Inter Press Service » Asia-Pacific http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sun, 26 Jun 2016 06:03:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Making Sustainability Part of the Corporate DNAhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 17:26:44 +0000 Phillip Kaeding http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145814 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/making-sustainability-part-of-the-corporate-dna/feed/ 0 Can Better Technology Lure Asia’s Youth Back to Farming?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/can-better-technology-lure-asias-youth-back-to-farming/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 13:38:29 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145811 ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

ADB president Takehiko Nakao speak at the Food Security Forum in Manila. Credit: Diana G. Mendoza/IPS

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Farming and agriculture may not seem cool to young people, but if they can learn the thrill of nurturing plants to produce food, and are provided with their favorite apps and communications software on agriculture, food insecurity will not be an issue, food and agriculture experts said during the Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Food Security Forum from June 22 to 24 at the ADB headquarters here.

The prospect of attracting youth and tapping technology were raised by Hoonae Kim, director for Asia and the Pacific Region of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Nichola Dyer, program manager of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), two of many forum panelists who shared ideas on how to feed 3.74 billion people in the region while taking care of the environment.

“There are 700 million young people in Asia Pacific. If we empower them, give them voice and provide them access to credit, they can be interested in all areas related to agriculture,” Kim said. “Many young people today are educated and if they continue to be so, they will appreciate the future of food as that of safe, affordable and nutritious produce that, during growth and production, reduces if not eliminate harm to the environment.”

Dyer, citing the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted every year worldwide, said, “We have to look at scaling up the involvement of the private sector and civil societies to ensure that the policy gaps are given the best technologies that can be applied.”

Dyer also said using technology includes the attendant issues of gathering and using data related to agriculture policies of individual countries, especially those that have recognized the need to lessen harm to the environment while looking for ways to ensure that there is enough food for everyone.

“There is a strong need to support countries that promote climate-smart agriculture, both financially and technically as a way to introduce new technologies,” she said.

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Minister of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. - Credit: ADB

The Leaders Roundtable on the Future of Food was moderated by the DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman. The President of ADB, Takehiko Nakao was a panellist along with Minister of Food and Agriculture of Indonesia and Lao PDR, FAO regional ADG and CEO of Olam International. – Credit: ADB

The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific estimated in 2014 that the region has 750 million young people aged 15 to 24, comprising 60 percent of the world’s youth. Large proportions live in socially and economically developed areas, with 78 percent of them achieving secondary education and 40 percent reaching tertiary education.

A regional paper prepared by the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA) in 2015, titled “A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth Back to Agriculture,” noted that many young people in Asia choose to migrate to seek better lives and are reluctant to go into farming, as they prefer the cities where life is more convenient.

“In the Philippines, most rural families want their children to pursue more gainful jobs in the cities or overseas, as farming is largely associated with poverty,” the paper stated.

Along with the recognition of the role of young people in agriculture, the forum also resonated with calls to look at the plight of farmers, who are mostly older in age, dwindling in numbers and with little hope of finding their replacement from among the younger generations, even from among their children. Farmers, especially those who do not own land but work only for landowners or are small-scale tillers, also remain one of the most marginalised sectors in every society.

Estrella Penunia, secretary-general of the AFA, said that while it is essential to rethink how to better produce, distribute and consume food, she said it is also crucial to “consider small-scale farmers as real partners for sustainable technologies. They must be granted incentives and be given improved rental conditions.” Globally, she said “farmers have been neglected, and in the Asia Pacific region, they are the poorest.”

The AFA paper noted that lack of youth policies in most countries as detrimental to the engagement of young people. They also have limited role in decision-making processes due to a lack of structured and institutionalized opportunities.

But the paper noted a silver lining through social media. Through “access to information and other new networking tools, young people across the region can have better opportunities to become more politically active and find space for the realization of their aspirations.”

Calls for nonstop innovation in communications software development in the field of agriculture, continuing instruction on agriculture and agriculture research to educate young people, improving research and technology development, adopting measures such as ecological agriculture and innovative irrigation and fertilisation techniques were echoed by panelists from agriculture-related organizations and academicians.

Professor David Morrison of Murdoch University in Perth, Australia said now is the time to focus on what data and technology can bring to agriculture. “Technology is used to develop data and data is a great way of changing behaviors. Data needs to be analyzed,” he said, adding that political leaders also have to understand data to help them implement evidence-based policies that will benefit farmers and consumers.

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao - Credit: ADB

President of ADB Takehiko Nakao – Credit: ADB

ADB president Takehiko Nakao said the ADB is heartened to see that “the world is again paying attention to food.” While the institution sees continuing efforts in improving food-related technologies in other fields such as forestry and fisheries, he said it is agriculture that needs urgent improvements, citing such technologies as remote sensing, diversifying fertilisers and using insecticides that are of organic or natural-made substances.

Nakao said the ADB has provided loans and assistance since two years after its establishment in 1966 to the agriculture sector, where 30 percent of loans and grants were given out. The ADB will mark its 50th year of development partnership in the region in December 2016. Headquartered in Manila, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled 27.2 billion dollars, including cofinancing of 10.7 billion dollars.

In its newest partnership is with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which is based in Los Banos, Laguna, Philippines, Nakao and IRRI director general Matthew Morell signed an agreement during the food security forum to promote food security in Asia Pacific by increasing collaboration on disseminating research and other knowledge on the role of advanced agricultural technologies in providing affordable food for all.

The partnership agreement will entail the two institutions to undertake annual consultations to review and ensure alignment of ongoing collaborative activities, and to develop a joint work program that will expand the use of climate-smart agriculture and water-saving technologies to increase productivity and boost the resilience of rice cultivation systems, and to minimize the carbon footprint of rice production.

Nakao said the ADB collaboration with IRRI is another step toward ensuring good food and nutrition for all citizens of the region. “We look forward to further strengthening our cooperation in this area to promote inclusive and sustainable growth, as well as to combat climate change.” Morell of the IRRI said the institution “looks forward to deepening our already strong partnership as we jointly develop and disseminate useful agricultural technologies throughout Asia.”

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman - Credit: ADB

DG IPS Farhana Haque Rahman – Credit: ADB


The ADB’s earlier agreements on agriculture was with Cambodia in 2013 with a 70-million-dollar climate-smart agriculture initiative called the Climate-Resilient Rice Commercialization Sector Development Program that will include generating seeds that are better adapted to Cambodia’s climate.

ADB has committed two billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific, with future support to agriculture and natural resources to emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies.

By 2025, the institution said Asia Pacific will have a population of 4.4 billion, and with the rest of Asia experiencing unabated rising populations and migration from countryside to urban areas, the trends will also be shifting towards better food and nutritional options while confronting a changing environment of rising temperatures and increasing disasters that are harmful to agricultural yields.

ADB president Nakao said Asia will face climate change and calamity risks in trying to reach the new Sustainable Development Goals. The institution has reported that post-harvest losses have accounted for 30 percent of total harvests in Asia Pacific; 42 percent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 percent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, market facilities and transport systems.

Gathering about 250 participants from governments and intergovernmental bodies in the region that include multilateral and bilateral development institutions, private firms engaged in the agriculture and food business, research and development centers, think tanks, centers of excellence and civil society and advocacy organizations, the ADB held the food security summit with inclusiveness in mind and future directions from food production to consumption.

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Least Developed Countries’ Vulnerabilities Make Graduation Difficulthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/least-developed-countries-vulnerabilities-make-graduation-difficult/#comments Sat, 25 Jun 2016 02:25:40 +0000 Ahmed Sareer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145797 An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

An aerial view of the Village of Kolhuvaariyaafushi, Mulaaku Atoll, the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Ahmed Sareer
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 25 2016 (IPS)

Last month, over two thousand high-level participants from across the world met in Antalya, Turkey for the Midterm Review of the Istanbul Programme of Action, an action plan used to guide sustainable economic development efforts for Least Developed Countries for the 2011 to 2020 period. The main goal was to understand the lessons learnt by the world’s Least Developed Countries (LDCs) over the past five years and apply the knowledge moving forward.

For my country, the Maldives, the past five years have been a chance to experience first-hand the realities of life after graduation from LDC status. In January 2011, the Maldives was officially removed from the list of LDCs, the culmination of decades of hard work and determined efforts of developing the country. The Fourth UN Conference on LDCs, held in May 2011, was the last for the Maldives as an LDC, but last month in Antalya, we went back because we believed it was important to share the lessons we had learnt since 2011.

While our graduation was naturally a moment of pride and cause for celebration for a country only 50 years old, it was accompanied by a sense of uncertainty about the challenges we would face following the withdrawal of the protections and special preferences afforded to LDCs.

Ultimately, we were able to forge ahead in spite of these difficulties and adapted to the new realities. We ensured that our economy, driven by a world-class tourism sector, and a robust fisheries industry, would continue to be competitive and dynamic. We focused on fostering a business-friendly climate, while making prudent investments for future growth.

However, we remain conscious of the degree to which the gains we have made are vulnerable to exogenous shocks. On 20 December 2004, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) decided to graduate the Maldives effective 1 January 2008. But just four days before the UNGA decision, a catastrophic tsunami swept across the Indian Ocean, claiming the lives of over 275,000 people in fourteen countries.

The 2004 tsunami was especially devastating in the Maldives. With the highest point in our country being just 2.5 metres high, virtually all of it was, for a few harrowing minutes, underwater.

Several islands were rendered uninhabitable; nearly one in ten people were left homeless.

Farms were destroyed, the fresh water lens corrupted, with large-scale loss to infrastructure. The economic cost of the destruction was equivalent to close to 70 percent of GDP, a blow from which it took us over a decade to recover.

The Maldives is not alone in facing such vulnerabilities. For many countries, particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as our own, an end to LDC status does not necessarily herald the disappearance of structural barriers to growth—such as limited access to markets, geographical isolation, environmental pressures, or difficulty achieving economies of scale.

By 1997, the Maldives had already exceeded two of the three thresholds that determine LDC status—GNI per capita, and the Human Capital Index, measured in terms of undernourishment, child mortality rates, secondary school enrolment rates, and adult literacy.

But we did not exceed the threshold for the third criterion, the Economic Vulnerability Index (EVI), which measures the structural vulnerability of countries to exogenous economic and environmental shocks – we did not meet this threshold to date. It is not necessary to meet all three thresholds to in order to graduate—meaning we were considered ready for graduation.

As the tragedy of 2004 taught us, persistent vulnerabilities have the potential to undermine, if not reverse, gains made towards development. Despite meeting the formal requirements, we were not yet ready. The lessons of our own experiences have meant that the Maldives has been consistent in calling for a smoother and more holistic approach to the graduation process.

Firstly, the criteria for graduation must account for the structural vulnerabilities of developing countries. The fact that economic vulnerability can be disregarded in determining whether a country is ready to graduate from LDC status represents a critical oversight.

Second, the Economic Vulnerability Index itself must also be redesigned to better account for vulnerability. At present, the index fails to account for key considerations such as geographic and environmental vulnerability, import dependency, and demographic pressures.

With greater attention being paid to the effects of climate change on developing countries, most notably in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), evaluating vulnerabilities more comprehensively is a task that has acquired even greater importance.

Lastly, the extension of support and assistance to countries must be determined on the basis of their individual capabilities and challenges, rather than their mere place on a list. We would be remiss to overlook the role that development assistance, including that provided by the UN, has played in helping the Maldives progress—as it has for many others—particularly in regards to our work in disaster preparedness and climate change mitigation.

The withdrawal of such assistance—including preferential trade access and concessionary financing—following our graduation from the ranks of the LDCs has meant increased fiscal challenges. This disregards the unique challenges faced by countries like the Maldives due to their specific structural constraints—constraints ignored under the present graduation regime.

