Inter Press Service » Asia-Pacific http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 25 May 2017 13:17:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.18 “Horrific” Increase in Worldwide Displacementhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/horrific-increase-in-worldwide-displacement/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=horrific-increase-in-worldwide-displacement http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/horrific-increase-in-worldwide-displacement/#comments Tue, 23 May 2017 15:04:43 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150545 Saidi Olivier, a displaced farmer in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with his family in an IDP camp. Credit: IDMC

Saidi Olivier, a displaced farmer in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with his family in an IDP camp. Credit: IDMC

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, May 23 2017 (IPS)

Over 30 million people were newly internally displaced in 2016 by conflict and disasters, according to a new report.

In examining trends around the world for its annual Global Report on Internal Displacement, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) found “horrific” and high levels of new displacement.

“Since we started this conversation, hundreds of families have been or are in the process of being displaced today,” said Secretary-General of NRC and former Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Jan Egeland during a press briefing.

In 125 countries, a total of 31.1 million new displacements were recorded, representing an increase of over 3 million from 2015 and translating to one person displaced every second.

“When a family is pushed out of their home, often for years, it is a sign that something is horrifically wrong in a nation, in a locality, and also in international relations,” Egeland added.

Of the total, nearly 7 million were newly displaced by conflict alone in 2016. To everyone’s surprise, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) surpassed Syria and Iraq in having the most new internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the world.

“Our eyes and our focus were very much on the Middle East,” IDMC’s Director Alexandra Bilak told IPS.

“Sub-Saharan Africa has been consistently affected by internal displacement over the years, but we just weren’t expecting that spike in the DRC and we certainly weren’t expecting higher numbers there than in Syria,” she continued.

DRC has been marred by insecurity since the 1990s when the Rwandan genocide and an influx of refugees plunged the country into the deadliest conflict in African history, killing almost 5 million civilians.

Though the country declared peace in 2003, there has been a resurgence in violence between armed groups which has led to more than 900,000 new displacements over the course of 2016.

Egeland recalled his experience working in the DRC as Under-Secretary-General between 2003 and 2006, stating, “We were supposed to end that [conflict] a decade ago.”

He noted that DRC saw dwindling humanitarian resources over the years and fading attention.

“It fell off the top of the agenda and that was dangerous—that was a major mistake,” Egeland continued.

Bilak told IPS that the displacement figures found for the DRC in the report are “clearly an underestimate” as over 1 million have been newly displaced in the Central African country since the beginning of 2017.

The organizations also found that disasters displaced three times more people than conflict, documenting over 24 million new displacements in 118 countries.

Over 68 percent of all new disaster-related displacement took place in East Asia and the Pacific, including China and the Philippines, which saw the highest numbers of displacements due to heavy floods and typhoons. The effects of climate change on the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events will only further increase such displacement, the report noted.

And it is vulnerable small island states that will and continue to suffer disproportionately, Bilak said.

Haiti, which is still reeling from the impacts of the 2010 earthquake and most recently Hurricane Matthew, is among the top countries with the largest per capita disaster displacements. The Caribbean nation not only faces a high risk of disasters, but also a low capacity to respond and cope.

“This is another sad demonstration of the recurrent shocks to the system that these types of events represent and how difficult it is for certain countries to recover from them,” Bilak stated.

However, despite the fact that IDPs outnumber all refugees by two to one, much of the world’s attention and concern has been focused on refugees and migrants rather than the issue of internal displacement. For instance, more money was spent resettling refugees in donor countries than on the crises in countries of origin that forced people to flee in the first place.

“By only looking at refugees and migrants, you are essentially only really looking at the endpoint of a crisis—you are looking at the tip of the iceberg,” Bilak told IPS.

“It’s incredibly short-sighted and unstrategic to focus all political and financial attention on the symptoms of the problem rather than on the causes,” she continued.

Egeland echoed similar sentiments, stating that though there are high numbers of refugees in the world today, it is a “total myth” that people are “overflooding” Europe.

There are some links between IDPs and refugees as unresolved internal displacement can sometimes lead to cross-border movements. Countries that often have high numbers of IDPs also tend to produce many of the world’s refugees such as South Sudan and Syria.

However, it is necessary to look at the full migration and displacement picture and to acknowledge that internal displacement is an integral part of that picture, Bilak said.

Understanding patterns of displacement and movements allow for efficient and effective work on prevention, preparedness, and response efforts.

Both Bilak and Egeland called on renewed and redirected political and financial investments in this often overshadowed issue.

“The report is a tool for policymakers to help them prioritize where they should allocate their resources, both political resources and their financial resources,” Bilak told IPS.

This includes an increase in development assistance in order to reduce existing vulnerabilities and future risk, helping mitigate the long-term impacts of internal displacement and preventing cyclical crises from continuing in the future.

“Until the structural drivers of poverty, inequality, and underdevelopment are addressed, conflict and human rights violations will continue to cause displacement and impede solutions,” the report concludes.

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The ‘Public’ in Public Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-public-in-public-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-public-in-public-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-public-in-public-health/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 22:08:43 +0000 Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150532 Vani S. Kulkarni teaches Sociology at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia]]> hospital2

By Vani S. Kulkarni
PHILADELPHIA, May 22 2017 (IPS)

 

The discourse must move beyond a top-down approach to listen to the people and formulate best insurance practices

Much ink has been spilled in documenting the inadequacy of budgetary allocations for public health insurance, specifically for the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), the world’s largest publicly-funded health insurance (PFHI) scheme. Though the 2017-18 budget allocation has marginally increased from last year’s revised estimates, it has declined relative to last year’s budgeted amount by about ₹500 crore. However, higher budgetary allocation can only constitute a small part of the solution to the scheme’s mixed, if not lacklustre, performance.

Vani S. Kulkarni

Vani S. Kulkarni

Under the scheme, a Below Poverty Line (BPL) family of five is entitled to more than 700 treatments and procedures at government-set prices, for an annual enrolment fee of ₹30. However, even nine years after its implementation, it has failed to cover a large number of targeted families — almost three-fifths of them. Their exclusion has been due to factors like the prevalent discrimination against disadvantaged groups; a lack of mandate on insurance companies to achieve higher enrolment rates; and an absence of oversight by government agencies.

Increase in hospitalisation
True, there has been a substantial increase in hospitalisation rates. However, it is unclear if it has enabled people to access the genuinely needed, and hitherto unaffordable, inpatient care. Often, doctors and hospitals have colluded in performing unnecessary surgical procedures on patients to claim insurance money. For instance, hospitals have claimed reimbursements worth millions of rupees for conducting hysterectomies on thousands of unsuspecting, poor women. Indeed, in the absence of regulations and standards, perverse incentives are created for empanelled hospitals to conduct surgeries. It is thus not surprising that there is no robust evidence of an improvement in health outcomes.

Evidence on the financial protection front is conflicting as well. One study revealed that poorer households in districts exposed to the RSBY and other PFHIs recorded an increase in out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures for hospital care, and a corresponding rise in incidence of catastrophic expenditure. There is near-consensus that the RSBY has resulted in higher OOP expenditures. Though it is a cashless scheme, many users are exploited by unscrupulous hospital staff.

So, what is the solution? There is a need to bring the ‘public’ back into the discourse on public health to highlight its present culture. The conversation needs to move beyond a top-down approach specifying budget allocation and administrative and technical efficiency. It needs to involve listening to the real public to deliberate on various health practices and policies.

My ethnographic study of the RSBY in Kalaburagi and Mysuru districts between 2014 and 2016 brought to light that a top-down approach on allocation and coverage was important but, by itself, did not translate to expected outcomes. What mattered more was the existing culture of health insurance — how it was perceived, practised and experienced in the everyday, local worlds of the enrolled households. Though they valued aspects like the money available and the number of illnesses covered, they were more deeply affected by how other actors — doctors, local officials, neighbours and even relatives — related to health insurance.

Card not accepted
The disillusionment of Savitri, one of the beneficiaries, after obtaining the plastic card said it all: “If public officials only give us the card without telling us how to use it, the card is just plastic material. Sometimes information is also not correct, making us feel that the card is of no real value if we do not know how to use it.” Further, many hospitals refused to acknowledge the card’s value. Shivakumar’s observation summed it well: “We went to the hospital with the card. Not only could it not be used but also the doctors did not even acknowledge us as patients… We just brought the card home and tossed it to the shelf.” Many bemoaned the absence of public debate on health issues and the RSBY card. Deva’s pithy response was illustrative: “If it is not talked about and debated, we can only think that there is no big value that we should pay attention to.”

Households clearly separated the economic value from social ones. A section saw health insurance as a bad omen, one that announced arrival of illness. Ramesh Kumar, among those in his neighbourhood who refused to enrol, explained: “This card is not a solution for illness, it is a cause of it. You see, when you people knock on our doors to give us the card, it feels like an illness is knocking on our doors. The farther away we are from the card, the further we are from health problems.”

Overall, while the discourse on a greater allocation to RSBY and enhancement of cost-effectiveness are important, a shift of emphasis is needed, bringing the ‘public’ back into the sphere of public health.

The oped first appeared in The Hindu.

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Macron Likely to Diffuse Tensions as Independence Vote Looms in New Caledoniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/macron-likely-to-diffuse-tensions-as-independence-vote-looms-in-new-caledonia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=macron-likely-to-diffuse-tensions-as-independence-vote-looms-in-new-caledonia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/macron-likely-to-diffuse-tensions-as-independence-vote-looms-in-new-caledonia/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 13:06:44 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150518 Emmanuel Macron speaking at LeWeb 2014. After New Caledonia’s second polling, Macron secured a slight majority of 52.57 percent against Le Pen’s 47.43 percent. Credit: Official LeWeb Photos/ CC BY 2.0

Emmanuel Macron speaking at LeWeb 2014. After New Caledonia’s second polling, Macron secured a slight majority of 52.57 percent against Le Pen’s 47.43 percent. Credit: Official LeWeb Photos/ CC BY 2.0

By Catherine Wilson
CANBERRA, Australia, May 22 2017 (IPS)

The political future of New Caledonia, a French South Pacific Island territory of 273,000 people, is a profound question mark as a referendum on independence rapidly approaches next year. Equally, how the newly elected French Government, led by Emmanuel Macron, will perform as arbiter of the challenging process in the months ahead is a relative unknown.

Independence aspirations have risen in New Caledonia since the 1980s when violent unrest signalled growing agitation for political change by the indigenous Kanak peoples who comprise about 40 percent of the population. The territory was reinstated on the United Nations Decolonization List in 1986.Less than 1 percent of France’s population lives in the Pacific territories, but the state’s reluctance to severe ties with its overseas territories is due to ideological and strategic factors.

Michael Forrest, Foreign Affairs Secretary for FLNKS (Kanak and Socialist National Liberation Front), proclaimed in a November interview with the Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) that Kanaks “want to be free and integrated into the political, social and economic environment of the Pacific.”

“It will be a very complex issue to deal with, but I think that Macron will respect the result of the referendum, whatever it is,” Paul Soyez, Adjunct Professor at France’s Paris IV-Sorbonne University and researcher on international relations at the University of Melbourne, Australia, told IPS.

Thirty-nine-year-old Macron, a former investment banker and Economic Minister in the previous socialist government led by François Hollande, won the second round of voting in presidential elections on May 7 against Marine Le Pen, former leader of the National Front. He galvanised popular support for his centrist independent movement, En Marche! (On the Move!), with a strident call for national revival through economic reform and growth, social unity and strengthening of the European Union.

“Macron will maintain the French state’s conciliatory approach to the referendum, like left-wing politicians have done since 1988. His aim will be to secure a calm referendum for the sake of New Caledonia, and for his own sake. I think that his methods can help to avoid violent tensions in New Caledonia next year,” Soyez predicts.

Yet the territory’s political future was not a key campaign issue as a pressing domestic agenda, including high unemployment and concerns about terrorism and immigration, drove candidates’ rhetoric.

And none of the presidential candidates ventured to New Caledonia during campaigning, where voter abstention of 51 percent was very high. But, after the territory’s second polling, Macron secured a slight majority of 52.57 percent against Le Pen’s 47.43 percent. In Wallis and Futuna and French Polynesia, 80 percent and 58 percent of voters respectively chose Macron, giving him an overall lead across the French Pacific.

French politicians across the ideological spectrum, including socialist Francois Hollande, centre-right Republican François Fillon, and far-right Marine Le Pen, have stated publicly that, while respecting the referendum process, they prefer that New Caledonia remains part of France.

Less than 1 percent of France’s population lives in the Pacific territories, but the state’s reluctance to severe ties with its overseas territories is due to ideological and strategic factors, according to Soyez.

“Firstly, France constitutes an ‘indivisible’ republic. Therefore, as long as the majority of the population want to remain French, France has the duty to maintain its sovereignty. This is extremely important in the French psyche,” he explained.

As well, “French overseas territories enable France to project its military force all around the world, which is very important when France is leading several operations. France’s presence in the South Pacific provides Paris with the second largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world, many natural resources and influence in its regional institutions.”

Macron also shared his hope for the status quo in an interview with Noumea’s media in May, while advocating that the causes of local grievances be tackled, such as unemployment of 14.9 percent. But Soyez believes that “Macron, like a majority of French citizens, believes that a solution can be found between the status quo and independence, if the local communities want to find a way to compromise.”

While the new President has a long list of domestic issues to progress, disputes over the referendum electoral roll demand resolution as well.

“One of the major challenges for us is to include what we estimate to be between 20,000-25,000 local indigenous Kanak people who are not on the referendum electoral list. This list is the responsibility of the French Government,” Forrest emphasised to local media.

An estimated 84,000 Kanaks and 71,000 non-indigenous citizens are entitled to vote in the referendum.

New Caledonia’s first referendum on Independence was held in 1987, but a major Kanak boycott resulted in a pro-France outcome. Further negotiations with France led to a second referendum being provided for in the 1998 Noumea Accord, which also pledged to address indigenous disparity and the partial devolution of powers.

Two decades later the Kanak population still struggles with hardship and low development outcomes. New Caledonia has a high GDP per capita in the region of 39,391 dollars. But research reveals that the employment gap has changed little since the end of the 1990s. In 2009, the unemployment rate for Kanaks was still high at 26 percent, compared to 7 percent for non-Kanaks.

