Inter Press ServiceAsia-Pacific – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 27 May 2018 01:35:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Pompeo’s Iran Speech a Prelude to War?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/pompeos-iran-speech-prelude-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pompeos-iran-speech-prelude-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/pompeos-iran-speech-prelude-war/#respond Fri, 25 May 2018 13:33:00 +0000 Stephen Zunes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155929 Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

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By Stephen Zunes
SAN FRANCISCO, May 25 2018 (IPS)

The United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s speech this past Monday targeting Iran may have created a new benchmark for hypocritical, arrogant, and entitled demands by the United States on foreign governments.

The speech included gross misstatements regarding the seven-nation Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear program, which Trump Administration unilaterally abrogated earlier this month.

More critically, it promised to impose “the strongest sanctions in history” against Iran, including secondary sanctions against governments and private companies which refuse to back the U.S. agenda, unless Iran changed a series of internal and regional policies. With the re-imposition of such sanctions, Iran will no longer have any incentive to stick to its part of the nuclear deal.

Most of the Iranian policies cited by Pompeo are indeed problematic, yet are hardly unique to that country. Furthermore, the failure to offer any kind of reciprocity effectively guarantees that the Islamic Republic will reject any changes in its policies.

For example, Pompeo demanded that Iran withdraw its troops from Syria—which are there at the request of the Syrian government—but made no demand that Turkish or Israeli forces withdraw their troops from Syrian territory. Nor did he offer to withdraw U.S. forces.

Pompeo similarly demanded an end to Iranian support for various militia groups in the region, without any reciprocal reduction of support for rebel groups by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or the United States.

And Pompeo demanded that Iran cease providing missiles to Houthi rebels, who have fired them into Saudi Arabia in response to Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign and siege of Yemen. There was no offer to end the U.S. policy of providing the bombs, missiles, jet fighters to Saudi and Emirati forces which have killed many thousands of Yemeni civilians.

Pompeo further demanded Iran provide “a full account of the prior military dimensions of its nuclear program,” despite the fact that this limited research effort ended more than fifteen years ago. Of course, there was no offer that the United States or its allies rein in their own nuclear programs. Israel, Pakistan, and India have never opened up their nuclear facilities to outside inspections, despite two U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on them to do so.

Though most arms control agreements have historically been based on some kind of tradeoff, Pompeo insists that Iran unilaterally cease its ballistic missile program while making no such demand of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Pakistan, or other allies in the region. Nor is there any offer to limit U.S. ballistic missiles, even though U.S. missiles are capable of striking Iran while no Iranian missiles have the capability of coming anywhere close to the United States.

And while Pompeo was right to criticize the Iranian regime’s corruption, economic mismanagement, and human rights abuses, he expressed no qualms about the even worse records of U.S. allies in the region

Perhaps the most hypocritical demand in Pompeo’s speech was that Iran “must respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi Government,” which the United States has repeatedly subverted for a decade and a half.

In fact, Iran is already in compliance to some of Pompeo’s other demands, such as stopping production of enriched uranium and allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency full access to its nuclear facilities. The Iran nuclear pact already limits Iranian stockpiles to an extremely low enrichment level of 3.67 percent, well below the 90 percent needed for weapons production, and guarantees extensive and intrusive inspections of all nuclear-related facilities.

It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which the Trump Administration claims the only recourse is war.

No nation can be expected to comply with such unilateral demands, particularly coming from a country which is responsible for far more destabilizing policies, civilian deaths, and weapons proliferation in the region than is Iran. Pompeo made his demands knowing they would be rejected.

And that may be part of a deliberate strategy. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in the not-too-distant future in which the Trump Administration claims that since “sanctions didn’t work,” the only recourse is war.

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Excerpt:

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

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Shipping and Industry Threaten Famed Home of the Bengal Tigerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/shipping-industry-threaten-famed-home-bengal-tiger/#respond Sat, 19 May 2018 11:23:43 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155835 Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site. Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, […]

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A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

A sunken ship after it was salvaged in the Sundarbans last year. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
DHAKA, Bangladesh, May 19 2018 (IPS)

Toxic chemical pollution in the Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest in the world, is threatening thousands of marine and forest species and has environmentalists deeply concerned about the future of this World Heritage Site.

Repeated mishaps have already dumped toxic materials like sulfur, hydrocarbons, chorine, magnesium, potassium, arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, vanadium, beryllium, barium, cadmium, chromium, selenium, radium and many more into the waters. They’re killing plankton – a microscopic organism critical for the survival of marine life inside the wild forest."Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem." --Sharif Jamil

Scientific studies warn the sudden drastic fall in the plankton population may affect the entire food chain in the Sundarbans in the near future, starving the life in the rivers and in the forest.

The latest incident involved the sinking of a coal-loaded cargo ship on April 14 deep inside the forest, popularly known as the home of the endangered Royal Bengal Tigers, once again outraging environmentalists.

Despite strong opposition by leading environmental organizations vowing to protect the biodiversity in the Sundarbans, which measure about 10,000 square kilometers of forest facing the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh in South Asia, policy makers have largely ignored conservation laws that prioritise protecting the wildlife in the forest.

Critics say influential businessmen backed by politicians are more interested in building industries on cheap land around the forest that lie close to the sea for effortless import of the substances causing the environmental damage.

Divers from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) have traced the latest sunken vessel lying some 30 feet deep underwater, but they have not been able to salvage the ship.

It is the third to have capsized in less than two years in the ecologically sensitive region, some of which remains untouched by human habitation.

The deadliest accident occurred on Dec. 9, 2014. Amid low visibility, an oil tanker collided with a cargo vessel, spilling over 350,000 liters of crude oil into the Shela River, one of the many tributaries that crisscross the forest – home to rare wildlife species like the Bengal Tiger and Irrawaddy dolphin.

Then, in May 2017, a cargo ship carrying about 500 metric tons of fertilizer sank in the Bhola River in the Sundarbans. In October the same year, a coal-laden vessel carrying an almost equal weight of coal sunk into the meandering shallow Pashur River.

Each time toxic materials pollute the rivers, the government comes up with a consoling statement claiming that the coal has ‘safe’ levels of sulfur and mercury which are the main concern of the environmentalists.

Outraged by official inaction, many leading conservationists expressed their grievances at this “green-washing.”

Sharif Jamil, Joint Secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon or BAPA, told IPS, “I feel ashamed to know that such a scientifically untrue and dishonest statement of one cargo owner (safe level of sulfur and mercury) was endorsed by our government in their reports and acts which significantly damages the credibility of the government and questions the competency of the concerned authorities.”

“Obviously, such cargo accidents involving shipment of toxic heavy metals inside the Sundarbans would have irreversible impacts on this unique and compact ecosystem,” he said.

Jamil criticized the state agency responsible for protecting the environment, saying, “The department of environment or DoE has responsibility to monitor and control the pollution by ensuring punishment to the polluters. We have not witnessed any action from DoE so far, in this case particularly.”

While coal may not be as environmentally destructive as crude oil spill, the commercial shipping path across the Sundarbans has a long track record of disasters.

Professor Abdullah Harun, who teaches environmental science at the University of Khulna, told IPS, “The cargo ship disasters are proving to be catastrophic and destructive for the wildlife in the Sundarbans. We have already performed a series of studies titled ‘Impact of Oil Spillage on the Environment of Sundarbans’.

“Laboratory tests showed startling results as the toxic levels in many dead species and water samples were found way beyond our imagination. The most alarming is the loss of phytoplankton and zooplankton diversity and populations. Both these are known to play vital role in the food chain of the aquatic environment.”

Professor Harun fears that the embryos of oil-coated Sundari seeds, decomposed as a result of the spillage across 350 square km of land, will not be germinating. Sundari trees make up the mangrove forest and it has specialised roots which emerge above ground and help in gaseous exchange.

He said, “A primary producer of the aquatic ecosystems, source of food and nutrient of the many aquatic animals, has been affected by the oil spill in 2014. The aquatic population will be decreased and long-term impacts on aquatic lives like loss of breeding capacity, habitat loss, injury of respiratory organs, hearts and skins will occur.”

He said, “Our team of scientists tested for the fish larvae population. Before the 2014 disaster we found about 6,000 larvae in a litre of water collected from rivers in the Sundarbans. After the disaster we carried out the same test but found less than half (2,500 fish larvae) in the same amount of water. This is just one species I am talking about. Isn’t it alarming enough?”

Following the latest incident, the government imposed a ban on cargo ships using the narrow channels of the Pashur River where most of the vessels sail. But there are fears that the ban will only be a temporary measure as seen in the past. After the December 2014 oil spill, a similar ban on commercial cargo was lifted soon after.

These ‘ban games’ on cargo vessels will not solve the underlying problems in the Sundarbans. Several hundred activists recently marched towards the mangrove forest in Bagerhat to protest plans to build a coal-based power plant near the Sundarbans near Rampal. The activists called on the government to stop construction of the proposed 1.3-gigawatt Rampal Power Plant, which is located about 14-km upstream of the forest.

Environmentalists are also worried about rapid industrialization near the Sundarbans. The Department of Environment (DoE) has identified 190 commercial and industrial plants operating within 10 kilometres of the forest.

It has labeled ‘red’ 24 of these establishments as they are dangerously close to the world heritage site and polluting the soil, water and air of the world’s largest mangrove forest.

Eminent environmentalist Professor Ainun Nishat, told IPS, “My main worries are whether the main concerns for safety of the wildlife in the forest is being overlooked.”

Professor Nishat said, “If we allow movement of vessels to carry shipments through the forest then I like to question a few things like, where does the coal come from? What do we do with the fly ash from cement and other materials? How and where do we dispose of the waste and do we have the cooling waters for safety?”

“What we need is a strategic impact assessment before any such industrial plant is established so that we can be safe before we repeat such mishaps,” said Nishat.

Statistics from the Mongla (sea) Port Authority show that navigation in the Sundarbans waterways has increased 236 percent in the last seven years. This means vessel-based regular pollution may continue to impact the world’s largest mangrove habitat’s health even if disasters like the Sundarbans oil spill can be prevented.

Increasing volume of shipping and navigation indicates growing industrialisation in the Sundarbans Impact Zone and the Sundarbans Ecologically Critical Area, which in turn will increase the land-based source of pollution if not managed.

The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which hosts range of animals and fish like fishing cats, leopard cats, macaques, wild boar, fox, jungle cat, flying fox, pangolin, chital, sawfish, butter fish, electric rays, silver carp, starfish, common carp, horseshoe crabs, prawn, shrimps, Gangetic dolphins, skipping frogs, common toads and tree frogs.

There are over 260 species of birds, including openbill storks, black-capped kingfishers, black-headed ibis, water hens, coots, pheasant-tailed jacanas, pariah kites, brahminy kite, marsh harriers, swamp partridges and red junglefowl.

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Research, for Whom?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/research-for-whom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=research-for-whom http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/research-for-whom/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 17:20:41 +0000 Abhay Bang http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155797 Dr Abhay Bang (MD, MPH, D. Sc (Hon), D. Lit (Hon.) is a physician, an internationally recognised public health expert, and the founder director of SEARCH

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Putting people at the heart of research

Photo courtesy: Rachita Vora

By Abhay Bang
May 16 2018 (IPS)

Looking back at some 30 years of working in the social sector, I believe that the most important milestone in my journey was the point when I started recognising the importance of research in development.

As a freshly minted doctor in the late 1970s, I was so socially oriented that I did not take research seriously. When Rani [Dr Rani Bang] and I started working in the villages of Wardha district, in 1977, we had a lot of beautiful, innocent ideas: we thought we would help people in the villages, that people would change, and villages would change, too.

But we soon realised—after sincere attempts at bringing about change through medical care as well as through farmer and labour movements—that we could only achieve limited results through these approaches.  For example, although our work with landless agricultural labourers was aimed at organising them to demand a fair deal from the Employment Guarantee Scheme, we were unable to negotiate a substantial increase in their wages. That’s when I decided to investigate further into why this was so.

 

The importance of research

When I inquired with the relevant government department, I found that the Minimum Wage Act had fixed the daily minimum wage for agricultural labourers at INR 4, a figure usually determined by the money required to meet a person’s daily calorific needs.  I was curious to know how the committee deciding the minimum wage had arrived at this figure.

"We had done so much work, earned recognition, but solved nobody’s problem."

Further investigation revealed that the committee had worked out this figure by assuming the average adult’s calorie requirement at 1800 calories. When I asked the committee chairman, VS Page, how he had calculated the 1800 calorie requirement, he replied that his diabetologist had advised him to restrict his diet to 1800 calories. In other words, the committee had committed a gross scientific blunder by applying a diabetic’s calorie requirement to that of a landless labourer who does hard physical labour for eight hours daily!

So, I looked at the Indian Council of Medical Research calorie recommendation, which was 3,900 and 3,000 calories, respectively, for men and women who do hard labour. I collected all this data, identified around 20 errors—some on the economics side, others on the social side—in the committee’s report, and then calculated the minimum wage required. It worked out to INR 12.

The power of research is greater than that of seva and sangharsh. The results are always several times more than the effort.Within a year of the research getting published, and publicised by media and labour unions, the Maharashtra government raised the minimum wage to INR 12. This benefited 6 million labourers in the state—many, many times more than what we could have hoped to achieve if we had not adopted a research-based approach to the problem.

