Inter Press Service » Asia-Pacific http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 30 Aug 2016 14:36:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Myanmar Turns to Kofi Annan for Help on Festering Rohingya Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/myanmar-turns-to-kofi-annan-for-help-on-festering-rohingya-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=myanmar-turns-to-kofi-annan-for-help-on-festering-rohingya-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/myanmar-turns-to-kofi-annan-for-help-on-festering-rohingya-crisis/#comments Sat, 27 Aug 2016 16:06:01 +0000 Sara Perria http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146697 A young girl in Aung Mingalar Muslim ghetto in Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

A young girl in Aung Mingalar Muslim ghetto in Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

By Sara Perria
YANGON/LONDON, Aug 27 2016 (IPS)

Myanmar’s government has responded to pressure from the international community to tackle religious tensions and persecution of Muslims in Rakhine State by appointing former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan to head a commission to advise on “a sustainable solution” to the crisis.

The northwest region bordering Bangladesh has been under close scrutiny from western governments and some U.N. agencies since clashes erupted in 2012 between the Buddhist Arakan community and the mostly stateless Muslim minority."It’s good that Kofi Annan is involved..., but there is also the risk that it becomes a window-dressing for the NLD to buy time and avoid international criticism." -- Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project

The violence, in which extremist monks are accused by human rights observers of playing a role, resulted in over 200 deaths, mostly Muslims. Since then, more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims have been confined in IDP camps or ghettos. Access to medical treatment, education and jobs are so heavily compromised that thousands from the community have undertaken the risky journey to nearby southeast Asian countries, at the hands of human traffickers.

A 2015 boat people crisis laid bare the existence of mass graves near the border between Thailand and Malaysia, triggering a worldwide call for action to end the Rohingya persecution.

“The Myanmar government wants to find a sustainable solution to the complicated issues in Rakhine State, that’s why it has formed an advisory commission,” the office of Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto head of government, said in a statement announcing Annan’s appointment on Aug. 24.

The Nobel peace laureate, who scored a landslide election victory in November 2015 and took office nearly five months ago, has until recently attracted criticism from outside Myanmar for her reluctance to address openly the issue. Fellow Nobel laureates, including the Dalai Lama, were notably critical last year.

Even as leader of the opposition to the previous military-backed government, Suu Kyi was accused of not speaking out for the 1.1 million Rohingya minority despite her status of human rights icon following 15 years under house arrest.

Her supporters point to the sensitivity of the issue and the risk of triggering further conflicts to justify what others call a dismissive attitude at best. Suu Kyi did however repeatedly call for a quick and transparent solution to the Muslim minority’s lack of status, which has dragged on since 1982 when the military junta under Ne Win stripped many of their citizenship.

The National League for Democracy leader explicitly avoids using the word Rohingya, a controversial term of some historic dispute which triggers fierce responses from nationalist politicians of the Arakan majority who form the largest bloc in the Rakhine State parliament.

The graves of people killed in the 2012 clashes between the Buddhist Arakan community and the mostly stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

The graves of people killed in the 2012 clashes between the Buddhist Arakan community and the mostly stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

In May, the Myanmar government advised foreign embassies, including the US, not to use the term. However at a later meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, Suu Kyi also said that she would avoid using the term Bengali, adopted by the previous government and rejected by the Rohingya, as it identifies them as illegal migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, rather than long-term residents.

A statement by the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva also chose not to use the term Rohingya.

“I am pleased to support the national efforts to promote peace, reconciliation and development in Rakhine,” Annan said. “I look forward to listening to the leaders and people of Rakhine and to working with the State and central authorities to ensure a more secure and prosperous future for all.”

The statement says the overall objective of the commission, assisted by the Kofi Annan Foundation, is “to provide recommendations on the complex challenges facing Rakhine.”

The commission is to “initiate a dialogue with political and community leaders in Rakhine with the aim of proposing measures to improve the well-being of all the people of the State.”

These will contemplate “humanitarian and developmental issues, access to basic services, the assurance of basic rights, and the security of the people of Rakhine”.

The final report and recommendation will be submitted next year directly to the Myanmar government.

The commission is to meet for the first time next month. It also includes former U.N. adviser Ghassan Salamé, Dutch diplomat Laetitia van den Assum, and representatives of the Myanmar Red Cross Society and human rights and religious groups.

A top official in Suu Kyi’s party was reported by local media as saying that “Mr Annan is influential in international politics, and we need his support to steer a real peace in this country.”

“We need his advice, whether he’s a foreigner or not,” he added.

However, the choice has already hit raw nerves.

According to Eleven Myanmar, a local newspaper, the move has sparked anger from the Arakan National Party.

Teenagers clear ditches before the rainy season in Aung Mingalar Muslim ghetto in Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

Teenagers clear ditches before the rainy season in Aung Mingalar Muslim ghetto in Sittwe, Rakhine state, Myanmar. Credit: Sara Perria/IPS

“We cannot accept these developments only after internal issues have been made an international issue,” said ANP chairman Aye Maung. “If tax revenue could be derived from the natural resources in our state within the framework of rights and privileges of our own people, we want to try to develop our region in cooperation with the global community. I don’t accept that the State can develop only after flattering the international community.”

Reaction on social media to Annan’s statement highlighted a harsh debate over which community in Rakhine should be helped, reflecting in some cases the view of extremist Buddhist movements such as 969, which is driven by Ashin Wirathu, a prominent Mandalay-based monk, and the nationalist Ma Ba Tha – the Organisation for the Protection of Race and Religion.

These groups have in the past years exacerbated tensions, calling for the defence of the country against foreign influence and organising rallies in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city. Wirathu, who has a large following on Facebook, has repeatedly stressed how Islam is penetrating the country, threatening the existence of the Rakhine majority.

Such nationalist messages have resonated across Myanmar, with some 90 per cent of the population estimated to be Buddhist. Muslims, who come from various ethnic backgrounds and are not all Rohingya, are estimated to make up about one third of Rakhine’s 3 million people. The state is one of the poorest in Myanmar.

One of the first challenges for the newly established commission will be how to balance the urgent need to find a solution to the desperate situation in which the Rohingya have been forced and an improvement in living conditions for the general Rakhine population.

This balancing of human rights and development issues have been at the heart of a debate raging within the United Nations which has yet to be resolved.

According to a non-profit CDA Collaborative Learning Projects report on conflict sensitivity by Gabrielle Aron, a concentration of humanitarian help since the 1990s within the Muslim areas of Rakhine State has led to the perception of an imbalance in aid disadvantaging ethnic Rakhines. As a result, international intervention has evolved into a trigger for ethnic tensions.

For Suu Kyi’s government, which is in effect sharing power with the military, the thorniest issue will be how to grant some form of citizenship to the Rohingya community that will allow them greater integration with Myanmar as a whole without antagonizing Buddhist nationalists. Meanwhile military leaders casting themselves as protectors of Myanmar’s Buddhist identity are sticking with the term Bengali and have taken a tough line on citizenship.

While the establishment of the commission is seen by many as a positive step, Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project and a respected expert on the conflict in Rakhine, says it leaves many questions open, starting with its unclear mandate.

“Other reports have already come out with ‘recommendations’. But what is needed now is action, and the implementation of what has already been recommended so far in terms of freedom of movement and access to healthcare, for example,” she tells IPS. Lewa is also sceptical about the timeframe, arguing that one year is far too long to come out with suggestions on how to solve the situation.

“I am a bit worried that the commission will not be meaningful. It’s good that Kofi Annan is involved to raise the profile of the mandate, but there is also the risk that it becomes a window-dressing for the NLD to buy time and avoid international criticism,” Lewa says.

Meanwhile the situation in Rakhine and in the camps has not changed much since the NLD has taken over from the military-backed government. Conditions inside the camps are miserable, with temporary bamboo houses now falling apart and too old to offer acceptable living conditions.

Most importantly, the key issue of freedom of movement to allow access to healthcare has not been tackled. “The central government has to take action to end this situation. They need to find a way and force the Rakhine to accept the Rohingya,” she says.

The Arakan Project director, however, also highlights a number of small positive steps undertaken by Suu Kyi, such as the rejection of the term ‘Bengali’.

Tun Khin, president of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, points to the lack of Rohingya representation within the newly-established commission as its main limitation: “We welcome the commission, but it is quite disappointing that the Rohingya are not included in it,” he tells IPS.

“We want to know how they will consult with the Rohingya community… We are also worried about how the government will act following the recommendations [next year]. People cannot wait for food,” he says.

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Tracing War Missing Still a Dangerous Quest in Sri Lankahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/tracing-war-missing-still-a-dangerous-quest-in-sri-lanka/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tracing-war-missing-still-a-dangerous-quest-in-sri-lanka http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/tracing-war-missing-still-a-dangerous-quest-in-sri-lanka/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:51:46 +0000 Amantha Perera http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146673 The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged that there could be as many as 65,000 people missing following three decades of civil war. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The Sri Lankan government has acknowledged that there could be as many as 65,000 people missing following three decades of civil war. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Amantha Perera
MANNAR, Aug 24 2016 (IPS)

As Sri Lanka readies to begin the grim task of searching for thousands of war missing, those doing the tracing on the ground say that they still face intimidation and threats while doing their work.

The government will set up the Office for Missing Persons (OMP) by October following its ratification in parliament earlier this month. The office, the first of its kind, is expected to coordinate a nationwide tracing programme."We don’t even have an identification card that says we are doing this kind of work." -- Ravi Kumar, Volunteer Tracing Coordinator in the Northern Mannar District

However, officers with the Sri Lanka Red Cross (SLRC), which currently has an operational tracing programme, tell IPS that it is still difficult to trace those who went missing during combat, especially if they are linked to any armed group.

“It is a big problem,” said one SLRC official who was detained by the military for over three hours when he made contact with the family of a missing person whose relatives in India had sent in a tracing request.

“The family in India did not know, I did not know, that he was a high-ranking member of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The moment I went to his house to seek information, the military was outside,” said the official, who declined to be named. He was later interrogated about why he was seeking such information and who he was working for.

The official told IPS that as there was no national programme endorsed by the government to trace war missing, security personnel were unlikely to allow such work, especially in the former conflict zone in the North East, where there is a large security presence since the war’s end in May 2009.

However, the Secretariat for Coordination of Reconciliation Mechanism and Office for National Unity and Reconciliation both said that once the envisaged OMP is set up, the government was likely to push ahead with a tracing programme. The draft bill for the office includes provisions for witness and victim protection.

War-related missing has been a contentious issue since Sri Lanka’s war ended seven years ago. A Presidential Commission on the Missing sitting since 2013 has so far recorded over 20,000 complaints, including those of 5,000 missing members from government forces.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has so far recorded over 16,000 complaints on missing persons since 1989. The 2011 Report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka said that over 40,000 had gone missing.

In 2015, a study by a the University Teachers for Human Rights from the University of Jaffna in the North said that they suspected that the missing figure could be over 90,000 comparing available population figures.

After years of resistance, in 2014 the then Mahinda Rajapaksa government gave the ICRC permission to conduct the first ever island-wide survey of the needs of the families of the missing. The report was released in July and concluded, “the Assessment revealed that the highest priority for the families is to know the fate and whereabouts of their missing relative(s), including circumstantial information related to the disappearance.”

ICRC officials said that it was playing an advisory role to the government on setting up the tracing mechanism. “The government of Sri Lanka received favourably a proposal by the ICRC to assist the process of setting up a mechanism to clarify the fate and whereabouts of missing people and to comprehensively address the needs of their families, by sharing its experience from other contexts and its technical expertise on aspects related to the issue of missing people and their families,” ICRC spokesperson Sarasi Wijeratne said.

The SLRC in fact has an ongoing tracing programme active in all 25 districts dating back over three decades. “Right now most of the tracing work is related to those who have been separated due to migration,” Kamal Yatawera, the head of the tracing unit said. It has altogether traced over 12,000 missing persons, the bulk separated due to migration or natural disasters.

However, the SLRC is currently not engaged in tracing war related missing unless notified by family members, which happens rarely. “But we do look for people who have been separated or missing due to the conflict, especially those who fled to India,” said Ravi Kumar, Volunteer Tracing Coordinator in the Northern Mannar District. He has traced four such cases out of the 10 that had been referred to him since last December.

He added that tracing work would be easier if there was a government-backed programme. “Now we don’t even have an identification card that says we are doing this kind of work. If there was government sanction, then we can reach out to the public machinery, now we are left to go from house to house, asking people.”

During Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, life in the war zone was dominated by the fighting. Thousands of youth either joined the Tigers or were conscripted into their units. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

During Sri Lanka’s civil conflict, life in the war zone was dominated by the fighting. Thousands of youth either joined the Tigers or were conscripted into their units. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

 

A small child and a woman sit next to LTTE cadres training in a public playground in Kilinochchi, a district in the Northern Province, in this picture taken in June 2004. The Tigers held sway over all aspects of life in areas they controlled until their defeat in 2009. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A small child and a woman sit next to LTTE cadres training in a public playground in Kilinochchi, a district in the Northern Province, in this picture taken in June 2004. The Tigers held sway over all aspects of life in areas they controlled until their defeat in 2009. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Now, young people have more freedom than they did under the Tigers, but many are frustrated by the lack of proper employment opportunities six years after being promised a peace dividend by the government in Colombo. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Now, young people have more freedom than they did under the Tigers, but many are frustrated by the lack of proper employment opportunities six years after being promised a peace dividend by the government in Colombo. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A youth who lost his leg during the conflict stands by his vegetable stall in the town of Mullaitivu in northern Sri Lanka. He has a small family to look after and says he finds it extremely hard to provide for them. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A youth who lost his leg during the conflict stands by his vegetable stall in the town of Mullaitivu in northern Sri Lanka. He has a small family to look after and says he finds it extremely hard to provide for them. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

 

A quarter of a million people who were displaced during the last phase of the war, along with tens of thousands of others who fled at other stages of the conflict, have moved back to the Vanni. Many families with small children continue to live in slum-like conditions, as a funding shortfall has left many without proper houses. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A quarter of a million people who were displaced during the last phase of the war, along with tens of thousands of others who fled at other stages of the conflict, have moved back to the Vanni. Many families with small children continue to live in slum-like conditions, as a funding shortfall has left many without proper houses. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Women have been forced to take up the role of breadwinner, with aid agencies suggesting that single females - either widows or women whose partners went missing during the war – now head over 40,000 households in the province. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Women have been forced to take up the role of breadwinner, with aid agencies suggesting that single females – either widows or women whose partners went missing during the war – now head over 40,000 households in the province. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A woman stands in front of this small business she operates in Mullaitivu. The single mother was able to open the shop with the help of a grant she received from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A woman stands in front of this small business she operates in Mullaitivu. The single mother was able to open the shop with the help of a grant she received from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The war left tens of thousands disabled, but six years on there are hardly any programmes or facilities that cater to this community. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The war left tens of thousands disabled, but six years on there are hardly any programmes or facilities that cater to this community. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

This man, a former member of the LTTE who was blinded in one eye during the war, bicycles over 20 km each day in search of work. A father of one, he has found it hard to adjust to post-war life. Credit: Amantha Perer/IPS

This man, a former member of the LTTE who was blinded in one eye during the war, bicycles over 20 km each day in search of work. A father of one, he has found it hard to adjust to post-war life. Credit: Amantha Perer/IPS

Other former Tigers, like this rehabilitated cadre-turned-barber, were fortunate to benefit from government-sponsored aid programmes. Here, the one-time militant attends to a client at his barber’s shop in the village of Mallavi in Sri Lanka’s north. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Other former Tigers, like this rehabilitated cadre-turned-barber, were fortunate to benefit from government-sponsored aid programmes. Here, the one-time militant attends to a client at his barber’s shop in the village of Mallavi in Sri Lanka’s north. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Many in the Vanni struggle due to a combination of poverty, war-related injuries and untreated trauma. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

Many in the Vanni struggle due to a combination of poverty, war-related injuries and untreated trauma. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The immediate aftermath of the war saw thousands of tourists flocking to the region, gawking at the remnants of a bloody past. Their numbers have since dwindled and a war tourist trail now remains mostly deserted. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The immediate aftermath of the war saw thousands of tourists flocking to the region, gawking at the remnants of a bloody past. Their numbers have since dwindled and a war tourist trail now remains mostly deserted. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The election of a new president and the visit of Pope Francis to the former war zone – two monumental events coming within five days of each other in early January – have raised hopes in the north that real, lasting change is close at hand. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

The election of a new president and the visit of Pope Francis to the former war zone – two monumental events coming within five days of each other in early January – have raised hopes in the north that real, lasting change is close at hand. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

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The Lesser Sexhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-lesser-sex/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-lesser-sex http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-lesser-sex/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:22:39 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146672 The threat of violence knows no bounds for women and young girls in Bangladesh.