While efforts have been made to smooth the graduation process for LDCs—in 2004, and most recently in 2012—the process remains deeply flawed and in need of comprehensive reform. To this end, the Maldives has called for the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the application of TRIPS (trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights) for all LDCs, in addition to the exploration of a “small and vulnerable economy” category at the United Nations, which would recognize the particular needs of such countries.

Similarly, we must move towards devising measures of development that do more than just record national income, and instead provide a more meaningful assessment of national capability and capacity, for which GDP can often be a poor proxy.

No country wishes to be called “least developed”, much less remain in that classification indefinitely, but the factors driving underdevelopment must be meaningfully dealt with if we wish to attain genuinely sustainable development. It is for this reason that we believe that the desire by countries to eradicate poverty and achieve economic development must be met with commitment on part of the United Nations and other organizations to chart a realistic and holistic path towards that end.

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Cotton Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/cotton-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cotton-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/cotton-crisis/#comments Fri, 24 Jun 2016 21:09:30 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145805 By Zubeida Mustafa
Jun 24 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Pakistan’s economy is in grave trouble. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16, it failed to meet the growth target of 5.5pc in FY2016. GDP grew by 4.7 pc. This was mainly due to the ‘major setback’ (to use the finance minister’s words) in agriculture.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

www.zubeidamustafa.com

At the heart of the crisis was a massive decline of 27.8pc in cotton production. It should be remembered that cotton is the mainstay of our agriculture and textile industry. The cotton crisis has emerged as a very controversial issue. Well-informed farmers attribute this disaster to the widespread use of genetically modified seeds that were formally introduced in the country in 2010 but were being smuggled since 2005. Now BT cotton (a genetically modified variety) is grown in 88pc of the cotton-cultivated area.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have been challenged all over the world as some giant seed multinationals have grown phenomenally thanks to their aggressive marketing. If unchecked, they could dominate global agriculture. GM seeds will undermine biodiversity as the manufacturers ensure their monopoly in the seed sector. Being vulnerable to pest attacks, GM crops need pesticides in large quantities that poor farmers cannot afford. It is no coincidence that the manufacturers of these seeds also produce pesticides which account for a big chunk of their revenues.

Farmers are predicting another year of difficulties

Some facts are indisputable. Cotton production has not increased as promised since BT cotton was introduced. The decline is not fully reflected in the data released by the government because it has changed the measure used to determine the output, which is counted in the number of bales. Previously, each cotton bale weighed 176 kilogrammes. Since 2011 it has been reduced to 150kg. Using the old measure we know that cotton production had hit a record figure of 14.6 million bales in 2004. That figure has never been reached again and last year it was less than 9m bales (by the old measure).

The per hectare yield as well as the area of cotton cultivation have been erratic. In FY2012, 2.8m hectares (about seven acres) were cultivated and the yield was 815kg per hectare. In FY2016, these figures were 2.91 hectares with a yield of 587kg per hectare respectively, which means the slight increase in acreage was offset by the lower yield.

The government blames the weather (frequent and excessive rains) and pest attack, mainly bollworms, for the fall in cotton output. In a recent notification, the Punjab government advised farmers to delay planting.

The farmers have another story to tell. They say it is the poor quality of seeds that has led to pest attacks and caused the decline in production. They are predicting another year of crisis. According to one media report this year, many farmers have switched to other crops and the area of cotton cultivation is considerably lower.

In spite of poor results, the government insists on approving GM cotton seeds. Thus in a meeting in February, the National Biosafety Committee (NBC) hastily approved the applications for nearly 100 GM seeds without following prescribed procedures. That is how Monsanto and Dupont were allowed commercialisation of GM corn without large-scale testing and biosafety risk assessment in open fields in Pakistan.

This was reconfirmed by the NBC in another meeting in April on the written orders of the prime minister. This is shocking to say the least. There has been a concerted effort to increase the private sector’s role and space in the seed market. Monsanto, an American biotechnology company, has been a big beneficiary of the changes in the government’s policies. In 2015, the Seeds Act 1976 was changed to “meet the requirements of the modern seed industry”.

Not surprisingly the pressure for change came from the US which wants Pakistan to meet its ‘obligations’ under WTO regulations and create a larger market for private seed producers. Previously, seed manufacturing and its price regulation was in the public sector. Now the private sector — mainly giant biotech companies — has entered the seed market in Pakistan.

WikiLeaks which brought into the open routine exchanges between US diplomatic missions in Pakistan and the State Department in Washington apparently revealed how Monsanto was in the picture in the formulation of cotton policies in the country.

To reject new technologies in a knee-jerk reaction is unwise. But it is worse to accept them indiscriminately without testing them rigorously under local conditions.

The Kissan Board has gone to court to get justice for the farmers. It filed a petition in 2014 challenging the NBC meeting that allowed the commercialisation of BT cotton that year. Its plea was accepted but the government went into appeal and the matter was put on hold. The government has proceeded as usual. Now another case has been filed challenging the government on constitutional grounds and for violation of the Cartagena Protocol. BT’s fate now hinges on the court’s decision.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Collective Indifference or Silent Acceptance?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/collective-indifference-or-silent-acceptance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=collective-indifference-or-silent-acceptance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/collective-indifference-or-silent-acceptance/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:30:52 +0000 Moyukh Mahtab http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145773 By Moyukh Mahtab
Jun 23 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

When blogger Rajib Haider was killed in 2013, the outcry was tremendous. But, over the next three years, at least 38 more were added to the list of those murdered, which includes writers, publisher, foreigners, religious minorities and LGBT rights activists. There have been reports about alleged IS involvement, and last week, the security forces launched a drive that resulted in the arrest of 194 ‘militants’. But the collective outrage over people being murdered seems to have mellowed.

Alfredo Ramos Martínez, 1934.

Alfredo Ramos Martínez, 1934.

It’s almost as if there is a general indifference towards those being killed now – there has even been ‘doubts’ about whether the slain deserved their fate. Of course, most Muslims in this country are not radical in their belief. But certain attitudes towards minorities have made the situation worse. As long as there is an impression that many people find nothing wrong with the murder of those who might have differing beliefs, whoever is behind these killings, be it Hizb ut-Tahrir, Ansarullah Bangla Team, JMB or even IS, are being ‘legitimised’ in their acts.

A recent article by The New York Times tries to explain the situation. The report quotes the Chief of the Police Counterterrorism Unit, Monirul Islam: “They have tried to pick their targets with care, with the aim of gaining support from the public. . . Their goal was to convert Bangladesh’s mixed secular and religious culture to an Islamist one.” The report does not inspire hope. Further comments from Monirul Islam and the reporter run along the same lines: “To a surprising extent, the militants have succeeded in their aim of discrediting secularism”; “In general, people think they have done the right thing, that it’s not unjustifiable to kill”. (“Bangladesh Says It Now Knows Who’s Killing the Bloggers”, NYT, June 8, 2016)

The killers seem to have achieved what they wanted. They targeted the deep-rooted cultural biases and attitudes of the largely Sunni Muslim population of the country. The moment bloggers of the Shahbagh movement became branded as ‘atheists’, the public outrage over fanaticism shifted. A pervasive fear has taken hold that Islam is somehow under threat, and eliminating elements that supposedly run counter to the religion need to be discarded. In the week of the police crackdown on militancy, a Hindu college teacher was stabbed in Madaripur, and staff of Ramakrishna Mission received death threats. And yet, the majority of the people remain unconcerned.

And here we must confront some uncomfortable issues. Despite our loud proclamations of being a secularist country, are we truly, by any definition secular? Our Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and safeguards against persecution due to religious belief. Secularism entails official neutrality of the state in matters of religion: that is religion is a personal issue, not a state one.

Yet, our minorities have been marginalised over the past four decades and the country’s Hindu population is on a decline (from about 30 percent before ’71 to less than 10 percent today). Since independence, secularism as a basic principle of the Constitution was removed, a state religion was ordained, and now we have the conflicting state of both being there at the same time.

Institutions like the Awami Olama League can today demand removal of Hindu ministers and judges with impunity and still operate under the AL banner. Age-old traditions of celebrating Pahela Baishakh are challenged as being un-Islamic. There has been increasing pressure from sections of society trying to impose parochial values and codes on women in the name of religious decency. Just this week a post that sparked a lot of debate on social media exemplified the manifestation of our belief when a woman was abused verbally on the road for driving a car instead of being at home, preparing iftari. The abuse was met with support of the general onlookers, as they berated the woman for not being at home, where she belonged.

Clearly, the state of affairs did not develop overnight; ghosts of unresolved communal issues, stretching from 1971 to as far as at least 1947, and the post-independence coups and countercoups have resulted in a fragile and fragmented society with serious identity issues. We seem to be grappling with the question of who we are. Instead of our identity being based on our roots in this country, with the corresponding effect of apathy and hostility towards not just other religions, but also towards other Islamic schools of thought like those of Shias and Ahmeddiyas. The root of the problem is that increasing number of people, including students, from universities and madrasas, are becoming radicalised.

On top of that, the educated liberal elites’ defensive stance on the issue has created further confusion. The Islamophobia in the West, and the repercussion of US foreign policy, has meant that Muslims here have been active in refuting the terrorist association with Islam. But, what they seem to miss is that the Islamophobia of Trump in a country where Muslims are a minority, and the case of a country like Bangladesh with a Muslim majority are not the same. Islam does not promote terrorism and killings in any form. That does not mean that certain schools of thought have not misinterpreted the religion in justifying vile acts. The flagging of all Muslims as terrorists is reprehensible, as is refusing to deal with the fact that in the name of the religion, actions are being carried out that go against its core values.

The previously mentioned New York Times article quotes authorities in Bangladesh as saying: “Only when the leaders are caught will the attacks be stopped, and at that, only for a while if the appeal of Islamic fundamentalism is not blunted.” Collectively, we are indifferent towards those being hunted down and butchered. We refuse to acknowledge the issues that plague our society. Religion is not at fault here. The problem is with how religion is being interpreted by some people; the killers are being used as pawns, while the general people stand aloof. As long as we do not confront our exclusionary beliefs and accept that people with different beliefs than ours live in this country, no amount of anti-militancy drives or constitutional amendments can stop the killings.

The writer is a member of the editorial team, The Daily Star.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:09:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145759 Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”

The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.

In fact, while last year their number exceeded 60 million for the first time in United Nations history, a tally greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, the Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.

The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced, putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent, the report adds.

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck


Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Is So Loud…

On this, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed that meanwhile, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, he said, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.

For his part, Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President, alerted that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

The UN General Assembly’s president warning against the rising wave of extremism and hatred, came just a week after a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ strong statement before the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016).

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,” the High Commissioner on June 13 warned.

De-Radicalisation

Against this backdrop and the need to find ways how to halt and even prevent the growing waves of extremism of all kinds, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on June 23 organised a panel themed Deradicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremism.

IPS asked Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy, Board Member of the Geneva Centre, about the concept of this panel he moderated.

“Violent extremism, which sprang up in what might be perceived here as remoter parts of the world during the last part of the XXth century, has spread its dark shadow worldwide and is henceforth sparing no region… And with it, wanton deaths and desolation.”

He then explained that unregulated access to lethal weapons in some countries make matters worse. Violent extremism fuels indiscriminate xenophobic responses. “These in turn feed the recruitment propaganda of terrorist groups competing for world attention.”

According to the panel moderator, it seems at first sight that conflict is intensifying. “In fact what is happening is that it has changed its nature from more or less predictable classical inter-State or civil conflict to a generalisation of unpredictable ad hoc violence by terrorist groups randomising victims and outbidding one another in criminal horror.”

