From the point of view of those already living with HIV/AIDS, this is already happening.

Idrissa Songo, Executive Director of the Network of HIV Positives in Sierra Leone (NETHIPS) advocacy group, says that its members fear going to hospitals for care and treatment and that they are constrained by what he described as a cut in the support they were receiving from donors and humanitarian organisations before the outbreak of Ebola.

“Donors and other philanthropists have turned their attention away from the fight against HIV/AIDS,” he said. “Now it’s all about Ebola. Most organisations have diverted their funding to the fight against Ebola and this is badly affecting our activities.”

Songo added that the core activities of NETHIPS, which include community awareness raising and training of members in care and prevention, have all come to a standstill because of the government’s ban on all public gatherings following the Ebola outbreak.

Given the current crisis, the National Aids Secretariat and the Ministry of Health have set up telephone hotlines to connect with people suffering from HIV/AIDS. The aim is to be able to trace and locate them and then get treatment to them. At the same time, HIV/AIDS patients are now receiving a quarterly supply of the drugs they need, compared with the monthly dosage they were receiving before Ebola struck.

According to Songo, these measures are working because “that way, our members, who fear going to hospitals and treatment centres, can stay at home and take their medication. We know it is risky to go to treatment centres nowadays because of the possibility of contracting Ebola, another killer disease,” Songo told IPS.

Notwithstanding the Ebola crisis, Ministry of Health officials say that they have not lost sight of the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Jonathan Abass Kamara, Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Health, told IPS that attention is still focused on the fight against HIV/AIDS. “Even though Ebola has taken centre-stage, the Ministry is still very much focused on the fight against HIV/AIDS. We supply drugs to patients regularly and we try our best to give care and attention to them,” Kamara told IPS.

However, while Sierra Leone has made tremendous progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS and its success in this fight surpasses that of almost all countries in the West Africa region, it may well find it difficult to maintain its achievements in this sector if the Ebola epidemic is not brought under control.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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HIV Prevention is Failing Young South African Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/hiv-prevention-is-failing-young-south-african-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hiv-prevention-is-failing-young-south-african-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/12/hiv-prevention-is-failing-young-south-african-women/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 13:07:39 +0000 Nqabomzi Bikitsha http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138030 Gender inequalities drive the disproportionate rate of HIV infection among young South African women aged 15 to 24. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

Gender inequalities drive the disproportionate rate of HIV infection among young South African women aged 15 to 24. Credit: Mercedes Sayagues/IPS

By Nqabomzi Bikitsha
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 1 2014 (IPS)

When she found out that she had human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Thabisile Mkhize (not her real name) was scared.

She knew little about the virus that had been living in her body since birth and did not know whom to ask. Her mother had just died and she lived with her grandmother in rural KwaZulu Natal, where the HIV prevalence is the highest in South Africa, at 17 percent.

Today, at the age of 16,  Mkhize is an enthusiastic peer educator at her school,  discussing HIV prevention, safe sex and sexual rights. “I want young women to be safe, to make healthy sexual choices,“ she told IPS.South Africa has a perfect storm of early sexual debut, inter-generational sex, little HIV knowledge, violence, and gender and economic inequalities that lead young women aged between 15 and 24 to have a disproportionately high rate of HIV infection

South Africa has a perfect storm of early sexual debut, inter-generational sex, little HIV knowledge, violence, and gender and economic inequalities that lead young women aged between 15 and 24 to have a disproportionately high rate of HIV infection.

They account for one-quarter of new HIV infections and 14 percent of the country’s 6.4 million people living with HIV, according to the ‘South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey’.

Alarmingly, HIV incidence – the number of new  infections per year – among women aged between 15 and 24 is more than four times higher than among their male peers.

Professor Sinead Delany-Moretlwe, director for research at Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI) in Johannesburg, describes the factors that put young women at higher risk.

“Structural drivers – gender, social and economic inequalities – interact in a number of ways and influence behaviour such as choice of sexual partner and condom use,” she said.