That’s when I realised that the power of research is greater than the power of seva and sangharsh. The results are always several times more than the effort. Knowledge-based, evidence-based arguments have greater impact. That is why I would encourage more and more people in the social sector to adopt ‘thinking action’ rather than just action.

 

Research, for whom?

In 1986, soon after we moved to Gadchiroli, Rani and I learnt another important aspect of using research and data to address social problems. Back then we used to give some time to the district hospital, where we once came across a 10-year-old girl whose symptoms led the medical officer to believe that she had heart disease. I suspected that she had sickle cell disease, a disease that had not been reported from that district until then. Tests established that she did indeed suffer from sickle cell disease.

We at SEARCH then organised a district sample survey—people came forward to give us a drop of blood for the survey—which revealed that there were nearly 6,000 sickle cell patients in the district, and nearly 100,000 had the sickle cell gene. We presented this finding to the health minister, who praised our work and announced that the government would set up a tribal medical research centre in Gadchiroli. Eventually, though, the centre was set up in Pune (where there are no tribals) because researchers and doctors did not want to come to Gadchiroli.

Disappointed, we approached the tribal leaders in the villages and requested them to put some pressure on the government to bring the centre to Gadchiroli. Their response took us unawares: “Doctor, this is your disease, not ours,” they said. “Did we ever tell you that we need help for this?” they gave us a drop of blood for the survey out of respect for us, but they would do no more; they were neither worried about the sickle-cell disease nor did they want to do anything about it.

We were faced with a crisis following that experience: we had done so much work, earned recognition, but solved nobody’s problem. It made me ask myself: if people did not need the research, why did I do it? And I realised that I was actually gratifying my own intellectual curiosity. In hindsight, I have the courage to say that we practically used people as guinea pigs.

That’s when I realised that, unfortunately, researchers often do research not for the community, but for their own peers. If you are an educated person working in places like this, even as you work with the people, your target audience—knowingly or unknowingly—is still your peers. Subconsciously, you are thinking, “What will I publish? What will I present at the conference? What would other nonprofits or doctors like to hear?”

Therefore, your stay here and your interaction with people merely become means to collect data as you try to write something or do something that your peers will appreciate. This attitude often misleads us.

Following the sickle cell disease experience, Rani and I took a formal decision in 1988 that we would not do any research that did not address the needs of the people. Ever since, this approach has become almost a religion at SEARCH—it is a fundamental value choice for us that what we are doing here must address the people’s need and not our need.

 

Putting people at the heart of research

Just as the formal medical process is to ask a patient, “What is troubling you?” to understand their history, at SEARCH our process of trying to form a diagnosis on a community starts by asking the community, “What are your health problems and needs?” Partly because of our medical training and research background, we have unknowingly, but successfully, applied this approach in the social sector also.

Every time we set out to do something new, we always ask ourselves: “Do the people of Gadchiroli need this?” Then we organise formal processes to get to know what people need. For example, we hold an annual tribal health assembly for representatives from various tribal villages in Gadchiroli to hear from them what their health problems and needs are. This has helped us understand health priorities from the communities themselves rather than depend on the distant external sources. The next step is to verify what people said by way of hard research data.

The importance of doing research ‘with’ the people

Photo courtesy: Rachita Vora

 

The importance of doing research ‘with’ the people

There are essentially three ways in which to conduct research:

  1. Research on the people: What we did with the sickle cell disease study is an example of this. Yes, you take informed consent from the people, but these are just precautionary measures; there is no power in the hands of the patients. You get data on the people, but the intellectual property as well as the power to interpret and publish is with you, for you.
  2. Research for the people: This is better than the first approach. The research seeks to understand a genuine problem faced by the people and to solve it, but neither do they really understand what you are doing nor do they have a say or role in it.
  3. Research with the people: This approach shares power with the people. When people provide you with questions, or questions emerge through your observations and dialogue with the people, you involve people in collecting the data, report your finding to them and then develop a solution that involves people. It enables them, it serves them.

 

Our home-based newborn care (HBNC) solution to address the issue of high newborn and infant mortality  in Gadchiroli is an example of this approach. Knowledge was simplified and given in the hands of the village worker. And they proved that we can reduce newborn and infant mortality without having a trained pediatrician in the community.

Twenty years since we completed the HBNC trial in 1998, the programme still continues because the people had a need, and we empowered them to address that need. I would like to call it research with the people, in which people are our partners in the process. While our contribution is more intellectual in nature, their contribution is different, but no less important—they are offering their lives, their newborns and they are learning to provide the care. Their interest is that they want their newborns to receive care. They don’t care how much the IMR has decreased. When we put up a board in the village saying there have been no newborn deaths in a year, they know that their contribution to the partnership has paid off.

Most of the research at SEARCH is for the people and with the people. This culture of research for problem solving can be powerful, but only if you follow certain ethics and ask the people. Ultimately you should ensure that the solution is transferred to the hands of the people.

My dream is to get to a point where we see research by the people. When people are able to think like researchers, they will ask questions and inquire more. People already ask why and how to solve it, but they don’t use advanced scientific methods to solve these problems. But I foresee a time when ordinary people will also think in terms of research–and that will lead to research by the people. And when research by people happens, imagine the power of problem solving in India.

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

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Excerpt:

Dr Abhay Bang (MD, MPH, D. Sc (Hon), D. Lit (Hon.) is a physician, an internationally recognised public health expert, and the founder director of SEARCH

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

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

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

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

Shamshad Akhtar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Excerpt:

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

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“Green Development Has to Be Equal for All”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/green-development-equal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=green-development-equal http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/green-development-equal/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 00:57:29 +0000 Diana Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155745 IPS caught up with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), at the end of the flagship side event of the GGGI during the 51st Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila on May 4, 2018, which featured the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential to […]

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Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Credit: Diana Mendoza/IPS

By Diana Mendoza
MANILA, May 14 2018 (IPS)

IPS caught up with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), at the end of the flagship side event of the GGGI during the 51st Annual Meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila on May 4, 2018, which featured the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its potential to create sustainable infrastructure and promote green growth pathways.

In this brief chat with IPS correspondent Diana Mendoza, Dr. Rijsberman noted the success of just a few countries with successful environmental protection policies, while many others have yet to adopt green growth policies.

Q: China is obviously the major player in the BRI. How does GGGI see China influencing other countries to actively take part in it and adopt green growth policies?

A: China is a huge investor. Among the countries in the BRI, China is the most important foreign direct investor, if not one of the most important. What we are particularly interested from our GGGI perspective is that China has also become, out of necessity, an important source of green technology because it implements renewable energy policies at a large scale. It is but fitting for it to have initiated the BRI. It is a leader in electric mobility, green technology and policy. It is keen on its air quality around Beijing and has very rapidly cleaned it up in just the last two years. What we’re interested in also is not just having large direct investments as part of their BRI initiative but how it will influence its government to export green technology.

Q: On one hand, China has also upset its Asian neighbors, particularly in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), that claim China is exploring their islands and upsetting territorial boundaries.

A: I know basically nothing about territorial disputes but it’s clear that China is a world power, a dominant force.  It is very influential and we are hoping it will use this to bring opportunities for other countries to prosper. We’ve been seeing China for decades as having relations with countries in bringing resources such as Afghan steel or mineral resources to which China is a huge importer. That’s basically the first relationship we’re seeing in a bilateral way. It is also starting its ODA ministry to bring more support to developing countries and is willing share more environmental technology and hopefully, to also share the benefits of the equal civilization approach.

Q: What would the equal civilization approach mean to countries around the BRI?

A: There are small and relatively poor countries along the Maritime Silk Road. Growth and development should also benefit them. The impact of climate change and the unhealthy effects of modernization and urbanization affect all countries, but green development has to be equal for all.

Q: What are GGGI’s priorities in the next five years?

A: We would like to see countries adopting renewable energy policies. Many countries are not introducing renewable energy to the potential that they have. Many countries also have some policies but we see they only have something like 1 percent solar, where it could be 20 or 30 percent. Only in China do we see a very rapid transition to renewable energy and electricity generation. But I live in Korea and they only have 2 percent. The government recently increased the target for renewable energy to 20 percent, but you know even 20 percent is still modest.

Q: How much is the ideal target for renewable energy?

A: It should be 50 or 60 percent if we want to achieve what was agreed upon in the Paris Agreement. Vietnam is still planning to build 24 more coal fire-powered plants. The current paths that many governments are on are still very far away from achieving the Paris Agreement. We need to see a rapid switch to renewable energy and we think it’s much more feasible than governments are aware of. Prices have come down so quickly that you know I’ve been spending most of my week in the Philippines and the provincial governments are still talking about hydropower because that’s what they know. You go to Mindanao and they’re talking about this big project in 1953 and they know that renewable energy is hydro.

Q: So hydro is not the answer?

A: We told them that if they want more hydro they should realize there are much better opportunities now in solar energy.  Even if the potential in hydro is there, it’s complex. It takes a long time and it has a big environmental risks. It takes five years to put it in place and construction is complicated. You can have solar in six months if you have enough land. In Manila, every school, factory and shopping mall should have solar rooftops already. In Canberra, even if the central government was not all active in this movement, it adopted in 2016 the 100 percent renewable policy by 2020. It is doing just that and it looks good.

Q: What can you say about tiny efforts to protect the environment such as opting for paper bags instead of plastic bags?  

A: A plastic bag should no longer be available. We should absolutely stop using all those disposable plastic bags. We should all look at the major impact that plastics cause, that micro-plastics go into the sea and the fish eat them. It goes back to our body when we eat the fish. It goes right back in the body.

Q: So which counties have totally eradicated plastic?

A: Rwanda — they said no more plastic bags. There will be many more countries that will do that. They will say you don’t have to pay for plastic bags if you didn’t bring your eco bag or there’s no available paper bag. If there is plastic, it has to be biodegradable. The cheap plastic in the supermarket lasts forever. It looks biodegradable if you leave it in the sun, but it’s more dangerous when it is thrown into the sea. But either way, there should be no more plastic bags anywhere.

Q: You live in Seoul and you mentioned about your child not going to an event because of bad air. How do you think kids understand environmental issues?  

A: The school nurse checks the air quality and informs us in the morning. My wife also does that. Our nine-year-old is totally aware of that. Even if it’s not too bad, the kids go to school wearing masks. The kids’ experiences on a daily basis will help them understand the need for clean, quality air.  This way, they will learn about the rest of the environment concerns as they grow up.

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:04:47 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155665 “My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies […]

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

“My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies while enabling economic and regional cooperation among countries in the Belt and Road route during the 51st annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that concluded over the weekend.The initiative covers more than 65 countries -- or more than 60% of the world's population -- that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years.

The forum took cues from Rijsberman’s story of living in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, one of the poorest countries that in 50 years became an example for many developing countries to demonstrate the importance of economic growth while being mindful of air quality and the overall livability of the environment.

The “Green Growth and Regional Cooperation” forum was a side event hosted by GGGI with an expert panel that discussed China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and, with many references to “green growth,” “green policies” and “green investments,” looked at putting in place policies to accelerate green investments and green technology while exploring ways to create opportunities that address poverty across countries.

“Climate change is already exacting its toll, particularly in the Asian region, so rapidly that technological and economic growth (that may have worsened issues like air quality) should also be our most immediate driver of action to do something,” said Rijsberman.

He said there is a need for countries to have “green growth,” a new development approach that delivers environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth that is low-carbon and climate resilient; prevents or remediates pollution; maintains healthy and productive ecosystems and creates green jobs, reduce poverty and enhance social inclusion.

Rijsberman said the GGGI will join the Green Belt and Road Coalition and currently cooperates with the China Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the ASEAN Center for Environmental Cooperation on regional cooperation and integration that facilitates sustainable urban development and supports high-level policies and impactful knowledge sharing on the adoption of sustainable growth in the Belt and Road countries.

Prof. Dongmei Guo, China state council expert of the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center, said the BRI brings together two regional trade corridors: the Silk Road Economic Belt that will link China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea though Central Asia and West Asia with three routes:  China-Central Asia-Russia-Europe through the Baltic Sea; China-Central Asia-West Asia-Persian Gulf through the Mediterranean Sea and China- Southeast Asia-South Asia through the Indian Ocean; and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that stretches from the South Pacific Sea to Europe with two roads — Coastal China-South China Sea-Indian Ocean-Europe and Coastal China-South China Sea and South Pacific.

The initiative covers more than 65 countries — or more than 60% of the world’s population — that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years. Initiated in 2013, the BRI aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation, including policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation.

“The BRI provides great opportunities for promoting green transformation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030,” said Guo, mentioning environmental-related SGDs 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 as the same targets envisioned in the initiative.  “The global sustainable development process has entered a new stage through the BRI and it must be green.”

Goals 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 enjoin countries to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation and sustainable consumption and production patterns, to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development and to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Guo said among some of the concerns in the countries along the route are water shortages, water pollution, agricultural pollution, tailings, industrial wastes, and nuclear waste for Central Asia, biodiversity loss, water pollution and urbanization-led pollution in South Asia, and biodiversity, forest fire and haze brought by conventional pollution in Southeast Asia.

