Inter Press ServiceEurope – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 16 Feb 2018 23:35:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.5 Can Drought Be Prevented? Slovakia Aims to Tryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/can-drought-prevented-slovakia-aims-try/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-drought-prevented-slovakia-aims-try http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/can-drought-prevented-slovakia-aims-try/#respond Mon, 22 Jan 2018 00:01:01 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153960 A landmark programme to combat drought set to be implemented in the small Central European country of Slovakia could be an inspiration for other states as extreme weather events become more frequent, the environmental action group behind the plan has said. The H2odnota v krajine (Value of H2O in the country) plan, which is expected to […]

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Danube border between Hungary and Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Danube border between Hungary and Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, Jan 22 2018 (IPS)

A landmark programme to combat drought set to be implemented in the small Central European country of Slovakia could be an inspiration for other states as extreme weather events become more frequent, the environmental action group behind the plan has said.

The H2odnota v krajine (Value of H2O in the country) plan, which is expected to be approved by the Slovak government this Spring, includes a range of measures which, unlike many plans for drought, is proactive and focuses on prevention and mitigation instead of reacting to drought once it has occurred.Southern Slovakia’s climate is rapidly becoming closer to that of northern Italy or Spain.

Richard Muller, Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe at the Global Water Partnership, an international network of organisations working to promote sustainable management and development of water resources, helped draft the plan.

He told IPS: “A few of the measures in this plan have been adopted in other countries as part of climate change adaptation, but Slovakia is the first country in the region to have this kind of action plan to combat drought.

“It is a landmark plan…other countries could look at this and be inspired and say, yes, this is something we should copy.”

The focus of the plan is on preventive measures in a number of areas, specifically agriculture and forestry, urban landscape, water management, research and environmental education.

The measures involve projects to modernise irrigation systems and change forest structure towards better climate change resilience as well as rainwater harvesting, tree planting, development of green spaces, green and vertical roofs and rainwater infiltration in urban landscapes.

It also covers water management, dealing with preparatory work for reconstruction of smaller reservoirs of water and green infrastructure, including wetlands restoration.

There is also a crisis plan to supply water to different sectors of national economy during prolonged drought while it also involves programmes for public education and raising awareness of drought and water scarcity.

Together, these measures should, Muller explained, mean that even if and when there are long, dry spells, there will be some mitigation of the effects.

“Other countries have plans for drought, but in some, such as the USA, measures are related to dealing with drought after the event. But the Slovak plan is focused on prevention and action beforehand,” he said.

Strbske Pleso lake in the High Tatras in Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Strbske Pleso lake in the High Tatras in Slovakia. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Slovakia, like many other countries around the world, has seen an increased frequency of extreme weather events in recent years, including record heat and drought.

Last year, some parts of the country saw the driest first half of the year in over six decades while there was a very severe drought during 2015 when there were 23 days classified as super-tropical, i.e. with maximum temperatures of over 35 degrees Celsius. This was compared to a maximum of five such days per year in years prior to 1990.

Similar droughts have been experienced across the wider central European region – in the Czech Republic conditions in last year’s drought were particularly severe with serious water shortages reported – and intergovernmental talks on drought, other extreme weather events and the environment have taken place over the last year.

The Slovak plan has already drawn interest from other governments, being praised by officials at a meeting last November of the Visegrad Four group – a political alliance of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic – in Budapest.

As the plan is focused on prevention, its effectiveness during times of drought may not be immediately noticed by many. But even when there is no drought, it has the potential to effect a positive change.

“Some of the measures in the plan will improve people’s quality of life, for instance in towns and villages, through things like rainwater harvesting, tree planting, the development of green spaces, vertical and ‘green’ roofs and rainwater infiltration” explained Muller.

But while the adoption of the plan has been welcomed and it seems set to benefit Slovaks even in times when there is no drought, the need for it at all highlights growing concerns over the rapid changes in the country’s climate and what they could mean for its water supplies and use.

Slovakia has a relative wealth of groundwater sources due its specific geology and, historically, droughts have been infrequent and water shortages rare.

But the drought in 2015, which was the worst in more than 100 years, was, largely, what prompted the Slovak government to begin work on the action plan – “the government wants to be prepared if it happens again,” said Muller. And the drought last year only reinforced its determination to push on with it.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the plan in November last year, Environment Minister Laszlo Solymos said: “If anyone has had doubts about global warming, this summer has offered a lot of opportunities to eliminate them. You just had to look into wells in the Zahorie area or talk to farmers. Slovakia isn’t spared from drought.”

More frequent and intense droughts are almost certain in the future, climatologists predict, as the climate in Slovakia changes.

Local climatologists agree that Slovakia’s climate zones are pushing northward and that southern Slovakia’s climate is rapidly becoming closer to that of northern Italy or Spain.

According to the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute, the average annual air temperature in Slovakia rose 1 degree Celsius between 1991-2014 compared to 1961-1990.

With these higher temperatures comes not just greater demand for water but a higher risk of more frequent, intense and widespread drought. Indeed, official data from the Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute shows that in the last three years some part of Slovakia has been affected by drought.

Speaking to the Slovak daily newspaper Hospdarske noviny this month (JAN), Milan Lapin, a climatologist at the University of Comenius in Bratislava, said: “Since we expect that in the future there won’t be greater rainfall in Slovakia, the country will be drier, there will be more frequent drought with dramatic consequences and we’ll have serious problems with water.”

Muller admits that the current action plan may not be enough if worst-case scenarios of climate change come to pass and extra measures might be needed decades in the future.

“We might need new, innovative technology and large-scale infrastructure for water retention and distribution.”

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Left Behind: Families of Migrants Wait in Limbohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/left-behind-families-migrants-wait-limbo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=left-behind-families-migrants-wait-limbo http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/left-behind-families-migrants-wait-limbo/#respond Sat, 20 Jan 2018 12:48:50 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153958 Wahid Haider talks about his son’s departure to Italy almost seven years ago without regret or hesitation. Haider has not seen Nayeem, now 30 years old, since he left Nankar in search of better economic prospects, travelling through Romania, where he spent several months, before entering Italy. Wahid, a former chair of a Union Parishad […]

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A grocery in Nankar, northern Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam Sarker/IPS

A grocery in Nankar, northern Bangladesh. Credit: Rafiqul Islam Sarker/IPS

By Rafiqul Islam Sarker
NANKAR, Bangladesh, Jan 20 2018 (IPS)

Wahid Haider talks about his son’s departure to Italy almost seven years ago without regret or hesitation. Haider has not seen Nayeem, now 30 years old, since he left Nankar in search of better economic prospects, travelling through Romania, where he spent several months, before entering Italy.

Wahid, a former chair of a Union Parishad (Union Council) and an influential person in the community, told IPS in Mithapukur how in 2008, the army-led caretaker government demolished his son’s shop in Nankar village, along with many other shops, in a drive to push out unauthorized commercial businesses.

Nankar has a population of about 3,000 people, most of them dependent on agriculture. It is in Mithapukur Upazilla (sub-district), south of Rangpur, a northern city some 300 km from the capital of Dhaka, Bangladesh where in the commercial section of the sub-district, prices are as high as 600,000 dollars for one acre of land.

Having lost his source of income after the shop was demolished, Nayeem contacted his cousin Ahmed Mustafa in Venice, Italy who had been living there for many years. Nayeem was impressed that Ahmed earned about 1,500 Euro per month as a street vendor and decided to try his luck entering Italy. With help from Ahmed, who managed to sponsor an Italian visa for him on training in electronics, Nayeem made his way to Italy, making an initial stop in Romania.

To organize this visa and Nayeem’s air ticket, Ahmed charged approximately 15,000 dollars, which was paid by Nayeem’s father-in-law. Nayeem was barely 20 when he married Zulekha and had two children. Zulekha’s father was not cash-rich but owned some land that he agreed to sell at the urging of his daughter, his only child, to finance Nayeem’s voyage to Italy.

Nayeem left Nankar some seven years ago. His children are now 10 and 7 years old and they, along with their mother Zulekha, have not seen Nayeem since. But with the money Nayeem sends home through a local bank, Zulekha lives in a rented house in Nankar. In the meantime, Nayeem has been working as a street vendor selling trinkets in Venice. In the summers, he shifts to the beaches for the lucrative tourist season.

He has a legal visa to stay, which requires renewal every six months. But under his current status, he cannot leave Italy to see his wife, children and parents in Bangladesh as he won’t be able to enter Italy again.

Nayeem’s father Wahid says, “That’s not a problem at all. She is a good girl and she can wait a few more years for her husband.”

Zulekha might feel differently, but IPS was not able to reach her to seek her views on what this means for her future – an absentee husband with no assurance that he will be able to get permission to visit her and his children in the near future.

Wahid told IPS another story about Imran, a 34-year-old man from a neighbouring village who crossed the Mediterranean on a boat but died of fatigue and dehydration on arrival in Italy some two hand half years ago. His father Alim Uddin, 80, and mother Roushanara, 65, refuse to accept their son’s death.

IPS spoke to Alim Uddin and Roushanara at their home in Sathibari, an adjoining village of Nakar. “Can you tell me if Imran is well?” Alim Uddin asked.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), 199 people have already died this year attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.

In 2017, IOM reported that 171,635 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea, with just under 70 per cent arriving in Italy and the rest divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. IOM’s Missing Migrants Project (MMP) reported a total of 3,116 deaths in the Mediterranean last year.

Imran was the second of seven siblings – three brothers and four sisters. Agriculture was his family’s sole livelihood. He used to support his father by cultivating crops like rice, maize and potatoes on two acres of their ancestral land in the village. But the income wasn’t enough to support the family, consisting of eleven people including Imran’s wife and daughter.

In the hope of earning more money, Imran flew to Libya with a valid visa in 2007. As an unskilled labourer, he was earning about 200 dollars a month. He worked with a construction company in Tripoli for five years and saved 2,500 dollars over that period.

But Imran lost his job soon after the civil war erupted in Libya and he faced a tough situation to stay in Tripoli.

“Meanwhile, many of Imran’s colleagues left Libya for Italy by crossing the Mediterranean,” Imran’s widow Roksana told IPS.

Akbar Ali, a man from Sylhet, an eastern district of Bangladesh who lived in Libya, offered Imran a trip by sea to Italy at a cost of 1,000 dollars, said Roksana. He agreed and set out by boat in 2012 along with 400 other people from Asian and African countries.

A few days later, “I received a phone call from an unknown telephone number and someone at the other end informed me that Imran had died of fatigue and dehydration on arrival at the Italian port,” Roksana said. “He never came home, not even his dead body that we could see and bury.”

Imran and Roksana had been married for only one year before he went to Libya. She gave birth to a girl the same year he left. They named her Rebeka Begum. She is now ten years old. Rebeka doesn’t know what her father looked like.

Although a widow, Roksana did not leave her father-in-law’s house after Imran died. She said, “I could have remarried but did not do so because of my little daughter. Fortunately, my in-laws are good people. Their granddaughter is a solace for them now that their son is gone forever.”

Roksana ekes out a living laboring in the fields at Sathibari.

“I’ve no alternative to hard work in the field,” she said. She choked up when she told IPS about another relative from Nankar who after spending four days at sea, was detained by the Italian Coast Guard and was eventually moved to a camp. Later, he was able to get all his papers in order and was granted a permit to stay. He is now visiting his family near Mithapukur and making arrangements to take his wife to Italy.

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To Be a Latin-American Migrant in Madridhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/latin-american-migrant-madrid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-american-migrant-madrid http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/latin-american-migrant-madrid/#comments Wed, 20 Dec 2017 14:46:17 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153635 If you are in Madrid and have some spare time, just go to an area which residents consider a “high class” neighbourhood situated in a district bordering Barrio de Salamanca, one of the richest areas in the Spanish capital. There you will see relatively modern buildings next to old houses constructed under Francisco Franco’s rule […]

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In a main street between Plaza del Ecuador and Plaza de la República Domenicana, in Barrio de Hispanoamérica” neighbourhood, Madrid. Credit: IPS/Baher Kamal

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Dec 20 2017 (IPS)

If you are in Madrid and have some spare time, just go to an area which residents consider a “high class” neighbourhood situated in a district bordering Barrio de Salamanca, one of the richest areas in the Spanish capital.

There you will see relatively modern buildings next to old houses constructed under Francisco Franco’s rule (1939-1975) and sold to military officials at token prices. You will also see many shops run by Chinese migrants, selling cheap but nice cloth in what used to be boutiques frequented by wealthy middle-aged women.

But what you will often see are old Spanish men and women, some of them in wheelchairs, who are patiently accompanied and taken care of by Latin American migrants, going for a walk, sitting in a small park to breath some fresh air and take the sun.

Before that, these very same migrants would have walked the dogs of the elderly persons for whom they work, went shopping for food, read books or newspapers to them, and helped them wash their faces before dressing them up to go out.

Back home, the accompanying migrants will clean the house, wash, iron, cook, give them their medicine, answer the phone calls of their very busy, very short of time working sons and daughters.

“Good People”

“They are good people, all old people are good people,” Nancy*, a 33-year old Ecuadorian migrant, told IPS. “It is a tough job because they [the elderly] spend their time either complaining or saying confused words or speaking to their late husbands or wives,” she tells IPS.

In spite of that and of some prejudices against migrants in general, such as “they come to Spain to take our jobs” or “to cheat our elderly people and take their money,” Nancy* does not complain.

“Yes, we hear these things but when you look at the old people we assist and see their resigned look or watch them sleeping like babies, you feel more pity than anger.”

Nancy* gets 620 euro a month (some 700 dollars) helping her pay her rent and send a little money to her own elderly parents in Ecuador. She is now looking for two part-time jobs to earn a bit more.

Vladomiro* (37) is Colombian and assists don Jaime, an 87-year-old man who did well running a small grocery. Like Nancy*, Vladimiro* feels compassion.

“In our country we all respect elderly people… they have worked hard all their lives, they built up their families and did all what they could for their daughters and sons to have studies and a better future that what they had,” Vladomiro tells IPS.

Both Nancy* and Vladomiro* confess to feeling homesick for their families, their countries, their food, their habits and traditions. But they are relieved as they can send some money to their families and help their sons and daughters have a better life.

By the way, this neighbourhood full of elderly people accompanied by Latin American migrants is called Barrio de Hispanoamérica and its streets all bear the names of Latin American countries and capital cities.

If you instead go to the popular Malasaña neighbourhood, you will see many ethnic restaurants run by Latin American migrants, serving traditional dishes though moderating the taste to adapt it to the Spanish clientele’s eating habits.

Jose* is a 39-year Peruvian. He works as waiter and partner at a small restaurant. His wife Alicia (35), also from Peru, works in the kitchen.

He tells IPS that they met in Madrid and married here, and do not want to have children for now as they’re working hard to save money that can allow them both help their parents and also one day return to their country to have a “decent” life.

Potosi street, walking from Colombia street to La Habana avenue, Madrid. Credit: IPS/Baher Kamal

The Big Boom

Jose* is proud as they managed to resist the temptation of buying a flat in Madrid’s outskirts, like other migrants did a decade ago or so.

It was a time of prosperity due to a spectacular construction boom. Developers were offering jobs to thousands of people, many of them migrants, in a singular marathon to build high-rise blocs, paying up to 3,000 euro (some 3,500 dollars) to even unskilled bricklayers, without even questioning if those migrants had legal residency permits.