Explaining that young women find it difficult to protect themselves against HIV, she noted that they “end up with controlling partners and fail to negotiate condom use or are forced to have sex.”

Tumi Molebatse, a 20-year-old student from Soweto, is an example. Years ago she had an HIV test and would like to have another with her boyfriend of two years, or at least to have safe sex.  “But my boyfriend will think I am cheating on him if I ask for condoms,” she told IPS.  “He supports me financially so it’s better to not bring it up.”

FAST FACTS ABOUT HIV IN SOUTH AFRICA

• 6.3 million people live with HIV
• 469,000 total new HIV infections per year
• 113,000 new HIV infections per year among women 15-24
• 11% HIV prevalence among girls aged 15-24
• 32% HIV prevalence among black African women aged 20-34
• 72% of women aged 25-49 have tested for HIV

Source: South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey.
Molebatse’s dilemma is one familiar to many young women who feel powerless to request the use of condoms or for their partner to test for HIV.

In South Africa, one of the most unequal countries in the world, relationships with older men often pen the way for young women’s social mobility and material comfort.

According to Kerry Mangold from the South African National AIDS Council, inter-generational and transactional sex increase the risk of infection because older men have higher HIV rates than young men.

“It’s not rare to see a young girl sleep with an older man for food or a little bit of money,“ said Mkhize. “Young women aspire to have nice things in life but they don’t have money, they don’t have jobs, and they go for partners who can provide those things.”

According to the ‘South African National HIV Prevalence, Incidence and Behaviour Survey’, one-third of girls aged between 15 and 19 reported a partner five years or more their senior.

Risk and choices

“At its most extreme, gender inequality manifests as gender-based violence,” says Delany-Moretlwe.

In South Africa, young women who experienced intimate partner violence were 50 percent more likely to have acquired HIV than women who had not suffered violence, according to the UNAIDS Gap Report.

Despite decades of awareness campaigns, less than one-third of young women know how to prevent HIV.

Mkhize says that many girls hear about sex and HIV from friends and teachers, and often  the information is wrong. “I know girls who believe you cannot get HIV if you boyfriend has just come back from circumcision school and so they have sex without a condom,” she told IPS.

Mangold would like to see “an enabling environment for young women to make their own choices and reduce their risk.”

Since last year, the ZAZI initiative has been trying to do just that. A sassy campaign, ZAZI (from the Nguni words for “know yourself”) builds knowledge around sexual health through social media, video clips, poetry readings, street murals, music and fun activities that boost girls’ sense of self-worth.

“We hope to discourage them from opting for relationships with older men for material gain and give them confidence to negotiate condom use,” ZAZI advocacy manager Sara Chitambo told IPS.

ZAZI’s motto is “finding your inner strength”. On its website, girls can look up practical advice on what to do if they are raped, where to find contraception and how to prevent HIV.

(Edited by Mercedes Sayagues and Phil Harris)

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OPINION: People with Disabilities Must Be Counted in the Fight Against HIVhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/opinion-people-with-disabilities-must-be-counted-in-the-fight-against-hiv/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-people-with-disabilities-must-be-counted-in-the-fight-against-hiv http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/opinion-people-with-disabilities-must-be-counted-in-the-fight-against-hiv/#comments Fri, 28 Nov 2014 23:43:18 +0000 Rashmi Chopra http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=138006 Monica Wambui, 37, who is deaf, receives HIV/AIDS information in sign language. Wambui was among more than 40 people with disabilities who attended a workshop organised by the USAID-funded APHIAplus Nuru ya Bonde project in Nakuru, Kenya. Credit: USAID/George Obanyi

Monica Wambui, 37, who is deaf, receives HIV/AIDS information in sign language. Wambui was among more than 40 people with disabilities who attended a workshop organised by the USAID-funded APHIAplus Nuru ya Bonde project in Nakuru, Kenya. Credit: USAID/George Obanyi

By Rashmi Chopra
NEW YORK, Nov 28 2014 (IPS)

Jane is a young Zambian mother with a physical disability in Lusaka, who uses a wheelchair to get around. She does not let clinics without ramps or without wheelchair accessible toilets and equipment stop her from claiming her right to health care, including HIV prevention services.