Winston Chow, GGGI country representative for China, said the program is still in its initial phase but is seeing an estimated investment of 500 billion dollars through 2030 that will be invested in the developing world along the BRI route, with 300 billion of that being carbon-related.

“What that means is that we have to consider the impacts of these economies in the long term and a major opportunity to decarbonize, which is a big step as we enhance global development,” he said. “We have to look at 2030 development goals and align our efforts at helping member countries contribute as they implement development projects.”

Organized under five guiding tasks of policy coordination, unimpeded trade, facilities connectivity financial integration, and people-to-people bond, Chow said the BRI aims to utilize Chinese government policy, financing and technology in enhancing strong projects in the developing world. The GGGI will facilitate the work with member states on how to deploy green projects and we have talked to a number of country governments such as those in Mongolia, Jordan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Vietnam and the Philippines.”

He cited the strong collaboration with Mongolia after its policy makers were introduced to energy efficiency with air quality restrictions and environmental impact reductions through the introduction of the electric vehicles tariff in the capital Ulaanbaatar that successfully reduced bad air from 2016 to 2017.

Jordan, Indonesia and Ethiopia are also underway in their ecological restoration and water treatment practices. Transformative projects among Chinese technologies in solar energy use, e-transportation and e-mobility technology, land restoration, water and solid waste treatment and solar, wind and energy building efficiency projects will also be shared as well with participating countries.

But with BRI being recently introduced, Chow mentioned a few challenges in financing schemes such as gaps between what China wants to invest in and what developing countries are ready to do but have financial needs that are complex to underwrite. For instance, he said “the debate is still out on countries that have electricity grids not quite ready for global energy integration that may not necessarily yield benefits financially or socially.”

The gap is also shown in Chinese investments in green projects that can be worth 100 million dollars but some countries can only do projects in the 20 or 30 million range. He cited BRI large scale projects such as airports in Cambodia or Vietnam’s hydropower plants and dams.

In his press conference prior to the GGGI side event, ADB President Takehiko Nakao lauded China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a key program to connect countries and regions and to broaden integration and cooperation across Asia, and that the ADB will participate in this initiative when needed. He enjoined countries along the route to be careful not to take out excessive loans when they get involved in the initiative to finance their projects and to look closely at the benefits the projects can give to their citizens.

“If countries borrow too much for certain projects without seriously looking at the feasibility, it might bring more trouble in repayment,” he said, stressing the need to “look at debt sustainability issues very seriously.”

Ayumi Konishi, special senior adviser to the president of ADB, told the side event “the ADB intends to cooperate with BRI because of its strong preference for green projects such as renewable energy or sustaining transport projects.”

Since the BRI initiative was announced in September 2013 advocating for improved connectivity for shared prosperity and after China signed an agreement with six multilateral development banks, he said the ADB is in agreement as “we share the same vision; we need the entire portfolio of cooperation projects to make them greener and make them less vulnerable to potential bad impacts of climate change.”

Rijsberman, GGGI’s director-general, said the GGGI, a treaty-based international organization headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, is seeing good examples of green efforts such as the Pacific greening in Vanuatu, the eco-towns in the Philippines, the business models in Indonesia that prevent fires and rehabilitate forests, the efforts in Rwanda to eradicate plastics and the biodiversity protection efforts in the Greater Mekong area.

“Efforts go beyond protecting environment but more on promoting it,” he said, stressing that such initiatives are all anchored on landmark agreements such as the UN SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

The 2018 ADB Annual Meeting, themed “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development,” was held on May 3-6 2018 in Manila, its headquarters. It gathered more than 4,000 delegates and brought together experts of different disciplines who discussed framing global economic shifts, re-examined governance structures, explored governments and development institutions’ adapting new opportunities while addressing challenges presented by an increasingly digital future.

The ADB estimates Asia’s infrastructure needs could reach 22.6 trillion dollars through 2030, or 1.5 trillion annually. If climate change adaptation measures are adopted, the cost would rise to over 26 trillion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled 32.2 billion dollars, including 11.9 billion in co-financing.

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Economic and Social Survey for Asia and the Pacific 2018 – Mobilizing finance for sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-survey-asia-pacific-2018/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-social-survey-asia-pacific-2018 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-survey-asia-pacific-2018/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 12:19:06 +0000 Shamshad Akhtar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155652 Asia and the Pacific remains the engine of the global economy. It continues to power trade, investment and jobs the world over. Two thirds of the region’s economies grew faster in 2017 than the previous year and the trend is expected to continue in 2018. The region’s challenge is now to ensure this growth is […]

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By Shamshad Akhtar
BANGKOK, Thailand, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Asia and the Pacific remains the engine of the global economy. It continues to power trade, investment and jobs the world over. Two thirds of the region’s economies grew faster in 2017 than the previous year and the trend is expected to continue in 2018. The region’s challenge is now to ensure this growth is robust, sustainable and mobilised to provide more financing for development. It is certainly an opportunity to accelerate progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Shamshad Akhtar

Recent figures estimate economic growth across the region at 5.8 per cent in 2017 compared with 5.4 per cent in 2016. This reflects growing dynamism amid relatively favourable global economic conditions, underpinned by a revival of demand and steady inflation. Robust domestic consumption and recovering investment and trade all contributed to the 2017 growth trajectory and underpin a stable outlook.

Risks and challenges nevertheless remain. Rising private and corporate debt, particularly in China and countries in South-East Asia, low or declining foreign exchange reserves in a few South Asian economies, and trends in oil prices are among the chief concerns. Policy simulation for 18 countries suggests a $10 rise in the price of oil per barrel could dampen GDP growth by 0.14 to 0.4 per cent, widen external current account deficits by 0.5-to 1.0 percentage points and build inflationary pressures in oil-importing economies. Oil exporters, however, would see a positive impact.

These challenges come against the backdrop of looming trade protectionism. Inward-looking trade policies will create uncertainty and would entail widespread risks to region’s export and their backbone industries and labour markets. While prospects for the least developed countries in the region are close to 7 per cent, concerns persist given their inherent vulnerabilities to terms-of-trade shocks or exposure to natural disasters.

The key questions are how we can collectively take advantage of the solid pace of economic expansion to facilitate and improve the long-term prospects of economies and mobilize finance for development as well as whether multilateral institutions, such as the World Trade Organization membership can resolve the global gridlock on international trade?

Economic and financial stability along with liberal trade access to international markets will be critical for effective pursuit of the 2030 Agenda. Regional economies, whose tax potential remains untapped, now need to lift domestic resource mobilization and prudently manage fiscal affairs. Unleashing their financial resource potential need to be accompanied by renewed efforts to leverage private capital and deploy innovative financing mechanisms. The investment requirements to make economies resilient, inclusive and sustainable are sizeable − as high as $2.5 trillion per year on average for all developing countries worldwide. In the Asia-Pacific region, investment requirements are also substantial but so are potential resources. The combined value of international reserves, market capitalization of listed companies and assets held by financial institutions, insurance companies and various funds is estimated at some $56 trillion. Effectively channelling these resources to finance sustainable development is a key challenge for the region.

The need to come up with supplementary financial resources will remain. Public finances are frequently undermined by a narrow tax base, distorted taxation structures, weak tax administrations, and ineffective public expenditure management. This has created problems of balanced fiscalization of sustainable development, even if the national planning organizations have embraced and integrated sustainable development agenda in their forward looking plans.

Despite a vibrant business sector, the lack of enabling policies, legal and regulatory frameworks, and large informal sectors, have deterred sustainability and its appropriate financing. The external assistance from which some countries benefit is insufficient to meet sustainable development investment requirements, a problem often compounded by low inbound foreign direct investment. Capital markets in many countries are underdeveloped and bond markets are still in their infancy. Fiscal pre-emption of banking resources is quite common. For those emerging countries which have successfully tapped international capital markets, a tightening of global financial conditions means borrowing costs are on the rise.

Our ESCAP flagship report, Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2018 (Survey 2018) which has been launched today calls for stronger political will and governments strengthening tax administrations and expanding the tax base. If the quality of the tax policy and administrations in Asia-Pacific economies matches developed economies, the incremental revenue impact could be as high as 3 to 4 per cent of GDP in major economies such as China, India and Indonesia and steeper in developing countries. Broadening the tax base by rationalizing tax incentives for foreign direct investment and introducing a carbon tax could generate almost $60 billion in additional tax revenue per year.

But government action must be complemented by the private sector to effectively pursue sustainable development. The right policy environment could encourage private investment by institutional investors in long-term infrastructure projects. Structural reforms should focus on developing enabling policy environment and institutional setting designed to facilitate public-private partnerships, stable macroeconomic conditions, relatively developed financial markets, and responsive legal and regulatory frameworks.

Finally, while much of the success in mobilizing development finance will depend on the design of national policies, regional cooperation is vital. Coordinated policy actions are needed to reduce tax incentives for foreign direct investment and to introduce a carbon tax. For many least developed countries, the role of external sources of finance remains critical. In many cases, the success of resource mobilization strategies in one country is conditional on closer regional cooperation. ESCAP’s remains engaged and its analysis can support the planning and cooperation needed to effectively mobilize finance for sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

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

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Displaced Pashtuns Return to Find Homes “Teeming” with Landmineshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/displaced-pashtuns-return-find-homes-teeming-landmines/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=displaced-pashtuns-return-find-homes-teeming-landmines http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/displaced-pashtuns-return-find-homes-teeming-landmines/#respond Thu, 26 Apr 2018 12:18:30 +0000 Zofeen Ebrahim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155473 “If I’m assured that my home and my village has been de-mined, I’d be the first to return with my family,” says 54-year old Mohammad Mumtaz Khan. Khan lived in the mountainous village of Patwelai in South Waziristan, a rugged territory in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) near the Afghan border, one of the […]

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Manzoor Pashteen, a leader of the the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, addresses a rally in Lahore on April 22, 2018. Credit: Khalid Mahmood/IPS

Manzoor Pashteen, a leader of the the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, addresses a rally in Lahore on April 22, 2018. Credit: Khalid Mahmood/IPS

By Zofeen Ebrahim
KARACHI, Apr 26 2018 (IPS)

“If I’m assured that my home and my village has been de-mined, I’d be the first to return with my family,” says 54-year old Mohammad Mumtaz Khan.

Khan lived in the mountainous village of Patwelai in South Waziristan, a rugged territory in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) near the Afghan border, one of the world’s most important geopolitical regions. In 2008, he shifted to Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province with his wife and six children.

They had to leave Patwelai hurriedly, “with just the clothes on our backs”, after the Pakistan army decided to launch a major ground-air offensive to cleanse the entire area of the Taliban.

Mumtaz Khan lost his foot to a landmine in his home. Credit: Khan family

Mumtaz Khan lost his foot to a landmine in his home. Credit: Khan family

Since then, the military carried out a series of intermittent operations across FATA till 2016, when they claimed they had destroyed the Pakistani Taliban’s infrastructure in the country.

That same year, in 2016, the army gave the internally displaced persons (IDPs) — over half a million — a clean chit to return to their homes. Feeling lucky, Khan and a few dozen men decided to visit their village and assess the situation before returning with their families.

It was while he was entering his home through a window that he accidentally stepped on a landmine. “There was a boom and before I could fathom what had happened, I saw my bloodied left foot,” Khan said.

“I am lucky that I got away with a small injury. It may not be so the next time around,” he said, adding that the mountains and valleys are “teeming” with improvised explosive devices (IED) and explosive remnants of war (ERW).

“Despite having cleared the area of militants, it is not possible for many to move about freely as the place remains infested with landmines,” agreed Raza Shah, who heads the Sustainable Peace and Development Organization (SPADO), an active member of the global Control Arms Coalition and International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA). Since 2010, SPADO has been blocked from working in FATA.

After the demand by the Pashtuns earlier this year during their long march to Islamabad, the authorities promised they would start de-mining the area.

"Ghost Towns"

The murder of 27-year old Naqeebullah Mehsud, a young Pashtun shopkeeper from South Waziristan living in Karachi, by the police in a "fake encounter" opened up the floodgates of resentment and anger of the Pashtuns at their treatment by the state that has been pent up for decades, spurring what is today known as the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement.

Gohar Mehsud, a journalist from South Waziristan, said it was a sad indictment of the Pakistani leadership that the
Pashtuns had to travel in the thousands to Islamabad to lodge their complaints. "The conversation that took place in whispers among themselves is now out in the open. For far too long they had been too scared to accost or even speak out against the high handedness and atrocities committed by the army officials and the political agent posted in their areas by the federal government," he said.

For the first time, said Mona Naseer, co-founder of the Khor Network of tribal women, the long march movement gave a new face to FATA and showed "there is more to this region than drones, militants and militancy; it's given voice to the miseries faced by the tribespeople," she said. 

Mumtaz Khan, the schoolteacher from the South Waziristan village of Patwelai, recalled when he first re-entered his village, cutting through tall wild grass and wild shrubs, "it was like I had come to a ghost town hounded by wild boar." Khan said the road to the village was broken down and they had to walk a good couple of hours to get to their village.

"Not one house was intact -- either the walls had collapsed or the roof had given way. Our homes had been looted and ransacked. Cupboards and chests opened crockery heartlessly thrown with broken pieces, dust was strewn all over the place," he said, adding that it was painful to see the cruelty and disdain with which their homes had been ransacked. 