Thus casualties are not more numerous than was the case in the past, with some important exceptions such as Algeria during the Dark Decade of the ‘nineties, said Jazairy.

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab


“Yet their impact is greater because attacks spread more fear among ordinary people and reporting on these crimes is echoed instantly across the world. The danger of polarisation of societies is thereby enhanced and peace is jeopardised.”

This meets the ultimate goal of terrorist violence, he added, while stressing that such violence has ceased to be simply a national or regional challenge. “It is now of worldwide concern. A concern that calls for immediate security responses with due respect for human rights of course.”

Jazairy explained that the panel has been intended to contribute to the maturing of such strategies and to rolling back violent extremism, xenophobic populism fuelled by it and that the latter in turn further exacerbates.

Understanding the Genesis of Violent Extremism

According to the panel moderator, understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not tantamount to excusing it despite what some politicians claim. It is a precondition to providing a smart and durable policy response, rather than a dumb crowd-pleasing short-term knee-jerk reaction, he added.

“True there is no single explanation to the emergence of violent extremism… Street crime in overpopulated cities may be its incubator.”

On this, Jazairy explained that in the South, high rates of youth unemployment and shortfalls in the respect of basic freedoms together with inadequate governance may be relevant considerations. In the North, he added, glass ceilings and marginalisation of minority groups and the desire of youths feeling powerless to develop an alternative identity and to become all-powerful, may also be at issue.

The former head of a UN agency then warned that understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not a philosophical debate as it ties in with the issue of how to “de-radicalise”.

In Belgium, he said, it has been claimed that condemnations in absentia of home grown terrorists that have joined Daesh (Islamic State) has pushed some to not return home with a group of others for fear of the penalty, thus radicalising them further.

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Aquaculture Meets Agriculture on Bangladesh’s Low-Lying Coasthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/aquaculture-meets-agriculture-on-bangladeshs-low-lying-coast/#comments Wed, 22 Jun 2016 12:25:31 +0000 Naimul Haq http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145746 Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

Bangladeshi farmer Aktar Hossain using the Sarjan model. He just planted eggplant (known locally as brinjal) worth 700 dollars and released fish worth 240 dollars. Hossain expects a profit of 1,200 dollars by the end of the season. Credit: Naimul Haq/IPS

By Naimul Haq
BHOLA, Bangladesh, Jun 22 2016 (IPS)

A continuous influx of sea water is threatening agriculture and food security in vast coastal areas of Bangladesh, but farmers are finding ways to adapt, like cultivating fish and crops at the same time.

The coastal and offshore areas of this low-lying, densely populated country include tidal estuaries and river floodplains in the south along the Bay of Bengal. Here the arable land is about 30 percent of the total available in the country.

In a recent study, experts observed that salinity intrusion due to reduction of freshwater flow from upstream, salinization of groundwater and fluctuation of soil salinity are major concerns and could seriously hamper country’s food production.

According to salinity survey findings, salinity monitoring information, and interpretation of Land and Soil Resource Utilization Guides, about one million hectares, or about 70 percent of cultivated lands of the southern coastal areas of Bangladesh, are affected by various degrees of soil salinity.

It is already predicted that if the current trend of climate change continues, rice production could fall by 10 percent and wheat by 30 percent.

Dr. Mohiuddin Chowdhury, principal scientific officer of Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute or BARI, told IPS, “We are indeed greatly concerned by the loss of arable land in the coastal areas that is already happening and the future from the past trends looks bleak.”

Dr. Chowdhury explained that salinity in the coastal regions has a direct relation with temperature. If the temperature rises, the soil loses moisture and the salt from tidal or storm surges becomes concentrated, which results in crops wilting or dying – a phenomenon that is is already widely evident.

Dr. Chowdhury stressed adaptation measures and crop management, since at this point, climate change “cannot be avoided, but we have to live with it.”

Salinity in Bangladesh, one of the countries worst affected by decades of sea level rise, causes an unfavorable environment that restricts normal crop production throughout the year. The freshly deposited alluviums from upstream in the coastal areas of Bangladesh become saline as it comes in contact with the sea water and continues to be inundated during high tides and ingress of sea water through creeks.

A study found that the affected area increased from 8,330 square km in 1973 to 10,560 square km in 2009, according to the Soil Resource Development Institute in 2010.

Despite efforts to increase resilience, climate challenges continue to result in large economic losses, retarding economic growth and slowing progress in reducing poverty.

To confront the challenges, farming communities in the coastal areas that always relied on traditional agricultural practices are now shifting to research-based farming technology that promises better and safer food production.

The chief of BARI, Dr. Mohammad Rafiqul Islam Mondal, who describes climate change as a tragedy, told IPS, “At BARI, we are concentrating on developing agriculture practices towards adaptation to the extreme weathers, particularly in the coastal regions.”

Recognizing the adaptation strategies, BARI, blessed with years of research, has successfully introduced best farming practices in coastal regions. One is called the Sarjan model and is now very popular.

A leading NGO in Bangladesh, the Coastal Association for Social Transformation Trust (COAST), which has over 35 years of experience working mostly in coastal areas, has played a key role in supporting farmers with adaptive measures.

During a recent visit to an island district of Bhola, this correspondent witnessed how COAST in collaboration with the local agriculture department has introduced the farming model that is making huge positive impacts.

Mohammad Jahirul Islam, a senior COAST official in Char Fasson, a remote coastal region barely 30 cms above sea level, told IPS, “The traditional agricultural practices are threatened, largely due to salt water intrusion. High salt concentration is toxic to plants and we are now forced to seek alternative ways of growing crops.”

The Coastal Integrated Technology Extension Programme (CITEP) being implemented by COAST in Char Fasson has been helping farmers since 2003 with alternative farming practices to improve crop production in the face of climate change.

As part of its capacity-building programmes, CITEP encourages farmers to use the Sarjan model of long raised rows of soil about one metre wide and 90 cm high for cultivating varieties of vegetables. The trenches between the rows are filled with water into which various types of fish are released for maturing. The water for irrigating the plants comes from nearby lakes filled with freshwater drawn from the Meghna River.

The advantage of using Sarjan model is that it protects cropland from inundation during storm surges, tidal waves and flash flooding and avoids high salinity.

CITEP project coordinator in Char Fasson, Mizanur Rahman, told IPS, “These lowlands, hardly 25 kms from the sea at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, are prone to tidal waves and storm surges during the seasons. So the recent farming models introduced here have been designed to protect the crops.”

According to Sadek Hossain, a veteran farmer who is already benefitting from the Sarjan model, said it “is safer and gives risk-free crops as the spaces between the crops allow more sunlight exposure and also has far less pest attacks.”

The new farming practice has turned out to be very popular in Char Fasson, where over 9,000 farmers are now using the model. Many farmers have also formed self-help groups where members benefit from sharing each others’ experiences.

Manzurul Islam, a local official of the government’s agriculture department in Char Fasson, told IPS, “At the beginning, the challenges were huge because farmers refused to adapt to the new model. Realising the benefits farmers are now convinced.”

Losses of crops on flat lands are disastrous. Mohammad Joynal recalls how tidal waves three years ago destroyed huge crops. “We were helpless when the crops were inundated on about 5,500 hectares of flat land. The sea water inundation for four months caused all crops to wilt and eventually rot,” said a dishearten face of Joynal.

Hundreds of farmers have been trained using demonstration crop fields on the adaptation techniques. “We have many different models developed to grow crops at different levels of salinity which are already proven successes,” said BARI Director General Dr. Mondol.

Sea level rise is already evident in coastal Bangladesh. Projections show that 97 percent of coastal areas and over 40 million people living in coastal Bangladesh are vulnerable to multiple climate change hazards.

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) for 2014, which evaluated the sensitivity of populations, the physical exposure of countries, and governmental capacity to adapt to climate change over the following 30 years, ranks Bangladesh as the number one economy in the world at risk to climate change.

Globally, emissions of carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere are growing at a rate of 5 percent annually, according to a joint publication by COAST and the Equity and Justice Working Group (EJWG) on ‘Climate Change Impact and Disaster Vulnerabilities in the Coastal Areas of Bangladesh’.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of COAST Trust and one of the authors of the joint publication, told IPS, “The impacts of climate change with time would become more acute hitting right at the core of our economy – agriculture on which over 70 percent of our rural population rely on.”

Rezaul, well known for his contributions to development in the coastal regions, added, “We acted early considering the harsh realities of extreme weathers. Introducing the Sarjan model is one of many which we have successfully implemented, building capacities of the local farmers.”

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Yoga Unites the UN for Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/yoga-unites-the-un-for-sustainable-development/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 23:03:39 +0000 Valentina Ieri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145731 'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev leads yoga at the UN on International Yoga Day. Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS.

'Sadhguru' Jaggi Vasudev leads yoga at the UN on International Yoga Day. Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS.

By Valentina Ieri
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

The word yoga means “unite” in Sanskrit, and the Indian government hopes that the ancient practice will help United Nations member states to work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The International Day of Yoga was celebrated here Tuesday with an outdoor yoga session led by Indian yoga master ‘Sadhguru’ Jaggi Vasudev.

“How can (we) transform the world without transforming human beings?” asked Vasudev, who is also founder of the Isha Foundation, an international non-profit organisation. “It is only by transforming individuals that a change in the world can be achieved.”

“How can you have a peaceful world if you do not know what inner peace is?” he added. “Yoga is the search for human wellbeing. When you address human wellbeing in a scientific way, that is yoga.”

Syed Akbaruddin, India's Permanent Representative to the UN. "At its core, yoga is as much about mindful thought as it is about mindful action."

Sadhguru’s approach of combining scientific yoga with human wellbeing is part of a long history of yoga being used to promote large-scale socially, sustainably, and culturally appropriate health, education, and environment projects.

One of them is the Project Green Hands, an initiative set up in 2004 with the target of planting over 25 million tree saplings.

“Yoga means that you can transcend the limitations of physical nature and go beyond the form that we are. Once this becomes a living experience, sharing and living together will become a common experience everywhere.”

The Indian yogi continued – “Our common idea of profit is very short term […] But no matter what kind of business we are running, we should turn the customer into our partner, the employee into our partner. Essentially business should be about human well-being.”

The annual celebrations were organised by India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations.

Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS

Credit: Valentina Ieri / IPS

“Yoga, is much more than a physical regimen.” said Syed Akbaruddin, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN. “At its core, yoga is as much about mindful thought as it is about mindful action.”

These two yoga pillars – continued Akbaruddin – have a direct bearing on our collective responses to global problems and raising a global consciousness about the 17 SDGs.

Highlighting the potential for yoga to contribute to sustainable development and peace UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon said:

“Practicing yoga can also help raise awareness of our role as consumers of the planet’s resources and as individuals with a duty to respect and live in peace with our neighbours.”

“All these elements are essential to building a sustainable future of dignity and opportunity for all.”

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to proclaim June 21 as the International day of Yoga co-sponsored by a 170 member-states. That decision showed the importance of yoga’s social, health and educational aspects.

Not only has yoga gained increasing popularity among youth and adults in different parts of the world, it is also linked to a healthier lifestyle and choice of living.

“Yoga means union between body and mind, between us and other human beings, and between human beings and nature, and it is because of this interdependence and interconnection that we are able to save problems,” said Germán A Bravo-Casas, President of the UN Yoga Club.

“If we are optimistic and change within ourselves”, said Bravo “than we will be able to solve catastrophes such as the contamination of the oceans, climate change, over-population, hunger and poverty”.