Anger by indigenous youths during clashes with police near Noumea in recent months is a sign that inequality remains a burning issue.

Yet an opinion poll conducted by New Caledonian television in April points to a loyalist lead with 54 percent of eligible referendum voters opposed to independence, about 25 percent in favour and 21 percent undecided. Concerns about a French ‘exit’ include a possible decline in the economy and living standards. The French government currently injects about 1.1 billion dollars into the island territory every year to fund education and development, social security and the public service.

Another crucial hurdle for the pro-independence lobby is that, after decades of debate about self-determination, there remains a lack of consensus about a vision of nationhood which satisfies people on all sides of the political divide.

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Agony of Mother Earth (II) World’s Forests Depleted for Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/agony-of-mother-earth-ii-worlds-forests-depleted-for-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agony-of-mother-earth-ii-worlds-forests-depleted-for-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/agony-of-mother-earth-ii-worlds-forests-depleted-for-fuel/#comments Fri, 19 May 2017 11:13:54 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150481 This is the second of a two-part series on how humankind has been systematically destroying world’s forests—the real lungs of Mother Earth. Part I dealt with the relentless destruction of forests.]]> Forests play a critical role for many countries in their ability to mitigate climate change. Credit: FAO/Rudolf Hahn

Forests play a critical role for many countries in their ability to mitigate climate change. Credit: FAO/Rudolf Hahn

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 19 2017 (IPS)

Humankind is the biggest ever predator of natural resources. Just take the case of forests, the real lungs of Mother Earth, and learn that every 60 seconds humans cut down 15 hectares of trees primarily for food or energy production. And that as much as 45,000 hectares of rainforest are cleared for every million kilos of beef exported from South America.

Should these figures not be enough, Monique Barbut, the executive-secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), also drew world’s attention to the fact that “when we take away the forest it is not just the trees that go… The entire ecosystem begins to fall apart… with dire consequences for us all…”

Barbut, who provided these and other figures on the occasion of this year’s International Day of Forests –marked under the theme “Forestry and Energy”— also reminded that deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for over 17 per cent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

UNCCD’s chief is far from the only expert to sound the alarm–the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that up to seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans come from the production and use of fuel-wood and charcoal.

This happens largely due to unsustainable forest management and inefficient charcoal manufacture and fuel-wood combustion, according to The Charcoal Transition report published on the Day (March 21).

Right – but the other relevant fact is that for more than two billion people worldwide, wood fuel means a cooked meal, boiled water for safe drinking, and a warm dwelling, as this specialised body’s director-general José Graziano da Silva timely recalled.

Forest loss contributes to 1/6 of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: FAO/Joan Manuel Baliellas

Forest loss contributes to 1/6 of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: FAO/Joan Manuel Baliellas

Poor People in Rural Areas

This is especially important for poor people in rural areas of developing countries, where wood is often the only energy source available.

Regions with the greatest incidence of poverty, most notably in Sub-Saharan Africa and low income households in Asia, are also the most dependent on fuel-wood: “Nearly 90 per cent of all fuel wood and charcoal use takes place in developing countries, where forests are often the only energy source available to the rural poor,” said Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat.

However, much of the current production of wood fuel is “unsustainable,” contributing significantly to the degradation of forests and soils and the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, said Graziano da Silva. “In many regions the conversion to charcoal is often done using rudimentary and polluting methods.”

He urged countries to reverse these negative trends in wood energy production and use. “We need, for instance, to adopt improved technologies for energy conversion.” Currently the organisation he leads while is participating in several programmes to deliver fuel-efficient stoves, especially for poor people in Latin America and Africa.

In conflict and famine-struck South Sudan, the organisation and partners have already distributed more than 30,000 improved stoves.

For his part, Fiji’s president, Jioji Konousi Konrote, stressed, “We need to turn our attention to scaling up the transfer of renewable energy technologies, particularly for forest biomass, in order to ensure that developing countries are making use of these technologies and keep pace with growing energy demands in a sustainable manner.”

The government of Fiji is poised to assume the presidency of the next Conference of Parties of the UN Climate Agreement scheduled to take place in in Bonn, Germany, in November.

1 in 3 People Wood-Fuel Dependent

The challenge is huge knowing that more than 2.4 billion people –about one-third of the world’s population– still rely on the traditional use of wood-fuel for cooking, and many small enterprises use fuel-wood and charcoal as the main energy carriers for various purposes such as baking, tea processing and brickmaking.

Of all the wood used as fuel worldwide, about 17 per cent is converted to charcoal, according to The Charcoal Transition report. The point is when charcoal is produced using inefficient technologies and unsustainable resources, the emission of greenhouse gases can be as high as 9 kg carbon dioxide equivalent per 1 kg charcoal produced.

The report highlights that in the absence of realistic and renewable alternatives to charcoal in the near future, in particular, in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, greening the charcoal value chain and applying sustainable forest management practices are essential for mitigating climate change while maintaining the access of households to renewable energy.

Changing the way wood is sourced and charcoal is made offers a high potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it says, adding that a shift from traditional ovens or stoves to highly efficient modern kilns could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent. At the end-use level, a transition from traditional stoves to improved state-of-the-art stoves could reduce emissions by around 60 per cent.

“Wood based energy accounts for 27 per cent of the total primary energy supply in Africa, 13 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 5 per cent in Asia and Oceania,” according to FAO estimates.

Forests continue to be under threat from unsustainable use, environmental degradation, rapid urbanisation, population growth, and the impacts of climate change. Between 2010 and 2015, global forest area saw a net decrease of 3.3 million hectares per year.

This is Part II of a two-part series on how humankind has been systematically destroying world’s forests—the reall lungs of Mother Earth. Read Part I: Agony of Mother Earth (I) The Unstoppable Destruction of Forests.

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Africa and India – Sharing the Development Journeyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/africa-and-india-sharing-the-development-journey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-and-india-sharing-the-development-journey http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/africa-and-india-sharing-the-development-journey/#comments Fri, 19 May 2017 06:40:13 +0000 Akinwumi Adesina http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150475 Akinwumi Adesina, is President of the African Development Bank]]> Djibouti Port. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

Djibouti Port. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Akinwumi Adesina
ABIDJAN, Côte d'Ivoire, May 19 2017 (IPS)

Africa, like India, is a continent of rich and compelling diversity. Both continents share a similar landscape, a shared colonial history, and similar economic and demographic challenges. This helps both India and Africa work especially well with each other.

This cooperation is both a mutual privilege and priority. At the end of the 2015 India-Africa Forum Summit, Indian Prime Minister Modi announced very substantial credits and grant assistance which benefitted our relationship. In addition to an India-Africa Development Fund, an India-Africa Health Fund and 50,000 scholarships for African students in India were established.

India’s bilateral trade with Africa has risen five-fold in the last decade, from $11.9 billion in 2005-6 to $56.7 billion in 2015-16. It is expected to reach $100 billion by 2018. This is attributed largely to initiatives by India’s private sector, and here again we are on the same wave length. We understand and appreciate that the private sector will be the critical element in Africa’s transformation.

African countries are targeted by Indian investors due to their high-growth markets and mineral rich reserves. India is the fifth largest country investing in Africa, with investments over the past 20 years amounting to $54 billion, 19.2% of all its total Foreign Direct Investment.

Akinwumi Adesina

Akinwumi Adesina

At the same time a transformed Africa is taking shape. Despite a tough global economic environment, African countries continue to be resilient. Their economies, on average, grew by 2.2% in 2016, and are expected to rise to 3.4% this year. But the average does not tell the true picture. Indeed, 14 African countries grew by over 5% in 2016 and 18 countries grew between 3-5%. That’s a remarkable performance in a period when the global environment has been impeded by recession.

By 2050, Africa will have roughly the same population as China and India combined today, with high consumer demand from a growing middle class and nearly a billion ambitious and hard-working young people. The cities will be booming, as the populations (and economic expectations) rise exponentially around the continent.

This is the busy and bustling future that Africa and India must shape together in a strategic partnership. And nowhere is this partnership more needed than on the issue of infrastructure.

At the top of the list is power and electricity. Some 645 million Africans do not have access to electricity. It’s why the African Development Bank launched the New Deal on Energy for Africa in 2016. Our goal is to help achieve universal access to electricity within ten years. We will invest $12 billion in the energy sector over the next five years and leverage $45-50 billion from the private sector. We plan to connect 130 million people to the grid system, 75 million people through off grid systems and provide 150 million people with access to clean cooking energy.

India’s bilateral trade with Africa has risen five-fold in the last decade, from $11.9 billion in 2005-6 to $56.7 billion in 2015-16. It is expected to reach $100 billion by 2018.
The African Development Bank is also in the vanguard of renewable energy development and the remarkable “off-grid revolution” in Africa. We host the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative, jointly developed with the African Union, which has already attracted $10 billion in investment commitments from G7 countries.

Universal access requires large financial investments. By some estimates, Africa needs $43-$55 billion per year until the 2030s, compared to current energy investments of about $8-$9.2 billion.

We must close this gap. And to do so, the mobilization of domestic resources will play a major role. Pension funds in Africa will reach $1.3 trillion by 2025. Already tax revenues have exceeded $500 billion per year. Sovereign wealth funds in Africa stand at $164 billion.

To attract significant investment by institutional investors, infrastructure should become an asset class. The African Development Bank has launched Africa50, a new infrastructure entity, now capitalized by African countries at over $865 million, to help accelerate infrastructure project development and project finance. Also, later this year, the African Development Bank will be launching the ‘Africa Investment Forum’ to leverage African and global pension and sovereign wealth funds into investments in Africa.

Moreover, the African business environment keeps improving, with easier regulations and more conducive government policies to attract the global investors. In 2015, Africa alone accounted for more than 30% of the business regulatory reforms in the world.

The fact is, we have already started to transform Africa. This is the territory of the High 5s: Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of life of Africans.

We can forge winning partnerships investing in power generation, energy, agro-aligned industrialisation and food processing. In doing so we can work on the synergies that exist between infrastructure, regional integration, the regulation of enterprises, employment, health and innovation.

In each of these areas I see the prospect for cooperation and collaboration with Indian partners. For example, we are partnering with the EXIM Bank of India and others to establish the Kukuza, a company based in Mauritius, to help develop and support public-private partnership (PPP) infrastructure project development and finance.

India is already one of the top bidders for Bank projects. This is a reflection of its immense expertise in a diverse range of areas from engineering to education; from ICT to railway development; skills development to regional integration; and from manufacturing to industrialisation.

It is our pleasure to partner with such an inveterate and committed investor in Africa. And may this investment be lucrative and justified, and may our mutual interest and cooperation continue for many years to come.

Dr Akinwumi Adesina is President of the African Development Bank. The 2017 AfDB Annual Meetings will be held in Ahmedabad, India, 22-26 May.

904 words

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Agony of Mother Earth (I) The Unstoppable Destruction of Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/agony-of-mother-earth-i-the-unstoppable-destruction-of-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agony-of-mother-earth-i-the-unstoppable-destruction-of-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/agony-of-mother-earth-i-the-unstoppable-destruction-of-forests/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 13:13:36 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150456 This is the first of a two-part series on how humankind has been systematically destroying world’s forests—the real lungs of Mother Earth. Part II will deal with forest depletion for wood-fuel.]]> The Selm Muir Forest of West Lothian, Scotland. Credit: UN Photo/Robert Clamp

The Selm Muir Forest of West Lothian, Scotland. Credit: UN Photo/Robert Clamp

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 18 2017 (IPS)

The world’s forests are being degraded and lost at a staggering rate of 3.3 million hectares per year. While their steady destruction in many Asian countries continues apace, deforestation of the world’s largest tropical forest – the Amazon – increased 29 per cent from last year’s numbers. And some of the most precious ecosystems in Africa are threatened by oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation.

These are some of the facts that have been repeatedly heralded by the scientific community and the world’s most authoritative voices, who remind us that globally, 1.3 billion people are estimated to be “forest peoples”, who depend almost entirely on them for their livelihoods.

Asia

Patrick Durst, the senior Forestry officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, on May 15 added to this figure that 28 per cent of the total income of households living in or near forests come from forest and environmental income.

According to FAO’s Global Forest Resource Assessment in 2015, forests continue to be lost in many countries of the Asia-Pacific region, including Sri Lanka. Moreover, the degradation of forest quality further decreases the forests’ capacity to provide goods and services necessary for human survival. These losses will be more acutely felt as the demand for forest products steadily rises in the future.

While most countries in the Asia-Pacific region continue to struggle to respond to forest loss, some are taking positive action, says the assessment, adding that through reforestation programmes, China and Viet Nam are actually increasing the amount of forested land. And the government of Sri Lanka has announced plans to increase the country’s forest cover by as much as 35 per cent.

Latin America

Meanwhile, “the world’s ancient forests are in crisis–a staggering 80 per cent have already been destroyed or degraded and much of what remains is under threat from illegal and destructive logging.”

Believe it or not, these estimates are anything but new or even recent—they were advanced around 9 years ago by a major independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

In fact, Greenpeace had already on 30 January 2008 reported that illegal logging was having a devastating impact on the world’s forests.

Its effects include deforestation, the loss of biodiversity and fuelling climate change, the group noted, adding that this creates “social conflict with indigenous and local populations and leads to violence, crime and human rights abuses.”

According to Greenpeace, it is estimated that some 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihood and 60 million indigenous peoples depend on forests for their subsistence.

Sustainably managed forests hold vast potential to play a decisive role in ending hunger, improving livelihoods and combating climate change. Credit: FAO/Simon Maina

Sustainably managed forests hold vast potential to play a decisive role in ending hunger, improving livelihoods and combating climate change. Credit: FAO/Simon Maina

Amazon Deforestation Now

Barely six months ago, the very same global campaigning organisation reported that Amazon deforestation had increased 29 per cent from the numbers released for last year, according to data released by the Brazilian government on 31 November 2016.

“Brazil is losing control over the destruction of its forests because of poor policy decisions and may now have difficulty reaching its climate agreement targets, “ Greenpeace said on Dec. 1, 2016.

Data from the Deforestation Monitoring Program for the Legal Amazon indicated that 7989 km² of forest in the Amazon was destroyed between August 2015 and July 2016, the conservationist organisation reported.

