Inter Press ServiceAsia-Pacific – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 23 Oct 2018 00:54:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Solar Power Lights up the World’s Fastest-Growing Refugee Camphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/solar-power-lights-worlds-fastest-growing-refugee-camp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=solar-power-lights-worlds-fastest-growing-refugee-camp http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/solar-power-lights-worlds-fastest-growing-refugee-camp/#respond Mon, 22 Oct 2018 12:32:49 +0000 Dr Iftikher Mahmood http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158293 Dr Iftikher Mahmood is Founder and President, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh

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Credit: HOPE Foundation

By Dr Iftikher Mahmood
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Oct 22 2018 (IPS)

Solar energy has long powered homes, businesses and portable electronics. Now, it’s powering a field hospital in the middle of the world’s fastest-growing refugee camp.

Last month, my organization, the HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh, opened the HOPE Field Hospital for Women in the Kutupalong mega-camp for Rohingya refugees.

Here, the population density is five times above the United Nations’ recommended standard for refugee camps, and there is a dire need for more health services among this vulnerable community.

UN Women estimates that more than half of the refugee population are women and girls—and UNFPA has estimated over 64,000 pregnant women will give birth this year—many of whom have been traumatized and are suffering from injuries caused by fires, brutality, rape, gunshots, and more.

The HOPE Field Hospital for Women is the first to be opened by a Bangladeshi NGO, and the only hospital in the camp that specializes in care for women. But there is another important distinction that we are equally proud of: our field hospital is significantly powered by solar energy, at a scale not seen anywhere else in the camps.

Credit: HOPE Foundation

Solar power is unique in its ability to be brought into remote areas, to be pollution free, and to scale easily. Before the new solar installations, there were numerous times when a lack of power put women and children at risk.

One example is during the recent monsoon season, when our midwives found themselves providing care in the dark after flooding brought power outages. They worked in the conditions they had to, but as you would imagine, they were quite concerned that in the dark they might make a mistake that could harm mother or the baby. But, when a mother goes into labor, you can’t exactly tell a baby to wait for the lights to come back on.

It’s not just monsoons that cause loss of power. The hot, humid conditions in southern Bangladesh are often responsible for disruptions to the electrical service.

This is another reason why it was important to HOPE to make sure that solar energy played a key role in powering our new facility. A generous donation from the family foundation of 8minutenergy Renewables’ CEO, called the Abundant Future Foundation, helped us do just that. Five solar-powered clinics, custom-built by SOLARKIOSK in Germany, now power our field hospital’s most important and power-dependent services.

They’re ensuring that labor and delivery rooms stay well lit, that our sterilization units maintain power and that our medications and vaccinations remain refrigerated at the appropriate temperature. We’ve also incorporated solar into other areas of the hospital power grid, using this technology to fuel our indoor lighting as well as lighting around the perimeter of the hospital.

Credit: HOPE Foundation

Now, our midwives won’t have to worry about delivering in the dark. And babies who need incubators and specialized care will stay safe and warm.

Nearly one million Rohingya refugees have crossed the border to Bangladesh since the Rohingya influx began a little over a year ago.

This is the world’s fastest-growing humanitarian crisis. The last thing any aid organization wants to have to worry about is loss of power during an operation or a life-saving intervention.

Solar will be a game-changer for our ability to provide high-quality, uninterrupted care, and there is room for growth in this area. Other organizations have utilized solar power on a smaller scale in the camps. For example, UNFPA has distributed solar-powered LED lights to all of the health facilities in the camps that are open 24/7.

But investment in renewable energy on a larger scale could provide a tremendous payoff in terms of lives saved here in Bangladesh, and in refugee camps around the globe. In Jordan last year, UNHCR opened a solar plant in the Za’atari refugee camp, which supports 80,000 Syrian refugees.

In Kenya, you’ll find Africa’s largest solar-powered borehole, providing clean drinking water for refugees in the Dadaab camp in the country’s arid northern border. Renewable energy is good for the planet and the pocketbook, too, reducing emissions and saving precious dollars that aid organizations can apply toward providing critical services and procuring medicines, materials and staff to help alleviate suffering.

The HOPE Field Hospital for Women is the first facility to apply solar technology at such a scale in the Rohingya camps. Hopefully we’re just the first of many.

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Excerpt:

Dr Iftikher Mahmood is Founder and President, HOPE Foundation for Women and Children of Bangladesh

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What Accounts For Southeast Asia’s Phenomenal Success?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/accounts-southeast-asias-phenomenal-success/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=accounts-southeast-asias-phenomenal-success http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/accounts-southeast-asias-phenomenal-success/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 09:47:01 +0000 Chang Yong Rhee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158222 Southeast Asia has made extraordinary strides in recent decades. Growth in per capita incomes has been among the fastest in the world, and last year the region was the fourth largest contributor to global growth after China, India, and the United States. Living standards have improved dramatically. Poverty rates are down sharply. What accounts for […]

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By Chang Yong Rhee
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 17 2018 (IPS)

Southeast Asia has made extraordinary strides in recent decades.

Growth in per capita incomes has been among the fastest in the world, and last year the region was the fourth largest contributor to global growth after China, India, and the United States. Living standards have improved dramatically. Poverty rates are down sharply.

Chang Yong Rhee. Credit: IMF

What accounts for this record of success?

Openness to overseas trade and investment is a big part of the answer. Malaysia and Thailand have established themselves as global manufacturing powerhouses, churning out cars, consumer electronics, and computer chips.

Indonesia and the Philippines are among the world’s fastest-growing large, domestic-demand-led emerging markets. Singapore is a major financial and commercial hub.

Frontier economies such as Cambodia, Lao P.D.R, Myanmar, and Vietnam are exiting from decades of central planning after joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and integrating with regional supply chains, particularly in China.

Sound economic management has also played a vital role. To be sure, the Asian crisis of 1997 was a setback, but Southeast Asia bounced back quickly and emerged stronger. Banks were restructured and financial regulation strengthened. Local currency bond markets were deepened to reduce dependence on volatile capital flows.

Rising prices and credit growth were brought under control as some countries moved toward adopting inflation targets and so-called macroprudential policies, which are designed to monitor and prevent risks to the financial system.

As a result, the region weathered the global financial crisis, but it will need to further strengthen its economies to handle short-term challenges, such as rising interest rates in the United States and other advanced economies, growing trade tensions, and slowing growth in China. It all adds up to greater uncertainty and more market turbulence for increasingly interdependent economies that have accumulated more debt.

In the longer term, though, more fundamental forces will test ASEAN leaders and populations. While Southeast Asia has significantly narrowed the gap separating it from the world’s richest nations, further progress is not preordained. The region cannot afford to rest easy; rising to the next level will call for a mutually reinforcing set of bold reforms.

Shifting demographics loom large among the coming challenges. In recent decades, the number of workers grew faster than the number of dependents, providing an impetus to economic growth. That demographic dividend is now starting to wane.

The working-age population continues to grow in Indonesia and the Philippines, but it is projected to shrink rapidly in other countries, including Thailand and Vietnam. Simply put, Southeast Asia risks growing old before it grows rich.

In response, Southeast Asian nations will have to beef up their pension systems and social safety nets to care for the growing ranks of older citizens. Bringing more people into the labor force, especially women, will help keep the growth engine humming.

With notable exceptions, such as in Vietnam, female labor participation rates remain low across Southeast Asia. Providing child care and flexible working arrangements can encourage more women to work.

Waning productivity growth is another obstacle. More advanced ASEAN economies are starting to lose some of their competitive advantage as wages rise. At the same time, automation and robotics are reducing demand for relatively unskilled labor; increasingly, manufacturing will require fewer, better-educated workers.

To move beyond middle- income status, the region will no longer be able to depend on the existing growth model of labor-intensive manufacturing for export.

Advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, while creating opportunities, present additional challenges. Workers will need education and training to prepare for the jobs of the digital age. Governments should also improve the business environment by investing more in research and development and upgrading roads, ports, and broadband infrastructure.

Of course, all this requires money. Taxes as a proportion of GDP, at 13 percent, are below the global average of over 15 percent. That will have to change if the region is to finance essential investments, unlock productivity growth, and prepare for an aging population.

But raising more money won’t be enough: strong policies and institutions will be needed to make sure that precious taxpayer money is spent wisely.

As trade patterns and technology reshape the competitive landscape, Southeast Asia will have to rely more on domestic demand and less on sales of goods outside the region. To that end, further integration will be needed.

ASEAN has significantly reduced tariff barriers to trade in manufactured goods; it should further reduce trade costs and open its markets more fully to trade in services and the movement of labor.

The goal of completing an ASEAN trade in services agreement by 2025 will be a big step. If living standards are to rise further, the region cannot rely indefinitely on low-wage, low-skill service jobs in corner shops and restaurants; it will have to train more scientists and programmers, as well as professionals such as home health aides to care for the elderly. Investing more in its people and opening markets to expertise and technologies from abroad would advance that goal.

Of course, we must always remember that the goal of rapid growth is to improve living standards for the many, not the few. To be sustainable and command broad social support, economic policies must ensure inclusive growth. Governments should strengthen social safety nets, encourage competition, and challenge entrenched interests.

The region has made huge strides since the founding of ASEAN more than half a century ago, but significant challenges remain. Thankfully, with the right policies, Southeast Asia can rely on the creativity, resilience, and dynamism of its people to meet those challenges. The IMF has been an important partner in the region’s development, and it stands ready to continue serving its Southeast Asian members in the future.

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Water: a Private Privilege, not a Community Resourcehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/water-private-privilege-not-community-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=water-private-privilege-not-community-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/water-private-privilege-not-community-resource/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 10:31:44 +0000 Shekhar Kapur http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158203 Shekhar Kapur* is director, actor and producer, who rose to international prominence with the 1998 Bollywood movie, Bandit Queen.

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By Shekhar Kapur
MUMBAI, India, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

Water is becoming a private privilege rather than a community resource. It is also one of the world’s most precious resources. As vital to the survival of the human species as the air that we breathe.

Yet while many of us take water for granted, readily buying a pair of jeans that take 7,600 litres of water to produce or luxuriating in power showers, 844 million people across the world still live without access to clean water. What’s more, an estimated four billion people face severe water scarcity for at least one month every year.

That is why I have created short animation Brides of the Well, with international development charity, WaterAid, adapted from one of my short stories. It tells the tale of Saraswati and Paras; two teenagers living in Punjab, northern India, who are forced into child marriage and a life of servitude, centred round walking long distances to collect water for their aging husbands.

The story, while fictional, tells a universal truth; that we are a world divided between the haves and the have-nots. That while many think nothing of turning on the tap for a glass of clean, safe water, millions of others are forced to walk long distances for this most basic necessity, often from contaminated sources; their health, education, livelihoods and dreams curtailed as a result.

Growing up in India, I would wake between 4am and 5am every day to fill tankards of water for the household because that was the only time it was available. Today, in Mumbai, I see people living in slums struggling to find a safe, clean water source while across the road, wealthier homes have endless supplies on tap.

In India, Saraswati and Paras are typical of a staggering 163 million people – including roughly 81 million women – living without access to clean water close to home, meaning it has the highest population of people in the world without access.

A lack of clean water close to home affects women and girls disproportionately throughout their lives, with many bearing the burden of walking long distances to collect water, often from contaminated sources.

This means that often girls have no choice but to drop out of school from an early age, missing their education and opportunities and – in some cases – making them more vulnerable to early marriage.

Each year, more people gain access to clean water, but at the same time India is facing severe water shortages, with 600 million people affected by a variety of challenges including falling groundwater levels, drought, demand from agriculture and industry, and poor water resource management; all of which are likely to intensify as the impacts of climate change take hold.

According to a government think tank, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply by 2030. India is by no means alone. These rising demands mean that this life-giving resource is increasingly under threat across the globe.

In January, authorities in Cape Town, warned of an impending ‘Day Zero’; when they would be forced to turn off the city’s taps after three consecutive years of drought. While in China, the country’s first National Census of Water showed that in the past quarter century, 28,000 riverbeds have vanished and groundwater levels are falling by one to three metres per year.

Saraswati and Paras might be works of fiction but their story – of lives centred round collecting water from drying wells – is a daily reality for millions of people across the world.

My hope is that Brides of the Well will impress upon people the injustices that result from not having clean water; of lives curtailed and dreams left unfulfilled simply because an accident of birth has denied them this most basic human right.

I hope it will act as a rallying cry for action, encouraging people to think more about where our water comes from, and call for better access for everyone everywhere.