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An Elite Club of Suicide Bombershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/an-elite-club-of-suicide-bombers-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-elite-club-of-suicide-bombers-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/an-elite-club-of-suicide-bombers-2/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 16:50:10 +0000 Editor Dawn http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145729 By Editor, Dawn, Pakistan
Jun 21 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

It is always baffling, isn’t it, to see the yawning difference in our responses in South Asia to a gathering communal threat, for instance, as opposed to the catastrophic prospect of nuclear annihilation? Only recently, Pakistan toggled between public outcry and terrified whispers when teeming mourners showed up at the funeral of an executed religious zealot, the savage killer of a popular provincial governor.

57682f60102e5_In India, the sight of glistening, unsheathed swords or trishuls used to disembowel helpless people, as happened in Gujarat in 2002, evokes outrage from the middle classes among others. The remorseless lynching of men, women and children and an almost formulaic public gang rape of women that accompanies such abhorrent outings fill us with horror. It all horrifies us because we abhor bloodshed and hurting innocents. We are outraged because we see the rule of law collapsing; we see injustice ruling, where women bear the brunt of a hideous mob.

Remember the piles of bodies on military trolleys in Jaffna? They included the sexually tortured cadavers of women from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. We acknowledged at the time that though the LTTE included ruthless killers in its ranks, the military response was even more inhuman. Some of the cases we petitioned before international arbiters.

The middle classes that quake at the thought of gore and fascist hordes seem incorrigibly sanguine about a nuclear calamity.

So one thing is clear. We abhor bloodshed or at least most of us do. We are not inclined to accept organised mass rape or torture and targeted lynching as an occurrence we have to learn to live with. In fact, even laden with our unending grief and sorrow, as glimpsed in the case of Zakia Jafri and her doughty supporter, Teesta Setalvad, we want the severest retribution for our killers but not capital punishment.

What goes wrong when it comes to the prospect of nuclear annihilation? Why do we go silent or even appear indifferent? The middle classes that quake at the thought of gore and fascist hordes seem incorrigibly sanguine about a nuclear calamity. The cavalier way in which we behave towards our own or someone else’s nuclear arsenal is clearly not the standard global response to weapons of mass destruction, not even to nuclear power. Are we thus behaving like the third world that we are, people who are so busy warding off starvation and so on, that we don’t have the time or inclination to reflect on a major existential issue? Or is it because very few among us believe that a nuclear exchange, say between India and Pakistan, or between India and China, is really possible?

Examine: India joining NSG will escalate nuclear race in South Asia: US senator

We hear ever so often from nation-first analysts who try to assure us that the concept of mutually assured destruction (MAD) is adequate to deter a nuclear war. If Pakistan, for example, targets India then Pakistan would be made extinct by India, or so goes the doctrine. In which case the world should relax. There cannot be war. Yet there is that lingering doubt. What if the Pakistani ruler or the man with the trigger control says enough is enough, it’s time for all the faithful to go to heaven? And he or they pull the trigger? This is a common and pervasive fear across the world. North Korea could do it. Vladimir Putin could. Donald Trump, if he succeeds in his presidential bid will only be a shade more fraught than Hillary Clinton in posing a global threat. That’s a given.

In the cluster of those that are genuinely sensitive to the ticking of the Doomsday Clock are New Zealand and South Africa. They have opposed the US-backed move to include India in the elite club called NSG, the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

But why should India or Pakistan or Israel, which would be the ultimate beneficiary of the current dogfight between India and Pakistan over the NSG bone, be indulged? What does it signal to the rest of the world — that we are ready to honour two more or possibly three new members to the elite club of suicide bombers? That is what they are, nothing less. Suicide bombers. How are they different — the so-called P5 from those that wear belts to blow up people? To suggest that India’s participation in the club of bombers would make the world more stable or secure is to ignore history. The NSG was barely a decade old in 1983 when the presence of mind of a Soviet officer manning the early warning system prevented a nuclear war and thereby the end of the world. India and Pakistan will not have the luxury of the time gap that may have saved us in 1983.

Read: Nuclear leak in Gujarat may be more serious than the Indian government is claiming

That doesn’t answer the question though. Why are we in South Asia, laden with the potential to destroy ourselves many times over, so blasé about the issue? One Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union sent shivers down the spine of the world. I was in Tokyo the day the Fukushima calamity took place in Japan. It was scary. But I have to say something about the discipline of the Japanese, the way they trooped out of their offices and schools and homes and forded through the crisis without treading on the toes of the person next to them.

The mile-long lines to the telephone booths moved steadily, with everyone sure they would get their chance to send a message to their folks. Consider the melee that occurs in our patch at the drop of a hat. So many crushed in a stampede in such and such religious fair. Can we even begin to imagine the stampede if and when a nuclear calamity takes place? It rained exploding missiles at a military arms depot in Maharashtra the other day. It was an accident. There have been several close calls at our nuclear facilities as well. That somehow doesn’t frighten us as much as fidayeen suicide bombers and unsheathed swords do. Why?

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi. jawednaqvi@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Asia’s Rising Prosperity, Climate Change Taking Toll on Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asias-rising-prosperity-climate-change-taking-toll-on-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asias-rising-prosperity-climate-change-taking-toll-on-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/asias-rising-prosperity-climate-change-taking-toll-on-food-security/#comments Tue, 21 Jun 2016 10:15:24 +0000 Graham J. Dwyer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145718 If production stagnates, caloric availability declines & child malnutrition rises to 20% in Asia-Pacific. Credit: ADB

If production stagnates, caloric availability declines & child malnutrition rises to 20% in Asia-Pacific. Credit: ADB

By Graham J. Dwyer
MANILA, Jun 21 2016 (IPS)

Asia’s economic growth over the last decade has been relentless, bringing with it a rising population and an influx of people from the countryside to the cities in search of prosperity. These trends are not expected to abate.

By 2025, the total population of Asia and the Pacific region should reach about 4.4 billion. And over the next 40 years, Asia’s urban population is projected to increase from 1.9 billion to 3.2 billion.

In another significant trend, the middle income population will also grow to about 2 billion by 2050. Such demographic shifts bring benefits, but many problems also—whether providing jobs, services, or a clean environment.

Asia and Pacific is home to the largest numbers of the food and nutrition insecure people in the world, accounting for almost two thirds of the world’s total of 800 million - Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, ADB's Technical Advisor on Rural Development and Food Security
The accompanying rising incomes and rapid urbanization bring about other less obvious pressures, such changes in dietary preferences, which cause a shift toward more land and water intensive meats and foodstuffs.

Food conundrum: increase production, avoid waste

Without a significant increase in food production above current trends, declines in caloric availability and an increase in child malnutrition by up to 20% are anticipated.

“Asia and Pacific is home to the largest numbers of the food and nutrition insecure people in the world, accounting for almost two thirds of the world’s total of 800 million,” says Mahfuzuddin Ahmed, ADB’s Technical Advisor on Rural Development and Food Security.

“The region faces new challenges to produce and access more nutritious and safe food for its growing populations. Thus, achieving food security for all, now and into the future, is at the core of the post-2015 development agenda.”

In this regard, climate change and disaster risks, financing gaps, poor logistics and infrastructure deficits are among the other major constraints to realize the Sustainable Development Goals to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.

For example, projections to 2050 for Asia and the Pacific show that with temperatures rising, yields of rice, wheat, and soybeans may decline by 14 per cent-20 [er cent, 32 per cent-44 per cent, and 9%-18%, respectively.

Meanwhile, post-harvest losses account for about 30 per cent of the total harvest in the Asia and Pacific region.

About 42 per cent of fruits and vegetables and up to 30 per cent of grains produced across the region are lost between the farm and the market caused by inadequate infrastructure such as roads, water, power, and market facilities, as well as a lack of post-harvest-facilities such as pack-houses and cool and dry storage facilities; lack of dedicated transport systems for food; and poor quality bulk packaging that result in spillage and damage.

Safe, nutritious, and affordable food for all

It is against this backdrop that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is hosting a Food Security Forum on June 22-24. Taking the theme Safe, Nutritious, and Affordable Food for All to echo the inclusive nature of global food security goals, the forum will tackle transformations, trends, and future direction from food production to consumption.

At the event, partner institutions, government leaders, private sector champions, civil society organizations, experts, farmers, youth leaders, and development practitioners will discuss strategies, and share experiences and innovations to engineer new approaches and investment while consolidating the existing ones.

Sessions will tackle such major topics as the region’s agriculture transformation challenges, value chains in agribusiness, safe quality and nutrition in food, and a farmers’ roundtable. Books on Water-Saving Rice Technologies in South Asia and Improving Logistics for Perishable Agricultural Products in the People’s Republic of China will be launched.

Apart from the panels, network and partnership events, the forum will also feature a TechnoShow showcasing innovative, clever, and/or state-of-the art agricultural and food processing technologies.

Working for food security

ADB has committed 2 billion dollars annually to meet the rising demand for nutritious, safe, and affordable food in Asia and the Pacific. ADB work recognizes the significant role of smallholder farmers, agribusinesses, connectivity, and value chains in advancing the food security agenda and will prioritize business approaches for sustainable and inclusive agriculture.

But this is not ignoring the need for increased productivity and reduced food losses as well as enhanced food safety, quality and nutrition to meet the growing and evolving demands of the population, while ensuring the improved management and resilience of natural resources and ecosystems.

“ADB’s support to agriculture and natural resources in the future will emphasize investing in innovative and high-level technologies, for which partnership building, experiential learning and knowledge sharing will be crucial,” said Mr. Ahmed.

“To this end, the Food Security Forum aims to be a platform to exchange knowledge and work together for safe, nutritious and affordable food for all.”

 

 

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Unmet Expectationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unmet-expectations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unmet-expectations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/unmet-expectations/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 17:49:58 +0000 Umair Javed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145710 By Umair Javed
Jun 20 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Donald Trump’s rise in America, a wave of pro-Brexit and xenophobic sentiment in the UK, mass demonstrations in France and Brazil, a political crisis in South Africa, communal polarisation in India, and religious zealotry coupled with anti-corruption agitation in Pakistan. On the face of it, there’s very little that connects these disparate events. Each appears unique to a country’s history and its contemporary interaction of domestic and global events.

faccione_However, strip away the details, and the names and faces of the actors involved, and a common theme emerges. At the heart of this decade of political crises, marked by conflict and disruption across the world, is a story of unmet expectations.

In 1962, James Davies published an article in the American Sociological Review titled ‘Towards a theory of revolution’. He borrowed the J-Curve model from non-linear mathematics to develop an understanding of why mass social disruptions, such as revolutions, take place.

His answer was that a period of prolonged prosperity followed by a sharp reversal in fortunes creates a crisis of unfulfilled expectations. By triggering sentiments of relative deprivation amongst upwardly mobile population segments, economic shocks or other exogenous factors (such as war) generate anger towards the established political order. In contemporary times, this order rests in the hands of the state and the political elite.

In a world where it takes little effort to see how the wealthy live, expectations from the state will be high.

In the 54 years since this article was published, we know human beings don’t function as angry automatons. Institutions, politicians, and ideological and cultural issues are very important in determining the scale and outcome of public anger and acquiescence. But perhaps there is a kernel of truth in the story of boiling frustrations.

For the last three decades, deindustrialisation and a complementary shift towards the services sector characterises the economies of many high- and low-income countries. The wake of this transformation has left behind a burgeoning mass of underemployed, semi-skilled labour, ruptured communities, and decaying cities. Over the same period, conservative political elites have capitalised on this crisis by shoring up support using scaremongering tactics and cultural markers such as gender roles, religion, and racial and ethnic identity.

Trump, for example, polls highest in areas, and amongst population segments (such as the white working class), ‘left behind’ by economic transformations of the last three decades. Unsurprisingly, these are the same areas where conservative cultural politics by the Tea Party and other radical fringes ran amok for the last two decades. The outcome? A heady combination of protectionist economic populism with visceral hatred towards racial minorities.