“This is the second consecutive year deforestation in the world’s largest tropical forest has increased, a direct result of the government’s lack of ambition in dealing with the challenge of curbing forest loss. It is the first time in 12 years there have been increases in deforestation two years in a row.”

Cristiane Mazzetti, Greenpeace Amazon Campaigner, warned that the increase in deforestation rates can be linked to signals from Brazil’s government that it will tolerate the destruction of the Amazon.

“In recent years, public environmental protection policies in Brazil have weakened. For example, very few protected areas and Indigenous Lands have been created, and a new Forest Code was approved in 2012 that gives amnesty to those who committed illegal deforestation.”

According to Greenpeace, deforestation is responsible for approximately 40 per cent of Brazil’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“With forest loss on the rise again, the country could find it difficult to fulfil its commitments under the Paris Agreement, recently signed and ratified by Brazil… It is estimated that the deforestation of 7989km² has released the equivalent of 586 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere—the same amount as eight years of emissions from all of the cars in Brazil.”

The illegal harvesting of timber, expansion of agribusiness and the conversion of forests into pasture are a few of the major drivers of deforestation, Mazzetti explained, adding that building large infrastructure projects, like hydroelectric plants, also stimulates land grabbing and speculation, leading to even more deforestation.

Africa

For his part, Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general and current chair of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), recently warned against the destruction of forests, which provide clean air and water, and local communities with food, shelter and livelihoods.

“Each day more forests are cleared, driven by multiple activities, from agriculture to infrastructure development, to the growing demand for wood and forest products, often made worse by illegal logging,” he said.

In his keynote address at the ‘Forests for the Future – New Forests for Africa’ conference in Accra, Ghana on 16 March, Kofi Annan said, “some of the world’s most precious ecosystems, such as the Virunga National Park in the Congo Basin, are threatened by oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation”.

Forests offer incredible impetus to the fight against climate change. “Forest restoration and reforestation in Africa can contribute to the global effort to tackle climate change and accelerate progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Annan, adding that “forest restoration of 350 million hectares could generate 170 billion dollars per year in net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields and forest products”.

In its 2014 report, Grain, Fish, Money: Financing Africa’s Green and Blue Revolutions, the Africa Progress Panel argued that effective protection, management and mobilisation of Africa’s vast forest resources are needed to support transformative growth.

The Panel estimated that Africa lost 12.4 billion Euros (17 billion dollars) to illegal exports of timber in 2011.

Part II and last of this series on the Agony of Mother Earth focuses on forests depletion for fuel.

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Poverty Drives Wages Downhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/poverty-drives-wages-down/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-drives-wages-down http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/poverty-drives-wages-down/#comments Tue, 09 May 2017 11:42:25 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150352 Credit: Sarom Em

Credit: Sarom Em

By Erik Larsson
PHNOM PENH, May 9 2017 (IPS)

H&M has made promises to raise wage levels and increase worker influence in the garment factories of Cambodia.  The validity of these supposed ambitions is being criticized. ”What have they actually achieved? Nothing!”, says Sajsa Beslik, sustainibility banker at Swedish Nordea.

At night, mosquitos make their ways through the crack of air between the corrugated metal roof and the aged plaster of the cement wall, untroubled  by a long row of steel doors.

Seng Chhun Leng, 26, opens the padlock on her street level 15 square meter room. Several mattresses line the floor. She sleeps here together with her younger brother and his fiancée. She recently moved out of a room that cost just over 50 dollars per month.

”This was cheaper, just over 40 dollars, so I chose it instead”

She lives in the Toul Sangke area, part of Cambodia’s sprawling capital city Phnom Penh. It’s late afternoon. A few hours before dusk.

Seng Chhun Leng has just come home from the Roo Hsing Garment factory where she has sewn seams on 1150 short pants for delivery to the Swedish fashion retailer H&M. She knows her exact numbers of production as she is paid on a fixed piece rate.

One month of work brings in an income of around 170 dollars which includes bonuses. Rent and electricity cost around 50 dollars. Food comes to double of that. She also needs to help her parents.

Money is tight.

The factory is a ten minute walk from the little windowless room. The long low-rise factory building is surrounded by a fence.

A road runs along the fence, where street vendors call attention to their small stalls stocked with vegetables, fish and meat on display.

Inside the fence, 3700 textile workers make clothes. Mainly for H&M but also for other Western fashion retailers.

Seng Chhun Leng has worked here for two years. Just a week before Arbetet Global’s visit, her contract was once again extended.

Credit: Sarom Em

Credit: Sarom Em

Her situation is precarious. Right now, she knows her paychecks will come. But at the end of June she will once again have to hold her breath in nervous worry.

This same process happens every third month, forcing her to think the same anxious thoughts. Will her contract be extended? Will she keep her job and income?

Her factory, like many others in the garment manufacturing sector, has seen workplace pressures increase. There has been media attention to the phenomena of mass fainting. Employees that spontaneously lose consciousness while at their machines.

The reason? Overtime labor, malnutrition and dehydration are offered as explanations as employees do not want to waste their precious working hours, not even to visit to toilets. At her factory there has been an improvement as a new ventilation system was installed one year ago.

But a workmate of Seng Chhun Leng, who joins us, reveals that workers still faint. ”It happens perhaps once or twice a month”

 ***

”I responded by sending 5 gigabytes of porn and other spam. If they terrorize me again, I’ll strike back”.

Arbetet Global visits Ken Loo at the office of the trade organization Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia, Gmac.

Ken Loo is Secretary General and has sat himself at a gigantic conference table which looks like a battleship. The porn comment has its own background.

On the 3rd of January 2014 garment workers clashed with police and military as they demonstrated against harsh working conditions. Four people were killed and one person went ‘missing’.

Many were detained and beaten by the police. Unions and human rights organisations protested strongly. Mass emails followed, directed, among others, to Ken Loo who represents the employers. He struck back with porn.

”They are militant. And corrupt. There isn’t a single union activist who does not take bribes”. His perception of the unions is very negative.

Ken Loo, Gmac. Credit: Erik Larsson

Ken Loo, Gmac. Credit: Erik Larsson

It is true that corruption is widespread and Cambodia has it among the worst in the world. Transparency International rates the degree of corruption in different countries and ranks Cambodia as 156 out of 176.

The political system in particular is considered to be ”extremely corrupt” and bribes are commonplace even in courts and in judicial processes. Transparency International does not mention the unions much, but does focus on the private sector a lot, pointing to ubiquitous corruption there.

To do business in Cambodia, almost every business has to pay bribes.

Cambodia
Population: 16 million (2016)

Language: Khmer

Religion: Buddhism

Government: Constitutional monarchy with a multi-party system

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Asia. One third of the population lives on income below the national poverty level.

Source: CIA World Factbook
On hearing questions about the protests against working conditions, he tries to turn the perspective and claims that compared to neighboring countries, the situation in Cambodia is better.

”We have the best conditions”

When he again is asked about the harsh working conditions, he gets agitated and stretches his hand out.

”I’ll give you one million dollars if you can prove that conditions are worse here than in other countries”.

He leans forward to shake hands.

”You will get one million dollars”, he repeats, ”but if you fail, you would have to pay 10000 dollars to me.”

He continues by saying that everyone wants more pay.

”If you go to the boss and demand a raise of 5000 dollars, he would tell you to go to hell. It is the market that sets prices and salaries. I am not saying that the workers do not have a tough job. They do! But if the wages go up, the industry will move to Bangladesh or some other country.

***

Seamstress Noy Saran has just gotten a divorce. There isn’t much that is set and steady right now. Her home. Her job. Her salary. Her life.

For the past six years she has worked at the Hong WA Factory in central Phnom Penh.

Arbetet Global comes to the offices of the garment workers union, the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Unions  C.CAWDU, to meet workers from the textile factories. Noy Saran sits down.

”Yesterday I was sewing childrens pants for H&M”

Unlike many others, she has permanent employment. Even so, she is still insecure.

”It’s because of the divorce, but also because the terms of my contract are renegotiated every six months and even though my employment is permanent, my salary can still be lowered”.

Noy Saran is an exception. The usual term of employment among most of the textile workers seems to be temporary contracts though, renewable every three months. Piecework wages and short term contracts.

Many of them feel forced to work even when sick so they do not risk their contract renewals.

”I’d like you to write in your newspaper that we want to get rid of them” says Thorn Veasna who works at the H&M subcontractor Roo Hising Garment and is now seated in the union office.

These contracts are what the workers want to discuss. Other workers present agree with him. Short term contracts make life difficult.

Minimum wages have been raised several times in recent years.

Economists that choose to look only at aggregate growth figures for the Cambodian economy should be pleased. The annual growth rate is at 7-8%. The frequent sightings of city jeeps on the streets of Phnom Penh are testament to that. Haven’t things improved?

”That hardly makes a difference” the workers retort. Several of them point to the way wage increases lead to rents going up. Making ends meet is hard.

City jeeps do not drive on all the streets of the city. They’re not seen in the slums. They don’t drive past the shanty town buildings made of boards and tarps where people try to find a living sorting through litter and picking lotus roots.

Cambodia is one of Asia’s poorest countries and poverty functions as a huge weight pushing wages down.

***

She smiles at the camera as she measures the width of the throat of a shop dummy. The photos in H&M’s latest report on sustainability display workers with relaxed and open expressions. All graphs and diagrams are pointing in the right direction. Things are going well.

Arbetet Global reads that H&M have a target of offering ”fair jobs” and forming inclusive workplaces open to diversity.

Furthermore next year, of all the garment producing subcontractors, half will have some form of worker representation in management. Half of all subcontractors will also have introduced a Living Wage policy.

The H&M corporation promote and try to spread a system for social dialogue that in the last year has taken a considerable step forward, from the previous 132 subcontractors worldwide to last year’s 290.

In Cambodia, the Swedish fashion giant is participating in a project for improved working conditions at factories. Swedish labor union IF Metall is also involved.

It is a project perfectly aligned with the Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven’s vision of “Global Deal”.

The Textile Industry
• About 800 000 people are employed in the Cambodian textile industry according to the employer’s organisation Gmac.

• Working hours for the Cambodian garment workers that supply H&M with fashion items is 48 hours per week, six days a week. Overtime is common. Total work hours must not go beyond 60 hours over a seven-day period.

• On average an employee at an H&M subcontractor earns 167 dollars per month. The legal minimum wage within the textile industry is 153 dollars, although an added bonus brings it up to 157 dollars.

• H&M has implemented a wage strategy that seeks to increase on site dialogue in work places. Today this is used in 290 factories and covers 380 000 employees. The target is to bring in another 96 factories during 2017.

Sources: H&M, Gmac
This vision is of a deal that would raise workers’ wages at the same time as engaged companies could gain advantages through stability and local economies could develop.

Stefan Löfven usually presents it as a Win-Win-Win situation. Everybody would gain from it. In a way, it is the export of the Swedish model on a global scale. Interest has increased and spread. Cambodia is one of the countries and H&M one of the corporations through which it is to be realized.

In 24 factories a workplace dialogue process has been introduced. In 12 factories, collective bargaining on wages has been agreed on.

Workers from several factories can witness of improved ventilation systems over the past year.

Toum Nai Leng works as stock manager at H&M’s subcontractor Zhong Yin. He used to be a farmer but made the switch three years ago.

“I make about as much as I did before but the factory work is not as strenuous as farming”.

 ***

He is hungry and about to have his lunch break but still lifts up a pile of papers and waves them in the air. Back at the trade union C.CAWDU, legal expert Vong Vuthy says ”I just received these”.

The pile of papers concern a H&M subcontractor JSD-Textile.

In May 2014 workers protested against the poor conditions. The company replied, not with dialogue, but with mass firings. 128 employees were fired. Eventually the union brought the matter to the H&M corporation, but there was no reaction.

It has been a drawn out process. Of those that protested the working conditions and lost their jobs, there are still 75 that demand to take the process further and are demanding their jobs back.

The process is supposed to restart after this news story has gone to press.

H&M though write in an email that they no longer have business relations with that subcontractor. According to H&M, the relationship ended just after the turn of the year when the factory changed ownership.

It is very hard to gain insight into H&M’s business in Cambodia. Despite numerous and repeated requests, H&M will not permit Arbetet Global to make visits on site.

That refusal even includes the H&M factories that are part of the aid project for improved working conditions funded by Swedish tax money through the Swedish aid agency SIDA.

H&M’s unwillingness to make visible the conditions of everyday work at their subcontractors is corroborated by several journalists.

The Swedish fashion giant describes great improvement in their reports, but it is very hard to find out what happens behind the factory walls.

***

The bang was heard throughout the entire plant as a steam generator exploded.

Witnesses could describe that the container filled with boiling water was hurled a good one hundred meters away before impacting into the cafeteria.

One worker was killed at the Zhen Tai Garment factory, a subcontractor in Phnom Penh to the jeans company Levis.

“The company blame a worker who has been arrested by the police” says Tola Mouen at the human rights organisation the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights, Central.

He has followed developments within the textile industry at close range, and has just got been on the phone after another call about the accident that has kept him busy during the last week.

The development of the textile industry is a key issue for Central as they want the Western garment retailers to put pressure to enact the so called Living Wage in Cambodia.

They seek to find an agreement where set terms can regulate monthly wages to not only cover the costs of rent, food and insurances, but also afford to start a family and to stay home when sick.

Although the Swedish corporation has for some time claimed to be ready to comply with such an agreement, Tola Mouen has grown tired of them just talking about it.

“H&M are very good at promoting themselves, but they are no better than any of the others”

In Sweden the work done by H&M is considered to be successful. The Swedish trade union  IF Metall has though as of yet not taken an official position to the project in Cambodia. There are several aspects of the fashion giant’s engagement to consider.

Erik Andersson, international secretary at IF Metall, is of the opinion that it is positive that both H&M and their Spanish competitor Inditex (who include the Zara retailer) have a global framework agreement.

He also compliments H&M on the skill they show in cooperating with SIDA and the UN agency International Labour Organisation.

“They are really on the ball. And that strengthens their brand”

But he also feels that H&M should be able to do a lot more in improving conditions for their employees.

“They should put in tougher regulation on transports. Today, employees can be transported on the back of trucks on muddy roads. Also, H&M should do more to raise wage levels and union representation”

Under the present conditions he questions whether it is appropriate to purchase garments.