The threat of violence knows no bounds for women and young girls in Bangladesh.

By Rose Delaney
ROME, Aug 24 2016 (IPS)

Sakina’s  glare is empty. Her defeated, glassy eyes scan the room passively. The subdued silence and withered frame expose her fragility.

As a young girl, she endured both the physical and emotional trauma that had aged her into a state of lifelessness.

Sakina’s childhood innocence had already been ruthlessly beaten away. She was only 12 years old.

Sakina’s expressionless stare showed indestructible detachment.

As hard as a rock, her inner turmoil had obligated her to push her emotions aside and live in a state of heartless survival.

However, once encouraged to voice the perils of her childhood, Sakina’s face softened.

The gushes of tears that flooded her eyes remind one of a  coursing river that has burst at its banks, wild, chaotic and finally free of limitations.

Sakina  articulated her experience of what can be considered years of irreversible trauma and abuse in her family home in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

“I remember my mother’s crushing custom of spitting venom. Her vicious words wounded me more than the beatings.  Somehow, her malicious remarks  always seemed to cut deeper than the whip.”

However, the root of Sakina’s abuse is not founded in ignorance or poverty.

The cause of her mother’s fury stemmed in her being a “kalluni”, a dark-skinned girl. She would never fare well in  a marriage market  so focused on the South Asian standard of “fair” beauty.

In spite of having grown up in a privileged manner,  attended to by dozens of servants in a household  of plenty, violence was  rife within the four walls of what appeared to be “paradise” for those who could not look inside.

“I recall being locked in the bathroom for 2 days , deprived of food and water as a punishment for my disobedience. Most of the time, I felt like ending my life in that suffocating bathroom, I couldn’t take it any longer.” Sakina said.

The grotesque image of my blood spattered on the wall will never leave me
When she was not being made to starve or dehydrate, she endured severe physical punishment under the wrath of both her mother and father, her younger brother never failing to report on the shame she brought on to the family  once he discovered Sakina’s exchange of love notes with a local boy.

“There is one nightmarish memory that refuses to leave my mind. I shudder in fear when I think  of it. It comes back to me in the form of a recurring dream, my mother’s snarling expression as she  takes out a one and a half metre long whip , freshly chiselled from the branch of a “kadam” tree, thrashing me with it mercilessly, for hours on end.”

She paused to compose herself.

“The grotesque image of my blood spattered on the wall will never leave me” she stated.

Although  Sakina’s tragic story happened over five decades ago, has Bangladesh made any radical change for the better in terms of female security and development?

It appears the great lengths the local government has gone to eradicate violence against women and young girls have not stretched far enough.

Even today, cases of abuse and violence against women and girls are  commonplace  in male-dominated Bangladeshi society.

Recently, a woman was reported to have been caned 101 times in rural community in Bangladesh for what was considered to be a shameless “extramarital affair” by the local village arbitration committee.

In reality, the “affair” was a case of breaking and entering as the woman shamefully  labelled “adulteress” fought off a neighbor who entered her home by force.

In spite of this violation of privacy and act of male-perpetrated violence, the woman as the “weak” scapegoat was obligated to take the blame for the man’s reckless  behaviour.

As a direct consequence, she was relentlessly beaten in the presence of 400 villagers. The final court ruling obligated her husband to conduct the caning.

Readers  of the Daily Star Bangladesh report commented on the sheer barbarity and sexism of the caning as the  male perpetrator of the attack’s sole punishment was 20 lashes.

Young women and girls in Bangladesh are punished for the crime of being the “lesser sex” on a daily basis. They are pushed into child marriages, slain for dowry and subjected to severe familial and marital acts of  gender-based violence.

In many ways, young girls and women are seen as nothing more than “financial burdens” on the family.

There is far less investment in education and healthcare for young girls and women across Bangladesh and once they reach puberty, their mobility is heavily restricted.

As the high number of child marriage, gender-based acts of violence and adolescent motherhood soars, it is clear this growth surpasses the setbacks of social disparity and lack of education.

The UNICEF country programme document states that in spite of significant progress in the reduction of poverty and  gender equity in the education system up to secondary level, gender bias still exists.

The   document emphasises that “the low socio-economic status of women is reflected in the poor health services provided to them, their inadequate food intake and their limited decision-making authority. Early marriage, dowry practices and sexual harassment, as well as violence against children and women continue because of social acceptance and gender norms”.

In this sense, Sakina, in spite of her prestigious family name and affluent background, is just as much a victim of violent brutality as the isolated village woman who was mercilessly caned.

In South Asia and elsewhere, ruthless violence against young women knows no bounds, it unleashes itself in  all classes of society, from the marginalised to the elite, like a  threatening plague.

In most cases, the abuse is rooted in the home where girls decision-making power is most limited.  Women’s  “intrinsic role” relegates  them into a position of subservience.

Violence within the home perpetrated by women who target other vulnerable young women and girls, much like in the case of Sakina and her abusive mother, are by far the most difficult cases to tackle as few have the courage to condemn and speak out against the actions of their own families.

In a recent research study, more than half of women interviewed aged between 15-49 experienced some form of physical or sexual violence in their homes.

Ironically, UNICEF has reported that even in the wealthiest quintile of society,  13 percent of girls are underweight, possibly due to food deprivation as a form of punishment.

Acid throwing, whipping, and sexual harassment are also common forms of violence perpetrated against women and young girls.

The rampant culture of violence and abuse has led many young women to contemplate suicide, as UNICEF reports suicide to be most common among girls aged between 14 and 17 in Bangladesh.

The need to implement gender-equal initiatives with the outcome of delimiting women and young girls mobility is vital. Through innovative education, the perpetrator of violence in Bangladesh will benefit just as much as the victim.

Through the widespread implementation of  anti-violence initiatives, those most affected by abuse will come to realise that brutal castigation is by no means embedded in the national culture, nor is it an acceptable manner of monitoring and “controlling” female behaviour.

It is time women in Bangladesh and elsewhere speak out in the face of violence and realise that the open condemnation of abuse is key to addressing the entrenched discrimination against women and girls that dominate the nation.

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Ships Bring Your Coffee, Snack and TV Set, But Also Pests and Diseaseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/ships-bring-your-coffee-snack-and-tv-set-but-also-pests-and-diseases/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ships-bring-your-coffee-snack-and-tv-set-but-also-pests-and-diseases http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/ships-bring-your-coffee-snack-and-tv-set-but-also-pests-and-diseases/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:22:26 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146649 Containers pile up in the Italian port of Salerno. Photo: FAO

Containers pile up in the Italian port of Salerno. Photo: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 23 2016 (IPS)

“Every evening, millions of people all over the world will settle into their armchairs to watch some TV after a hard day at work. Many will have a snack or something to drink…

… That TV probably arrived in a containership; the grain that made the bread in that sandwich came in a bulk carrier; the coffee probably came by sea, too. Even the electricity powering the TV set and lighting up the room was probably generated using fuel that came in a giant oil tanker.”

This is what the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)  wants everybody to keep in mind ahead of this year’s World Maritime Day. “The truth is, shipping affects us all… No matter where you may be in the world, if you look around you, you are almost certain to see something that either has been or will be transported by sea, whether in the form of raw materials, components or the finished article.”

Yet few people have any idea just how much they rely on shipping. For the vast majority, shipping is out of sight and out of mind, IMO comments. “This is a story that needs to be told… And this is why the theme that has been chosen for the World Maritime Day 2016 is “Shipping: indispensable to the world.” The Day is marked every year on 29 September.


Over 80 Per Cent of Global Trade Carried by Sea

Some $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year. Photo: FAO

Some $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year. Photo: FAO

Meanwhile, another UN organisation–the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), informs that around 80 per cent of global trade by volume and over 70 per cent of global trade by value are carried by sea and are handled by ports worldwide.

These shares are even higher in the case of most developing countries, says UNCTAD.

“There are more than 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo. The world fleet is registered in over 150 nations and manned by more than a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.”

A Floating Threat

All this is fine. But as another major United Nations organisation also reminds that not all is great about sea-born trade. See what happens.

A Floating Threat: Sea Containers Spread Pests and Diseases’  is the title of an information note issued on August 17 by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

FAO highlights  that that while oil spills garner much public attention and anguish, the so-called “biological spills” represent a greater long-term threat and do not have the same high public profile. And gives some good examples.

“It was an exotic fungus that wiped out billions of American chestnut trees in the early 20th century, dramatically altering the landscape and ecosystem, while today the emerald ash borer – another pest that hitch-hiked along global trade routes to new habitats – threatens to do the same with a valuable tree long used by humans to make tool handles, guitars and office furniture.”

FAO explains that perhaps the biggest “biological spill” of all was when a fungus-like eukaryotic microorganism called Phytophthora infestans – the name of the genus comes from Greek for “plant destroyer” – sailed from the Americas to Belgium. Within months it arrived in Ireland, triggering a potato blight that led to famine, death and mass migration.

“The list goes on and on. A relative of the toxic cane toad that has run rampant in Australia recently disembarked from a container carrying freight to Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot, and the ability of females to lay up to 40,000 eggs a year make it a catastrophic threat for local lemurs and birds, while also threatening the habitat of a host of animals and plants.”

In Rome, FAO informs, municipal authorities are ramping up their annual campaign against the tiger mosquito, an invasive species that arrived by ship in Albania in the 1970s. Aedes albopictus, famous for its aggressive biting, is now prolific across Italy and global warming will make swathes of northern Europe ripe for colonisation.

“This is why the nations of the world came together some six decades ago to establish the  International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) as a means to help stem the spread of plant pests and diseases across borders boundaries via international trade and to protect farmers, foresters, biodiversity, the environment, and consumers.”

“The crop losses and control costs triggered by exotic pests amount to a hefty tax on food, fibre and forage production,” says Craig Fedchock, coordinator of the FAO-based IPPC Secretariat. “All told, fruit flies, beetles, fungi and their kin reduce global crop yields by between 20 and 40 per cent.”

Credit: IMO

Credit: IMO

Trade as a Vector, Containers as a Vehicle

Invasive species arrive in new habitats through various channels, but shipping, is the main one, FAO reports.

“And shipping today means sea containers: Globally, around 527 million sea container trips are made each year – China alone deals with over 133 million sea containers annually. It is not only their cargo, but the steel contraptions themselves, that can serve as vectors for the spread of exotic species capable of wreaking ecological and agricultural havoc.”

For example, an analysis of 116,701 empty sea containers arriving in New Zealand over the past five years showed that one in 10 was contaminated on the outside, twice the rate of interior contamination.

“Unwelcome pests included the gypsy moth, the Giant African snail, Argentine ants and the brown marmorated stink bug, each of which threaten crops, forests and urban environments. Soil residues, meanwhile, can contain the seeds of invasive plants, nematodes and plant pathogens,” FAO informs.

“Inspection records from the United States, Australia, China and New Zealand indicate that thousands of organisms from a wide range of taxa are being moved unintentionally with sea containers,” the study’s lead scientist, Eckehard Brockerhoff of the New Zealand Forest Research Institute, told a recent meeting at FAO of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM), IPPC’s governing body.

These phytosanitary (the health of plants) measures are intended to ensure that imported plants are free of specified pests.

Here, FAO warns that damage exceeds well beyond agriculture and human health issues. Invasive species can cause clogged waterways and power plant shutdowns.

Biological invasions inflict damages amounting to around five per cent of annual global economic activity, equivalent to about a decade’s worth of natural disasters, according to one study, Brockerhoff said, adding that factoring in harder-to-measure impacts may double that.

Around 90 per cent of world trade is carried by sea today, with vast panoply of differing logistics, making agreement on an inspection method elusive. Some 12 million containers entered the U.S. last year, using no fewer than 77 ports of entry.

“Moreover, many cargoes quickly move inland to enter just-in-time supply chains. That’s how the dreaded brown marmorated stink bug – which chews quickly through high-value fruit and crops – began its European tour a few years ago in Zurich.”

This animal actively prefers steel nooks and crannies for long-distance travel, and once established likes to set up winter hibernation niches inside people’s houses.

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India’s New Maternity Benefits Act Criticised as Elitisthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indias-new-maternity-benefits-act-criticised-as-elitist/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indias-new-maternity-benefits-act-criticised-as-elitist http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indias-new-maternity-benefits-act-criticised-as-elitist/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2016 18:20:39 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146620 The new law will benefit only a miniscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country's unorganised sector such as contractual labour, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The new law will benefit only a miniscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country's unorganised sector such as contractual labour, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Aug 19 2016 (IPS)

The passage of the landmark Maternity Benefits Act 1961 by the Indian Parliament, which mandates 26 weeks of paid leave for mothers as against the existing 12, has generated more heartburn than hurrahs due to its skewed nature.