In the UK, a legitimate debate over immigration and a prolonged economic downturn has taken on ugly xenophobic contours. At its core, as John Hariss puts it, the anti-EU, anti-immigration movement is tapping into the frustrations of the precariously perched middle and working classes. Its support is loudest amongst those who have no space in London’s glamorous ‘knowledge economy’ and are now left at the mercy of whimsical, short-term employment contracts, a burdened social welfare system, rising house prices, and an increasingly inaccessible path towards social mobility.

The prosperity-followed-by-apocalypse model doesn’t just hold true for the US and UK. Brazil was jerked out of a decade of relatively egalitarian growth by a slump in commodity and oil prices, thus pushing the economy into recessionary free fall. The result is public anger over government corruption, directed towards the now-suspended president, Dilma Rouseff, and her party. The desire for a way out of relative or absolute deprivation has pushed many into the hands of politicians equally (and in some cases, even more) hollow only because they offer some element of change.

Similarly, Imran Khan and PTI are the prime beneficiaries of sentiments of relative deprivation amo-ngst Pakistan’s urban middle classes. As the heady days of consumption and mobility of Musharraf’s era gave way to expensive oil and incompetent governance under the PPP, anger became the most natural response. Even now, as the economy shuffles towards some semblance of stability, the anger hasn’t completely subsided. In a world where it takes very little effort to see how the wealthy live, and how the rest of the world progresses, expectations from the state will always remain high.

To this point, I’ve focused on unmet material expectations because, historically speaking, these have triggered the greatest unrest. However, unmet cultural and moral expectations are also potent factors for agitation. In India, provoked religious sentiment has led to the Hindutva right-wing asserting itself as a victim of Congress-ite secularism and minority appeasement. They now hold a prime seat at the BJP’s table, and will push the government’s supposed developmental agenda into one that caters to their communal demands as well.

For Pakistan, the biggest threat comes from a combination of material and cultural frustrations. The state pays lip service to its Islamic foundation, yet retains a comparatively secular orientation towards governance. Its existing political elite exhibits no intentions of turning the country into a Sharia-compliant state. However, decades of top-down soft-Islamism and cultural propaganda have resulted in an organic demand for a version of faith that stands proudly and violently on its own.

With fundamentalism and communal conflict rampant, the onus is on political elites and activists to construct an alternative cultural worldview that channels away and dilutes some of the moral anger. Similarly, politicians need to do a far better job of managing expectations by being better at delivering services and also by avoiding making unrealistic promises to the electorate.

So far, the country’s authoritarian history — with its patronage-tied political parties and a largely demoblised, cynical population — has acted as an inadvertent bulwark against mass Islamist mobilisation. Yet without adequate safeguards taken on an urgent footing, there is no guarantee that this ossified condition will persist indefinitely.

The writer is a freelance columnist. umairjaved@lumsalumni.pk
Twitter: @umairjav

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Xenophobia: ‘Hate Is Mainstreamed, Walls Are Back, Suspicion Kills’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:43:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145697 With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers…”

Hardly a statement could have portrayed more accurately the current wave of hatred invading humankind, like the one made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“… Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces, which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions, which act as checks on executive power, are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods.” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned.

In his address to the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016), the Human Rights Commissioner warned, “As the international community’s familiar customs and procedures are much in evidence… And yet the workable space in which we function as one community – resolving disputes, coming to consensus – is under attack.”

Zeid explained, “The common sets of laws, the institutions – and deeper still, the values“ which bind us together are buckling. And suffering most from this onslaught are our fellow human beings – your people – who bear the brunt of the resulting deprivation, misery, injustice, and bloodshed.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy


He the recalled, “We are 7.4 billion human beings clinging to a small and fragile planet. And there is really only one way to ensure a good and sustainable future: ensure respect, resolve disputes, construct institutions that are sound and fair and share resources and opportunities equitably.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner referred to the millions of stranded refuges and migrants, saying that globally, many countries have distinguished themselves by their principled welcome to large numbers of desperate, often terrified and poverty-stricken migrants and refugees.

“But many other countries have not done so. And their failure to take in a fair share of the world’s most vulnerable is undermining the efforts of more responsible States. Across the board, we are seeing a strong trend that overturns international commitments, refuses basic humanity, and slams doors in the face of human beings in need.”

‘Europe Must Remove Hysteria and Panic’

The only sustainable way to resolve today’s movements of people will be to improve human rights in countries of origin, “ he said, while stressing that “Europe must find a way to address the current migration crisis consistently and in a manner that respects the rights of the people concerned – including in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement,” which was sealed on March 22, 2016.

“It is entirely possible to create well-functioning migration governance systems, even for large numbers of people, with fair and effective determination of individual protection needs. If European governments can remove hysteria and panic from the equation – and if all contribute to a solution…”

According to Zeid, in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy. “Torture, summary execution and arbitrary arrests are assaults on the people’s security, not measures to protect security. It is a mistake to imagine that attacking the people’s rights makes them any safer or more content.”

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee


“The antidote to the savagery of violent extremism is greater rule of law,” he said and added that “the best way to fight terrorism, and to stabilize the region, is to push back against discrimination; corruption; poor governance; failures of policing and justice; inequality; the denial of public freedoms, and other drivers of radicalization.”

De-Radicalisation

Radicalisation, or rather de-radicalisation, is precisely the focus of one of the panels organised within the current session of the Human Rights Council.

 Idriss Jazairy

Idriss Jazairy

In fact, on June 23, 2016, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue has organized the event under the auspices of the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the UN Office in Geneva. The panel will be moderated by highly respected Algerian diplomat and former head of a UN agency Idriss Jazairy, Resident Board Member of the Geneva Centre.

The panel organisers recall that “violent extremism had been until 2001 mainly in the lot of developing countries such as Uganda where a Christian mandate was usurped by the Lord’s Resistance Army to attack civilians and force children to participate in armed conflict, Sri Lanka, where the first suicide attacks originated, and Algeria where more Muslims were killed during a decade than Europeans worldwide ever since, through an evil manipulation of the precepts of Islam.”

Outside observers, they add, tended to belittle the impact of such violence considered as local incidents, at times preferring to ascribe it to “militants” responding to deficits of democracy and governance in the targeted countries.

During the last phases of the Cold War, violent extremism was condoned in some quarters as a weapon against communism, the panel concept note recalls, and adds that the recruitment of new cohorts of violent extremists was given added impetus by the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, the collapse of Iraq and Libya and the wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

“These developments, or lack thereof, occurred mainly in Muslim countries thus exacerbating violent extremism associated with this region and leading to an intensification of Islamophobia elsewhere, especially in Europe and North America.”

It remains, as underlined by the joint co-chairs conclusions of the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism (7-8 April 2016), that “violent extremism or terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

 A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA

A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA


The reaction of the international community was slow in taking shape in the UN if only because of political differences in terms of acceptance of a common definition of terrorism, says the panel’s concept note.

In a key remark, the organisers warn, “The very lexicon of international affairs is being manipulated to provide knee-jerk reactions that nurture ideologies of racist and xenophobic parties in the advanced world. It also provides a propitious climate for explosion of violent extremism around the world.”

In Europe, over 20 million Muslims have lived for decades as citizens in harmony with followers of other religions as well as with non-believers and have been contributing to the wealth of their countries of residence, the panel organisers recall.

“They are now being targeted by virtue of their identity, not their deeds. They are alone to suffer from fear-mongering and the rise of xenophobia for diverse minority groups in different parts of the world. One needs in this context to understand better the causes and means by which violent extremism is perpetrated and spread.”

The focus has been so far on how to roll back radicalism and on fighting violent extremism by all possible means without a full understanding of the root causes of such violence, says the panel’s concept note.

“The roll-back of violent extremism calls for an in-depth approach informed by the genesis and evolution of radicalisation, its link with citizenship and possible tipping point into violence… There also needs to be a better understanding of short-cuts to violent extremism that do not transit through radicalisation.”

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Children of a Lesser God: Trafficking Soars in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/children-of-a-lesser-god-trafficking-soars-in-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-of-a-lesser-god-trafficking-soars-in-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/children-of-a-lesser-god-trafficking-soars-in-india/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 11:57:59 +0000 Neeta Lal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145678 Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Children from rural areas and disempowered homes are ideal targets for trafficking in India and elsewhere. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

Sunita Pal, a frail 17-year-old, lies in a tiny bed in the women’s ward of New Delhi’s Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. Her face and head swathed in bandages, with only a bruised eye and swollen lips visible, the girl recounts her ordeal to a TV channel propped up by a pillow. She talks of her employers beating her with a stick every day, depriving her of food and threatening to kill her if she dared report her misery to anybody.

“I worked from 6am until midnight. I had to cook, clean, take care of the children and massage the legs of my employers,” Sunita recounts to the journalist, pain writ large on her face. “In exchange, I got only two meals and wasn’t even paid for the six months I worked at the house. When I expressed a desire to leave, I was beaten up.”

Sunita is one of the fortunate few who got rescued from her hell by an anti-slavery activist and is now being rehabilitated at a woman’s home in Delhi. But there are millions of Sunitas across India who continue to toil in Dickensian misery for years without any succour. Trafficked from remote villages to large cities, they are and sold as domestic workers to placement agencies or worse, at brothels. Their crime? Extreme poverty and illiteracy.

The Global Slavery Index released recently by the human rights organisation Walk Free Foundation states that globally, India has the largest population of modern slaves. Over 18 million people are trapped as bonded labourers, forced beggars, sex workers and child soldiers across the country. They constitute 1.4 percent of India’s total population, the fourth highest among 167 countries with the largest proportion of slaves. The survey estimates that 45.8 million people are living in modern slavery globally, of which 58 percent are concentrated in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Uzbekistan.Between 2011 and 2013, over 10,500 children were registered as missing from Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest tribal states.

Grace Forrest, co-founder of the Australia-based foundation, told an Indian newspaper that all forms of modern slavery continue to exist in India, including inter-generational bonded labour, forced child labour, commercial sexual exploitation, forced begging, forced recruitment into non-state armed groups and forced marriage.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), trafficking of minor girls — the second-most prevalent trafficking crime in India – has surged 14 times over the last decade. It increased 65 percent in 2014 alone. Girls and women are the primary targets of immoral trafficking in India, comprising 76 percent of all human trafficking cases nationwide over a decade, reveals NCRB.

As many as 8,099 people were reported to be trafficked across India in 2014. Selling or buying girls for prostitution, importing them from a foreign country are the most common forms of trafficking in India, say experts. Sexual exploitation of women and children for commercial purposes takes place in various forms including brothel-based prostitution, sex-tourism, and pornography.

Last year, the Central Bureau of Investigation unearthed a pan-India human trafficking racket that had transported around 8,000 Indian women to Dubai. Another report about a man who trafficked 5,000 tribal kids from the poor tribal state of Jharkhand also caught the public eye.

Equally disconcerting are thousands of children which go missing from some of India’s hinterlands. Between 2011 and 2013, over 10,500 children were registered as missing from Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest tribal states. They were trafficked into domestic work or other forms of child labour in cities. Overall , an estimated 135,000 children are believed to be trafficked in India every year.

Experts point to the exponentially growing demand for domestic servants in burgeoning Indian cities as the main catalyst for trafficking. A 2013 report by Geneva-based International Labour Organization found that India hosts anywhere from 2.5 million to 90 million domestic workers. Yet, despite being the largest workforce in the country, these workers remain unrecognized and unprotected by law.

This is a lacuna that a national policy in the pipeline hopes to address. Experts say the idea is to give domestic workers the benefits of regulated hours of work with weekly rest, paid annual and sick leave, and maternity benefits as well entitlement of minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act of 1948.