“You have to ask yourself whether you should buy from a country like Cambodia at all”, and referring to the increasingly tense political situation in the country, adds “The unions that take critical positions towards the government get banned”.

More and more people are concerned that while SIDA,  H&M and IF Metall are attempting to increase social dialogue, the country itself is moving further and further toward a one party system.

Last year a law regulating trade and labor unions allowed several unions to be banned due to their criticism of the reigning government party, the Cambodian People’s Party, which has been in power since the downfall of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.

Tensions have been rising as there are indications that there is support for a shift of power in next year’s parliamentary elections. There are also upcoming local elections in June.

Recently a bill on minimum wages was put forth which could make union strikes illegal and which would even outlaw the gathering of wage statistics.

Such harsher measures used to curtail the influence of unions and human rights organisations will certainly lead to divisions.

Erik Andersson adds “If I was in H&M top management I would be more self-critical and modest”.

The fact that the unions are critical of the terms that the employers support is not unusual, but the unusual aspect is that banks and financial institutions have joined them in criticizing the poor working conditions and lack of transparency.

One example is Sasja Beslik, the manager of Sustainable Finance with the Swedish bank Nordea. Last year he was awarded Banker of the year in 2016 by the financial magazine Privata Affärer.

From his position with Nordea Wealth Management he has followed H&M for some time and has tried to find out what actual improvements they have made for the employees. He finds it hard to draw any conclusions.

“There is no transparency”. There isn’t a financial investor in the world who can validate the claims H&M make.

Sasja Beslik is of the opinion that the perception of H&M’s projects is idealized and there is an unfounded belief in their human rights projects.

“H&M tell me that they have improved working conditions in Cambodia. The only way for me to find out is to go there. Yet if I request to get into their factories, they first say ‘no’, and eventually I am offered to take a guided tour together with 40 other investors.

The claims from both the fashion giant and SIDA of increased dialogue and collective bargaining agreements that have been signed locally, are dismissed by Sasja Beslik as succesful PR for H&M.

“This really makes me very angry. What improvements have been achieved? Nothing has gotten better. It’s just bullshit!”

 
The Living Wage

The idea of the Living Wage has attracted more and more support from human rights organizations and trade unions. It is a salary that is high enough to cover an employee’s basic needs, such as food, accommodation, health care and clothes, within the limits of normal working hours.

Today the garment worker in Cambodia has a monthly wage of about 170 dollars, which is considered to be below the estimated 200 dollars per month of the Living Wage.

In Cambodia, the term has gained traction and global labour unions like IndustriAll hope that the Living Wage system can become a reality in Cambodia and then spread to other parts of Asia.

Source: Fair Action, IndustriAll

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

Translation: Ravi Dar

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Towards a Global Role for ACP?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/towards-a-global-role-for-acp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=towards-a-global-role-for-acp http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/towards-a-global-role-for-acp/#comments Sun, 07 May 2017 11:04:33 +0000 Goele Geeraert http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150328 Patrick I. Gomes, Secretary-General of the ACP Group, at the 105th Session of its Council of Ministers in Brussels. Credit: Goele Geeraert/IPS

Patrick I. Gomes, Secretary-General of the ACP Group, at the 105th Session of its Council of Ministers in Brussels. Credit: Goele Geeraert/IPS

By Goele Geeraert
BRUSSELS, May 7 2017 (IPS)

The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) met this week in Brussels for the 105th Session of its Council of Ministers to discuss the key question of how these 79 countries could play a more effective role for their own citizens and in the international arena.

The ACP-group was established by the 1975 Georgetown Agreement to co-ordinate cooperation between its members and the European Union. At that time, it consisted of 46 countries of the Caribbean and the Pacific that signed the first Lomé Convention on trade and aid with nine European Union member states.“The question of insecurity, peace and crime is also a fundamental question of poverty and development." --Patrick I. Gomes

Since then the ACP’s commercial and political clout has grown. Today it counts 79 states. All of them, save Cuba, have signed the Cotonou Agreement that replaced the succesive Lomé conventions and is better known as the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement.

Post-2020 relations

The current ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement ends in 2020.  In the lead-up to negotiations for a renewed partnership, future relations between the ACP and EU countries was one of the main points on the agenda of the Council. The current ACP-EU Partnership Agreement is based on three pillars: development cooperation, political cooperation, economic and trade cooperation.

Economic and trade cooperation has been a key component of the ACP-EU partnership. It took the form of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA’s). They replaced the former non-reciprocal preferences the ACP countries enjoyed and had to meet the World Trade Organization (WTO) requirements. The majority of ACP countries are now implementing an EPA or have concluded EPA negotiations with the EU.

Ethiopia’s Minister of Finance and Economic Cooperation Abraham Tekeste said, “We have to be ready to fundamentally reform our cooperation with the EU after 2020 aiming at deepening our relationship in various, differentiated fronts rather than sticking to the traditional cooperation areas. We must ensure a more balanced partnership with Europe based on shared values and mutual respect.”

Therefore the Council of ministers approved its three priority areas to guide future programmes and activities of the Group post-2020: trade, investment, industrialisation and services; development cooperation, technology, science, innovation and research; political dialogue and advocacy.

The ACP representatives reaffirmed their commitment to enhance ACP-EU trade relations. At the same time, they asked the European Union to show flexibility in responding to concerns from ACP countries.

Comparative advantage

Another APC challenge of paramount importance will be to demonstrate its comparative advantage in partnerships with governments, the UN, multilateral organizations, civil society, the private sector, academia, and others.

According to Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, the ACP Group has an added value on the global scene. “It can play a significant role in multilateral agreements such as the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.”

This has recently been shown by the joint announcement made by the EU and ACP during the COP21 negotiations, representing 28 plus 79 countries of the world. The partners called for a legally-binding, ambitious, inclusive and durable agreement with clear long term goals, as well as a five-yearly review mechanism and a transparency and accountability system tracking national commitment progress.

The statement became known as the “Ambition Coalition”, quickly growing to include major powers and emerging economies.

Intra-ACP cooperation

To play a significant global role, the ACP-group must also invest in stronger intra-ACP cooperation. There the group wants to play a complementary role to national and regional initiatives.

Patrick I. Gomes, Secretary-General of the ACP Group, said, “Looking at the question of security, peace and stability, we do not have an army to go for example after Boko Haram in Nigeria. But as ACP we can ask ourselves why that ideology of Boko Haram appeals to young people and what gives people purpose in life. And that is where the ACP culture programme comes in.

“The question of insecurity, peace and crime is also a fundamental question of poverty and development: how do we have comprehensive approaches to reducing and addressing poverty in all its forms and aspects? ACP makes a contribution in that direction by complementing what is at the national and the regional level. We have to look for examples of success at the national, we have to learn from each other’s experience and make a difference by our intra-ACP programmes.”

Sustainable financing

No organisation can develop without strong institutions and solid, sustainable financing sources. Therefore the Council asked its member states to invest in a sustainable self-financing capacity of the ACP. It made an appeal to consequently pay their membership contribution and launched the idea of an endowment trust fund.

According to Gomes, “Member countries are receiving millions in grant financing thanks to the ACP. Compared to that amount of money the membership contribution is very little. So we encourage everyone to contribute to keep us going.

“We also encourage voluntary contributions as a start for an endowment trust fund. There is so much wealth and money in our countries. Would our billionaires and corporations not be concerned to look to how they can support their own organisation? We see that as a very important area for our financial sustainability.”

At the end of the two-day meeting, the president of the council, Abraham Tekeste, said, “We have received by our Heads of State and Government clear marching orders to undertake the reforms needed to transform the ACP Group into an effective global player, fit for the 21st century, and responsive to the emerging priorities of our Member States.”

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Mob Killing Sparks Fresh Outrage Over Pakistan’s Blasphemy Lawshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mob-killing-sparks-fresh-outrage-over-pakistans-blasphemy-laws/#comments Fri, 05 May 2017 00:01:39 +0000 Zofeen Ebrahim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150309 A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

By Zofeen Ebrahim
KARACHI, May 5 2017 (IPS)

Aimal Khan, 27, an airman in Pakistan’s Air Force, warns the country will end up in the throes of mayhem if the state does not do something about the abuse of the blasphemy laws. “People will use it to settle personal scores,” he said.

He should know. His younger brother, Mashal Khan, 25, was brutally killed by a mob roused to a frenzy by allegations he had committed blasphemy. “They became the judge, the jury and the executioner,” Aimal said. "It's pretty obvious that religious passions are easily ignited because day in and day out all we hear about is religious sermonizing in one form or the other." --Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy

Studying at the Abdul Wali Khan University in Mardan, in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province (KPK), Khan was known for speaking out against corruption and injustices prevalent in society. On April 13, he was shot, stripped and not satisfied with that, the mob then beat up his corpse as shown in the graphic video footage.

The police investigation following his killing, however, found no evidence he had committed blasphemy. The government has since arrested 47 of the 49 accused.

Political activist and lawyer Jibran Nasir told IPS that the country’s blasphemy laws are not just used by the land mafia to evict people, but often for raising funds and recruiting members by rogue organisations. “The social media has become a more potent tool where one fake account with just one blasphemous tweet can kill someone,” he said alluding to the fake account created in the name of Mashal Khan to falsely establish he’d committed blasphemy.

According to opposition leader Syed Khursheed Shah, since 1990, 65 people have been killed on allegations of committing blasphemy and no one was executed for the crimes.

A month later, Aimal says the family continues to receive phone calls expressing condolences from all across Pakistan. Ordinary people to celebrities and even politicians have visited their home to offer comfort.

“After my brother’s murder, we thought humanity had fled from this country, but I tell you, it’s quite the opposite. We have been given unconditional support,” Aimal said, his voice filled with emotion, over the phone from his village Zaida in Swabi district, KPK.

He hopes his family’s loss can open the door to a meaningful debate on reviewing the infamous laws.

Muhammad Iqbal Khan (left), the father of Mashal Khan, who was murdered by a religious mob in Pakistan. The men offer prayers. Credit: Abdul Hameed Goraya/IPS

Muhammad Iqbal Khan (left), the father of Mashal Khan, who was murdered by a religious mob in Pakistan. The men offer prayers. Credit: Abdul Hameed Goraya/IPS

Aimal’s sentiments are echoed by Reema Omer of the International Commission of Jurists. “If Mashal’s most tragic killing could revive the debate and lead to blasphemy reform, that would be a fitting tribute to his bravery and courage,” she told IPS.

“The law should have been reviewed and reformed a long time ago. These incidents are latest but not the first,” pointed out Nasir. While exploitation of these laws can be corrected through procedural reforms, he said what was innately wrong was that they are in violation of Hanafi jurisprudence [followed in Pakistan] which gives no death penalty to non-Muslims for blasphemy but Pakistani law does.

Asia Bibi, a Christian, has been on death row for the last seven years. International Christian Concern  has termed her case one of the most “controversial” and best examples of the abuse of blasphemy laws.

While a complete scrapping of the law is unlikely, many see this as an opportunity to revive a debate. In 1986, to ‘Islamise’ the country, Pakistan’s then leader General Mohammad Zia ul Haq enacted these laws.

But anyone who has tried to even tried to open debate has either been censured or silenced.

In 2011, Salmaan Taseer, the then governor of Punjab, was assassinated for supporting Asia Bibi, accused of blasphemy. His murder was followed by that of Shahbaz Bhatti, a minister who had talked of misuse of the laws.

Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazal) chief Maulana Fazalur Rehman, enjoying a huge following in the KPK, while condemning Khan’s lynching, said he was well aware that liberal forces would use this incident and call for amendment in the laws, but warned that no one would be allowed to touch it.

“For a few days when there was such an outcry it was felt the time for a critical review of the blasphemy laws had arrived,” said I.A. Rehman, noted rights activist, speaking to IPS. “The clerics were on the defensive.”

This euphoria was short-lived.

Rehman said the lawmakers belonging to religious parties disowned the resolution in the assembly which they had earlier backed.

In fact, soon after Mashal’s lynching, the legislative assembly of Pakistan-administered Pakistan passed two resolutions regarding the finality of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and respect of his family and companions.

A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

A protest in Karachi over the lynching of Mashal Khan. Credit: Abida Ali/IPS

The resolution also stated that if Ahmadis (declared non-Muslims by the constitution of Pakistan) claim themselves to be Muslims, they should be charged with blasphemy.

He has little hope in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who himself narrowly survived ouster and was saved by a supreme court verdict last month, after the opposition had taken him to court on charges of corruption.

“It [ruling Pakistan Muslim League — PML-N] will not take on the clerics at this stage,” Rehman said, lamenting: “The chance of doing something about blasphemy will again be missed.” But then he never had much hope attached to Sharif in the first place. “The PML-N is an accomplice to orthodoxy therefore there is no hope of a change for the better.”

However, there are others who say the laws have nothing to do with the recent episodes of lynching. The laws were not even invoked once.

Following the killing of Khan, in another part of Pakistan, a man was shot dead by his three sisters. He was accused of blasphemy in 2004 and the sisters in their confessional statement said they were incited by the imam of their neighbourhood mosque.

The same day a mob attacked a man after Friday prayers in northern Pakistan town of Chitral, and was saved in time by the mosque imam and the police officers who intervened and rescued him. The man was mentally ill and was on his way to Islamabad for treatment.

“It’s not the law, it’s the people, a people that have gone berserk,” said eminent educationist, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, who teaches physics at universities in Islamabad and Lahore.

That is why he insists on teaching Occam’s Razor in his classes. “It’s a metaphor for parsimony of assumptions. Start with the obvious, if that doesn’t work then assume that something more complicated is involved,” he explained, adding: “In this [lynching] particular case, it’s pretty obvious that religious passions are easily ignited because day in and day out all we hear about is religious sermonizing in one form or the other.”

But Omer thinks otherwise. “Killings in the name of blasphemy and mob violence after blasphemy allegations cannot be separated from the law and its mandatory death punishment; the impunity – even patronage – enjoyed by perpetrators in the past; and the state’s use of blasphemy to clamp down on dissenting/critical voices,” she said.

Recalling the climate just before Khan’s killing, she said there was renewed movement by various state institutions condemning ‘blasphemers; calling blasphemy ‘an act of terrorism; and urging people to report blasphemy so strict action could be taken against them.