The law will also facilitate ‘work from home’ options for nursing mothers once the leave period ends and has made creche facilities mandatory in establishments with 50 or more employees. The amendment takes India up to the third position in terms of maternity leave duration after Norway (44 weeks) and Canada (50).

However, while the law has brought some cheers on grounds that it at least acknowledges that women are entitled to maternity benefits — crucial in a country notorious for its entrenched discrimination against women and one that routinely features at the bottom of the gender equity index — many are dismissing it as a flawed piece of legislation.

The critics point out that the new law will benefit only a miniscule percentage of women employed in the organised sector while ignoring a large demographic toiling in the country’s unorganised sector such as contractual workers, farmers, casual workers, self-employed women and housewives.

Poor women working as labourers in India are deprived of any maternity benefits. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Poor women working as labourers in India are deprived of any maternity benefits. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

According to Sudeshna Sengupta of the Right to Food Campaign, India sees 29.7 million women getting pregnant each year.

“Even if the law is fully implemented,” the activist told IPS, “studies show that it will benefit only 1.8 million women in the organised sector leaving out practically 99 percent of the country’s women workforce. If this isn’t discrimination, what is? In India, women’s paid workforce constitutes just 5 percent of the 1.8 million. The rest fall within the unorganised sector. How fair is it to leave out this lot from the ambit of the new law?” asks Sengupta.

Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), opines that maternity benefits should be universally available to all women, including wage earners.

“But the act ignores this completely by focussing only on women in the organised sector. In India most women are waged workers or do contractual work and face hugely exploitative work conditions. They are not even recognised under the ambit of labour laws. The moment a woman becomes pregnant she is seen as a liability. The new law has no provisions to eliminate this mindset, ” Krishnan told IPS.

Some of the employed women this correspondent spoke to say that a woman’s pregnancy is often a deal breaker for employers in India. Sakshi Mehra, a manager with a garment export house in Delhi, explains that though initially her employers were delighted with her work ethic, and even gave her a double promotion within a year of joining, “things changed drastically when I got pregnant. My boss kept dropping hints that I should look for an ‘easier’ job. It was almost as if I’d become handicapped overnight,” Mehra told IPS.

Such a regressive mindset — of pregnant women not being `fit’ — is common in many Indian workplaces. While some women fight back, while others capitulate to pressure and quietly move on.

Another glaring flaw in the new legislation, say activists, is that it makes no mention of paternity leave, putting the onus of the newborn’s rearing on the mother. This is a blow to gender equality, they add. Global studies show lower child mortality and higher gender equality in societies where both parents are engaged in child rearing. Paternity leave doesn’t just help dads become more sensitive parents, show studies, it extends a helping hand to new moms coming to grips with their new role as a parent.

According to Dr. Mansi Bhattacharya, senior gynaecologist and obstetrician at Fortis Hospital, NOIDA, Uttar Pradesh, there’s no reason why fathers should not play a significant role in childcare.

“Paternity leave allows the father to support his spouse at a critical time. Also, early bonding between fathers and infants ensures a healthier and a more sensitive father-child relationship. It also offers support to the new mother feeling overwhelmed by her new parental responsibilities,” she says.

A research paper of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) — a think-tank of developed countries — says children with ‘more involved’ fathers fare better during their early years. Paternity leaves with flexible work policies facilitate such participation.

Paternity leave is also a potent tool for boosting gender diversity at the workplace, especially when coupled with flexi hours, or work-from-home options for the new father, add analysts. “Parental leave is not an either/or situation,” Deepa Pallical, national coordinator, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights told IPS. “A child needs the involvement of both parents for his balanced upbringing. Any policy that ignores this critical ground reality is a failure.”

The activist adds that granting leave to both parents augments the chances of women returning to their jobs with greater peace of mind and better job prospects. This benefit is especially critical for a country like India, which has the lowest female work participation in the world. Only 21.9 percent of all Indian women and 14.7 percent of urban women work.

Women in India represent only 24 percent of the paid labour force, as against the global average of 40 percent, according to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report. At 53 percentage points, India has one of the worst gender gaps (disproportionate difference between the sexes) in the world when it comes to labour force participation, World Bank data shows. The economic loss of such non-participation, say economists, is colossal. Lakshmi Puri, assistant secretary-general of UN Women, noted in 2011 that India’s growth rate could ratchet up by 4.2 percent if women were given more opportunities.

According to a World Bank report titled “Women, Business and the Law” (2016), over 80-odd countries provide for paternity leave including Iceland, Finland and Sweden. The salary during this period, in Nordic countries, is typically partly paid and generally funded by the government. Among India’s neighbours, Afghanistan, China, Hong Kong and Singapore mandate a few days of paternity leave.

In a fast-changing corporate scenario, some Indian companies are encouraging male employees to take a short, paid paternity break. Those employed in State-owned companies and more recently, public sector banks are even being allowed paternity leave of 15 days. In the U.S., however, companies like Netflix, Facebook and Microsoft offer generous, fully-paid paternity leave of a few months.

Perhaps India could take a page from them to address an issue which not only impacts nearly half of its 1.2 billion population, but also has a critical effect on its national economy. The right decision will not only help it whittle down gender discrimination and improve social outcomes, but also augment its demographic dividend – a win-win-win.

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The Time is Ripe to Act against Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-time-is-ripe-to-act-against-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-time-is-ripe-to-act-against-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-time-is-ripe-to-act-against-drought/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 14:13:32 +0000 Monique Barbut http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146601

The author is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which co-organized with the Namibian government the Africa Drought Conference on 15-19 August in Windhoek. This Op-Ed is based on Barbut’s opening speech to the Conference High –level Segment.

By Monique Barbut
WINDHOEK, Aug 18 2016 (IPS)

Let us start with some good news.  Sort of.  The strongest El Niño in 35 years is coming to an end. [1]

In 2015/2016 this “El Niño effect” led to drought in over 20 countries [2].  There were scorching temperatures, water shortages and flooding around the world.  Worst hit were eastern and southern Africa[3]

Monique Barbut

Monique Barbut

To understand what that means for people, you just have to look at the numbers about food insecurity[4].  32 million people in southern Africa were affected by food insecurity as a result.  Across Africa, 1 million children required treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

And though the worst of the drought is coming to an end, predictions are high (at about 75%) that La-Nina will arrive later in 2016. La Nina – El Niño’s opposite number – is known for the flooding it brings.

There may not be much relief for policy makers and people across Africa before the end of the year.

But then, if will be over, we can breathe again.  We can go back to business as usual – right?

Well…if you will allow me…for Albert Einstein…one of the definitions of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Going back to business as usual fits this definition of insanity very well.

  • We know the next El Niño droughts are likely to return regularly.  Probably as often as every two to seven years.
  • We know that the extent and severity of droughts will increase.  This is because of climate change and unsustainable land use.   Scientists have estimated that the fraction of the land’s surface regularly experiencing drought conditions is predicted to increase from less than 5 percent today to more than 30 percent by the 2090s[5].
  • We know we will miss our targets on water scarcity (6.4, 6.5 and 6.6) under the sustainable development goals[6].
  • We know poor people, who tend to be wholly dependent on natural resources like water and land to provide for their families, will suffer.

Unless we change our approach, when drought comes and the rains fail, the future of the 400 million African farmers who rely on rain fed subsistence agriculture, for example, is put in jeopardy.

Rain-fed agriculture accounts for more than 95 percent of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa. And water scarcity alone could cost some regions 6 percent of their Gross Domestic Product.

Unless we change our approach, people are going to be increasingly forced to decide whether to ride out a drought disaster and then rebuild.  Or simply leave.

It is a form of madness that we force our people to make these difficult choices.

 

Especially if the cycle of drought disaster and recovery could be broken. 

Progress is starting to happen. Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam and Morocco, to name just a few countries, are now implementing drought plans with a strong emphasis on risk mitigation and preparedness.

And in the areas where land has been restored in Central and Eastern Tigray in Ethiopia, ecosystems and people seem to have fared better in recent El Nino related droughts than areas where no restoration has been undertaken.

But because by 2050, one in four people – up to 2.5 billion people – will be living in a country at risk of water scarcity, more needs to be done. Everywhere.  We must prepare better and manage drought risks proactively.

Africa has already done a lot[7] but needs to stay on its toes.

UNCCD is proposing three important pillars for your consideration.

 

Firstly, Early Warning Systems. 

Declaring a drought too late can have a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods. Yet when you declare a drought, it can often be very subjective and highly political.

Africa would benefit from an effective Early Warning System (EWS) in all countries. The system would need good data and – equally important – local and traditional knowledge. It would guide you by providing timely information that you can use to reduce risks and to better prepare for an effective response.

 

Secondly, vulnerability and risk assessment.

Of course, no amount of early warning will work without action to protect the most vulnerable.

Some people and some systems are more vulnerable to drought as a result of social, economic, and environmental factors. So it is important to combine better forecasts with detailed knowledge on how landscapes and societies respond to a lack of rain.

Which communities and ecosystems are most at risk? Why are important sectors like agriculture, energy, tourism, health vulnerable?

Then turn that knowledge into early intervention.

We can assure it would be highly cost effective.  Before the cost of a single late response is reached, you can “overreact” up to six times.

In Niger and Mozambique for example, the cost of an early intervention and resilience building efforts would lead to a cost reduction of 375 million US dollars in Mozambique and 844 million US dollars in Niger when compared to late humanitarian response to drought.[8]

 

Finally, drought risk mitigation measures.

We can identify measures to address these risks head on.  There are things that can be done at a very practical level to reduce drought risk, which if started right away, can deliver real and tangible benefits to your communities.

African countries could consider the development of sustainable irrigation schemes for crops and livestock or water harvesting schemes or the recycling and reuse of water. They can explore the cultivation of more drought tolerant crops, expand crop insurance schemes and establish alternative livelihoods that can provide income in drought-prone areas.

Investing in improved land management, for example, can improve on-farm water security by between 70 and 100%[9].

This would result in higher yields and more food security.   In Zimbabwe, water harvesting combined with conservation agriculture increased farmers gross margins by 4 to 7 times and increased returns on labour by 2 to 3 times. [10]

This is the type of proactive drought risk management, which could save lives and the livelihoods of millions of people, is something that we all should aspire to.

 

The Africa Drought Conference is a rare window of opportunity.

An opportunity for the continent to recognize that the traditional approach of “responding” to drought is no longer viable. It has proved to be ineffective far too often. Instead, Africa could lead a proactive drought revolution.

By investing in early warning systems and addressing their vulnerabilities head on, well-planned and coordinated drought action will have a positive ripple effect across sectors and across borders.

Nelson Mandela once said, “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right”.

The time is ripe. Taking proactive action against drought is the right thing to do.

 

Footnotes

[1] http://media.bom.gov.au/releases/267/el-nino-ends-as-tropical-pacific-ocean-returns-to-neutral/

[2] List compiled from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/22/southern-africa-worst-global-food-crisis-25-years and https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/30/el-nino-is-over-but-it-leaves-nearly-100-million-people-short-of-food.

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/22/africa-worst-famine-since-1985-looms-for-50-million

[4] https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Documents/OCHA_ElNino_Overview_13Apr2016.pdf

[5]  WMO( 2011): Towards a Compendium on National Drought Policy, p. 9.

[6] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6

[7] i.e. The Sahel and Sahara Observatory (OSS), IGAD’s Drought Resilience Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI), the Southern Africa Development Community – Community Climate Service Center (SADC-CSC) or the African Drought Risk and Development Network (ADDN).

[8] Department for international development : The Economics of Early Response and Resilience Series, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/226255/TEERR_Two_Pager_July_22.pdf

[9] Bossio, Deborah et al( 2010): Managing water by managing land: Addressing land degradation to improve water productivity and rural livelihoods, p. 540.

[10] Winterbottom, R. (et al.): Improving Land and Water Management. Working Paper, Installment 4 of Creating a Sustainable Food Future. World Resources Institute, 2013, p. 18.

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Humanitarian Crises: Business Called to Take a Leadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/humanitarian-crises-business-called-to-take-a-lead/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-crises-business-called-to-take-a-lead http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/humanitarian-crises-business-called-to-take-a-lead/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 17:03:43 +0000 IKEA Foundation http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146592 Courtesy of IKEA Foundation

Courtesy of IKEA Foundation

By IKEA Foundation
LEIDEN, The Netherlands, Aug 17 2016 (IPS)

With more than 65 million people forced to flee their homes due to violence and armed conflicts, this year’s Wold Humanitarian Day on August 19 will call on all governments and social sectors to work together to tackle this unprecedented human crisis.

The IKEA Foundation believes that businesses and foundations have an important role to play in strengthening the global response to refugee crises worldwide.

On this, Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation, says: “The corporate sector must come together to support those caught up in one of the biggest displacements of people in history. It’s not just up to governments and aid agencies. Businesses also have a responsibility to respond in their own way.”

“Financial support, through giving grants to organisations working directly with refugees, is certainly one way they can help. But we believe businesses have much more to offer. Their expertise and ability to innovate can help make life better for refugees, and they can use their influence to galvanise others to help,” Heggenes adds.

 

Focus on Innovation and Creativity

The Foundation supports refugee children and their families around the world through the UN Refugees agency (UNHCR) and other leading international organisations. The IKEA business makes good use of its creativity and problem-solving skills to find practical ways to help refugees.

Together with social enterprise Better Shelter and UNHCR, the Foundation has created a flat-pack shelter, which is safer and more durable than a tent.

UNHCR has already ordered thousands of shelters to house refugee families in Greece, Iraq, Serbia, Chad and Djibouti. The shelter will be on show at Insecurities:Tracing Displacement and Shelter, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1 October 2016 to 22 January 2017.

“This is a great example of how IKEA’s democratic design principles—of making good design available to the many people—have also influenced innovation in the humanitarian sector,” says Heggenes.

“The shelters are helping people who have been forced to flee their homes to live a better everyday life while in displacement.”

 

Build Unlikely Collaborations

The IKEA Foundation also recently teamed up with Amsterdam-based design platform What Design Can Do and UNHCR to harness the creative power of the design community.

The What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge called on designers and creative thinkers to come up with new concepts to make life better for refugee families living in urban areas.

The challenge attracted more than 600 entries, with the five winners announced on 1 July. Winners received 10,000 euro and expert support to develop their ideas.

“The great participation in the Refugee Challenge showed that people in the design community really want to use their skills to create better everyday lives for refugee children and families,” says Jonathan Spampinato, Head of Communications at the IKEA Foundation.

“Our role was to create a platform for them to showcase their ideas and provide funding to develop the best concepts. We believe that other professional communities may be equally motivated and that leading businesses can activate this desire to help.”