“You have to go the clinic to test yourself, to know your status – you have to force yourself, even crawling, so that the government can see that the clinics are not user-friendly,” she told Human Rights Watch.Faith, 25, a deaf, HIV-positive woman in Zambia, lost her hearing when she contracted cerebral malaria at the age of five. Faith did not know about HIV prevention until she tested positive in 2012.

In local communities, legislatures and at the United Nations, people with disabilities like Jane are demanding their right to equal access to HIV services. Not only on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, but every day.

This week we also observe the international day of persons with disabilities. This coincidence of the calendar is not a coincidence for millions of people with disabilities around the globe who may have never received any information on HIV and are unable to access HIV prevention, treatment and care services.

Yet they are at increased risk of HIV infection because of discrimination in schooling, poverty and greater risk of physical and sexual violence.

Faith, 25, a deaf, HIV-positive woman in Zambia, lost her hearing when she contracted cerebral malaria at the age of five. She dropped out of school after only a few years because her family could not afford the transportation costs to send her there, and in any case did not believe she would benefit from schooling.

Today, Faith cannot read and communicates through a mix of formal sign language and informal signs that are understood and translated by her brother.

Faith did not know about HIV prevention until she tested positive in 2012. HIV prevention meetings in her local community are not conducted in sign language. And even if Faith had been able to continue her schooling, she likely would not have learned about HIV because of the lack of accessible materials and peer-based HIV prevention programmes for children with disabilities.

Faith found out that she was HIV-positive after giving birth to her daughter, who is also HIV-positive. Her husband is abusive and often absent. Faith relies on her mother to accompany her to appointments for antiretroviral medication and to help her understand information about care and treatment for her and her baby. There is usually no sign language interpreter at the clinic she visits.

A healthcare worker at her clinic told Faith and her mother that someone like Faith should not be allowed to have any more children.

But these barriers, and stigmatising attitudes, are starting to change.

In its 2014 ‘Gap Report’, UNAIDS recognised people with disabilities as one of the 12 vulnerable populations left behind by the AIDS response.

In Zambia, where more than one in 10 adults are living with HIV, and a similar number of people are estimated to have a disability, the government could recognise people with disabilities as a key population within the national HIV response, who should be prioritised for targeted action.

A disability-inclusive approach to HIV policies and national strategic plans is critical for countries in eastern and southern Africa, which remain the epicentre of the HIV pandemic.

Disabled persons’ organisations (DPOs) as well as other disability and health organisations in the region are also working hard to promote and develop inclusive and targeted HIV and sexual and reproductive health services.

Zambia Deaf Youth and Women (ZDYW), a local organisation from the Copperbelt province for example, has been supporting training of deaf counselors to provide peer-based HIV testing services in the region.

This year the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in Zambia will recognise a number of ‘PEPFAR Champions’ who are promoting equal access to HIV services for people with disabilities.

This is a good start, but more needs to be done, and quicker, to draw broader attention to the needs of individuals with disabilities in HIV services and to integrate HIV issues within all disability work. This requires resources, specific budgetary provisions, donor funding allocations and data collection on disability.

The Zambian HIV/TB activist and advocate for disability rights, Winstone Zulu, would have turned 50 this year that marks half a centenary of Zambia’s independence. In this week that recognises both the global AIDS pandemic and the more than one billion people worldwide who have a disability, Zambia should honor his and others’ struggle for equal access to HIV services, and implement inclusive HIV services as a priority, to ensure that people with disabilities such as Jane and Faith no longer remain invisible in the fight against HIV.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Internal Ruling Party Wrangles Stall Development in Zimbabwehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/internal-ruling-party-wrangles-stall-development-in-zimbabwe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=internal-ruling-party-wrangles-stall-development-in-zimbabwe http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/internal-ruling-party-wrangles-stall-development-in-zimbabwe/#comments Wed, 26 Nov 2014 18:39:32 +0000 Jeffrey Moyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137970 Supporters (wearing red) of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai after witnessing their party losing to President Robert Mugabe in last year's elections. They now face another disappointment as the fight to succeed Mugabe turns attention away from development. Credit : Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Supporters (wearing red) of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai after witnessing their party losing to President Robert Mugabe in last year's elections. They now face another disappointment as the fight to succeed Mugabe turns attention away from development. Credit : Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Jeffrey Moyo
HARARE, Nov 26 2014 (IPS)