“Once these workers come under the ambit of law,” explains New Delhi-based human rights lawyer Kirit Patel, “it will be a big deterrent for criminals. But till then, domestic workers remain easy targets for exploitation.”

Despite growing awareness and media sensitization, however, registered human trafficking cases have spiralled up by 38.3 percent over five years from 2,848 in 2009 to 3,940 in 2013 as per NCRB. Worse, the conviction rate for such cases has plummeted 45 percent, from 1,279 in 2009 to 702 in 2013.

Not that human trafficking is a uniquely Indian phenomenon. The menace is the third-largest source of profit for organised crime, after arms and drugs trafficking involving billions of dollars annually worldwide, say surveys. Every year, thousands of children go missing in South Asia, the second-largest and fastest-growing region in the world for human trafficking after East Asia, according to the UN Office for Drugs & Crime.

To address the issue of this modern-day slavery, South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation recently held a conference on child protection in New Delhi. Ministers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan and the Maldives agreed to jointly combat child exploitation, share best practices and common, uniform standards to address all forms of sexual abuse, exploitation and trafficking.

One of the pioneering strategies adopted at the conference was to set up a toll-free helpline and online platform to report and track missing children. “We need to spread the message to support rescue efforts and rehabilitate victims. With the rapid advance of technology and a fast-changing, globalized economy, new threats to children’s safety are emerging every day,” said India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh at the conference.

Rishi Kant, one of India’s leading anti-trafficking activists, says it all boils down to prioritizing the issue. “For poor Indian states, providing food, shelter and housing assume far greater importance than chasing traffickers. Besides, many people don’t even see trafficking as a crime. They feel it’s an opportunity for impoverished children to migrate to cities, live in rich homes and better their lives!”

Initiatives like anti-trafficking nodal cells — like the one under the Ministry of Home Affairs — can be effective deterrents, say experts. The ministry has also launched a web portal on anti-human trafficking, while the Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing a programme that focuses on rescue, rehabilitation and repatriation of victims.

But the best antidote to the menace of human trafficking, say experts, is a stringent law. India’s first anti-trafficking law — whose draft was unveiled by the Centre recently — recommends tough action against domestic servant placement agencies who hustle poor children into bonded labour and prostitution. It also suggests the formation of an anti-trafficking fund.

The bill also makes giving hormone shots such as oxytocin to trafficked girls (to accelerate their sexual maturity) and pushing them into prostitution a crime punishable with 10 years in jail and a fine of about 1,500 dollars. Addressing new forms of bondage — such as organised begging rings, forced prostitution and child labour — are also part of the bill’s suggestions.

Once the law is passed, hopefully, girls like Sunita will be able to breathe a little easier.

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What If Turkey Drops Its “Human Bomb” on Europe?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 22:26:05 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145685 Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 19 2016 (IPS)

Will the rapid–though silent escalation of political tensions between the European Union and Turkey, which has been taking a dangerous turn over the last few weeks, push Ankara to drop a “human bomb” on Europe by opening its borders for refugees to enter Greece and other EU countries?

The question is anything but trivial—it is rather a source of deep concern among the many non-governmental humanitarian organisations and the United Nations, who are making relentless efforts to fill the huge relief gaps caused by the apparent indifference of those powers who greatly contributed to creating this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

These powers are mainly the United States, the United Kingdom and France who, supported by other Western countries and rich Arab nations, led military coalitions that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and who, along with Russia, have been providing weapons to most of the fighting parties in Syria.

Ironically, these four powers are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Neither the above posed question is about a mere, alarming speculation. In fact, Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan has recently made veiled, though specific threats to the EU, by warning against the consequences of Europe continuing to fail the two key commitments it made in exchange of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement —also known as “the shame deal”–, which the two parties sealed on March 22 this year.

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

The deal is about Turkey taking back the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who fled to its territories mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and crossed from there to EU bordering countries like Greece. Once “re-taken”, the EU said it would “select” an undetermined number of asylum seekers, mainly Syrians.

In exchange, the European Union promised to pay to Ankara three billion euro a year, starting in November 2015, to share only a relatively small part of the big financial burden that Turkey has to face by providing basically shelter, food and health care to the repatriated asylum seekers. Turkey currently hosts three million refugees.

The EU also promised to allow Turkish citizens to access its member countries without entry visa, also as part of the “shame deal.”

The tensions between the EU and Turkey were made clearly visible on the occasion of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which Turkey hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016, covering a big portion of its cost.

The WHS was meant to highlight the fact that human suffering has now reached unprecedented, staggering levels as stated to IPS by Stephen O’ Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), as well as to call on world leaders to mobilise the much needed resources to alleviate this human drama.

For this, the UN submitted to the WHS a set of shocking facts: the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War II, and experiencing a human catastrophe “on a titanic scale” as stated on IPS by the WHS spokesperson Herve Verhoosel: 125 million humans in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.

The UN also quantified the urgently needed resources: more than 20 billion dollars needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts.

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

And stressed that unless immediate action is taken, 62 per cent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all human beings could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030.

In spite of these staggering facts, none of the leaders of the most industrialised countries–the so-called Group of the 7 richest nations (G7), nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, attended the World Humanitarian Summit.

The sole exception of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had reportedly gone to Istanbul to meet Erdogan over the growing political tensions rather to participate in the Summit.

This absence of the top decision-makers of the richest countries has been widely criticised, starting with the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon who on May 24 publicly decried it. Also Turkish president Erdogan expressed deep disappointment at such political boycott by world leaders.

Moreover, in a press conference at the closure of the WHS on May 24, Erdogan revealed that Europe had not met its promises as it had not provided the committed financial resources, nor kept its compromise to let Turkish citizens enter the EU without visa as from June this year.

He then expressed strong indignation, rather fury, over the set of 72 new conditions the EU has suddenly imposed on Ankara in exchange of suppressing the entry visa requisite for Turkish citizens. These conditions imply, among others, that Ankara changes its current anti-terrorist laws.

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

All this moved Erdogan to warn that of Europe does not honour its part of the refugee deal, the Turkish Parliament will not ratify it.

This simply means that Turley would not only stop allowing refugees to be forcibly returned to its territories, but that it would also permit more and more of them to cross its borders to the EU countries.

In the mean time, more and more organisations have been accusing Europe of sealing an immoral, unethical and, above all, illegal refugee deal with Turkey. But meanwhile Europe has been turning rapidly, dangerously towards far right parties and movements that are feeding hate, xenophobia and islamophobia.

Also meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees and migrants are arriving to Europe, many of them drowning at sea, prey to inhumane practices and manipulation by smugglers.

Humanitarian assistance organisations such as Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, the UN Children Fund, UN Refugee agency, among many others, have been warning that a growing number of unaccompanied children—estimated in 1 in 3 refugees and migrants, are crossing Mediterranean waters and European frontiers.

Only two days ahead of the World Refugee Day, marked on June 20, the UN secretary general visited the Greek island of Lesbos, which has become migrants’ entry point to Europe. There he called on “the countries in the region” to respond with “a humane and human rights-based approach, instead of border closures, barriers and bigotry.”

“Today, I met refugees from some of the world’s most troubled places. They have lived through a nightmare. And that nightmare is not over,” Ban told non-governmental organisations, volunteers and media.

The “human bomb” is ticking at Europe’s doors amidst an inexplicable passivity of its leaders.

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The Roots of Misogynyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-roots-of-misogyny/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-roots-of-misogyny http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/the-roots-of-misogyny/#comments Thu, 16 Jun 2016 15:05:57 +0000 I.A. Rehman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145656 By I.A. Rehman
Jun 16 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The outpouring of anger and revulsion at the recent spate of murders of young women who tried to exercise their basic rights will go to waste if the causes of increase in such cases are not seriously tackled.

I.A. Rehman

I.A. Rehman

The first thing to be noted about these murders is the escalating level of brutality. The young woman from Murree who was severely tortured before being set ablaze by her closest relatives was punished for refusal to marry against her wishes.

In Kasur a young woman paid with her life for arguing with her husband and the latter was helped by his female relatives to burn her alive.

A woman in Lahore strangulated her daughter for taking a spouse of her choice and then set her on fire. In another incident in a village near Lahore, a man shot dead his daughter for having exercised her right to marry of her free will a year earlier, along with her husband and a bystander.

It has not been possible to make women-friendly laws due to the orthodoxy’s opposition.

Apart from confirming the continued brutalisation of society these incidents reveal a growing intolerance for women’s rights not only among men but also among women themselves.

While civil society organisations, women activists and some politicians have felt outraged, the public outcry has not been as loud as it is sometimes in other cases of violence against women, such as gang-rape under panchayat orders. Obviously, a section of society, including women, has been influenced by the orthodoxy’s opposition to women’s rights to the extent of justifying violence against all those who rebel against unjust constraints.

Oddly enough, in the debate over the surge in violence against women, the remedy is generally sought in developing new legal instruments to punish the culprits. This became abundantly clear from the brief debate in the Senate a week ago, thanks to chairman Raza Rabbani’s decision to suspend the business of the house and invite members to discuss woman-burning. All the members who are reported to have joined the discussion backed the chairman’s call for a strong law to punish the burning of women to death.

The Senate proceedings, though welcome, underscored the limited nature of the debate. First, no member of a religious party is reported to have considered the burning of women worth talking about, and that betrays how far Pakistan’s religio-political elements have gone in their psychopathic hostility towards women. Secondly, except for one senator’s reference to the role of the Council of Islamic Ideology in increasing society’s hostility towards women, the honourable senators seemed reluctant to discuss the causes of the failure of laws to protect women.

It is perhaps not correct to assume that there is no law to deal with burning women to death. The offence is recognised as premeditated homicide punishable by death. What is needed is only a reversal of the process whereby rich criminals or gangsters can escape punishment by forcing the victim family to forgive them.

The real issue is the fact that it has not been possible to make women-friendly laws, nor to fully implement such laws, because of the orthodoxy’s opposition. Only the other day the prime minister’s special assistant for law and human rights revealed how two bills, one on ‘honour killing’ and the other on rape, have been stuck in parliament due to the opposition of a single religio-political party, which is, incidentally, as indispensable an ally of the present government as it was of the previous one.

The seeds of misogyny in Pakistan were sown 66 years ago when the authors of the fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution ignored Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which upholds the right of both women and men to marriage by choice and equal rights of spouses. (The article has been excluded from the fundamental rights chapter in all of Pakistan’s constitutions.) Ever since then, the state has acted on a one-sided understanding with the most obscurantist among the religious lobby that women’s fate will be decided by the latter.

That women’s rights will forever remain subject to the veto of those who abuse religion for political purposes is a proposition the people of Pakistan cannot afford to accept. Their right to challenge the professional clerics’ invocation of religious injunctions cannot be denied. Also, the rise in woman-bashing in Pakistan since the Zia period, to a greater extent than in any other Muslim country, is a question the ulema must ponder over.

The reality is that the combination of patriarchal constraints, feudal emphasis on male supremacy and misogyny has left Pakistani women with little space to even breathe. That the party of Mufti Mahmud, who had backed the Family Laws Ordinance, should be represented by Senator Hamdullah only shows that arrogance has been added to the obscurantist’s armoury.

Unfortunately, the state has failed to convince the religious scholars of the disastrous consequences of a retrogressive interpretation of the scriptures for women, Pakistan society in general, and for Islam itself. One hopes that the few religious authorities who have begun to denounce ‘honour killings’ as un-Islamic will devote more time to converting their community of ulema than informing laymen of their sympathy for women.