Courtesy of IKEA Foundation

Courtesy of IKEA Foundation

 

How Products Can Make a Difference

As well as looking for innovative design solutions, the Foundation provides financial support and donates IKEA products to partner organisations working in humanitarian crises.

“We’re really proud of how we are able to support our partners in times of disasters and conflict,” says Jonathan Spampinato. “On World Humanitarian Day, we’d like to say a huge thank you to our humanitarian partners, especially to their staff and volunteers who work on the frontline in emergencies.”

To support refugee children and families living in Iraq, the Foundation has donated 400,000 mattresses, quilts and blankets to UNHCR over three years.

Since 2013, it has also been donating IKEA children’s products to UNICEF for its Early Childhood Development Kits, which support the well-being of children, including those affected by conflicts and emergencies.

Earlier this year, the Foundation gave grants worth a total of 9.4 million euro to Save the Children and Médicins Sans Frontières. The money is supporting children and families affected by the Syrian conflict, in Syria and neighbouring countries.

It will pay for healthcare, education and child protection and help strengthen local organisations working within Syria. Moreover, the Foundation partnered up with War Child to provide quality education to 10,000 Syrian and Sudanese refugee children through the Can’t Wait to Learn e-learning programme.

 

Support Frontline Efforts

Using a similar approach, the IKEA Foundation is supporting a three-year programme run by Oxfam to strengthen local humanitarian organisations in Bangladesh and Uganda. The 7.3 million euro grant, which was announced at the World Humanitarian Summit in May, marks a major shift in the way the international community views emergency response.

Per Heggenes said: “With vast numbers of people on the move due to conflict and disaster, there’s a lot of pressure on the humanitarian system. Local organisations are often best placed to provide immediate assistance because they are on the ground and understand the community and culture. We’re funding this programme because we believe that strengthening local actors will improve the humanitarian system as a whole, and help it work more efficiently.”

 

Engaging Customers and Co-workers

Another way businesses can help is by mobilising their staff and customers to support refugees. In 2014-15, IKEA and the IKEA Foundation ran a campaign called Brighter Lives for Refugees. For every lamp or bulb sold in IKEA stores during the three campaign periods, the IKEA Foundation donated 1 euro to UNHCR.

Per Heggenes said: “We’re delighted with the way IKEA co-workers got behind the campaign, and promoted it to customers in their stores. In total, we raised 30.8 million euro to bring light and renewable energy to refugee camps in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.:

As well as raising a lot of money, I think the campaign shows how businesses can be a powerful force for good by engaging all their audiences in this important issue,” Per Heggenes concluded.

*This article has been provided by IKEA Foundation as part of an agreement with IPS.

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Dhaka Could Be Underwater in a Decadehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/dhaka-could-be-underwater-in-a-decade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dhaka-could-be-underwater-in-a-decade http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/dhaka-could-be-underwater-in-a-decade/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 23:10:34 +0000 Rafiqul Islam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146575 Dhaka is home to about 14 million people and is the centre of Bangladesh's growth, but it has practically zero capacity to cope with moderate to heavy rains. Credit: Fahad Kaiser/IPS

Dhaka is home to about 14 million people and is the centre of Bangladesh's growth, but it has practically zero capacity to cope with moderate to heavy rains. Credit: Fahad Kaiser/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam
DHAKA, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

Like many other fast-growing megacities, the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka faces severe water and sanitation problems, chiefly the annual flooding during monsoon season due to unplanned urbanisation, destruction of wetlands and poor city governance.

But experts are warning that if the authorities here don’t take serious measures to address these issues soon, within a decade, every major thoroughfare in the city will be inundated and a majority of neighborhoods will end up underwater after heavy precipitation.A 42-mm rainfall in ninety minutes is not unusual for monsoon season, but the city will face far worse in the future due to expected global temperature increases.

“If the present trend of city governance continues, all city streets will be flooded during monsoon in a decade, intensifying the suffering of city dwellers, and people will be compelled to leave the city,” urban planner Dr. Maksudur Rahman told IPS.

He predicted that about 50-60 percent of the city will be inundated in ten years if it experiences even a moderate rainfall.

Climate change means even heavier rains

Dhaka is home to about 14 million people and is the centre of the country’s growth, but it has practically zero capacity to cope with moderate to heavy rains. On Sep. 1, 2015, for example, a total of 42 millimeters fell in an hour and a half, collapsing the city’s drainage system.

According to experts, a 42 mm rainfall in ninety minutes is not unusual for monsoon season, but the city will face far worse in the future due to expected global temperature increases.

The fifth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that more rainfall will be very likely at higher latitudes by the mid-21st century under a high-emissions scenario and over southern areas of Asia by the late 21st century.

More frequent and heavy rainfall days are projected over parts of South Asia, including Bangladesh.

Dhaka is also the second most vulnerable to coastal flooding among nine of the most at-risk cities of the world, according to the Coastal City Flood Vulnerability Index (CCFVI), developed jointly by the Dutch researchers and the University of Leeds in 2012.

Dhaka has four surrounding rivers – Buriganga, Turag, Balu and Shitlakhya – which help drain the city during monsoon. The rivers are connected to the trans-boundary Jamuna River and Meghna River. But the natural flow of the capital’s surrounding rivers is hampered during monsoon due to widespread encroachment, accelerating water problems.

S.M. Mahbubur Rahman, director of the Dhaka-based Institute of Water Modeling (IWM), a think tank, said the authorities need to flush out the stagnant water caused by heavy rains through pumping since the rise in water level of the rivers during monsoon is a common phenomenon.

“When the intensity of rainfall is very high in a short period, they fail to do so,” he added.

Sylhet is the best example of managing problems in Bangladesh, as the city has successfully coped with its water-logging in recent years through improvement of its drainage system. Sylhet is located in a monsoon climatic zone and experiences a high intensity of rainfall during monsoon each year. Nearly 80 percent of the annual average precipitation (3,334 mm) occurs in the city between May and September.

Just a few years ago, water-logging was a common phenomenon in the city during monsoon. But a magical change has come in managing water problems after Sylhet City Corporation improved its drainage system and re-excavated canals, which carry rainwater and keep the city free from water-logging.

A critical network of canals

City canals play a vital role in running off rainwater during the rainy season. But most of the canals are clogged and the city drainage system is usually blocked because of disposal of waste in drains. So many parts of the capital get inundated due to the crumbling drainage system and some places go under several feet of stagnant rainwater during monsoon.

“Once there were 56 canals in the capital, which carried rainwater and kept the city free from water-logging…most of the canals were filled up illegally,” said Dr Maksudur Rahman, a professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Dhaka University.

He stressed the need for cleaning up all the city canals and making them interconnected, as well as dredging the surrounding rivers to ensure smooth runoff of rainwater during monsoon.

In October 2013, the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) signed a 7.5 million Euro deal with the Netherlands-based Vitens Evides International to dredge some of the canals, but three years later, there is no visible progress.

DWASA deputy managing director SDM Quamrul Alam Chowdhury said the Urban Dredging Demonstration Project (UDDP) is a partnership programme, which taken to reduce flooding in the city’s urban areas and improve capacity of DWASA to carry out the drainage operation.

“Under the UDDP, we are excavating Kalyanpur Khal (canal) in the city. We will also dig Segunbagicha Khal of the city,” he added.

Dwindling water bodies

Water bodies have historically played an important role in the expansion of Dhaka. But as development encroaches on natural drainage systems, they no longer provide this critical ecosystem service.

“We are indiscriminately filling up wetlands and low-lying areas in and around Dhaka city for settlement. So rainwater does not get space to run off,” said Dr Maksud.

A study by the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services (CEGIS) in 2011 shows that about 33 percent of Dhaka’s water bodies dwindled during 1960-2009 while low-lying areas declined by about 53 percent.

Lack of coordination

There are a number of government bodies, including DWASA, both Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), that are responsible for ensuring a proper drainage system in the capital. But a lack of coordination has led to a blame game over which agency is in charge.

DWASA spokesman Zakaria Al Mahmud said: “You will not find such Water Supply and Sewerage Authority across the world, which maintains the drainage system of a city, but DWASA maintains 20 percent of city’s drainage system.”

He said it is the responsibility of other government agencies like city corporations and BWDB to maintain the drainage system of Dhaka.

DSCC Mayor Sayeed Khokon said it will take time to resolve the existing water-logging problem, and blamed encroachers for filling up almost all the city canals.

Around 14 organisations are involved in maintaining the drainage system of the city, he said, adding that lack of coordination among them is the main reason behind the water-logging.

DNCC mayor Annisul Huq suggested constituting a taskforce involving DWASA, city corporations, Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) and other government agencies to increase coordination among them aiming to resolve the city’s water problems.

This story is part of special IPS coverage of World Humanitarian Day on August 19.

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One Humanity? Millions of Children Tortured, Smuggled, Abused, Enslavedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/one-humanity-millions-of-children-tortured-smuggled-abused-enslaved/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-humanity-millions-of-children-tortured-smuggled-abused-enslaved http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/one-humanity-millions-of-children-tortured-smuggled-abused-enslaved/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 11:19:24 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146555 A boy carrying his belongings in a large cloth bag over his shoulder is among people walking on railway tracks to cross from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into Serbia. Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2015-2203/Georgiev

A boy carrying his belongins in a large cloth bag over his shoulder is among people walking on railway tracks to cross from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into Serbia. Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2015-2203/Georgiev

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

Children are being smuggled, sexually abused, maimed, killed for their vital organs, recruited as soldiers or otherwise enslaved. Not only: 69 million children under five will die from mostly preventable causes, 167 million will live in poverty, and 263 million are out of school. And 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030.

These are just some of the dramatic figures that the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other UN and international bodies released few weeks ahead of the World Humanitarian Day (WHD) marked every year on August 19.

Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general, summarized the world future generation situation: “Children continue to be tortured, maimed, imprisoned, starved, sexually abused and killed in armed conflict.”

A boy holds a large piece of exploded artillery shell, which landed in the village of Al Mahjar, a suburb of Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Photo: UNICEF/Mohamed Hamoud

A boy holds a large piece of exploded artillery shell, which landed in the village of Al Mahjar, a suburb of Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Photo: UNICEF/Mohamed Hamoud

“In places such as Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, children suffer through a living hell,” the UN chief said as he opened the Security Council’s debate on children and armed conflict on August 2.

Meanwhile, the future of humankind continues to be bleak, “unless the world focuses more on the plight of its most disadvantaged children,” alerts a United Nations report.

“Denying hundreds of millions of children a fair chance in life does more than threaten their futures – by fuelling inter-generational cycles of disadvantage, it imperils the future of their societies,” on 28 June said UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, on the release of The State of the World’s Children, the agency’s annual flagship report.

“We have a choice: Invest in these children now or allow our world to become still more unequal and divided.”

The UNICEF report notes that significant progress has been made in saving children’s lives, getting children into school and lifting people out of poverty. But this progress has been neither even nor fair, the report flags. “The poorest children are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday and to be chronically malnourished than the richest.”

Across much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, children born to mothers with no education are almost three times more likely to die before they are five than those born to mothers with a secondary education, says UNICEF’s report. And “Girls from the poorest households are twice as likely to marry as children than girls from the wealthiest households.”

Worst in Sub-Saharan Africa

Nowhere is the outlook grimmer than in sub-Saharan Africa, where at least 247 million children – or 2 in 3 – live in multidimensional poverty, deprived of what they need to survive and develop, and where nearly 60 per cent of 20- to 24-year-olds from the poorest fifth of the population have had less than four years of schooling, the report warns.

At current trends, the report projects, by 2030, sub-Saharan Africa will account for nearly half of the 69 million children who will die before their fifth birthday from mostly preventable causes; more than half of the 60 million children of primary school age who will still be out of school; and 9 out of 10 children living in extreme poverty.  her twin

The UNICEF report goes on to warn that about 124 million children today do not go to primary- and lower-secondary school, and almost two in five who do finish primary school have not learned how to read, write or do simple arithmetic.

Youth, The Other Lost Generation

Meanwhile, there is another lost generation—the youth. “Today, over 70 million youth are looking for jobs while nearly 160 million are working, yet living in poverty. These figures embody a massive waste of potential and a threat to social cohesion,” on August 12 wrote Azita Berar Awad, Director of Employment Policy Department at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence, 160 million live in high drought severity areas. Of the 530 million children in the flood-prone zones, some 300 million live in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty – on less than $3.10 a day. Photo: UNICEF.

More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence, 160 million live in high drought severity areas. Of the 530 million children in the flood-prone zones, some 300 million live in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty – on less than $3.10 a day. Photo: UNICEF.

“Youth unemployment and decent work deficits depreciate human capital and have a significant negative influence on health, happiness, anti-social behaviour, and socio-political stability. They impact the present and future well-being of our societies,” she added.

Moreover, Berar stressed, conditions in youth labour markets are changing constantly and rapidly, so are the profiles and aspirations of young women and men who are entering the labour force every day.

“For most, expectations of decent work are not only about earning an income and making a livelihood. Youth see decent work as the cornerstone of their life project, the catalyst for their integration into society, and the pathway to their participation into the broader social and political arena.”

Anyway, this year’s WHD follows on one of the most pivotal moments in the history of humanitarian action: the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which was held on May 23-24 May in Istanbul.

The WHS main objective was to mobilise world leaders to declare their collective support for the new Agenda for Humanity and commit to bold action to reduce suffering and deliver better for the millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance.

But while succeeding in attracting world’s attention to the current humanitarian emergency, the Istanbul Summit failed to mobilise the urgently needed funds to alleviate the sufferance of up to 160 million people and growing: as little and affordable 21 billion dollars.

Now, the WHD 2016 will continue communications around the Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit. For instance, the #ShareHumanity campaign, which kicked off last year on 19 August, beginning a global countdown to drive awareness for the WHS.

“Impossible Choices”

Previously, the campaign ‘Impossible Choices’ was launched In April this year with a call to world leaders to attend the Summit and to ‘Commit to Action’.  The launch of final phase of this UN vast campaign coincides with the WHD on 19 August and will run up until the UN secretary-general presents the Wold Humanitarian Summit Report at the UN General Assembly in September.

Following on this ‘Impossible Choices’ campaign earlier this year, the WHD digital campaign ‘The World You’d Rather’ will launch on 19 August.

Featuring a quiz based on the popular game ‘Would you rather’, the digital campaign will bring to light the very real scenarios faced by people in crisis. After being confronted with challenging choices, users will be able to share a personalised graphic on social media, tweet their world leader and learn about the Agenda for Humanity.

But while the UN starves to raise awareness among political decision-makers and mobilise humanity to take speedy, bold actions to alleviate, end and hopefully prevent the on-going, unprecedented human sufferance, world’s biggest powers continue to spend over 1,7 trillion dollars a year on weapons production and trade.

One Humanity? Yes. But whose? And for Whom?