With the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union Patriotic Front party in Zimbabwe seized with internal conflicts, attention to key development areas here have shifted despite the imminent end of December 2015 deadline for global attainment of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The eight MDGs targeted to be achieved by 31 December 2015 form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and the world’s leading development institutions.“Every development area is at a standstill here as ZANU-PF politicians are scrambling to succeed the aged Mugabe here and they have apparently forgotten about all the MDGs that the country also needs to attain before the 2015 deadline” – Agrippa Chiwawa, an independent development expert

But, caught up in the succession fight among ruling party politicians as the country’s 90-year old President Robert Mugabe – who has ruled this Southern African nation for the last 34 years – reportedly  battles ill health ahead of the party’s elective congress in December, development experts say the Zimbabwean government has apparently shifted attention from development to party politics.

“Every development area is at a standstill here as Zanu-PF politicians are scrambling to succeed the aged Mugabe here and they have apparently forgotten about all the MDGs that the country also needs to attain before the 2015 deadline,” independent development expert Agrippa Chiwawa told IPS.

The battle to succeed Mugabe pits Justice Minister Emerson Mnangagwa and the country’s Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who is currently receiving a battering from the former’s faction which has won sympathy from the country’s first family, with First Lady Grace Mugabe venomously calling for the immediate resignation of Mujuru before the ZANU-PF congress.

Chiwawa told IPS that despite the government having contained recent strikes by medical doctors here through appeasing them by reviewing their salaries, the public health sector is in a state of decay amid acute shortages of treatment drugs.

Elmond Bandauko, an independent political analyst, agrees with Chiwawa. “Internal fights within the ZANU-PF party are stumbling blocks to national, social and economic prosperity; the ZANU-PF government is concentrating on its party succession battles as the economy is on its knees and there is no projected solution to the economic woes the country faces at the moment,” he told IPS.

Fighting over who will succeed 90-year-old Robert Mugabe at the head of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party has relegated agriculture, like other development issues, to the side-lines if not outright neglect. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

Fighting over who will succeed 90-year-old Robert Mugabe at the head of Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party has relegated agriculture, like other development issues, to the side-lines if not outright neglect. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

“Policy makers from the ZANU-PF government, who are supposed to be holding debates and parliamentary sessions and special meetings on how to move the country forward, are wasting time on political tiffs that do not save the interests of ordinary Zimbabweans,” Bandauko added.

Even the country’s education system has not been spared by the ruling party political milieu, according to educationists here.

“Nobody is talking about revamping the education system here as government officials responsible are busy consolidating their powers in the ruling party while national examinations are fast losing credibility amid leakages of exam papers before they are written, subsequently tarnishing the image of our country’s quality of education,” a top government official in the Ministry of Education told IPS on the condition of anonymity, fearing victimisation.

Even the country’s ordinary subsistence farmers, like Edson Ngulube from Masvingo Province in Mwenezi district, are feeling the pinch of the failure of politicians. “We can’t beat hunger and poverty without support from government with farming inputs,” Ngulube told IPS.

Yet for many Zimbabweans like Ngulube, reaching the MDGs offers the means to a better life – a life with access to adequate food and income.

Burdened with over half of its population starving, based on one of the U.N. MDGs, Zimbabwe nevertheless committed itself to eradicating hunger by 2015. But, with the Zanu-PF government deeply engrossed in tense power wrangles to succeed Mugabe, Zimbabwe may be way off the mark for reaching this target.

In addition, in September, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) sub-regional coordinator for Southern Africa, David Phiri went on record as saying that Zimbabwe could fail to meet the target to eradicating hunger by 2015 owing to conflict and natural disasters.

