Inter Press Service » Europe http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 27 May 2016 11:54:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.11 The Humanitarian Clock Is Ticking, The Powerful Feign Deafnesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 13:07:50 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145314 Among the issues discussed was how the humanitarian sector could improve protection of civilians from violence. Jan Egelend, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council and is also the Special Advisor to Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said that the international community needs to “blacklist” any group or Government that bombs civilians and civilian targets. Pictured, Baharka IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: OCHA/Brandon Bateman

Among the issues discussed was how the humanitarian sector could improve protection of civilians from violence. Jan Egelend, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council and is also the Special Advisor to Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said that the international community needs to “blacklist” any group or Government that bombs civilians and civilian targets. Pictured, Baharka IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: OCHA/Brandon Bateman

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 26 2016 (IPS)

The humanitarian clock is now ticking away faster than ever, with over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people in dire need of assistance. But the most powerful, richest countries—those who have largely contributed to manufacturing it and can therefore stop it, continue to pretend not hearing nor seeing the signals.

The World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, May 23-24) represented an unprecedented effort by all United Nations bodies who, along with member countries, hundreds of non-governmental aid organisations, and the most concerned stakeholders, conducted a three-year long consultation process involving over 23,000 stakeholders, that converged in Istanbul to portray the real½ current human drama.

Led by the UN, they put on the table a “Grand Bargain” that aims to get more resources into the hands of people who most need them, those who are victims of crises that they have not caused. The WHS also managed to gather unanimous support to Five Core Responsibilities that will help alleviate human suffering and contribute to preventing and even ending it.

Around 9,000 participants from 173 countries, including 55 heads of state or government, and hundreds of key stakeholders attending the Summit, have unanimously cautioned against the current growing human-made crises, while launching strong appeals for action to prevent such a “humanitarian bomb” from detonating anytime soon.

In spite of all that, the top leaders of the Group of the seven most industrialised countries (G 7), and of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, have all stayed away from this first-ever Humanitarian Summit, limiting their presence to delegations with lower ranking officials.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the Summit as a “turning point” that has “set a new course” in humanitarian aid. “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another,” Ban said. Photo: UNOCHA

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the Summit as a “turning point” that has “set a new course” in humanitarian aid. “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another,” Ban said. Photo: UNOCHA


Although several UN officials reiterated that it was not about a pledging conference but the fact is that massive funds are badly needed to start alleviating the present human suffering which, if allowed to grow exponentially as feared, would cause a human drama of incalculable consequences.

The notable absence of the top decision-makers of the most powerful and richest countries sent a strong negative signal with a frustrating impact on the humongous efforts the UN has displayed to prepare for the Istanbul Summit and mobilise the world’s human conscious– let alone the millions of the most vulnerable who are prey to human dramas they are not responsible for creating.

In fact, most of world’s refugee flows are direct results of wars not only in Afghanistan and Iraq—both subject to vast military operations by coalitions led by the biggest Western powers (G 7), but also a result of on-going armed conflicts in Yemen (also with the support of the US and Europe), and Syria where the Security Council permanent member states, except China, have been proving weapons to the parties involved in this long six-year war.

Other victims of the current humanitarian drama are “climate refugees”, those who flee death caused by unprecedented droughts, floods and other disasters resulting from climate change, which is largely caused by the most industrialised countries.

The sole exception was German chancellor Angela Merkel who addressed the Summit, though she reportedly went to Istanbul to meet Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan to try to alleviate the growing tensions between Ankara and the European Union, who accuse each other of not fulfilling the refugee deportation deal they sealed in March.

In fact, the EU-Ankara deal is about deporting to Turkey all asylum seekers and also migrants arriving in Europe mainly through Turkish borders, once the European Union announced last year its readiness to host them but decided later½ to flinch. In simple words, the deal simply transforms Turkey into a huge “deposit” of millions fleeing wars and other human-made disasters.

In exchange, Ankara should receive from the EU 3 billion euro a year to help shelter and feed the 3 million refugees who are already there. The EU also promised to authorise the entry of Turkish citizens to its member countries without visa.

At a press briefing at the end of the Summit, Erdogan launched veiled warnings to the EU that if this bloc does not implement its part of the refugees deal, the Turkish Parliament may not ratify it.

In other words, Turkey would not only stop admitting “returnees”, i.e. refugees repatriated by Europe, but would even open its borders for them—and other millions to come and go to EU countries. The “human bomb” is therefore ticking at the very doors of Europe.

That said, the Istanbul Summit has set us on a new course. “It is not an end point, but a turning point,” said the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the closing session.

Governments, people affected by crisis, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, UN agencies and other partners came together and expressed their support for the Agenda for Humanity, and its five Core Responsibilities, Ban added.

“Implementing this agenda is a necessity, if we are to enable people to live in dignity and prosperity, and fulfil the promise of last year’s landmark agreements on the Sustainable Development Agenda and Climate Change.”

Ban stressed that humanitarian and development partners agreed on a new way of working aimed at reducing the need for humanitarian action by investing in resilient communities and stable societies.

Aid agencies and donor governments committed to a ‘Grand Bargain’ that will get more resources into the hands of people who need them, at the local and national level, said Ban.

Unfortunately, when funding is sparse, the UN and partners have to reprioritize preventive and resilience-building actions to aid emergencies. In Sudan, women line up to receive food at the Tawilla site for newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Jebel Marra in Darfur. Assisting those urgent needs meant less funding for a nutrition project in Khartoum. Photo: OCHA

Unfortunately, when funding is sparse, the UN and partners have to reprioritize preventive and resilience-building actions to aid emergencies. In Sudan, women line up to receive food at the Tawilla site for newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Jebel Marra in Darfur. Assisting those urgent needs meant less funding for a nutrition project in Khartoum. Photo: OCHA


“And Governments committed to do more to prevent conflict and build peace, to uphold international humanitarian law, and live up to the promise of the Charter of the UN, he added. “I hope all member states will work at the highest level to find the political solutions that are so vital to reduce humanitarian needs around the world.”

According to Ban, ”Together, we launched a ground-breaking charter that places people with disabilities at the heart of humanitarian decision-making; a platform on young people in crises; and commitments to uphold the rights of women and girls in emergencies and protect them from gender-based violence.”

Ban also announced that in September this year he will report to the UN General Assembly on the Summit’s achievements, and will propose “ways to take our commitments forward through intergovernmental processes, inter-agency forums and other mechanisms.”

The WHS Chair’s Summary: Standing up for Humanity: Committing to Action issued at the end of the Summit states that “civil strife and conflicts are driving suffering and humanitarian need to unprecedented levels and serious violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of international human rights law continue on an alarming scale with entire populations left without essential supplies they desperately need.”

It adds that natural disasters, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, are affecting greater numbers of women, men and children than ever before, eroding development gains and jeopardising the stability of entire countries.

“At the same time we have been unable to generate the resources to cope with these alarming trends, and there is a need for more direct predictable humanitarian financing,” the statement warns.

“The Summit has brought to the forefront of global attention the scale of the changes required if we are to address the magnitude of challenges before us. The participants have made it emphatically clear that humanitarian assistance alone can neither adequately address nor sustainably reduce the needs of over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

A new and coherent approach is required based on addressing root causes, increasing political diplomacy for prevention and conflict resolution, and bringing humanitarian, development and
peace-building efforts together, it adds.

“Global leaders recognized the centrality of political will to effectively prevent and end conflicts, to address root causes and to reduce fragility and strengthen good governance. Preventing and resolving conflicts would be the biggest difference leaders could make to reduce overwhelming humanitarian needs. Humanitarian action cannot be a substitute for political action.”