Nasir, too, believed that when the parliament associates the death penalty with a crime it “does trickle down into society, socially and politically”. He gave the example of the arrest of three people for desecrating a Hindu temple and tried under section 295A (of blasphemy laws) which does not carry death penalty but shows clearly that blasphemy against other religions does not create a “huge social or political uproar”.

In addition, Omer said, the existence of the blasphemy laws in their current form gives a certain “cloak of legality” to such calls. “Which is why we shouldn’t lose sight of the connection between the existence of the blasphemy laws and the kind of violence we saw in Mardan, in Chitral, and before that in Kot Radha Kishan and other cases,” she said.

A large number of people accused of blasphemy, or even convicted of blasphemy by trial courts for defiling the Holy Quran, suffer from mental illnesses, said Omer. “This too is a common thread in how blasphemy laws play out in practice,” she said.”This is a damning indictment of the prosecution and police, who allow these cases to continue despite the fact that the accused do not have the requisite capacity to commit a crime.”

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Flying Green in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/flying-green-in-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=flying-green-in-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/flying-green-in-bangladesh/#comments Thu, 04 May 2017 00:01:35 +0000 Sohara Mehroze Shachi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150274 JAL747-400 bound for Tokyo leaves a contrail at dusk. Credit: CC BY-SA 2.5

JAL747-400 bound for Tokyo leaves a contrail at dusk. Credit: CC BY-SA 2.5

By Sohara Mehroze Shachi
DHAKA, May 4 2017 (IPS)

New technology could be the answer to reducing negative climate impacts of aviation – one of the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gases. And a recent quantitative research at North South University (NSU) of Bangladesh has found that upgrading the existing navigation system will reduce fuel use, hence decreasing carbon emissions as well as costs.

Currently, aviation in Bangladesh, like that in many countries, depends on fixed Ground-Based Navigation sensors that guide aircraft along pre-established routes via waypoints. These are often not available in direct paths between airports, hence aircrafts have to take an indirect, inefficient path, burning more fuel.“Although this is a small spoke in the big wheel of climate change, it will be great if the general people and the stakeholders can know about such findings." --Ahnaf Ahmed

A new system named Performance-Based Navigation (PBN) has been developed which depends on satellite signals and computerized on-board systems, allowing flexible and optimum routing. This not only reduces costs, flight duration and infrastructure needs, but also contributes to mitigating climate change.

Many countries are in various stages of implementing PBN, and USA’s implementation is called the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen. According to Leighton Quon of NextGen Systems Analysis, Integration, and Evaluation at NASA’s Ames Research Center, it will allow more efficient routes hence faster travel with fewer delays. This video shows how the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has started to use PBN for Super Bowl flights.

Bangladesh has drafted a PBN Implementation Roadmap following International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 2007 resolution on global implementation of PBN. A.K.M. Rezaul Karim, Public Relations Officer, Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) said CAAB is seriously working on implementing Required Navigation Performance or RNP (a variety of PBN) and achievements have been made since the roadmap was prepared.

The team researching aviation emissions at North South University (NSU) of Bangladesh. (L-R) Research Assistant Sabrin Hossain, Principal Investigator Ahnaf Ahmed, Research Assistants Asiful Haque Latif Nobel and Md. Abdul Ahad Chowdhury pose for a photo while analyzing results. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

The team researching aviation emissions at North South University (NSU) of Bangladesh. (L-R) Research Assistant Sabrin Hossain, Principal Investigator Ahnaf Ahmed, Research Assistants Asiful Haque Latif Nobel and Md. Abdul Ahad Chowdhury pose for a photo while analyzing results. Credit: Sohara Mehroze Shachi/IPS

A.K.M. Faizul Haque, Deputy Director (Air Transport), Flight Safety and Regulations Division, CAAB, said RNP approach procedures have already been introduced for Dhaka airport’s runway 14 but local carriers don’t use them, whereas Emirates – a foreign career – uses RNP approach for landing. He added that Emirates helped CAAB establish runway 14’s RNP approach through validation and even allowed CAAB to use Emirates’ flight simulator in Dubai.

“Implementing RNP requires significant, time consuming efforts such as transforming geographical coordinates, infrastructural development and validation,” Haque said. “Progress might seem little so far but it is getting implemented gradually.”

However, Imran Asif, CEO of US-Bangla – one of the leading domestic airlines of Bangladesh – expressed his reservations about the ability of CAAB to implement PBN.

“Our airports don’t even have the most basic of equipment and the controllers lack training. The surveillance radar has not been upgraded in 40 years,” he said.

Asif stated that the commercial airlines are willing to adapt to PBN, but for that the primary groundwork needs to be done. “Infrastructure and human resource needs to be developed and regulations put in place first then operators like us can insert the curriculum in our manual and train our crew,” he added.

While the Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) wants to implement PBN, it has not carried out or published any analysis of PBN in the domestic setting. Thus, the local stakeholders do not know exactly how much improvement can be achieved through PBN, or if there will be any improvement at all.

Bangladeshi airports and existing flightpaths (established with Ground-Based Navigation Aids).

Bangladeshi airports and existing flightpaths (established with Ground-Based Navigation Aids).

To address this issue, Ahnaf Ahmed, a faculty member at North South University (NSU) and the lead researcher of the project “Satellite-Based Navigation in Civil Aviation: Performance Evaluation in the Context of Bangladesh” is using simulation and mathematical optimization to compare the two navigation systems under identical conditions, and find their extent of differences regarding flight duration, fuel burn, engine emissions, cost etc.

So far he has found that for Dash 8-Q400 aircraft RNP on average reduces 2.8 minutes in each flight to and from Dhaka and the other three cities, which means fuel consumption reduces by approximately 123.2 pounds per flight. In a year, this equates approximately to total fuel savings of 1.8 million pounds and CO2 emission reduction by approximately 4.9 million pounds.

Ahmed believes his findings can help policy-makers and local industry stakeholders because they are now able to make decisions after precisely knowing how much improvement can happen through RNP regarding costs, fuel consumption and engine emissions. And Haque of CAAB echoed his thoughts, stating that quantitative analysis and comparison data will be very worthwhile for CAAB.

The NSU authority has recently approved the research grant in this regard for which Ahmed applied last year. The fund will compensate for the research expenses he has personally borne so far in covering Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Cox’s Bazar, and will also allow him to expand the research to other cities to make the results more comprehensive.

“Although this is a small spoke in the big wheel of climate change, it will be great if the general people and the stakeholders can know about such findings to efficiently combat climate change and be aware of the solutions,” he says.

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Journalist Killings in Sri Lanka Predicated on a Deadly Ironyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/journalist-killings-in-sri-lanka-predicated-on-a-deadly-irony/#comments Tue, 02 May 2017 15:02:27 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150251

This article is part of special IPS coverage of World Press Freedom Day.

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2017 (IPS)

The widespread belief in the politically-motivated killings of journalists in Sri Lanka is predicated on a deadly irony: the hidden hand has always been visible, but the fingerprints have gone missing.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Sri Lankan journalist killed in 2009.

Lasantha Wickrematunge, the Sri Lankan journalist killed in 2009.

The two most widely publicized killings relate to IPS UN Bureau Chief in Colombo, Richard de Zoysa, 30, in February 1990, and the Editor-in-Chief of the Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge, 51, in January 2009.

But both murders remain unsolved—due primarily to political coverups — despite several leads pointing to the killers.

As fate would have it, the politician who apparently ordered the killing of de Zoysa, and the police officer who executed that order both died in a suicide bomb blast in 1993, three years after de Zoysa’s murder.

But the rest of the conspirators are still on the loose and fugitives from justice.

And as the United Nations commemorated World Press Freedom Day, there were reports last week that one of the suspects in the Wickrematunge killing– far from being investigated or prosecuted — had been elevated to the rank of a diplomat and posted to a Sri Lanka embassy in an Asian capital years ago.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ), which has an arresting headline on its website titled “Sri Lanka: Where Journalists are Killed with Impunity,” lists the killings of 25 Sri Lankan journalists since 1992, with 19 where “motives were confirmed” and six with “motives unconfirmed.”

David Kaye, the UN Special Rapporteur on ‘the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression’, called on governments “to investigate and hold accountable all those responsible for attacks on journalists.”

In a statement released May 2, he said: “This past year has seen repeated attacks on journalists, leaving many dead or injured. Often terrorist groups carry out such attacks to silence opposition, secularists or atheists.”

Too often, he pointed out, threats are not met with effective protection by law enforcement or, in their aftermath, genuine investigation and prosecution.

“States need to make accountability a priority,” he declared.

In an interview with IPS, Sonali Samarasinghe, Minister Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Sri Lanka to the United Nations, confirmed that both high profile killings in Sri Lanka were meant to silence press criticism of political higher-ups.

Speaking strictly as a former journalist and widow of Lasantha Wickrematunge, she said “the authorities at the time wanted to silence Lasantha and cripple two newspapers — The Sunday Leader of which he was Editor-in-Chief and I was Consultant Editor– and The Morning Leader of which I was Editor in Chief.”

In Richard de Zoysa’s case, Samarasinghe said, he was the first Sri Lankan journalist to pay the ultimate price for his journalism.

Like Lasantha, Richard was beloved during his life, and like Lasantha, he has, since his death, become an icon in the media industry in Sri Lanka. Richard was a man of extraordinary talent and range who wrote haunting poetry and powerful plays, she noted.

There is no doubt in my mind that his killing was politically motivated as well, said Samarasinghe, a former Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, an Edward R. Murrow Fellow in Washington DC, and an International Journalist-in-Residence at the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: Since Lasantha’s killing, has there been any credible investigation to track down his killer or killers? Why has there been no trial or conviction for 8 long years?

SAMARASINGHE: Before January 2015, there had been virtually no serious investigation into this crime. There seems to have been a deliberate cover-up and stonewalling of the case. Such emblematic cases are not properly investigated for several reasons; among them, to hide the truth, to perpetuate a fear psychosis in the people and to create chaos. These assassinations affect not only the families of the victims but society as a whole. A break down in the rule of law and a lack of freedom of information leads to social divisiveness and generates mistrust between groups and in the institutions of the State. They send messages of fear, despondency and submission – and slavish/divisive societies are easier to manipulate.

However, since the change in administration in 2015, a special Criminal Investigations Team was established and there have been concrete steps taken not only in Lasantha’s case but in the cases of other journalists who were beaten, threatened or who disappeared during the previous administration. Lasantha’s body was exhumed late last year as part of this new investigation. These are extremely gut-wrenching circumstances and for me very difficult to endure as his wife. However, for the sake of the greater good and for the purposes of a thorough independent investigation, we have to go through this.

The proper conclusion of these investigations are important in order to re-establish Good Governance and the Rule of Law in our country, and halt the cyclical recurrence of violence in various forms. This is why the present administration has said it is deeply committed to these democratic principles.

IPS: How safe is the political environment for journalists now — as compared with 1990 or 2009?

SAMARASINGHE: As a nation that had suffered a dark period under the yoke of terrorism and an accompanying culture of impunity, this administration has demonstrated in several concrete ways that it is actively conscious of the value of a nation built on the principles of democracy and the Rule of Law. The cornerstone of any democracy is freedom of information. Without this there can be no meaningful advancement of peace, development or human rights. Among others, the proper handling of Lasantha’s case will become the symbol of a restored and renewed democracy where once again, the people of our country will have faith in our judiciary, and in our system of Justice. This is a slow and steady process.

Clearly the current administration has taken several steps in the right direction. For instance after years of civil society activism the Right to Information Act was signed into law in August 2016 and came into force on February 4, 2017. The government unanimously enacted the Assistance to and Protection of Victims of Crimes and Witnesses Act. A Permanent Office for Missing Persons (OMP) has been established. These are all structures and mechanisms that serve to rebuild trust in the state. I would say that today we have an administration that understands the value of an independent fourth estate and the serious perils of lapdog journalism.

QUESTION: With the increasing attacks on journalists worldwide, is there a role for the UN to stem this onslaught?

SAMARASINGHE: There is definitely a leadership role for the United Nations. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – Article 19 which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers,” to the unanimously adopted Sustainable Development Goals – particularly Goal 16, to “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels” we see that member states fully realize the UN’s critical role in this regard.

Target 10 of Goal 16 recognizes that public access to information and fundamental freedoms are indispensable conditions to sustainable development. It reads, “Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements.”

IPS: Are most UN member states paying only lip service to the cause of press freedom?

SAMARASINGHE
: In the final analysis, it is the responsibility of individual member states to implement nationally the international agreements and UN resolutions in accordance with their own domestic laws and cultures and to establish Rule of Law and end impunity. The two indicators set by the United Nations Statistical Commission for tracking progress in the achievement of target 10 are pertinent as they relate (a) to the number of verified cases of killing, kidnapping, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture of journalists, associated media personnel, trade unionists and human rights advocates, and (b) to the number of countries that adopt and implement constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information. Therefore SDG 16 is significant in mainstreaming safety of journalists in the international development agenda and for tracking progress in individual countries.

IPS: Do you think the UN should at least name and shame these countries where journalists are constantly in danger of losing their lives in the line of duty?

SAMARASINGHE: There is in fact a UN plan of action for the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, with UNESCO taking the lead in developing and implementing the plan. This plan includes a number of actions including standard-setting, policy-making, monitoring, reporting, building capacity and awareness-raising.

And yet, according to the UN itself every five days a journalist is killed in pursuit of a story. So yes, clearly the international community must be more proactive in addressing this issue. The numbers from civil society are staggering as well, with the Committee to Protect Journalists reporting that some 370 journalists were murdered between 2004 and 2013 in direct retaliation for their work, with 48 journalists killed in 2016 and 8 already killed in 2017.

However there are several soft approaches that the UN already explores, and awareness-raising through commemorative events or International Days (including World Press Freedom Day) is one. These soft approaches, if constant, can be very effective in shining a light on national situations, transporting incidents to the international stage and affording activists and family members an international platform to make their case.

IPS: Is there any role for journalists themselves to take up the fight at home or, more importantly, internationally?

One way to do this is to highlight or give prominence to the journalists who have been victimized in their own countries. For example, as an exiled journalist at the time, I was invited to speak at international events organized by UN agencies. During this period, I was also given the opportunity to speak at various other international venues, including on Capitol Hill, at the National Press Club, Universities and was also invited to serve as key note speaker at special events, including to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr Day. This kind of exposure helps keep the issues alive on the international stage.