However, a vast world of opportunities for women lies beyond the religious rigmarole in which the state has trapped itself; women can be enabled to fulfil their hopes through a strong social force of enlightened women and men. Such a force will surely materialise if women are given weightage in their share of jobs in the education and health sectors, are allowed a leading part in the local bodies, and if their role in policymaking institutions and services, including the judiciary, is progressively enhanced.

Much of this can be done if the state discovers its will to move earnestly against misogyny.

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Ramadan & Ramazan Schedulehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ramadan-ramazan-schedule/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ramadan-ramazan-schedule http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/ramadan-ramazan-schedule/#comments Tue, 14 Jun 2016 16:37:09 +0000 Jawed Naqvi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145626 By Jawed Naqvi
Jun 14 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

In the departure lounge near Gate No 308 at the Istanbul airport there’s a coffee shop, which has thrown a few chairs and tables near the exit to cater to its needy customers whose flights are delayed. It was here that I got an important glimpse the other day of how one can still frontally approach issues of religious sensitivities. The young Turkish waiter asked an old Arab man to place the order. The man said he was only waiting for his flight to be announced. “Not here, please. This is a coffee shop.” The Arab vacated the chair without fuss.

575ef4686668b__Next, the waiter turned to a well-heeled albeit younger man who could be from anywhere. Occupying a useful seat he was not generating a lira’s worth of business for the coffee kiosk. “I am fasting,” the man pleaded. “Please go and fast somewhere else. We are serving food to the hungry,” he was told politely. The man left without demur.

I believe this is how Kemal Ataturk would have liked his people to be. They should not flaunt their religion in public, and keep it preferably a private affair. Jinnah applauded Ataturk. Gandhi, on the other hand, as an advocate of the controversial Khilafat Movement, had little time for the Turkish hero’s secular politics.

In the Erdogan era, a marked deviation from the Ataturk vision of Islam seems to have crept in. The Turkish president was asked why he cut his last week’s trip to the United States short. He said he thought it would be “unnecessary” to stay until the burial ceremony of boxing legend Muhammad Ali after realising the event on June 10 would have “no religious aspect”.

A new vocabulary of orthodoxy is palpable today, which quickly mutates into extremism, and it is not limited to Muslims.

Even in the Erdogan era, however, there are limits to how far one can take the public display of religion. For example, travelling from Delhi on Turkish Airlines, I saw the bar nicely stocked with a range of drinks that would have pleased Ghalib. When I asked the plane’s chef on the Istanbul-Dakar sector why his bar was so completely depleted, the man smiled back. “We are a discreet airline. We are flying to a Muslim country.”

As far as Islam in Senegal goes it is the official religion. But try and find a woman in hijab in Dakar and you would not succeed though they will in all probability be scrupulously observing their Ramazan fast. With their beautifully assembled attire woven in a riot of colours, one can’t easily tell a Christian Senegalese from his Muslim counterpart. And yet both sides will be observing their faith with sincerity.

I drove to the Keur Moussa abbey on Sunday to listen to the fabled Gregorian chants its black African denizens sing for congregations every week. I remembered the late Muhammad Ali’s persistent questions to his mother at their Louisville church. Why were all the angels white, Ali would want to know. Well, he would have found both Mary and Jesus in their black African avatar at the Senegal abbey, an hour’s drive from Dakar. The angels hovering over them are black too. And the music, it is divine.

The situation in South Asia is fraught by comparison. Americans ‘skedule’ their appointments while the English ‘shedule’ them. The obvious reason for pronouncing schedule differently, the Americans will laugh, can be found in the different ‘shools’ the two attended. South Asia’s debate between Ramadan and Ramazan would reflect a similar unequal contest of receding and upwardly mobile cultures, had it not been usurped by its pervasive religious revivalism.

Given the mushrooming clusters of orthodox believers we face today, the chances are that those who prefer the Arabic Ramadan would be found to be the more assertive Muslims against the conventional lot who have stayed with Ramazan to describe the month of fasting. A new vocabulary of orthodoxy is palpable today, which readily mutates into extremism, and it is not limited to Muslims.

The syndrome exists among a growing number of north India’s Hindus, for example. They have migrated from the traditional and laid-back Jai Ramji ki as a social greeting over the years to Jai Shri Ram, the latter with pronounced religious and even militant underpinnings.

It is highly probable in my view that the mob that lynched Mohammed Akhlaq — whether he ate or did not eat beef — would respond to Jai Shri Ram rather than to Jai Ramji ki as a greeting. It is equally my instinct that the Pakistani policeman who assaulted an 80-year old Hindu man for eating outside his house in Sindh before sunset last week is a partisan of Ramadan over Ramazan. Check it out. My hunch derives from the pattern of vocabulary religious orthodoxy assumes.

Given my early exposure to Ramazan in Lucknow, it is difficult to accept that there is no music on the occasion today. Some of you will remember how in the mornings singers who would call out in unison to the fasting men and women, and their children for sehri, the last meal before sunrise.

On the other hand there was the legacy of Ghalib always offering his own insights with roots placed deep in realism: Iftaar-i-saum kii jise kuch dast gaah ho/ Us shakhs ko zaroor hai rozaa rakha kare/ Jis paas roza khol ke khaane ko kuch na ho/ Roza agar na khaaye to naachaar kya kare. (The one who has the means to break his fast/ that person should indeed keep the fast/ The one who has nothing to break his fast with/ What else can he do but to ‘eat the fast’).

In Delhi, there were poetry soirees during Ramazan where the congregation would conclude with the morning meal. Apparently, a couplet would lure the audiences: Mushaira bhi hai, sehri ka intezam bhi/ Daawat-i- aam hai, yaarane nuqtadan ke liye. (This mushaira will end with sehri. Friendly critics and commoners are welcome for both).

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi. jawednaqvi@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Gender & Disabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/gender-disability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-disability http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/gender-disability/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 15:07:11 +0000 Rukhsana Shah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145608 By Rukhsana Shah
Jun 13 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

Women with disabilities face triple discrimination the world over on the basis of disability, gender and poverty. They are the most marginalised of all population groups including men with disabilities. The negative stereotyping of women with disabilities puts them at greater physical risk as they are exposed to neglect, emotional abuse, domestic violence and rape.

The writer is a former federal secretary.

The writer is a former federal secretary.

According to the Washington Coalition of Sexual Assault Programmes, 83pc of women with disabilities will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, while the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in South Africa reports that these women are less able to escape abusive caregivers.

The 2011 World Report on Disability indicates that the global female disability prevalence rate is higher at 19.2pc against 12pc for men because women are discriminated against since birth in terms of nutrition, immunisation and medical interventions. The global literacy rate for women with disabilities is 1pc with only 20pc of them getting any rehabilitation services. They are paid less than their male counterparts at work, given fewer loans for education or self-employment, and face stronger barriers in accessing vocational training, leisure facilities and justice.

With these global givens, it is not surprising that in Pakistan where being female itself is debilitating, women with disabilities live at the very peripheries of society, differentiated and unequalised by a culture that is patriarchal, religiously obscurantist and anti-women. The family, community, institutions and the state — the touchstones of human civilisation — are arrayed against them. Seventy per cent live in rural areas in the most appalling conditions where even provision of rehab services and assistive devices is discriminatory, making everyday living a challenge in itself.

Disabled women languish in the darkest corners.

Disability should not be a stigma, but accepted as a natural human condition by all the protagonists — people with disabilities, families, communities, civil society and the government. Last year, Madeline Stuart became the world’s first model with Down’s syndrome to appear on the catwalk at the New York Fashion Week. Television channels and social media networks should use social marketing to influence social behaviours and raise awareness about disability in collaboration with educational institutions, while women’s groups should initiate membership drives focusing on women with disabilities in order to empower them.

A great deal of work has been done at the international level under the aegis of the UN to create a comprehensive legislative and policy framework for a rights-based and barrier-free inclusive society.

Apart from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ESCAP has taken a number of initiatives, among which are the Biwako Millennium Framework for Action and Biwako Plus Five, the Bali Declaration adopted by Asean, the Busan Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, the Beijing Declaration on Disability-Inclusive Development, and the Incheon Strategy, to accelerate action during the current Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013–2022.

The Incheon Strategy also mandates member states to report triennially on the progress made on its time-bound and measurable goals.

Despite these international commitments and provisions in Articles 25, 37 and 38 of the Constitution, women with disabilities continue to languish in the darkest spaces in Pakistan, uncounted and uncared for. It is imperative for the government to take visible and affirmative action to ensure that its image at least in the international community is not further tarnished due to inaction on this front. A high-profile policy dialogue with organisations representing people with disabilities should be arranged to discuss legislative and implementation mechanisms in line with UN conventions and the Incheon strategy, along with the formation of a specific parlia¬mentary body to carry out this task.

There is no data on persons with disabilities in Pakistan as no serious at¬¬tempt has been made since 1998 to conduct a census to assess their numbers. The government needs to initiate compilation of gender-disaggregated disability data, include the disability dimension in all policymaking and budgeting exercises, and encourage the private sector to promote disability-inclusive business practices.

It is not rocket science to advise public-sector banks to float disability-friendly loans, fix job quotas for women with disabilities, subsidise the use of new technologies, introduce tax rebates for their families as is being done in India, and make BISP conditional upon the safety, education and vocational training of the disabled. Instead of signal-free roads, the government should set up fully equipped community resource centres to provide them opportunities for mobility, training and leisure time.

However, at present, all federal government structures relating to these critical constitutional and human rights issues stand disempowered after the 18th Amendment. If the government wishes not to remain within the confines of Islamabad, it will need to reclaim its lost spaces by acknowledging its responsibilities towards this most marginalised of communities groups in the country.

The writer is a former federal secretary. rukhsana.hassan@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan, June 12th, 2016

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‘Likes’ That Can Killhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/likes-that-can-kill/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=likes-that-can-kill http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/likes-that-can-kill/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 14:33:36 +0000 Nizamuddin Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145605 By Nizamuddin Ahmed
Jun 13 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Selfies were born when people found no one to take their photo. Again, no one among family and friends wanted to be left out, and so the crowding into the frame began. The fish-pout emanates from self-consciousness, and then mimicry. Phones got cheaper, the reversible camera was installed, apps arrived to share the shots with friends and others, a system of approval (‘like’) was invented, and an epidemic was born.

Illustration: Davehaenggi

Illustration: Davehaenggi

Selfies today are a big part of the internet-based public network, the growing web culture. While a great deal of the photography is of glee and gladness, anniversaries and moments of joy, alarmingly a good number of insensitive users chose to go overboard, much to their own peril – social, psychological and physical. It is the outcome of an urge to outdo one another; self-esteem and personal safety can go to hell.

People have taken selfies, smiling against a bellowing fire or a coffin at burial. Two girls, God knows why, took a selfie in a funeral home bathroom. Natural disaster victims became the background to ‘sympathisers’ with pouting lips. Animals have bitten selfie-masters at the right time in the wrong place. Doctors and nurses were selfied by a patient in labour. A girl was clinging on to the edge of a cliff and her friend did the selfie in full grin mode.

On occasions, the dignity of a person is at stake due to overindulgence on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Tumblr . . . Only last week, a woman was chatting on her mobile phone while travelling on the Kolkata-Delhi train. While still at it, she got up to go to the toilet and returned to her seat after finishing her job, unawares that she had left her pyjamas behind. To her, a greater incident would have been for the handset to have dropped in the loo.

Selfie-ness derives from loneliness and/or desperation for attention. With society suffering from both, a contraption at the end of a stretched-out arm and people huddling to get into the frame is now accepted as normal social etiquette.

Some selfies have remained the last before the unfortunate were struck by tragedy, self-inflicted if you will.

Twenty-one year old Oscar Otero Aguilar was “drinking and decided he wanted to make a new Facebook profile picture by taking a selfie with a gun to his head. The gun was loaded and went off, killing Oscar”.