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Humanitarian Summit, The Big Fiascohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 18:44:42 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145286 UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 24 2016 (IPS)

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) held in Istanbul on May 23-24, managed to send a strong wake-up call to the world about the unprecedented human suffering now in course, but failed to achieve the objective of attracting the massive funds needed to alleviate the humanitarian drama, as none of the leaders of the Group 7 of the richest courtiers nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council attended, with the exception of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At the summit’s closing session, while recalling that the WHS achieved its main objective of addressing the conscious of the world towards the growing human drama, both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed strong “disappointment” on the absence of leaders of the most powerful countries.

Though they reiterated their appeal for solidarity to rescue the most vulnerable people on Earth–130 million victims of conflicts and natural disasters and growing, none of them could hold out or offer any hope soon.

“Their absence (G-7 and Security Council leaders) is not an excuse for inaction,” Ban said. The resources required to rescue the lives of tens of millions of human beings represent only 1 per cent of the total world military expenditure, he added.

Ban showed no signs of optimism regarding an end soon of conflicts in Syrian, Yemen, South Sudan, among others, while recalling that every year the United Nations organised a pledging conference and “countries are tired of that.” He also stressed that currently 80 per cent of the UN humanitarian resources are spent on made-made crises.

For his part, Erdogan reiterated veiled threats to the European Union (EU), saying that if this bloc does not fulfil its agreements with Ankara, the “law of returnees” (refugees deported from EU countries to Turkey) may not be passed at the Turkish Parliament.

The EU promised Turkey 3.000 billions in 2017, to add to an equal sum promised last year, in its refugees deportation deal with Ankara, sealed in March.

The EU also is to authorise the entry to its member countries without visa. Nevertheless, thus authorisation will not be implemented soon as promised, as the EU now demands that Turkey fulfils a long list of requirements.

A Foretold Political Failure
During the two-day summit, leaders of 173 countries, including 55 heads of state or government, promised to do more for the 130 million civilians who are victims of conflicts and natural disasters.
Nevertheless, the community of humanitarian organisations have shown scepticism about½ such announcements that would end up in effective commitments and if the expected funds will be employed in the right way.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a leading humanitarian organisation with over 5000 humanitarian workers across more than 25 countries, was one of the strongest voices in this regard.

The humanitarian sector is failing to protect civilians from violence, Egeland said, while commenting how humanitarian aid has to be more efficient and cost-effective not to fail those most in need.

According to Egeland, humanitarian assistance does not reach thousands of victims who are among the most vulnerable of all. “In Fallujah, Iraq, there are now over 50,000 civilians who are besieged, prey to the Islamic State (IS), Engeland cited as an example.

“Nobody is helping them, nobody is reaching them, he warned. The Iraqi government is not helping them, the humanitarian organisations cannot reach them.”

There are thousands of victims like them who are in dire need but are not reached. In Yemen, Engeland said, there are 20 million civilians among the most vulnerable, while stressing that coalitions supported by Western countries are attacking civilians.

Egeland expressed hope that leaders can ask themselves if they can at least stop giving arms, giving money to those armed groups that are systematically violating the humanitarian law, and bombing hospitals and schools, abusing women and children.

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Fighting parties, be they governmental or militias or opposition or rebels, still get weapons that they use to blow up hospitals and kill civilians, he warned. “Let’s blacklist that armed group and that army and that government.”

“We lack governments saying they will also uphold humanitarian law and the UN refugee convention, keeping borders open and keeping the right of asylum sacrosanct,” Egeland added.

The NSC Secretary General emphasised that “all borders should be open… in Europe, in the Gulf states… in the United States. “As Europeans, when we initiated the refugee convention we really felt that asylum was important when we were the asylum seekers. Why don’t we think it’s equally important now, when we are those to whom people come for asylum?”

From 2011 to 2013, he was the Europe Director of Human Rights Watch, prior to joining NRC where he took up his post as Secretary General in August 2013. In 2006, Time magazine named Jan Egeland one of the 100 “people who shape our world.”

“More resources are sorely needed… but more resources will not solve the problem,” said for his part Francesco Rocca, Vice-President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Speaking on behalf of 190 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Rocca demanded more support to strengthening national and local actors, who are key to the solution.

“Strengthening local and national capacity would have an impact,” he said “Yet, scant resources have been channelled though those key local actors or invested in their long-term capacities.”

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, warned, “the less we help in conflict zones, the more people will move,” and that “sticking people in camps is not the solution.”

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Humanitarian Summit: Too Big to Fail?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:14:27 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145254 A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

With a line up of heads of state or government telling all what they did to alleviate human suffering and promising to do more, along with leaders of civil society and humanitarian
organisations denouncing lack of honest political will to act while governments continue spending trillions of dollars in weapons, the two-day World Humanitarian Summit kicked off today May 23 in Istanbul.

In fact, while the United Nations reports that the international community spends today around 25 billion dollars to provide live-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). estimates world’s military expenditure in 2015 was over 1.6 trillion dollars.

“Never mind–this Summit is too important to fail,” a high-ranking Asian diplomat on condition of anonymity said to IPS. “The leaders of the richest countries, especially in Europe and the Gulf Arab states, are perfectly aware of the magnitude of the humanitarian challenges facing them,” the diplomat added.

“Some of them will be sincerely sensitive to human suffering; others will be more concerned with their ‘political’ peace of mind… Most industrialised countries, in particular in Europe, are eager that the humanitarian crises are dealt with and solved out of and beyond their borders.”

It is about the fear that this unprecedented crisis, if it grows exponentially as predicted, would inevitably lead to more conflicts and more instability affecting their [those leaders] political and economic welfare, according to the diplomat.

In this regard, the facts before the 5,500 participants in this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit are that over the last years conflicts and natural disasters have led to fast-growing numbers of people in need and a funding gap for humanitarian action of an estimated 15 billion dollars, according to UN estimates.

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

“This is a lot of money, but not out of reach for a world producing 78 trillion dollars of annual Gross Domestic Product,” says the report of a UN promoted high-level panel on humanitarian financing. “Closing the humanitarian financing gap would mean no one having to die or live without dignity for the lack of money,” it adds.

The report addressing the humanitarian financing gap, says that this “would be a victory for humanity at a time when it is much needed.

As part of the preparations for the WHS, the UN Secretary-General had appointed a nine-person panel of experts to work on finding solutions about this widening financial gap.

The panel identified–and examined three important and inter-dependent aspects of the humanitarian financing challenge: reducing the needs, mobilising additional funds through either traditional or innovative mechanisms, and improving the efficiency of humanitarian assistance.

The report is also relevant in the context of adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It states that only by focusing the world’s attention on the rapidly growing numbers of people in desperate need will we be able to achieve the SDGs.

The panel recognises that the best way to deal with growing humanitarian needs is to address their root causes. “This requires a strong determination at the highest level of global political leadership to prevent and resolve conflicts and to increase investment in disaster risk reduction.”

“Because development is the best resilience-builder of all, the panel believes that the world’s scarce resources of official development assistance (ODA) should be used where it matters most—in situations of fragility,” the report concludes.

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Humanitarian Summit Aims to Mobilise Up to 30 Billion Dollarshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 09:08:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145245 Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

The two-day World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), opening today May 23 in Istanbul, aims at mobilising between 20 and 30 billion dollars to face the on-gowing, worst-ever humanitarian crises, said Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs andEmergency Relief Coordinator.

“Let us not underestimate the gravity of what lies before us in these coming days: A once in a generation opportunity to set in motion an ambitious and far-reaching agenda to change the way that we alleviate, and most importantly prevent, the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people,” O’Brien added in an interview with IPS.

Asked about most civil society organisations increasing concern that the financial resources the WHS is aiming to moblise would come at the very cost of current, already extremely short funding to longer-term objectives, such as the sustainable development goals, O’Brien said, “Not at all; we expect the international community fo be more generous.”