This story is part of special IPS coverage of World Humanitarian Day on August 19.

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Interview: The UN Security Council and North Korea’s Nuclear Threathttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/interview-the-un-security-council-and-north-koreas-nuclear-threat/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=interview-the-un-security-council-and-north-koreas-nuclear-threat http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/interview-the-un-security-council-and-north-koreas-nuclear-threat/#comments Sun, 14 Aug 2016 16:17:42 +0000 Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146542 Ambassador Choong-hee Han of South Korea with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Ambassador Choong-hee Han of South Korea with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

By Rose Delaney
UNITED NATIONS / ROME, Aug 14 2016 (IPS)

Ambassador Hahn Choong-hee, UN representative of the Republic of Korea, spoke with IPS about the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2270, which was unanimously adopted on 2 March 2016.

The resolution calls for the universal condemnation of the nuclear threat from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK / North Korea) and was prompted by repeated missile launches by North Korea in defiance of opposition from the international community.

North Korea’s nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs not only violate UN Security Council resolutions but also pose a grave threat to global peace and security. Ambassador Hahn, from neighbouring South Korea shared his views on North Korea with IPS.

IPS: Undoubtedly, the North Korean nuclear threat endangers and poses a great threat to global peace and security. In light of the UN Security Council Resolution 2270 discussions in New York on the 30th of June, how will the Security Council tackle nuclear weapon issues? In other words, what role will the UN and the global community play in the North Korea Sanctions Regime?

Ambassador Hahn: The conference on Resolution 2270 held in New York in June 2016 was very significant as key discussions were developed on the topic of North Korean evasion tactics. The discussion was hosted by three major sponsoring countries, South Korea, the United States and Japan, who are all leading voices in the strive against North-Korean nuclear advances.

With diplomatic démarche I believe we can overcome North Korea’s defiance.

In order to enforce UN Sanctions on North Korea, the most significant criteria for member states to comply with the sanctions regime is to present a 90-day report. As of yet, we’ve received around 40 reports from a select number of countries. The generation of reports this year has been above average, however, in spite of this great intake, it is still not enough. It is now time to raise global awareness on the importance of the enforcement of this sanction.

The implementation of Resolution 2270 has proved exceedingly difficult as North Korea is defiant and acts out against the international voice. In fact, they’ve launched 7 missiles recently. The missiles were particularly alarming worrisome because if they had been successful, there impact could have reached as far as Japan and US territory. Although North Korea’s Musudan last missile launch attempts have failed. The latest missile to be launched was more successful than the rest, as its maximum delivery was 1000km and its distance 400 km. This is why the international cooperation of state agencies and civil society organizations is critical at this juncture to put the threat of nuclear advancement to a halt.

IPS: Will the development of nuclear technology in the DRPK have a grave impact on the world? How does the UN Security Council plan to address these advancements?

Ambassador Hahn: Most definitely, the impact would be immense if the advancements proved successful. North Korea is continuously trying to improve on tried and tested nuclear methods and are relentless in their belief that nuclear power ensures national security or regime survival. They are currently attempting to work on a nuclear technology referred to as “musudan” in the Korean language. This is an intermediate missile, if it’s further developed it could be used as a delivery means carrying nuclear warhead. It’s a particularly precarious advancement as this missile could cover the US territory of Guam.

Japan is particularly concerned about North Korea’s continued launch of missiles. This has become a critical issue for Japanese security. Whenever North Korea launches any mid to long range missile, Japan has been reacting strongly against the last seven missiles.

Another international preoccupation comes from the launching of missiles from mobile pads. These missiles could be concealed and launched at any time and in any given place. We’ve already born witness to this danger as they’ve attempted to launch missiles in a similar manner 7 times. The UN has issued a press statement each time, even if it was a failure, to communicate the message that the UN is watching and we are, by no means, disregarding what they are doing.

In reaction to North Korea’s defiance, we’d like to share a strong message. The international society are both committed and rigorous in their fight to stop North Korea’s engagement with nuclear weapons.

North Korea has tried to avoid their compliance with the sanction through many evasion tactics. By issuing the publication of case studies on North Korea with all member states, a strong emphasis will be placed on the country’s refusal to comply with international regulation. In this way, each member can compare what they’re doing against North Korea and what other countries are experiencing in relation to implementation of the sanction.

We believe that by condemning the actions of North Korea through global dissemination and by member states openly discouraging their behaviour we will eventually stamp out the North Korean nuclear threat.

IPS: How can North Korean defiance and refusal to comply with Resolution 2270 be resolved in a peaceful manner? How significant will international cooperation and coordination be in countering the impact of North Korea’s violations?

Ambassador Hahn: As we are all too aware, there is a critical need to implement sanction pressure in North Korea at this juncture. In several countries, bilateral sanctions have been introduced. For example, the US passed a law to introduce the so-called “secondary boycott”, this is a way to condemn and place penalties on foreign companies, for example companies from other states operating with North Korea, which is helping North Korea’s WMD capabilities.

This law gives leverage to the administration to decide what kind of sanction measures they can take. The US is trying to penalise regions such as North Korea for human rights violations. The EU has also introduced various forms of sanction pressure.

Bilateral pressure will also be encouraged to put a stop to North Korea’s clandestine cooperation with Middle Eastern and African countries. “Diplomatic demarche” has led to clandestine transactions between companies from North Korea and African and Middle Eastern countries. It is now time for the global community to condemn North Korea’s abuse of the international finance system and shut down their clandestine systems of trade and banking. Through the enforcement of laws together with the strength of bilateral pressure, with diplomatic demarche I believe we can overcome North Korea’s defiance.

IPS: In accordance to the UN Security Council, the implementation of the core Sanctions measures contained in resolution 2270 will counter the North Korea’s illicit activities. In light of this, how has China, a neighbouring country and significant partner in trade to North Korea, fared in their implementation of the sanctions?

Ambassador Hahn: Unfortunately, as of yet, the implementation has been met with nothing more than a series of unmet promises on China’s part. Which is worrying as I truly believe a solution to the “North Korea problem” could come through the continued pursuit and that China take faithful implementation of 2270.

The Chinese government continuously assure us that they’ll implement the Resolution 2270 sanction, however it seems premature to say that China is in full implementation as there is a so-called “livelihood” exception in some of the sectoral ban of the resolution.

We will have continued discussions with China to see how they are going to realistically implement the 2270 general and ensure their future commitment to it.

IPS: In spite of China’s current position on the implementation of Resolution 2270, have North-Korean-Chinese relations worsened due to the nuclear threat North Korea endangers the world with?

Ambassador Hahn: Yes, relations between North Korea and China have been tarnished. In a recent diplomatic visit to China, North Korea demonstrated their need to avoid diplomatic isolation. Lee Soo-Yong, North Korea’s senior worker’s party official, met with the president of China, and expressed the importance of maintaining good relations with China in a bid to avoid isolation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping communicated the message to the North Korean delegation that while China acknowledges the importance of bilateral relations between China and North Korea, they do not support North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missile launches.

However, in spite of North Korea’s fear of exclusion and isolation, they did not seem to take heed of China’s advice, protest, and warning. North Korea believe nuclear weapons are the key to their survival and they refuse to compromise anything for it.

IPS: As the number of North Korean labourers in the international workforce grows and illicit negotiations between Middle Eastern and African companies ceases to discontinue, North Korea’s defiance has shown that it not only endangers the world with the threat of nuclear warfare, it also poses a grave threat to the international financial system. How does the UN Security Council together with the aid of the international community aim to eliminate this threat?

Ambassador Hahn: A big stake in North Korea’s relationship with other countries, is its labour force abroad. So far, over 35,000 North Korean workers worldwide are on special contracts, generating over 300 million dollars a year. Some countries are now reviewing and reconsidering these contracts and a couple of countries have made a decision to discontinue some of the contracts.

We’ve approached several countries about the implementations of these types of sanctions. Recently, Qatar, sent over 100 workers back home to North Korea. These actions discourage the continuance of North Korea’s careless attitude. China are also attempting to implement a lot of diplomatic demarche. For example, several North Korean restaurants have now closed in China.

Cooperation with North Korea and some African countries, has led to the development of bilateral military cooperation projects, recently South Korean president Park Geun-hye visited Uganda and condemned this illicit cooperation and Uganda subsequently agreed to discontinue their military cooperation with North Korea.

IPS: Finally, what are the expected outcomes of Resolution 2270 and where will the UN Security Council go from there?

Ambassador Hahn: At present, North Korea’s power consolidation process is very troubling. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un wants to demonstrate his absolute power through the showcasing of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. In this way, North Korea has demonstrated zero intention to abandon their nuclear weapons program. They consider it to be a form of economic prosperity and ultimately, survival. They are trying to go ahead with “Byungjin”, literally “going together” with nuclear and economic development.

As of yet, it is much too early to judge whether the 2270 general is being implemented in a faithful manner on an international level. As North Korea is defiant and is engaged in the launching of missiles it’s clear that they do not respect the UN sanctions. This attitude will be exceptionally challenging for the future success of the Resolution. North Korea is not interested in complying with internationally beneficial regulations and this is something that will be difficult to reverse.

As I mentioned before, it is not not easy to predict any future measures but what is important to emphasis is that there should be a very steady, orderly mid and long-term process of implementation of Resolution 2270 in North Korea. I hope that the diplomatic demarche from member states will enable us all to work together, along with the critical assistance of China, to ultimately, put North Korea’s engagement with nuclear weapons to a stop.

 Valentina Ieri, IPS UN Bureau, interviewed Ambassador Hahn in New York.

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Adaptation to Climate Change: Need for a Human Rights Approachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/adaptation-to-climate-change-need-for-a-human-rights-approach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adaptation-to-climate-change-need-for-a-human-rights-approach http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/adaptation-to-climate-change-need-for-a-human-rights-approach/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 20:57:26 +0000 Arif Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146537 By Arif Chowdhury
Aug 12 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The memories of Cyclone Sidr and Aila are fresh in the mind of Razia Begum, a victim of climate change, of Dacope Upazila, Khulna. The standing field crops and houses of her community were destroyed, and they suffered the loss of cattle as well as people who perished in these natural disasters. She says mournfully that Saturkhali, Kamarkhola, Koilashganj and Baniashanta are the most vulnerable unions where access to necessary human rights is disrupted. Furthermore, salinity, flood, river erosion, heavy rain, cyclone, water logging and seasonal variations etc. are the most devastating impacts of climate change in those areas.

Photo: AFP

Photo: AFP

Seasonal, temporary, permanent migration is increasing in these areas due to climate change, while illegal trafficking is also a noticeable concern. Locals believe that the reasons behind their misery is the decreasing rate of natural resources at the Sundarbans, high rate of salinity (more than 80 percent soil has some form of salinity) and increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters. More men than women migrate to other places from these areas, and thus women, fall victim to vulnerable, hazardous situation. Although, some adaptation and implementation authorities such as Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), Shushilon, Heed Bangladesh, Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) etc. are working for the betterment of the local people in Dacope, lack of good governance, existence of salinity, non-sustainable embankment, lack of killas, poor communication systems, lack of economic assistance, etc. are seen as obstacles for sustainable adaptation.

A human rights approach to migration and adaptation is related to the core points of governance issues in the context of increased climatic factors. Bangladesh is one the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, and every year a large number of people are displaced from their place of origin due to the impacts of climate change. According to the United Nations, “A human rights approach to migration places the migrant at the centre of migration policies and management, and pays particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants. Such an approach will also ensure that migrants are included in relevant national action plans and strategies, such as plans on the provision of public housing or national strategies to combat racism and xenophobia”.

Representatives of over 190 countries gathered in Paris for COP 21, to discuss on several issues related to climate change and environment. While touching on the effects of climate change, participants also focused on the practical importance of ensuring human rights. As John Knox stated: “Every State in the climate negotiations belongs to at least one human rights treaty, and they must ensure that all of their actions comply with their human rights obligations. That includes their actions relating to climate change”.

An increase of 2 degree Celsius temperature will not only impact the environment but also affect human rights of developing countries. Thus, the Climate Vulnerable Forum countries at COP 21 suggested following a target of 1.5 degrees rise in temperature, as it could human rights.

The government of Bangladesh needs to address proper approach in governance, so that the human rights of marginalised people can be protected with proper adaptation. To cope with the effects of climate change at place of origin or destination, adaptation can be addressed as one of the major mechanisms. It is mandatory to specify concerns and scopes of legal practices in Bangladesh, and to address local people’s climate change concern, adaptation challenges and safe migration. The government has to cover important issues to ensure safe migration and adaptation. These include: protection of property and possessions left behind by internally displaced persons; right to know the fate of missing relatives; access to psychological and social services; issuing displaced people with all the necessary documents (e.g. passports, personal identification documents, birth certificates, marriage certificates, irrespective of gender etc.) to enjoy legal rights and protection against discrimination in the destination areas, as well as offer protection to those who have returned to their place of origin or have resettled in another part of the country.

Moreover, the government’s approach needs to empower national authorities to take every measure to minimise displacement from these settlements, to ensure medical care and attention for wounded and sick internally displaced persons, according to their requirements. Again, several issues should be managed by national authorities in case of displacement during emergencies, and adequate measures should be taken to fully inform those who have been displaced regarding the reasons for their displacement while also making them fully aware of the process of displacement. It is also important to involve the affected people, particularly women, in the planning and management of their relocation, and afford them the right to an effective remedy, including making review of such decisions by appropriate judicial authorities available and providing the means through which internally displaced people can voluntarily return to their place of origin in safety and with dignity.

The effective governance system encounters major challenges as it encompasses multiple policy areas, such as development approach, community, livelihood, climate change, and environment. At present, there are no legal guidelines for protecting land and other immovable property rights of climate refugees. The necessity of legal practices is certainly the most important to promote the rights of the displaced people.

The writer works as Research Associate for the Institute of Water and Flood Management (IWFM), Bangladesh University of Engineering &Technology (BUET). Email: arifchowdhury065@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Let’s Improve Our Global Ranking on Impunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/lets-improve-our-global-ranking-on-impunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lets-improve-our-global-ranking-on-impunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/lets-improve-our-global-ranking-on-impunity/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 20:31:53 +0000 Isabel Ongpin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146539 By MA. Isabel Ongpin
Aug 12 2016 (Manila Times)

After my remarks on impunity last week, a friend brought to my attention a disturbing study on Impunity (via InterAksyon), showing that among 59 countries, the Philippines led in the Global Impunity Index.

MA. Isabel Ongpin

MA. Isabel Ongpin

The simple definition of impunity, as well as the common overall perception of it, is that
wrongdoers are not brought to justice.

The so-called Global Impunity Index has been drawn up after extensive recent research by the Impunity and Justice Research Center of the Universidad de las Americas, a private university in Pueblas, Mexico.