The tribesmen say that the military operation has left their land poisoned. "The land has become infertile. The apple tree either does not give fruit and when it does, it is attacked by pests, the walnuts on the walnut trees is much smaller and not as sweeter," Mehsud said.

In addition, he said, many of the IDPs who have returned live in tents outside their homes as the houses are in a collapsed state and unsafe to live in.

The state had promised compensation of Rs 400,000 for homes that had been completely annihilated and Rs 150,000 for those partially damaged, but that is clearly not enough. "It costs Rs 5 to 6 million to build very basic homes!" said Mehsud.

Due to the remoteness of the area, he said, "The policy makers and the top government officials, who can make a difference, never visit the place to find out why the Pashtuns are angry. Even the media is not there to report the ground reality. The local administration and the army officials are their point of contact and whatever they tell them is what they know. The latter rule over the tribesmen as kings!"

But the youth of the area decided they had had enough. Two months in, the movement remains unwavering, as peaceful and stronger as ever with more young people -- students and professionals -- joining in. They even run a Facebook group called "Justice for Pashtuns." Nobel Laureate Malala Yusafzai showed her "solidarity" with group and "appealed to the prime minister, the army and the chief justice of Pakistan to take notice of the "genuine demands" of the people of FATA and Pakhtunkhwa.

Not everyone is convinced, especially since the accidents continue. “It is not just a daunting task, but a painstaking, expensive, and risky one and the government is neither equipped with the technology nor does it have the huge human resources needed to comb the vast area,” said Gohar Mehsud, a journalist from the area who has covered the issues of the FATA extensively.

“The military should have cleared the area of mines before letting the tribes return,” said Mohsin Dawar, one of the people behind the newly formed Pashtun Tahafuz Movement which is day by day gaining strength. He pointed out that among their demands was to ask the military to send more teams of bomb disposal units to comb the area and clear the place.

Recalling his tragedy, Khan narrated that he was carried down the mountain to the main road on his nephew’s back for a good two hours, all while bleeding profusely. Once they reached the road, he was tied onto a motorbike and taken to the nearest health centre where he was administered basic first aid. “All I remember was the excruciating pain I felt throughout the journey that seemed never-ending,” he said.

Meanwhile, another cousin had arranged a car to take him to the nearest hospital in D.I. Khan. All in all, the journey took a good nine hours before he reached the hospital.

His injury, like those faced every day by countless others residing in the area, highlights a problem that this conflict has left behind. It also shows an utter disregard for civilian life. Dawar calls it nothing but “criminal negligence” on the part of the Pakistani army.

According to Mehsud, the bombs may have been laid during the conflict by both the army and the terrorists. He discovered a landmine in his house a couple of years back after his family returned to their village in South Waziristan.

“We have been after the army personnel to send someone to defuse the bomb but so far nothing has been done,” he said. For now they have placed stones around it and continually remind their family members not to step anywhere near it.

According to a SPADO spokesperson, the area along the Line of Control between India and Pakistan is heavily mined. “But that area is also heavily fenced with no civilian access; it is marked too.”

The scattered cases of injuries and casualties have occurred only because the mines may have slipped from their position due to rain. On the other hand, in FATA, the landmines are used as an offensive not a defensive weapon by both the military and the militants and are therefore unmarked. “They are even found inside school compounds, homes, and agriculture fields,” said Shah of SPADO.

“I don’t care who planted these bombs; the military carried out the operation in our territory and I hold them responsible for clearing it,” said Dawar.

Shah agreed that mine clearance was the responsibility of the military corps of engineers. He fails to understand why, if the bomb disposal units were so good and sent on missions abroad to clear mines, why not make their own country safe first.

He added that if the military initiated a full-throttle de-mining, it would be the easiest way to win the hearts and mind of the tribal people. “They will gain confidence that the army is there to protect their children,” he said.

“The army has started to cover some ground in South Waziristan, but it needs to be more proactive and engaged and begin this in earnest in the rest of the agencies,” said Mona Naseer, co-founder of Khor Network of tribal women, who belongs to Orakzai agency where a kid was recently injured by stepping on a mine and fatally injured.

These injuries come with a life-long economic cost. For the last two years, Khan has undertaken cumbersome travel  from D.I. Khan to bigger cities like Peshawar and even down to Rawalpindi, in the Punjab province, from one doctor to another, each giving their own opinions. “I have spent over one million rupees on my leg, but still walk with the help of crutches,” he points out helplessly.

Along with losing his limb, his job, and his home, Khan has lost the purpose of his existence. His life, he said, has changed completely. “I’m now a  cripple, imprisoned at home and dependent on others for help. I cannot ride a motorbike, cannot go to the market, have to ask others to help me in the bathroom…everything that I should be doing myself.” Khan doubted he would ever manage to go back to his village given the rugged mountainous terrain that it is located in. The former school teacher is now limited to tutoring students at home.

Pakistan is not the only country facing a landmine problem. While it is impossible to get an accurate number of the total global area contaminated by landmines due to lack of data, landmine watch groups estimate that there could be 110 million landmines in the ground and an equal number in stockpiles waiting to be planted or destroyed. The cost to remove them all is 50 to 100 billion dollars.

According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines network, more than 4,200 people, of whom 42 per cent are children, fall victim to landmines and ERWs annually in many of the countries affected by war or in post-conflict situations around the world.

A global Mine Ban Treaty known as the Ottawa Convention (which became international law in 1999) has been signed and ratified by 162 countries. It prohibits the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs). Sadly, Pakistan is among the countries (United States, China, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Russia) that have have not signed the treaty and is among both the producers and users of landmines.

In  2016, the Landmine Monitor report placed India as the third biggest stockpiler of APLs in 2015 after Russia and Pakistan.

Last yearSri Lanka acceded to the Antipersonnel Mine Ban Convention and set a deadline to be free of landmines by 2020. “Sri Lanka’s accession should spur other nations that haven’t joined the landmine treaty to take another look at why they want to be associated with such an obsolete, abhorrent weapon,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch and chair of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines – the group effort behind the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty.

But Shah said that unless India agreed to accede, Pakistan will not take the first step. “Perhaps the way to go about it is to bring the issue on the agenda during peace negotiations and when talks around confidence building measures take place between the two countries,” he said.

SPADO is also the official contact point of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) and Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC). It openly advocates for the universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Along with FATA, accidents due to landmines are happening in other places in Pakistan. In 2017, according to SPADO, among the 316 injuries and 153 deaths in total, Pakistan-administered Kashmir recorded seven; Balochistan province 171; FATA 230; and KPK 61.

A majority of the injured and dead were men who were found either driving, fetching water, taking livestock for grazing, rescuing others who had stepped on a bomb, passing by etc. Children were usually playing outside when they chanced upon a shiny object, like a “disc-shaped shoe polish box” hidden in the grass which they attempted to pick  up.

“The figures that SPADO has collected  includes only those that were reported in the media and are just the tip of the iceberg,” Shah emphasized.

He said there was an urgent need for a national registry where such a record is kept and a more comprehensive rehabilitation programme is instituted.

“Taking care of the injured and maimed is expensive and long term,” he said, noting that when the victim is a child, for example, he or she will grow and require new prosthetic limbs. “While the army takes care of its own, unfortunately, there are very few institutes where civilians can go and seek help,” he said.

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Myanmar Unlikely to Resolve Rohingya Problem Without International Helphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/myanmar-unlikely-resolve-rohingya-problem-without-international-help/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 09:53:14 +0000 Trevor Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155462 Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

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Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

By Trevor Wilson
CANBERRA, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

The lead-up to the Australia-ASEAN Summit in Sydney on 16-18 March 2018 was characterised by widespread and well-publicised protests in Sydney against human rights abuses occurring in several ASEAN member countries – namely Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

These protests dominated pre-summit media coverage and likely surprised some ASEAN leaders who might not have expected such a public outcry. In some instances, the protests were accompanied by quite negative commentary in Australian media.

Trevor Wilson

As Myanmar’s State Counsellor and de facto head of government, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi attended the Australia-ASEAN summit for Myanmar. This was her first official visit to Australia, although she had visited in late 2013 when she was a mere member of parliament, before her National League for Democracy (NLD) won a resounding victory in the November 2015 general elections.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was accorded the courtesy of a full state visit to Canberra. Yet throughout her visit, she faced constant criticism from the Australian public over her government’s handling of its Muslim minority group, the Rohingya.

Australians are naturally dismayed by the disastrous humanitarian circumstances confronting the Rohingya, large numbers of whom had fled to Bangladesh after heavy-handed military operations against them by the Myanmar Army in August and September 2017.

Both Australian government and non-government responses have led to additional humanitarian assistance flows from Australia to help relief efforts.

So far, this assistance is mainly going to Rohingya who have fled to Bangladesh. This does not really get to the heart of the problem, which is ultimately for Myanmar to resolve.

The Rohingya question was reportedly raised in confidential sessions of the Australia-ASEAN Summit but was not mentioned in any official media coverage. In fact, Myanmar’s policy on the Rohingya remains in stalemate.

One important challenge for Suu Kyi is to demonstrate how her government would implement the policies she announced in her 19 September 2017 speech to the Myanmar nation. The world has yet to hear how her policies of inclusion and realising the peace dividend for all Myanmar’s people might be achieved in Rakhine State as a credible part of a compact involving the Rohingya.

Even if tangible and satisfactory outcomes will take time to achieve, Suu Kyi needs to articulate how any truly relevant action plan might be seriously pursued. The people of Myanmar and international donors alike are keen to know that a way forward is worth pursuing.

Any internal solution of the Rohingya issue in Myanmar will eventually need to address the vexed question of citizenship for the Rohingya. However, this seems to be more than Myanmar’s Buddhists can tolerate at the moment, obsessed as they are with any perceived threats to national sovereignty.

Even Aung San Suu Kyi may not have sufficient authority on her own to forge a new national consensus in Myanmar that means treating Rohingya more fairly, and she is still apparently reluctant to entrust finding a way forward to the United Nations.

But it is meaningless to hold her alone morally responsible or to single her out for not doing more when the Rohingya problem has been mismanaged by all concerned for so long.
Whatever transpires, Myanmar will probably not be able to fashion a solution to its Rohingya problem without additional direct international assistance, but any Myanmar government response to the Rohingya problem will be constrained by growing public hostility in the country towards the Muslim population.

There has been some press reporting that the Myanmar Government had decided to allow the United Nations access to the areas where the Rohingya were forced to leave, but UN access to Rakhine State is not confirmed.

A UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission has been waiting for permission to enter Myanmar since late 2017 in order to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against the Rohingya.

The issue of whether or not Australia should provide direct assistance to Myanmar will now need delicate consideration, free from any additional constraints from ASEAN. This is especially the case since achieving an ‘ASEAN consensus’ may not be feasible.

Australia has a strategic interest in having the Rohingya problem resolved on an enduring basis, but Australia does not necessarily have the clout to do this on its own.

It would require working more intensively to persuade all stakeholders to take the Annan Commission recommendations seriously, to establish a better and more transparent regional basis for cross-border migrant workers, and to ensure that those whose claims to refugee status can be verified are granted protection in countries like Australia, where Rohingya have proved to be excellent citizens.

The post Myanmar Unlikely to Resolve Rohingya Problem Without International Help appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Trevor Wilson is a retired Australian diplomat who served as Australian Ambassador to Myanmar from 2000-03, and has been Visiting Fellow at The Australian National University since 2003.

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The Nowhere People: Rohingyas in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nowhere-people-rohingyas-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/nowhere-people-rohingyas-india/#respond Wed, 25 Apr 2018 00:04:26 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155451 A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants. Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in […]

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Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Rohingya refugees in India face discrimination and threats of deportation back to Myanmar. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Apr 25 2018 (IPS)

A devastating fire in a shanty at Kalindi Kunj, a New Delhi suburb, that gutted the homes of 226 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, including 100 women and 50 children, has trained a spotlight on India’s ad hoc policy on international migrants.

Already persecuted in their country of origin, Rohingyas — the largest stateless population in the world at three million — have found shelter across vast swathes of Asia including in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are more than 700,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh alone, who now face the onset of the monsoon season in flimsy shelters."As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis." --Dr. Ranjan Biswas

Demographers note that the Rohingyas’ displacement, while on a particularly dramatic scale, is illustrative of a larger global trend. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the world is witnessing the highest level of displacement on record with 22.5 million refugees, over half of them under 18, languishing in different parts of the world in search of a normal life.

Often referred to as the boat people – because they journey in packed boats to escape their homeland — around 40,000 Rohingyas have trickled into India over the past three years to cities like New Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad and Jammu where their population is the largest. Some had settled in the Kalindi Kunj camp that was set up in 2012 by a non-profit on a 150-odd square metre plot that it owns.

The camp’s occupants worked as daily wage labourers or were employed with private companies. A few even ran kirana (grocery) kiosks near the camp. Most of these refugees had landed in Delhi after failed stints in Rohingya camps in Bangladesh or Jammu (a northern Indian city), where they were repeatedly targeted by radical Hindu groups.