During that boom, banks immediately rushed to offer easy, fast, attractive credit to everybody, migrants included, to buy property, furniture and cars. “Many migrants did,” says to IPS Dominican Danny* (45) who was visiting his friend Jose*.

Then came the 2008 global financial crisis. “The workers lost their jobs, they could not pay their monthly instalment, the banks sued them, the judges ordered their eviction, and they lost all the money they had paid to the banks, apart from their flats, furniture and cars,” he explains.

The result is that hundreds of them found themselves on the street and had to return to their countries of origin, almost empty-handed.

In fact, recent data published by the Spanish National Institute of Statistics (Instituto Nacional de EstadísticaINE) reveals that a growing number of Latin Americans have been returning to their countries.

Latin Americans in Spain

In Spain, it is estimated that there are some 1.8 million Latin American immigrants, with Colombians, Argentinians, Bolivians and Peruvians representing the main groups, with an increasing number of Andean people residing in this country.

On average, they transfer around 15 per cent of their annual income to their countries of origin, especially in the case of Ecuadorians and Colombians.

In the Andean region, migrants’ remittances amounted to 9,200 million dollars in 2006, according to the Andean Community. Colombia is the country with the largest remittances received with 3,890 million dollars in 2006; followed by Ecuador, with 2,916 million dollars; Peru, with 1,825 million dollars; and Bolivia, with 569 million dollars.

Data related to the first quarter of 2017 confirms that Latin American immigrants in Spain have been sending about 15 per cent of their annual income to their countries of origin, with an average close to 270 euros per month.

But the fact that migrants are returning does not put an end to migration challenges. “Rather than being viewed as an isolated phenomenon, return migration is an integral part of international migration,” UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) senior Migration specialist Ana Fonseca had explained in a related event in Ecuador.

Spanish to Latin America

Meanwhile, the Spanish statistics agency INE estimates the number of Spanish citizens residing abroad has reached 2,406,611 as of January 1, 2017, evidencing an increase of 4.4 per cent (101,581 people) with respect to data for the same period of the previous year.

An IOM 2015 report showed that since the beginning of 2010, more Spanish citizens emigrated to Latin America than Latin Americans who do the opposite.

As for the countries of destination, the UK received 13,281 Spanish more than in 2015, followed by the US (11,675), France (10,889), Argentina (8,814), Germany (8,656), Mexico (7,643), Cuba (6,136), Ecuador (4,107), Colombia (2,835) and the Dominican Republic (2,095).

Back to Madrid—according to a study on migration in this region, migrants are beneficial also from a purely economic perspective. “For each euro Madrid region spends in services for migrants, it gets back 2 euros in |taxes and social] benefits.”

Perhaps many Spanish unemployed people are not aware of this study—otherwise they would not be blaming migrants but rather their own government and rich corporations for the lack of jobs.

*Names of migrants have been changed to protect their identities.

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Libya: Up to One Million Enslaved Migrants, Victims of ‘Europe’s Complicity’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/libya-one-million-enslaved-migrants-victims-europes-complicity/#comments Wed, 13 Dec 2017 13:37:53 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153523 “European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya. In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International […]

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In Libya, dozens of migrants sleep alongside one another in a cramped cell in Tripoli's Tariq al-Sikka detention facility. Credit: UNHCR/Iason Foounten

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 13 2017 (IPS)

“European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya,” Amnesty International charged in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.

In its new report, ‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’, Amnesty International (AI) details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.

The Geneva-based UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that the number of migrants trapped in Libya could amount to up to one million, and it is now rushing to rescue the first 15,000 victims through a massive repatriation emergency plan. A major airlift is underway as IOM starts flying 15,000 more migrants from Libya before year end.“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses... they are complicit in them” -- John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International

“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, AI’s Europe Director, on Dec 12.

“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses,” Dalhuisen affirmed.

“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognise that refugees exist, said Dalhuisen, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused.

Another EU ‘Shame’ Pact

AI’s revelation of such collusion between the European Union and Libya comes amidst a worldwide wave of denunciations against the measure adopted in 2016 by the EU member states –particularly Italy—aiming at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean.

These measures have been implemented with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders, AI said, adding that Europe’s cooperation with Libyan actors has taken the following three-pronged approach:

Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration, which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.

Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.

Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.

UNHCR teams in Libya have been responding to the urgent humanitarian needs in and around Sabratha, a city located some 80 kilometres west of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Credit: UNHCR

“Auctioned as Merchandise”

Meanwhile, after shocking images showing an auction of people were captured on video, UN human rights experts have urged the government of Libya to take immediate action to end the country’s trade in enslaved people.

“We were extremely disturbed to see the images which show migrants being auctioned as merchandise, and the evidence of markets in enslaved Africans which has since been gathered,” the UN human rights experts said in a joint statement.

It is now clear that slavery is an “outrageous reality” in Libya, they affirmed, adding that the auctions are reminiscent of “one of the darkest chapters in human history, when millions of Africans were uprooted, enslaved, trafficked and auctioned to the highest bidder.”

Slavery, Trafficking, Extortion, Rape, Torture…

The UN human rights experts also warned that migrants in Libya are “at high risk of multiple grave violations of their human rights, such as slavery, forced labour, trafficking, arbitrary and indefinite detention, exploitation and extortion, rape, torture and even being killed.”

“The enslavement of migrants derives from the situation of extreme vulnerability in which they find themselves. It is paramount that the government of Libya acts now to stop the human rights situation deteriorating further, and to bring about urgent improvements in the protection of migrants.”

The UN member states must “stop ignoring the unimaginable horrors endured by migrants in Libya, must urge countries to suspend any measures,” they urged.

AI, a global movement of more than 7 million people in over 150 countries campaigning to end human rights abuses, has also warned that the criminalisation of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in “mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.”

The UN Migration Agency (IOM) provides lifesaving equipment to Libyan authorities as part of a wider intervention to strengthen the Government’s humanitarian capacity. Credit: UN Migration Agency

“Horrific Treatment”

Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to detention centres where they endure “horrific treatment,” AI warned.

Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.

Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the “soul-destroying cycle of exploitation” to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money, AI informs.

“If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.”

Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress, AI has denounced.

IOM Moves to Relieve Plight of Migrants

Backing an African Union-European Union plan, adopted in the two blocs’ summit (29-30 November 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire), IOM’s director general William Lacy Swing committed his organisation to fully support this initiative to alleviate the plight of thousands of migrants trapped in Libya.

In the wake of “shocking reports about rampant migrant abuse and squalid and overcrowded conditions across multiple detention centers” in Libya, talks at the AU-EU Summit led to a major stepping up of measures to tackle smuggling and mistreatment of migrants on the central Mediterranean migration route, which claimed 2,803 migrant lives to drowning this year alone, IOM on 1 December informed.

IOM is now rapidly scaling up its voluntary humanitarian return programme, which has brought more than 14,007 migrants back to their home countries so far in 2017.

A large-scale airlift is already underway in which IOM expects to take a further 15,000 migrants home from detention in Libya by end of the year. The establishment of a planned joint task force with all concerned parties is aimed at ensuring that the migration crisis in Libya is dealt with in a coordinated way.

“Scaling up our return programme may not serve to fully address the plight of migrants in Libya, but it is our duty to take migrants out of detention centers as a matter of absolute priority,” IOM director general Swing said.

He added that IOM intends to work with all UN partners and ensure proper coordination and prompt referral of any persons for whom return may not be suitable. These initiatives come following the IOM director general’s discussions with African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, as well as with EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Federica Mogherini and UN Secretary General.


Addressing the UN Security Council, Secretary-General António Guterres highlights the need for global solidarity to tackle the security challenges in the Mediterranean.

Up to One Million Migrants Trapped in Libya

To date IOM has registered more than 400,000 migrants in Libya, and it estimates their number to be more than 700,000 to 1 million. The scaling up of the assistance will also include migrants wishing to go back home but who are not in detention centers.

“Large numbers of migrants are held in overcrowded detention centers, in conditions that fall far short of basic and humane standards. A large number of those migrants have expressed a wish to return to their countries of origin and IOM is now scaling up its air operations out of Libya to assist those men, women and children who may wish to return home.”

IOM’s initial effort will focus on 15,000 migrants, which it aims to help return and reintegrate in countries of origin before the end of the year. “This is a choice people make voluntarily, hoping for a new start at home,” said Othman Belbeisi, IOM’s chief of Mission in Libya.

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Migrants in Italy: “Shame Is Keeping Us Here”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/migrants-italy-shame-keeping-us/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 22:40:04 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153510 Despite deplorable living conditions, loneliness and unemployment, many African migrants in Italy choose to stay – even when they have the means to return. “Shame is keeping us here,” says one young man named Bamba Drissa. “We cannot go home empty-handed.” Drissa, who hails from the Ivory Coast, arrived in Europe at the height of […]

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Bamba Drissa from Ivory Coast was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Bamba Drissa from Ivory Coast was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
RIGNANO GARGANICO, Italy, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Despite deplorable living conditions, loneliness and unemployment, many African migrants in Italy choose to stay – even when they have the means to return.

“Shame is keeping us here,” says one young man named Bamba Drissa. “We cannot go home empty-handed.”“I had no idea or no preconception of what Europe would be like. Work and sending money home, that was all.” --Bismark Asoma

Drissa, who hails from the Ivory Coast, arrived in Europe at the height of the so-called European migrant crisis. He was one of the 61,532 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in January 2016. That same month, 370 died during an attempt to reach Europe. With a total of 4,713 fatalities, the Libyan corridor would become the deadliest crossing in the world and 2016 the deadliest year at sea.

Trailer on the east side

After a year and a half of traveling around Italy, Bamba Drissa ended up in the ‘Granghetto’ of Rignano Garganico, an illegal settlement of several hundred mostly West Africans without documents. The camp consists of tents and barracks and is located in the middle of the Southern Italian Capitanata plane, only accessible after eight kilometers on dilapidated, potholed streets.

The barracks now only cover a fraction of the original surface of the illegal settlement. On March 1 of this year, police and army started a mass evacuation of the site. It led to a fire that left the bulk of the camp in ashes and killed two Malians in their thirties. The evacuation had been ordered by the anti-Mafia Brigade in Bari due to reported criminal infiltration in the camp. Despite the police action, the brothel, operated by victims of Nigerian smuggling, today is still there.

Residents whose campers or barracks were burnt in the fire bought tents. The tents are still there, on the western side of the camp, protected from the strong wind on the Capitanata plane by the remaining barracks.

When he arrived here six months ago, Bamba Drissa still had enough money to purchase a moldy caravan on the east side of the camp. A month ago he was making money working on Italian farms. Now the harvest is over, the temperature on the plain drops day by day, and the fields where the barracks are built have turned into a sea of mud.

Returning empty-handed

“Life here is much harder than where I come from,” he says. “I have a lot of regrets of coming here.” But returning, the young Ivorian adds, is impossible. “I made my choice to come here. Others chose to stay and build their lives there. I cannot return home empty-handed, this was my choice and now I have to make it happen.”

“It is shame that is keeping me here,” he concludes. “I cannot disappoint my family. They are the reason why we are here. We are here to help them confront their problems. Before we succeed in doing that, we can’t go back.”

Bismark Asoma, 20, from Ghana has been on European soil for three years. He is constantly looking for work and lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans in the area around the village of Cerignola, about an hour’s drive south from Rignano Garganico.

The Ghanaian tells a similar story: his father died when he was five. Because his mother struggled to take care of him, his five-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister, he chose to travel to Europe to help her.

“Working and sending money home was the only thing I thought about before leaving,” he says. “I had no idea or no preconception of what Europe would be like. Work and sending money home, that was all.”

Bismark Asoma, 20, migrated from Ghana to Italy. He lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Bismark Asoma, 20, migrated from Ghana to Italy. He lives in an abandoned farm with a dozen other West Africans. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Remittances

The scale and importance of remittances for the African continent can’t be underestimated. The 2017 Economic Outlook Report of the African Development Bank states that remittances are a ‘major and stable source of external finance for Africa.’ In Western African countries like Liberia and Gambia, money transfers even account for twenty percent of GDP. From 2000 to 2016, remittances grew from 11 billion dollars to 64.6 billion.

While being less volatile than development aid and foreign direct investment the report states, migrant remittance flows also have the advantage of ‘increasing inversely with the economic situation of recipients.’ In other words: migrants are likely to send more money when difficult situations arise in their country of origin.

A son in Europe

Not only in Brong-Ahafo, the region where Bismark Asoma comes from, but in many other West African countries and regions, the prospect of remittances has made the fact of having a son in Europe a matter of prestige.

“The money sent from Europe to Africa improves the economic situation of the family and substantially increases their status in the community,” says Senegalese migration researcher Linguere Mbaye, economic consultant for the African Development Bank Group and research affiliate at IZA, the Institute of Labor Economics in Bonn*.

The Ghanaian Ministry of Migration confirms the logic mentioned by Mbaye and even points out that in some cases, families who do not have children in Europe are looked down upon.

From rural to urban

Though a matter of prestige in African communities, the majority of migrants still leave home out of poverty. A study conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Libya last year showed that 80 percent of migrants left home because of economic hardship. Seven percent left because of a lack of basic services such as education or health care in their home country, and only five percent fled violent conflicts.

An analysis of interviews with migrants who had just arrived at Lampedusa that was published earlier this year by the World Food Program (WFP) confirmed these findings. When speaking to West Africans, the WFP noted that they mainly left home because of a lack of job opportunities. Young men interviewed by the WFP told similar stories to those of Bamba Drissa or Bismark Asoma: they were sent out, “leaving their family with the promise of remittances and hopes of a future reunion.”

The path most migrants follow from the moment of departure is summarized as follows: they “firstly moved within their own countries, mostly from rural areas to bigger urban areas or the capital city. In general, they moved one or two times before migrating across the border.”

According to the report, the search for stable employment leads them increasingly further from home. “On the way, they would locally collect information about transiting routes and following steps. The journey continued in this incremental way, following a general path that eventually brought them towards Europe.”

Three factors

Of course there is a subgroup that wants to make the trip to Europe immediately. According to migration researcher Linguere Mbaye, this migration is triggered by three separate factors: “First, the perception that you cannot achieve anything in your own country. You see with your own eyes how much money is sent home by cousins ​​or friends who do make it, while you keep struggling to get a job.

“Secondly, there is a biased perception of salaries in Europe,” says the researcher. “My research shows that the expectations are much higher than the actual wages in for instance France or Spain.”

Thirdly, there is the effect of networks and family members abroad, “who can give all information about where to go and how to fund migration.”

Poverty reduction is not the solution

Contrary to what intuition suggests, relieving poverty will not necessarily lead to a decline in migration. “On the contrary,” says Mbaye. “Research shows that people who are richer have more aspirations and more resources at their disposal to start the journey.”

“Reducing poverty is of course an aim in itself,” she adds, “but there are other factors to consider if we want to decrease illegal migration. Moving away is sometimes seen as the only way to be successful in life. So the only way to help reduce migration pressure is by making it one of the many options in life. We must create a situation in which a person can choose either to migrate safely or invest in a productive activity at home.’

Linguere Mbaye underlines that in this discussion, migration should not be considered “a bad thing it itself. And for many people it is a way to deal with adverse shocks. It is thus important to find ways to make migration safe and regular.”