The Istanbul Summit is both about fresh thinking and building on the best, and the change that’s necessary to deliver for our fellow men and women who need us most, said O’Brien.

“Disasters, both man-made and natural, are becoming more frequent, more complex and more intense. More than 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and violence. At this summit, humanitarian partners around the world will commit to take concrete action to address this,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliassonin at a press conference on the eve of the Istanbul Summit.

The United Nations estimates that more than 130 million people are in need of assistance and protection across the world today.

Every year, humanitarian needs continue to grow and more people need more help for longer periods of time. This also drives up the costs of delivering life-saving assistance and protection. UN-led appeals have grown six-fold from 3.4 billion dollars in 2003 to nearly 21 billion dollars today.

Representatives of 177 countries, including 68 heads of state and governments, and crises-affected communities, civil society organisations, the private sector and UN agencies attend this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.

The WHS follows an extensive global consultation with 23,000 stakeholders world-wide to identify the key humanitarian challenges of our time.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General laid out the United Nations’ vision for the Summit in an Agenda for Humanity focusing on a set of core commitments: to prevent and end conflicts; uphold the norms that safeguard humanity; leave no one behind; change people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need; and invest in humanity.

In addition to the Summit’s plenary sessions starting May 23, series high-level leaders’ round tables are scheduled on: Leaders’ Segment for Heads of States and Governments on day one.

The Leaders’ Segment will discuss the five core responsibilities of the Agenda for Humanity.

These five core responsibilities are: one, Political Leadership to Prevent and End Conflict; two, Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity; three, Leave No One Behind; four, Change People’s Lives – from Delivering Aid to Ending Need; and five, Invest in Humanity.

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Africa: Resolved to Address African Problems Using African Solutionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 17:31:28 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145238 Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission.

Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission.

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey , May 22 2016 (IPS)

The African Union (AU) representing 54 countries and home to 1,2 billion inhabitants, will be in Istanbul to participate in the May 23-24, 2016, first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) with two key demands—that the international humanitarian system be redefined, and a strong, firm own commitment to itself, to the continent and its people, anchoring on the primacy of the states.

In an interview with IPS on the eve of the WHS, the Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission, Olabisi Dare said “All the key concerns that the AU will be raising at the World Humanitarian Summit is that there is a need for the redefinition of the international humanitarian system; this redefinition should take the form of a reconfiguration of the system.”

The Nigerian career diplomat and international civil servant with over 27 years international field and desk experience in Asia, Africa, Europe and America, added that the requested redefinition “should take the form of a reconfiguration of the system, it being understood that the existing system which is predicated on the UN Resolution 46 182 is to say the least not being faithfully implemented.”

It is therefore in this context that the African Union is going to Istanbul with its own commitments to itself, that is its own commitment to the continent and its people and one of the key things of this commitment is to anchor on the primacy of the states itself, “the State has the primary responsibility to its own people to satisfy their needs and to take care of their vulnerabilities,” said Olabisi.

“We look at these in several forms:

  1. The African Union feels the State has to play the primary role of coordinating any and all humanitarian action that may take place within its territory; the States have in their efforts to alleviate the needs of its people; the States have also to maintain humanitarian space and have a responsibility to guarantee the safety of both the humanitarian workers and humanitarian infrastructure.
  2. We note that the State has the capability and capacity in key areas like use of military assets in assisting humanitarian action–a key  example is the use of military forces in Liberia and other acted countries the military was deployed to serve as the first line of defense to combat the spread of the disease.

That said, Olabisi remarked “We can’t over-emphasise the role of the State in ensuring that humanitarian action and relief is dispensed in an effective manner and we see that this in itself will effect humanitarian action more readily on the continent.”

“Africa however is resolved to begin addressing its own problems using African solutions to African problems.“ - Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission
Asked what are the African needed solutions that the AUC brings to the WHS, Olabisi, who was also senior Political/Humanitarian Affairs Officer at the African Union Mission in Liberia, with extensive experience in various aspects peace-building in a post conflict environment, including serving on the Technical Support Team to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, reaffirmed “The African Union will make proposals in terms of what it considers as the reconfiguration of the International Humanitarian systems.”

“Part of the solution is that there is a need for governments to play the primary role and a greater coordination role in order to fulfill the attributes of state in terms of its predictive and responsive nature and other attributes and this in itself is as part of what Africa has committed  to do and if this find its way to the Secretary General’s report as part of the recommendation, this would be very good.”

Olabisi, who was involved in the return and rehabilitation programme of over 300,000 Liberian refugees from across the West Africa sub-region, added “We are also going to call for the re-engineering of resolution 46182 Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian emergency assistance of the United Nations to reflect  Africa’s views, to reflect the need to elevate the role of the state primarily to be to deliver to its people.”

The Resolution 46182 that Olabisi refers to, was adopted in 1991, setting as “Guiding Principles” that humanitarian assistance is of cardinal importance for the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies and must be provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality.

Guiding Principle 3 clearly states, “The sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States must be fully respected in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. In this context, humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country and in principle on the basis of an appeal by the affected country.”

“Each State has the responsibility first and foremost to take care of the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies occurring on its territory. Hence, the affected State has the primary role in the initiation, organization, coordination, and implementation of humanitarian assistance within its territory,” states also the Guiding Principle 4.

And Guiding Principle 9 stresses, “There is a clear relationship between emergency, rehabilitation and development. In order to ensure a smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation and development, emergency assistance should be provided in ways that will be supportive of recovery and long-term development. Thus, emergency measures should be seen as a step towards long-term development.”

Common African Position (CAP). Courtsey of the African Union Commission

Common African Position (CAP). Courtsey of the African Union Commission

For its part, Guiding Principle 10 stresses, “Economic growth and sustainable development are essential for prevention of and preparedness against natural disasters and other emergencies. Many emergencies reflect the underlying crisis in development facing developing countries.

“Humanitarian assistance should therefore be accompanied by a renewal of commitment to economic growth and sustainable development of developing countries,” it adds. ”In this context, adequate resources must be made available to address their development problems.”

“Contributions for humanitarian assistance should be provided in a way which is not to the detriment of resources made available for international cooperation for development,” says Guiding Principle 11.

Obalisi then recalled “When you look at the Common African Position (CAP) [on the post 2015 development agenda], you find  that the first pillar speaks to the privacy of the state; all the other 9 pillar speak the same in one form or another.”

Africa will be calling on itself to be able to deliver more on resources and allocate more resources to humanitarian action, he added. “This is because it is mindful of the fact that the resource portals are dwindling from the north.”

Asked what are the outcomes that Africa would most expect from the WHS, Olabisi said that Africa expects the guarantee that international humanitarian system will be reconfigured to conform with new demands and address the issues faced by the humanitarian system at the moment – one of the main outcome the Summit will deliver.

“Africa is making these commitments to itself-due to the non-binding nature of the summit. The commitments Africa has made go beyond the WHS whether the summit is binding or not it will not affect what Africa is committed to, in its own self-interest and this is one of the key recommendations we will be taking to WHS.”

He stressed that Africa’s commitments are not to the WHS but the Summit “gives us an opportunity to discuss a paradigm shift in terms of the way we do things in the humanitarian field in Africa and also to see that we can positively add to the mitigation and alleviation of the sufferings of our people when disasters and displacements occur.”

“One of the key things to note is that Africa will go ahead with its own commitments, “our resolve to come up with something that is workable, pragmatic, and something that will make us see ourselves in a light that puts us in a position to help ourselves despite the grand bargain on Africa being shut out of the whole system,” Olabisi emphasised.