The global water crisis is not a problem for the next generation to tackle; it is a problem playing out across our television screens and in our newspaper headlines today.

We need urgent action, not just from our governments, private companies and the international community to help people currently living without access to this most basic resource. Only then will people like Saraswati and Paras truly be free.

*Shekhar Kapur went on to direct the hugely popular and multi-award winning historical biopics of Queen Elizabeth I, Elizabeth and its sequel Elizabeth: The Golden Age. He has been the recipient of the Indian National Film Award, the BAFTA Award, the National Board of Review Award, and three Filmfare Awards. His most recent project,Vishwaroopam II, is due for release this year.

Shekhar Kapur worked with WaterAid to create the animation Brides of the Well, which highlights the global water crisis. Watch it at www.wateraid.org/bridesofthewell.

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Excerpt:

Shekhar Kapur* is director, actor and producer, who rose to international prominence with the 1998 Bollywood movie, Bandit Queen.

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The Earthquake in Indonesia: How Collaboration Impacts the Global Water Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/earthquake-indonesia-collaboration-impacts-global-water-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=earthquake-indonesia-collaboration-impacts-global-water-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/earthquake-indonesia-collaboration-impacts-global-water-crisis/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 09:57:31 +0000 George C. Greene http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158197 George C. Greene, IV is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Water Mission*, a nonprofit Christian engineering organization that designs, builds, and implements safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas

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By George C. Greene, IV
SOUTH CAROLINA, USA, Oct 16 2018 (IPS)

On Friday, September 28, the world first heard the devastating news out of Indonesia that a 7.5 magnitude earthquake had struck the island of Sulawesi. The quake caused substantial soil liquefaction — where the earth literally turned to liquid and started to flow — with entire homes sinking into the ground. It also triggered a tsunami, confirmed to be as high as 23 feet, that devastated the coastal areas.

The photos coming out of the impacted region are mind-numbing and include images of cars wrapped around poles and ships that were washed inland sitting on dry land. The stories are heartbreaking and range from reports of children away from their parents at camp being found dead to an older man who is now the only one left alive in his family of 14 people.

When a disaster strikes, safe water is usually the number one need. Water Mission mobilizes personnel and water treatment equipment to provide aid to affected people as quickly as possible. We build and preposition Living Water Treatment Systems — our patented, mobile treatment systems that utilize rapid sand filtration and chlorination.

Once onsite, one system can be set up and functional in two to four hours, providing enough safe water for up to 5,000 people daily. In Indonesia, we were fortunate to already have an established presence, dating back to 2005, with offices on the islands of Sumatra and West Timor.

With twenty staff members and ten Living Water Treatment Systems prepositioned in the country, we have been able to respond quickly and work with our indigenous team to reach the communities most in need.

Aware of the logistical unknowns related to moving our equipment from Sumatra and West Timor to the impacted island of Sulawesi, we also airfreighted equipment from our headquarters in North Charleston, South Carolina, to enable a diversified approach to delivering aid as fast as possible.

We are fortunate to have a unique relationship with FedEx, one of our corporate partners and sponsors, and they expedited a shipment of two additional Living Water Treatment Systems and approximately 1.1 million P&G Purifier of Water packets.

The P&G Purifier of Water packets will provide 11 million liters of clean water, enough to sustain approximately 75,000 people with 20 liters a day for one week. Each Living Water Treatment System can provide enough safe water for an entire community.

The majority of this work is being made possible by another corporate partner and sponsor, the Poul due Jensen Foundation, who offered a significant grant that is allowing us to provide safe water to more than 75,000 people in and around Palu — a large city on Sulawesi that was devastated by the disaster.

The death toll is now more than 2,000 people, and it is estimated that more than 5,000 people are still missing. Conditions are horrendous, and we feel compelled to raise awareness because the need for basic access to safe water and sanitation is critical for the survival of people in the impacted region.

Our goal is to meet this need and help bring stability to a tenuous situation — people are hanging on by a thread while simultaneously trying to process what happened and grieve the loss of loved ones.

Logistics remain challenging as the Palu airport was severely damaged. Our Indonesian team is making the journey to Palu from all across the country, and we are working to bring clean water as quickly as possible while building relationships with the government and local communities in need.

Our team in Indonesia is experienced and equipped with water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) best practices and sustainability methods. Having completed more than 150 safe water projects in Indonesia, serving more than 340,000 people, our indigenous staff will not only respond immediately, they will stay and work to help local communities rebuild with the goal of providing long-term access to safe water.

In the coming days, having access to safe water is imperative to ward off the threat of disease and continued loss of life. Unfortunately, more than 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to safe water and more than 4.4 billion lack access to adequate sanitation.

This is not a problem for any organization to face alone. Rather, through continued collaboration, we believe humanitarians, nonprofits, governments, and communities can come together and forge an alliance to address one of the world’s most basic needs: water.

Our hope is that, even after this disaster vanishes from the headlines, people will not forget but will unite and advocate to change the harrowing statistics. Every day, 2,300 people die from waterborne illnesses directly tied to a lack of access to safe water and compromised sanitation hygiene and each one of these deaths is preventable.

In disasters, conditions are infinitely worse, compelling us to respond as quickly as possible. We know that people need safe water to live, and we are working diligently on multiple fronts to address this need in Indonesia.

As we continue to respond, working with local communities to provide clean water to impacted people in the region, we are asking for your support. First, to raise awareness about the global water crisis. Second, to join us in prayer for all the families who are mourning loved ones and facing the daunting task of rebuilding.

And finally, to partner with us in our efforts. Everyone has the ability to create change, and I encourage people to think about what they have to offer in four different areas: time, talent, treasure, and influence. It can be overwhelming to read the reports and hear the staggering news that more than 2.4 million people have been impacted by this earthquake and tsunami. But by joining us in our efforts, you can help restore dignity and bring hope to the survivors.

It is encouraging to collaborate with the Poul due Jensen Foundation, the FedEx Cares Delivering for Good Initiative, and P&G, demonstrating our common bond and commitment to helping others when disaster strikes. When we work together and empower each other, we can make a bigger impact and tackle overwhelming problems like the global water crisis.

Our Indonesian team will continue to respond, and we are ready to deploy more resources as needed. If you are interested in updates on our relief efforts in the Palu region, you can follow online at watermission.org.

*Since 2001, Water Mission has used innovative technology and engineering expertise to provide access to safe water for nearly 4 million people in 55 countries.

Note: All photos can be attributed to Water Mission.

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Excerpt:

George C. Greene, IV is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Water Mission*, a nonprofit Christian engineering organization that designs, builds, and implements safe water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) solutions for people in developing countries and disaster areas

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Sex Offender Registry is Not Enough to Curb Sexual Violence Against Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/sex-offender-registry-not-enough-curb-sexual-violence-women/#respond Mon, 15 Oct 2018 11:48:52 +0000 Elsa DSilva and Quratulain Fatima http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158180 India recently launched a sex offender registry to deter sex offenders from perpetrating crimes against women and children by indicating that the government is keeping track of them. The personal details of 440,000 sex offenders who have been convicted for various crimes like “eve-teasing”, child sexual abuse, rape and gang rape will be registered in this database […]

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Protesters gather at a candlelight vigil in New Delhi. Credit: Sujoy Dhar/IPS

By Elsa D'Silva and Quratulain Fatima
Oct 15 2018 (IPS)

India recently launched a sex offender registry to deter sex offenders from perpetrating crimes against women and children by indicating that the government is keeping track of them. The personal details of 440,000 sex offenders who have been convicted for various crimes like “eve-teasing”, child sexual abuse, rape and gang rape will be registered in this database and accessible to law enforcement.

The creation of the registry is hailed by many as a welcome move in India, where violence against women and girls is pandemic. Recently, the Thomson Reuters Survey stated that India is the most dangerous country in the world with regards to sexual violence. From the start of this year, there has been a series of gang rapes of little girls ranging from babies to teenagers in all parts of the country –  NorthSouth, WestNorthEast and Central India

Neighbouring country Pakistan does not have a sex offender registry but is equally bad when it comes to violence against women and sex offences. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), in Pakistan an incident of rape occurs every two hours and 70 percent of women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime by their intimate partners and 93 percent women experience some form of sexual violence in public places in their lifetime.

Measures to prevent sex offenses are needed in both countries and each country can learn from each other’s successful prevention programs. However, only workable solutions should be replicated, and a sex offender registry is not one.

Evidence suggests that sex offender registries have failed to reduce sex crimes and have made rehabilitation of offenders difficult. In fact, registries might work for other forms of crime but not for the sexually deviant

Sex offender registries exist in many countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Israel and the Republic of Ireland. Sexual violence is a problem in each of those countries, too, but studies have shown that sex offender registries have little or no effect on crime prevention or recidivism. Furthermore, evidence from these countries suggests that sex offender registries have failed to reduce sex crimes and have made rehabilitation of offenders difficult. In fact, registries might work for other forms of crime but not for the sexually deviant.

Further, we think making the details public, which is how it works in the United States and is what some people in India want, is dangerous as it would further increase the risk for women and girls rather than protect them. Though the government has assured that the registry would have multiple layers of security, there are doubts that the names and identities of the victims would be revealed. The Indian authorities are planning to link the details of the perpetrators to the Aadhar database which has biometric information of the person. Reports have indicated that the Aadhar database is itself not secure and for as little as $8 one can access personal information of people.

Moreover, Googling and knowing that a sex offender lives next door does not ensure that you can google your way to safety since safety from sex offences entail more than sex offender registration laws and a registry. Research shows that most sex offenders are relatives or people known to their victims but systems that put in place sex offender registry assume that sex offenders are strangers.

Many sex offenders are not even reported – particularly in South Asia due to the cultural stigma, faulty police procedures and lengthy court cases – and they aren’t included on any registration/notification system.

Instead of implementing a sex offender registry and seeing that as a solution, more efforts should focus on addressing the underlying issues, like patriarchy and improving the effectiveness of the justice system. Specifically, we recommend the governments of India and Pakistan concentrate on the following measures:

  • Sex education in school curriculum to educate people about sex offences and teach them ways to have responsible, healthy and consensual relationships.
  • Advocacy efforts to break down social taboos around this topic and make it easier to discuss and have a dialogue in the family and community about sex offences.
  • Allocation of public resources toward the rehabilitation of sex offenders with a high risk of repeating their crimes. Research suggests that psychological treatment and cognitive behavioural treatment can reduce recidivism amongst sex offenders.
  • Including women in all policy formulation, including the passage of any relevant laws. They are the stakeholders most at risk of sexual violence and they are in a better position to provide guidelines for policies aiming to stop sex offences.
  • Training police officers to be sensitive to the needs of victim and knowledgeable about the relevant laws so they can be a resource to individuals who want to report crimes. For example, Sweden has a high reporting of sexual violence because the creation of a strong eco-system, a feminist mindset and sensitive police have made it easier to break the silence.
  • Ensuring quick and swift punishment for convicted sex offenses. Long court cases in the face of lingering social stigma puts many victims off reporting sex offences. Policy makers must take a hands-on approach to swiftly dispense justice in sex offences.

Elsa D’Silva is the Founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation (Safecity) and works on women’s rights issues in India. She is a 2018 Yale World Fellow and a 2015 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow  her on Twitter, @elsamariedsilva. 

Quratulain Fatima is a policy practitioner working extensively in rural and conflict-ridden areas of Pakistan with a focus on gender inclusive development and conflict prevention. She is a 2018 Aspen New Voices Fellow. Follow her on Twitter, @moodee_q.

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Indonesia Unveils Low Carbon Development Frameworkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/indonesia-unveils-low-carbon-development-framework/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indonesia-unveils-low-carbon-development-framework http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/indonesia-unveils-low-carbon-development-framework/#comments Fri, 12 Oct 2018 20:47:23 +0000 Kanis Dursin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158144 Indonesia is convinced that low carbon development and a green economy are key to further boosting economic growth without sacrificing environmental sustainability and social inclusivity. Low carbon development, also called low emission development strategies or low carbon growth plans, refers to economic development plans or strategies that promote low emissions and or climate-resilient economic growth. […]

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A woman works in her vegetable patch at the foot of Mount Sinabung, North Sumatra, Indonesia. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause global warming on our now beleaguered planet Earth.Credit: Kafil Yamin/IPS

By Kanis Dursin
JAKARTA, Oct 12 2018 (IPS)

Indonesia is convinced that low carbon development and a green economy are key to further boosting economic growth without sacrificing environmental sustainability and social inclusivity.

Low carbon development, also called low emission development strategies or low carbon growth plans, refers to economic development plans or strategies that promote low emissions and or climate-resilient economic growth.