*All opinions expressed here are hers and do not represent those of the African Development Bank.

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Aid Workers Under Pressure in Calaishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-workers-pressure-calais/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aid-workers-pressure-calais http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/aid-workers-pressure-calais/#respond Thu, 30 Nov 2017 17:28:49 +0000 Helen Griffiths http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153263 Helen Griffiths (@GriffithsH_) is with the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch.

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Unaccompanied children in the Calais migrant camp await interviews with the UK Home Office, October 22, 2016. © 2016 Zalamai/Human Rights Watch

Unaccompanied children in the Calais migrant camp await interviews with the UK Home Office, October 22, 2016. © 2016 Zalamai/Human Rights Watch

By Helen Griffiths
Nov 30 2017 (IPS)

It was mid-morning in late June, but the warehouse in Calais was dark, cold, and drafty. I sat on the ground with “Marie,” a tall, slim French woman in her early twenties. Bent forward with a look of concentration, she described how the French police are not only harassing the hundreds of migrants in Calais, they are targeting aid workers too. “They put pressure, stopping what we are doing.”

Marie is one of dozens of aid workers, many of them volunteers, providing vital services to migrants who depend largely on humanitarian organizations for survival.  I followed them over two nights as they distributed bento boxes of food, sleeping bags, blankets, and clothes to migrants who have returned to Calais, still hoping somehow to reach the UK or because they don’t know where else to turn.

This year, International Volunteers Day recognizes those who are first responders in crises, who are there to help in desperate times. I have been able to meet many of them since I started tracking the conditions for migrants in France in October 2016.

The authorities want to prevent construction of another makeshift settlement in Calais, but migrants have returned. Conditions are desperate. Currently, between 700 and 1000 migrants, most from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan, are living and sleeping out in the open, including between 100 and 200 unaccompanied children.
Most of the aid workers in Calais are French or British–but others come from around the world. Some come for short stints, others have been there for months, working for a variety of local and international associations. They prepare and give migrants food, replace confiscated bedding and clothing, and take migrants who have been injured or are sick to the hospital. Others provide legal advice and support.

Nongovernmental organizations have played an increasingly crucial role since French authorities closed the so-called “Jungle” camp in Calais in October 2016, and migrants and asylum seekers were taken to reception centers across France.

The authorities want to prevent construction of another makeshift settlement in Calais, but migrants have returned. Conditions are desperate. Currently, between 700 and 1000 migrants, most from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Afghanistan, are living and sleeping out in the open, including between 100 and 200 unaccompanied children.

Child and adult migrants have told Human Rights Watch that police routinely spray them with teargas while they  sleep or in other situations where they pose no threat, trying to get them to leave the area. Police also regularly spray or confiscate sleeping bags, blankets, clothing, and shoes, and have sprayed food and water.

The police harassment extends even to humanitarian workers. They described the systematic nature of police actions: traffic tickets for minor infractions such as insufficient windscreen liquid, phones seized when workers are filming police actions, and frequent checks of identity documents.

Checks are not unlawful, of course, but it happens so often that there is little–if any–basis to justify them. One aid worker described how a police officer came up behind her at a distribution and said in a deep voice, “Good evening Ms. Smith. Could I please see your documents?” I have changed her name, of course, to avoid causing her further harassment.

Aid workers also described being physically pushed by police, and in mid-July, the police sprayed volunteers when they stopped to help an injured migrant in need of water. When they went to report what happened to them, they felt like they were being interrogated. “It really felt like […] we were criminals,” one told me. Another worker told me that one police officer had asked if she would rather be sprayed or hit with a baton.

Under the best conditions, trying to meet the needs of hundreds of desperate migrants is difficult, requiring long hours, skill, dedication, and compassion.  In the tense atmosphere of Calais, the police harassment is taking its toll.  Some volunteers spoke of the emotional and psychological effect on them. Others have learned to brush it off and say they are far more concerned about the treatment of migrants.

The pattern of harassment suggests that police are trying to intimidate aid workers. The somewhat cynical rationale seems to be that humanitarian workers will leave if enough pressure is applied, and migrants will stop coming to Calais. “When the police are there trying to stop us–migrants leave…” Marie told me. “So, the pressure is working.”

From what I saw, though, most humanitarian workers are not about to give up. As I watched them reload a van at midnight, music blaring, they were in good humor. They remain determined to provide the crucial assistance migrants need to survive, despite the obstacles.

They need support. In October, an independent inquiry by the French administration and security forces’ internal investigations department found convincing evidence that police abused migrants in Calais. One of the recommendations is for the local authorities and police officers to meet regularly with aid organizations to make sure that migrants get the help they need. That is especially important now with winter weather setting in. And that includes providing full information about services available and the asylum process in France.

I’m still in touch with Marie, who, along with others, works tirelessly despite the ongoing police harassment. Today, everyone should celebrate the work these brave people are doing day after day in such difficult conditions.

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Excerpt:

Helen Griffiths (@GriffithsH_) is with the children’s rights division at Human Rights Watch.

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Uncertain Future for “Diabolic” Free Trade Pacts Between EU and Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/uncertain-future-diabolic-free-trade-pacts-eu-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertain-future-diabolic-free-trade-pacts-eu-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/uncertain-future-diabolic-free-trade-pacts-eu-africa/#respond Mon, 27 Nov 2017 00:00:55 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153207 In the run-up to the fifth EU-Africa summit in Côte d’Ivoire, the future of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between Europe and its former colonies looks bleaker than ever. While most of Europe’s trade partners around the world keep refusing to sign the deals, the African Union’s Commissioner for Trade will most likely announce a […]

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Adolf Ozor, a tomato farmer in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, is struggling to make ends meet after import surges. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

Adolf Ozor, a tomato farmer in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana, is struggling to make ends meet after import surges. Credit: Daan Bauwens/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
BRUSSELS, Nov 27 2017 (IPS)

In the run-up to the fifth EU-Africa summit in Côte d’Ivoire, the future of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) between Europe and its former colonies looks bleaker than ever. While most of Europe’s trade partners around the world keep refusing to sign the deals, the African Union’s Commissioner for Trade will most likely announce a moratorium on all EPAs.

Ever since independence, Europe’s former colonies have enjoyed preferential (duty-free) access to the European market. In turn they didn’t need to open their own markets. When in 2000 the World Trade Organization deemed this one-sided market opening unlawful, Europe and 79 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) started negotiating reciprocal trade deals."Trade between neighbors is now more difficult than trade with the EU. We are creating borders within Africa." --Gunther Nooke

The resulting deals, coined Economic Partnership Agreements or EPAs, are not pure free trade deals. Under the agreements, ACP countries are allowed to keep protecting 20 percent of their products – mostly agricultural products – with import tariffs. The other 80 percent will be liberalized gradually over the course of 20 years after the signing and ratification of the deal. The deals were negotiated between the European Commission and seven regions of several countries engaged in economic integration processes.

Stalling the implementation

Seventeen years later only two of the seven negotiated deals have been signed, ratified and implemented, one with the South African Development Community (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland) and one with the Caribbean. The EPA with West Africa is currently blocked by Nigeria, Gambia and Mauritania who refuse to sign, while in the East African region, last year Tanzania sued Kenya for signing while Uganda wants to address more concerns – President Museveni travelled to Brussels on a three-day work visit at the end of September for talks.

Almost all ACP countries fear the possible negative impact of the EPAs on their economies and therefore stall its implementation. “They already had the right to export to Europe duty-free,” said Joyce Naar, a lawyer and activist with the ACP Civil Society Forum. “Now they are expected to open up their markets to Europe without getting anything back.”

Especially in Africa, governments and analysts fear an encore of the tomato and chicken scenario. In Ghana, for instance, after IMF and World Bank-enforced tariff reductions, import surges caused the market share for domestic chicken to fall from 100 percent to a mere three percent today in less than three decades. The chicken industry, once the second largest employer in the country, has now been taken over by competing imports from Canada, Brazil, Europe and China.

As for tomatoes, after lowering tariffs Ghana became the second largest importer of tomatoes in the world and according to FAO data, market share for domestic produce dwindled from 92 to 57 percent in only five years.

Industrialization at risk

Aside from agricultural produce, NGOs also fear that entire industrialization of the continent is at risk. At a recent international trade union conference on the issue of EPAs in Togo, this point was repeatedly made. “To industrialize, we need to protect and develop the internal market until we’re ready for international competition, as has been demonstrated by China,” says Georgios Altintzis of he International Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).

At the conference, Mariama Williams, senior program officer at the South Center in Geneva, also stressed that increased competition would lead to increasing feminization of work.

“Women do the worst jobs in the worst conditions,” she stated at the conference. According to Williams, EPAs will have the greatest impact on labour-intensive industries where women are disproportionately employed. An increase of competition would raise the pressure on these sectors while the internal standards and labour conditions remain unchanged.

“Diabolic” agreements or success story?

“There has always been a diabolic whiff about EPAs,” former EPA chief negotiator Sandra Gallina said a few weeks ago at a meeting of trade ministers from all ACP countries in Brussels. “There is nothing diabolic about them, they were just extremely badly communicated. For the last five years I have been fighting a misinformation campaign.”

On the first day of the Brussels meeting, the European Commission published numbers on its website meant to illustrate the benefits of EPAs. In 2012 an agreement entered into force between Madagascar and the EU. By 2016, exports to the EU had risen by 65 percent. The same for South Africa, which signed an agreement one year ago. The last year, exports of processed fish increased by 16 percent and flowers by 20 percent.

According to Marc Maes, trade policy officer at the Flemish North South Movement 11.11.11, the figures should be taken with a grain of salt. “Madagascar is recovering from a period of total chaos,” he said. “Do these numbers show the influence of the EPA or mere economic recovery? In the case of South Africa, the mentioned period consists of just one year. It’s a bit premature to talk about a steady, reliable impact.”

Migration crisis

The criticism isn’t limited to the content of the agreements. The way in which the European Commission concludes them is also widely condemned. As agreements with entire regions are stalled, the Commission now makes agreements with individual states. Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire signed and ratified such interim EPAs a year ago, fearing they would lose preferential access to the European market.

“That’s crazy,” says Gunther Nooke, personal representative in Africa of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and one of the staunchest critics of the EPAs. “Trade between neighbors is now more difficult than trade with the EU. We are creating borders within Africa. ”

According to Nooke, in the midst of a migration crisis the only things that benefits Europe and Africa is more employment in Africa. “This can only be done by protecting the entire African market with the creation of an African Customs Union led by the African Union. African products can be made here and be freely traded across the continent without having to compete with European goods. But now, because of differences in opinion about EPAs, African countries aren’t making any progress in forming a customs union.”

Moratorium

According to Merkel’s envoy, the African Union Commissioner for Trade has already announced that he will call for a moratorium on all EPAs. “And we must respect that,” says the advisor.

Germany is in the perfect position to make its opinion be heard. The country delivers the greatest contribution to the European Development Budget: just over 6.2 billion euros in the period 2014-2020, accounting for 20.6 percent of the total. It is doubtful whether Berlin and Brussels will be able to voice their opinions in unison at the Nov. 28-29 EU-Africa Summit in Abidjan.

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“Refugees Are Nothing but Commodities”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/refugees-nothing-commodities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugees-nothing-commodities http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/refugees-nothing-commodities/#comments Thu, 09 Nov 2017 12:14:22 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152952 As countless refugees arriving on Italy’s shores report torture, extortion and forced labour in Libyan detention centers, many say they never intended to make the journey to Europe until the chaos in Libya left them no other choice. “We were still working on the construction site when I was taken apart from the others. The […]

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Refugees from the Choucha camp in Tunisia are demanding recognition of their legal status. Credit: Alberto Pradilla/IPS

Refugees from the Choucha camp in Tunisia. Credit: Alberto Pradilla/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
FOLLONICA, Italy, Nov 9 2017 (IPS)

As countless refugees arriving on Italy’s shores report torture, extortion and forced labour in Libyan detention centers, many say they never intended to make the journey to Europe until the chaos in Libya left them no other choice.

“We were still working on the construction site when I was taken apart from the others. The guard pulled his gun, aimed it at me and told me he’d shoot if I tried to walk away. After ten minutes of trembling with fear, a truck arrived and I was ordered to get in. We drove to a beach where a crowd was being kept at gunpoint by other guards in uniforms. They forced us to board a Zodiac and pushed us into the open sea. The second day we were saved by a European ship.”

Amidou Kone (23) now lives in Follonica, in a refugee center that used to be a tourist campsite in Tuscany. He is one of the 113,722 refugees who made the passage from Libya to Italy, the deadliest crossing in the world with a total of 2,714 fatalities from the start of the year up until now.

Amidou left his home country of the Ivory Coast after his entire family was killed during a raid in the 2011 war. After passing through Burkina Faso and working as a shepherd for a farmer in Niger, he is certain he was sold to Libyan militias after a business trip with his boss to Libya.

“They wanted me to call my family for ransom,” he says, “but didn’t want to believe that everyone had died so they started torturing me.” Amidou shows the scars on his head, caused by blows with Kalashnikov stocks. He points at the blank spots around his right index and right ankle. “They tried to cut off my finger with a knife and then they wanted to beat my foot with a flashlight. Why so much cruelty? I don’t have the faintest idea.”

Kidnapping industry

For over two years, the cruelty of detention in Libyan detention camps has been widely reported and denounced but with no immediate end in sight. Two months ago, the head of MSF Joanne Liu wrote an open letter calling the Libyan detention system “rotten to the bone”, “a thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion.” She accused Europe of being complicit in the situation as the Union, “blinded by the single-minded goal of keeping people outside of Europe”, funds Libya to help stop the boats from departing.

Bai, 19 years old from Mali, arrived on the Sicilian coast in early September. He remembers several mass kidnappings. “There was forty of us living in a house in the city,” he says. “One eventing two men with Kalashnikovs came in, started shouting. They told us to get aboard vehicles waiting in the street. We were locked up, they beat us with sticks and chains. We had to call home. Anyone who could convince their family to send money was allowed to go. My family agreed, but I was caught by another group the following week. There wasn’t any more money left so they put me to work to pay my trip to Europe.”

Under laws passed with Europe’s encouragement during the reign of Muammar Ghadaffi, immigration is illegal in Libya and the country does not offer asylum. Every undocumented migrant is therefore liable for detention.

Various rival governments and militias run networks of detention centers. UNHCR can only enter 29 of them, run by the department to counter illegal migration (DCIM), headed by the Serraj government, the government Europe chose to recognize. The total number of camps is unknown and international funding for “official” camps has ignited a battle for control over these camps by armed groups looking for money or international legitimacy.

Forced to cross

In the meantime, both DCIM officials and militias rent out detainees to local employers for personal profit. Amidou and Boi also fell victim to forced labour while detained. “Two years as a mason,” Amidou tells, “without payment. In those two years, I’ve seen nothing but water and bread.” When he was eventually found to be too weak for work, he was taken to the boat.

“Refugees are nothing but commodities,” says Anaspasia Papadopoulou, senior policy advisor at the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) in Brussels. “Militias use them to make a profit. When they are no longer useful, they need to get rid of them.”

Amidou’s forced crossing is echoed in the stories told by countless other migrants. In fact, many of them them didn’t come to Libya to cross to Europe but turn out to have lived and worked in the country for years.