“Africa however is resolved to begin addressing its own problems using African solutions to African problems.“

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‘We Cannot Keep Jumping from Crisis to Crisis’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/we-cannot-keep-jumping-from-crisis-to-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-cannot-keep-jumping-from-crisis-to-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/we-cannot-keep-jumping-from-crisis-to-crisis/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 15:04:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145208 Josefina Stubbs, IFAD's Chief Development Strategist, visits an IFAD-funded program in Guatemala’s Verapaces region, Arminda Cruz. The micro-irrigation project is improving the livelihoods and food security of thousands of smallholder farmers, especially women, in the country. Credit: IFAD

Josefina Stubbs, IFAD's Chief Development Strategist, visits an IFAD-funded program in Guatemala’s Verapaces region, Arminda Cruz. The micro-irrigation project is improving the livelihoods and food security of thousands of smallholder farmers, especially women, in the country. Credit: IFAD

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 20 2016 (IPS)

“We cannot keep jumping from crisis to crisis. We have to invest in long-term development that helps people cope with shocks so that they can continue to grow enough food for their communities and not require emergency aid.”

With this clear warning, Josefina Stubbs, Chief Strategist of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has just launched a strong message for leaders who will gather at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey next week.

Recalling that more than 60 million people across the world are reeling from the drought caused by the weather phenomenon known as El Niño, Stubbs warns, “The demand for emergency assistance cannot keep up with the supply.”

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Climate change is causing more extreme weather events and natural disasters resulting in an average displacement of 22.5 million people a year – equivalent to 62,000 people every day, says IFAD.

This movement of people can lead to local and regional instability. And when people are pushed away from rural areas and farming, it can threaten the food security of entire countries, it adds.

“Poor people in developing countries are disproportionately affected by disasters because they do not have the resources to cope with the impacts and bounce back,” says IFAD’s Associate Vice-President and Chief Strategist.

People Are Not waiting for Hand-Outs

“These people are not waiting for hand-outs. They are looking for opportunities to keep earning incomes even in the face of disasters. Our focus should be on creating these opportunities.”

The current El Niño drought has had a catastrophic effect on crops around the world causing almost 32 million people in southern Africa alone to go hungry.

“This number is expected to rise to 49 million by the end of the year. The UN estimates that at least 3.6 billion dollars is required to meet emergency needs resulting from this drought. Less than half of this has been provided.”

Ethiopia is the worst hit in Africa, with 75 per cent of its harvests lost and emergency food assistance required for at least ten million people. IFAD has been working with small-scale farmers in the country for more than a decade to make them more resilient to the impacts of drought.

With investments in irrigation, water-harvesting techniques and early warning systems, and training in sustainable water usage, none of these communities have required any food aid during the current drought, says this UN agency, which since 1978 has provided about 17.7 billion dollars in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 459 million people.

“At IFAD we have seen that building resilience to disasters does work and saves communities from suffering,” says Stubbs. “But there has to be a global commitment to invest in long-term development.”

Changing Climate, Scarcity of Natural Resources

“The changing climate and the increasing scarcity of natural resources are also impacting the already precarious situation of the estimated 60 million people who have been forcibly displaced by conflict.”

Long-term investments are urgently needed to stimulate the economies of the rural areas of host countries where the majority of refugees live.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialised United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub. It invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience.

The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit takes place on 23 and 24 May and originates from a growing concern about the protracted nature of recent humanitarian crises and the limited capacity of the global community to respond to them.

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Some 6,000 world leaders and humanitarian and development agencies will gather in Istanbul to make commitments to help countries better prepare for and respond to crises.

“Human suffering from the impacts of armed conflicts and disasters has reached staggering levels,” the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, portrayed the current humanitarian drama, explaining why the UN has decided to hold the WHS.

For his part, in an interview to IPS, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), Stephen O’Brien, said “Every humanitarian crisis is inherently unique and context-specific.”

“However, taken together, there are 125 million people in need of aid in the world today as a result of conflicts and natural disasters and over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced. These are the highest numbers we have on record since WWII,” O’Brien told IPS.

It is not about one humanitarian crisis, but multiple crises happening at the same time, from the crisis in Syria and the region to the impact of El Niño, which currently affects 60 million people in the world, O’Brien said.

Herve Verhoosel, WHS spokesperson, wrote in an editorial for IPS “We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.”

More than 20 billion dollars is needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts. Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030,” Verhoosel stressed.

Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before, he wrote, and added, “The situation has hit home. We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters.”

“We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards. We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.”

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China’s Silk Geopoliticshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/chinas-silk-geopolitics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chinas-silk-geopolitics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/chinas-silk-geopolitics/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 12:18:25 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145203 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]> The modern Silk Road linking East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. www.bulwarkreview.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

The modern Silk Road linking East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. www.bulwarkreview.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, May 20 2016 (IPS)

China is changing world geography, or at least trying to do so.

Not in the sense of land and water like the Netherlands, but in the sense of weaving new infrastructures on land, on water, in the air, and on the web.

It is not surprising that a country with some Marxist orientation would focus politics on infrastructure–but as means of transportation-communication, not as means of production.

Nor is it surprising that a country with a Daoist worldview focuses politics on totalities, on holons and dialectics, forces and counter-forces, trying to tilt balances in China’s favor. How this will work depends on the background, and its implications.

Two recent books, Valerie Hansen, Silk Road: A New History (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Knopf, 2015) see them as arteries connecting the world, globalization, before that term became a la mode. Not that loads of goods moved all the way in both directions, parts of the way, maybe further. Europe had much less to offer in return; however:

“Viking traders from–Norway–coarse, suspicious men, by Arab account–were moving down the great rivers of Russia–trading honey, amber and slaves–as early as the ninth century–returning home to be buried with the silks of Byzantium and China beside them”. (Frankopan)

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

The Silk Roads–so named by the German geographer von Richthofen in 1877–connected China and Europe (Istanbul) over land from -1200; more precisely from Xi’an to Samarkand by a northern and southern road (Hansen for maps). And the Silk Lanes connected East China and East Africa (Somalia) from +500 till +1500 (when Portuguese-Spanish and English naval expansion started a Western takeover by colonization).

For long periods run by Buddhists in the East and Muslims in the West; Islam using them to expand, from Casablanca to the Philippines. Frankopan sees the high points in the Han dynasty (-207-220, capital Xi’an for West Han), the Tang dynasty (618-902, capital mainly Xi’an) and under Mongolian, Yuan rule–for goods, ideas, faiths, inventions.

Xi’an, 3,000 years old, served as a starting point, both for Silk Roads and for the Silk Lanes, traveling the Yangzi River, or over land, to the East China Sea coast. Till the military uprising against the Tang emperor in 755 (Hansen, Ch. 5, “The Cosmopolitan Terminus on the Silk Road”); but Xi’an is destined always to play major roles.

China is now reviving the past, adding Silk Railroads from East China to Madrid via Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany-France, to Thailand, from East to West Africa–from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic–from North to South Africa. Silk Flights. And Silk Web.

A silky cocoon is being woven, by worms in China. Too much?

Two features stand out in this approach to geopolitics.

First, weaving together Eurasiafrica, three “continents” by old-fashioned geography. Second, leaving out the other two “continents”, separated by oceans from Eurasiafrica: the Americas, Australia-NZ.

However, South-South-South trade opens lanes to Latin America-Caribbean from West Africa, and Australia-New Zealand are much closer to China than to their colonial origins in England. That leaves us with Anglo-America, USA-Canada, isolated by two oceans that served as their protection, really left out of silky road and lane nets.

USA does not like that, hence a “pivot” to Asia, based on alliances and TPP. With some major differences: China builds on a millennia old tradition, the USA on one and half century since Perry “opened up” East Asia. China’s domination in “their” Himalayas-Gobi-Tundra-Sea “pocket” is millennia old; U.S. massive killing in Korea and Vietnam is recent; fresh in people’s memory.