Furthermore, UNESCO has the annual UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize awarded on 3 May that honors a person, organization or institution that has made an outstanding contribution to the promotion of press freedom. Lasantha was awarded this prize in 2009. He became only the second journalist to be honoured posthumously since this prize was created, and a testimony to the risk many journalists run in the pursuit of their calling. Again, this award, and the buzz it created, became a megaphone opportunity to highlight not only Lasantha’s case, but also the plight of all journalists persecuted everywhere for their work.

And in 2009 Mr Ban Ki Moon the then UN Secretary General highlighted Lasantha’s assassination during his remarks on Press Freedom Day. The world’s top diplomat giving prominence to Lasantha’s case was an important step in the right direction. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SNVeGGe0TU. Other UN agencies and diplomats expressed concern as well quite publicly, and these statements sent a message that the international community was watching. But yes, given the horrific numbers, it is important that the international community remains ever vigilant.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Trolling of Women Journalists Threatens Free Presshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/trolling-of-women-journalists-threatens-free-press/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trolling-of-women-journalists-threatens-free-press http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/trolling-of-women-journalists-threatens-free-press/#comments Mon, 01 May 2017 23:16:23 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150244 Shammi Haque, a Dhaka blogger known as a courageous advocate for free expression and secularism, received death and rape threats. Credit: Center for Inquiry

Shammi Haque, a Dhaka blogger known as a courageous advocate for free expression and secularism, received death and rape threats. Credit: Center for Inquiry

By Manipadma Jena
NEW DELHI, May 1 2017 (IPS)

“It’s not what you say that prompts it—it’s the fact that you are saying it,” says Mary Beard, a Cambridge University classics professor about online trolling. “If you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It is the many ways that men have silenced outspoken women since the days of the ancients.”

Women professionals in many countries across Asia and the Pacific have increased their number in the newsrooms, according to a study, but they still represent only three out of ten news staff. Even with this low representation, they have now breezed into the male bastion of hard stories, among them politics, corruption, conflict, governance, environment with confidence and impact.“Shaming and harming women is an age-old practice, except that real time information sharing through technology makes the outreach far greater and the damage huge.” --Dilrukshi Handunnetti

They speak their mind, put forth their opinion and debate knowledgeably and vigorously with readers on matters of import on social media platforms.

Societal images of women have remained largely conservative.

Shammi Haque, a Dhaka blogger, received death and rape threats and an email from an Islamic extremist group that claimed the killing of  six Bangladeshi bloggers which said,  “Since the Islamic  Sharia (law) views working of women outside their homes without purdah (head cover) as (a) punishable offense, their employers are guilty to the same degree. We are urging the media to release their women from their jobs.”

In India, as part of an anti-trolling campaign by national daily Hindustan Times, Harry Stevens and Piyush Aggarwal set out in April to demonstrate how hard it is to be an outspoken woman on Twitter. They gathered a week’s worth of tweets sent to four prominent Indian women journalists. Out of these Barkha Dutt, a television veteran, received 3,020 abusive tweets, and Rana Ayyub, a Muslim, received 2,580 hateful tweets, often coloured by Islamophobia.

Internet trolls have had a free run in the region for at least six years now. Women journalists who tackled trolling and abusive comments on social media by ignoring or blocking the persistent trolls, now find that stalking and direct threats of attack have increased, forcing them to seek legal recourse or police protection.

“Journalists’ safety is a precondition for free speech and free media,” says the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

“Online media today allows for the fast flow of information and the public’s active par­ticipation in sharing ideas, news and insight. An open, free and safe Internet is essential for public debate and free flow of information and therefore should be duly protected.”

Female journalists, bloggers and other media actors are disproportionally experi­encing gender related threats, harassment and intimidation on the Internet, which has a direct impact on their safety and future online activities.

Twitter threats like “I’m going to cut off your head and rape it” have been directed even at the sexagenarian Mary Beard.

About the vitriolic abuse she faces, Dutt asks, “Why isn’t anyone discussing the marriages, divorces, and affairs of my male colleagues? Why the fixation with my private life? Because the public scrutiny of women – and especially those of us who are proudly ambitious and fiercely independent – is very different from the standards used to measure men. And the subtext is always sexual.”

“Cyber bullies are the same as goons who threaten in real life,” psychiatrist Samir Parikh says.

The personalized online abuse women journalists get for doing only what is expected by their professional job “can make them feel traumatized, helpless, angry and very frustrated,” says Parikh. “In some, it can even cause self-esteem issues, affect social life and lead to symptoms of depression, anxiety and panic attacks. For women, the abuse and threats of violence are often openly sexist and sexual, which makes them tougher to deal with.”

“(Online) it is possible to cloak one’s identity and attack individuals in the most unethical and harmful manner,” says Dilrukshi Handunnetti, an editor in Colombo. “Shaming and harming women is an age-old practice, except that real time information sharing through technology makes the outreach far greater and the damage huge.”

It does little to ease the trauma for journalists to know that trolling correlates with psychopathy, sadism, and Machiavellianism, according to a 2014 empirical personality study. Other studies found boredom, attention seeking, revenge, pleasure, and a desire to cause damage to the community among motivations for trolling.

But some interviewed trolls viewed their online comments not as harassment, but as a needed counterweight to opinions and news items they believe are flawed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

As threats get too dangerous to ignore, women journalists are being forced to seek recourse from the law, despite their misgivings about how the law is framed and doubts about whether law-enforcing agencies can ensure speedy and sensitive investigation.

An Online Harassment Social Media Policy drafted March 2016 by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) lays out a road map for media houses to protect journalistic voices, create safe online spaces for open and respectful debate, and deal with abuse and harassment faced in particular by female staff.

Among the mechanisms to ensure digital safety and freedom from harassment, the road map calls for a special cyber cell in media organizations that equip women journalists particularly, with legal awareness and resources. When the harassment is extreme, measures must also include physical security, legal hand-holding, and support to pursue police complaints and psychological support and trauma counseling.

Meanwhile, a Byte Back handbook for women journalists being cyber-bullied gives out handy advice – ignore, filter, block, report and if it gets worse, name-and-shame, shout it out, and don’t forget to save and document abuse.

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Long Way to Go for Indigenous Rights Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/long-way-to-go-for-indigenous-rights-protection/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 09:11:18 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150139 Tadodaho Sid Hill (shown on screens), Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tadodaho Sid Hill (shown on screens), Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

Despite progress, many gaps remain in international indigenous rights protection, said representatives during an annual UN meeting.

More than 1000 indigenous representatives from around the world have gathered at the UN for the 16th session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII). This year’s meeting focuses on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) which was adopted 10 years ago by the General Assembly.

“On the day of the adoption of the declaration, there was a major change in the recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples,” said this year’s UNFPII Chairperson Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine during the opening ceremony.

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine (Mali). Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Willie Littlechild echoed similar comments, stating that indigenous communities had no voice in the international arena until the 1980s when discussions first began on creating a special instrument to protect indigenous peoples worldwide.

Alongside the Declaration, the UN now has four mechanisms focused on indigenous communities, including UNPFII and a Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

“Coming from no voice to four mechanisms at the UN, I think that is a significant accomplishment,” Littlechild stated.

The 2030 Agenda for Development, adopted in 2015 by the international community, also directly involves and references indigenous issues unlike its predecessor the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

However, many challenges remain in implementing and enforcing UNDRIP.

Littlechild expressed concern to IPS over the lack of implementation mechanisms in Canada, stating: “[Justin Trudeau] was the first Prime Minister to even look at the UN declaration…but the task is now in the follow-up.”

After formally adopting UNDRIP in 2016, many have said that Prime Minister Trudeau has violated the document by approving several controversial pipelines without full consent from indigenous communities whose lands would be impacted. One such pipeline is the Trans Mountain Expansion pipeline which received support from 40 out of 139 First Nations living along the planned route.

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Tadodaho Sid Hill, Chief of the Onondaga Nation. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Article 19 of UNDRIP highlights the importance of such consent, stating: “States are required to consult and cooperate with indigenous peoples in order to obtain their free, prior and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that affect them.”

The right to lands, territories, and resources is also among the most important provisions of the Declaration.

Both Aboubakrine and Littlechild highlighted the importance of inclusive discussions and decision-making at the international and state levels to ensure the protection of indigenous rights.

“Some of the traditional knowledge of elders is critical to making sure there’s safe development if that is what is agreed to or to protect the environment,” Littlechild told IPS.

Aboubakrine stressed the need for UN agencies to communicate and coordinate in order to effectively and meaningfully enforce UNDRIP.

“It’s moving along, but I’m just concerned we are not moving along with it,” Littlechild concluded.

Indigenous communities around the world face disproportionately high rates of poverty, poor health, and discrimination. According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), indigenous people constitute 5 percent of the world’s population but make up approximately 15 percent of the world’s poorest.

The 16th Session of UNFPII aims to address challenges and highlight progress in indigenous rights at the UN headquarters from 24 April to 5 May.

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Indigenous Peoples – Best Allies or Worst Enemies?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/indigenous-peoples-best-allies-or-worst-enemies/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 07:23:39 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150134 Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 25 2017 (IPS)

It all happened on the very same day—4 April. That day, indigenous peoples were simultaneously characterised as fundamental allies in the world’s war on hunger and poverty, while being declared as collective victims of a “tsunami” of imprisonments in Australia. See what happened.

Australia must reduce the “astounding” rates of imprisonment for indigenous peoples and step up the fight against racism, on 4 April warned Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.“Traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management” – Graziano da Silva

“It is alarming that, while the country has adopted numerous policies to address the socio-economic disadvantage of Aboriginal peoples and those from the Torres Strait Islands, it has failed to respect their rights to self-determination and to full and effective participation in society,” she added at the end of an official visit to Australia.

Tauli-Corpuz said that the Australian government policies have failed to deliver on targets in the areas of “health, education and employment and have led to a growing number of people being jailed, and have resulted in an increasing number of children being removed from their homes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Astounding Figures

“High rates of incarceration were described to me as a “tsunami” affecting indigenous peoples. It is a major human rights concern. The figures are simply astounding. While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders make up only 3 per cent of the total population, they constitute 27 per cent of the prison population, and much more in some prisons,” she stressed.

“I visited Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville, Queensland, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children constitute 95 per cent of the children detained. Many have been going from out-of-home care into detention,” Tauli-Corpuz said, adding that aboriginal children are seven times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in contact with the child protection system or to be subject to abuse or neglect.

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

Indigenous women from Panama design action plans to ensure food security. Credit: FAO

“… I urge Australia to increase the age of criminal responsibility. Children should be detained only as a last resort… These children are essentially being punished for being poor and in most cases, prison will only aggravate the cycle of violence, poverty and crime. I found meeting young children, some only 12 years old, in detention the most disturbing element of my visit.”

The UN expert expressed criticism of the government programme known as the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which was initiated in 2014 and involved a large budget cut in funding for support programmes. “The implementation of the strategy has been bureaucratic, rigid and has wasted considerable resources on administration.”

Tauli-Corpuz called on the government to forge a new relationship with the national representative body for indigenous peoples, the National Congress of Australia’s First People, and restore their funding.

She also expressed concern that the government would not meet targets to close the gap in areas such as “life expectancy, infant mortality, education and employment,” and called for a comprehensive approach including specific targets for the “reduction of detention rates, child removal and violence against women.”

Fundamental Allies

That very same day–4 April, the head of the United Nations body specialised in the areas of food and agriculture, was welcoming in Rome a group of indigenous youth representatives from the indigenous peoples’ seven socio-cultural regions of the world.

In his address to the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus meeting in the Italian capital (5-7 April), Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that indigenous peoples are “fundamental allies” in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty “because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.”

Credit: FAO

Credit: FAO

In a world in which climate change brings new challenges and uncertainties, we cannot eliminate hunger without the participation of youth, said da Silva, noting that “they must participate in these issues that will affect their children and their children’s children. Let’s work together and do it right now.”

The Sustainable Development Goals provide an opportunity for countries, indigenous organisations and the United Nations to work together to make an impact starting now through to 2030, he added, while reminding that since the creation of its Indigenous Peoples team in 2014, FAO is strengthening its work with indigenous organisations based on a double approach:

“On the one hand, we consider indigenous peoples as fundamental allies in the fight against hunger, food insecurity and poverty because of their wealth of ancestral knowledge and good practices.

“On the other hand, “we are aware that the lack of recognition of their rights in the management of natural resources and the marginalization they suffer places them in a vulnerable position. I speak above all of your ancestral rights to land tenure.”

Traditional Indigenous Knowledge

Da Silva referred to the indigenous food systems, noting that traditional indigenous knowledge and the diversity of their food systems can provide solutions for healthy diets, and many areas such as nutrition, climate change or ecosystem management.

Working with indigenous women’s leadership schools, he added, has enabled fellow indigenous women to gain access to training on rights, food security and other areas of interest such as the use of local seeds, voluntary guidelines on land tenure, guides on artisanal fisheries, etc.

The Rome meeting of the Global Indigenous Youth Caucus coincided with the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples.

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Women Clearing Bombs in Cambodiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 14:27:52 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150110 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/women-clearing-bombs-in-cambodia/feed/ 0 Reclaiming the Bandung Spirit for Shared Prosperityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/reclaiming-the-bandung-spirit-for-shared-prosperity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reclaiming-the-bandung-spirit-for-shared-prosperity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/reclaiming-the-bandung-spirit-for-shared-prosperity/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 07:17:03 +0000 Noeleen Heyzer and Anis Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150094 Noeleen Heyzer, former Executive Secretary of UN-ESCAP and Under-Secretary-General of the UN. She was also special advisor to the UN-Secretary-General for Timor Leste.

Anis Chowdhury, former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008-2015 in New York and Bangkok.]]>

Noeleen Heyzer, former Executive Secretary of UN-ESCAP and Under-Secretary-General of the UN. She was also special advisor to the UN-Secretary-General for Timor Leste.

Anis Chowdhury, former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008-2015 in New York and Bangkok.

By Noeleen Heyzer and Anis Chowdhury
Bangkok and Sydney, Apr 24 2017 (IPS)

“The despised, the insulted, the hurt, the dispossessed—in short, the underdogs of the human race were meeting. … Who had thought of organizing such a meeting? And what had these nations in common? Nothing, it seemed to me, but what their past relationship to the Western world had made them feel. This meeting of the rejected was in itself a kind of judgment upon the Western world!.”