Balde Tcherno (37) from Guinea-Bissau was a shoe salesman for five years, making the trip home once every year to be with his family. On his last trip back in 2011, he was arrested and forced, at gunpoint, to board a boat to Italy. Rockson Adams (27) from Ghana arrived in Libya after the removal of Ghadaffi and got a lucrative job in construction, but after two years he was kidnapped and forced to pay ransom. After killings in his circle of friends and explosions in his area, he decided to pay a smuggler to cross over.

“The refugee flow from Libya is clearly a mix,” says Anaspasia Papadopoulo. “There’s people who already lived in the country and who went there because until a few years back, it was still a rich country. Then there’s the internally displaced Libyans. And of course there’s the Sub-Saharan Africans, Bangladeshis and Syrians who’ve come to Libya with the intention of crossing. Many fall victim to exploitation and into the hands of traffickers instead of smugglers.”

According to some analysts, the situation is making it hard to separate “economic migrants” from “refugees” as many who travelled to Libya for work become victims of exploitation and violence.

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Austrian Elections: The Crisis of Europe Continueshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/austrian-elections-crisis-europe-continues/#respond Sat, 21 Oct 2017 19:06:32 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152640 Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Oct 21 2017 (IPS)

The Austrian elections show clearly that media have given up on contextualising events. To do that, calls for a warning about Europe’s future, as a vehicle of European values is required. Europe has been weakened by all the recent elections, with the notable exception of France. Common to all, France included, were some clear trends, that we will hastily, and therefore maybe imperfectly, examine.

Roberto Savio

The decline of the traditional parties.

In every election, since the financial crisis of 2009, the parties we have known to run their country since the end of the Second World War, are on the wane ( or practically disappearing, like in the last French elections). In Austria, the far right Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) secured 26 per cent of the vote, just a few votes behind the Social Democrats who took 26.9 per cent of the votes. The social democrats have been in power practically since the end of the war. And the other traditional party, the conservative Austrian People’s Party (OVP), won the elections with 31.5 per cent. Together the two parties used to have more than 85% of the votes. In the Dutch elections held in March, Geert Wilder’s far-right Party for Freedom PVV, came second after the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy VVD, at the expense of all other parties. And in September in Germany, the far right anti immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) enjoyed historical success, becoming the third party while the two traditional parties, Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany CDU and the social democrat Social Democratic Party of Germany SPD, suffered the worst results in more than a half a century. According to polls, next year Italian elections will see a populist movement, with the 5 Stars taking over the government.

Austria is the best example to understand how European national politics have changed. It is important to note that no right wing party was really visible in Europe, (except Le Pen in France), before the financial crisis of 2009. That crisis brought insecurity and fear and in the same year the Austrian far right, under the charismatic leadership of Jorg Haider, got the same percentage of votes as of today. And the conservative Prime minister of the time, Wolfgang Schlussel broke a taboo by bringing the Freedom Party into the government. Everybody in Europe reacted with horror, practically isolating Austria. And the FPO, lost all its lustre in the government, going down to 5%, and with the death of Haider even further down. There Are no gasps of horror now in Europe over any far right wing parties getting in to govern.

What has fuelled the decline of the traditional parties

The traditional parties were facing already a loss of participation and trust by the electors at the end of the last century but in 2009 Europe imported the financial crisis which racked the US in 2006. And, 2009 saw hardship and unemployment all over Europe. And that year Greece became the battleground of two visions in Europe. The Southern countries wanted to push out of the crisis with investments and social relief, while the bloc of Northern countries, led by Germany, saw austerity as the only response. Germany wanted to export it’s experience: they were doing well thanks to an internal austerity reform started by Schroeder in 2003, and they did not want to take on other reforms at any cost.

Greece was just 4% of the European economy and could have been rescued without problems. But the German line won and today Greece has lost 25% of its properties; pensions went down by 17%, and there is a massive unemployment. Austerity was the response to the crisis for all of Europe and that aggravated fear and insecurity.

It is also important to remember that until the invasions of Libya, Iraq and Syria, in which Europe played a key role (2011- 2014), there were few immigrants and this was not a problem. In 2010, immigrants numbered 215.000, in a region of 400 millions. But during the invasions, a very fragile balance between Shite and Sunni, the two main religious branches of Islam, collapsed. Civil war, and the creation of ISIS in 2015 pushed many to try to reach Europe to escape the civil wars. So, in 2015 more than 1.2 million refugees, the majority coming from countries in conflict, arrived in Europe, which was not prepared for such a massive influx. And, if we study the elections before then, we can see that the far right parties were not as relevant as they are now.

Therefore it should be clear that austerity and immigration have been the two main factors for the rise of the right wing. Statistics and data show that clearly. Statistics also show that immigrants, of course with exceptions, (that media and populism inflates), basically want to integrate, accept any kind of work, and are law abiding and pay their contributions, which is obviously in their interest. Of course the level of instruction plays a crucial role. But the Syrians who come here were basically middle class. And of course it is an inconvenient truth that if Europe did not intervene in the name of democracy, the situation would be different. NATO estimates that more than 30 billion dollars have been spent on the war in Syria. There are now six million refugees, and 400.00 dead.

And Assad is still there. Of course, democracy has a different value in countries which are closed and rich in petrol. If we were serious about democracy, there are so many African countries which need intervention. Book Haram has killed seven times more people than ISIS; and Mugabe is considering running for re-election after dominating Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. But you will never hear much on those issues in the present political debate.

How the far right is changing Europe

Nigel Farage is the populist who led a far right party, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) which fought for leaving Europe. UKIP received the greatest number of votes (27.49%) of any British party in the 2014 European Parliament election and gained 11 extra Member of the European Parliament MEPs for a total of 24.[55] The party won seats in every region of Great Britain, including its first in Scotland.[56] It was the first time in over a century that a party other than Labour or Conservatives won the mosti votes in a UK-wide election.

But Farage lost the elections held just before Brexit, in June 2016. His declaration to the media was: Infact, I am the real winner, because my agenda against Europe now is the basis for politics in all the traditional parties. Brexit did follow.

And this is what is happening now everywhere. The Austrian elections did not see only the FPO rise. They also saw the conservative OVP taking immigration, security, borders and others part of the far right agenda of the populist agenda in the electoral campaign. A full 58% of the voters went for the far right or the right, with the social Democrats also moving more to the center. The new Dutch governement took a turn to the right, by reducing taxes on the rich people, and to companies. The same turn to the right can be expected by the new coalition led by Merkel, with the liberals aiming to take over the ministry of Finance. Its leader, Christian Lindner, is a nationlist and has several times declared his aversion to Europe. In that seense, he will be worse than the inflexible Schauble, who just wanted to Germanize Europe, but was a convinced European. And it is interesting that the main vote for the far righ party AfD came from East Germany, where immigrants are few. But in spite of investing the staggering amount of 1.3 trillions Euro in the development of East Germany, important differences in employment and revenues with West Germany remain. No wonder that the President of South Korea has warned President Trump to avoid any conflict. They have decided a longtime ago, looking at the German reunification that they would not have the resources required by annexing with success, North Korea.The rocketman, as Trump calls Kim, after the decertification of Iran, can claim that the only way to be sure that US will not intervene, is to show that he has a nuclear intercontinental ability, because US does not respect treaties.

Those considerations done, a pattern is clear everywhere. The agenda of the right wing has been incorporated in the traditional parties; they bring in the governing coalition, like Norway did , or they try to isolate them , as did Sweden. This does not change the fact that everybody is moving to the right. Austria will now tilt to the Visegrad group, formed by Poland , Hungary, Czech and Slovakia, which are clearly challenging Europe and looking to Putin as a political model ( all the right wing does).

The only active European voice is Macron, who clearly is not a progressist guy either. The real progressist, Corbyn, is ambigous about Europe, because the Labour Party has a lot of eurosceptic.

The new German government has already made clear that many of it’s proposals for a stronger Europe are not on the agenda, and austerity remains the way. Unless a strong growth comes soon (and the IMF doubts that), social problems will increase. Nationalism never helped peace, development and cooperation. Probably , we need some populist movement to be in the government to show that they have no real answers to the problems. The victory of 5 stars in Italy will probably do that. But this was the theory also for Egypt. Let the Muslim Brotherhood take the government , and it will be a failure. Pity that the General El Sisi did not let this happen. Our hope is that we do not get any El Sisis in Europe.

If only young people went back to vote, this would change the situation in Europe…this is the real historical loss of the left in Europe.

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Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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A Thorn in the Side of the Regimehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/thorn-side-regime/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thorn-side-regime http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/thorn-side-regime/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 09:03:09 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152538 Journalist Bülent Kenes has worked as the head of world news, and has launched several newspapers. Now though, he has had to flee from Turkey and lives in Sweden.

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Journalist Bülent Kenes has worked as the head of world news, and has launched several newspapers. Now though, he has had to flee from Turkey and lives in Sweden.

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How to Eradicate Rural Poverty, End Urban Malnutrition – A New Approachhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/eradicate-rural-poverty-end-urban-malnutrition-new-approach/#respond Mon, 09 Oct 2017 06:40:57 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152386 Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to […]

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Nuclear applications in agriculture rely on the use of isotopes and radiation techniques to combat pests and diseases, increase crop production, protect land and water resources, ensure food safety and authenticity, and increase livestock production. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Oct 9 2017 (IPS)

Population growth, increasing urbanisation, modern technologies, and climate change are transforming the world at a fast pace. But what direction are these transformations headed in? Are they benefitting the poor and the food insecure? And will the food systems of the future be able to feed and employ the millions of young people poised to enter labour markets in the decades to come?

These are some of the main questions posed by the just-released State of Food and Agriculture 2017 report, which argues that a key part of the response to these challenges must be transforming and revitalising rural economies, particularly in developing countries where industrialisation and the service sector are not likely to be able to meet all future job demand. “Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” Graziano da Silva.

“It lays out a vision for a strategic, ‘territorial approach’ that knits together rural areas and urban centres, harnessing surging demand for food in small towns and mega cities alike to reboot subsistence agriculture and promote sustainable and equitable economic growth,” says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its report, issued on 9 October.

One of the greatest challenges today is to end hunger and poverty while making agriculture and food systems sustainable, it warns, while explaining that this challenge is “daunting” because of continued population growth, profound changes in food demand, and the threat of mass migration of rural youth in search of a better life.

The report analyses the structural and rural transformations under way in low-income countries and shows how an “agro-territorial” planning approach can leverage food systems to drive sustainable and inclusive rural development.

Otherwise, the consequences would be dire. In fact, the world’s 500 million smallholder farmers risk being left behind in structural and rural transformations, the report says, while noting that small-scale and family farmers produce 80 per cent of the food supply in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, and investments to improve their productivity are urgently needed.

“Urbanisation, population increases and income growth are driving strong demand for food at a time when agriculture faces unprecedented natural-resource constraints and climate change.”

Harvesting sunflowers in Pakistan. Credit: FAO

Moreover, urbanisation and rising affluence are driving a “nutrition transition” in developing countries towards higher consumption of animal protein. “Agriculture and food systems need to become more productive and diversified.”

Catalytic Role of Small Cities, Towns

According to the report, small cities and towns can play a catalytic role in rural transformation rural and urban areas form a “rural–urban spectrum” ranging from megacities to large regional centres, market towns and the rural hinterland, according to the report. In developing countries, smaller urban areas will play a role at least as important as that of larger cities in rural transformation.

“Agro-territorial development that links smaller cities and towns with their rural ‘catchment areas’ can greatly improve urban access to food and opportunities for the rural poor.” This approach seeks to reconcile the sectoral economic aspects of the food sector with its spatial, social and cultural dimensions.

On this, the report explains that the key to the success of an agro-territorial approach is a balanced mix of infrastructure development and policy interventions across the rural–urban spectrum.

“The five most commonly used agro-territorial development tools –agro-corridors, agro-clusters, agro-industrial parks, agro-based special economic zones and agri-business incubators – provide a platform for growth of agro-industry and the rural non-farm economy.”

A Clear Wake-Up Call

Announcing the report, FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva said that in adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development two years ago, the international community committed itself to eradicating hunger and poverty and to achieving other important goals, including making agriculture sustainable, securing healthy lives and decent work for all, reducing inequality, and making economic growth inclusive.

With just 13 years remaining before the 2030 deadline, concerted action is needed now if the Sustainable Development Goals are to be reached, he added.

“There could be no clearer wake-up call than FAO’s new estimate that the number of chronically undernourished people in the world stands at 815 million. Most of the hungry live in low-income and lower-middle-income countries, many of which have yet to make the necessary headway towards the structural transformation of their economies.”

Graziano da Silva said that successful transformations in other developing countries were driven by agricultural productivity growth, leading to a shift of people and resources from agriculture towards manufacturing, industry and services, massive increases in per capita income, and steep reductions in poverty and hunger.

Countries lagging behind in this transformation process are mainly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Most have in common economies with large shares of employment in agriculture, widespread hunger and malnutrition, and high levels of poverty, he explained.

Nuclear techniques are now used in many countries to help maintain healthy soil and water systems, which are paramount in ensuring food security for the growing global population. Credit: FAO

1.75 Billion People Survive on Less than 3.10 Dollars a Day

According to the latest FAO estimates, some 1.75 billion people in low-income and lower-middle-income countries survive on less than 3.10 dollars a day, and more than 580 million are chronically undernourished.

The prospects for eradicating hunger and poverty in these countries are overshadowed by the low productivity of subsistence agriculture, limited scope for industrialization and –above all– by rapid rates of population growth and explosive urbanisation, said Graziano da Silva.

In fact, between 2015 and 2030, their total population is expected to grow by 25 percent, from 3.5 billion to almost 4.5 billion. Their urban populations will grow at double that pace, from 1.3 billion to 2 billion.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the number of people aged 15–24 years is expected to increase by more than 90 million by 2030, and most will be in rural areas.

“Young rural people faced with the prospect of a life of grinding poverty may see few other alternatives than to migrate, at the risk of becoming only marginally better off as they may outnumber available jobs in urban settings.”

Enormous Untapped Potential

The overarching conclusion of this report is that fulfilling the 2030 Agenda depends crucially on progress in rural areas, which is where most of the poor and hungry live, said the FAO Director General.

“It presents evidence to show that, since the 1990s, rural transformations in many countries have led to an increase of more than 750 million in the number of rural people living above the poverty line.”

To achieve the same results in the countries that have been left behind, the report outlines a strategy that would leverage the “enormous untapped potential of food systems” to drive agro-industrial development, boost small-scale farmers’ productivity and incomes, and create off-farm employment in expanding segments of food supply and value chains.

“This inclusive rural transformation would contribute to the eradication of rural poverty, while at the same time helping end poverty and malnutrition in urban areas.”

A major force behind inclusive rural transformation will be the growing demand coming from urban food markets, which consume up to 70 per cent of the food supply even in countries with large rural populations, he added.

The FAO chief explained that thanks to higher incomes, urban consumers are making significant changes in their diets, away from staples and towards higher-value fish, meat, eggs, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, and more processed foods in general.

The value of urban food markets in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to grow from 150 billion dollars to 500 billion dollars between 2010 and 2030, said Graziano da Silva.