However, the key difference is between U.S. “everybody but China” policy and China’s silk nets open to everybody. Roads, railroads, lanes, flights are two-way. Chinese goods move on China-built infrastructure available to others as well. Prognosis: states in East Asia will play on both, thereby favoring China more than USA.

Is this possible, with the USA trying to replace Russia in India; playing on China-India conflicts that they, since Zhou Enlai-Nehru, have been good at solving?

Nepal, with long borders to both, tilting toward China, given Indian domination and boycott?

Mongolia, friendly to both Russia and China, making little space for USA?

And 10 ASEAN states in the Southeast that, given the composition have to be friends with all?

There is much (Southern) China in ASEAN; Singapore, as minorities, and culturally–in something for good reasons once called “Indo-China”. We get ASEAN+, and +, playing on all horses.

There is a message in this to the Big Powers, to China and USA, India and Russia: do not press, do not demand exclusive allegiance; offer positive services. China’s silk diplomacy is nonviolent; its defense of what China sees as old patterns to be revived is not. No longer massive People’s Liberation Army defensive defense; with “modern”, provocative arms.

And there is a message to the smaller powers: choose both, even all four; leaning toward one will mobilize the worst in the other(s).

How does this tally with silk diplomacy? Quite well, except for South China Sea. China did not colonize along Silk roads and lanes, nor chinize. Japan japanized rather than colonized and–as opposed to China–fought Western colonialism. Silk nets open for huge tourism and trade both ways, weaving continents together when demand meets supply; that may take some time.

Nevertheless, the symmetry built into Silk diplomacy makes negotiated conflict solutions, and even a (North) East Asian Community, possible. U.S. asymmetry rules out both.

In the South China Sea U.S. demands “freedom of navigation” for U.S. aircraft carriers right off China’s coast, ASEAN has navy exercises, and China militarizes. China has to respect the UN Law of the Sea, demand revision of freedom for military navigation, and make clear that the lanes are open for civilian–U.S., EU, ASEAN, whatever–trade.

All will gain from silk diplomacy; and lose from militarization.

Johan Galtung’s article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 16 May 2016: TMS: China’s Silk Geopolitics

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Now 1 in 2 World’s Refugees Live in Urban Areashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/now-1-in-2-worlds-refugees-live-in-urban-area/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=now-1-in-2-worlds-refugees-live-in-urban-area http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/now-1-in-2-worlds-refugees-live-in-urban-area/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 12:49:22 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145187 A view of an IDP camp in Al-Jamea, Baghdad, where 97 families from Anbar Governorate have found temporary shelter. Photo: ©UNICEF Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

A view of an IDP camp in Al-Jamea, Baghdad, where 97 families from Anbar Governorate have found temporary shelter. Photo: ©UNICEF Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 19 2016 (IPS)

It is true that millions of refugees, especially in Africa and the Middle East, reside in camps. But in all they represent only one-quarter of the total number of refugees.

Meanwhile, more than 1 in 2 of all the world’s refugees live in slums or in informal settlements and on the fringes of cities, in overcrowded neighbourhoods and in areas prone to flooding, sanitation hazards and diseases.

These are some of the facts that United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson has just revealed basing on data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“More than half of the world’s refugees live in urban areas, and often in fragile cities with high levels of inequality,” Eliasson warned at a high-level event on ‘Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants: Critical Challenges for Sustainable Urbanization’ held on May 18 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. CREDIT: UN

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. CREDIT: UN

“Every day, millions of refugee children are unable to attend school. Every day, the dignity and well-being of millions of people is compromised due to lack of basic services and job opportunities.”

The drama of millions of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, and migrants will be top on the agenda of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24 in Istanbul, Turkey.

According to Eliasson, among the issues that must be addressed include the causes of forced displacement; the safety of migrants and refugees as they cross international borders; and support for host countries to integrate newcomers into their communities.

Who Assists Urban Refugees?

The point is that while most of the humanitarian assistance goes to refugees living in camps, the ‘urban refugees’ are largely overlooked, he said.

Eliasson highlighted that in 2009, UNHCR changed its policy and practice towards refugees in cities and towns, and is now working closely with national authorities, municipalities and local communities and authorities to protect urban refugees, respecting their refugee status.

In the same vein, he said that the report of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, prepared for a summit on refugees and migrants being convened by the General Assembly on 19 September, draws attention to the important role of local authorities, which are at the forefront in providing refugees access to housing, education, health care and employment.

“We should bear in mind that refugees and [internally displaced persons] IDPs often are just a small proportion of those who are swelling the ranks of cities, while the speed of urbanization is getting faster,” the Deputy Secretary-General said.

He noted that it is also important to remember that, even if cities struggle to accommodate large flows of migrants, they also largely benefit from their presence and work, since in many countries in the world, immigrants often take up low-paying jobs and provide services in areas like domestic work, agricultural labour and home care.

No Signs The Flow of Refugees Will Diminish Any Time Soon

“As migrants and refugees continue to arrive – and there are no signs that these flows will diminish any time soon – we must resolve to uphold and implement the principle of every human being’s equal value,” Eliasson stressed. “This is a fundamental human right, never to be compromised.”

The international community, for its part, must be concerned about political rhetoric that stigmatises refugees and migrants, and do “everything possible to counter this false and negative narrative,” the Deputy Secretary-General said.

“We must dispel the myths about migrants and migration which tend to poison the public discourse,” he added.

Makeshift shelters and new tents at the new arrivals section of IFO camp, Kenya. file photo.  CREDIT: UNHCR/E.Hockstein

Makeshift shelters and new tents at the new arrivals section of IFO camp, Kenya. file photo. CREDIT: UNHCR/E.Hockstein

A Half-Billion-Dollar Shortfall in Funds

On the same day, May 18, UNHCR) warned that half a billion dollar shortfall in funds for sheltering refugees is severely undermining efforts to tackle the biggest global displacement crisis since World War II, as it launched a new campaign that calls on the private sector to contribute funds for shelter solutions for two million refugees.

“Shelter is the foundation stone for refugees to survive and recover, and should be considered a non-negotiable human right,” stressed Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“As we tackle worldwide displacement on a level not seen since World War II, no refugee should be left outside,” he added.

The Nobody Left Outside campaign is aimed at individuals, companies, foundations and philanthropists worldwide.

At the launch of the campaign, UNHCR underscored that forced displacement, most of it arising from war and conflict, has risen sharply in the past decade, largely as a result of the Syria crisis, but also due to a proliferation of new displacement situations and unresolved old ones.

Worldwide, some 60 million people are forcibly displaced today, the agency said. Of that figure, almost 20 million people are refugees who have been forced to flee across international borders, while the rest are people displaced within their own countries.

“A shelter – be it a tent, a makeshift structure or a house – is the basic building block for refugees to survive and recover from the physical and mental effects of violence and persecution,” UNHCR emphasised.

“Yet around the world, millions are struggling to get by in inadequate and often dangerous dwellings, barely able to pay the rent, and putting their lives, dignity and futures at risk.”

The campaign aims to raise funds from the private sector to build or improve shelter for 2 million refugees by 2018, amounting to almost one in eight of the 15.1 million under UNHCR’s remit in mid-2015. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) cares for the remaining Palestinian refugees.

Millions of Homeless

“Without a safe place to eat, sleep, study, store belongings and have privacy, the consequences to their health and welfare can be profound.”

The UN refugee agency emphasised that as it continues to face high levels of shelter needs and with limited funding available, operations often face the difficult decision to prioritise emergency shelter for the maximum number of people of concern, over an investment in more durable and sustainable solutions.

Outside of camps, refugees rely on UNHCR support to find housing and pay rent in towns and cities across dozens of countries bordering conflict zones.