“It is timely for Indonesia to put in place sustainable development principles that balance the economic, social and environmental aspects. In this context, the government of Indonesia has committed to become the pioneer of sustainable development by initiating the LCDI [Low Carbon Development Indonesia report] and at the same time, preparing and implementing green financing mechanisms,” minister of national development planning (BAPPENAS) Bambang Brodjonegoro said.

He was launching the LCDI report that spells out the country’s green development path at the “Conference on Low Carbon Development and Green Economy” organised by the Indonesian government on Thursday, Oct. 11.

Organised as part of the 2018 International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group Annual Meetings that run through Oct. 14, the conference was co-hosted by several international institutions that help Indonesia in mapping and designing green growth programmes, including the UK Climate Change Unit, the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), the Indonesian Climate Change Trust Fund, the New Climate Economy, and the World Resources Institute Indonesia.

The renewed stance towards green growth comes as the archipelago island nation is recovering from a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and a resultant tsunami that hit its Sulawesi Island on Sept. 28. There were an estimated 2,000 casualities.

It was followed Thursday Oct. 11 by another earthquake of 6.0 magnitude which hit the tourist area of Bali, where the current IMF-World Bank Group Annual Meetings are being held.

Indonesia is one of the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) that cause global warming on our now beleaguered planet Earth.

In 2012, Indonesia produced a total of 1,453 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (GtCOe), an increase of 0,459 GtCOe from the year 2000, according to the first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) Indonesia submitted to the United Nations. At least 47.8 percent of the country’s GHG emissions came from land-use change and forestry, including peatland fires, followed by emissions from the energy sector, at 34.9 percent.

In 2015, Indonesia set an ambitious target to reduce GHG emissions by 29 percent under the business-as-usual scenario, and by 41 percent with international assistance and financial support by 2030. The same target was put in the NDC submitted to the U.N. under the Paris Agreement, which seeks to slow down warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

Marcel Silvius, GGGI Indonesia country representative at his office in Jakarta, Indonesia. Credit: Kanis Dursin/IPS

“The pledge puts Indonesia in a vulnerable position,” Marcel Silvius, Indonesia Country Representative of GGGI, an inter-governmental organisation that supports the implementation of green growth in Indonesia, told IPS. “It sets the agenda for former, current, and future governments.

“That is very brave, it is something that is lacking in other governments. There are very strong positive signals that Indonesia is a country that other countries look at as an example and they want Indonesia to succeed,” he added

“Countries that are not so forthcoming in their pledges will receive less foreign collaboration. So, it is all positive for Indonesia. I think Indonesia is leading on certain fronts, one clearly is on the peat land restoration, only a few countries put so much emphasis on rehabilitation of this ecosystem, Indonesia is one and Russia is another,” Silvius said.

In September, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo instructed related ministries and regional governments to stop issuing new permits for oil palm plantations, which are often blamed for forest and peatland fires, and to review existing ones for possible revocation.

In January 2016, the government established the Badan Restorasi Gambut or Peatland Restoration Agency. Directly under the president, the agency is tasked with restoring 20,000 square kilometres of degraded peat forest by 2020.

“I think Indonesia in many respects has been braver compared to other countries such as the United States, [and] even Europe. Indonesia has taken the right steps that we don’t see in other countries, including in developed countries,” Silvius said.

He also praised Indonesia’s decision to organise the conference on low carbon development and the green economy during the IMF-World Bank Group Annual Meetings in Bali.

“The event gives a strong policy signal and creates a proper investment climate for organisations like the IMF and the World Bank and countries who are members of the World Bank and the IMF. The government also needs to give this kind of signals to the private sector,” Silvius told IPS in the interview in Jakarta.

The conference included panel discussions featuring several prominent speakers including former vice president Boediono, former trade minister Mari Elka Pangestu, Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, CEO of Unilever and Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Paul Polman, and LCDI Commissioner and Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate Lord Nicholas Stern.

During the discussions, the speakers and participants shared their knowledge on the green economy, including business models that incorporate inclusive development and GHG emission reductions and ensure maintenance and restoration of natural capital, sectorial financing priorities and challenges, as well as strategies on how to effectively implement low carbon development.

The LCDI serves as a guideline in designing a development plan. If followed accordingly, the framework is “expected to accelerate rapid economic growth, reduce the poverty rate, and decrease greenhouse gas” emissions.

“To underline this commitment of implementing LCDI, the ministry of national development planning will mainstream the LCDI report on low carbon development framework into our next five years 2020-2024 National Medium Term Development Plan. This will become the very first ever low carbon development plan in the history of Indonesia,” said Brodjonegoro.

Recent global research suggested that bold climate action could deliver 26 trillion dollars in economic benefits in the form of new jobs and better health outcomes globally from now to 2030, compared to the business-as-usual approach.

Frank Rijsberman, Director General of GGGI, explained that foreign and domestic capital was available for the development of green projects, but that private investors require a sound supportive policy framework to help de-risk their investments in innovative green projects.

“There needs to be a strong collaboration of trusted global institutions and leaders from government and the private sector that are committed to green growth. This can certainly bring a significant change, which is very much needed by Indonesia for a better, cleaner, and more prosperous future,” Rijsberman said.

Meanwhile, the World Bank hailed Indonesia’s implementation of its NDC but warned that the current policy framework was still a challenge.

“Indonesia is making significant strides in the implementation of its NDC, including in aspects of mitigation and adaptation. However, the current policy, regulatory, and governance framework for forested landscapes remains a challenge,” Ann Jeannette Glauber, lead Environment Specialist for the World Bank, told IPS via email.

The World Bank, Glauber said, has worked with the Indonesian government, private sector, and civil society to support the country’s efforts to move toward a green growth trajectory, including providing knowledge, partnership and financing support.

“We continue to stand ready to support the government of Indonesia with technical assistance and financing support to meet their green growth objectives at their request,” Glauber said.

And what is the way forward for the country? With all the pledges and programmes to cut gas emissions, Indonesia, according to Silvius, needs support.

“I don’t think any government in the world can do these things on their own including developed countries. There should be real collaboration and transfer of knowledge between countries, financial collaboration and assistance. Indonesia cannot do it on its own,” he said.

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Transforming Food Systems for Resilience in Africa & Asiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/transforming-food-systems-resilience-africa-asia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=transforming-food-systems-resilience-africa-asia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/transforming-food-systems-resilience-africa-asia/#respond Fri, 12 Oct 2018 06:08:53 +0000 Nathanial Matthews and Deon Nel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158118 This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16.

 
Nathanial Matthews is Program Director and Deon Nel, CEO of the Global Resilience Partnership

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A Filipino farmer reviews FarmerLink SMS messages. Credit: Grameen Foundation

By Nathanial Matthews and Deon Nel
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, Oct 12 2018 (IPS)

Our food system requires fundamental transformation. Disasters and shocks, from extreme flooding to persistent drought, are occurring more frequently and lasting longer, threatening the food security and livelihoods of millions of small farmers across the globe.

Diets are shifting towards less diverse and less nutritious food, as populations become increasingly urban. The resource base that agriculture relies on is dwindling, and carbon emissions and land use associated with the sector need to be kept in check. In 2017, 124 million people faced crisis food in security across 51 countries, an increase of 16 million from 2016 (FSIN 2018).

Neither business as usual, nor change as usual will deliver the transformation necessary to scale and secure people’s wellbeing and ensure our planet stays within a safe operating space.

These issues are interconnected. Therefore, only systemic solutions that address the food system as a whole will be sustainable.

What are some of the bold changes we can make to transform the food system in Asia and Africa?

The Global Resilience Partnership (GRP) has been working with innovators for the last three years to boost the resilience of the millions of smallholder farmers in these regions that not only rely on agriculture for their own food security and livelihoods, but form the foundation of our food supply worldwide.

Reducing the risk for financing farmers

GRP is working with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Machakos County in Kenya to provide improved access to financial services for smallholder farmers without access to banking.

According to the Mastercard Foundation, only 1 per cent of bank lending in sub-Saharan Africa is allocated towards the agricultural sector, despite providing around 20% of GDP and more that 60% employment. This is because farmers are seen as risky investments, and rarely have the collateral needed to take out a loan.

IFPRI has devised a novel financial product which helps manage this risk. Their “Risk Contingent Credit” (RCC) product is linked to rainfall. Loans are given to farmers in the form inputs.

Farmers receive seeds, fertilizer and pesticides – enough to grow an acre of maize. They are trained in insurance policies by project partners Equity Bank, and in best agricultural practices.

In the event of weather-related crop failure, the Risk-Contingent Credit covers repayments on a farmer’s loan. The payments are triggered when a pre-determined threshold for rainfall is met.

This financing system acts as a social safety net, allowing farmers to persist through poor harvests. It also gives farmers confidence to invest in their farms. Though climate shocks will continue to affect farmers living in areas like Machakos, this new breed of insurance product can help them to transform their livelihoods into resilient businesses.

Devising digital tools to help farmers weather storms

Every year, farmers in the Philippines brace themselves for inevitable tropical cyclones and their devastating impact. Since 2013, it is estimated that 40 million coconut trees have been buffeted by storms and ravaged by pests. On top of this, replanted coconuts can take 20 years to reach full production.

That is why GRP grantee Grameen Foundation launched FarmerLink, a mobile-based advisory service that compiles early warning weather data, agricultural training, financial services and stronger links with market buyers. It works in remote areas to ensure that farmers are connected, even when they’re offline.

Field agents and local experts using the tool can collect farm specific, localised data to create bespoke development plans for farmers, helping to send detailed and targeted agronomic advice via SMS to farmers.

The pilot provided agronomic advice to nearly 30,000 farmers. Agents, providing individualized plans and training to 1,525 farmers helped reduce losses associated with extreme weather events and volatile markets.

Floods and cyclones are expected to become more frequent and extreme in the Philippines. With improved, accurate data made accessible via digital technology, farmers can offset the effects of climate risk on their crops and build sustainable, resilient livelihoods.

Extreme weather, scarce natural resources and persistent poverty in regions where many of our agricultural commodities originate, all threaten our food supply. But holistic interventions like these, acknowledge and embrace the interconnectedness of these challenges and solutions will be our best bet to create a more resilient and food secure future for all.

The post Transforming Food Systems for Resilience in Africa & Asia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of opinion pieces to mark World Food Day October 16.

 
Nathanial Matthews is Program Director and Deon Nel, CEO of the Global Resilience Partnership

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Going Full Circle for Growth and the Planethttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/going-full-circle-growth-planet/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=going-full-circle-growth-planet http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/going-full-circle-growth-planet/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 14:04:02 +0000 Li Yong and Hong Joo Hahm http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158017 LI Yong is Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

Hong Joo Hahm is Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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LI Yong is Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
Hong Joo Hahm is Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

By Li Yong and Hong Joo Hahm
Oct 5 2018 (IPS)

The business case for making our economy more sustainable is clear. Globally, transitioning to a circular economy – where materials are reused, re-manufactured or recycled-could significantly reduce carbon emissions and deliver over US$1 trillion in material cost savings by 2025.(1) The benefits for Asia and the Pacific would be huge. But to make this happen, the region needs to reconcile its need for economic growth with its ambition for sustainable business.

LI Yong

Today, the way we consume is wasteful. We extract resources, use them to produce goods and services, often wastefully, and then sell them and discard them. However, resources can only stretch so far. By 2050, the global population will reach 10 billion. In the next decade, 2.5 billion new middle-class consumers will enter the fray. If we are to meet their demands and protect the planet, we must disconnect prosperity and well-being from inefficient resource use and extraction. And create a circular economy, making the shift to extending product lifetimes, reusing and recycling in order to turn waste into wealth.

These imperatives underpin the 5th Green Industry Conference held in Bangkok this week, hosted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in partnership with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Royal Thai government. High-level policymakers, captains of industry and scientists gathered to discuss solutions on how to engineer waste and pollution out of our economy, keep products and materials in use for longer and regenerate the natural system in which we live.

The goal is to embed sustainability into industries which we depend on for our jobs, prosperity and well-being. Action in Asia and the Pacific could make a major difference. Sixty percent of the world’s fastmoving consumer goods are manufactured in the region. Five Asia-Pacific countries account for over half of the plastic in the world’s oceans. The region’s material footprint per unit of Gross Domestic Product is twice the world average and the amount of solid waste generated by Asian cities is expected to double by 2025.