Urbanisation thus provides a “golden opportunity for agriculture”, he added. However, it also presents challenges for millions of small-scale family farmers. “More profitable markets can lead to the concentration of food production in large commercial farms, to value chains dominated by large processors and retailers, and to the exclusion of smallholders.”

Small-Scale Producers

According to the FAO head, to ensure that small-scale producers participate fully in meeting urban food demand, policy measures are needed that: reduce the barriers limiting their access to inputs; foster the adoption of environmentally sustainable approaches and technologies; increase access to credit and markets; facilitate farm mechanisation; revitalise agricultural extension systems; strengthen land tenure rights; ensure equity in supply contracts; and strengthen small-scale producer organisations.

“No amount of urban demand alone will improve production and market conditions for small-scale farming,” he said. “Supportive public policies and investment are a key pillar of inclusive rural transformation.”

The second pillar is the development of agro-industry and the infrastructure needed to connect rural areas and urban markets, said Grazano da Silva, adding that in the coming years, many small-scale farmers are likely to leave agriculture, and most will be unable to find decent employment in largely low-productivity rural economies.

Agro-Industry Already Important

In sub-Saharan Africa, food and beverage processing represents between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of total manufacturing value added in most countries, and in some more than 80 per cent, he said. “However, the growth of agro-industry is often held back by the lack of essential infrastructure – from rural roads and electrical power grids to storage and refrigerated transportation.”

In many low-income countries, such constraints are exacerbated by a lack of public- and private sector investment, FAO chief explained.

The third pillar of inclusive rural transformation is a territorial focus on rural development planning, designed to strengthen the physical, economic, social and political connections between small urban centres and their surrounding rural areas.

In the developing world, about half of the total urban population, or almost 1.5 billion people, live in cities and towns of 500,000 inhabitants or fewer, according to the report.

“Too often ignored by policy-makers and planners, territorial networks of small cities and towns are important reference points for rural people – the places where they buy their seed, send their children to school and access medical care and other services.”

Recent research has shown how the development of rural economies is often more rapid, and usually more inclusive, when integrated with that of these smaller urban areas.

“The agro-territorial development approach described in the report, links between small cities and towns and their rural ‘catchment areas’ are strengthened through infrastructure works and policies that connect producers, agro-industrial processors and ancillary services, and other downstream segments of food value chains, including local circuits of food production and consumption.”

“Unless economic growth is made more inclusive, the global goals of ending poverty and achieving zero hunger by 2030 will not be reached,” warned Graziano da Silva.

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Merkel’s Defeat Confirms Dismal Trend for Europehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/merkels-defeat-confirms-dismail-trend-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=merkels-defeat-confirms-dismail-trend-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/merkels-defeat-confirms-dismail-trend-europe/#comments Fri, 29 Sep 2017 07:40:39 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152283 Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Sep 29 2017 (IPS)

Generally, media have failed to analyse why the result of German elections is the worst possible. Merkel is not a winner, but a leader now in a very fragile position, who will have to make many compromises and pay now for her mistakes. Let us make at least the most important four points of analysis.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

 

Point One: the decline of traditional parties

Now for some years, the traditional parties who have run their countries since the end of the Second World War are becoming irrelevant. The last French elections saw the practical collapse of the Socialist and Gaullist parties, with the arrival of a totally unknown candidate, Macron, who has now 60% of the seats in the Parliament. The same happened earlier in the Austrian presidential elections.

This process has now started in Germany. Merkel’s party, the CDU, had the worst performance since its creation. And its sister party, CSU (the Bavarian CDU) has lost a staggering million votes. The same has happened to the SPD, who saw the lowest approval since modern times. The two parties, who had in the last elections 67.2% of the votes, now got just 53.2%. And, as everywhere else, the missing votes went to parties who were recipients of discontent, and the desire to punish the establishment was evident. Linke, a radical left-wing party, got an additional 0.6%, by voters rejecting the increasing social inequality, and did not believe that SPD would be different from the CDU on this issue. The Green got an additional 0.5%, by those who were incensed by Merkel’s promise to increase defense costs to 2% of GDP, to please Trump. But the big winner was the AfD, an extreme right wing party, who was the conduit for people’s dissatisfaction on immigrants, on the European Union, and other nationalist and populist themes. AfD got 12.6 % of the votes, becoming the third party and with 96 members of parliament. AfD got 980.000 votes from the CDU, 470.000 from the SPD, 400.000 votes from the Linke. But, much more importantly, 1,200.000 votes from people who did not vote in the last elections. In a poll, 60% of them said that they were “disappointed with the present political situation’. At the same time the poll company Infratest Dimap, found out that 84% considered Germany’s economic situation “good”, when this was 74% four years ago, and a mere 19% eight years ago. The elections were not clearly on economy, but about immigration and the loss of German identity.

Therefore, Macron’s victory over Le Pen is not the end of the populist wave. And few doubt that if Macron loses his appeal (as it is already happening), and his fight for social reforms is stopped by mass manifestations, Le Pen would win the next elections. And the antisystem parties all over Europe did not win in the last elections, but they did not lose eithe. Now they are the needle of the balance in all Nordic countries, and can declare, like Farage , the founder of the anti-Europe party UKIP, when he lost in the last British election: it is irrelevant, our message has become part of all the political system. And Brexit was the best example that he was right…all parties in the Nordic countries had to incorporate points of the populist, especially on immigration.

It has been generally ignored that it is the middle class, the main actor in this change. Social inequality in Europe has constantly grown, and many from the middle class are impoverished or afraid. Germany is a good example. While unemployment went down with Merkel from 11% to 3.8%, those close to the poverty line went from 11% to 17% of the total. Merkel went from a public deficit of 100 billion dollars, to a surplus of 20 billion, but at the same time poverty doubled to 10%, and there are 2 million people who have two jobs to help them reach the end of the month. And the pensioners who live below the poverty line , have increased by 30%. A full 15.7% of Germans now live under the poverty line. Of these, nearly 3 million are children.

Are the fears and frustrations of the middle class only who have pushed Brexit and Trump ? The economist Homi Kharas, specialized on the middle class, considers that 43% of the world population (some 3.200 million) now form the world middle class. It grows every year by 160 million. What is common to them is that especially the lower middle class have high expectations from the government and they put economic growth before anything else. They are helped by the Internet and social media, to be aware of their rights, and of the risks. In rich countries, massive education helps awareness. In developing countries, the pressure on governments is equally strong. The best example is China. Between 2002 and 2011, there has been a strong increase in protests and loss of trust in the public institution, despite a period of economic growth. The fact is that to keep growth and social justice together, you need resources. And this a problem for the left. Its genetic message is redistribution and participation. How to do this when we are in a world of diminishing resources?

 

Point Two. The antisystem becomes an entrenched system

Bill Emmot, the ex-director of the Economist, has written: “we live in a period of political turmoil. Parties less than a year old have taken power in France and in the megalopolis of Tokyo. A party less than five years old is heading the polls in Italy. The White House is hosting a billionaire who never had any political experience. And we should add that before the crisis of 2009, no populist or xenophobe party was represented in Parliament.

We have therefore little experience on how antiparty system behaves when they are in power. But if we look at the United States, Poland and Hungary, clearly they are trying to put under control the public institutions, not because of the values of democracy that brought them to power, but a new campaign on fears and greed: globalization, immigration, automatization’s displacement of jobs, inequality, racism, and “my country first”. And the antisystem parties, who all have sent congratulatory message to the AfD, look to Putin as the political model to follow (except Poland for obvious reasons). But Urban of Hungary speaks openly of “illiberal democracy” as the main reason to combat the EU (and Poland of values of Catholicism against a secular Europe).

It is legitimate then to think that when the AfD, Le Pen, and company will come to power, (if the trend toward antisystem is not stopped), we are going to see a serious decline of democracy…also because we have Japan, India, China, Turkey, Philippines, just to name a few, who are nationalists, xenophobe and tend to project their vision, as the Russian hackers did in the last elections.

We must look at the youth’s decline in participation in politics as a new phenomenon extremely worrying. The priorities in budget allocations go increasingly to the older generations, which vote. It is important to note that the large majority of young people do not vote for the antisystem parties, but abstain. If young people did vote, we would not have Brexit and Trump. In the German elections, only 10% of those between 18 and 24 voted for AfD: all other age groups did so, and we must go to the oldest age group, those over 70 years to see a decline, to just 7% of the vote . But 69 per cent of the oldest voted for CDU and SPD, against 41% of the youngest. So, the theory that young people are moving to the right is a myth. They prefer to abstain…but the problem remains. Their abstention is helping both the system to stay, and the antisystem to win. But take Italy for example, run by a centre left party, the PD. They have just approved an incentive for youth unemployment (close to 30%), after giving 30 billion dollars to bail out four regional banks. The antisystem M5S, which is now heading the polls, has made the fight against the financial system a priority. If you were young, educated and unemployed, what would be your choice?

 

Point Three: German elections are a disaster for Europe

The appeal of an integrated Europe has been on the wane for a while. It became fashionable to present the European institutions as a bunch of unaccountable bureaucrats, out of touch with reality, intent on discussing the size of tomatoes. In fact, it is the Council of Ministers, formed by representative of the States, who take the decisions: EU can only implement them. But it becomes politically convenient to go back from Brussels and present decisions, especially those unpopular, as a diktat imposed on your country. This, of course, is just one of the many reasons for the decline of Europe as a political project. But is useful to remember this game, because it shows the irresponsibility of the political class. There was never a real unity behind the European project. Every country looked only for dividends, and now, not even for that (as the example of Poland and Hungary, very large recipients show). So, where is Europe heading?

There are in fact three visions of Europe. One is the vision of Juncker, the head of the EU. It calls for strengthening the European institutions, and reinforcing the social goals, until now left behind the economic and commercial priorities. It’s not that Juncker is a progressive: he just realizes without doing that, the anti-European parties will have an easier life. His view is of strengthening Europe as a super national entity, with the states conceding more power, for better functioning. Then there is the vision of Macron, who goes in the same direction, but from a country that has always jealously defended its national sovereignty. Yet he realizes that in this competitive world, no European country can go far, and a strong Europe is therefore necessary. Then there is Merkel’s Europe, which is basically toward a federation of countries, where decisions are taken by the states, (with Germany as the strongest), with the EU implementing them. Since Macron came to power, he has been championing the revival of the French-German entente, which is necessary for a viable Europe. Macron and the south of Europe have been asking for socialization of European revenues, so as to sustain the weakest and have a common growth, creating a European Monetary Fund to overcome crisis, a super minister of finance and economy, a common European defence and several social measures to give back faith to the European losers in Europe.

Well, this is exactly what Germany has vetoed every time. Germans do not want to share their revenues with losers. In this debate, there is a strong religious and moral argument: the protestant ethic against catholic culture of easy pardon. Greece was the field to affirm the doctrine of ordo liberalism, the German view of economics, where easy-going and lack of discipline must be punished. This was also a warning to other countries, like Italy, Spain and Portugal. The result of sanctions on Greece, which was just 4% of the European economy, is that after seven years there is at least 20% unemployment, a loss of 25% of the Greek economy, a reduction of the pensions of nearly 40%, and 20% of the population under poverty line. It should not be forgotten that a large component of the bail out loans went first to the banks (mainly German), to pay the large credits they had with the broken Greek state, and not to the citizens. And that now airports and ports are under German administration.

The face of this imposition of austerity, which is a very important component of the anti-European wind, had the face of the implacable and crippled minister of Finance, Schauble. But there was no doubt that he was pro Europe, even if of a Europe based on the German model. But now he has moved to be the President of the Parliament, to leave his place to the chairman of the FPD, the liberal party, Christian Lindner, who is an avowed anti-European. FDP is against the euro, wants Greece out of the Euro, wants a strong policy on refugees: in other words, he is much on the right. Merkel, the extremely prudent Chancellor , will certainly not be able to meet the expectations of Macron and Juncker. Europe will again be on standby. Italy will be probably run by a young PRime Minister (from the antisystem M5S) a totally untested 31 year old, who has announced that he would like to leave the Euro, and limit Brussels power. The tide against Europe has not been stopped at all, contrary to media enthusiasm.

 

Point Four: Merkel’s responsibilities

There is no doubt that the massive immigration of one million of Syrians, has given a strong weapon to Afd, and the liberals, to help them gain power. But time will prove that it was a wise decision, greeted by the German economy. Statistics show that Immigrants are model citizens, pay their taxes, and bring a net benefit to the country who receives them. Of course, we see only the story of criminals and rapists, that xenophobe parties use with success, because in difficult times to find a scapegoat is easy and convenient. But Merkel just rode the German idiosyncrasy, without doing any statist’s effort to mobilize citizens to a vision. She knows that the secret dream of Germans is to be a Swiss: no participation in the world (other than business), no experiments, no risks. She has become the embodiment of that idiosyncrasy – she is glad to be called Mutti, the mother. Other than the immigrants, she took only another risk, which was to abandon nuclear, after the disaster of Fukushima. Therefore, she did nothing to raise the awareness of the citizens on their European responsibilities. She shielded them from any sacrifice for being Europeans, refused any request by the EU, the IMF and the Wold Bank to spend the huge surplus that Germany made with intra-European trade. Her position was: we will keep the money we made with our hard work. And Schauble was just her instrument. Now, as a result of her odd coalition government she will ask the European Central Bank post for a German hawk, Jedemans, from the Bank of Germany: a good company to Christian Lindner. Dark days are coming for Europe; Merkel is the best illustration of the difference between the Germany of Bonn, run by idealist and committed politicians, with the Germany of Berlin, who is just a selfish entity, without vision. And after spending 100 billion a year, for 20 years, East Germany remains hopelessly behind, and it is where AfD took his largest share of votes.

On the night after the elections, the candidate for SPD, Martin Shultz, said looking into her eyes: Mrs Merkel, you are the great loser. You are the one responsible for the victory of AfD. Let us hope that willingly or not, Mutti will be also the one responsible for the end of the European dream.

The post Merkel’s Defeat Confirms Dismal Trend for Europe appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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To Be an Egyptian Migrant in Rome (And Also Make Great Pizza)http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/egyptian-migrant-rome-also-make-great-pizza/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=egyptian-migrant-rome-also-make-great-pizza http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/egyptian-migrant-rome-also-make-great-pizza/#respond Thu, 28 Sep 2017 12:45:19 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152276 “I asked him: do you want to come with us to Greece? He said: ‘Why not?’ So my wife and myself packed up and drove to Athens to open our ‘trattoria’ there.” Mario* (63) and his wife Concetta* (57) started telling their story while waiting for the chef to prepare three pizzas and one spaghetti […]

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Credit: IOM/Ingy Mehanna. Contributor: Christine Beshay. International Organization for Migration

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 28 2017 (IPS)

“I asked him: do you want to come with us to Greece? He said: ‘Why not?’ So my wife and myself packed up and drove to Athens to open our ‘trattoria’ there.”

Mario* (63) and his wife Concetta* (57) started telling their story while waiting for the chef to prepare three pizzas and one spaghetti carbonara for this table of four tourists coming from four different countries.

When Mario learnt that one of them—this journalist– was born in Cairo, he said, “Come with me,” and led him to the kitchen. “Here is our champion.”

The “champion” is Mahmoud*, a young Egyptian man (29) who had arrived in Italy seven years earlier and started working as a dishwasher at Mario and Concetta’s small trattoria in the Trastevere area in the heart of Rome.