These operations are expected to cost 724 million dollars in 2016. Yet only 158 million is currently available, a shortfall that threatens to leave millions of men, women and children without adequate shelter and struggling to rebuild their lives.

UNHCR noted that the private sector is one of its increasingly important donor sources, contributing more than 8 per cent of its overall funding in 2015.

According to UNHCR, the regions most in need of assistance are sub-Saharan Africa (255 million dollars needed but only 48 million dollars available) and the Middle East and North Africa (373 million dollars needed, 91 million available).

Asia requires 59 million dollars, with only 8 million available, while Europe requires more help (36 million dollars needed, 10 million available) as the influx of refugees continues.

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‘Human Suffering Has Reached Staggering Levels’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/human-suffering-has-reached-staggering-levels/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-suffering-has-reached-staggering-levels http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/human-suffering-has-reached-staggering-levels/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 11:05:10 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145153 Stephen O’Brien during a visit to Yemen, Faj Attan neighbourhood of Sana'a. Credit: OCHA /Philippe Kropf

Stephen O’Brien during a visit to Yemen, Faj Attan neighbourhood of Sana'a. Credit: OCHA /Philippe Kropf

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 17 2016 (IPS)

“Human suffering from the impacts of armed conflicts and disasters has reached staggering levels.”

With these one dozen or few words, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, briefly but sharply portrayed the current humanitarian drama, explaining why the UN has decided to hold the first ever World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24 this year in Istanbul, Turkey.

Secretary General Ban documented his statement with specific figures: nearly 60 million people, half of them children, have been forced from their homes due to conflict and violence.

As if this was not enough, the UN chief talked about another man-made tragedy: “The human and economic cost of disasters caused by natural hazards is also escalating. In the last two decades, 218 million people each year were affected by disasters; at an annual cost to the global economy that now exceeds 300 billion dollars.”

Based on these and other facts, experts and UN high officials labelled the on-going, growing human drama, as the “worst humanitarian crisis since World War II”.

How to face this unprecedented human and humanitarian challenge will be the task of around 6,000 delegates expected to attend this World Humanitarian Summit.

Stephen O’Brian, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affair. Credit: UN Multimedia

Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affair. Credit: UN Multimedia

IPS asks the Tanzania-born, British politician and diplomat Stephen O’Brien, who since March this year is the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), taking over from Valerie Amos, also British.

“Every humanitarian crisis is inherently unique and context-specific,” O’Brien responded to IPS in an interview. “However, taken together, there are 125 million people in need of aid in the world today as a result of conflicts and natural disasters and over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced. These are the highest numbers we have on record since WWII.”

According to O’Brien, it is clear that the landscape of humanitarian action has changed significantly over the past years and “collectively we have not been able to adequately keep up with and respond to contemporary challenges.”

The UN Under Secretary General then explains to IPS that it is not about one humanitarian crisis, but multiple crises happening at the same time, from the crisis in Syria and the region to the impact of El Niño, which currently affects 60 million people in the world.

And that the humanitarian needs have grown exponentially while the resources have not been able to follow suit which has created an ever-widening gap.

O’Brien who does not want to take questions prior to the World Humanitarian Summit on the expected specific outcomes of the Summit.

But he says it is a unique opportunity to sustain the momentum for change generated over three years of global consultations with key stakeholders and send a message of solidarity and support to the millions in need of life-saving and life-sustaining assistance.

“We expect key commitments from world leaders to meaningfully act to prevent, prepare for and mitigate the effects of conflict, natural disasters, displacement and other causes of need and move forward on issues such as timely and adequate funding of humanitarian work,” he says.

The interview then comes to another on-going and expected to rapidly grow huge humanitarian crisis—that of the known “climate refugees.”

For the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the consequences of climate change are “enormous”. Scarce natural resources such as drinking water are likely to become even more limited, it says.

And adds that many crops and some livestock are unlikely to survive in certain locations if conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet. Food security, already a significant concern, will become even more challenging.

Recent reports cited by UNHCR indicate that 22 million people were displaced in 2013 by disasters brought on by natural hazard events. And as in previous years, the worst affected region is Asia, where 19 million people, or 87.1 per cent of the global total, were displaced during the year.

That was the situation as far back as three years ago. The numbers have certainly dramatically increased.

People will have to try and adapt to this situation, but for many this will mean a conscious move to another place to survive. Such moves, or the adverse effects that climate change may have on natural resources, may spark conflict with other communities, as an increasing number of people compete for a decreasing amount of resources, says UNHCR.

IPS asks O’Brien about this phenomena and the expected number of climate refugees in the near future.

“In the Secretary-General’s Report One Humanity: Shared Responsibility, he highlights the increased disaster risk fuelled by climate change. As previous crises have shown, each crisis is different, unpredictable and context-specific and may trigger displacement and increased migration. OCHA is however not in a position to speculate or provide estimates in any hypothetical scenario,” he says.

According to O’Brien what is clear is that “we need to break through existing silos to collaboratively work together, anticipate rather than wait for crises to hit, transcend the humanitarian-development divide by working towards collective outcomes, invest more on risk and leverage on available technology and best practices.”

Then IPS asks the UN Under Secretary General if he expects from the Istanbul Summit an effective, immediate implementation of the decisions/recommendations that will be taken there. In other words, if he thinks there is now enough, solid political will to face the humanitarian crisis?

O’Brien states: “A core aim of the summit is the reinvigoration of political will and commitment to take forward the Agenda for Humanity.” And adds “The Summit is a launch pad at the highest level: but what is even more important will be a commitment to follow up and make these actions a reality.”

He also says that UN member States and other stakeholders making commitments during the Summit will be asked to update on progress against their implementation. “Follow-up at the inter-governmental level will begin with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Humanitarian Affairs Segment.

O’Brien adds that the UN Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly will address how each of the core responsibilities will be carried forward and will define the vehicles for assessing progress.

Back to the Istanbul Summit and its expected decisions/recommendations, IPS asks O’Brien if he thinks they may impact the current humanitarian funding in the sense of putting all current, available funds in just one basket, thus giving the same sum total, which is considered short, or new, additional funding?

The UN Under Secretary General responds: ”Existing humanitarian funding generally takes the form of short-term grants even when responses continue for years on end. This can result to fragmentation between all actors and specifically, it can incentivise humanitarian and development actors to operate in isolation.”

Asked to further elaborate, O’Brien states “It is clear that incoherent and inflexible financial structures, which are not equitable nor based on risk analysis are detrimental towards achieving long-term results.

“At the first instance, investment in humanity must of course be increased, says O’Brien.

“However, the aim is also for all actors to commit to financing collective outcomes rather than individual projects and to do so in a manner that is flexible, nimble and predictable over multiple years so that actors can plan and work towards achieving collective outcomes in a sustainable manner and adapt to changing risk levels and needs in a particular context.”

The pooled fund mechanism – both at global level through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and at country level where various funds exist – is one tried and tested mechanism for flexible and readily available funding, concludes O’Brien.

The CERF was the first concrete outcome of the UN Secretary-General’s reform process and the Millennium Summit. It was launched on 9 March 2006 and represents an important international multilateral funding instrument.

“It saves lives by providing rapid initial funding for life-saving assistance at the onset of humanitarian crises, and critical support for poorly funded, essential humanitarian response operations. Each year, CERF allocates approximately US$400 million.”

CERF has three objectives: to promote early and coordinated action and response to save lives; to enhance response to time-crucial requirements based on demonstrable needs, and to strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in under-funded crises.