Nurudddin, 56, who lost all his belongings and papers in the Kalindi Kunj fire, told IPS that he has been living like a vagabond since he fled Myanmar with his wife and four children in 2016. “We left Myanmar to go to Bangladesh but we faced a lot of hardships there too. I couldn’t get a job, there was no proper food or accommodation. We arrived in Delhi last year with a lot of hope but so far things haven’t been going too well here either,” said the frail man with a grey beard.

Following the Kalindi Kunj fire, and public complaints about the government’s neglect of Rohingya camps, the Supreme Court intervened. On April 9, the apex court asked the Centre to file a comprehensive status report in four weeks on the civic amenities at two Rohingya camps in Delhi and Haryana, following allegations that basic facilities like drinking water and toilets were missing from these settlements.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Rohingyas told the court that the refugees were being subjected to discrimination with regard to basic amenities. However, this was refuted by Additional Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta who, appearing for the Centre said there was no discrimination against the Rohingyas. The court will again take up the matter on May 9.

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

A Rohingya campsite in New Delhi. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The Rohingya issue entered mainstream public discourse last August when the ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party government abruptly asked the country’s 29 states to identify illegal immigrants for deportation –  including, the guidance said, Rohingya Muslims who had fled Myanmar.

“As per available estimates there are around 40,000 Rohingyas living illegally in the country,” India’s junior home minister Kiren Rijiju then told Parliament: “The government has issued detailed instructions for deportation of illegal foreign nationals including Rohingyas.”

In its affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Centre claimed that Rohingya refugees posed a “serious national security threat” and that their deportation was in the “larger interest” of the country. It also asked the court to “decline its interference” in the matter.

The Centre’s decision to deport the Rohingyas attracted domestic as well as global opprobrium. “It is both unprecedented and impractical,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, told Scroll.in. “It is unprecedented because India has never been unwelcoming of refugees, let alone conducting such mass deportation,” she said. “And I would call it impractical because where would they [the Indian government] send these people? They have no passports and the Myanmar government is not going to accept them as legitimate citizens.”

Some critics also pointed out that the Rohingyas were being targeted by the ruling Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party government because they were Muslims, an allegation the Centre has refuted.

Parallels have also been drawn with refugees from other countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan who have comfortably made India their home over the years. However, to keep a strict vigil against the Rohingyas’ influx, the Indian government has specially stationed 6,000 soldiers on the India-Bangladesh border.

Activists say that despite thousands of refugees and asylum seekers (204,600 in 2011 as per the Central government) already living in India, refugees’ rights are a grey area. An overarching feeling is that refugees pose a security threat and create demographic imbalances. A domestic legal framework to extend basic rights to refugees is also missing.

Since the government’s crackdown, Rohingya groups have been lobbying to thwart their deportation to their native land. In a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court of India titled Mohammed Salimullah vs Union of India (Writ Petition no. 793 of 2017), they have demanded that they be allowed to stay on in India.

However, the government has contented that the plea of the petitioner is untenable, on grounds that India is not a signatory to the UN Convention of 1951. The convention relates to the status of refugees, and the Protocol of 1967, under the principle of non-refoulement. This principle states that refugees will not be deported to a country where they face threat of persecution. The matter is now in the Supreme Court of India which is saddled with the onerous task of balancing national security with the human rights of the refugees.

However, as Shubha Goswami, a senior advocate with the High Court points out, while India may not have signed the refugee convention, it is still co-signatory to many other important international conventions like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which includes the principle of non-refoulement, and it is legally binding that India provide for the Rohingyas.

There’s growing public opinion as well that the government should embrace and empower these hapless people.

“Rather than resent their presence, India should accept the Rohingyas as it has other migrants,” elaborates Dr. Ranjan Biswas, ex-professor sociology, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. “As a big regional player, the refugee crisis presents India with a unique opportunity to set an example and work out a long-term resolution to this humanitarian crisis which will usher in peace and stability in the region.”

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Kidnapped, Abducted and Abandoned…http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kidnapped-abducted-abandoned http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/kidnapped-abducted-abandoned/#comments Tue, 24 Apr 2018 06:39:05 +0000 Geetika group http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155434 Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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By Geetika Dang , Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
NEW DELHI, Apr 24 2018 (IPS)

Kidnappings and abductions have soared since 2001. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows that their share in total crimes against women nearly doubled from 10% in 2001 to 19% in 2016. More striking is the fact that 11 women were kidnapped or abducted every day in Delhi in 2016. What these statistics do not reveal are brutal gang-rapes of kidnapped minors and women, multiple sales to husbands who treat them as animals, unwanted pregnancies, police inaction, and frequent abandonment with nowhere to go—not even to their maternal homes—because of the stigma of a being a “prostitute”.

Geetika Dang

An illustrative account from Mirror (23 August 2016) is not atypical. A 12-year-old girl went missing on 2 July 2006, in northeast Delhi and returned home after 10 years. After she was sold to a farmer for a paltry sum, she was forced to work all day in the fields, load heavy sacks of grain onto her back and trucks, and then at night she was raped by numerous men. Over a period of three years, she was sold nine times. At 15, she was sold and married to a drug addict and alcoholic from whom she had two children. After the husband’s death in 2011, she was tortured, forced to have sex with her brother-in-law and his friends, her children were taken away and she was thrown into the street.

A frequently cited fact that for every100 abductions of women aged 18-29 years, 66 were abducted for marriage, is at best a half-truth as it conceals how women are traded and treated as animals.

Our analysis with the data obtained from the NCRB, the Census, National Commission of Population and RBI unravels the factors that are responsible for the surge in kidnappings and abductions, especially since 2013 or post Nirbhaya.

While the incidence of kidnapping and abduction (per 1,000 women) surged 7.5 times in India over the period 2001-16, many states and Union Territories (UT) witnessed alarming spikes too. In Haryana, for example, it spiked 15 times, and in Assam 8.5 times. Delhi remained the worst with the highest incidence in both 2001 and 2016, and saw a surge of 5.8 times during this period.

Vani S. Kulkarni

An important finding of our analysis is that the higher the sex ratio (ratio of women to 1,000 men) in a state, the higher is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Available evidence suggests that women are often abducted from areas that have a surplus and sold in areas with a deficit. The more affluent a state, the more likely is this crime. The higher the ratio of rural/urban population, the lower is the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women. This implies greater vulnerability of women in urban areas. As emphasised by Amartya Sen (2015) and others, the roots of crimes against women lie in the weak police and judiciary system, and callousness of society. An approximation to the ineffectiveness of the police and judiciary system is the conviction rate for all IPC crimes, which is extremely low, besides being a long drawn-out corrupt process. Yet it lowers the incidence of kidnappings and abductions. Another is governance that we capture through which party ruled a state (BJP or its coalition, Congress or its coalition, and President’s rule, relative to regional parties). The difference may lie in whether they believe in gender equity, women’s autonomy and their protection. Accounting for all other factors, the incidence of kidnappings and abductions of women are lowest in Congress or its coalition ruled states and highest in President ruled states. The latter presumably reflects a breakdown of the law and order system. Finally, and somewhat surprisingly, 2013 on saw a surge, suggesting that over these years the incidence of this crime rose markedly. It is unclear why this surge persisted.

Raghav Gaiha

The IPC distinguishes between kidnapping (applies to minors) and abduction (applies to adults). Sections 359 to 369 of the Code have made kidnapping and abduction punishable with varying degree of severity according to the nature and gravity of the offence. For example, whoever maims any kidnapped minor in order that such minor may be employed or used for the purposes of begging, is punishable with imprisonment for life. Whoever kidnaps or abducts any person in order that such person may be murdered or may be so disposed of as to be put in danger of being murdered, is punishable with imprisonment for life or rigorous imprisonment up to ten years. The relentless rise in kidnappings and abduction, and subsequent abandonment of women, despite a plethora of legislation and amendments, tell a cruel tale of apathy towards them and abysmal enforcement machinery.

Published in the Sunday Guardian, 22nd April 2018

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Excerpt:

Geetika Dang is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) professorial research fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, England.

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Drowning for Progress in Cambodiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/drowning-progress-cambodia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drowning-progress-cambodia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/drowning-progress-cambodia/#respond Tue, 10 Apr 2018 22:57:27 +0000 Pascal Laureyn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155226 Suddenly the road ends. The cart track disappears under the water. A vast lake stretches out in front of me. I have to transfer from a motorbike to a canoe. “Tuk laang,” my guide says coolly. “The water is rising.” This started eight months ago, when the hydroelectric power station closed its gates for the […]

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The Cambodian village of Kbal Romeas is slowly vanishing beneath the rising waters of a lake formed by the Lower Sesan II (LS2) dam. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

The Cambodian village of Kbal Romeas is slowly vanishing beneath the rising waters of a lake formed by the Lower Sesan II (LS2) dam. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

By Pascal Laureyn
KBAL ROMEAS, Cambodia, Apr 10 2018 (IPS)

Suddenly the road ends. The cart track disappears under the water. A vast lake stretches out in front of me. I have to transfer from a motorbike to a canoe. “Tuk laang,” my guide says coolly. “The water is rising.”

This started eight months ago, when the hydroelectric power station closed its gates for the first time. Ever since, the road to Kbal Romeas sinks a little deeper under the slow waves every day."Beware of the branches above your head," the guide says. "The pythons and the cobras have climbed into the trees."

According to the level gauge on the road, the water behind the concrete barrage has risen up to 75 meters, higher than the intended 68 meters. Nobody knows why, and the government doesn’t provide any information.

Three sturdy men are unloading planks from a canoe. The houses of flood refugees are being dismantled in order to sell the wood.

The village is a world away from Phnom Penh. In Cambodia’s capital, saffron-robed monks are tapping on their smartphones and purple Rolls Royces are negotiating hectic traffic. But 450 kilometers to the north, Kbal Romeas is hidden deeply in the jungle. Here no shops, restaurants or traffic lights are to be found. And for a few months now, no roads either.

I’m undertaking the journey with Vibol. He is studying in the provincial capital and returns home often. “My parents are having a hard time since our village is flooded. The government wants us to leave, but we will never do that,” he says.

The expansive forests of Stung Treng – a province as large as Lebanon with barely 120,000 inhabitants – are the home of the Bunong, the ethnic minority to which Vibol belongs. Their way of life has been in sync with nature for 2,000 years, while they’ve been fiercely resisting modern influences from outside. But the small community now risks being washed away, quite literally.

Concrete vs. water

A few kilometers from the village, a gigantic wall towers over the trees. The ‘Lower Sesan II’ (LS2) dam is a powerful symbol for the economic growth of Southeast Asia, but also for man-made disasters. In September the gates were closed, thus creating a lake that soon will expand over 360 square kilometers, the size of Dublin. The livelihood of a unique culture will be wiped out.

The ten-year-old son of my guide navigates the canoe that will bring me to Kbal Romeas. Skillfully, he avoids crashing into the trees of the submerged forest. “Beware of the branches above your head,” his father says. “The pythons and the cobras have climbed into the trees.” There’s a shorter way to get to to the village, via dry land, but that’s not an option for a foreign journalist. The army closed off the whole area. No snoopers allowed.

I have to take the long detour over water, a surreal two-hour trip through a drowned jungle.

“The trees still bear fruit, but soon they will die,” the guide says. There is also less fish and the water has become undrinkable. Since the dam unhinged their lives, the Bunong have to pay for water and fish. But money is an alien concept for animist forest dwellers who are used to living in complete harmony with nature.

My canoe floats gently into the main street of the village. Thanks to their stilts, the typical Cambodian dwellings are still dry, even if the road lays one meter beneath the water’s surface. It is dead quiet. Until some children appear in doorways. “Soë-se-dei!” “Hello!”

A villager from Kbal Romeas paddles between two partly submerged houses. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

A villager from Kbal Romeas paddles between two partly submerged houses. Credit: Pascal Laureyn/IPS

About 250 people still live in the flooded village of Kbal Romeas; about half of the original population. I clamber from the canoe into a house. The lady of the house offers me some rice and spiced pork.

“We used to have everything we need here. But since the water started rising, we have to go to the market,” says Srang Lanh, 49. She has the face of someone who has lived a hard life.

“During the dry season it takes us about three hours to get there. In the rainy season we can’t use the road at all.”

The government has built a new village, on higher ground. “But we do not intend to move,” says Vibol. “The Buddhist Cambodians don’t understand our religion. We can’t leave our cemetery.” He wants to show me the graveyard. Small corrugated iron roofs are barely above the water. They used to give shade to the late loved ones.

I ask the former cemetery supervisor how many people are buried here beneath the flood tide. His reacts emotionally. “Thousands! Everyone who has ever lived in Kbal Romeas is buried here.”

Every day another grave disappears into the tidal wave of progress coming from this Chinese dam. “The spirits of our ancestors can’t leave here. To abandon them would be a disgrace,” says Vibol. The Bunong believe they are protected by the ancestors. Leaving means disaster.

In Kbal Romeas, the cursed dam is called ‘Kromhun’, the Company. The Chinese group Hydrolancang invested 800 million dollars in the LS2 dam and will be operating it for the next 30 years. Theoretically speaking, a dam producing 400 megawatts might seem a good idea, as this country lives in the dark. Three quarters of the Cambodian villages are not connected to the electrical grid.

However, Kbal Romeas will never see one single watt of the Kromhun. Ninety percent of the electricity in Cambodia goes to capital city Phnom Penh and is used for air conditioners, neon publicity signs and garment factories.