“He was watching me cooking all the time. And he quickly learnt how to cook pizza, pasta and everything,” said Concetta.

“Yes, very quickly and very well,” added Mario, “so we began to rely on him when we had many clients over the weekends.”

Both Concetta, Mario, Mahmoud and this journalist are all back in Rome now. They called the journalist and met again. Having left Greece due to the financial crisis that struck the whole world around a decade ago, they have opened another trattoria. “We are now becoming old so we asked Mahmoud to run our little restaurant.”

Pizza al taglio at Trastevere in Rome. Credit: Shoebill2. Public Domain.

Mahmoud hired a young Egyptian migrant as a dishwasher and as a kitchen assistant. History might repeat itself.

Mahmoud is just one of hundreds of young Egyptian migrants in Rome who work as chefs in typical Italian restaurants. Their pizza and pasta are much appreciated by local customers, who usually pay compliments to the owners and waiters for the tasty dishes.

“Journalist”* Ahmad

But, with very few exceptions, these Egyptian pizza-makers are not cooks–just migrants who reached Rome by sea with a tourist entry visa or as part of groups of migrants smuggled to Italy.

One of them, Ahmad* (36), tells IPS that he came to Rome around ten years ago as a correspondent for an Egyptian weekly magazine. “Actually I am not a journalist. By through friends, I managed to get a letter of accreditation from that publication to facilitate the more and more complex entry visa procedures.”

“I met some Egyptians who were working in restaurants in Rome and they helped me find a good job as a waiter with a work contract that allows me to stay here legally.”

“Of course I miss Egypt and my family, but life there has become so difficult that the best way I can help them is to save as much as I can from my salary and generous tips and send money to them.”

Smuggled Osman*

Working at a trattoria in the outskirts of Rome, Osman* (41) hesitates before telling IPS that he was a victim of smugglers who cheated him, demanding 3,000 dollars to take him to Europe. He managed to borrow 2,000 dollars and promised to pay the remaining amount as soon as he found a job.

“They treated me worse than an animal taken to a slaughterhouse,” Osman told IPS. Smugglers literally “loaded me” with dozens of other Egyptians on a truck to Libya.

“From there, after five endless weeks, they loaded us on a boat to Lampedusa Island” in Italy. Civil society humanitarian organisations “helped us find jobs as fruit pickers.”

Migrants arriving on the Island of Lampedusa, Italy. Credit: Sara Prestianni / noborder network. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A Case of Tough Success

Halim* (49) has a different story. He was born in Port Said, northeast of Cairo. Italy is one of the main destinations for Egyptians in Europe, and Halim landed here during the fall of 1987, having taken a regular boat trip to Naples.

He immediately connected with others in the Egyptian community in the EUR area of Rome. “My father worked for eleven long years as a helping hand in a restaurant and then ventured into setting up his own business independently,” he told Laurent Vercken in an interview for IPS.

Halim is one of more than 100,000 migrants from Egypt who live in Italy. Like most other Egyptian migrants, he chooses to stay here rather than return to his native land. “There are no opportunities to work there and I prefer to work long hours in the kitchen that my father set up, which is giving me a better life.”

When Halim’s father passed away twelve years ago, he took on the responsibility of looking after his entire family.

It has been very hard work, with little free time spent with his loved ones. Halim soon found that running a business had serious pitfalls as well, like facing organised crime. He discovered that over the years, his father had made many undefined regular payments.

A few days after his father’s death, a couple of men came to the restaurant, pretending to buy some food. But after placing their orders, they forced him to provide a free meal and demanded cash payoffs in the future as well.

After contacting the local police station, Halim was advised to install micro-cameras and microphones inside the restaurant. “The police were then able to apprehend the thugs and have discovered a bigger network of local, organised crime groups that were taking advantage of migrant businesses,” he said.

Today, he seems older than his real age, but perhaps stronger than ever. When asked how he feels after so many years of being a migrant, he responds, “Try just to imagine that if I am not able to survive every day, who will help my family to survive?”

Unaccompanied Egyptian Children Migrating to Europe

Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)–Egypt launched its “Egyptian Unaccompanied Migrant Children:A Case Study on Irregular Migration,” designed to shed light on the irregular migration of Egyptian children to Europe.

Based on IOM counselling interviews in Egypt and Greece, the report looked at the driving forces behind unaccompanied children travelling irregularly from Egypt to Europe and their vulnerability. It also provided insights into the modus operandi and characteristics of smuggling networks operating from Egypt.

Over a million migrants arrived to Europe by sea in 2015 and some estimates suggest that up to 20 per cent of them may have been minors, the UN Migration Agency informs.

The report provides recommendations covering prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership for the development of a multidisciplinary response to address irregular migration of unaccompanied migrant children.

“The report addresses the significant information gap on the issue of irregular child migration and comes at a time where Egypt is the highest sending country of unaccompanied migrant children to Europe. We are working closely with the government to develop an integrated response and are seeking donor support,” said Amr Taha, IOM Egypt Head of Office.

Since 2011, the percentage of unaccompanied children among Egyptian irregular migrants reaching Europe has been remarkably high. In 2014, they accounted for nearly half of 4,095 irregular Egyptian migrants arriving in Italy. In 2015, Italy registered the arrival of some 1,711 Egyptian children – more than from any other country.

Migration Shaping the Middle East

Migration has long shaped the Middle East and North Africa, with countries in the region often simultaneously representing points of origin, transit and destination, says the UN migration Agency.

Demographic and socioeconomic trends, conflict and, increasingly, climate change are among the multitude of factors that influence migration dynamics in the region, IOM explains.

According to IOM, the migration context in the Middle East and North Africa can be broadly characterised as consisting of closely interrelated patterns. One of them is that forced migration and internal displacement are a result of “multiple, acute and protracted crises across the region, particularly in Iraq, Libya and the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Globalisation, conflict and instability, development differentials and –increasingly– climate change are amongst the multitude of factors that continue to influence the dynamics of human mobility in the region, says the UN specialised agency.

Question: Aren’t all these patterns and factors human-made? Being so, one wonders if perhaps governments cannot find a human-made solution other than building walls, shutting borders, and installing detention centres.

*Names of migrants have been changed to protect their identity.

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Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-understanding-economic-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/#comments Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:19:45 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152132 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Young African migrants seek opportunities abroad as the World Bank projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of this year. Last year, 5,096 deaths were recorded.

The majority – including ‘economic migrants’, victims of ‘people smugglers’, and so on – were young Africans aged between 17 and 25. The former head of the British mission in Benghazi (Libya) claimed in April that as many as a million more were already on their way to Libya, and then Europe, from across Africa.

Why flee Africa?
Why are so many young Africans trying to leave the continent of their birth? Why are they risking their lives to flee Africa?

Part of the answer lies in the failure of earlier economic policies of liberalization and privatization, typically introduced as part of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that many countries in Africa were subjected to from the 1980s and onwards. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and most Western donors supported the SAPs, despite United Nations’ warnings about their adverse social consequences.

SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow, bringing growth and prosperity. Now, a few representatives from the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions admit that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, condemning the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’.

While SAPs were officially abandoned in the late 1990s, their replacements were little better. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of the World Bank and IMF promised to reduce poverty with some modified policy conditionalities and prescriptions.

Meanwhile, the G8 countries reneged on their 2005 Gleneagles pledge to provide an extra US$25 billion a year for Africa as part of a US$50 billion increase in financial assistance to “make poverty history”.

Poor Africa

Thanks to the SAPs, PRSPs and complementary policies, Africa became the only continent to see a massive increase in poverty by the end of the 20th century and during the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals. Nearly half the continent’s population now lives in poverty.

According to the World Bank’s Poverty in Rising Africa, the number of Africans in extreme poverty increased by more than 100 million between 1990 and 2012 to about 330 million. It projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”.

The continent has also been experiencing rising economic inequality, with higher inequality than in the rest of the developing world, even overtaking Latin America. National Gini coefficients – the most common measure of inequality – average around 0.45 for the continent, rising above 0.60 in some countries, and increasing in recent years.

While the continent is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’, with more young people (aged 15-24) in its population, it has failed to generate sufficient decent jobs. South Africa, the most developed economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has a youth unemployment rate of 54%.

The real situation could be even worse. Discouraged youth, unable to find decent jobs, drop out of the labour force, and consequently, are simply not counted.

Surviving in Africa
Most poor people simply cannot afford to remain unemployed in the absence of a decent social protection system. To survive, they have to accept whatever is available. Hence, Africa’s ‘working poor’ and underemployment ratios are much higher. In Ghana, for example, the official unemployment rate is 5.2%, while the underemployment rate is 47.0%!

Annual growth rates have often exceeded 5% in many African countries in the new century. SAP and PRSP advocates were quick to claim credit for the end of Africa’s ‘lost quarter century’, arguing that their harsh policy prescriptions were finally bearing fruit. After the commodity price collapse since 2014, the proponents have gone quiet.

With trade liberalization and consequently, greater specialization, many African countries are now even more dependent on fewer export commodities. The top five exports of SSA are all non-renewable natural resources, accounting for 60% of exports in 2013.

The linkages of extractive activities with the rest of national economies are now lower than ever. Thus, despite impressive economic growth rates, the nature of structural change in many African economies have made them more vulnerable to external shocks.

False start again?
Africa possesses about half the uncultivated arable land in the world. Sixty percent of SSA’s population work in jobs related to agriculture. However, agricultural productivity has mostly remained stagnant since 1980.

With agriculture stagnant, people moved from rural to urban areas, only to find life little improved. Thus, Africa has been experiencing rapid urbanization and slum growth. According to UN Habitat, 60% of SSA’s urban population live in slums, with poor access to basic services, let alone new technologies.

Powerful outside interests, including the BWIs and donors, have been advocating large farm production, claiming it to be the only way to boost productivity. Several governments have already leased out land to international agribusiness, often displacing settled local communities.

Meanwhile, Africa’s share of global manufacturing has fallen from about 3% in 1970 to less than 2% in 2013. Manufacturing’s share of total African GDP has decreased from 16% in 1974 to around 13% in 2013. At around a tenth, manufacturing’s share of SSA’s output in 2013 is much lower than in other developing regions. Unsurprisingly, Africa has deindustrialized over the past four decades!

One cannot help but doubt how the G20’s new ‘compact with Africa’, showcased at Hamburg, can combat poverty and climate change effects, in addition to deterring the exodus out of Africa, without fundamental policy changes.

The post Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugees appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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World Hunger on the Rise Againhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/world-hunger-rise/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-hunger-rise http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/world-hunger-rise/#comments Fri, 15 Sep 2017 15:48:09 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152101 Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, a major United Nations joint report has just revealed. Hunger and under nutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak, on 15 September warned the first-ever UN report measuring progress on meeting […]

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Children drink from a tap during recess at a UNICEF supported primary school inside Bukasi internally displaced people's camp, in Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria. Credit: UNICEF/Gilbertson

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 15 2017 (IPS)

Exacerbated by climate-related shocks, increasing conflicts have been a key driver of severe food crisis and recently re-emerged famines, a major United Nations joint report has just revealed.

Hunger and under nutrition are significantly worse where conflicts are prolonged and institutional capacities weak, on 15 September warned the first-ever UN report measuring progress on meeting new international goals pegged to eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030. “After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger is on the rise again, affecting 815 million people in 2016, or 11 per cent of the global population, says a new edition of the annual report on world food security and nutrition.”“Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be business as usual”

At the same time, multiple forms of malnutrition are threatening the health of millions worldwide, it adds.

“The increase – 38 million more people than the previous year – is largely due to the proliferation of violent conflicts and climate-related shocks, according to the study.”

Addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations cannot be “business as usual,” alerts the new edition of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017, Building Resilience for Peace and Food Security.

It requires a conflict-sensitive approach that aligns actions for immediate humanitarian assistance, long-term development and sustaining peace, says this year’s report, which has been elaborated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO); the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the UN World Food Program (WFP), along with the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Key numbers

Hunger and food security


• Overall number of hungry people in the world: 815 million, including:
o In Asia: 520 million
o In Africa: 243 million
o In Latin America and the Caribbean: 42 million

• Share of the global population who are hungry: 11%
o Asia: 11.7%
o Africa: 20% (in eastern Africa, 33.9%)
o Latin America and the Caribbean: 6.6%

Malnutrition in all its forms

• Number of children under 5 years of age who suffer from stunted growth (height too low for their age): 155 million.
o Number of those living in countries affected by varying levels of conflict, ranging from South Sudan to India: 122 million

• Children under 5 affected by wasting (weight too low given their height): 52 million

• Number of adults who are obese: 641 million (13% of all adults on the planet)

• Children under 5 who are overweight: 41 million

• Number of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 613 million (around 33% of the total)

The impact of conflict

• Number of the 815 million hungry people on the planet who live in countries affected by conflict: 489 million

• The prevalence of hunger in countries affected by conflict is 1.4 - 4.4 percentage points higher than in other countries

• In conflict settings compounded by conditions of institutional and environmental fragility, the prevalence is 11 and 18 percentage points higher

• People living in countries affected by protracted crises are nearly 2.5 times more likely to be undernourished than people elsewhere

SOURCE: The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017

The Consequences

The consequences are striking—around 155 million children aged under five are stunted (too short for their age), the report says, while 52 million suffer from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height.

Meantime, an estimated 41 million children are now overweight. Anaemia among women and adult obesity are also cause for concern. These trends are a consequence not only of conflict and climate change but also of sweeping changes in dietary habits and economic slowdowns.

The report is the first UN global assessment on food security and nutrition to be released following the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 as a top international policy priority.

It singles out conflict – increasingly compounded by climate change – as one of the key drivers behind the resurgence of hunger and many forms of malnutrition.

And it sends a clear warning signal that the ambition of a world without hunger and malnutrition by 2030 will be challenging – achieving it will require renewed efforts through new ways of working.

More Chronically Undernourished People

The joint report provides estimates of the number and proportion of hungry people on the planet and includes data for the global, regional, and national levels, while offering a significant update on the shifting global milieu that is today affecting people’s food security and nutrition, in all corners of the globe.

Among other key findings, it reveals that in 2016 the number of chronically undernourished people in the world is estimated to have increased to 815 million, up from 777 million in 2015 although still down from about 900 million in 2000.

After a prolonged decline, this recent increase could signal a reversal of trends.

“The food security situation has worsened in particular in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and Western Asia, and deteriorations have been observed most notably in situations of conflict and conflict combined with droughts or floods.”

The apparent halt to declining hunger numbers is not yet reflected in the prevalence of child stunting, which continues to fall, though the pace of improvement is slower in some regions, the report warns.

Globally, the prevalence of stunting fell from 29.5 per cent to 22.9 percent between 2005 and 2016, although 155 million children under five years of age across the world still suffer from stunted growth.

Children, Stunned

According to the report, wasting affected one in twelve of all children under five years of age in 2016, more than half of whom (27.6 million) live in Southern Asia.

Multiple forms of malnutrition coexist, with countries experiencing simultaneously high rates of child undernutrition, anaemia among women, and adult obesity, t reports, adding that rising rates of overweight and obesity add to these concerns.

Levels of child stunting are still unacceptably high in some regions, and if current trends continue, the SDG target on reducing child stunting by 2030 will not be reached, according to the report.