The study focused on 59 countries out of 193 United Nations members. Only 59 were included because of the unavailability of updated information from the rest.

Sadly, the Philippines led the Global Impunity Index among the 59 countries studied, at 80 percent. It was followed by Mexico (where Universidad de las Americas is situated) at 75.7 percent, Colombia at 75.6 percent, Turkey 68.7 percent, Russia 67.3 percent. At the opposite end, meaning the countries low in the Impunity Index, were Croatia at 27.5 percent, Slovenia 28.2 percent, Czech Republic 34.8 percent, Montenegro 34.9 percent, Bulgaria 37.5 percent. In between were South Korea 63.3 percent, US 56.4 percent, Japan 49.3 percent, Spain 53.6 percent, Singapore 46.4 percent, Germany 43.1 percent.

The study divided impunity into three dimensions – security, justice and human rights – and used 14 factors to measure them. Alas, the Philippines did not show good results in any. Five factors related to problems of security, which are not so much how many policemen are in the streets but how they carry out their operations. We have seen and experienced the errors of law enforcement here as we speak, which redounds to the capacity and preparation of the police in particular.

Another five factors related to justice in reference to its administration and delivery. Here the low rate of judges to citizens resulting in delay in the delivery of justice (surely including the venality within the system) explains the high levels of impunity that are present and perceived. Under these circumstances, wrongdoers just game the justice system and impunity results.

The last four factors refer to human rights, of which clear violations are witnessed daily in the implementation of the law or keeping order. Recent events, particularly those showing the dismal attention and respect of human rights in law enforcement show that they are under siege here.

The interesting conclusion of the study is that corruption stems from impunity, not the other way around. People become corrupt when they know they can get away with it.

Having good laws are not enough. They must be implemented firmly, even-handedly and in a timely fashion. Furthermore, inequality, not wealth, fuels impunity. Countries of unequal economic levels are the ones who fail to give equal access to security and justice. Comparatively, countries with medium and high levels of human development (less stark levels of inequality) perform better.

With the above study’s conclusions showing our level of impunity, we, as a society, must demand equality from all authority be it from schools, the police, business, the judiciary, legislators, basic services, all government agencies, including ourselves, that we implement the rules that we have in place and dispense justice according to their letter and spirit.

We cannot accept being the leading country for impunity. Public opinion has to come out strongly in various ways to demand reform. We cannot tolerate that perpetrators, for example the media killers, are not brought to account, that law enforcement officers or any authorities are ineffective against these repeated crimes that go unpunished (the definition of impunity).

In these cases and in all others regarding law violators, criminal cases must be filed and disposed of as the law requires – on time and in fairness. Administrative and disciplinary rules are not exempt from enforcement with neither fear nor favor. Accused wrongdoers must face timely investigation, arrest, trial and punishment if found guilty. And reparations must be given to the victims be it persons or the state.

There may be worst-case scenarios of impunity out there among the 80 plus countries that were not studied because they did not give enough data to be included in the research. But for now we must bear the burden and accept the challenge to turn things around from having the worst “structure of the security system” and “the security system of human rights.”

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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The UN Steps up Efforts to End Child Marriagehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-un-steps-up-efforts-to-end-child-marriage/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-un-steps-up-efforts-to-end-child-marriage http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-un-steps-up-efforts-to-end-child-marriage/#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2016 13:02:17 +0000 Babatunde Osotimehin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146498 Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin is the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations]]>

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin is the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations

By Babatunde Osotimehin
NEW YORK, Aug 10 2016 (IPS)

Barely 17 years old and from the Gajapati district in Odisha, India, Susmita has never gone to school. She rears the few animals her family owns, and this is her primary duty besides attending to household chores.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. Credit: UNFPA

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. Credit: UNFPA

“I have to work in the field, and take the cows out to graze to support my family. When I see other girls from the village going to school, I wish I could experience school for at least a day,” she said when interviewed, “Is anyone out there even thinking of improving our lives?”

It’s hard not to be moved by Susmita’s earnest and important question. This year, more than 60 million 10 year-old girls worldwide will have started their journey through adolescence. Sadly, millions of them will be forced into adult responsibilities.

Puberty brings a whole host of risks to girls’ lives and their bodies, including child marriage and all its consequences. In fact, each day, more than 47,000 girls are married before they turn 18 – a third of them before they turn 15.

Thousands of girls are led away from school and the prospects of decent employment every day. They are often forced to lead a life of domestic servitude and isolation from their family and friends.

In many cases, they are also often subjected to unintended and unsafe pregnancies. The complications from these early pregnancies are among the leading causes of death for adolescent girls aged 15 to 19. In short, they are forced into this life, robbing them of their right to independence, to work and in turn, drive development.

In Odisha, India, where more than one in three girls will be married before 18, it takes serious commitment and investment to ensure that adolescent girls are not condemned to such a life.

Globally, there are significant hurdles to overcome, and we must address the systematic exclusion faced by girls from before birth via gender-biased sex selection, through adolescence with lower rates of transition to secondary school, denial of their sexual and reproductive health and rights (the right to access contraception without parental or spousal consent or the right to quality maternal health care or the recognition of marital rape as a crime, etc.), and loopholes between customary and statutory laws that permit child marriage.

At UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, we estimate that child marriage is a reality faced by 17.4 million girls each year. But if we speak up and act, there is a possibility for millions of girls to lead a different life, one of their own choosing.

The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, which includes a target on eliminating child marriage, presents us with an historic opportunity to help girls rewrite their futures.

This March, UNFPA and UNICEF launched the Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, which –working together with many girls themselves – will bring us that much closer to delivering on the world’s commitment to ending this practice.

In five years, the programme will support more than 2.5 million adolescent girls at risk of, and affected by child marriage, helping them to express and exercise their choices.

It will empower girls in South Asia (Bangladesh, India, Nepal), the Middle East (Yemen), West and Central Africa (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Niger), Eastern and Southern Africa (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Uganda, Zambia) with protective health, social and economic independence, and ensure that they can develop their abilities, so as to realize their full potential.

It will also contribute to a demographic dividend, which is the economic growth you can achieve by empowering, educating and employing a country’s youth. Recognizing that girls’ households and communities are of the utmost importance, we will work with them to ensure they invest in their daughters.

As the United Nations, we continue to partner with national governments to improve health, education, and other systems, and to ensure the law protects and promotes girls’ rights, including their sexual and reproductive health.

With the support of UNFPA and countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Canada, Susmita’s own government, and local partners, she now has the opportunity to participate in a programme designed to help her and her family delay marriage.

Giving her knowledge about her health and rights, the confidence to express herself, a mentor, friends, and the opportunity to enroll in an appropriate school. With this support she can set her life on a different path. We must deliver better for more girls like Susmita, despite the many needs, challenges and crises facing us today, girls’ and women’s rights must remain a priority.

We now know about the kinds of investments needed to uphold these rights. Indeed, this is the foundation for a safer, more equitable and just world, not only for girls, but for all.

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An Unequal Countryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/an-unequal-country/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-unequal-country http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/an-unequal-country/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 19:38:57 +0000 Marc-Andre Franche http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146487 By Marc-André Franche
Aug 9 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

One of the world’s great achievements of the past decades has been the significant fall in global poverty. Between 1990 and 2012, the proportion of humanity living under $1.90 a day fell from 37 per cent to only 13pc, driven in large part by the efforts of China. South Asia also witnessed a major decline in poverty, from 51pc to 19pc, with unequal progress across countries.

Despite this tremendous achievement, income inequality has increased both within and across countries. Today, high-income countries with 16pc of the world’s population represent 55pc of income while low-income countries with 72pc of the population account just over 1pc. Inequality matters for moral reasons; it also matters because of its implications for growth and development outcomes. Persi¬stent inequality hampers economic growth, impedes poverty reduction, fuels crime, squa¬n¬ders talent and human potential, and stifles social mobility. An unequal society is not only unfair, it is less prosperous and stable.

Escaping this inequality trap is the 21st century’s most critical challenge that lies at the heart of the global agenda which has been enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that has two goals, including the first SDG on ending poverty in all its forms; and the 10th SDG on leaving no one behind.

In Pakistan, the challenge of inequality is equally daunting. While consumption-based poverty dropped from 57.9pc to 29.5pc between 1998-1999 and 2013-2014 and multidimensional poverty — which includes health, education and living standards — fell from 55.2pc to 38.8pc between 2004-2005 and 2014-2015, inequality has actually grown. In 1987-1988, the Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, was 0.35; by 2013-14 it had risen to 0.41. Pakistan’s richest 20pc now consume seven times more than the poorest 20pc.

Regional disparities are stark.

Regional disparities are stark and slow down growth and development. The government’s Multidimensional Poverty Index released recently found that 54.6pc of rural Pakistanis experienced poverty compared to 9.3pc of those in cities. Multidimensional poverty stands at 31.5pc in Punjab but rises to 73.7pc in Fata. While multidimensional poverty in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, and Rawalpindi is below 10pc it exceeds 90pc in Killa Abdullah, Harnai, Barkhan, Sherani Kohistan. Hence, some Pakistani districts are as well-off as any developed country while others are on par with the poorest in sub-Saharan Africa.

Inequality’s insidious effects pervades families. As women are mostly engaged in unpaid family work, their very real economic contribution is unaccounted for. Women own less than 3pc of land which impacts on their economic empowerment. Their participation in the labour force is a mere 18pc compared to 71pc for men. This is the lowest in South Asia after Afghanistan. Back in 1968 the renowned economist Dr Mahbub ul Haq identified 22 families which then controlled two-thirds of Pakistan’s industrial assets. In a 1973 article in The Times, Dr Haq called for reforming Pakistan’s economic, social and political institutions to help prevent the concentration of such immense wealth amongst the few.

Although the landscape has changed considerably since then, his recommendations remain painfully valid. Pakistan’s institutions, incentives, laws and norms continue to conspire to create rent for the rich and burdens for the poor.

These include tax exemptions on select sectors and indirect taxes which disproportionally affect the poor. The richest districts in Pakistan receive, on average, five times more public funds than the poorest, further aggravating inequality. The high cost of running for elections systematically excludes poor Pakistanis from political institutions. Discri¬mination on the basis of gender, economic status, religion and social identity restr¬icts upward mobility.

To date, Pakistan’s response to inequality has been superficial, focusing on symptoms rather than the root causes. As a result, inequality has persisted and even grown.

To tackle inequality seriously requires a holistic approach, addressing both its structural and distributional dimensions. Key institutions need to be reformed, and fiscal, monetary and other policies made equitable. Regional inequality may be addressed by investing adequate public funds in lagging regions and districts, and particularly in rural areas. Governments should use the Multidime¬nsional Poverty Index to inform allocations, especially under their Provincial Finance Com¬m¬i¬ssion awards, which are long overdue. Gender responsive budgeting can help mainstream women’s priorities in budgeting processes.

Most important, however, is to bring the debate on inequality back into the public realm. Politicians, bureaucrats, civil society, the media, many development partners and the wider public all continue to ignore the cancer of inequality on Pakistani society and economy. It is time to recognise that this inequality is not inevitable. Today, nearly 50 years after Dr Haq wrote his seminal diagnosis, it is time to act so Pakistan can escape its inequality trap and create the just, stable and dynamic society envisaged by its founders.

The writer is the outgoing country director for UNDP in Pakistan.
Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Indian Jails Slammed as Purgatory for the Poorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indian-jails-slammed-as-purgatory-for-the-poor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indian-jails-slammed-as-purgatory-for-the-poor http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/indian-jails-slammed-as-purgatory-for-the-poor/#comments Tue, 09 Aug 2016 08:00:19 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146421 Beggars are often rounded up by police and thrown into jail without charges being filed against them for years. This adds to the overcrowding in Indian prisons already reeling under a lack of basic facilities. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Beggars are often rounded up by police and thrown into jail without charges being filed against them for years. This adds to the overcrowding in Indian prisons already reeling under a lack of basic facilities. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Aug 9 2016 (IPS)

A media frenzy ensued in New Delhi last month when a popular television channel highlighted the horrific living conditions of women inmates in ward number six of Tihar Jail, South Asia’s largest prison.

The program – “Fear and Loathing in Tihar” — beamed into people’s homes the prisoners’ abysmal treatment by the administration: 600 of them packed like sardines into space meant for half that number, a lack of basic amenities, and a shocking state apathy towards detainees in the world’s largest democracy."Some [women inmates] even have kids who have to stay with them in those pathetic conditions till they are six years old." --Delhi-based human rights lawyer Maninder Singh

By highlighting the prisoners’ misery, the program also helped shine a light on a broken judicial system where thousands are subjected to prolonged periods of incarceration without ever seeing a judge, or whose perfunctory court appearances stretch for years thanks to a corrupt legal system clogged with too many cases, and too few judges to try them. The injustice of lengthy detention is compounded by the horrific conditions of the jail facilities.

As the world celebrates Prisoners Justice Day on Aug. 10, human rights advocates say the state of Indian detention centres needs to come into focus again. Most Indian jails fail to meet the minimum United Nations standards for such facilities, including inadequate amounts of food, poor nutrition, and unsanitary conditions. Torture and other forms of ill-treatment are also common. The cells are also often dilapidated, with poor ventilation and absence of natural light.

According to a 2015 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Tihar Jail, the prison complex is reeling under a prisoner population more than double its sanctioned strength and understaffed by 50 per cent of its required workforce. The key findings of the report suggest that the 10 jails in Tihar were grossly overcrowded with 14,209 prisoners against a capacity of 6,250.

Moreover, against government rules, 51 prisoners awaiting trial were found to have already served more than half the maximum term of punishment for the offences they were booked under, the report says.

Medical facilities, adds the damning report, are non-existent. There’s paucity of doctors, paramedical, ministerial, factory and Class IV staff by 18 to 63 per cent in the prison which despite an in-house 150-bed hospital and additional dispensaries in each of the 10 jails. The CAG found that “the hospital was not equipped to face any emergency situation”.

The subhuman conditions take a toll on human health — both mental and physical, a former inmate told IPS. “Women prisoners prefer to take care of each other when they are indisposed as there are only male doctors doing rounds most of the time,” she said. “I remember once a young woman had a miscarriage and bled for a few hours before she was taken to the hospital.”

In India, a country where U.N. figures indicate that 270 million people - or 21.9 percent of the population - live below the poverty line, justice for the poor is often delayed as well as denied. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

In India, a country where U.N. figures indicate that 270 million people – or 21.9 percent of the population – live below the poverty line, justice for the poor is often delayed as well as denied. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

The fate of prisoners on death row is worse. Not only do they inhabit inhumane living conditions, they face unfair trials and horrific acts of police torture, according to a study by the Death Penalty Research Project at the National Law University in Delhi. The study, based on interviews with 373 of the 385 inmates believed to be on death row in India, offers a harrowing insight into the unbearable conditions the prisoners have to live in as they wait for judges to decide their fate.