Noah’s Ark

There’s a little ceremony for the visitor, the first foreigner since the army shut this area down in July. Ta Uot is the most important guardian spirit of Kbal Romeas. His temple is nothing more than a hut on poles, now surrounded by water. But since the patriarch told the Bunong through his visions where his shrine has to be put, it cannot be moved.

In the temple are some holy branches and rocks; from their canoes the attendees throw grains of rice towards them while they say prayers in the old Bunong language. They inform Ta Uot about the visit of a foreigner. They also mention the latest water level. A newly born child is being blessed. In spite of the upcoming flood, this is a lively village with a simple shed as a spiritual Noah’s ark.

Set Nhal, 89, has been living here his whole life. He remembers the French colonists, the Khmer Rouge and the Vietnamese soldiers who came to chase away the genocidal regime. And now the Chinese. “We were always confident that the French and the communists would leave one day. But the Chinese will never go away; this dam will stay where it is,” he says.

Meng Heng, an activist of the outlawed NGO Mother Nature, knows Kbal Romeas very well. “The government succeeded in hiding a catastrophe,” he says. “As a result of the LS2-dam, one tenth of the fish population will disappear. The dam disrupts critical breeding migration routes for fish and the fish will become extinct.”

Not just a trifle, as 70 million people depend on the Mekong for their daily needs. As we speak, 200 dams are in use, being built or in preparation. LS2-dam is only one of them.
For the Bunong, a day in ancient times is as important as yesterday. But their days are numbered. Once the rainy season will start, in June, Kbal Romeas will be history.

After dark, a motorbike takes me back to the rest of the world, using a last scrap of dry land. The jungle is black as soot and the bouncing moto passes by a deserted army checkpoint, unmanned at night.

I’m dropped off at a gas station, an oasis of neon lights where they promise me there will be a bus soon. I ask Vibol if I can do something for him when I’m back in Phnom Penh.

“No one knows what’s happening here,” he says. “Tell our story.”

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For Many Migrants, No Land Is Sweeter Than Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 05:36:01 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155200 Most migrants to Europe, Australia and the United States from Rangpur in northern Bangladesh leave home at a young age and return when they have just passed middle age. Intensely connected and immersed in family bonds and Bangladeshi cultural values, they tend to return to their birthplace despite obtaining citizenship from a second country. For […]

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India Cracks Down on Human Traffickinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/india-cracks-human-trafficking/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-cracks-human-trafficking http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/india-cracks-human-trafficking/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 11:22:21 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155162 The Indian Union Cabinet has cleared the long-awaited Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, which proposes an imprisonment of 10 years to life term for those trafficking humans for the purpose of begging, marriage, prostitution or labour, among others. The bill will become a law once cleared by both houses of Parliament. In a […]

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The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people, including millions of children, are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people, including millions of children, are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

The Indian Union Cabinet has cleared the long-awaited Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, which proposes an imprisonment of 10 years to life term for those trafficking humans for the purpose of begging, marriage, prostitution or labour, among others. The bill will become a law once cleared by both houses of Parliament.

In a pioneering move, the ambit of the proposed legislation transcends mere punitive action to encompass rehabilitation as well. It provides for immediate protection of rescued victims entitling them to interim relief within 30 days. There are specific clauses to address the victims’ physical and mental trauma, education, skill development, health care as well as legal aid and safe accommodation."If implemented, the law could have far-reaching benefits, like curbing the underground labour industry and ensuring that fair wages are paid." --High Court advocate Aarti Kukreja

The National Investigation Agency, the country’s premier body combating terror, will perform the task of national anti-trafficking bureau. A Rehabilitation Fund is also being created to provide relief to the affected irrespective of criminal proceedings initiated against the accused or the outcome thereof.

“It’s a victory of the 1.2 million people who participated in 11,000 km long Bharat Yatra (India March) for this demand,” Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi said in a statement, referring to a month-long march he organised last year.

According to global surveys, human trafficking is the third largest organized crime violating basic human rights. The Australia-based human rights group The Walk Free Foundation’s 2016 Global Slavery Index points out that at a whopping 18.35 million, India leads the global tally for adults and children trapped in modern slavery.

Thousands of women and children are trafficked within India as well as well as neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh. Some are enticed from villages and towns with false promises of gainful employment in the cities, while a large number of them are forcefully abducted by traffickers.

As trafficking is a highly organized crime involving interstate gangs, the bill proposes a district-level “anti-trafficking unit” with an “anti-trafficking police officer”, and a designated sessions court for speedy trials. The Bill also divides various offences into “trafficking” and “aggravated trafficking”. The former category of crimes carries a jail term of seven to 10 years while the latter can put the offenders in the clink for at least 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment.

Also, aggravated offences would include trafficking for the purpose of forced labour, begging, trafficking by administering chemical substance or hormones on a person for the purpose of early sexual maturity, trafficking of a woman or child for the purpose of marriage or under the pretext of marriage. The draft bill also moots three years in jail for abetting, promoting and assisting trafficking.

There is also a provision for a time-bound trial and repatriation of victims — within a period of one year from the time the crime is taken into cognisance.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 8,100 cases of trafficking were recorded in India in 2016 with 23,000 trafficking victims being rescued last year. However, experts say the figures fail to reflect the true magnitude of the crime. The actual figures, say activists, could be much higher as many victims do not register cases with the police for lack of legal knowledge or due to fear from traffickers.

India’s West Bengal state – which shares a porous border with poorer neighbours Bangladesh and Nepal and is a known human trafficking hub – registered more than one-third of the total number of victims in 2016. Victims were also trafficked for domestic servitude, forced marriage, begging, drug peddling and the removal of their organs, the NCRB figures showed.

Worsening the crisis are the growing demands of a burgeoning services industry in India which recruit the abducted without a system of proper vetting, say experts. This practise is directly responsible for the spiralling number of human trafficking cases reported in India. It is here that the new proposed law can go a long way in combating human trafficking.

“If implemented, the law could have far-reaching benefits, like curbing the underground labour industry and ensuring that fair wages are paid,” says High Court advocate Aarti Kukreja.

The Walk Free Foundation estimates that 45.8 million people, including millions of children, are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world, compared to 35.8 million in 2014, a concern that affects large swathes of South Asia. But significantly, there is no specific law so far to deal with this crime. Experts hope the proposed legislation will make India a pioneer in formulating a comprehensive legislation to combat the trafficking menace.

Currently, trafficking in India is covered by loophole-ridden laws that enables miscreants to give the law a slip. According to New Delhi-based social activist Vrinda Thakur, the new initiative’s comprehensive nature will help tackle trafficking more effectively.

“All previous legislation dealing with human trafficking treated traffickers as well as the trafficked as criminals. This was bizarre. It prevented the victims from coming forward to report the crime. However, as per the proposed new law, the first of its kind in India, victims will be offered assistance and protection,” elaborates Thakur.

As part of the government’s larger mission to control trafficking, some measures are already underway. An online platform has been created to trace missing children and bilateral anti-human trafficking pacts have been signed with Bangladesh and Bahrain. The government is also working with charities and non-profits to train law enforcement officers. The proposed new law will act as a force multiplier to take these efforts further.

Kukreja elaborates that the Bill has an in-built mechanism to eschew antiquated and bureaucratic legislature that currently bedevils law enforcement in India.

“It will unify existing laws, prioritise survivors’ needs and provide for special courts to expedite cases,” she says.

By whittling down human trafficking in South Asia and deterring traffickers with high penalties, labour practices will decline, giving abducted women and children the chance to better their future, contributing to the country’s economic and social development.

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How Citizen Power Ignited Seoul’s Energy Innovationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/citizen-power-ignited-seouls-energy-innovations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=citizen-power-ignited-seouls-energy-innovations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/citizen-power-ignited-seouls-energy-innovations/#respond Thu, 05 Apr 2018 06:59:46 +0000 Park Won-soon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155159 Park Won-soon is Mayor of Seoul, a city recognized as a role model for megacities

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Mayor of Seoul, South Korea

By Park Won-soon
SEOUL, South Korea, Apr 5 2018 (IPS)

In a bid to reduce its nuclear energy dependence, Seoul embarked on a massive energy reduction initiative—shaped by citizen participation—in 2012.

The result was a drastic drop in energy use as citizens and corporations embraced the switch to energy-efficient alternatives and took charge of their energy usage. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in neighbouring Japan gave a great sense of crisis to South Korea.

Climate change response begins with energy reduction. Hence, Seoul began pursuing the One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative with its 10 million citizens in April 2012. Operating on the principle of first communicating with citizens before choosing policy directions, the government began by initiating large-scale discussions.

To do this, we created the Citizens Committee—comprising citizens from all walks of life, including professionals, academic circles, religious circles and civic groups—to lead the discussions and the civic governance. Eighteen events were held to hear what citizens and organisations had to say about energy reduction.

A government team, whose sole role was to communicate with citizens, was also created. It used online communication channels like Twitter and Facebook, as well as offline communication channels, such as policy workshops, deliberation processes and citizens’ podiums to get feedback.

To involve senior citizens who lacked internet access, the government reached out to organisations, associations and communities that already worked with them. The One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative was therefore led by the citizens, for the citizens, and with the citizens.

Civic governance was, and continues to be, the essence of our One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative. Reflecting all of the opinions of the citizens in our policies was not an easy task.

At times, it caused delays in the decision-making process and the implementation process. There seemed to be endless discussions on how to elicit the participation of the citizens. It was a challenge. But it brought together the wisdom of 10 million citizens, and it brought about changes in the direction of our policies and improvements in existing regulations.

The public discussions generated ideas on tapping alternative or renewable forms of energy: mini solar panels were installed on the rooftops of houses, schools and public buildings while sewage water heat, chimney waste heat and other forms of wasted energy were converted to renewable energy.

To boost energy efficiency, buildings, which accounted for 56% of energy use, were retrofitted. Even though energy is a crucial part of our daily lives, it was difficult to promote the value of policies or to encourage participation, as it is “invisible”. The government tried to raise awareness of our energy policies with the Eco Mileage Programme, which rewarded households that voluntarily reduced energy usage by lowering their electricity bills. More than 42% of households took part.

As a result, energy reduction has become a part of our citizens’ daily lives in homes, schools, and workplaces—it has become a part of Seoul’s culture. Currently, 22,000 students in 500 schools are energy guardian angels who help to prevent energy wastage in homes and schools, and 34 universities are green campuses that have reduced energy usage by 10%.

Small changes in the habits of the citizens in their daily lives have brought about big changes in the energy future of the city. We achieved the first phase goal of reducing 2 million tonnes of oil (the energy generated by one nuclear plant) six months ahead of schedule in June 2014.

Many people believed it to be impossible. But we have not stopped there. We have set a second phase goal of reducing the energy equivalent to two nuclear power plants by 2020 and reducing 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions as well. The changes brought about by Seoul are spreading to other cities across South Korea.

Last November, four local governments in South Korea, including Seoul, recognised the importance of local energy policies, and announced in a joint statement to cooperate on the wise and frugal use of clean and safe energy for a mutually prosperous future.

The changes driven by the citizens are inspiring not only for cities in South Korea but also for cities around the world. Many representatives of cities and organisations around the world are coming to Seoul to learn about our One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative. Many ask me: How did Seoul do it? My answer: The citizens did it.

The citizens are the energy. Civic governance, powered by the energy of the citizens, drove the changes. Seoul now looks beyond the changes in Seoul and the changes in South Korea to the changes in the world. We now look beyond civic governance to urban governance. We aspire to cooperate with cities around the world for a sustainably prosperous future.

Small actions lead to small changes, which lead to bigger changes. Our actions will form the Earth’s future. A dream we dream together will come true. I hope that the climate action story of the citizens of Seoul will become an important chapter in the history of the earth.

Small changes in the habits of the citizens in their daily lives have brought about big changes in the energy future of the city. We achieved the first phase goal of reducing 2 million tonnes of oil (the energy generated by one nuclear plant) six months ahead of schedule in June 2014. Many people believed it to be impossible.

But we have not stopped there. We have set a second phase goal of reducing the energy equivalent to two nuclear power plants by 2020 and reducing 10 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions as well. The changes brought about by Seoul are spreading to other cities across South Korea.

Last November, four local governments in South Korea, including Seoul, recognised the importance of local energy policies, and announced in a joint statement to cooperate on the wise and frugal use of clean and safe energy for a mutually prosperous future. The changes driven by the citizens are inspiring not only for cities in South Korea but also for cities around the world.

Many representatives of cities and organisations around the world are coming to Seoul to learn about our One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative. Many ask me: How did Seoul do it? My answer: The citizens did it. The citizens are the energy. Civic governance, powered by the energy of the citizens, drove the changes. Seoul now looks beyond the changes in Seoul and the changes in South Korea to the changes in the world.

We now look beyond civic governance to urban governance. We aspire to cooperate with cities around the world for a sustainably prosperous future. Small actions lead to small changes, which lead to bigger changes. Our actions will form the Earth’s future. A dream we dream together will come true. I hope that the climate action story of the citizens of Seoul will become an important chapter in the history of the earth.