There is an element of craziness attached to this wave of common practice. “Two Iranian girls were taking a selfie video of themselves singing while driving. Luckily, when they did crash they weren’t killed, just badly injured.” But that did not deter them. “They also took a selfie on the way to the hospital.”

Courtney Sanford was not that blessed. She “posted a selfie while driving and listening to the song “Happy” by Pharrel Williams. Seconds later her car crashed into a truck causing a fatal accident.”

People can be stupid when it comes to impressing others on the social media. To some, it is an unsaid contest. Eighteen-year old Xenia Ignatyeva “climbed a 28-foot (8.4m) railroad bridge to take a selfie and lost her balance. When she fell she grabbed onto high voltage wires and was electrocuted.”

Our youths, as well as adults if not to that extent, have been enamoured by this ‘like’ fad. Below I narrate a posting from one of my younger Facebook friends last week:

“This (10/6/2016) afternoon, a tragic incident took place in our Rampura WAPDA Road area. Some Class VIII students went to the rooftop of a six-storied building to shoot a video. The video was about them jumping from one rooftop to another, a ‘sport’ called parkour (which does not advocate unnecessary risk). They would post that video on Facebook to get maximum ‘likes’.

“They did not understand how big a risk they were taking at such a tender age. While leaping from one roof to another, one of the boys fell down between two six-storied buildings. His friends were lost for words. The boy has broken bones. With severe head injuries he is now fighting for life at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital. The police have taken his friends into custody.

“Although this is a heart-rending incident, the social conditions of our youth are more frightening. Why should the ‘like’ madness affect Class VIII students, 12-13-year-olds, that they have to take the risk of falling from a six-storied roof? Bro, your life has not yet begun. Did you have to finish it so soon? Why do you have to become famous now by getting like after like? You are not yet in college, not yet a graduate, not yet employed, not married, [have] not yet served your parents. There is so much to do, so much to see in life.

“If you have to be famous, succeed in life. Then you[r] one post will get one thousand likes. Your writing, your picture, will then not only be seen by boys and girls of your class and school, but by the entire country. Don’t strive to become a so-called ‘Facebook Celebrity’.

“Guardians too have to be aware. At what age are we giving our children a smart phone? Why? What are they doing [with] it? Do they know about the dark aspects? We have to think.”

Let us not yearn for the approval of another, especially not in a manner that can endanger or jeopardise life.

The writer is a practising Architect at BashaBari Ltd., a Commonwealth Scholar and a Fellow, a Baden-Powell Fellow Scout Leader, and a Major Donor Rotarian.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Bougainville Women Turn Around Lives of ‘Lost Generation’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/bougainville-women-turn-around-lives-of-lost-generation/#comments Mon, 13 Jun 2016 12:08:20 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145600 Anna Sapur of the Hako Women's Collective leads a human rights training program for youths in Hako Constituency, North Bougainville. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

Anna Sapur of the Hako Women's Collective leads a human rights training program for youths in Hako Constituency, North Bougainville. Credit: Catherine Wilson/IPS

By Catherine Wilson
HAKO, Buka Island, Autonomous Region of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea , Jun 13 2016 (IPS)

Finding a sense of identity and purpose, as well as employment are some of the challenges facing youths in post-conflict Bougainville, an autonomous region in eastern Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands.

They have been labelled the ‘lost generation’ due to their risk of being marginalised after missing out on education during the Bougainville civil war (1989-1998), known locally as the ‘Crisis’.

But in Hako constituency, where an estimated 30,000 people live in villages along the north coast of Buka Island, North Bougainville, a local women’s community services organisation refuses to see the younger generation as anything other than a source of optimism and hope.

“They are our future leaders and our future generation, so we really value the youths,” Dorcas Gano, president of the Hako Women’s Collective (HWC) told IPS.“There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened." -- Gregory Tagu, who was in fifth grade when the war broke out.

Youth comprise about 60 percent of Bougainville’s estimated population of 300,000, which has doubled since the 1990s. The women’s collective firmly believes that peace and prosperity in years to come depends on empowering young men and women in these rainforest-covered islands to cope with the challenges of today with a sense of direction.

One challenge, according to Gregory Tagu, a youth from Kohea village, is the psychological transition to a world without war.

“Nowadays, youths struggle to improve their lives and find a job because they are traumatised. During the Crisis, young people grew up with arms and knives and even today they go to school, church and walk around the village with knives,” Tagu explained.

Tens of thousands of children were affected by the decade-long conflict, which erupted after demands for compensation for environmental damage and inequity by landowners living in the vicinity of the Panguna copper mine in the mountains of central Bougainville were unmet. The mine, majority-owned by Rio Tinto, a British-Australian multinational, opened in 1969 and was operated by its Australian subsidiary, Bougainville Copper Ltd, until it was shut down in 1989 by revolutionary forces.

The conflict raged on for another eight years after the Papua New Guinea Government blockaded Bougainville in 1990 and the national armed forces and rebel groups battled for control of the region.

Many children were denied an education when schools were burnt down and teachers fled. They suffered when health services were decimated, some became child soldiers and many witnessed severe human rights abuses.

Tagu was in fifth grade when the war broke out. “There were no schools, no teachers and no services here and we had no food to eat. I saw people killed with my own eyes and we didn’t sleep at night, we were frightened,” he recalled.

Trauma is believed to contribute to what women identify as a youth sub-culture today involving alcohol, substance abuse and petty crime, which is inhibiting some to participate in positive development.

They believe that one of the building blocks to integrating youths back into a peaceful society is making them aware of their human rights.

In a village meeting house about 20-30 young men and women, aged from early teens to late thirties, gather in a circle as local singer Tasha Kabano performs a song about violence against women. Then Anna Sapur, an experienced village court magistrate, takes the floor to speak about what constitutes human rights abuses and the entitlement of men, women and children to lives free of injustice and physical violations. Domestic violence, child abuse and neglect were key topics in the vigorous debate which followed.

But social integration for this age group also depends on economic participation. Despite 15 years of peace and better access to schools, completing education is still a challenge for many. An estimated 90 percent of students leave before the end of Grade 10 with reasons including exam failure and inability to meet costs.

“There are plenty of young people who cannot read and write, so we really need to train them in adult literacy,” Elizabeth Ngosi, an HWC member from Tuhus village declared, adding that currently they don’t have access to this training.

Similar to other small Pacific Island economies, only a few people secure formal sector jobs in Bougainville while the vast majority survive in the informal economy.

At the regional level, Justin Borgia, Secretary for the Department of Community Development, said that the Autonomous Bougainville Government is keen to see a long-term approach to integrating youths through formal education and informal life skills training. District Youth Councils with government assistance have identified development priorities including economic opportunities, improving local governance and rule of law.

In Hako, women are particularly concerned for the 70 percent of early school leavers who are unemployed and in 2007 the collective conducted their first skills training program. More than 400 youths were instructed in 30 different trade and technical skills, creative visual and music art, accountancy, leadership, health, sport, law and justice and public speaking.

Two-thirds of those who participated were successful in finding employment, Gano claims.

“Some of them have work and some have started their own small businesses….Some are carpenters now and have their own small contracts building houses back in the villages,” she said.

Tuition in public speaking was of particular value to Gregory Tagu.

“I have no CV or reference, but with my public speaking skills I was able to tell people about my experience and this helped me to get work,” Tagu said. Now he works as a truck driver for a commercial business and a technical officer for the Hako Media Unit, a village-based media resource set up after an Australian non-government organisation, Pacific Black Box, provided digital media training to local youths.

Equipping young people with skills and confidence is helping to shape a new future here and further afield. HWC’s president is particularly proud that some from the village have gone on to take up youth leadership positions in other parts of Bougainville, including the current President of the Bougainville Youth Federation.

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Politics of Numbershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/politics-of-numbers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=politics-of-numbers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/politics-of-numbers/#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2016 14:54:40 +0000 Zubeida Mustafa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145586 By Zubeida Mustafa
Jun 10 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The Pakistan Economic Survey 2015-16 reminds us of our ticking population bomb.

We are told that today the country`s population stands at 195.4 million 3.7m more than it was the previous year. We have regressed.

The population growth rate stands at 1.89pc in 2016. It dropped to 1.49pc in 1960-2003.

Yet few express serious concern about the threat we face from our rapidly growing numbers that are undermining our national economy and destroying our social structures.

Many myths have been propagated to camouflage the official apathy vis-à-vis the population sector. Thus, it is said that there is population resistance to family planning on religious grounds. Another myth goes that people are ignorant of birth control and prefer large families.

These myths have been exploded by the Pakistan Demographic and Health Survey of 2007 and 2014 which established that only a handful of women cited religion as a factor in their failure to limit pregnancies.

As for ignorance, practically all women questioned knew of at least one or more contraceptive methods. It cannot be disputed that irrespective of the views expressed from the pulpit women are now ready to plan their families. According to the two demographic surveys, there is also a substantial unmet need. That means there is a big chunk of the reproductive age female population 40 pc according to some estimates who want to limit their family size but cannot.

Then why are we failing in this sector? Of course, there is the usual absence of political will, ineptitude and corruption that marks the government`s working in the social sectors.

Policies are there but implementation is not.

The number and performance of population welfare centres that were set up to provide access to contraceptive services leave much to be desired. Media reports indicate that they are either non-existent or non-functional in many remote areas. Poor performance of official service institutions impacts mainly on the underprivileged, the worst sufferers. This is visible in the large family size of the poor.

There is a lot of focus on awareness-raising and research when the key issue to be addressedis thatofeasy access tocontraceptive services for potential acceptors. It is a pity that many who do not want more children cannot avert births because family planning services are beyond their reach.

There is also the need to integrate the population sector with the health system. This was suggested many years ago by Dr Nafis Sadik, the first executive director of the UN Population Fund, to the Pakistan government. But for reasons not known, Islamabad could never understand why a holistic approach was needed for a successful familyplanning programme.

Another aspect that has been ignored is the need to focus intensely on the status of women.

It seems that the progress made by the feminist activists in the 1980s and 1990s in empowering women has been pushed back. With daughters held in low esteem, family planning has suffered a setback. Parental preference for a male child remains pronounced.

Itappears thatithasbeenlefttoahandful of NGOs to sustain Pakistan`s population programme. The biggest of them is RahnumaFPAP, the oldest organisation in the field.

Having been launched in 1953 when Pakistan did not even have an official population programme, it has an impressive delivery network of 10 family health hospitals, 10 mobile service units and thousands of clinics. It has created referral mechanisms with a number of government and private clinics and practitioners and thus claims to cover an area of 77,910 square kilometres and a population of 12.5m.

Rahnuma`s dynamic and committed president, Mahtab Akbar Rashdi, tells me that her organisation has made all its programmesholistic and integrated. She herself is a staunch advocate of family planning and agrees that low esteem for women is a deterrent to progress in this sector.

HANDS is another large NGO that was launchedin 1979 with the mission of improving health and education, with a focus on mother and child and reproductive health. It claims an outreach of 25m people in 42,000 villages. Its Marvi model involving community-based health workers visiting women in their homes was conceptualised in 2007. HANDS claims that it is making an impact.

But can NGOs with their limited resources and capacity achieve what is essentially the government`s responsibility? Mahtab Rashdi complains that `visible political commitment from the provincial governments is yet to be seen`. She specifically identifies Punjab, Pakistan`s most populous province, where the government`s family planning programme `reaches only 17pc of people in the reproductive age`.

This leaves one wondering if family planning also has a political dimension as the census that has been blocked since 2008. After all, doesn`t a big population translate into a big constituency? That is a political bonus in a country where ethnicity determines electoral results.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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