The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) report 2015 says that poor budget allocation, the way accused are arrested and non-issuance of bail along with miserable conditions in prisons were leading factors attributed to the existing living conditions of the inmates. It added that the situation calls for a trained administration to bring reformation in prisoners’ lives.

Legal eagles say the biggest bottleneck is the country’s overburdened criminal justice system which has a cascading effect on prisoners’ lives. Overcrowding is the most common. According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records, in 2013, the total number of prisoners was 411,992, of which a startling 278,503 were prisoners awaiting trial. Delay in providing justice, inadequate court infrastructure, and inaccessibility of a large number of prisoners to legal help make matters worse.

As per records, currently over three million cases are pending in various Indian courts across the country. Erstwhile PM Manmohan Singh remarked that India had the world’s largest backlog of court cases. Bloomberg Business Week estimates if that all the Indian judges attacked their backlog without breaks for eating and sleeping, and closed 100 cases every hour, it would take more than 35 years to catch up.

“The severe delay in delivering justice is largely due to the fact that many courts share judges with each other, resulting in extremely slow trial procedures. There’s no effective legal redress mechanism for under trials,” explains Ajay Verma, Senior Fellow, International Bridges to Justice, a non-profit that supports justice and human rights. “These institutional pathologies result in unjust and prolonged detention.”

Delhi-based human rights lawyer Maninder Singh says that many detainees are forced to be in jail longer than the maximum sentence for the offense with which they were charged, with some people spending as long as two decades in detention before being convicted or released by the courts.

Women awaiting trial in particular, adds Singh, are made to suffer as they are too poor to afford justice. “Some even have kids who have to stay with them in those pathetic conditions till they are six years old. Many under trials languish for months without even charges being framed against them. There’s simply no legal recourse available to them.”

After studying the living conditions of jail inmates across India, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) made some key recommendations for prison reform. These include replacing the 1894 Prison Act with a new one, amending prison manuals keeping human rights in mind, reducing overcrowding, one of the biggest problems in most prisons, shifting foreign nationals to detention centres from prisons after their sentence is completed, till they are deported to their respective countries.

Despite the gloom, experts suggest that it’s not as if the situation is irretrievable. What is needed is political will and a more humanitarian approach to a very complex problem. Already, some measures in Indian jails — like rehabilitation and skilling prisoners for their gainful employment post jail term — have come in for accolades. Tihar boasts of a full-fledged cottage industry where training for carpentry, baking, tailoring, fabric painting and other crafts are imparted to empower inmates. The revenues generated from selling products made by the prisoners helps in the prison’s upkeep. Wage earning and gratuity schemes and incentives help reduce the psychological burden on the convicts.

But as Singh and Verma point out, while these measures should be amplified, the State needs to urgently focus on faster disposal of court cases, speedier justice and better conditions in jail to make life more bearable for the inmates.

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Thinking Global? Act Provincialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/thinking-global-act-provincial/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thinking-global-act-provincial http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/thinking-global-act-provincial/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2016 20:45:25 +0000 Crispin Aranda http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146467 By Crispin R. Aranda
Aug 8 2016 (Manila Times)

The least populated, northernmost province in North America even its own citizens dread to go has a per capita GDP of C$58,452 compared with C$3,439.28 for the entire Philippines.

Crispin R. Aranda

Crispin R. Aranda

If the northernmost province of the Philippines, say Ilocos Norte, has a per capita of more than P2.1 million, chances are there would be a huge migration flow from Imperial Manila instead of the reverse.

There would also be less Ilocanos leaving the province or the region since the high per capita reflects a good economy that translates into jobs, income, and a good quality of life.

Across the globe and closer to the North Pole, Nunavut is the newest, largest and northernmost province of Canada (North America). At the same time, it is both the least populous (31,906) and the largest in area of the provinces and territories of Canada at 1,750,000 sq. km. compared with the smaller 300,000 sq. km. of the Philippines.

In 2014, only 23 people migrated to Nunavut—a microscopic dot—given the fact that a total of 260,404 migrants applied for and obtained their permanent residency in Canada. In the same year 40,035 from the Philippines migrated to Canada, which placed the Philippines back on top of the list of countries with the highest number of immigrants.

Imperial Manila, Metro Manila or National Capital Region (as it is officially called), is the coveted place to be in the Philippines because it is the region of culture, economy, education, and government.

People from the North, South, and Central Philippines move to Metro Manila for jobs and opportunities making it the 7th most populous metropolis in Asia and the 3rd most populous urban area in the world, according to Demographia.

Canada set a target of up to 285,000 new permanent residents in 2015 to populate the country’s 10 provinces and three territories—Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec, Saskatchewan, and Yukon.

In January 2015, Canada initiated the Express Entry—the current selection system for attracting and getting immigrants. In addition to the individual allocation of each province by virtue of Federal and Provincial agreements, each province may also set up its own mini-Express Entry and get more than the usual number of migrants calling a province their new home.

Of the 285,000 planned and targeted new immigrants last year, 65 percent will be in the economic immigration class, the remainder will be in the family reunification and humanitarian categories, including refugees.

In addition Canada has increased “the number of caregivers becoming permanent residents to 30,000 in 2015, an all-time high in that category.”

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Nomination programs common to all provinces

The migration statistics for the period indicated showed that without their own programs, applicants qualifying under the Federal immigration programs (Federal Skilled Workers, Federal Skilled Trades Workers, Canadian Experience Class, and International Student/Graduates) preferred the more urban places in Canada such as Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.

Alberta and British Columbia (BC) tweaked their nomination program to attract the entry level, semi -skilled in addition to the traditional skilled workers. Both provinces offer temporary to permanent migration pathways for those with the required years of experience in the tourism/hospitality, hotel and lodging, long-haul trucking, food and beverage processing, and manufacturing.

The oil price volatility in the world market and the Fort McMurray fire, however, contributed to the bleak employment scenario in Alberta. Statistics Canada reported on August 5, 2016 that “Alberta’s monthly unemployment rate climbed to its highest level in nearly 22 years in July, marking the first time the province has had a worse jobless rate than Nova Scotia.”

Calgary, the oil and gas capital of Canada, recorded an unemployment rate of 8.6 percent—the worst among 33 Canadian metropolitan areas surveyed. Another major Alberta city, Edmonton, showed an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent, the sixth highest in Canada.

Manitoba distinguishes itself from the other provinces by providing extra points and preference for applicants with close relatives in the province. Close relatives include siblings, niece or nephew, aunt/uncle (maternal or paternal), first cousin, parent or grandparent.

New Brunswick offers specific pathways for applicants with qualified family members (the applicant must to be a non-dependent child, brother, sister, niece, nephew, or grandchild of the Family Supporter in New Brunswick). Your Family Supporter would also be able to provide you with on-the-ground facts about career and employment prospects, especially with the report of the Conference Board of Canada that New Brunswick is likely to join Alberta in recession this year (published by CBC New Brunswick, June 13, 2016).

Perhaps the province with the least expectation of economic recovery, Newfoundland-Labrador, the easternmost province of Canada, has had short booms and long-term busts, especially in the oil exploration and mining sectors. With the drop in oil prices and the shutting down of Labrador’s key iron mines in 2014, jobs were hard to find, even as the provincial government found itself in deficit. Maybe that was the reason why Newfoundland is one of the few provinces charging a $250 non-refundable fee for Express Entry and provincial nominee applicants.

Bright spots west and middle of Canada

Past halfway of 2016 reveals only a few Canadian provinces have improved in economic performance, with Manitoba and British Columbia leading the way.

Manitoba distinguishes itself from the other provinces by providing extra points and preference for applicants with close relatives in the province.

A July 2016 report by the Conference Board of Canada, noted, “Manitoba’s GDP is set to expand by 2. 1 per cent this year and 2.6 per cent in 2017, which would allow the province to be a reliable source of growth … due to strong employment and wage gains in recent years.”

The Manitoba government banks on its rich natural resources and fertile farmland for a sustained positive economic performance. Manitoba is not dependent on any single industry or commodity, although manufacturing is Manitoba’s largest sector accounting for over 12 percent of total GDP. Manitoba is home to Canada’s largest factories for furniture, doors, windows, and cabinetry. The province is also North America’s largest producer of intercity and urban buses.

In addition, large service operations, including two of Canada’s major financial corporations—Great-West Lifeco and IGM Financial—and one of the country’s largest media companies—CanWest Global Communications Corp.—have established corporate presence in Manitoba.

On the other hand, British Columbia, brims with confidence. The provincial government reports that “all signs point to British Columba holding on to the top spot in the provincial growth rankings in 2016.”

Citing the latest economic data published last June, yhr Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) noted that impressive job market statistic showed “the solid momentum … in 2014 and 2015” will carry over this year.

Domestic spending of BC households will lead economic growth with expected renewed “substantial activity in the retail, services, and housing sectors. Exports are expected to be a key driver of BC‘s forecasted growth rate of 2.3 percent in 2017.

RBC concluded that “with healthy job market conditions, confident households, and strengthening population growth (fueled by positive in-migration), British Columbia stands to benefit from skilled migration and vice versa.

Processing of provincial nomination applications and subsequent permanent resident applications at the Canadian Embassy in Manila could take 1 to 2 years.

If the oil price market remains unstable and terrorism continues to plague Europe and disrupts economic activity, resulting in national sentiments against migrants, the provincial migration to global Canadian cities might be focused only on British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec, provinces which have shown to have the most pull factors for migrants—Filipino city dwellers and provincial migrants included.

For the rest of us the reverse migration begins if and when Federalism begins and the killings stop.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Food Safety Issues Rise in Colombohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/food-safety-issues-rise-in-colombo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=food-safety-issues-rise-in-colombo http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/food-safety-issues-rise-in-colombo/#comments Mon, 08 Aug 2016 18:50:54 +0000 Editor sunday http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146460 By Editor, Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
Aug 8 2016 (The Sunday Times - Sri Lanka)

This newspaper’s News Desk has been following up on Public Health issues for some time, and their ongoing reports should raise concerns among Colombo residents, both the affluent, and the not-so, because of the declining standards in the monitoring of food establishments, from the humble ‘buth kades’ to the restaurants of five-star hotels.

There is a lot of debate about the delay in holding Local Government elections and whether the representatives of the country’s Municipalities, Urban Councils and Praadeshiya Sabhas should be elected under the proportional representation system, the old ward system or a combination of the two. There is, however, little debate on how many of these local councils actually work, and do their work.

The News Desk has been concentrating much of its efforts on how the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC), the country’s showpiece local council, operates, and especially in an area that directly affects its rate-payers and residents – ensuring food safety.

Only last week, it was discovered that a CMC Public Health Department worker had been admitted to the National Hospital with not only dengue but also with typhoid fever.

In Colombo, the underground water is polluted. Even five-star hotels use underground water to prepare food although under the Municipal Ordinance by-laws, water supply should be from the city mains. Many hotels use underground water to save on their water bill.

The sewer lines in Colombo are overloaded and prone to leaks that pollute the underground water supply. According to those in the know, residents in areas from Colombo Fort to Wellawatte, including those working in and patronising star class hotels in these areas are at risk of water-borne diseases.

Sicknesses such as hepatitis, typhoid, para typhoid, diarrhea and viral stomach ailments knock-on the belly of those affected for days, some getting treatment from General Medical Practitioners (GPs) and others even needing hospitalisation. Only Government hospitals provide statistics to the Epidemiology Unit so the real figures of those affected are not known.

At the bottom of this malaise seems to be major happenings at the Municipality’s Public Health Department with in-fighting, court cases and a privatisation programme in lab reports. These give a foul stench.

There is a need for constant checks on workers in all eating houses, including the bigger hotels, restaurants and even clubs, big and small. Only investigations can find the source of a disease so that preventive action can be taken. Medical examinations of eating houses is compulsory under Municipal by-laws such as the Food Hygiene Regulations, and what use are elections of councillors if they, once elected, do not supervise the implementation of these by-laws when they are practised in the breach.

The Tourism Authority also has regulations governing food safety. Its capacity to check on food relied almost entirely on the investigations carried out by the Municipalities and other local bodies around the country. It has been given this responsibility to protect tourists (tourism being one of the country’s major foreign exchange earners) but what’s the status when these local councils fall on their own responsibilities? Today, private laboratories, with questionable ability are tasked with providing these reports, something the CMC did on its own for more than 40 years, but now side-lined due to petty in-fighting and jealousies.

Most Sri Lankans have an in-built immune mechanism to cope with most germs they have grown up with. What of the unsuspecting tourist for whom an upset stomach can ruin his entire holiday?

The CMC, like many other councils, is no doubt, hard-pressed for human resources, with its Public Health Inspectors battling the dengue menace on the one hand. However, when the CMC’s Microbiological Laboratory, the regulatory arm gazetted by the Ministry of Health, has the professionalism and wherewithal to do the job, it is mind-boggling why its services are not used. As of today, the CMC hardly tests for Salmonella, Staphylococcus Aureus etc., any more – all food poisons and these are now handled by private labs which have mushroomed only in recent times. The fall-out on the entire food safety monitoring is to be expected.

When the whole country is talking about kidney disease, Creatinine tests for kidney patients, Hemoglobin tests for pregnant mothers, HbA1C for diabetes sufferers – and HIV tests have come to a standstill for the past 4-5 months and Pathological services for the poor heart patients are wanting. These constitute a serious situation. It is well and good to keep asking when the next Local Government elections are. These are mere political exercises. City Fathers (and now Mothers) are a dime a dozen. With the rapid construction boom and hundreds upon hundreds of high rise buildings and apartment blocks coming up, the strain on the water requirements and the corresponding drainage and sewerage capacities has to increase multi-fold.

With problems already existing, is the city ready for this explosion? The system needs fixing at the officials’ level – not the political level so much, before the public health systems completely break down in the capital city and the malaise spreads to the rest of the country, where it is not much different.

Rio: Run the good race

The world’s biggest sporting event, the Olympics, began over the weekend in Brazil, dogged by a host of internal problems and an eagle-eyed press fond of looking for negatives in an economically developing country.

Not that the last Olympics in London was without warts – till it happened. Delays there were aplenty in the preparations, and the British Army had to be called in at the 11th hour to expedite matters. Yet, the hype around Brazil ranging from political unrest to the construction delays to the crime and drugs scene to the Zika virus – and then, the doping scandal surrounding the Russian athletes has been one wet blanket after another thrown over the mega event which most Brazilians and the rest of Latin America were waiting to host.

Not surprisingly, the small Sri Lankan contingent received a ‘fond farewell’ from the Sports Minister and the National Olympic Committee head who have given them all the encouragement by saying; “Sri Lanka has no chance of winning any medals”.