Economic Slowdown

Another key finding is that worsening food security conditions have also been observed in more peaceful settings, especially where economic slowdown has drained foreign exchange and fiscal revenues, affecting both food availability through reduced import capacity and food access through reduced fiscal space to protect poor households against rising domestic food prices.

Credit: WHO/C. Black

“While underlining that the failure to reduce world hunger is closely associated with the increase in conflict and violence in several parts of the world, the report attempts to provide a clearer understanding of the nexus between conflict and food security and nutrition, and to demonstrate why efforts at fighting hunger must go hand-in-hand with those to sustain peace.”

Famine struck in parts of South Sudan for several months in early 2017, and there is a high risk that it could reoccur there as well as appear in other conflict-affected places, namely northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen, they reminded.

Alarm Bells

Over the past decade conflicts have risen dramatically in number and become more complex and intractable in nature, said José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General; David Beasley, WFP Executive Director; Gilbert F. Houngbo, IFAD President; Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

Some of the highest proportions of food-insecure and malnourished children are found in countries affected by conflict, a situation that is even more alarming in countries characterised by prolonged conflicts and fragile institutions.

At the site for internally displaced persons in Mellia, Chad. Credit: OCHA/Ivo Brandau

“This has set off alarm bells we cannot afford to ignore: we will not end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition,” the chiefs of the five UN agencies participating in the elaboration of the report have stated.

The five UN agencies heads also reaffirmed their determination and commitment now more than ever to step up concerted action to fulfil the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda and achieve a world free from hunger, malnutrition and poverty.

“Ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition is an ambitious goal, but it is one we strongly believe can be reached if we strengthen our common efforts and work to tackle the underlying causes that leave so many people food-insecure, jeopardizing their lives, futures, and the futures of their societies.”

In response to a question raised by IPS at a press conference held this morning to launch the report at FAO headquarters, the FAO DG da Silva emphasized that to reverse the adverse trend in the number of undernourished people, ‘we are all working together, especially in countries affected by conflict and climate change, and continuing our focus on emergencies and humanitarian issues. There are new tools available now, such as cash vouchers and food for work. Although lives were lost, we were able to pull South Sudan out of famine in three months and Somalia in six months. There is no illusion that all protracted crisis can be solved immediately’.

IFAD President Gilbert Houngbo said that ‘We should not wait for conflicts to be over. Long term investment is core to the solution, not only as seen from an agriculture perspective, but there are also issues of governance. Agriculture investment must also be combined with investment in technology and fighting food losses and creating access to markets’

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Alert: Nature, on the Verge of Bankruptcyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/alert-nature-verge-bankruptcy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alert-nature-verge-bankruptcy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/alert-nature-verge-bankruptcy/#respond Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:26:02 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152040 Pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capital, warns a new United Nations report. Consumption of the earth’s natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years, with a third of the […]

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The on-going drought in the Horn of Africa is widespread, triggering a regional humanitarian crisis with food insecurity skyrocketing, particularly among livestock-owning communities, and devastating livelihoods. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 12 2017 (IPS)

Pressures on global land resources are now greater than ever, as a rapidly increasing population coupled with rising levels of consumption is placing ever-larger demands on the world’s land-based natural capital, warns a new United Nations report.

Consumption of the earth’s natural reserves has doubled in the last 30 years, with a third of the planet’s land now severely degraded, adds the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) new report, launched on 12 September in Ordos, China during the Convention’s 13th summit (6-16 September 2017).

“Each year, we lose 15 billion trees and 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil,” the UNCCD’s report The Global Land Outlook (GLO) says, adding that a significant proportion of managed and natural ecosystems are degrading and at further risk from climate change and biodiversity loss."Land degradation also triggers competition for scarce resources, which can lead to migration and insecurity while exacerbating access and income inequalities."

In basic terms, there is increasing competition between the demand for goods and services that benefit people, like food, water, and energy, and the need to protect other ecosystem services that regulate and support all life on Earth, according to new publication.

At the same time, terrestrial biodiversity underpins all of these services and underwrites the full enjoyment of a wide range of human rights, such as the rights to a healthy life, nutritious food, clean water, and cultural identity, adds the report. And a significant proportion of managed and natural ecosystems are degrading and at further risk from climate change and biodiversity loss.

The report provides some key facts: from 1998 to 2013, approximately 20 per cent of the Earth’s vegetated land surface showed persistent declining trends in productivity, apparent in 20 per cent of cropland, 16 per cent of forest land, 19 per cent of grassland, and 27 per cent of rangeland.

These trends are “especially alarming” in the face of the increased demand for land-intensive crops and livestock.”

More Land Degradation, More Climate Change

Land degradation contributes to climate change and increases the vulnerability of millions of people, especially the poor, women, and children, says UNCCD, adding that current management practises in the land-use sector are responsible for about 25 per cent of the world’s greenhouses gases, while land degradation is both a cause and a result of poverty.

“Over 1.3 billion people, mostly in the developing countries, are trapped on degrading agricultural land, exposed to climate stress, and therefore excluded from wider infrastructure and economic development.”

Land degradation also triggers competition for scarce resources, which can lead to migration and insecurity while exacerbating access and income inequalities, the report warns.

Bandiagara, a town in the semi-arid central plateau of Mali inhabited by mainly agricultural Dogon people. Credit: UN Photo/Alejandra Carvajal

“Soil erosion, desertification, and water scarcity all contribute to societal stress and breakdown. In this regard, land degradation can be considered a ‘threat amplifier’, especially when it slowly reduces people’s ability to use the land for food production and water storage or undermines other vital ecosystem services. “

High Temperature, Water Scarcity

Meanwhile, higher temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased water scarcity due to climate change will alter the suitability of vast regions for food production and human habitation, according to the report.

“The mass extinction of flora and fauna, including the loss of crop wild relatives and keystone species that hold ecosystems together, further jeopardises resilience and adaptive capacity, particularly for the rural poor who depend most on the land for their basic needs and livelihoods.”

Our food system, UNCCD warns, has put the focus on short-term production and profit rather than long-term environmental sustainability.


Monocultures, Genetically Modified Crops

The modern agricultural system has resulted in huge increases in productivity, holding off the risk of famine in many parts of the world but, at the same time, is based on monocultures, genetically modified crops, and the intensive use of fertilisers and pesticides that undermine long-term sustainability, it adds.

And here are some of the consequences: food production accounts for 70 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals and 80 per cent of deforestation, while soil, the basis for global food security, is being contaminated, degraded, and eroded in many areas, resulting in long-term declines in productivity.

In parallel, small-scale farmers, the backbone of rural livelihoods and food production for millennia, are under immense strain from land degradation, insecure tenure, and a globalised food system that favours concentrated, large-scale, and highly mechanised agribusiness.

This widening gulf between production and consumption, and ensuing levels of food loss/waste, further accelerates the rate of land use change, land degradation and deforestation, warns the UN Convention.

Credit: UNCCD

Global Challenges

Speaking at the launch of the report, UNCCD Executive Secretary Monique Barbut said, “Land degradation and drought are global challenges and intimately linked to most, if not all aspects of human security and well-being – food security, employment and migration, in particular.”

“As the ready supply of healthy and productive land dries up and the population grows, competition is intensifying, for land within countries and globally. As the competition increases, there are winners and losers.

No Land, No Civilisation

According the Convention, land is an essential building block of civilisation yet its contribution to our quality of life is perceived and valued in starkly different and often incompatible ways.

A minority has grown rich from the unsustainable use and large-scale exploitation of land resources with related conflicts intensifying in many countries, UNCCD states.

“Our ability to manage trade-offs at a landscape scale will ultimately decide the future of land resources – soil, water, and biodiversity – and determine success or failure in delivering poverty reduction, food and water security, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.”

A Bit of History

Except for some regions in Europe, human use of land before the mid-1700s was insignificant when compared with contemporary changes in the Earth’s ecosystems, UNCCD notes, adding that the notion of a limitless, human-dominated world was embraced and reinforced by scientific advances.

“Populations abruptly gained access to what seemed to be an unlimited stock of natural capital, where land was seen as a free gift of nature.”

The scenario analysis carried out for this Outlook examines a range of possible futures and projects increasing tension between the need to increase food and energy production, and continuing declines in biodiversity and ecosystem services.

From a regional perspective, these scenarios predict that sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa will face the greatest challenges due to a mix of factors, including high population growth, low per capita GDP, limited options for agricultural expansion, increased water stress, and high biodiversity losses.

The Solution

These are the real facts. The big question is if this self-destructive trend can be reversed? The answer is yes, or at least that losses could be minimised.

On this, Monique Barbut said that the GLO report suggests, “It is in all our interests to step back and rethink how we are managing the pressures and the competition.”

“The Outlook presents a vision for transforming the way in which we use and manage land because we are all decision-makers and our choices can make a difference – even small steps matter,” she further added.

For his part, UN Development Programme Administrator Achim Steiner stated, “Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk.”

They include many of the world’s poorest and most marginalised people, he said, adding that achieving land degradation neutrality can provide a healthy and productive life for all on Earth, including water and food security.

The Global Land Outlook shows that “each of us can in fact make a difference.”

Can Mother Nature recover? The answer is a clear yes. Perhaps it would suffice that politicians pay more attention to real human real needs than promoting weapons deals — and that the big business helps replenish the world’s natural capital.

Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN)

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Europe, New Border of Africa’s ‘Great Desert’ – The Saharahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/europe-new-border-africas-great-desert-sahara/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-new-border-africas-great-desert-sahara http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/europe-new-border-africas-great-desert-sahara/#respond Tue, 05 Sep 2017 03:57:31 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151910 With the highest temperatures on record and unprecedented heat waves hitting Europe this year, Africa’s ‘Great Desert’, the Sahara, is set continue its relentless march on the Southern European countries until it occupies more than 30 per cent of Spain just three decades from now. The Sahara is the largest hot desert on Earth, covering […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 5 2017 (IPS)

With the highest temperatures on record and unprecedented heat waves hitting Europe this year, Africa’s ‘Great Desert’, the Sahara, is set continue its relentless march on the Southern European countries until it occupies more than 30 per cent of Spain just three decades from now.

The Sahara is the largest hot desert on Earth, covering more than 9,000 square kilometres, comparable to the surface of China or the United States. Called originally in Arabic “Al Sahara Al Kubra’ (the Great Desert), it comprises much of North Africa, the Atlas Mountains of the Maghreb, and the Nile Valley in Egypt and Sudan.


Land Degradation Neutrality – UNCCD

It stretches from the Red Sea in the West and the Mediterranean in the North to the Atlantic Ocean in the West, including 10 countries: Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Sudan, and Tunisia.

For its part, the European Union’s RECARE project (Preventing and Remediating degradation of soil in Europe through Land Care), estimates that 20 per cent of all Europe’s land surface is already subject to erosion rates above 10,000 hectares per year, while soil sealing (the permanent covering of soil with an impermeable material) leads to the loss of more than 1,000 sq km of productive land each year.

The European Union also reports that between 1990 and 2000, at least 275 hectares of soil were lost per day in the EU, amounting to 1,000 sq km per year. Between 2000 and 2006, the EU average loss increased by 3 per cent, but by 14 per cent in Ireland and Cyprus, and by 15 per cent in Spain.

Africa

Meantime, Africa is prey to a steady process of advancing droughts and desertification, posing one of the most pressing challenges facing the 54 African countries, home to more than 1.2 billion people.

Right now, two-thirds of Africa is already desert or dry-lands. While this land is vital for agriculture and food production, nearly three-fourths of it is estimated to be degraded.

Asia

In a parallel process, desertification manifests itself in many different forms across the vast region of Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations reports. Out of a total land area of 4.3 billion hectares reaching from the Mediterranean coast to the shores of the Pacific, Asia contains some 1.7 billion hectares of arid, semi-arid, and dry sub-humid land.

Land degradation varies across the region. There are expanding deserts in China, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, encroaching sand dunes in Syria, steeply eroded mountain slopes of Nepal, and deforested and in Laos and overgrazed in central Asia counties. In terms of the number of people affected by desertification and drought, Asia is the most severely affected continent.


#UNCCDCOP13: 6-16 September 2017, Ordos, China

In 2015, Asia-Pacific continued to be the world’s most disaster-prone region. Some 160 disasters were reported in the region, accounting for 47 per cent of the world’s 344 disasters.

The region bore the brunt of large-scale catastrophic disasters with over 16,000 fatalities — more than a two-fold increase since 2014. South Asia accounted for a staggering 64 per cent of total global fatalities — the majority was attributed to the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Nepal in April, which caused 8,790 deaths.

Latin America and the Caribbean

Meanwhile, Latin America and the Caribbean are home to some of the most biodiverse and productive ecosystems in the world, according to the World Resources Institute’s report The Restoration Diagnostic.

The region holds about half of the world’s tropical forests, and more than 30 per cent of its mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians.

But despite the region’s ecological importance, more than 200 million hectares of land has been completely deforested or degraded in the past century, an area the size of Mexico.

Summit in China

These are just some of the facts that the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) will put before the eyes of world leaders during the 13th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) in Ordos, China (6 -16 September 2017).

The Convention will also highlight to political leaders, decision makers, experts and civil society organisations participating in COP13 the fact that Africa is severely affected by frequent droughts, which have been particularly severe in recent years in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel.

And that the consequences are there: widespread poverty, hard socio-economic conditions, and many people dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods.

For many African countries, says UNCCD, fighting land degradation and desertification and mitigating the effects of drought are prerequisites for economic growth and social progress.

But not all news is bad news. In fact, increasing sustainable land management (SLM) and building resilience to drought in Africa can have profound positive impacts that reach from the local to the global level.

The UNCCD has elaborated ways how to achieve this vital objective thought its Regional Implementation Annex for Africa, which outlines an approach for addressing desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) on the African continent.

Work in Progress

Meanwhile, progress is underway. All African countries are Parties to the UNCCD and most of have developed and submitted National Action Programmes (NAPs). Also in order to facilitate cooperation on issues related to land degradation, African countries have created five Sub-Regional Action Programmes (SRAPs) and a Regional Action Programme (RAP).

The RAPs compose six thematic programme networks (TPNs) that concern integrated water management; agro-forestry; soil conservation; rangeland management; ecological monitoring and early warning systems; new and renewable energy sources and technologies, and sustainable agricultural farming systems.

Since the adoption of the UNCCD’s 10-Year Strategy, the sub-regional entities have begun aligning their action programmes to it, particularly the North, Central and Western African programmes. The other two sub-regions have already benefited from training by the UNCCD on how to align their programmes to the Strategy.

Similar actions to mitigate, halt and prevent the widespread process of advancing droughts and desertification are being implemented in all other impacted regions, and further efforts will be required. Not an easy task for decision-makers in this COP 13 in Ordos, China.

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To Be a Nigerian Migrant in Italyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/nigerian-migrant-italy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nigerian-migrant-italy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/nigerian-migrant-italy/#comments Thu, 31 Aug 2017 15:16:04 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151870 Bako* (24), a Nigerian migrant, stares at newcomers at an old, local Roman bar. Extremely polite, he asks for money. If you offer to buy him some food instead, he immediately accepts. Interviewed for IPS by Laurent Vercken, the young Nigerian migrant tells his story: originally from Kuje district, Southern province of Abuja, Nigeria, he […]

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IOM helps stranded Nigerian migrants return home from Libya. Credit: IOM

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

Bako* (24), a Nigerian migrant, stares at newcomers at an old, local Roman bar. Extremely polite, he asks for money. If you offer to buy him some food instead, he immediately accepts.