—Richard Wright, The Color Curtain [University Press of Mississippi, 1956].

This is how Richard Wright, a novelist saw the gathering of leaders from 29 African and Asian nations at Bandung (Indonesia) on 18-25 April, 1955 of 29.

Noeleen Heyzer

Noeleen Heyzer

The leaders, prominent among them Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Chou En Lai (China), Ho Chi Minh (Viet Nam), and Adam Clayton Powell (Congressman from Harlem, USA), considered how they could help one another in achieving social and economic well-being for their large and impoverished populations. Their agenda addressed race, religion, colonialism, national sovereignty, and the promotion of world peace. In opening the conference, the President of Indonesia, Ahmed Sukarno asked,

“What can we do? We can do much! We can inject the voice of reason into world affairs. We can mobilize all the spiritual, all the moral, all the political strength of Asia and Africa on the side of peace. Yes, we! We, the peoples of Asia and Africa, …, we can mobilize what I have called the Moral Violence of Nations in favour of peace.

The Bandung declaration

The final communiqué expressed, “general desire for economic co-operation among the participating countries on the basis of mutual interest and respect for national sovereignty”; “agreed to provide technical assistance to one another”; “recognized the vital need for stabilizing commodity trade”; recommended that: “Asian-African countries should diversify their export trade by processing their raw material, wherever economically feasible, before export”; promote “intraregional trade”; and provide “facilities for transit trade of land-locked countries”.

The rise of the Third World and demand for a New International Economic Order

Anis Chowdhury

Anis Chowdhury

It was the beginning of what came to be known as the “non-aligned” movement and the “Third World” and within the United Nations, the Group of 77 plus China. With this confidence they called for the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) recognized at the 1974 General Assembly, based on equity, sovereign equality, interdependence, common interest and cooperation among all States, to correct inequalities and redress existing injustices; to eliminate the widening gap between the developed and the developing countries; and to ensure steadily accelerating economic and social development and peace and justice for present and future generations.

The NIEO declaration was, in effect, a call for shared and differentiated responsibility for equitable development.

Unfortunately, many aspects of the NIEO were never implemented. While the developing countries sought strategic integration with the global economy using trade and industry policies, they were advised to accept unfettered liberalization and privatization, which saw increased volatility and financial crises often disproportionately disadvantaging them. The aid conditionality of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank included straight-jacketed package of so-called “sound policies” that emphasized deregulation and a diminished role for the State. This drastically reduced state capability and developing countries’ policy space to deal with crises, pursue their developmental aspirations and achieve structural transformation.

Through the experience of the Latin American debt crisis in the 1980s and the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98, the countries of the South have realized that they have to create their own policy space and craft out policies based on their own circumstances. Thus, they managed to grow steadily over the last two decades and were able to weather the 2008-2009 Great Recession remarkably well to anchor the global economic recovery.

The Global South is no longer a collection of “despised, the insulted, the hurt, the dispossessed—in short, the underdogs”; they are the drivers of global economy.

Global South’s fault-lines

However, the issues facing developing countries are more complex now. They are faced with issues of inequalities and insecurities which affect social cohesion; climate change and uneven competition in global markets when key global negotiations on trade and climate change have broken down. They also face the potential danger of weakening of solidarity as the members of the Global South seek different interests.

It does not help when governance failure occurs in a number of the developing countries; when some are ripped apart by violent internal or regional conflicts, or manipulated because of rising extremisms of many sorts. Corruptions, lack of accountability and trembling of human rights are affront to the aspirations of independence and hinder the fulfilment of development and dignity for all. The governance failures and divided societies within have also weakened the developing South’s ability to deal with issues of international governance in the globalizing world, and our common future even with “Rising Asia”.

Reclaiming the Bandung spirit

Time has come for the rising Global South to collectively work for the unfinished business of a new international economic order that today has to take a more integrated and universal approach for people, planet and prosperity as highlighted in the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development goals (SDGs); to stabilize commodity prices; to improve export incomes; to ensure food security; to demand improved access to markets in developed countries; to put a stop to siphoning off capital through dubious transfer pricing arrangements of multinational corporations and international tax havens; to eliminate the instability of the international monetary system; to ensue full and effective participation in all decision-making in all global bodies, including the IMF and the World Bank, and in formulating an equitable and durable monetary system.

However, the developing South must lead by putting its own house in order; improve democratic governance, respect human rights especially women’s human rights, and ensure wider freedom of its own citizen to re-establish legitimacy and trust through a new social contract that responds to the needs and hopes of all citizens, not just in form but in substance.

In the spirit of Bandung, they have to work together for the prosperity of their people and to protect humanity’s common good, especially our planet. They should recall the message, “All of us … are united by more important things than those which superficially divide us. … And we are united by a common determination to preserve and stabilize peace in the world. . . .”

It is time to come together and advance together to address the risks and challenges that confront our world and harness the opportunities to build a more inclusive and sustainable future of shared prosperity. Only then can we sing:

A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore! (Longfellow; from President Sukarno’s opening speech).

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Tensions in Cambodia Are Growinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/tensions-in-cambodia-are-growing/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tensions-in-cambodia-are-growing http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/tensions-in-cambodia-are-growing/#comments Thu, 20 Apr 2017 09:51:55 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150055 By Erik Larsson
Phnom Penh, Apr 20 2017 (IPS/Arbetet Global)

Tensions in Cambodia are growing. The reigning party have been in power for decades, but as the upcoming elections in June come closer, support is gathering for the opposition. The response from the government has been to pass laws that seek to silence protests.

The corridor is stacked with boxed kits of demonstrator equipment. In each box there are sections for vests, for helmets and for glasses.

”For teargas”, Naly Pilarge explains.

She works for the Cambodian human rights organisation Licadho.

Political control in the country has tightened. In June local elections will be held, followed by parliamentary elections in 2018. The government has started to sense that its hold on power is threatened. For defenders of civil rights, Cambodia has practically turned into a one party state.

Every Monday, members of the opposition dress in black to show their discontent with the present regime. This led to the arrest of two women a few weeks ago. The commander of the army commented: ”We can’t permit a revolution of color in the country”.

The government has started to sense that its hold on power is threatened. For defenders of civil rights, Cambodia has practically turned into a one party state.
Naly Pilarge shakes her head and leaves the room. Out in the corridor, she lights a cigarette. ”Things have gotten much worse”

A year ago, on the tenth of July, local politician Kem Ley was followed into a gas station in the capital city Phnom Penh by a man with a gun.

Three shots to the head ended his life. The murderer was apprehended but there were plenty of unanswered questions. Why did the police drive alongside the fleeing murderer for a long while, witnessed by bystanders and recorded on video. What did they say to each other for a prolonged period of time before the arrest was made?

Kim Ley led the grass root advocacy group Khmer for Khmer that aligned several of the country’s grass root movements, and had also started a political party which was quickly gaining support.

He often spoke out in criticism of the prime minister Hun Sen, and only briefly before the shooting, he had added comment to a report on widespread corruption. Although the 38 year old murderer claimed that a dispute over money led to the shots being fired, the opposition claim that it was a planned assassination, although the accomplices are as yet unknown.

In order to understand the present situation, the past must be considered.

The government party CPP (Cambodian Peoples Party) have been in power since the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1979 that removed Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge.

With messages from the leadership like: ”It’s better to kill an innocent by mistake than spare an enemy by mistake.’ the Khmer Rouge communist reign of terror decimated Cambodia by killing one fourth of the population.

The effects of that systematic torture and murder of those deemed unsuited for the Khemer Rouge society, is still visible in today’s politics.

Prisoners held at S-21, the Khmer Rouge regime's main torture centre, on display at what is now a genocide museum in Phnom Penh. Credit: Irwin Loy/IPS

Prisoners held at S-21, the Khmer Rouge regime’s main torture centre, on display at what is now a genocide museum in Phnom Penh. Credit: Irwin Loy/IPS

From the tenth floor of Phnom Penh Tower, the Swedish embassy overlooks the heavily trafficated city streets that clog to a standstill several times every day. From there, Andreas Johnsson, among other tasks, can overlook the political situation in the country.

”There is turbulence right now”, he begins. ”Alot of people support the CPP as they see the party as a safeguard for stability and to make sure that what happened under the Khmer Rouge does not happen again”

Down below SUVs crowd the narrow streets as testiment to a booming economy.

Growth is around 7-8% annually. For some, times are very good. But only few can reap the gains. Of the 16 million inhabitants of Cambodia, as many as 12 million are surviving on just over 2 dollars per day.

The spread of mobile phones and increasing use of social media has spurred a willingness to discuss political issues. At the same time, the important textile industries have increased pressures as they demand improved wages and a higher standard of living.

This forms a growing demand for change, which isn’t easy to deal with for a leader who has been in power for more than thirty years.

The CPP realize that they must deal with the opposition in some way. The results of the last elections in 2013 shocked the party. Although they won, the support for the opposition had grown significantly.

Soon after that result, leader Hun Sen realized that some action must be taken. He brought forth several reforms and reached out to the leader of the opposition Sam Rainsy.

But the initiative quickly got bogged down without making any reforms and relationships quickly cooled. Rainsy was also accused of numerous crimes and charged with criminal defamation.

As the upcoming elections on local and national levels grow near, new laws have been introduced that curtail the opposition.

In February, a law was enacted that could lead to political parties being banned if they are repesented by criminals.

While that might sound like a sensible idea, the reality of it, and that was apparent to the opposition, was that opposition representatives had started to be charged with crimes.

Their claims that the charges were unfounded has been backed by Amnesty International.

Sam Rainsy
decided to leave Cambodia and lives in exile in France. One month ago he also resigned as leader of the opposition in order to stop any attempts to ban the party due to the new law.

Persecution has also been seen on the streets as several representatives have been struck down by unknown assailants.

Another legal challenge
has come with a new law that regulates union activity. Regulation dictates which unions are given the right to negotiate and for independent labor unions this makes organized efforts more difficult and they risk losing members.

Furthermore, the government has proposed a new law to regulate minimum wages.

According to the proposal, mimunim wage levels are set for the entire labor market, and not for individual industries, for example the textile industry.

These minimum levels are to be set by a tripartite committee representing unions, employers and the State. But when the levels are set, protests by the unions would be outlawed.

The proposal
goes even further, in banning research and reporting on minimum wages. These laws have made it difficult for opponents of the legislation to come together.

There are 3000 registered labor unions in Cambodia, a country that is considered to be one of the most corrupt in the world.

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Mind the Treatment Gaphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/mind-the-treatment-gap/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mind-the-treatment-gap http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/mind-the-treatment-gap/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 17:51:06 +0000 Vani Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149983 Vani S. Kulkarni teaches Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester.]]> getty images/ istock photo

getty images/ istock photo

By Vani S. Kulkarni and Raghav Gaiha
PHILADELPHIA AND NEW DELHI, Apr 14 2017 (IPS)

Implementation of the Mental Healthcare Act will require a restructuring of health-care services
The Mental Healthcare Bill, 2016, which was passed in the Lok Sabha on March 27, 2017, has been hailed as a momentous reform. According to the Bill, every person will have the right to access mental health care operated or funded by the government; good quality and affordable health care; equality of treatment and protection from inhuman practices; access to legal services; and right to complain against coercion and cruelty. The Bill also empowers a mentally ill person to choose a treatment and her/his nominated representative, decriminalises attempted suicide, prohibits the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to mentally ill adults without the use of muscle relaxants and anaesthesia, and contains provisions for care, treatment and rehabilitation for those who have experienced severe stress and attempted suicide. While these are laudable and ambitious objectives as they address major concerns of mental health care, there have been some critiques drawing attention to the lack of funds, trained personnel, and insufficient emphasis on community care. The ground reality, however, suggests that these objectives are not just overambitious but an overkill.

Poor infrastructure, low funds
The Global Burden of Disease Study shows that in 2013, 50% of all disease burden in India was caused by non-communicable diseases, while mental disorders accounted for about 6% of the total disease burden. A third of this is due to depression, which also significantly contributes to suicide and ischaemic heart disease. Worse, suicide is a leading cause of death in people in India aged 15-29.

Vani S. Kulkarni

Vani S. Kulkarni

There are only 43 government-run mental hospitals across all of India to provide services to more than 70 million people living with mental disorders. There are 0.30 psychiatrists, 0.17 nurses, and 0.05 psychologists per 1,00,000 mentally ill patients in the country. The case of the Bareilly mental hospital — one of three major mental hospitals in Uttar Pradesh — is stunning. In this hospital, 350 patients can be admitted and around 200 patients can attend the out-patient department every day. But all these patients would be at the mercy of only one psychiatrist!

At the macro level, the proposed health expenditure of 1.2% of GDP in the Budget for 2017-18 is among the lowest in the world. In real terms, public health expenditure has consistently declined since 2013-14. Of the total health budget, a mere 1-2% is spent on mental health.

But this is a small part of the explanation of the inadequacy and abysmal quality of mental health services in India. Underlying this deplorable state of affairs is a pervasive perception that those with mental illnesses are pathological or even criminal; hence they do not deserve the type of rehabilitation given to those with physical ailments. Besides, the treatment gap (the difference between those suffering from mental illnesses and those seeking medical/psychiatric care) is widened because of the social stigma attached to such illnesses. In fact, many poor people hide their illnesses and endanger their lives. Others argue that it is not so much stigma but ignorance and lack of knowledge, myths, and supernatural beliefs that impede treatment. Women typically face larger treatment gaps as they are vulnerable to violence, sexual abuse and inhuman treatment.

Raghav Gaiha

Raghav Gaiha

Ethnographic evidence from the Human Rights Watch Report 2014 relating to women inpatients is gruesome. Deepali, a woman with a perceived psychosocial disability, said: “The nurse would sometimes forcefully put the pills in my mouth and stroke my throat to send them down, the way I feed my dogs… I woke up one night and I couldn’t move; my body was in intense physical pain. A nurse came and jabbed an injection into my body, without even taking off my clothes. You are treated worse than animals.”