Hong Joo Hahm

If companies could build circular supply chains to reduce material use and increase the rate of reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling – powered by renewable energy – the value of materials could be maximized. This would cushion businesses, manufacturing industries in particular, from the volatility of commodity prices by decoupling production from finite supplies of primary resources. This is increasingly important as many elements vital for industrial production could become scarce in the coming decades.

With these goals in mind, the United Nations is working with governments and businesses to support innovation and upgrade production technologies to use less materials, energy and water. UNIDO is engaged across industrial sectors, from food production to textiles, from automotive to construction. Over the past twenty-five years, its network of Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production Centres has helped thousands of businesses to “green” their processes and their products. The Global Cleantech initiative has supported entrepreneurs to produce greener building materials. Industrial renewable energy use is being accelerated by the Global Network of Sustainable Energy Centres. New business models such as chemical leasing help reduce chemical emissions. And the creation of eco-industrial parks has contributed to the sustainable development of our towns and cities.

In Asia and the Pacific, the UN is intensifying its efforts to reducing and banning single use plastics. The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy is implementing programmes to reduce plastics consumption, marine litter and electronics waste, and encourage sustainable procurement practices. UNESCAP is identifying opportunities in Asian cities to return plastic resources into the production cycle by linking waste pickers in the informal economy with local authorities to recover plastic waste and reduce pollution.

The 5t h Green Industry Conference is an opportunity to give scale to these efforts. The gap between our ambition for sustainability and many business practices is significant. So it’s essential for best practice to be shared, common approaches coordinated, and success stories replicated. We need to learn from each other’s businesses to innovate, sharpen our rules and increase consumer awareness. Let’s step up our efforts to build a circular economy in Asia and the Pacific.

(1) World Economic Forum, Towards the Circula r Economy. Available from http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_ENV_TowardsCircularEconomy_Report_2014.pdf

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Excerpt:

LI Yong is Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)

Hong Joo Hahm is Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

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Investing in Arab and Asian Youth For a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/investing-arab-asian-youth-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=investing-arab-asian-youth-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/investing-arab-asian-youth-sustainable-future/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 11:08:16 +0000 Aniqa Haider http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158002 As the youth population has increased to unprecedented levels in Arab and Asian regions, governments need to do more to invest in them. “We are proposing concrete ideas on the effective use of the natural environment in the Arab region to contribute food security and youth employment,” said Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) board […]

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Governments, particularly those in Arab and Asian regions need to leverage youth population for sustainable development instead of making them an element of social instability. Credit: Victoria Hazou/IPS.

By Aniqa Haider
MANAMA, Oct 5 2018 (IPS)

As the youth population has increased to unprecedented levels in Arab and Asian regions, governments need to do more to invest in them.

“We are proposing concrete ideas on the effective use of the natural environment in the Arab region to contribute food security and youth employment,” said Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) board of directors’ head and Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP) vice chair Teruhiko Mashiko.

According to Youth Policy, a global think thank focusing on youth, more than 28 percent of the population – some 108 million people – in the Middle East are youth, between the ages of 15 and 29.

“This is the largest number of young people to transition to adulthood in the region’s history,” the organisation states. In Asia the number is almost 10 times greater with over one billion youth.

Mashiko was speaking during a key regional parliamentary forum called “Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting on Population and Development – Investing in Youth: Towards Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs” held in Manama, Bahrian this week.

Growing population, food security, unemployment and investing in youth for sustainable future were the main topics discussed during the meeting.

It was hosted by Bahrain under the patronage of Shura Council chair Ali Saleh Ali, and organised by the APDA and the Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD) and brought together Asian and Arab parliamentarians along with experts and government officials.

Mashiko said governments needed to leverage youth population for sustainable development instead of making them an element of social instability.

“While these ideas may not seem to be directly linked to the issues of population, expanded youth employment and education programmes in the workplace can promote their acceptance of population programmes, [and have] various other implications for bringing about improvements in the existing situation.”

He further said that many regional parliamentarians forums on population and development are unable to sufficiently fulfil their roles. He said 40 years after activities on population and development started, it was becoming difficult to share the underlying principles of these activities.

“We are communicating with the people and governments about the concept of development from an international viewpoint,” he said.

Jordan member of parliament (MP) Marwan Al-Hmoud told IPS that he has a strong belief and faith in the importance of the role played by the youth.

“We need to focus on educating youth and emphasise on reinforcing values necessary to combat attacks against the Arab region,” he explained.

The annual Arab Youth Survey shows that defeating terrorism, well-paying jobs and education reform were among the top properties of Arab youth. “Overall defeating terrorism is cited as
a top priority more frequently than any other issue, with a third (34 percent) of young Arabs selecting it as a top priority to steer the region in the right direction.”

Al-Hmoud added: “Our youth are taking a step back from the Arab reality and [are] influenced by globalisation and foreign cultures, resulting in a lot of our youth to [having] no identity.”

Indian MP Nadimul Haque told IPS that the youth are the energy of the nation.

“Finding solutions in the field of population and development which impacts all areas concerned with humans is important,” he added.

“It needs to be uniform and sustained otherwise the whole idea of SDGs will fall flat,” he said. He was referring to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of global goals to end poverty, mitigate climate change and protect the planet and to ensure equity and peace, among others.

According to the U.N. the world’s population as currently 7.6 billion as of 2017 and is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100 with “the upward trend in population size expected to continue, even assuming that fertility levels will continue to decline.”

Haque said this might lead to a multitude of problems, such as lack of access to resources, knowledge and health services.

“It can lead to resource depletion, inequality, unsustainable cities and communities, irresponsible consumption and production, climate change, conflicts, [and can] gradually lead to an erosion of the quality of life on land.”

Haque highlighted success stories from his home city of Kolkata.

“We have successfully installed rooftop solar power in individual dwellings/buildings,” he explained. “For waste management, we have set up compactor units and we are proud that India is self-reliant in producing its own food grains.”

A list of recommendations to achieve the SDGs was issued, which identified combating health issues, especially communicable diseases and expanding primary health care as an important step.

Recommendations included, among others:

  • universal access to reproduce health services;
  • further improvement in primary education;
  • comprehensive sex education;
  • eradicating gender-based violence;
  • and increasing employment opportunities for youth.

Bahraini MP Juma Al Kaabi said that his country’s legislative authority supported young people and mobilised their energies and strengths.

Al Kaabi further added that the government has made many sporting, cultural, humanitarian and scientific initiatives aimed at raising and developing Bahraini youth who are self-aware and capable of belonging to their homeland and participating in real and effective development and growth.

Al Kaabi said the Tamkeen Foundation has been established by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to support young jobseekers through a variety of training programmes that would equip them in being skilled for the job market and to also help financial guidance and support.

“The King Hamad Award was launched to empower the world’s youth, which is the first of its kind at the global level to create the conditions for young people to participate in the development of creative and professional ideas that have reached the United Nations goals for sustainable development,” he told the IPS

While MP Amira Aser from Sudan told IPS: “Agriculture was one of the key sources of livelihood in the state and youth involvement would further boost agriculture activities.”

In some regions of Sudan, farming is largely characterised by rain-fed production, low fertiliser use, poor quality seeds, inadequate water management and low soil fertility.

The region has experienced some of the lowest per hectare crop yields in the world.

Japanese Ambassador to Bahrain, Hideki Iko, summed it up: “Investing in youth for their education, employment and welfare are important as they are an investment for a better future for all countries.”

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Poised to Become Digital-First Economies, ASEAN Countries Still Face Core Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/poised-become-digital-first-economies-asean-countries-still-face-core-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poised-become-digital-first-economies-asean-countries-still-face-core-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/poised-become-digital-first-economies-asean-countries-still-face-core-challenges/#respond Fri, 05 Oct 2018 09:32:11 +0000 Jia Feng http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158000 Jia Feng is Communications Officer, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Communications Department

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Jia Feng is Communications Officer, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Communications Department

By Jia Feng
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 5 2018 (IPS)

Homegrown Ride-Hailing APPS, intelligent traffic systems, advanced construction techniques, automated energy-consumption management all propel the innovation wave washing over the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Indonesia’s vibrant digital ecosystem, for example, boasts more than 1,700 start-ups—among the world’s largest clusters of new firms. GO-JEK, to name one, evolved from a ride-hailing app to a platform for mobile payments and other digital services. In Singapore, Sea, the most valuable start-up in the region—worth several billion dollars—began as an online gaming company and branched out into mobile money and shopping.

ASEAN is young (more than half of its 643 million people are under 30) and has an economy of $2.8 trillion. Its 10 members are moving toward greater economic integration. The region should be at the tip of the digital spear. But it’s not that simple.

The Internet has reached most people in Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, and Singapore, but more than 70 percent of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao P.D.R., and Myanmar remains offline and can’t fully participate in the digital economy. High-speed broadband is even more scarce. ASEAN trails China, Japan, and Korea, largely due to high costs. Singapore is the sole exception.

Growing the digital economy depend on five key priorities: (1) Internet connectivity must be universal and affordable. (2) The business climate must encourage competition, which spurs innovation. (3) Education systems must adapt workers’ skills to new demands for a digital future. (4) Stronger safety nets are needed to protect those displaced by automation. (5) ASEAN nations should seek to improve financial inclusion through technology and adapt their regulatory frameworks to manage the risks associated with fintech.

As a regional bloc, ASEAN is the fifth largest economy in the world, and with hundreds of millions of young people eager to join the digital revolution, there’s no better time to close the digital divide. The future of the region depends on it.

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Excerpt:

Jia Feng is Communications Officer, International Monetary Fund (IMF) Communications Department

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Maldives Envoy tells UN About Peaceful Transfer of Powerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/maldives-envoy-tells-un-peaceful-transfer-power/#respond Wed, 03 Oct 2018 15:47:23 +0000 Arul Louis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157956 Maldives is currently going through a peaceful transfer of power to opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was elected president last month, the nation’s Permanent Representative Ali Naseer Mohamed assured the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Speaking at the high-level General Debate of the UNGA Oct 1, he said that September 23, the day the presidential […]

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A view of the ravaged village of Vilufushi, on the southeastern Kolhumadulu Atoll, where 17 have died and 28 are still missing after the tsunami swept across their island. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Arul Louis
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 3 2018 (IPS)

Maldives is currently going through a peaceful transfer of power to opposition leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who was elected president last month, the nation’s Permanent Representative Ali Naseer Mohamed assured the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Speaking at the high-level General Debate of the UNGA Oct 1, he said that September 23, the day the presidential election took place, was an “extraordinary day for the country and it “was a moment that makes every Maldivian proud of how far we have come and the excellent progress the country has achieved.”

“Following the election, the Maldives is currently going through the process of transfer of power from one elected government to the other,” he said.

On Saturday, September 29, the country’s Election Commission declared Maldivian Democratic Party candidate Solih the winner of the presidential election, overruling the defeated President Abdulla Yameen’s efforts to delay the announcement of the results.

“The accelerated process of democracy in the Maldives is going in tandem with faster growth in social and economic development,” Mohamed said.

The elections came after a tumultuous period during which Yameen had imposed a state of emergency earlier this year and had arrested former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, as well as Supreme Court Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed and Judge Ali Hameed and charged them with treason.

Solih was also arrested along with scores of opposition leaders.

Maldives Foreign Minister Mohamed Asim was scheduled to address UNGA last Saturday, September 29, but after the president’s defeat he did not show up and Mohamed, who spoke in his stead, was the last speaker at the concluding session of the high-level General Debate.

Without naming any countries, Mohamed said “the principle of international law that governs the friendly relations and cooperation among states are being challenged at a fundamental level.”

“There is therefore a need for countries big and small to return to the right side of law,” he said.

During the country’s turmoil, the tug of war over the Maldives between the Asian giants, India and China came to the fore. As New Delhi insisted on Maldives adhering to democracy, Yameen began a drift towards Beijing and also reached out to Islamabad.

Unlike last year’s speech by Mohamed at the General Debate, Soli’s address this year hardly gave any importance to climate change, which the archipelago nation has presented to the world as a mortal danger to its very existence because of rising sea levels.

He mentioned in the passing that the UN should be the place where the “combined power of many ideas, many solutions, and many voices thrive to address challenges of climate change, ocean degradation, poverty, exclusion, and discrimination.”

Another mention of climate change came when he spoke of the construction of a bridge connecting the capital with its airport and the suburb of Hulhumalé and said it helped “better adaptation to climate change.”

The Maldivian envoy also gave a lot of importance to the value of the UN as “the engine room of multilateralism” and its role in helping the smaller nations.

“For the small islands developing States, such as the Maldives, the United Nations will always remain the indispensable partner in building our national resilience. We see the UN as the key in determining our place, and our voice, in the global discourse,” he said.