The link to the original article: https://www.clc.gov.sg/documents/publications/urban-solutions/issue9/us_i9_5_counterpoint.pdf

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Excerpt:

Park Won-soon is Mayor of Seoul, a city recognized as a role model for megacities

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Solving Japan’s Fertility Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/solving-japans-fertility-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solving-japans-fertility-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/solving-japans-fertility-crisis/#comments Mon, 02 Apr 2018 16:42:34 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155122 While much of the global discussion for decades has been focused on overpopulation and its consequences, less can be said of the risks of low fertility and an ageing population—risks that are currently threatening the future of Japan. Concerned by fertility trends in Asia, numerous institutions have begun to take action to prevent potentially devastating […]

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Japan: aging population needs more than short-term solutions. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 2 2018 (IPS)

While much of the global discussion for decades has been focused on overpopulation and its consequences, less can be said of the risks of low fertility and an ageing population—risks that are currently threatening the future of Japan.

Concerned by fertility trends in Asia, numerous institutions have begun to take action to prevent potentially devastating economic and social consequences.

One such group is the Asian Population Development Association (APDA), that serves as the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP) and is dedicated to research and studying population-related issues in countries such as Japan where limited work and research has been done around the issue.

“While population increase has been the overriding global concern, the risks of low fertility and ensuing population decline were not foreseen until recently. Thus it is understandable that no research has been done, nor has any thought been given from the government,” said Chair of the APDA Research Committee on Ageing Kei Takeuchi during a meeting.

The Young, the Old, and the Restless

Though the decline in fertility rates is not a new phenomenon, the East Asian nation has seen its population rapidly diminish in recent years.

According to the United Nations, Japan’s fertility rates were approximately 2.75 children per woman in the 1950s, well above the total fertility rate of 2.1 which has been determined to help sustain stable populations.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman leading to the population declining by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which dispels families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

“As the population aged 18 years old is decreasing, the number of universities needs to be reduced, which will limit the number of new academic posts, lack the opportunity to cultivate researchers, and diminish Japan’s competitiveness in the international arena,”

At the same time, as people have a higher life expectancy, the elderly now make up 27 percent of Japan’s population in comparison to 15 percent in the United States.

This means less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

Chair of the Asian Population and Development Association Yasuo Fukuda, a former Prime Minister of Japan noted that a dwindling population is not bad in and of itself but rather its rapid decline.

“The true problem is that when the population decreases too drastically, the social systems will become unsustainable and incapable of responding to problems associated with it, which will make it harder for young people to develop concrete visions for their future,” he said.

Are the Kids Alright?

One of the factors that is often considered to be a driving force of lowering fertility is urbanization, APDA said, as urban fertility rates are often lower than those in rural areas.

This is often because urban areas tend to boast better access to services such as education and employment as well as gender equality, all of which affect people’s decisions whether or not to have children.

Japan is one the most densely urbanized countries in the world.

In 1950, 53 percent of the population lived in urban areas; by 2014, the figure shot up to 93 percent.

Japanese rural towns are disappearing at a rapid rate as young adults move to cities for work and the ageing population either moves out or dies out. Wild boars are now found to be taking over the abandoned areas.

However, the correlation between urbanization and fertility is still unclear due to different contexts and data limitations.

Many have also pointed to the lack of opportunities for young people in the country.

Though the unemployment rate is below 3 percent, the rise in unstable employment may be leaving young men and women unable or unwilling to have children.

Approximately 40 percent of Japan’s labor force is “irregular,” or have temporary or part-time jobs with low salaries. According to the Labor Ministry, irregular employees earn 53 percent less than those with stable jobs.

Men, who are still considered breadwinners for the family unit, may therefore be less likely to consider getting married or having children because they can’t afford to do so.

On the other end of the spectrum, Japan’s culture of overwork may also be impacting birth rates as young people find themselves with no time for a social life or even basic needs like sleeping or eating.

Such conditions have even led to “karoshi,” or death by overwork, across the country.

Most recently, journalist Miwa Sado died of a heart failure and investigators found that she had logged 159 hours of overtime work in June 2013 alone, one month before she died.

In 2015, 24-year-old Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide. It emerged that she worked for over 100 hours of overtime at her advertising job and had barely slept in the period leading up to her death.

Both deaths were ruled as “karoshi.”

Research, Action Needed

Due to the lack of data around the issue, APDA highlighted the need to promote research in order to help create and implement policies to ensure sustainable development and a stable, healthy population.

Shinzo Abe’s government has begun working on the issue in recent years, promising to raise the fertility rate to 1.8 by 2025.

They have also taken steps to make it easier for people to raise children by providing free education, expanding nursery care, and allowing fathers to take paternity leave. Local governments have even set up speed-dating services across the country.

However, Abe’s administration has been criticized for not doing enough, particularly around labor reform.

“Measures for low fertility, gender-equal society, and work-life balance are three important pillars,” said Chief Research Advisor APDA Project Research Committee on Ageing Makoto Atoh.

The APDA team also pointed to the need to invest in and revitalize regional areas and communities.

“This is a serious situation. We must come to grips with the issue of low fertility, but there is little research on it,” Takeuchi said.

APDA plans to hold several meetings and events in order to raise awareness and widen coverage on the issue of low fertility.

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Celebrations Herald a New Set of Hurdles for Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/celebrations-herald-new-set-hurdles-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=celebrations-herald-new-set-hurdles-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/celebrations-herald-new-set-hurdles-bangladesh/#respond Tue, 27 Mar 2018 23:49:02 +0000 A.Z.M. Anas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155052 Bangladesh’s great strides in human development were widely celebrated this month, although they come at the potential cost of Western trade benefits that have helped underpin the nation’s export success for decades. On March 15, Bangladesh became eligible to graduate from Least Developed Country status after a United Nations policy panel said the South Asian […]

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Between March 20 and 25, Bangladesh celebrated the graduation with colourful rallies, service week for citizens by the government agencies, cultural programmes, laser shows and fireworks. Credit: A.Z.M. Anas/IPS

Laser show and fireworks at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in downtown Dhaka on March 22 as part of the celebration marking Bangladesh’s graduation to a developing country. Credit: A.Z.M. Anas/IPS

By A.Z.M. Anas
DHAKA, Mar 27 2018 (IPS)

Bangladesh’s great strides in human development were widely celebrated this month, although they come at the potential cost of Western trade benefits that have helped underpin the nation’s export success for decades.

On March 15, Bangladesh became eligible to graduate from Least Developed Country status after a United Nations policy panel said the South Asian nation met all three criteria for income, human development and vulnerability to shocks. This will likely pave the way for the country’s graduation to a developing nation by 2024, pending reviews.Almost 100 percent enrolment in primary schooling and improved nutrition are the areas where Bangladesh has fared better than its most of its South Asian peers, including India and Pakistan. 

Next course is ‘not easy’   

After graduation, the loss will be most pronounced in the European Union market, where around 98 percent of Bangladesh’s exports enjoy duty-free entry. In the event of preference erosion, this means an additional 8.7 percent tariff in the EU market alone.

Overall, additional tariffs will be 6.7 percent, which will lead to export losses of 2.7 billion dollars, equal to around 8 percent of the country’s annual exports, according to an estimate by the Centre for Policy Dialogue, a Dhaka-based think-tank.

AMA Muhith, Bangladesh’s finance minister, is well aware of the challenging path ahead.

“Once you’re graduated, the next course is not easy,” acknowledged the 85-year-old finance minister in an interview with IPS.

Bangladesh stands to lose the duty-free privileges it enjoyed as a poor country, though the status change will not take effect for six years, he said.

Still, he felt proud and satisfied with Bangladesh’s promotion from a “world beggar to a self-assured country.”

Muhith, who was responsible for mobilising aid for the young nation in the 1970s as a civil servant, said that the graduation is a proper response to those who once mocked Bangladesh as an international “basket case.”

Tackling challenges

Commerce ministry officials said signing preferential trade agreements with destination countries and negotiating with the EU for GSP plus facility are among the steps the government has been working to counteract the trade shocks.

To prepare for the change, Bangladesh has been borrowing from bilateral partners like Japan and multilaterals such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank at higher interest rates.

To implement 10 megaprojects like a seaport in southeastern Matarbari, the government is looking at a combination of concessional and non-concessional loans, Muhith said.

Indeed, foreign aid is an area where Bangladesh has started feeling the heat.

But tackling the challenge is not going to be an easy ride.

The country’s taxation to GDP (gross domestic product) ratio is among the lowest in the world, which is unlikely to improve the situation unless the new VAT legislation is enforced next year.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith handed a replica of the UN’s recognition letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed at a reception accorded to her in the capital. 

Finance Minister AMA Muhith handed a replica of the UN’s recognition letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed at a reception accorded to her in the capital. Credit: PID (Press Information Department) Photo

A story of progress

That said, Bangladesh’s socio-economic progress, human development and its economic resilience contributed to improvements in all three indices of the Committee for Development Policy.

Merchandise shipments coupled with money sent home by an estimated 10 million overseas Bangladeshis has left the economy in fine fettle, with economic growth averaging 6.26 percent over the past decade.

And gross income per head reached 1,274 dollars, up from the 1,230-dollar threshold for graduation. By 2015, the country became a lower middle-income country.

And prudent macro-economic management has kept the rate of inflation low—pegged at between 5-6 per cent—even if the rate was once as high as 45 per cent.

Food production has nearly tripled to roughly 40 million tonnes since 1972, a year after the country’s independence.

The country has also achieved self-sufficiency in fish and meat production and Muhith said Bangladesh could emerge as a meat exporting nation in two years.

Burgeoning middle class

The middle class, which makes up one-fifth of the country’s population of 160 million, is mostly driving consumption that accounts for 70 percent of the economy.

The beneficiaries of the middle class boom are local and multinational businesses alike.

One winner is American fast food chain Burger King, which broke into the Bangladesh market in late 2016 and now has seven outlets.

“We hope graduation will be expedited. Then we’ll have more business as people’s income will go up,” said Tarique Ekramul Haque, managing director at BanglaCAT, which operates Burger King’s outlets in Bangladesh as a franchisee.

Sustained growth has helped 50 million people leave poverty. The rate of poverty fell from more than 44 percent in the 1990s to 24 percent now, according to the World Bank.

Almost 100 percent enrolment in primary schooling and improved nutrition are the areas where Bangladesh has fared better than its most of its South Asian peers, including India and Pakistan.

Bangladesh managed to exceed the threshold on human assets index in 2016, propelled by efforts from the government and non-government groups The index includes child and maternal deaths, undernourishment, adult schooling and adult literacy.

The country performed well in reducing its economic vulnerability as well, helped in part by greater export stability and diversification.

Opportunities beckon

Graduation is not all about challenges; it is a matter of opportunities too.

The finance minister is hopeful about getting a “substantial” flow of foreign investment in the post-graduation period.

“It means a lot,” Ahsan H. Mansur, executive director at the Policy Research Institute, a Dhaka-based think-tank, told IPS. “It’s a recognition.”

This graduation will not only widen the market access but ensure access to international financial resources, said Mansur, stressing the optimal use of money in a country where corruption remains endemic.

He hoped that the growth momentum the country achieved will be sustained.

Next agenda

To harness the full potential of graduation, he said the medium-term agenda of the government should be to cut the cost of doing business.

Mansur, a former senior executive of the International Monetary Fund, gave the examples of expensive ports and transportation services, saying costs should be brought down to improve the country’s global business ranking.

He laid emphasis on much broader and faster reforms, saying that infrastructure has to be developed with “right costs” and legal and land reforms need to be accelerated.

In the long-term, he argued that workers’ productivity has to be augmented through massive training and changing the education system.

To Muhith’s mind, the graduation took place thanks in part to the pragmatic policy of reconstruction and development in the post-independence period and able leadership such as prime minister, Sheikh Hasina whom he called one of “the established leaders in the world.”

Indeed, it was a moment of joy for Bangladesh. Between March 20 and 25, the country celebrated the graduation with colourful rallies, service week for citizens by the government agencies, cultural programmes, laser shows and fireworks.

On March 22, Muhith handed out a replica of the UN’s recognition letter to the prime minister at a reception accorded to her in the capital.

Coinciding with the celebration, an international seminar on ‘Bangladesh Graduation from LDC Status: Opportunities and Way Forward’ with top UN officials was organised in Dhaka on March 23.

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Former UN Chief Takes the Helm of Global Green Growth Institutehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/former-un-chief-takes-helm-global-green-growth-institute/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=former-un-chief-takes-helm-global-green-growth-institute http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/former-un-chief-takes-helm-global-green-growth-institute/#respond Tue, 27 Mar 2018 16:24:03 +0000 Ahn Mi Young http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155049 In the face of climate change and growing energy demand in developing countries, Ban Ki-moon, the new president and chair of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), unveiled his vision for a more sustainable path by helping countries in their transition to greener economies and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “We at GGGI need […]

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Ban Ki-moon, the new president and chair of GGGI, with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, the group’s director general. Credit: GGGI

Ban Ki-moon, the new president and chair of GGGI, with Dr. Frank Rijsberman, the group’s director general. Credit: GGGI

By Ahn Mi Young
SEOUL, Mar 27 2018 (IPS)

In the face of climate change and growing energy demand in developing countries, Ban Ki-moon, the new president and chair of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), unveiled his vision for a more sustainable path by helping countries in their transition to greener economies and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“We at GGGI need a much greater capacity to help member states in their transition to sustainable development and also to adapt to climate change,” said Ban Ki-moon, who previously served as the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations, in his first press conference as the President of the Assembly and Chair of the Council of GGGI on March 27 in Seoul."Countries must shift their economies towards environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive pathways." --Ban Ki-moon

Headquartered in the heart of Seoul, GGGI has 28 member states and employs staff from more than 40 countries, with some 26 projects currently in operation. These include green cities, water and sanitation, sustainable landscapes, sustainable energy and cross-cutting strategies for financing mechanisms.