Often, all women and girls were admitted without their consent and, as the team left, they cried out in despair, “send me home” or “take me home”. Unable to cope with mentally ill relatives, families often abandon them in mental hospitals and elsewhere. In one case, a woman who was declared “fit for discharge” in the 1990s was still in the institution as of August 2013 because of lack of alternative resettlement options for her.

Some women were not even informed that ECT was being administered. Psychiatric nurses admitted that ECT was administered not just on violent and suicidal patients but also on new admissions who tend to be unmanageable.

Women and girls with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities in institutions are often subject to not just physical and verbal abuse but also sexual violence. Some women went to a hospital for three months and returned one month pregnant. Not a single FIR was filed.

Government hospitals refuse to admit “mentally ill” persons in the ICU on the grounds that this facility could be put to better use. A woman suffering from breast cancer for two-three years was denied treatment and subsequently died.

Shift to community-based care
An emphatic case could be made for shifting from institutional care to community-based care for people suffering from mental disorders. A study published in The Lancet Psychiatry, 2017 offers corroborative evidence from VISHRAM (the Vidharbha Stress and Health Programme), which is a community-based mental health initiative. The reduction in the treatment gap was due to increased supply of mental health services through front-line workers and their collaborative linkage with the physicians and psychiatrists in the facilities, as well as increased demand for mental health services due to improved mental health literacy. The substantial reduction in the median cost of care resulted from availability of general as well as specialist services in the village itself.

Whether legislation such as the Mental Healthcare Bill help overcome supply and demand barriers seems highly unlikely, as the root causes lie in pervasive negative attitudes, massive neglect of mental health care, rampant abuse and unchecked inhuman practices, and weak redressal and enforcement mechanisms. The Bill seeks to address major lacunae in mental health care and is thus an important step forward. However, its implementation will require substantially larger public resources and, more importantly, restructuring of mental healthcare services with a key role for the community in their provision, rapid expansion of mental health literacy, effective monitoring and enforcement of the objectives envisioned in it. With limited awareness of these challenges, and with a slight risk of exaggeration, the Bill is an overkill.

This opinion editorial was first published in The Hindu

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ACP: One Billion People to Speak To Europe with One Voicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/acp-one-billion-people-to-speak-to-europe-with-one-voice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=acp-one-billion-people-to-speak-to-europe-with-one-voice http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/acp-one-billion-people-to-speak-to-europe-with-one-voice/#comments Fri, 14 Apr 2017 14:07:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149974 Map of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) member states. Author: Cflm001. Public Domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain

Map of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) member states. Author: Cflm001. Public Domain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_domain

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 14 2017 (IPS)

Seventy-nine countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, which are home to around one billon people, will speak with one voice as they prepare to negotiate a major partnership agreement with the European Union (500 million inhabitants) in May.

The decision, announced by the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) informs that the group will negotiate as a single bloc with the European Union (EU) the new accord expected to come out of the ACP-EU ministerial meeting, scheduled for 4-5 May 2017 in Brussels.

The new accord will follow on the current ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (also known as the Cotonou Agreement), which covers trade, development cooperation and political dialogue between the two parties until 2020.“The ultimate aim is to facilitate poverty eradication, sustainable development and improve the livelihoods of the one billion people that live in our countries,” ACP secretary general Dr. Patrick I. Gomes.

The Cotonou Agreement 2000 was signed in Cotonou, Benin on 23 June 2000 and was revised both on 2005 and 2010. In it, both blocs of countries affirmed their commitment to work together towards the achievement of the objectives of poverty eradication, sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy.

They also asserted their resolve to make, through their cooperation, a significant contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of the ACP states and to the greater well-being of their population, helping them facing the challenges of globalisation and strengthening the ACP-EU Partnership in the effort to give the process of globalisation a stronger social dimension;

The two bloc reaffirmed their willingness to revitalise their special relationship and to implement a comprehensive and integrated approach for a strengthened partnership based on political dialogue, development cooperation and economic and trade relations.

Regarding the expected new agreement, representatives from the ACP and the EU have already agreed on several major issues to discuss at the upcoming joint ministerial council meetings.

There is “a clear common interest in aligning future ACP-EU cooperation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals,” the Brussels-based ACP secretariat added.

Improving the Livelihoods of One Billion People

“These basic principles highlight the importance the ACP Group places on negotiating [with the EU] as a unified entity, aiming for a mature political partnership based on mutual respect,” stated ACP secretary general Dr. Patrick I. Gomes of Guyana.

“The ultimate aim is to facilitate poverty eradication, sustainable development and improve the livelihoods of the one billion people that live in our countries, added Gomes, who was elected for this key post in December 2014, had served as Guyana’s Ambassador to Belgium and the European Community and as Guyana’s representative to the World Trade Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

South Sudan, the youngest world nation, is expected to join the ACP group, raising to 80 the number of its member countries.

Climate Change, Migration, Private Sector, Finance and Economy

According to the ACP, the key issues on the agenda of the ACP-EU Joint Council of Ministers are:
— The implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals remains a top priority, and both ACP and EU sides agree that cooperation between the two parties should align with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals.
— Climate change is also high on the agenda, being a concrete area where ACP and EU collaboration has enabled the global community to forge an international coalition, and paved the way for achieving the historic Paris Agreement. Continued cooperation is envisaged, including the development of effective programs and actions under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF).
— The future relations between ACP and EU countries is a fundamental issue in the lead up to negotiations for a renewed partnership agreement to follow the current ACP-EU framework, which expires in 2020. The ACP Group intends to negotiate as a unified entity, supporting a legally binding agreement with a dedicated development finance mechanism.
— Discussions on migration will look at the progress of the Valetta Action Plan as well as the EU Trust Fund for Africa, with the primary goal of assisting African countries to help stem migratory flows to Europe.
On this, the ACP has highlighted synergies with the ACP-EU Dialogue on Migration, while also underlining trends in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, particularly in relation to human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, and high cost of remittances.
— Both the EU and ACP recognise the importance of private sector development. Ministers will consider the progress made under the Joint ACP-EU Cooperation Framework for Private Sector Development Support.
— As far as development finance cooperation, talks will focus on aspects related to implementing the SDGs, the status of the European Development Funds and the implementation of the ACP Investment Facility.
— Finally, economic issues such as trade cooperation (including the state of play of the ACP-EU regional Economic Partnership Agreements – EPAS), the European External Investment Plan and perspectives of the Investment Facility, round up the main part of the agenda.

Credit: ACP

Credit: ACP

A set of several basic points have been outlined to guide member states in preparing for negotiations to reshape relations with the EU after 2020:

1) The ACP Group of States is committed to remain united as an inter-governmental organisation;
2) As a unified trans-regional entity, the ACP Group will negotiate a successor agreement to the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement;
3) Formally structured relations with regional and continental groupings of developing countries will be an important aspect of the negotiations;
4) Principles and mechanisms for inclusive policy formulation, decision-making and programme implementation with Non-State Actors will be given serious consideration during the negotiations;
5) The substantive thematic areas and pillars of an ACP-EU post-Cotonou Agreement are (i) Trade, Investment, Industrialisation and Services; (ii) Development Cooperation, Technology, Science and Innovation/Research; and (iii) Political dialogue and Advocacy;
6) An ACP-EU post-Cotonou Agreement should maintain the core geographic and geopolitical character of the ACP Group structured in six regions of Central, East, Southern and West Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific, while being open to different types of association with other developing countries;
7) The negotiation process is envisaged as leading to a legally binding agreement;
8) A dedicated development finance mechanism is to be included within a negotiation framework for an ACP-EU post-Cotonou Agreement.

In addition, the ACP Group informed that it will also advocate for “preferential trading agreements” that are development-oriented, as well as structural support for debt management, trade facilitation and innovative development financing, especially for members with Middle Income status.

The ACP Group´s main objectives are: sustainable development of its member-States and their gradual integration into the global economy, which entails making poverty reduction a matter of priority and establishing a new, fairer, and more equitable world order, and the coordination of the activities of the ACP Group in the framework of the implementation of ACP-EC Partnership Agreements.

Other key objectives are the consolidation of unity and solidarity among ACP States, as well as understanding among their peoples, and the establishment and consolidation of peace and stability in a free and democratic society.

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Women’s Health Policies Should Focus on NCDshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/womens-health-policies-should-focus-on-ncds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-health-policies-should-focus-on-ncds http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/womens-health-policies-should-focus-on-ncds/#comments Tue, 11 Apr 2017 00:02:56 +0000 Neena Bhandari http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=149895 Professor Robyn Norton, co-founder and Principal Director of the George Institute for Global Health. Credit: Neena Bhandari/IPS

Professor Robyn Norton, co-founder and Principal Director of the George Institute for Global Health. Credit: George Institute/IPS

By Neena Bhandari
SYDNEY, Apr 11 2017 (IPS)

Science and medicine were not subjects of dinnertime conversations in the Norton household in Christchurch, New Zealand, but Professor Robyn Norton grew up observing her parents’ commitment to equity and social justice in improving people’s lives. It left an indelible impression on her young mind.

Her high school years coincided with the women’s movement reaching its peak. She got drawn into thinking about addressing women’s health issues and moved to Sydney, Australia to enroll in a Master’s in Public Health.Norton feels its time the global health agenda expands from a predominant focus on women’s reproductive organs to include women’s whole bodies — and the NCDs, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes.

“It was a light bulb moment for me. At that time, women’s reproductive rights and the high rates of maternal and infant mortality were paramount in global and women’s health agendas, which in the next 30 years would result in significant improvements in maternal health. Since then the burden of disease has changed. Today, the single highest cause of death for women in every single country is non-communicable diseases [NCDs] and injuries,” says Professor Norton, who is the co-founder and Principal Director of the George Institute for Global Health, a not-for-profit medical research institute that aims to increase the provision of safe, effective and affordable healthcare worldwide.

In 1999, she co-founded the Institute with Professor Stephen MacMahon for three main reasons. First, a recognition that the global burden of disease had changed, particularly in lower and middle-income countries where NCDs and injuries were emerging as a leading cause of death and disability. Secondly, the expertise to manage the emerging epidemic of NCDs and injuries was not available in these countries. Thirdly, most of the global collaborations between the high income and low income countries were still focused on maternal and child health and under nutrition.

“Global health policymakers needed to acknowledge and address these issues. Our expertise in NCDs and injuries, along with working in low and middle income countries, made it the right time to set up the Institute. The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation study, which emphasised the growing importance of NCDs and injuries was release around the same time, providing a significant impetus for us to move forward,” says Norton, who is Professor of Global Health at the University of Oxford and Public Health at the University of Sydney.

The Institute founders chose to partner with the University of Sydney as they felt geographically Sydney would be a natural hub for collaborations, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Soon the Institute began collaborative partnerships for research in India.

“We realised that if we were to make a difference in the world, we had to be in a country with a huge population. India also fitted our original idea because it was going through a transition with triple burden of disease and changing demographics. It was starting to see under nutrition co-existing with over nutrition; infectious diseases beginning to co-exist with the growing incidence of cardiovascular diseases and strokes,” explains Norton.

The model of an external organisation partnering with colleagues in India to particularly address NCDs and injuries was a relatively new one for India. The Institute’s biggest challenge was to raise the importance of NCDs and the need to address the burden of these diseases, which account for seven of the top 10 killers of women, and 18 million women around the world die from them each year.

Norton feels its time the global health agenda expands from a predominant focus on women’s reproductive organs to include women’s whole bodies — and the NCDs, such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the George Institute in India. “We have laid the foundation in India for growing the institute with a larger critical mass and greater impact. We would like to produce research that impacts on policy and practice that ultimately leads to reduction in NCDs and injuries and greater access to healthcare for a larger proportion of the populace,” she adds.

Evidence shows that there is a lack of gender sensitive research, data and policy, which is impeding gender equity in health. The Institute has joined a global call for a gendered approach to the collection and utilisation of health data.

Says Norton, “As we deepen our understanding of how the human body works, we know that women and men respond differently to disease and to possible interventions. We are also beginning to understand that health systems respond differently to women and men such that both access to care and the quality of care differs. Yet, far too commonly, there is no delineation of gender in health data, and women are underrepresented in many scientific and clinical studies.”

To improve the health of women and girls in developing countries, Norton says, “We have to look at the leading causes of death and disability and then allocate resources into addressing those issues. We now know that seven out of 10 causes of death and disability for women in India are NCDs. It is critical to begin with making women understand the risk factors of NCDs and how best to prevent and manage those.”

She suggests restructuring the health services and utilising existing workforce by retraining them to integrate NCDs. “India has enormous resource in the cadre of Accredited Social Health Activists [ASHA], who have been focusing on improving the health of women during pregnancy. If we can look at ways of upskilling them then it is going to be incredibly important as part of the process of bringing more women into the health sector.”

The Institute has been researching innovative ways to provide greater access to high quality, low cost essential drugs in developing countries.

“The approach we are taking is three-fold. First, looking at ways to make generic drugs more widely available. Secondly, combining drugs, for example four pills into a single pill, to keep costs low and ensure greater adherence. Thirdly, training non-physician healthcare workers and equipping primary healthcare centres to provide quality care, so people have the confidence in their quality of care and realise that they don’t need to travel miles to a tertiary healthcare centre or pay lots of money to see a specialist for everyday illnesses,” she adds.

The other issue close to her heart has been road traffic injuries. She is the Chair Emeritus of the World Bank and the World Health Organisation supported Road Traffic Injuries Research Network, which is aimed at building research capacity and agendas to address the growing burden of road traffic injuries in low and middle income countries.

“It has been a tendency to think about road traffic injuries as an accident or an act of God rather than a health problem. We have to take the same scientific approach to injury as we have used, for example, to address heart disease. Injuries in many respects fall between the world of infectious diseases and NCDs. Ten percent of people die as a result of injuries worldwide and the burden of injuries mostly rests on adolescents and young pre-middle aged people,” says Norton.

She feels India needs to look at the data and causative factors, monitor it and then intervene, to address the causes of road traffic accidents.

“We know that speeding, drink driving, not wearing helmets, seatbelts and child restraints, are some of the key factors associated with road traffic injuries. If we focus on educating the public on those issues, along with introducing and enforcing legislation, it would make a huge difference in India. We need advocacy and leadership by governments, non-governmental organisations and academics, such as ourselves, to take these issues together,” she adds.

*Neena Bhandari is a Sydney-based journalist and president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Association (Australia and South Pacific).

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