“Ensuring the relevance of the UN, must mean ensuring that everyone, from the biggest to the smallest, play their part,” he added. “It must mean, offering everyone a place, in finding shared solutions for our shared future.”

Mohamed spoke proudly of the nation’s strides in development and in ending poverty.

“From the humble beginning, as one of the poorest countries in the world at independence in 1965, to an upper middle-income country today, is a success story by any measure,” he said.

The per capita gross domestic product shot up from $1,470 in 1980 to $19,120 last, the International Monetary Fund data show, putting it firmly in the middle income countries category.

In per capita terms, Maldives is the richest nation in South Asia.

Mohamed gave his country’s scorecard: “The Maldives has one of the highest human development indicators in our region, with nearly universal literacy rates, universal immunization, and the lowest infant-mortality, and maternal-mortality rates. The country has eradicated diseases, such as polio, measles, malaria, and lymphatic filariasis, although various types of non-communicable diseases, are emerging as new challenges.”

He praised Yameen for what he said was the progress recorded by the Indian Ocean archipelago nation during the last five years under his rule.

He made an appeal for support to small island developing states like his for capacity building, through transfer of technology, and access to finance in order to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals.

“The United Nations can assume a greater level of leadership in fostering such support,” he said.

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Entrepreneurial about Gender Equalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=entrepreneurial-gender-equality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/entrepreneurial-gender-equality/#respond Mon, 01 Oct 2018 10:00:41 +0000 Hong Joo Hahm http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157901 Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

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Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

By Hong Joo Hahm
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 1 2018 (IPS)

Asia and the Pacific needs more women entrepreneurs. Women’s economic empowerment and gender equality depend on it, as does the inclusive economic growth needed to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This drives a new initiative by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, generously supported by Global Affairs Canada, focused on improving women entrepreneurs’ access to finance in our region.

Hong Joo Hahm

Establishing a business can be life-changing. Particularly for women in developing countries where it’s a passport to financial independence: a means of breaking out of poverty. More women in employment gives families financial security. It helps guarantee children a good diet, a solid education and reliable healthcare. And because women employ other women and spend more on their families, women entrepreneurs create more inclusive economies and prosperous communities. Potential GDP gains from gender equality in the workplace are enormous, up to 50 percent in parts of South Asia.

But for all this potential, businesswomen face considerable obstacles in Asia and the Pacific. Representation on company boards is lower than in any other region and women CEOs are precious few. Gender bias runs through inheritance, labour and social security laws. Many women work in the informal economy with no social protection and societal prejudice frustrates women’s entrepreneurial potential. Across Asia, women give up to six hours of unpaid care work a day: thwarting educational attainment and career prospects.

For women wanting to start or expand a business, access to finance is key. 70 percent of women-owned micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are underserved by financial institutions in developing countries. Women struggle to borrow in a region where land is required as collateral but where very few are landowners. So women-owned enterprises are consistently smaller and concentrated in less profitable sectors.

To overcome these challenges, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is launching a new initiative with generous financial support from Global Affairs Canada. Its goal: to support financing for women entrepreneurs and innovators, improve their access to information and communication technology (ICT), and create a policy environment in which their businesses can flourish. It will give twenty thousand women entrepreneurs greater access to ICT and finance.

ICT and innovative financing lie at the heart of the initiative. We want to support businesswomen mainstream ICT across business operations; to make their financial management more robust and their outlook more responsive to new technologies. We plan to launch “women bonds” for women entrepreneurs, channeling private sector investment from developed markets to support gender equality in the developing world. We will work with impact investment funds to target women-led investments. And encourage financial technology (fintech) solutions through advice on regulatory frameworks, training to help women access fintech services and new credit lines to support innovators.

Deeper gender analysis of the MSME sector will complement these activities. To inform policies which strengthen women’s rights and access to justice; reforms which update inheritance and property regimes; and legislation which stops credit being extended according to gender or marital status. For such a broad challenge, we will bring women entrepreneurs and policy makers together, to build a gender sensitive response across policy areas and governments.

The case for investing in women entrepreneurs is overwhelming. They are true agents of change whose innovation can lift communities, companies and countries. We are committed to improving their prospects, to unleashing women entrepreneurs’ full potential and putting gender equality squarely at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in Asia and the Pacific.

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Excerpt:

Hong Joo Hahm is Deputy Executive Secretary and Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

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Impunity and Harsh Laws Trouble Journalists in South Asia as Protesters March on the U.N. For Release of Bangladeshi Journalisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/impunity-harsh-laws-trouble-journalists-south-asia-protesters-march-u-n-release-bangladeshi-journalist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=impunity-harsh-laws-trouble-journalists-south-asia-protesters-march-u-n-release-bangladeshi-journalist http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/impunity-harsh-laws-trouble-journalists-south-asia-protesters-march-u-n-release-bangladeshi-journalist/#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2018 14:47:57 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157847 It has been six and half years since the killing of Bangladeshi journalists Meherun Runi and Sagar Sarwar in Dhaka. Runi, a senior reporter from the private TV channel ATN Bangla, and her husband Sarwar, news editor from Maasranga TV, were hacked to death at their home on Feb. 11, 2012. Years later, with no […]

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A student walks by a board displaying names of freedom fighters. The New Digital Security Act 2018 makes speaking against any freedom fighter leader a punishable offence. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
HYDERBAD, Sep 28 2018 (IPS)

It has been six and half years since the killing of Bangladeshi journalists Meherun Runi and Sagar Sarwar in Dhaka. Runi, a senior reporter from the private TV channel ATN Bangla, and her husband Sarwar, news editor from Maasranga TV, were hacked to death at their home on Feb. 11, 2012.

Years later, with no official updates on the progress of the investigation, their families wait for justice as the fear of impunity looms large.

The atmosphere in Bangladesh’s journalism today is one of trepidation and caution.

It has witnessed a series of attacks against students and journalists in the capital city of Dhaka, followed by the passing of a cyber law that has come under scathing criticism.

The Digital Security Bill 2018, passed on Sept. 19 has been strongly criticised by journalists, who have called it a tool designed to gag the press and freedom of speech.

The draft bill had been actually introduced last year, and there had been strong demands for amending several provisions of the law. The government had publicly promised to consider the demands. However, on the advice of the law makers, the government decided to go ahead without any changes and passed it last week. 

IPS Journalists worldwide stand in solidarity for press freedom and join the Nobel Laureates and 17 eminent global citizens, and British MP Tulip Siddiq as they call for the immediate release of Shahidul Alam. IPS also calls for the release of journalists who have been detained in the course of duty across the globe, including those in the Congo, Turkey, and Myanmar.

IPS has noted with concern the increasingly repressive environment that our reporters are working in and call on governments to review their media laws and support press freedom. It is incredibly important for IPS that our reporters are safe as they do their work in holding governments and institutions to account.

One of the most worrying provisions of the law (section 43) is that it allows the police to arrest or search individuals without a warrant.

Other provisions of the law includes 14 years of imprisonment for anyone who commits any crime or assists anyone in committing crimes using a computer, digital device, computer network, digital network or any other electronic medium.

As expected, the new law has come under scathing criticism of the media.

“The act goes against the spirit of the Liberation War. Independent journalism will be under threat in the coming days. We thought the government would accept our [Sampadak Parishad’s] suggestions for the sake of independent journalism, freedom of expression and free thinking, but it did not,” said Naem Nizam, editor of Bengali news daily Bangladesh Pratidin, in a strongly-worded public statement.

The Editor’s Council, known as Shampadak Parishad, also was unanimous in labelling the law as a threat to press freedom and independent media in the country.

To protest against the law, the council has called all journalists and media bodies to join a human chain on Sept. 29 in Dhaka.

The legislation “would violate constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press, and would create extensive legal dangers for journalists in the normal course of carrying out their professional activities,” Steven Butler, the Asia programme coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), said in a statement.

Interestingly, the new law was originally developed in response to the media’s demand for scrapping Section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Act, 2006—a broad law against electronic communication.

Under Section 57, intentionally posting false, provocative, indecent or sensitive information on websites or any electronic platforms that was defamatory, and can disrupt the country’s law and order situation, or hurt religious sentiments, is a punishable offence, with a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment and a fine of USD120,000.

It was under this section 57 that Shahidul Alam, an award-winning independent photographer, was arrested.

Alam was arrested on Aug. 5 from his home in Dhaka and has been charged with inciting violence by making provocative statements in the media. He has been held without bail since the arrest, despite repeated appeals by the media, human rights groups and the international community for his release.

IPS contacted several local journalists and academics but everyone declined to comment on the issue of Alam’s arrest. However, last month, British MP Tulip Siddiq, and the niece of Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina, called on her aunt to release Alam saying the situation was “deeply distressing and should end immediately”.

Protestors demanded the unconditional release of Shahidul Alam, and for charges against him, and others held in similar circumstances, to be dropped. Courtesy: Salim Hasbini

Alam’s family organised a protest in New York on Sept. 27 to coincide with prime minister Hasina’s address to the United Nations General Assembly.

The protest was endorsed by human rights groups and journalist associations, rights activist Kerry Kennedy, actress/activist Sharon Stone, and attended by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, among others.

At the demonstration, Columbia University professor Gayatri Spivak pointed out, “What is really important for the state is that if one silences the creative artists and intellectuals, then the conscience of the state is killed because its the role of the creatives artists and intellectuals to make constructive criticism so that the state can be a real democracy.”

According to Meenakshi Ganguly, Asia director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), the Bangladesh government wants to show that no one who dares criticise or challenge its actions will be spared.

“Newspaper editors face being charged with criminal defamation and sedition. Journalists and broadcasters are routinely under pressure from the authorities to restrain criticism of the government,” Ganguly said.

“As a photographer, Alam documents the truth; his work and his voice matter now more than ever,” she said. 

In Bangladesh, the media has been demanding the scrapping of Section 57, explains Afroja Shoma, an assistant professor of Media and Mass Communication at American International University of Bangladesh.

“However, the Digital Security Act left this untouched and so this new law is nothing but ‘old wine in a new bottle,’” Shoma told IPS.

“Section 57, in the past, has been misused several times. The media wanted the government to scrap this. The government then brought this whole new law [the Digital Security Bill 2018]. But it has retained the same old provisions of the section 57. As a result, the law has created an atmosphere of fear among the journalists of the country,” said Shoma.

Digital security breeding insecurity

However, digital laws are not just threatening press freedom in Bangladesh. Several countries in south Asia have had similar punitive laws passed.

India had its own “Section 57” known as the Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000.

Section 66A in the act made provisions for “punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service” and included information shared via a “computer resource or a communication device” known to be “false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.”

In March 2015, the Supreme Court of India struck it down, calling it “open ended, undefined, and vague.”

However, of late, India has also seen a spate of vicious attacks on journalists. These include the murder of journalists Gauri Lankesh and Shujat Bukhari as well as online attacks on investigative journalist Rana Ayyub who authored the book Gujarat Files. No arrests have been made in any of these cases so far.

Nepal, a country not known for attacks on the press, has just passed a new law  that makes sharing confidential information an offence resulting in a prison sentence. The code criminalises recording and listening to conversations between two or more people without the consent of the persons involved, as well as disclosing private information without permission, including private information on public figures.

Under the law, a journalist could face fines of up to 30,000 rupees (USD270) and imprisonment of up to three years, according to the CPJ. The CPJ has released a statement asking the government to repeal or amend the law.

Badri Sigdel, Nepal’s National Press Union president, said in a recent press statement: “The NPU condemns the Act with provisions that restrict journalists to report, write and take photographs. Such restrictions are against the democratic norms and values; and indicate towards authoritarianism. The NPU demands immediate amendment in the unacceptable provisions of the law.”

Pakistan, which ranks 139 in the Press Freedom Index (India ranks 138, while Bangladesh and Nepal rank 146 and 106 respectively), has witnessed the killings of five journalists while working between May 1, 2017 to Apr. 1, 2018.

Also, according to a study by local media watchdog the Freedom Network there have been:

• 11 cases of attempted kidnapping or abduction,

• 39 illegal detention and arrest,

• 58 physical assault and vandalism,

• and 23 occurrences of verbal and written threats.

The country has just, however, drafted the Journalists Welfare and Protection Bill, 2017, which aims to ensure safety and protection of journalists. The draft, once adopted, will be the first in the region to provide physical protection, justice and financial assistance for all working journalists—both permanent and contractual.