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The Real Heresy of London’s New Mayor Is that He Is a Liverpool Fan?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-real-heresy-of-londons-new-mayor-is-that-he-is-a-liverpool-fan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-real-heresy-of-londons-new-mayor-is-that-he-is-a-liverpool-fan http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-real-heresy-of-londons-new-mayor-is-that-he-is-a-liverpool-fan/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 14:56:36 +0000 Farhana Haque Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145133 By Farhana Haque Rahman, Director General, Inter Press Service
ROME, May 16 2016 (IPS)

Sadiq Khan is not just the new mayor of London, but happens to have individually won more votes than any other politician in British history.

Prime ministers and members of Parliament run in their home districts, where the total number of ballots are fewer.

Farhana Haque Rahman

Farhana Haque Rahman

Municipal elections don’t always draw global interest, but London is London, and what the world’s pundits and media has said, and as a result what the bulk of public opinion has heard, is that Mr. Khan is a Muslim, born to a family whose ancestral roots are in Pakistan. The general reaction to a Muslim mayor of London is, thankfully, one of praise for the city’s cosmopolitan spirit and tolerance. Abroad, the tone has been one of great respect, with a few spoonfuls of feigned envy.

Other points could have been made about a vote in which the Labour Party, which last won the general elections 11 years ago, dislodged the Conservatives in the U.K.’s largest city. There’s plenty to muse over the fact that Mr. Khan does not appear entirely on the same page as Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s new national leader. And then there’s the detail about how Mr. Khan grew up in council housing to parents who worked as a bus driver and a seamstress, went on to become a lawyer and a member of Parliament, and whose victory speech included the assertion that: “I want every single Londoner to get the opportunities that our city gave to me and my family.”

Or there are the photographs, now viral and appearing in the Times of India, of Mr. Khan visiting the Shri Swaminarayan temple in Neasden, wearing a flower garland and with a red bindi dot on his forehead. How frequent are such interdenominational visits in the rest of the world?

On top of that, Mr. Khan voted for the Same-Sex Marriage act, for which he was subject to menacing fatwas from local Islamic clergy. As noted by an editorial in Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest newspaper: “The plain truth is that Sadiq Khan would not have survived in Pakistan, not as a Muslim and not as a non-Muslim.”

Why, in short, does it even register what faith London’s new mayor may profess? One might add that saying “Muslim” is not very informative, given the multiplicity of interpretation of Islam.

Perhaps it should be made standard practice to emphatically mention the religions adhered to by all public figures. That could get difficult. Was Spinoza, the philosopher, a Jew? It’s widely said he was but he was excommunicated in no uncertain terms. Or what about George W. Bush? He was brought up Episcopal but converted to Methodism – does that explain some of his political views? Or Angela Merkel, the one major politician to have openly declared that she is an atheist. Should that adjective be mentioned every time she is?

While such identity tags may carry useful information, they are all divisive by nature. That may be important, as many wars have been fought in the name of religion. But Mr. Khan doesn’t seem interested in fighting any such battles.

And he was baited, notably by the billionaire Conservative candidate he battled, Zac Goldsmith, whose campaign sought out “Hindu-sounding surnames” for a direct-mail effort aimed at sparking fear of Islam. Some say Zac is Jewish, although his mother was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat. Other politicians have mentioned their religion; Ed Miliband said he wanted to be Britain’s first Jewish prime minister. Others say he can’t, as Benjamin Disraeli held the post in the 19th century. Disraeli, however, was a baptized and practising Anglican. More importantly, Miliband didn’t become prime minister at all.

There is a feel-good sentiment for many when someone from a minority group wins an election. The U.S. media duly noted recently when elections in Hawaii sent Mazie Hironi, a Japanese-born woman who practises the Jodo Shinshu strand of Buddhism, to the Senate and Tulsi Gabbard, to Congress. Gabbard, born to a Samoan Catholic father , a veteran who served in Iraq, practises Hinduism, a religion to which her mother converted. Muslim, Buddhist and Sikh men have held elected office in Washington for more than half a century.

It’s probably mostly benign in intent, spun by the chattering class in hopes of sounding modern and convincing the indigenous masses to get with the program. But maybe not. Consider Barack Obama, who is identified far more by the colour of his absent father’s skin than his Kansas-born mother’s. His religion is regularly called into question, along with his birth certificate and anything his adversaries can latch onto.

Hailing Mr. Khan’s Islamic faith may begin as well-meaning but degrades over time into something more sinister. IPS’ founder Roberto Savio recently wrote an eloquent warning of how Islamophobia is used as a political tool. His point is that it is a proxy for xenophobia, an old propaganda trick. But that’s just it: London’s new mayor is guilty of numerous offences he’s a Liverpool fan, for example, and admits that some of his campaign staff had been born in Yorkshire – but he is not a foreigner.

Immigration exists, and is obviously on people’s minds, not only in the affluent West. But it is rarely religion that is the worry; language barriers, unemployment and other forces – including kinship networks are more likely the reason for confusion and fear. Indeed, the U.K. Electoral Commission published a report in 2015 looking at why some communities – Pakistani and Bangladeshi in particular – might be vulnerable to electoral fraud due to internal patriarchal cultural patterns. Such situations are cause for concern, but instead of coded dog-whistling to stoke individual and collective phobias – one case in London involved a very prominent conservative intentionally failing to distinguish between “Islamic state” and “an Islamic state” — public chastising of those who seek to exploit them are in order.

That’s especially the case with highly multicultural populations, and not just in London. Hamtramck, a township near Detroit, Michigan, used to be 90% Polish and as of this year has a majority-Muslim city council – with stronger policing being high on the municipal wish list. But the population no longer has a dominant ethnicity, with the two largest groups, Bangladeshis and Yemenis, accounting for less than half the formerly dominant Poles once did and more than 30 languages are spoken in local schools. The Muslim call to prayer is broadcast from public loudspeakers, but that decision was made almost 15 years ago in a unanimous vote after a compromise was reached on when the noise could be made.

It was another politician from a faraway state– of Asian origin, for the record – who referred to the town as a hotbed of radicalism that other faraway people fear.

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Middle East – The Mother of All Humanitarian Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/middle-east-the-mother-of-all-humanitarian-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-the-mother-of-all-humanitarian-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/middle-east-the-mother-of-all-humanitarian-crises/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 13:15:00 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145129 In March 2016, a mother walks through misty weather with her two sons along train tracks in Idomeni, Greece. Credit: ©UNICEF/UN012794/Georgie

In March 2016, a mother walks through misty weather with her two sons along train tracks in Idomeni, Greece. Credit: ©UNICEF/UN012794/Georgie

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 16 2016 (IPS)

When, in March 2015, delegates from the Middle East met in Amman for their regional consultations round in preparation for the May 23-24 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, most likely what they had in mind is the fact that their region was –and still is– the dramatic set of “the mother of all humanitarian crises.”

Nevertheless, as a sort of reminder, the United Nations told them again: “millions of people, from Libya to Palestine, from Yemen to Syria and Iraq, have had their lives completely overturned by violence.”

They were also reminded that the huge numbers of people affected by conflict, violence and displacement did little to convey the real trauma experienced.

The Facts

The United Nations reported “more people are displaced by conflict than at any time since 1945.” Figures are self-explanatory. There are currently an estimated total of 60 million forcibly displaced people –either at home or abroad— across the globe.