Zimbabwe’s 2012 National Census showed that more than two-thirds of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people live in rural areas and, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), this year about 25 percent of them need food aid or they will starve, and between now and 2015, 2.2 million Zimbabweans will need food support.

Zimbabwe’s Agriculture Minister Joseph Made is, however, confident the country is set to end hunger before the 2015 deadline. “We have land and we have hardworking people utilising land and for us there is no reason to doubt that by 2015 we would have eradicated hunger,” Made told IPS.

Claris Madhuku, director for the Platform for Youth Development (PYD), a democracy lobby group in Zimbabwe, perceive things rather differently.

“What actuates Zimbabwe’s failure to attaining MDGs is the on-going governance crisis, a result of the ruling ZANU-PF party’s internal wars to succeed the party’s nonagenarian President, which have not made development any easier,” Madhuku told IPS.

According to the PYD leader, in order for Zimbabwe to experience magnificent development, “the ruling party has to try and get its politics right.”

But with Zimbabwean President Mugabe apparently clinging to the helm of the country’s ruling party with renewed tenacity, it remains to be seen whether or not real development will ever touch the country’s soils.

(Edited by Phil Harris)

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Jewellery Industry Takes Steps to Eliminate “Conflict Gold”http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/jewellery-industry-takes-steps-to-eliminate-conflict-gold/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jewellery-industry-takes-steps-to-eliminate-conflict-gold http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/11/jewellery-industry-takes-steps-to-eliminate-conflict-gold/#comments Tue, 25 Nov 2014 00:50:39 +0000 Carey L. Biron http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=137936 Gold from eastern Congo. The war in Congo is fueled by a thriving gold trade today, with armed groups controlling mines and earning an estimated 50 million dollars last year from selling gold and minerals. This gold is from a day's work at Kaniola mine. Credit: ENOUGH Project/cc by 2.0

Gold from eastern Congo. The war in Congo is fueled by a thriving gold trade today, with armed groups controlling mines and earning an estimated 50 million dollars last year from selling gold and minerals. This gold is from a day's work at Kaniola mine. Credit: ENOUGH Project/cc by 2.0

By Carey L. Biron
WASHINGTON, Nov 25 2014 (IPS)

Major U.S. jewellery companies and retailers have started to take substantive steps to eliminate the presence of “conflict gold” from their supply chains, according to the results of a year-long investigation published Monday.

Rights advocates, backed by the United Nations, have been warning for years that mining revenues are funding warlords and militia groups operating in the Great Lakes region of Africa, particularly in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). In 2010, such concerns resulted in landmark legislation here in the United States aimed at halting this trade, and those laws have since spurred similar legislative proposals in the European Union and Canada.“Just a few years ago, jewellery companies were pretty resistant to making progress on this, but today there is clearly interest in supporting peace and finding out more about the role they can play in this issue." -- Holly Dranginis of Enough Project

Three of the most problematic of these “conflict minerals” – tin, tantalum and tungsten, collectively known as 3T – are used primarily by the electronics industry. In recent years, that sector has made notable progress in certifying and otherwise regulating its use of these materials.

Yet forward movement has been slower on the fourth conflict mineral from the Great Lakes region – gold.

“Over two-thirds of the eastern Congo’s 3T mines are conflict-free today,” a new report from the Enough Project, a Washington-based watchdog group, states.

“Gold, however, remains a major financial lifeline for armed actors. Ninety-eight percent of artisanally mined gold … is smuggled out of the country annually, and much of that gold benefits armed commanders.”

Last year, the report estimates, some eight to ten tons of gold were smuggled out of eastern DRC. That would have been worth more than 400 million dollars.

Much of this smuggling is thought to take place through Congo’s neighbours, particularly Uganda and Burundi, and onwards to Dubai. From there, most of this gold is able to anonymously enter the global marketplace.

The jewellery industry, meanwhile, is the largest user of global gold supplies, constituting slightly less than half of worldwide demand. “Conflict gold thus taints the industry as whole,” the report warns.