As part of GGGIs growth path, Ban hopes to add new members like Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland and France.

“We need more members, particularly from those countries that would be in a position to render the financial and technological support for the developing countries which otherwise would not have much capacity to mitigate or adapt to the changing climate situation. That’s why 28 countries are not a reasonable size as an international organization. We need more member states, particularly from those OECD member states,” said Ban.

“(For that), I’ll continue to use my capacity as chair of GGGI and also I will try to use my network as a former secretary-general of the United Nations,” he added. “To implement the Paris Agreement, countries must shift their economies towards environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive pathways – which we call green growth.”

Environmentalists have warned that most developed countries are falling short of their pledges to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The future of global cooperation on the issue was clouded after US President Donald Trump’s decision last June to withdraw the US from the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

“This (withdrawal by Trump) is politically suicidal and economically irresponsible as the leader of the most powerful and the most responsible country. Moreover, this is scientifically wrong,” Ban, who has been a vocal critic of the move, said in Seoul this week.

“I sincerely hope President Trump will change and understand the gravity, seriousness and urgency of this situation, in which we must take action now. Otherwise, we’ll have to regret [the consequences] for succeeding generations, humanity and this earth.”

The new GGGI chair also discussed his transition from the secretary general of a global body with 193 member countries to his leadership of GGGI, which is mandated to recommend development solutions for developing countries.

“First, GGGI is committed to achieving the same vision that I’ve pursued for the past decade. Second, GGGI is the right place to add my own experiences and passions with which I had led the United Nations.

“To achieve GGGI’s goals, I will make the most of my own experiences. If the United Nations is dealing with internationally divisive political issues, GGGI is addressing the issue on which the whole humanity is united with their full awareness of its compelling mission.”

The appointment of Ban Ki-moon as the new Assembly President and GGGI Council Chair became effective on February 20 following the unanimous agreement by members of the GGGI Assembly, the Institute’s governing body.

 

 

Dr. Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of GGGI, spoke about GGGI’s key achievements in 2017.

He said that “2017 was an excellent year for GGGI, in which we helped mobilize 524 million dollars in green and climate finance to support developing countries achieve their green growth plans.”

He said this money would be used by member countries to, for example, increase climate resilience in agriculture in Ethiopia, install solar energy plus battery storage in eight islands in Indonesia, build a green housing project in Rwanda, and prevent deforestation in Colombia.

GGGI also continued to support governments to develop green growth plans and policies, for example, a Green Growth Plan for Sonora State in Mexico, new energy efficiency laws in Mongolia, and an NDC Implementation Plan for Fiji.

Rijsberman added that GGGI has forged a strong strategic partnership with the Green Climate Fund. As of March 2018, 15 of GGGI’s member and partner countries have elected GGGI to be their delivery partner for their GCF Readiness projects. The GCF Board recently approved two direct access grants to GGGI Member countries supported by GGGI, namely a 50-million-dollar grant for Ethiopia and a 35-million-dollar project for Rwanda.

“With Mr. Ban’s leadership, I am confident that GGGI will be able to quickly expand its partnerships and memberships and mobilize greater results – championing green growth and climate resilience,” added Dr. Rijsberman.

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LDC GRADUATION: What it means for Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/ldc-graduation-means-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ldc-graduation-means-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/ldc-graduation-means-bangladesh/#respond Tue, 20 Mar 2018 12:13:11 +0000 Fahmida Khatun http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154902 Dr Fahmida Khatun is the executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

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Illustration: John Tomac

By Fahmida Khatun
Mar 20 2018 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

On March 16, 2018, for the second time in the history of independent Bangladesh, the country was adorned with a crown for its achievements in development. The first time was in 2015 when it upgraded itself to the World Bank’s “lower middle income” category by increasing its Gross National Income.

By becoming eligible for graduation from LDC, Bangladesh has taken its status to a new height. The LDC category was introduced by the United Nations in 1971 when there were 25 LDCs. In 2018, the number has increased to 47. So far, only five countries were able to graduate from the LDC group, including Botswana, Cape Verde, Maldives, Samoa and Equatorial Guinea. Bangladesh is the only country that met all three criteria for graduation including GNI per capita, Human Assets Index, and Economic Vulnerability Index.

This graduation will bring a lot of opportunities for Bangladesh and quite a few challenges as well. There will be benefits but there will be costs to pay also. Overcoming these challenges is critical for a smooth graduation process.

The new status will help in branding Bangladesh. Investors will be interested to invest in the country given its strength in certain areas such as the size of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), exports and population compared to other LDCs. These will help Bangladesh’s credit worthiness which is reflected through better credit rating. Bangladesh will have more opportunities for taking commercial loans from the international market at a competitive interest rate. Such branding will help it to mobilise resources from the global market through sovereign bond. The private sector will also have the opportunity to generate capital from the global financial market.

The other impact will be reflected through the cost of development finance and higher debt servicing liabilities due to the cessation of access to concessional finance for LDCs. Over the years, Bangladesh has transformed itself from an aid-dependent country into a trade-dependent one. However, for poverty alleviation, social sector activities and infrastructural development, the role of official development assistance cannot be undermined. As a lower-middle-income country, Bangladesh is no more eligible for low interest loans. After graduation, Bangladesh has to go for blended finance that includes loans from the development institutions and other sources with a high interest rate and shorter repayment period. However, Bangladesh should also explore more resources from institutions such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), New Development Bank (NDB) and other commercial sources.

Bangladesh’s major challenge will be to face “preference erosion” due to the LDC graduation. Bangladesh is entitled to have duty-free access to the European market under the “Everything But Arms” initiative. This is a huge opportunity for the country as more than 60 percent of its export goes to the European market. Except for the apparel exports to the USA, Bangladesh receives duty-free market access for all products in all developed countries. Even some developing countries such as India provide duty-free market access for all products, and China for more than a thousand tariff lines. Due to the graduation, Bangladesh will lose about 8 percent of its total exports because of the imposition of additional tariff on its exports by 6.7 percent without a preferential treatment. A Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) study reveals that the loss will be equivalent to USD 2.7 billion.

After graduation in 2024, there will be a grace period of another 3 years when Bangladesh can enjoy all LDC-specific benefits. So there are approximately 10 years for the country to prepare itself to start the new journey. Bangladesh needs to prepare for a smooth graduation by taking into account a few issues.

First, the overall capability of the economy has to be improved. This should be achieved through diversification of the economy, technological upgradation, training and skill development of human resources, and institutional strengthening. In order to attract foreign investment, the economy has to go through structural changes, achieve resource efficiency, and improve productivity. This is the age of artificial intelligence and robotics. Bangladesh has to gear up to face the challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The labour force displaced due to technological upgradation should be able to find themselves engaged in self-employment through micro, small and medium enterprises.

Second, in order to make up for the loss to be incurred by the preference erosion and end of various international support measures, Bangladesh must improve its export competitiveness and diversify both markets and products for export. Besides, Bangladesh has to play a proactive role at the regional and sub-regional initiatives, such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN), Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM), and Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), for more meaningful partnerships. At the same time, it should remain active at the World Trade Organization to realise any potential benefit. In the post-graduation period, the country will still be eligible for Generalised System of Preferences or “GSP Plus” benefits for market access. In order to access this, countries usually have to comply with stringent conditions such as improved work conditions, higher poverty alleviation efforts, women’s empowerment and reduction of carbon emission.

While celebrating Bangladesh’s latest achievement, we have to recognise that we are facing a world full of challenges and crises. We have to be prepared for a world increasingly battling with conservatism, protectionism, extremism, refugee crises and confrontations. At the same time, the world has also set ambitious plans such as SDGs to be fulfilled by 2030. Bangladesh is committed to these goals. It is expected that implementation of these goals will also help its smooth graduation from the LDC group.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Dr Fahmida Khatun is the executive director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

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A Breath of Fresh Air in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/breath-fresh-air-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=breath-fresh-air-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/breath-fresh-air-india/#respond Tue, 20 Mar 2018 00:44:02 +0000 Ranjit Devraj http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154898 With India’s citizens clamouring for breathable air and efficient energy options, the country’s planners are more receptive than ever to explore sustainable development options, says Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Rijsberman, who was in India to attend the first International Solar Alliance Summit on March 11, told IPS in an […]

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Vehicle ownership in India is projected to hit 400 million by 2040 from the 170 million recorded in 2015, which could prompt a five-fold increase in poisonous gases emitted by cars and trucks. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Vehicle ownership in India is projected to hit 400 million by 2040 from the 170 million recorded in 2015, which could prompt a five-fold increase in poisonous gases emitted by cars and trucks. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Ranjit Devraj
NEW DELHI, Mar 20 2018 (IPS)

With India’s citizens clamouring for breathable air and efficient energy options, the country’s planners are more receptive than ever to explore sustainable development options, says Frank Rijsberman, Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

Rijsberman, who was in India to attend the first International Solar Alliance Summit on March 11, told IPS in an interview that the GGGI was prepared to support the Indian government to explore energy alternatives and improve the country’s growth model.

India is not yet a member country of the GGGI but is recognised as a partner, says Rijsberman. He points to the fact that GGGI has had small but successful projects running in India such as a collaboration to get India’s first electric buses running in Bangalore city.

“The electric buses are an example of how local level innovation can yield positive results in energy efficiency,” said Rijsberman. “The success of this project is in line with India’s Intended  Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) commitments to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.

GGGI’s recognition of the potential for expanding its activity in India can be seen in the fact that  the organization has been recruiting top managerial talent for its India country office.

Frank Rijsberman. Credit: GGGI

“For us, it is a bit of restart in India trying to position GGGI well at a time when the Indian government clearly wants to have more leadership internationally and project its own cleantech or green growth initiatives,” Rijsberman said.

So far, the successes have not been on the scale of what India is capable of, says Rijsberman. “In other countries we sit with ministries — the ministry of planning and investment in Vietnam and Laos for instance — and help with national green growth strategy or in the next five-year plan.

“Last year, said Rijsberman, “we helped member countries get 500 million dollars’ worth of green and climate finance – we’ve had no such breakthrough in India.”

Still, Rijsberman finds encouraging the “growing concern over deteriorating air quality and other things that is convincing citizens and politicians that the quality of growth really matters — we are looking at what GGGI can do to help the Indian government shift to a model of growth that is cleaner and more sustainable.”

India has experience in increasing the share of renewable energy in its overall energy mix and GGGI is keen to work with the government, particularly the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the International Solar Alliance (ISA), to share India’s expertise, and knowhow with other developing countries facing similar developmental challenges

“India has wonderful experiences that can be shared with countries like Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and in other cases we could help share experiences from other countries that could support India’s green growth initiatives,” Rijsberman said.  

It has not all been smooth sailing though. Last year, Rijsberman said, GGGI had worked with the MNRE to find a combination of financing from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency and other sources to improve India’s small and medium industries. “In the end we could not get the seal of approval from the environment ministry — so it has got a bit stuck.”

An important international finance mechanism, the GCF is  mandated to support developing countries to access international climate finance by developing projects to achieve renewable energy targets.

India country representative for GGGI, Shantanu Gotmare, said the project has not actually been shelved and is still in process. “We haven’t given it up yet,” said Gotmare, a career bureaucrat who has taken a break from government work to lead the GGGI in India.

Gotmare explained that much of GGGI’s work, so far, has been with provincial governments like those of Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab states. “We have developed comprehensive green growth strategies and supported these state governments in adopting integrated analytical approaches to assess green growth challenges and prioritise opportunities in energy, water, agriculture and forestry.

“We supported these three state governments in implementing specific green growth opportunities by formulating detailed project proposals, policy implementation roadmaps, and capacity building initiatives,” Gotmare said.

The plan for the immediate future is to scale up GGGI’s programmatic activities to launch green growth interventions at the national level.

“Our aim is to support the government to deliver on its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ambition by helping to develop policy frameworks, mobilising domestic and international climate finance and helping to introduce clean technologies and finally to create and share green growth knowledge and best practices,” Gotmare said.

There is an immediate opportunity to finance off-grid energy (OGE) access to millions of households in India that have limited or no access to electricity. GGGI is designing an innovative finance mechanism to support the government’s goal of ‘electricity for all’.

“This is a plan that is expected to simultaneously achieve social, economic and environmental  benefits,” Gotmare said.

According to Gotmare, as India’s citizens demand more power, it is a challenge for the government to make sure that there are energy options that are cleaner than the traditional coal or diesel-fired power plants. “This is precisely where GGGI comes in,” he said.

GGGI’s experience, says Rijsberman, allows it to work closely with the government to rapidly ramp up India’s electrification plans in a clean and sustainable way and use solar solutions to extend electrification services to India’s most marginalised households.

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