 

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India Uses Tech to Power its New Battle Against Malnutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/india-uses-tech-power-new-battle-malnutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-uses-tech-power-new-battle-malnutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/india-uses-tech-power-new-battle-malnutrition/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 16:30:29 +0000 Stella Paul http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157795 Kanaklata Raula from Kaptipada village in India’s Mayurbhanj District is on duty 24×7. The 52-year-old community health worker from Odisha state rides a bicycle for hours each day, visiting community members who need nutrition and reproductive healthcare. Raula’s main job is to ensure that the women and young children in her community are using the […]

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A mother and a child in Melghat district, an area in India with high rates of malnourishment. The government’s new POSHAN campaign aims to curb malnutrition by a significant margin by also using smartphones to collect relevant data. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Stella Paul
MAYURBHANJ DISTRICT, India, Sep 26 2018 (IPS)

Kanaklata Raula from Kaptipada village in India’s Mayurbhanj District is on duty 24×7. The 52-year-old community health worker from Odisha state rides a bicycle for hours each day, visiting community members who need nutrition and reproductive healthcare.

Raula’s main job is to ensure that the women and young children in her community are using the integrated free basic healthcare and nutrition services at the government-run community health and nutrition centre, locally known as Anganwadi.“Technology alone is not enough, we need to also reach the unreached population like the migrants who are too poor to afford a nutritious meal.” -- Laila Garda, the director of the KEM Hospital Research Centre in Pune city.

Raula monitors the health of all children under the age of six, checks their weight and their growth, ensures they are immunised and advises their mothers and other pregnant and nursing women on basic healthcare and nutrition. She then encourages them to regularly visit the Anganwadi.

But most important of all her duties, Raula is the record keeper of the community and notes, through numbers and statistics, the health of her patients. She then submits regular reports on the health of the community to the government.

“I am in charge of five villages. There are 300 families and more than 80 percent of them are poor tribal people. Without Anganwadi they will not be able to get proper nutrition for their children or necessary health supplements for themselves,” Raula, who received the best Anganwadi worker award in July by Plan India, the Indian arm of Plan International, tells IPS.

Life has gotten a little easier for Raula as the ministry of women and child development has decided to provide Anganwadi workers with smartphones or tablets with software especially designed to make their record-keeping and reporting easier.

India currently has the fourth-highest number of stunted people in the workforce in the world. Of these, 66 percent of  stunting is a result of childhood malnutrition, says a new World Bank report.

The recent National Family Health Survey 2015-2016 shows that while there is a declining trend in child stunting, the levels remain high at 38.4 percent in 2015/2016.

The survey noted increased levels of child wasting (where one’s weight is too low for their height); from 19.8 percent in 2005/2006 to 21 percent in 2015/2016. The country also has high levels of anaemia among children–58.4 percent of children under the age of six are anaemic.

To curb the alarming rate of malnutrition and stunting, India launched a new nutrition drive last November called Partnerships and Opportunities to Strengthen and Harmonise Action for Nutrition (POSHAN). With a total budget of nine billion rupees (USD126 million), the campaign has an ambitious goal: to reduce stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth weights by about two to three percent per annum.

According to information shared in national parliament by India’s minister of women and child development Maneka Gandhi, POSHAN is using:

  • a mobile application that is made available to the community healthcare workers and is pre-loaded on mobile phones and,
  • a six-tier monitoring dashboard for desktops.

 

IT for ground data

But how will smartphones be used by the Anganwadi workers while in the field?

Pramila Rani Brahma, the social welfare minister for Assam state, in north eastern India, explains that the phones will be loaded with software called the Common Application System or CAS, which was specially built for the POSHAN campaign and developed in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Anganwadi workers will use the software to enter the details of their patients, including the number of children they see, their health updates, weight etc., and will send this report to headquarters.

Data on service delivery and its impact on nutrition outcomes will also be collected.

The desktop monitoring system will be used to monitor the delivery of services to children, pregnant women and lactating mothers. It will analyse the ground data and map the weight efficiency, height and nutrition status of children under five years.

“There are a total 11 registers which I have to regularly maintain. It [usually] takes many hours. I think it will save me a lot of time, which I can spend on serving the community better. I think it will also help send the information much more quickly to the higher officials,” Raula tells IPS.

According to Brahma, the 61,000-strong Anganwadi workers in Assam state have been struggling to submit their daily reports and even demanded computers or laptops.

There are currently nearly 1.3 million Anganwadi workers across India – all of whom will receive a simple, android data-enabled smartphone, according to the government. The phones will be distributed by the respective state governments, while the federal government and its ministry of women and child development will provide the funds.

“I was informed that, there are provisions to provide smartphones to the Anganwadi workers and several other states have already taken this initiative. We will provide the smartphones to the Anganwadi workers within a short period of time,” Brahma said to a group of journalists – which included IPS – at a state-organised workshop on nutrition in Guwahati, Assam.

An early success story

The IT-enabled nutrition campaign has already reaped some results, when it was first rolled out in June.

“We have given over 50,000 cellphones to Anganwadi workers through which they give us daily reports on how many children were provided food, how many were weighed, etc,” Gandhi said at press conference in New Delhi. “Until now, we have identified 12,000 children (as severely underweight) and we are following up on their status with the district officials,” she said.

Besides collecting numbers, Anganwadi workers are also using the smartphones for  surveying houses in their neighbourhoods and even sending photos of children eating a hot cooked meal at the Anganwadi.

An uphill task ahead

However, despite the new campaign, the road ahead for India to become malnutrition-neutral remains a difficult one.

One of the main reasons for this is that the country still has a huge population that continues to face acute hunger. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nation’s report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018, some 159 million of the country’s 1.3 billion people are undernourished.

The Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017 ranks 34 countries across three pillars: sustainable agriculture; nutritional challenges; and food loss and waste. India ranks close to bottom on the index at 33. According to the index India ranks 32 in the world in food sustainability and human development. The centre will be hosting an international forum on food and nutrition this week as a side event to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Friday Sept. 28. One of the topics to be discussed is food and migration.

Kavita, a 22 year old domestic worker in Hyderabad’s Uppal neighbourhood, presents a perfect example of this.

She is a migrant labourer from Mahbubnagar—a rural district some 150 km away from Hyderabad—and despite labouring for nearly 12 hours each day, she is unable to afford a nutritious meal for her and her 18-month old daughter.

Every day Kavita cooks a simple meal of rice and tomato chutney for her and her child. Both the mother and daughter appear underweight and malnourished with a yellowish tinge to their hair and dark circles under their eyes. But the mother says that she has no time to visit an Anganwadi.

“I start working at 5 am and finish only at 4 pm. I have to work seven days a week. If I take one holiday, my employers will fire me. I heard that at the Anganwadi they give dhal, curry and even eggs to children. But I can’t afford to leave work and take my child there,” she tells IPS.

There are millions of poor migrants and floating workers like Kavita across urban India who are not aware of the government facilities or the POSHAN campaign and continue to be left out of these initiatives. According to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, there were 326 million internal migrants in the country as of 2007/2008.

Unless this huge population is covered, it will be difficult to achieve the targets of the POSHAN campaign, says Laila Garda, the director of the KEM Hospital Research Centre in Pune city, Maharashtra.

“Technology alone is not enough, we need to also reach the unreached population like the migrants who are too poor to afford a nutritious meal,” Garda, who has been working in community health for nearly two decades, tells IPS.

Chuna Ram, a community reporter and nutrition activist in Barmer, Rajastahan—one of the states in the country with the highest rate of malnutrition—says that government action must go beyond the rhetoric.

In Rajasthan, he says, the government has talked of providing smartphones  to the Anganwadi workers, but it has not happened yet.

“The general election is going to take place in 2019, so the government is making a lot of promises to woo the voters. But how much of these promises will actually be kept will decide how far the situation will change,” he tells IPS.

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Q&A: An Uncertain Future Ahead for Rohingya in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-uncertain-future-ahead-rohingya-bangladesh/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 08:45:09 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157770 IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

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A Rohingya woman and her child at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: Kamrul Hasan/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 2018 (IPS)

Over one year ago, Bangladesh opened its doors in response to what is now the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis. But questions still remain on how to rehabilitate the steadily growing population. 

After a military crackdown on suspected terrorists in August 2017, over 700,000 Rohingya fled from their homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar to Bangladesh, bringing with them stories of the horrors they have experienced.

The United Nations described the military offensive as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and a recent fact-finding mission called for the investigation and prosecution of top officials from Myanmar’s military for possible crimes of genocide.

However, recurring cycles of violence can be traced back to 1978 and now 1.3 million Rohingya reside in Bangladesh, leaving the small South Asian nation straining for resources to provide to grief-stricken refugees and overcrowded camps.

So far, only one third of the humanitarian appeal for refugees and local host communities have been met and still many challenges remain from environmental stress to trafficking to the lack of shelters.

Bangladesh’s prime minister Sheikh Hasina, who was in Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential people of 2018, has been lauded for her humanitarian gesture and her government’s work in addressing the crisis.

Many international and national organizations are working to support the Rohingya refugees. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) in particular and its head William Lacy Swing have worked relentlessly to not only provide support to the refugees but also to find a lasting solution to the crisis. Swing has worked closely with the prime minister and her government and engaged with the many parties involved to bring about an end to the tragedy.

In recognition of his untiring efforts, Inter Press Service (IPS) is honouring Swing with the Person of the Year Award at an event to be held at the U.N. headquarters on Sept. 27. The prime minster will receive the IPS U.N. North America’s Humanitarian Award for her decision to give shelter to the over one million Rohingya refugees who were driven out of their homes, tortured, burnt, raped and left stateless and hopeless.

Ahead of the Hasina’s speech to the U.N. General Assembly, which is expected to focus on the Rohingya crisis and call for international action to resolve the crisis, IPS spoke to ambassador Masud Bin Momen, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N.about the ongoing challenges, support, and future action plans.

Excerpts of the interview follow:

Inter Press Service (IPS): Could you talk about the situation in Bangladesh—are refugees still arriving? What conditions are Rohingya refugees arriving in and what conditions are they seeing and living with in Bangladesh?

Masud Bin Momen (MBM): The situation in Cox’s Bazar is terrible. Having to shelter more than 700,000 Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which is the fastest-growing crisis of its kind in the world, and provide them with humanitarian support is an onerous responsibility. It was the bold decision of our honourable prime minister to take up such a huge responsibility responding to humanity’s call. It takes a lot of courage and magnanimity of heart to make such a politically sensitive decision.

And the influx of Rohingyas has not stopped. It is continuing although in much smaller numbers. The freshly-arrived Rohingyas are still giving a grim picture of the ground situation in the Rakhine state. They are telling us about insecurity, threat, persecution, hunger, lack of livelihood opportunities, which is forcing them to leave Myanmar.

IPS: What has the government been doing as of late with regards to supporting Rohingya refugees there now? What have been some of the challenges to support these refugees?

MBM: The camp conditions in Cox’s Bazar may not be perfect and surely, one would understand how difficult it is for a developing country to cater to the humanitarian needs of such a huge population. But our government is trying its best to further improve the camp conditions to ensure basic necessities of the Rohingyas.

The challenges are manifold, I would mention only a few. Providing them with the basic amenities has been the biggest challenge.

For firewood, the Rohingyas have destroyed the forest and vegetation around the camps creating serious threat to the ecology of the area. The shelters that they have built on the slope of the hills are vulnerable to landslide during the monsoon.

For livelihood they are competing with the locals. This is reducing employment opportunities of the local population thus creating concern among the host communities. Their presence is affecting the local law and order situation. The possibility of radicalisation looms large. As their stay lingers, there is the possibility of mingling with the local population which could make their repatriation more difficult.

A Rohingya girl proudly holds up her drawing at a UNICEF school at Balukhali camp, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

IPS: Could you talk about the controversies surrounding repatriation? Why has it been stalled, and are conditions favourable or safe for Rohingya refugees to go back to Myanmar right now? 

MBM: Although Rohingyas want to return to their homes in Rakhine they would not return to Myanmar until and unless the ground condition in the Rakhine state is conducive for their return. This is the singular impediment to return. Improving ground conditions is entirely Myanmar’s responsibility. Since the ground condition is not yet conducive, the Rohingyas are not signing the declaration for voluntary return and hence repatriation is being delayed.

IPS: If refugees cannot return to Myanmar yet, what does Bangladesh plan to do with regards to support? Are there future actions planned to enhance camps and living conditions?

MBM: If they do not return in the foreseeable future we perhaps have no other option but to continue to give them refuge. We would not send them back against their will. As our prime minister said, we would share our meals with them (Rohingyas). There cannot be a more poignant message of our goodwill to the Rohingyas. Our government is relentlessly working to improve the camps and the living conditions therein. We are also developing an island for relocation of some of the Rohingyas.