Pledging to stay

According to the Enough Project’s new rankings, however, the industry is starting to respond to these concerns. Researchers looked at both past and pledged actions by 14 of the largest jewellery companies and retailers in the United States – part of an industry worth some five billion dollars a year – and found a spectrum of initiatives already underway.

On the one hand, some companies appear to have undertaken no conflict minerals-related initiatives whatsoever, at least as far as the new report’s metrics were concerned. Three companies scored zero points, while others – including major retailers such as Walmart, Sears and Costco – scored very low.

On the other hand, the researchers found a few key companies that have undertaken particularly notable responses. They say there is reason to believe that these leaders could now influence the rest of the industry.

“We really wanted to focus on the leading jewellery retailers in the U.S. because of their leverage over the industry – we wanted to take lessons from our experience with the electronics industry, that leading companies can move an entire industry,” Holly Dranginis, a policy analyst with the Enough Project and the lead author on the new report, told IPS.

“Just a few years ago, jewellery companies were pretty resistant to making progress on this, but today there is clearly interest in supporting peace and finding out more about the role they can play in this issue. We found two very clear leaders among the 14.”

Those are two of the most recognizable jewellery brands and retailers in the world, Signet Jewelers and Tiffany & Co. Three others highlighted for recognition in the rankings are the commercial retailers J.C. Penney Company, Target Corp. and Cartier.

The Enough Project researchers sent a broad questionnaire to these companies, and Signet and Tiffany received the highest overall rankings. Yet Dranginis notes that what differentiates these companies is merely the fact that they have put in place policies around the sourcing of gold from the Great Lakes region.

Perhaps more importantly, these companies have also started engaging on the ground in countries such as the DRC. Over the past three years, for instance, Signet has pledged to continue sourcing certified gold from the country, rather than simply moving on to another country entirely. The company is also making its sourcing strategies open to others in the industry.

“We see our involvement in industry guidance and standards in the gold sector and the development and implementation of the Signet Responsible Sourcing Protocols as part of a broader initiative of ensuring responsible business practices through the entire jewellery supply chain, for gold and for all other materials,” David A. Bouffard, a vice president for Signet Jewelers, told IPS in a statement.

“It is important to us that our SRSPs are open public protocols which can be used by anyone in our industry, and which Signet’s suppliers can use to their benefit in their relationships with other customers.”

Tiffany, meanwhile, is making a concerted effort to assist local communities, particularly small-scale miners and their families. Both companies reportedly have individual executives that have taken a particular interest in the issue.

“One of the concerns has been that compliance with [U.S. conflict minerals laws] has pushed some companies to think they should leave the region and source elsewhere,” the Enough Project’s Dranginis says.

“Supporting community initiatives in the region is critical, because a lot of communities are affected by major market changes. We also need to ensure that gold miners and their families are supported in a comprehensive way, looking into sustainable projects, alternative livelihoods, financial inclusion and related issues.”

Certification capacity

Action by major brands is, of course, a key component in driving the global response to the impacts of conflict gold. Yet an important collection of multistakeholder and trade mechanisms has also sprung up in recent years, directly facilitating these initiatives.

Central to any attempt at tracking and regulating raw commodities, for instance, is a system of certification. And just as the electronics industry has been able to use metals smelters as an important lynchpin in this process, so too has the gold industry been able to start certifying gold refiners.

According to the new report, in 2012 just six gold refiners had been certified as “conflict free” by one such initiative, the Conflict Free Smelter Program. Two years later, that number has risen to 52 – though “there are still many refiners outside the system,” the study notes.

Advocates are also calling for stepped-up and coordinated action by governments. While the United States, European Union and Canada could all soon have legislation on the use of conflict minerals, some are increasingly pushing for action from the government of the United Arab Emirates aiming to constrict the flow of conflict gold through Dubai.

Likewise, India, Pakistan and China are among the most prominent consumers of gold worldwide, and thus constitute key sources of demand.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

The writer can be reached at cbiron@ips.org

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