Interviewed for IPS by Laurent Vercken, the young Nigerian migrant tells his story: originally from Kuje district, Southern province of Abuja, Nigeria, he has been living in Italy since the beginning of 2013 and moved to Rome shortly later.

That year, Bako docked at Lampedusa Island from Libya after a perilous sail trip through the Mediterranean Sea and a never-ending road travel through the northern African deserts, that began in Abuja, Nigeria.

The eldest of a large family of 4 brothers and 2 sisters, Bako decided to take on him the medical expenses of his father who suffers deep-vein thrombosis affecting his right arm.

So, at the early age of 20 the young man grabbed his ID card, all the money needed for the very long and arduous, unknown trip north and left the place where he was born and where he had lived until that moment: the village of Kuje, in the Southern district of the Nigerian capital city.

“After several days spent in the Lampedusa transit camp, I managed to get to the big Italian city of Rome early in the 2013 summer, hoping for a better chance to find a job and a regular residence permit, which he finally obtained in 2015 with a validity of only one year.”

Martha, a former paediatric nurse, travels around northeast Nigeria as part of IOM’s mental health teams. She offers counselling and workshops for adults, and runs games for children. Credit: IOM

Now nearly five years after Bako had the courage to leave his home country, he has still not found a decent job to contribute financially to help his family and ensure their livelihood.

The first residence permit granted to him by the Italian Government expired in 2016.

However, Bako is still longing for a better future, trying to survive the long days, accepting small jobs of gardening or cheap casual labour while still asking for money outside a local bar on a busy street of a European capital city, which also saw a lot of its own citizens migrate in the same search for a better future.

Like most Nigerian migrants, Bako is an honest, hard worker, willing to find a decent job, no matter what kind, to help him survive and send as much money as possible to his large family and, above all, cover his father’s expensive medical treatment.

 

“Lucky” Kingsley

Another Nigerian migrant, Kingsley* (35), has had better luck. “I am happy now! Three years ago, I managed to reach Italy after a long, really dangerous voyage through Morocco and then Spain,” he tells IPS.

After two long years of working as an undocumented summer fruits collector, loader at a small moving company, street vendor of CDs and handicrafts, among other jobs, Kingsley married an Italian young woman and they now have two children and, most importantly, a permanent resident permit.

Bako and Kingsley are just two of tens of thousands of Nigerian migrants trying for better luck in Italy.

Being males, they consider themselves lucky.

Nigerian female migrants face a much worse, dramatic fate.

 

The Tragic Fate of Nigerian Migrant Women

According to credible Italian sources, around 50 per cent of Nigerian migrant women and girls –in Rome in particular and in Italy in general–, are forced by smugglers and human traffickers to work as sex slaves.

IOM helped more than 1,770 stranded Nigerian migrants return safely from Libya this year. Credit: IOM

“I know of a girl, really a baby (14 years) who has been forced to sleep with more than 20 men a day… every day,” says to IPS Esther* who has also been obliged by her raptors to work as a prostitute in Rome’s outskirts.

Joy* approaches IPS with a mix of fear that she might be reported to Italian police for being an undocumented migrant working as a prostitute, and also some hope that she could be helped to escape prostitution.

“We have being victims of many peoples: first those who convinced us in Nigeria that they would take us to Europe, safely, and find a decent job here,” she tells. “They took us with tens of other migrants in a horrible voyage to Libya.” See Migrants – The Increasingly Expensive Deadly Voyages

“There, many of us women and girls have been victims of brutal, inhumane sexual abuse on the hands of smugglers and traffickers who would sell many of us to nationals to abuse of us,” adds Joy*. See: Millions of Women and Children for Sale for Sex, Slavery, Organs…

Esther and Joy’s cases are not unique. Their plights have been documented and denounced by international humanitarian organisations and the United Nations bodies. See: African Migrant Women Face “Shocking Sexual Abuse” on Journey to Europe

Nor are theirs just a couple of isolated cases affecting migrants from their home country.

 

Nigeria, Top Nationality

It is in fact estimated that around 51 per cent of migrants worldwide are women and girls, according to a report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Italy: La Tratta di essere umani atrraversola rotta del Mediterraneo centrale” (Trafficking in human beings through the central Mediterranean route).

In the case of women, it adds, exploitation and abuse are above all sexual, representing 72 per cent of all cases, followed by labour exploitation (20 per cent).

According to IOM Italy, in 2016, the top nationality of migrants reaching the country via sea was Nigeria, with a notable increase in the number of women (11.009 compared with 5.000 in 2015) as well as of unaccompanied children, with over 3.000 compared with 900 in 2015.

It also estimates that around 80 per cent of Nigerian migrants arrived to Italy by sea in 2016 have been victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation either in Italy or in other European Union countries. Nigerian migrants women and unaccompanied children are among those at highest risk of falling prey to smugglers and traffickers.


Stranded Nigerian Migrants Return Home from Libya

The UN migration agency continues meanwhile to help stranded Nigerian migrants return home from Libya.

In just one case, it helped 172 stranded Nigerian migrants –110 women, 49 men, seven children and six infants– return home to Nigeria from Tripoli, Libya on 21 February.

“We had nothing in Nigeria – no house, no food,” explained 21-year-old Oluchi*, who together with her husband and mother decided to travel to Italy. Oluchi and her family were arrested and jailed in Libya, IOM quoted as an example.

Now, she was returning home with her son to Nigeria. “The dream of Europe is actually a nightmare,” she said.

So far in 2017, IOM Libya helped 589 stranded migrants return to their countries of origin, of whom 117 were eligible for reintegration assistance.

 

Where to Go?

Difficult question, if you only consider the fact that eight years of Boko Haram violence has forced more than 1.8 million people from their homes, leaving belongings, communities and lives behind across Nigeria’s North East.

The United Nations estimated that Boko Haram has abducted at least 4,000 girls and women in Northeast Nigeria, far exceeding the nearly 300 girls taken from their school in Chibok in 2014, sparking the UN viral #BringBackOurGirls campaign and drawing attention to the conflict.

Many say they were forced to witness killing or suffered sexual violence, the UN migration agency reports, adding that Boko Haram has also used children as suicide bombers and has forcibly recruited countless boys and men to commit violent acts.

To get a wider picture, also consider the rising social inequalities and the high youth unemployment rates in this oil-rich country of around 130 million inhabitants. Two facts that by the way are common to several other African countries who additionally suffer severe impact of climate change and man-made disasters that they have not caused.

*All migrants’ names have been changed to protect their identity.

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Why New US Cold War with Russia Nowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-us-cold-war-russia-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-us-cold-war-russia-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-us-cold-war-russia-now/#respond Wed, 09 Aug 2017 15:54:16 +0000 Vladimir Popov http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151631 Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

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Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

By Vladimir Popov
BERLIN, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

Even before the imposition of new sanctions on Russia by Donald Trump and the ongoing fuss over Russian hackers undermining US democracy, Russian-American relations had deteriorated to a level not seen since the 1950s. Why?

Vladimir Popov

Political ideology
After all, the US has fewer ideological disagreements with Russia than with the USSR. Russia now has a capitalist economy and is more democratic than the USSR. Russia is also much weaker than the USSR – its population and territory are about 60 to 80 percent of the Soviet Union, and its economic and military might has been considerably diminished, so it poses much less of a threat to the US than the USSR.
However, US rhetoric and actions towards Russia are much more belligerent now than during the 1970s, or in the 1980s, when the US imposed sanctions against the USSR after Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan. Even when President Reagan was calling the USSR ‘the evil empire’, relations did not deteriorate as much as in recent years.

Bilateral economic relations have taken a similar turn for the worse. Soviet-US trade expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, nominally increasing nearly a hundred-fold in two decades, before plateauing in the 1980s. There was some growth in the 1990s and 2000s after the USSR fell apart, but after peaking in 2011, trade has been falling.

Why did the fastest expansion of bilateral trade occur in the 1960s and 1970s? After all, the USSR was not a market economy, and also ‘communist’. By contrast, US trade growth with post-Soviet, capitalist and democratic Russia over the next two decades was modest, before actually shrinking in the last half decade.

Geopolitics?

One popular explanation is geopolitical considerations. It is argued that when a hostile power tries to expand its influence, the US, the rest of the West and hence, NATO respond strongly.

Examples cited include the Cold War in the 1950s and 1960s, and sanctions against the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The same could be said about more recent Western sanctions in response to Russian advances in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and Syria.

But the 1970s contradicts this argument. After all, the USSR was gaining ground at US expense in Indochina, the former Portuguese colonies, Nicaragua and other developing countries. Why then did détente and trade grow in the 1970s?

US as #1
The US position is not primarily determined by either ideology or geopolitics, but rather, by the changing US establishment view of the balance of power. After the devastation of the Second World War, the USSR was hardly a superpower, so the US expected to press the USSR, its erstwhile ally, into submission through the Cold War.

But the Soviet Union began closing the gap with the United States in terms of productivity, per capita income and military strength in the 1950s and 1960s. Even though its economy slowed from the mid-1960s, the USSR had caught up in many respects, enough to qualify as the other superpower. The result was détente. Although the USSR had been offering rapprochement after the Second World War, the US only accepted detente in the 1970s, as the military gap closed.

Today, the US establishment knows that the Russian economy have fallen far behind since the 1980s while its military is getting more obsolete. The strategic conclusion appears to be that Russia can be contained via direct pressure and sanctions, something unthinkable against the communist USSR in the 1970s or China today, even though China is less democratic than Russia and still led by a communist party.

Playing with fire
Economically and militarily, Russia is undoubtedly relatively much weaker today than the USSR was. But its capacity has recovered considerably in the new century from the 1990s, with modest growth reversing the economic devastation of the Yeltsin presidency.

And even if it is true that the US is now an unchallenged ‘number one’, and will remain dominant in the foreseeable future, while Russia is not only weak, but also getting relatively weaker, the current effort of pressing Russia into submission has risks.

US pressure on Russia can result in a stand-off comparable to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, which the USSR was willing to risk at that time, even though its military capability was well behind that of the US. Eventually, not only were Soviet missiles withdrawn from Cuba, a return to the status quo ante, but the US also promised not only not to invade Cuba, but also to withdraw its medium range missiles from Turkey.

True, Russia is relatively weaker today, but it still has tremendous destructive capacity. One only has to remember that North Korea, with much less military capacity, has successfully withstood US pressure for decades. However, as US economic dominance in the world has been eroding since the Second World War, and its military superiority is the main source of US advantage, the temptation will remain to use this superiority before it is eroded as well.

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Excerpt:

Vladimir Popov is a Research Director with the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin. This op-ed is based on a recent DOCRI publication (https://doc-research.org/en/).

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Alcoholism Cannot Explain Russian Mortality Spikehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/alcoholism-cannot-explain-russian-mortality-spike/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alcoholism-cannot-explain-russian-mortality-spike http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/alcoholism-cannot-explain-russian-mortality-spike/#respond Tue, 25 Jul 2017 14:42:49 +0000 Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151424 Vladimir Popov was a Senior Economics Officer in the United Nations Secretariat. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development.

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In Russia, the simultaneous increase in the total death rate, deaths due to external causes, and alcohol consumption were all driven by stress. Credit: Pavol Stracansky/IPS

By Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
MOSCOW and KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 25 2017 (IPS)

The steep upsurge in mortality and sudden fall in life expectancy in Russia in the early 1990s were the highest ever registered anywhere in recorded human history in the absence of catastrophes, such as wars, plague or famine. The shock economic reforms in the former Soviet economies after 1991 precipitated this unprecedented increase in mortality, shortening life expectancy, especially among middle-aged males.

Shock therapy
During 1987-1994, the Russian mortality rate increased by more than half, from 1.0% to 1.6%, as life expectancy fell from 70 to 64 years! Economic output fell by almost half during 1989-1998 as wealth and income inequalities as well as crime, murder and suicide rates soared.

The dramatic increase in mortality – most pronounced for middle-aged men, mostly due to cardiovascular diseases – has been explained in terms of various factors like falling real incomes, poorer nutrition, environmental degradation, the collapse of Soviet health care, and surges in alcoholism and smoking.

However, dietary changes – less meat and dairy products, yet more bread and potatoes – could not have quickly increased cardiovascular diseases.

Deterioration of health care, smoking and changes in diet would require much more time to increase mortality by so much, while increased pollution is not an acceptable explanation due to the collapse of industrial output.

While deterioration of the Russian diet, the collapse of its health care system as well as increased deaths due to accidents, murders and suicides undoubtedly contributed to increased mortality in Russia, they cannot explain the sudden magnitude of the increase. This leaves two major competing explanations for the mortality crisis – either increased alcohol consumption or heightened stress factors.

Alcoholism

The major explanation popular in the West, as it absolves the West of responsibility, attributes the mortality spike to increased alcohol consumption in the late 1980s and early 1990s after Gorbachev’s anti-alcoholism campaign.

Deaths due to alcohol poisoning are generally considered a better indicator of actual alcohol consumption as some alcohol consumed is produced illegally or smuggled into the country. Such deaths per 100,000 inhabitants increased from 10 in 1990-1991 to nearly 40 in 1994, exceeding the number of deaths due to suicide and murders.

The increased intake of alcohol can, in turn, be attributed to the lower prices of spirits in the early 1990s. But this alcohol explanation does not stand up to critical scrutiny. After all, as with most other goods, demand for alcohol is inversely related to price and positively to personal income and spending capacity.

First, during some periods, per capita alcohol consumption and death rates moved in opposite directions, e.g., alcohol consumption rose or remained stable during 2002-2009, while death rates – also due to external causes, accidents, murders, suicides and poisoning – fell.

Second, per capita alcohol consumption levels in the 1990s were equal to or lower than in the early 1980s, whereas the total death rate increased by over half and deaths due to external causes doubled!

Although strongly correlated with the mortality rate, higher alcohol consumption was not an important independent cause, but also exacerbated by the same stress factors as the mortality rate itself.

The simultaneous increase in the total death rate, deaths due to external causes, and alcohol consumption were thus all driven by another factor, namely stress.

Stress
What were these sources of increased stress and why did they increase premature deaths? Stress factors due to the economic ‘shock therapy’ following the demise of the Soviet Union are associated with the rise in unemployment, labour mobility, migration, divorce, wealth, and income inequalities.

A stress index incorporating these variables turns out to be a surprisingly good predictor of changes in life expectancy in post-communist economies, especially in the Russian Federation.

The evidence shows that many men in their 40s and 50s – who had lost their jobs or had to move to another job and/or another region, or experienced increases in inequalities in their country/region, or had divorced their wives – were more likely to die prematurely in the 1990s.

To reiterate, the Russian mortality crisis of the 1990s was mainly due to the shock economic reforms that led to mass, especially labour dislocations, much greater personal and family economic insecurity and sharp increases in inequalities. The resulting dramatic rise in stress factors was therefore mostly responsible for the sharp rise in mortality.

The post Alcoholism Cannot Explain Russian Mortality Spike appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Vladimir Popov was a Senior Economics Officer in the United Nations Secretariat. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development.

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