IPS: What are your thoughts to the criticism that the island which you mentioned is not safe to live, particularly due to violent weather and high risk of floods? 

MBM: This is an entirely wrong perception. Keeping the entire Rohingya population in a geo-politically sensitive place like Cox’s Bazar is not feasible at all. Cox’s Bazar simply does not have the physical capacity or the infrastructure to sustain such a huge Rohingya population. So, they have to be relocated and the island you are talking about is one such place for possible relocation.

Initially about 100,000 Rohingyas are planned to be relocated. The criticism that you have referred to is baseless coming from ill-informed quarters. Our government is working hard to make the island livable with self-sustaining livelihood options. And until it is made entirely livable, Rohingyas are not going to be relocated there.

IPS: What are your thoughts on the International Criminal Court (ICC) launching a preliminary examination? 

MBM: We feel that this is a positive development in ensuring accountability of the perpetrators. If the ICC can come up with some concrete outcome, it might also serve as an important factor in building confidence among the Rohingyas which will facilitate their repatriation.

IPS: Do you have a response or message to Myanmar’s government regarding the crisis? And perhaps a message to the International community in addressing the situation? 

MBM: We would urge upon Myanmar to make ground conditions in the Rakhine state conducive for return and take back the Rohingyas as soon as possible. The comprehensive implementation of the Kofi Annan Commission’s recommendations would be able to address the root causes of the Rohingyarians.

We urge upon the international community is to take custodianship of the bilateral arrangements for return that Bangladesh and Myanmar have signed and impress upon Myanmar to take back the Rohingyas.

*Interview has been edited for length and clarity

The post Q&A: An Uncertain Future Ahead for Rohingya in Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS Correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage talks to AMBASSADOR MASUD BIN MOMEN, permanent representative of Bangladesh to the U.N about the Rohingya' crisis.

The post Q&A: An Uncertain Future Ahead for Rohingya in Bangladesh appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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The Cambodian Port City on China’s 21st Century Silk Road That’s Becoming the New Macauhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/cambodian-port-city-chinas-21st-century-silk-road-thats-becoming-new-macau/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cambodian-port-city-chinas-21st-century-silk-road-thats-becoming-new-macau http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/cambodian-port-city-chinas-21st-century-silk-road-thats-becoming-new-macau/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 10:17:25 +0000 Kris Janssens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157639 Kris Janssens is a Belgian reporter based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His goal is to tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people throughout Southeast Asia.

The post The Cambodian Port City on China’s 21st Century Silk Road That’s Becoming the New Macau appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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The little shop owned by Leean Saan, close the monument with the lions. "Business is going down, Chinese people don't buy from me," she says. Credit: Kris Janssens/IPS

By Kris Janssens
SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia, Sep 19 2018 (IPS)

The new Macau. That’s what the Cambodian coastal city Sihanoukville is called nowadays. Chinese investors are building casinos there on a massive scale.

The southern port city lies on the new Silk Road (the so called ‘One Belt, One Road’) and is therefore interesting for China.

The Cambodian government is happy to accept the money. And Beijing never asks difficult questions.

“Things are happening so fast in Sihanoukville; the city has changed completely in only a few months time,” a friend tells me.

My last visit there was in December.

And so I wanted to see these ‘spectacular changes’ with my own eyes.

My friend was right. When you enter the city, you see casinos everywhere. There could be about a hundred by now, and new ones are constantly being built. Some of them are big showy palaces, but there are also obscure gambling houses.

Alongside those casinos you still find the typical Cambodian shops, where people drink tea and where food is skewered and cooked on the barbecue.

Tourists at the beach enjoy their cocktails or take a dip in the gulf of Thailand.

But all those elements are in disharmony with one another.

There is clearly no urban planning here.

It seems the builders got carte blanche to satisfy the hunger for gambling.

Gaudy lions

The statue of two golden lions, at a roundabout close to the sea, is a beacon in the city. Leean Saan (76) has a tiny little shop close to the lions. She sells soda water, cigarettes and fuel for motorbikes.

Ten years ago, when the tourists came, she started selling drinks. “But the business is going down,” she says. “There are more and more Chinese people and they don’t buy in my shop.”

“They are gangsters!” says a tuk-tuk driver who comes to buy fuel. “They promise for example to pay three dollars, but when we get to the destination they only give two. And when I complain, they threaten me with violence. They always travel in groups, so they feel superior.”

Making good money

I walk down the street and see some Cambodian youngsters who are queuing to buy coffee. They are more positive about the recent developments.

Rath (22) has been working for five years as a receptionist in a hotel casino. “My first salary was 80 dollars a month. Two years ago it was raised to 200 dollars and since last year I make 500 dollars a month. They need experienced staff.”

But there is a flip side to the coin: prices have gone up in a short period of time. “I used to pay 30 dollars a month to rent a room, nowadays they ask up to 250. But at the end of the day I still earn more than before.”

O Fortuna

It is time to get an inside look into one of those casinos, ‘Golden Sand’. I am the only white person and the security staff watches me closely.

At the entrance of the hall the song ‘O Fortuna’ taken from ‘Carmina Burana’ is being played repeatedly. A screen shows an animated movie with Chinese dragons and philosophers.

The game room is big but feels cold, in spite of the wall-to-wall carpet and the leather and fabric seats. There are Chinese wall ornaments.

Croupiers in red costumes are sitting at big card tables. You see a lot of security agents here as well. Young girls in blue outfits wander down the hall carrying fly swatters to kill annoying insects.

Remarkable: Cambodians are not allowed to gamble, by law. So all customers are Chinese.

Also remarkable: they don’t come dressed in suits and ties, but are dressed in shorts and t-shirts.

“Most customers here are builders,” says Wu, who works himself at one of the numerous construction sites in Sihanoukville. “They come here to spend the money they just earned.”

Wu is here for six months. He earns 700 dollars a month. He could make as much money in China, but here he has more job security.

Recruiting

Srun (28) works as a recruiter. He’s Cambodian but has Chinese roots and works as a tour guide for Chinese tourists. “They often asked me where they could go to gamble.” So Srun went to talk to several casino managers and he has an agreement to work on commission.

“You have to talk face to face to Chinese people,” he says. “I understand some Cambodians think they are gangsters, because they always talk so loudly. But that is simply their way of negotiating.”

Srun gets one percent of the money customers spend on gambling. “That doesn’t seem much, but in some cases we are talking about 10,000 dollars for a group of four people. The casino opens a special VIP-room and I get a 100 dollars.”

Rental prices

It is lunchtime. I decide to go for a noodle soup in a…Chinese restaurant.

“We only have Chinese people,” says manager Zong, “I don’t even speak Khmer.” She followed her husband about one year ago, coming from Hangzhou, in the eastern part of China. “Customers pay about seven times more here for the same dish. So the decision was easily made.”

She pays 3,000 dollars in rent for her restaurant. “That’s a lot of money, but it still is an interesting deal. That also goes for the owner. He could never get this amount of money from locals. So everyone is satisfied.”

This house owner is actively helping the Chinese settlement in Sihanoukville. His fellow citizens, who might have been born here, have no other option than to leave the city and try to find affordable business premises elsewhere.

As long as money talks here, the Chinese population will continue to grow.

Maybe I should make the same trip in another six months from now, to document the new changes to this area.

*The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of IPS. 

The post The Cambodian Port City on China’s 21st Century Silk Road That’s Becoming the New Macau appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Kris Janssens is a Belgian reporter based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His goal is to tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people throughout Southeast Asia.

The post The Cambodian Port City on China’s 21st Century Silk Road That’s Becoming the New Macau appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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South-South Cooperation in a Transformative Erahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/south-south-cooperation-transformative-era/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-cooperation-transformative-era http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/south-south-cooperation-transformative-era/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 07:11:58 +0000 Jorge Chediek http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157594 Jorge Chediek is Director, UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.

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Jorge Chediek is Director, UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.

By Jorge Chediek
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

On 12 September, the international community commemorated the UN Day for South-South Cooperation. This is an important acknowledgement of the contributions of Southern partnerships in addressing the many development challenges that confront the international community, such as poverty, climate change, inequality, contagious diseases and humanitarian crises.

Jorge Chediek

South-South cooperation is a unique arrangement where two or more developing countries share technical skills, exchange knowledge, transfer technologies, and provide financial assistance. These collaborations are built on the principles of solidarity, respect for national sovereignty, non-conditionality, national ownership, and mutual respect.

This year’s commemoration was particularly significant, as it marked the fortieth anniversary of an important milestone in international cooperation – the adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Technical Cooperation Amongst Developing Countries (BAPA). BAPA institutionalized cooperation amongst developing countries, creating a strategic framework for furthering cooperation in technical and economic areas.

But cooperation amongst developing countries did not begin forty years ago – it traces its origins to the anti-colonial solidarity movement of the twentieth century. The practice gained further popularity in the 1950’s and 1970’s as newly independent States with limited capacities looked for independent ways to accelerate their development, away from the Cold War dichotomy of the day.

Forty years after the adoption of BAPA, the international system is undergoing a major systemic transformation, with new pillars of growth and influence emerging from the global South. Through collective voice and action, developing countries are actively contributing to the building of a more prosperous and peaceful world.

Developing countries today account for the largest share of global economic output and are playing an active, constructive role in traditional institutions of global governance as well as creating new institutions that are Southern-led.

In a noteworthy trend, development solutions increasingly originate from developing countries themselves. Harnessing the abundance of innovative solutions, brought about by its economic growth and advances in technical competencies, the global South now charts its own unique development path.

Developing countries are now drivers of innovation in ICT, renewable technologies, infrastructure development and social welfare. Pooled medical procurement is lowering costs and increasing access to life saving medicines. Southern-led mediation mechanisms for conflict prevention continue to prove especially effective in reducing violent conflicts.

Technical cooperation in agriculture is greatly improving the yields in agricultural output. Transfer of technologies and vast interregional infrastructure investments are facilitating access to international markets for medium and small-scale enterprises.

Southern-based centres of excellence and knowledge hubs have become key vehicles for promoting mutual learning, leading to reduction of poverty and the growth of an emerging middle class.

With this newly formed confidence, the global South progressively looks within itself for ideas, knowledge and skills for tackling many of its common challenges. This enhances its national and collective self-reliance, a major objective of BAPA.

As the capacities of developing countries have improved, there has been a corresponding expansion of the scope of South-South cooperation beyond technical cooperation to other areas. South-South cooperation today includes, amongst other instruments, technological transfers, knowledge exchanges, financial assistance, technical assistance as well as concessional loans.

As a consequence, interregional forums and summits for dialogue amongst developing countries have become an important platform for enhancing South-South policy coordination, launching joint initiatives, and committing resources for infrastructure development, trade and investments – vital for ensuring sustainable development.

Triangular cooperation – Southern-driven partnerships between two or more developing countries, supported by developed countries or multilateral organizations – is increasingly playing a role to ensure equity in partnership and scaling up of success.

In light of this, the United Nations General Assembly has decided to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the adoption of BAPA by convening a High-level conference (BAPA+40) to be held from 19-21 March 2019 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. BAPA+40 provides a great opportunity for the international community to further strengthen and invigorate cooperation amongst developing countries.

Although great strides have been made by developing countries in improving the living conditions of millions of its people, complex development challenges still persist. Global economic transformations and its corresponding consequences on production patterns present a particular challenge to developing countries.

Automation poses a great risk to job creation in the South; climate change has particularly adverse effects on Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries; traditional partnership models are re-evaluated and inequality continues to rise. The global South will play an important role in overcoming these challenges.

The United Nations system continues to support the collaborative initiatives of developing countries by advocating, catalysing, brokering and facilitating such collaborations across many spheres.

Drawing on its vast presence across the global South, the United Nations is well placed to identify development capacities and gaps existing in developing countries while collecting, analysing and disseminating best practices and lessons learned towards the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other internationally agreed development goals.

As the international community enters the third year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, concrete development solutions and resources from the global South are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Effective development solutions that have worked in a few countries of the global South can be scaled up through South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation to accelerate sustainable development, particularly in countries that are lagging behind.

More and better South-South cooperation is essential to building a better world that leaves no one behind.

The post South-South Cooperation in a Transformative Era appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jorge Chediek is Director, UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and Envoy of the Secretary-General on South-South Cooperation.