The French news agency AFP ran a story this week on Sri Lanka’s only Olympic medallist in recent times saying how she has been discarded and her talents ignored by the athletics panjandrums over the years. That is how Sri Lanka’s sports administrators are across the board. For now, however; “Let the Games begin”. And the very best wishes to our contingent of nine competitors to keep the flag flying.

This story was originally published by The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka

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Need for a Factual Assessmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/need-for-a-factual-assessment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=need-for-a-factual-assessment http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/need-for-a-factual-assessment/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 21:21:06 +0000 Mohammad Badrul Ahsan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146418 By Mohammad Badrul Ahsan
Aug 5 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The Muslims make 14.2 percent of India’s 1.25 billion people. But, 25 percent of India’s 370,000 beggars are Muslims. The newly released data by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and the London School of Economics, published in the journal Human Nature, also show that the Muslim population inside Indian jails is rising. For example, Maharashtra jails have 31.09 percent Muslim prisoners against a state average of 19.06 percent. Arthur Koestler famously writes that statistics don’t bleed, but it’s the detail which counts. What counts in this instance is that the plight of the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia is nothing but dismal.

Illustration: thyblackman

Illustration: thyblackman

The data give us the numbers for education and government jobs, and the Indian Muslims lag behind in both areas. How that happened can be argued in many ways, but part of it surely is discrimination against this minority group, and part of it is the vicious circle in which they have got themselves trapped. Roughly 160 years after the end of the Mughal rule in India, the fate of marginalised Muslims reckon the dwindling legacy of their ruling ancestors.

The Khans in Bollywood and business tycoons like Azim Premji are exceptions that prove the rule. There are a few mafia dons in Mumbai, and a handful of politicians, who still signify the sporadic highpoints of the Muslim might. But the preponderant majority of the Muslims have their fate sealed in poverty and squalor. The glories of emperors and nawabs are mocked by the worries that clutter the downtrodden Muslims in India.

The researchers measured not just income and wealth but also occupation, education, and longevity, and found that upper-class families took 300 to 450 years before their scions fell back into the middle class. Throughout society, poor families, taken as a whole, took an equal amount of time. They worked for 10 to 15 generations to climb their way up into the middle class. Illiterate English village artisans in 1300 took seven generations to incorporate fully into the educated elite of 1500.

If 25 years make a generation, then the Muslim influence in India dissipated in over six generations. Times of India reported in 2010 that a sixth generation descendant of Bahadur Shah Zafar was struggling to make ends meet in Hyderabad, still hoping that the Indian government would release properties of the erstwhile Mughals to their legal heirs. Not all the Muslims are royal descendants and many insolvent families many years ago must have moved up the social ladder.

But an overwhelming number of Muslims in India appears to have slipped below the poverty line. And they are punching above their weight for all the wrong reasons. In an interview with Deutsche Welle in 2011, a leading Muslim thinker of India, Asghar Ali Engineer, explained that the Muslim middle class shrank in India after 1947, and it was too small to assert itself and failed to produce effective leadership.

Engineer then elaborated that although a new Muslim middle class began to emerge in northern India from the 1980s onwards, it emerged largely from the Muslim “low” castes. Their quest for upward social mobility and assertion is often expressed in the form of a very conservative religiosity, such as building fancy mosques or patronising madrassas. He claimed that it only exacerbated the malaise of the Muslims rather than solving it. Almost all Muslim organisations in India are led by mullahs because the vast majority of Indian Muslims are disadvantaged – economically, educationally, socially and intellectually, he explained.

How does it compare with the minorities in Bangladesh in all of the above four categories? Not to incite bias or resentment, we should have a factual assessment of where we stand in minority relations compared to our “big-brother” neighbour. We have heard the minority leaders of this country complaining about their conditions.

For the sake of all, we need to have a social intelligence dashboard to clearly understand our relationships. That will tell us if we are doing enough to smoothen the spikes. When we hear about minorities being dispossessed from their lands, businesses and homes, it is more about power struggle than anything else. The strong has forever bullied the weak, who are physically, economically and politically disadvantaged.

The true test is whether all citizens have an equal opportunity to seek education, find jobs, buy property, and enjoy legal protection. That alone tells who’s advantaged in a society and who’s deprived. Statistics don’t bleed alright, but opinions based on them can cause, contain or check bloodshed.

The writer is Editor of the weekly First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star. Email: badrul151@yahoo.com.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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The Right to Not Disappearhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-right-to-not-disappear/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-right-to-not-disappear http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-right-to-not-disappear/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 20:59:26 +0000 Asha Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146415 By Asha’ar Rehman
Aug 5 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It goes something like this: there’s a murder in the name of ‘honour’ in a village somewhere in Pakistan. The story is reported and journalists are inspired to look for more such instances to cover. They disperse in all directions and no matter where they go searching, they return with more such murder cases to dump on the ‘honour’ killing pile.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.

With time, the subject is replaced by, say, something as horrifying as gang rape. The media corps, its first line comprising the low-paid local correspondent with a finger on the market’s pulse, spreads afar and returns with a series of cases where only one would have been enough to ensure perpetual shame for all of us.

All the media, with its wide influence, needs is a cue to deliver on demand. It can unleash in relentless supply the most brutal of stories of exploitation, at workplaces, inside houses, of a sexual nature, et al, at a few hours’ notice. It can report on a story that had long been there. It can break it when it chooses, or it can hold on to it for unspecified durations, finally letting it out with a bang without bothering to explain the delay in the conveyance of the message.

How is the police file recording children’s disappearance different from a disappearance announcement made from a mosque?

Those who live close to a mosque in Lahore would vouch that children do go missing in this city: from children as small as toddlers who are barely able to tell their names, to those who are driven by the reputation of adolescence to be suspected of playing a hand in their own disappearance. The mosque’s loudspeaker is regularly used to announce the disappearance and to seek help in the recovery of those who go missing, an overwhelming majority of whom are children.

There may be sometimes an urge to find out if those who had been unaccounted for did return. No one has ever heard the respected maulvi sahib celebrate a reunion of the missing with their family by issuing a statement of congratulations through the public address system.

So regular are these announcements about the missing that now nobody seems to be too bothered about them. People hear them, say tauba, and go about their work without any grand show of emotion. The same trend that begins from the streets around the mosque is then reflected at various levels, creating many layers of indifference that the most knowledgeable amongst us believe is essential to life as it is.

Just think about it: how is the police file recording the cases of children’s disappearance in a specific period different from a disappearance announcement made from a mosque? Like these calls, these numbers have been compiled year after year, with little in terms of action to ensure a safer world for our children.

A typical such file will take you over a familiar route. The spots from where children are more likely to be picked up are highlighted, such as the darbar or shrine of the most revered saint or the tower built to mark independence or the bazaar named after the beloved damsel torn between Akbar and his son Saleem. A child may be abducted from all these places or from a park or a hospital or a mere bus terminal. The police’s book diligently counts these incidents. The self-indictment comes when these cold figures are not accompanied by any plans – not even a pledge — of just how serious our law enforcers are to safeguard these vulnerable young citizens against the cruel hands of a long grown-up society.

Missing had been the story about just how hazardous the streets of Lahore — or any other place in Pakistan — were for those we must never tire of calling as our future. A series of stories about the children missing or kidnapped has opened the floodgates on gushing fears pegged on both real and imagined incidents. The warning letters have been written, about how the children can be– how they are, says the chorus — duped into following their abductor like the rats followed the Pied Piper.

The imaginary stuff would have been easier to deal with had the ‘real’ stories not been packed with the horrors of the most fearsome kind. Imagine… no do not imagine but try and come to terms with the unearthing of this racket where a food catering contractor apparently bought young boys and then employed them as slave labour. Try and come face to face with the recovery of the disabled young girl whom the members of a beggars’ ring had abducted out of here and taken deep into Sindh.

The labour camp, the beggars’ mafia, are just two manifestations; the stereotype is kept alive in so many of our responses. Not the least most painful among them is how Lahore as the venue for these disappearances has left some people typically aghast. They must show mock surprise at the wonder-city that hogs funds and official patronage but is so oblivious to the plight of the young ones in its charge. It is the same smirk that had previously been displayed when Lahoris were found to be eating donkey-meat or when they were being preyed upon by a killer mosquito. Little does the envious crowd realise that where the development projects are grand, the likelihood of serious everyday issues suffering neglect is that much greater. The missing resolve on children is proof.

These stories come in steadily, each one of them bringing back the sensation we experienced when as a young, learning soul we were given our earliest lessons in how to keep our distance from the big bad world we were such an integral part of. There was nothing more serious, more nightmarish than being lost in a world we were required to explore, to tame and to conquer. The way we have failed to deliver on the basics — such as a young, and old, soul’s right to not disappear — shows we have all been long lost.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore.
Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2016

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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“Non-lethal” Pellet Guns Maim Hundreds in Kashmiri Protestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/non-lethal-pellet-guns-maim-hundreds-in-kashmiri-protests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=non-lethal-pellet-guns-maim-hundreds-in-kashmiri-protests http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/non-lethal-pellet-guns-maim-hundreds-in-kashmiri-protests/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 13:55:16 +0000 Umar Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146407 X-ray of a pellet victim injured during the current protests in Kashmir. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

X-ray of a pellet victim injured during the current protests in Kashmir. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

By Umar Shah
SRINAGAR, Aug 5 2016 (IPS)

Hospitals in Kashmir’s summer capital are packed to capacity these days, their wards overflowing with pellet gun victims injured during violent clashes with government forces.

Sixteen-year-old Kaisar Ahmad Mir has been in hospital since July 9. As X-ray films dangle near his bed, Kaisar stares with haggard eyes at each passerby. Doctors had to amputate three fingers on his right hand after pellets were fired at him from close range during one of the demonstrations.“After the autopsy was done, there were 360 pellets found in [my brother's] body.” -- Shakeel Ahmad

“I felt some electric current when the pellets hit my right hand. Then the blood started oozing out, followed by intense pain,” Mir told IPS.

Deadly clashes between protestors and government forces engulfed this Himalayan region –  India’s only Muslim majority state – on July 8, a day when the army gunned down militant leader Burhan Wani during a three-hour gun battle in the remote south Kashmir region of the state.

The government quickly instituted a curfew across the Kashmir valley, severing internet and phone service. But people defied government restrictions and came out in hordes to protest in cities, towns and remote hamlets of the state. Since July 8, 52 protesters have been killed and more than 2,500 injured, around 600 of them due to pellets. Many of the victims are children.

Aaqib Mir, Kaisar Mir’s younger brother, told IPS that Kaisar was preparing for his class 10 exams this year.  “My brother is now crippled for life,” Aaqib said.

Eleven-year-old Umer Nazir received more than 12 pellets in his face that damaged his both eyes. He was shot during anti-government protests in the Indian state of Kashmir. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

Eleven-year-old Umar Nazir received more than 12 pellets in his face that damaged his both eyes. He was shot during anti-government protests in the Indian state of Kashmir. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

The pellets are loaded with lead and once fired they disperse widely and in huge numbers. Pellets penetrate the skin and soft tissues, with eyes especially vulnerable to severe, irreversible damage.

Pellets were introduced in Kashmir as a “non-lethal” alternative to bullets after security forces killed nearly 200 people during demonstrations against Indian rule from 2008 to 2010.The state government’s reasoning was that when fired from a distance, shotgun pellets disperse and inflict only minor injuries.

During this summer’s protests, pellets were extensively used against the protesters, injuring hundreds. According to figures issued by Kashmir’s SHMS hospital, out of 164 cases of severe pellet injuries, 106 surgeries were performed in which five people lost one eye completely.

Among those who lost their eyesight due to pellets is 11-year-old Umar Nazir. Umar received more than 12 pellets in his face that damaged both eyes. As he lost vision in his right eye, doctors attending him have told his family that Umar’s left eye is also deteriorating due to a severe injury to the optic nerve.

Human rights groups criticize the heavy-handed approach to dealing with the protest demonstrations, and contest the government’s claims that pellet guns are “non-lethal”.

Riyaz Ahmad Shah, 21, was killed on Aug. 2 after being hit by pellets.  An ATM security guard, Shah was returning home when, according to his family, state forces fired pellets at him from close range, killing him on the spot.

“After the autopsy was done, there were 360 pellets found in his body,” said Shakeel Ahmad, Riyaz Shah’s brother.

According to Al Jazeera, at least nine people have been killed in the region since pellet guns were introduced in 2010.

“Pellets are not being used against rioters in other parts of the country, but here in Kashmir they are being used quite openly without any remorse from the government,” said human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who is also a program coordinator of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society.

To protest against the use of pellets, the coalition has created posters with text written in braille to make the world aware of the suffering in Kashmir. “When you don’t see eye to eye with the brutal occupation in Kashmir, this is how they make you see their point,” reads a campaign poster.

Sajad Ahmad, a doctor treating pellet victims in Kashmir, said he had never seen such a “brutal use of force upon people in the past.” He added that while pellets may not kill most victims, they can still be left disabled for life.

“We have done hundreds of surgeries since July 8 and there are children who were crippled and can no longer work or earn,” Ahmad said.

Since July 8, 2016, 52 protesters have been killed in Kashmir and more than 2,500 injured, around 600 of them due to pellets fired by security forces.  Many of the victims are children. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

Since July 8, 2016, 52 protesters have been killed in Kashmir and more than 2,500 injured, around 600 of them due to pellets fired by security forces. Many of the victims are children. Credit: Umar Shah/IPS

On Aug. 5, Amnesty International issued a statement asking the Jammu and Kashmir government to stop using pellet guns.

“Pellet guns are inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate, and have no place in law enforcement,” Zahoor Wani, a senior campaigner with Amnesty International India, said in a statement issued in New Delhi.

“Amnesty International India calls on the Jammu and Kashmir government to immediately stop the use of pellet guns in policing protests. They cannot ensure well-targeted shots and risk causing serious injury, including to bystanders or other protesters not engaging in violence. These risks are almost impossible to control.”

Kashmir’s High Court has issued notices to the state government and the national government of India seeking a response over litigation demanding a ban on pellet guns used by security personnel to deal with protests in Kashmir.

The state government says it is working to find alternatives to the pellet guns to quell the violent protests.

“We disapprove of it… but we will have to persist with this necessary evil till we find a non-lethal alternative,” J&K government spokesperson Nayeem Akhtar said.

Many people in Kashmir want an end to Indian rule and either full independence or a merger with Pakistan, which also claims the territory.

At least 50,000 have died in an insurgency that began in 1987. Over the years, anti-government rallies have occurred frequently, raising tensions between security forces and civilians, which have led to accusations of police heavy-handedness in trying to impose order.

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