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Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 12:42:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157558 Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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In south west coastal Satkhira, Bangladesh as salinity has spread to freshwater sources, a private water seller fills his 20-litre cans with public water supply to sell in islands where poor families spend 300 Bangladesh Taka every month to buy drinking and cooking water alone. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Growing economies are thirsty economies. And water scarcity has become “the new normal” in many parts of the world, according to Torgny Holmgren executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

As climate change converges with rapid economic and urban development and poor farming practices in the emerging economies of South Asia, water insecurity for marginalised people and farmers is already intensifying.

By 2030 for instance, India’s demand for water is estimated to become double the available water supply. Forests, wetlands lost, rivers and oceans will be degraded in the name of development. This need not be so. Development can be sustainable, it can be green.

Technology today is a key component in achieving water use sustainability – be it reduced water use in industries and agriculture, or in treating waste water, among others. Low and middle income economies need water and data technology support from developed countries not only to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water, which relates to access to safe water and sanitation as well as the sound management of freshwater supplies, but several global goals in which water plays a critical role.

Speakers at SIWI’s 28th World Water Week held last month in Stockholm, Sweden, underpinned water scarcity as contributing to poverty, conflict, and the spread of waterborne diseases, as well as hindering access to education for women and girls.

Women are central to the collection and the safeguarding of water – they are responsible for more than 70 percent of water chores and management worldwide. But the issue goes far deeper than the chore of fetching water.  It is also about dignity, personal hygiene, safety, opportunity loss and reverting to gender stereotypes.

Women’s voices remain limited in water governance in South Asia, even though their participation in water governance can alleviate water crises through their traditional knowledge on small-scale solutions for agriculture, homestead gardening, and domestic water use. This can strengthen resilience to drought and improve family nutrition.

Holmgren, a former Swedish ambassador with extensive experience working in South Asia, among other regions, spoke to IPS about how South Asia can best address the serious gender imbalances in water access and the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says as water scarcity becomes the new normal, traditional knowledge must be combined with new technology to ensure water sustainability. Photo courtesy: SIWI

IPS: What major steps should South Asian economies adopt for sustainable water services from their natural ecosystems? 

TH: South Asia is experiencing now a scarcity of water as demand now grows, thanks to a growing economy and also growing population. For the region specifically, a fundamental aspect is how its countries govern their water accessibility. We at SIWI have seen water-scarce countries manage really efficiently while those with abundance mismanage this resource.

It boils down to how institutions, not just governments but communities, industries at large govern water – how water systems are organised and allocated. We have instances from Indian village parliaments that decide how to share, allocate and even treat common water resources together with neighbouring catchment area villages.

One good example of this is 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner Rajendra Singh from India who has worked in arid rural areas with local and traditional water harvesting techniques to recharge river basins, revive and store rain water in traditional water bodies and bring life back to these regions. These techniques can also help to manage too much water from more frequent climate-induced floods.

Even though the largest [amount] water is presently still being consumed for food production, more and more water is being demanded by industries and electricity producers. As competition for the scarce resource accelerates, soon we have to restructure user categories differently in terms of tariffs and allocation because households and food production have to be provided adequate water.

Even farm irrigation reforms can regulate and save water as earlier award winning International Water Management Institute research has shown – that if governments lower subsidies on electricity for pumping, farmers were careful how much and for how long they extract groundwater, without affecting the crop yield. Farmers pumped less when energy tariffs were pegged higher.

IPS: What is SIWI’s stand on the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries?

TH: Water has key advantages – it connects all SDGs and it is a truly global issue. If we look around we see similar situations in Cape Town, China and California. Water is not a North-South matter. Africa can learn from any country in any region. This is the opportunity the World Water Week offers.

It is true that new technology is developing fast, but a mix of this with traditional technology and local knowledge works well. We also need to adapt traditional technologies to modern water needs and situations. These can be basic, low cost and people friendly. And it could encourage more efficient storage and use of ‘green water’ (soil moisture used by plants).

Drip irrigation has begun to be used more in South Asia, India particularly. There is need to encourage this widely. Recycling and the way in which industries treat and re-use water should be more emphasised.

Technology transfer is and can be done in various ways. The private sector can develop both technologies and create markets for them. Governments too can provide enabling environments to promote technology development with commercial viability. A good example of this is mobile phone technology – one where uses today range from mobile banking to farmers’ access of weather data and farming advisory in remote regions.

Technology transfer from different countries can be donor or bank funded or through multi-lateral organisations like the international Green Climate Fund, but any technology always has to be adapted to local situations.

Training, education, knowledge and know-how sharing – are, to me, the best kinds of technology transfers. Students and researchers – be it through international educational exchanges or partnerships between overseas universities – get the know-how and can move back home to work on advancing technologies tailored to their national needs.

Is technology transfer happening adequately? There is a need to build up on new or local technology hardware. For this infrastructure finance is (increasingly) available but needs scaling up faster.

IPS: How can South Asia best address the serious gender imbalances in water access, bring more women into water governance in its patriarchal societies?

TH: It is important that those in power need encourage gender balance not in decision-making alone but in educational institutions. Making room for gender balance in an organisation’s decision-making structure is important. This can be possible if there is equal access to education. But we are seeing an encouraging trend – in youth seminars sometimes the majority attending are women.

Finding women champions from water organisations can also encourage other women to take up strong initiatives for water equity.

When planning and implementing projects there is a need to focus on what impacts, decisions under specific issues, are having on men and women separately. And projects need be accordingly gender budgeted.

IPS: How can the global south – under pressure to grow their GDP, needing more land, more industries to bring billions out of poverty – successfully balance their green and grey water infrastructure? What role can local communities play in maintaining green infrastructure? 

TH: When a water-scarce South Asian village parliament decides they will replant forests, attract rain back to the region, and when rain comes, collect it – this is a very local, community-centred green infrastructure initiative. Done on a large scale, it can bring tremendous change to people, livelihoods and societies at large.

We have long acted under the assumption that grey infrastructure – dams, levees, pipes and canals – purpose-built by humans, is superior to what nature itself can bring us in the form of mangroves, wetlands, rivers and lakes.

Grey infrastructure is very efficient at transporting and holding water for power production. But paving over the saw-grass prairie around Houston reduced the city’s ability to absorb the water that hurricane Harvey brought in August 2017.

It isn’t a question of either/or. We need both green and grey, and we need to be wise in choosing what serves our current and potential future set of purposes best.

Be it industrialised or developing countries, today we have to make more sophisticated use of green water infrastructures. Especially in South Asia’s growing urban sprawls, we must capture the flooding rainwater, store it in green water infrastructure for reuse; because grey cannot do it alone.

The post Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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“In Two Years, Duterte Has Crushed All the Progress We’ve Made”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/two-years-duterte-crushed-progress-weve-made/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=two-years-duterte-crushed-progress-weve-made http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/two-years-duterte-crushed-progress-weve-made/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2018 10:38:22 +0000 Ivar Andersen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157461 The Philippines has been ranked one of the world’s ten worst countries for workers’ rights. Arbetet Global reports from a country which labour union activists brand as fascist.

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The post “In Two Years, Duterte Has Crushed All the Progress We’ve Made” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

The Philippines has been ranked one of the world’s ten worst countries for workers’ rights. Arbetet Global reports from a country which labour union activists brand as fascist.

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“We Should Not Wait” — Action Needed on Myanmarhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-wait-action-needed-myanmar http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/not-wait-action-needed-myanmar/#comments Tue, 04 Sep 2018 08:57:23 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157443 After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.   A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar. “The gross human […]

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Rohingya alight from a boat as they arrive at Shahparir Dip in Teknaf, Bangladesh in 2017. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 4 2018 (IPS)

After the release of a scathing report on Myanmar’s human rights violations, next steps to achieve accountability and justice remain elusive and uncertain.  

A year after the re-escalation of violence that forced almost a million people to flee to neighbouring countries, a fact-finding mission found a “human rights catastrophe” in Myanmar.

“The gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States are shocking for their horrifying nature and ubiquity,” the report states.

“Many of these violations undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law,” it continued.“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly.” -- Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau

Triggered by insurgent attacks on security forces, the report pointed a finger to Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, for committing the gravest of crimes including indiscriminate killing, burning of houses, and sexual violence.

The investigators identified six generals, including the commander in chief of the Tatmadaw Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and recommended that they be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court (ICC) or at an alternative tribunal.

“There needs to be an unequivocal message sent that Myanmar’s military cannot act with impunity against ethnic minorities in Myanmar again,” Amnesty International’s Asia Advocacy Manager Francisco Bencosme told IPS.

“Never again has to mean never again – and the entire world is watching to see what the international community does,” he continued.

Like Bencosme, Human Rights Watch’s U.N. Director Louis Charbonneau also told IPS that the Security Council should refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC or create a special criminal tribunal for prosecution.

But how did we get here?

Years of systematic oppression against Myanmar’s ethnic minorities made the crisis “foreseeable”—so what happened?

A System-Wide Failure

In 2008, the U.N. failed to heed warnings of increasing violence between the Sri Lankan military and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and did not report evidence of widespread government violations and casualties.

A 2012 internal review found that various U.N. agencies including the Security Council failed at every level to protect civilians and meet their responsibilities in the last months of the civil war in the South Asian nation.

In the wake of the fiasco, the U.N. implemented the Human Rights Up Front Initiative to ensure a better system of monitoring and responding to international crises. Though Myanmar was identified as a situation requiring the Action Plan’s human rights response to crises, the approach was rarely, if ever, used, the report stated.

Instead, U.N. agencies continued to prioritise development goals, humanitarian access, and quiet diplomacy—an approach which “demonstrably failed.”

“The U.N. system really failed the people of Myanmar particularly the Rohingya by treading softly,” Charbonneau told IPS.

“Now instead of us saying ‘never again’ after Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Srebrenica—here we are saying well yet again it happened. The U.N. didn’t do what it was supposed to be doing, it didn’t raise the alarm bells to the extent that they could have,” he continued.

The Security Council’s response, or lack thereof, has been equally disappointing. The U.N. organ has had only a handful of meetings on Myanmar and none have resulted in any resolution.

In contrast, Syria has received special attention over the last seven years with numerous meetings in the “triple digits.”

“Given the scale of the crisis in Myanmar, it is difficult to reconcile the different responses of the Security Council particularly given a situation where the U.N. for sometime has been warning about the possibility of the ‘g’ word that is genocide,” Charbonneau said.

“It would be good to see an attempt to really push the Council to try something. We haven’t seen that yet and I don’t know if we will see it,” he continued.

China and Russia, Security Council members with veto power, have consistently pushed back on efforts to act on Myanmar’s crisis, stating that the crisis should only be resolved by the parties directly affected including Bangladesh where over 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to.

In the Security Council’s first open meeting on Myanmar in eight years, Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzya warned against claims of ethnic cleansing and blaming Myanmar’s authorities as it “will make it more difficult to achieve lasting interethnic peace inside the country.”

Whether it is genocide or crimes against humanity, Bencosme highlighted the need for the international community to act with respect to Myanmar.

“We don’t need a legal diagnosis to understand that something desperately tragic and clearly unlawful has been happening in Myanmar. What matters most is that a civilian population is under attack because of its race or religion, and that these violations must stop immediately,” he told IPS.

Myanmar has repeatedly denied accusations of violations including those most recently published through the fact-finding mission’s report.

“Myanmar authorities have shown themselves to be both unable and unwilling to investigate and prosecute those responsible. As a result, the ICC is the appropriate route to deliver justice,” Bencosme said.

However, since Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, only a member of the Security Council can bring the case to the tribunal.

“The time for rhetoric is over – there needs to be action. There needs to be genuine accountability and justice. There needs to be an honest conversation about referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. We need to pursue all avenues of justice for these victims and their families who are the heart of the crisis,” Bencosme concluded.

Urgent Action Needed

While Charbonneau expressed hope that the new report will “reenergise” the U.N., he noted that we should not idly wait.

“I don’t think we should be waiting around for the Security Council—too often the Council doesn’t move on issues and it’s more deadlock than ever these days. We may have to keep using these work-arounds like the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council,” he told IPS.

Among the alternative avenues for action is the establishment of an impartial mechanism by the Human Rights Council or General Assembly to collect, analyse, and preserve evidence for future potential criminal proceedings in the ICC or another criminal tribunal.

The report also recommends that the U.N. urgently adopt a common strategy to address human rights concerns in Myanmar in line with the Human Rights Up Front Action Plan, as well as a comprehensive inquiry into whether the U.N. did everything possible to prevent or mitigate Myanmar’s crisis.

“The time has past for these feeble condemnations or expressions of concern that we are so used to from the U.N.—we just really need action,” Charbonneau said.

The post “We Should Not Wait” — Action Needed on Myanmar appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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