Of these:

— 5 million Palestinian refugees are still dispersed mostly in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA);

— 1,5 million people are practically besieged in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in a permanent humanitarian crisis;

— 4 million Syrian civilians so far had to flee war as refugees seeking safety in the region and in Europe, as an immediate consequence of the Syrian five-year long conflict, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates;

— 1 million Syrians have been forcibly displaced from their homes in their own country, according to the United Nations;

— 1 million Libyans are victims of uncontrolled armed fights in their own, unstable state. “There is alarming information coming from Libya about grave acts that could amount to war crimes,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon warned on 6 March 2016;

— 5 million Iraqis have been sentenced to the condition of being either refugees abroad or ‘refugees’ at home. Already in July 2015, the top UN humanitarian official in Iraq declared as “devastating” the closure of life-saving services in Iraq for people in need, citing the most recent shut-downs of basic health care will directly impact more than one million people, including some 500,000 children who now will not be immunised, spreading risk of a measles outbreak and resumption of polio;

— 1 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon. The UN reported six months ago that some 70 per cent of these refugees were living below the extreme poverty line in Lebanon;

— 2 million civilian Yemenis fled to even another war long-hit country–Somalia as result of the on-going armed conflict. More than 15.2 million Yemenis lack access to health care services, well over half the war-torn country’s total population, yet there is a 55 per cent gap in requested international funding to address the crisis, according to the World Health Organisation.

Born into conflict: Every two seconds, a child takes his or her first breath in a conflict zone. Credit: © UNICEF/UN04038/Gilbertson VII

Born into conflict: Every two seconds, a child takes his or her first breath in a conflict zone. Credit: © UNICEF/UN04038/Gilbertson VII

In other words—the Middle East is both the origin of and/or home to 1 in 3 refugees and displaced persons in the whole world.

These major figures refer to the known as ‘traditional’ Middle East region, comprising 22 Arab countries and Israel.

The data go much further when it comes to the so-called “Greater Middle East”, which also include armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The extended region would be in this case origin and home to additional 10 million refugees and displaced persons, this making nearly half of their total numbers all over the planet.

The Ira of Nature

But not only wars and conflicts hit the Middle East–natural disasters do more damage, last longer, and in many places recur before people have even had a chance to recover, according to the United Nations.

So, while all the above is a consequence of armed conflicts, there are other dramatic facts the make of the Middle East ‘the mother of all humanitarian crises’.

Just some examples:

— The Middle East risks to become an ‘uninhabitable’ region due to the impact of climate change

— 2 in 3 Arab countries already suffer from acute water shortage, while the remaining third is considered water unsafe nations;

— The United Nations predicts 40 per cent water shortfall by 2030. The Middle East is expected to be one of the most impacted.

In short, a whole region of nearly 400 million people is already victim of man-made disasters, be these wars and violence or simply the expected response of nature.

“We see it, we live it,…”

The Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit will focus on five key areas: to prevent and end conflict; to respect the rules of war; to leave no one behind; to work differently to end need, and to invest in humanity.

When announcing the Summit, top UN officials, headed by the secretary general Ban Ki-moon, have repeatedly warned that the world is living the worst ever-humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit, recently wrote in IPS “We have arrived at the point of no return. At this very moment the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War Two.”

“We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades,” Verhoosel said.

This makes a total of 400 million victims, the equivalent to some 80 per cent of the entire European population.

Verhoosel gave specific figures: more than 20 billion dollars are needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts.

“Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030. Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before.”

The situation has hit home, Verhoosel said. “We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters. We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards.”

“We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.”

(End)

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Europe’s Regressionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/europes-regression/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europes-regression http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/europes-regression/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 17:47:05 +0000 Mahir Ali http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145096 By Mahir Ali
May 12 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

In a speech marking Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, the Israeli army`s deputy chief of staff offered his compatriots an uncomfortable reminder.

`If there`s something that frightens me about Holocaust remembrance,` Maj-Gen Yair Golan noted, `it`s the recognition of the revolting processes that occurred in Europe in general, and particularly in Germany, back then 70, 80 and 90 years ago and finding signs of them here among us today in 2016.

He added: `There is nothing easier than hating the stranger, nothing easier than to stir fears and intimidate. There is nothing easier than to behave like an animal and to act sanctimoniously.` Golan`s intervention stirred a predictable response in Israel: there was some support for his words, but it was almost drowned out by vituperative, and occasionally hysterical, condemnation. Inevitably, some have demanded his dismissal.

For all that, drawing parallels between the European mindset that facilitated the Holocaust and current trends in Israeli society is a somewhat less fraught enterprise in Israel today than it is across much of Europe; more than one commentator has noted, for instance, that had Golan been a member of the British Labour Party, his comments would have warranted his immediate suspension.

It is not just Israel, though, that should be alert to the echoes of the 1920s-30s. The political processes unfolding in Europe a combination of economic despair and a rising tide of xenophobia ought to be ringing far more alarm bells than has thus far been the case.

The series of profoundly worrying developments continued last month with the far-right Austrian Freedom Party`s Norbert Hofer taking the lead in the first round of his country`s presidential election. The sense of impending crisis was exacerbated on Monday by the unexpected resignation of the country`s social democratic chancellor, Werner Faymann.

Post-war Austria has hitherto elected only mainstream conservative or social democratic presidents. For the first time, neither of those parties is in contention: on May 22, Hofer faces a run-off against Alexander Van der Bellen, a former Green running as an independent. The presidency is a largely ceremonial post, but with potential political powers that Hofer has vowed to exercise.

In Germany, meanwhile, the relatively new Alternative fur Deutschland party, which demonstrated its growing popular appeal in three state elections in March, has adopted an explicitly anti-Muslim platform. Its leader, Frauke Petry, has in the past suggested that German border guards should be permitted to shoot refugees. It is complemented by the Pegida movement, which tends to demonstrate its power on the streets.

A refusal to perceive in these phenomena echoes of the Nazi past would require a remarkable blindness to recent history. To their credit, plenty of Germans seem to be well aware of this, and mobilisations by the far right frequently attract counter-demonstrators in far larger numbers. That rarely occurs to the east of Germany, however, and much of the greatest cause for alarm emanates from nations where the extreme right is either already in power or thrives on state backing.

The administration of Viktor Orban in Hungary offers perhaps the worst instance of neo-fascist tendencies, and it thrives on the support of the racist Jobbik party, which won more than 20pc of the vote in the 2014 general election. Orban shares the view of his Slovak counterpart, Robert Fico, Europe must defend its `Christian heritage`. Fico is ostensibly a social democrat, but on crucial issues his views coincide with those of Marian Kotleba, the leader of People`s Party-Our Slovalcia, who until recently paraded about in a Nazi-era uniform.

In Poland, authoritarian tendencies are on the rise under the ruling Law and Justice Party, whose leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has accused refugees of bringing `cholera to the Greek islands, dysentery to Vienna`. Similar rhetoric is increasingly common throughout the continent. From France to Russia, there is hardly a country in Europe that does not register growing support for organised right-wing extremism, all too often with mainstream conservative and social democratic parties not least François Hollande’s Socialists and hitherto progressive parties across Scandinavia shamelessly pandering to xenophobia and other deleterious tendencies.

Last year`s massive refugee influx is obviously a key factor behind this trend, as are the recent terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris, not to mention the appalling criminal assaults in Cologne on New Year`s Eve. Let`s not forget, though, that extremist tendencies manifested themselves much earlier in 21st-century Europe: the Austrian Freedom Party entered government as a coalition partner at the turn of the century.

Although many of the far-right parties include a distaste for the European Union in their smorgasbord of pet hates, which feature the Roma people, Jews, Muslims and especially Muslim refugees, no coherent response can be expected from Brussels.

Continued failure to learn from its history may well condemn Europe to repeating it in the years ahead.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Unity Over Divisionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/unity-over-division/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unity-over-division http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/unity-over-division/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 17:26:32 +0000 Amitava Kar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145095 Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with his supporters. PHOTO: AFP

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, with his supporters. PHOTO: AFP

By Amitava Kar
May 12 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

Sadiq Khan’s strength is that he exemplifies the city he is set to run as its mayor. “I’m a Londoner, I’m European, I’m British, I’m English, I’m of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband,” he said in a recent interview with The New York Times. He was born in South London, to immigrants from Pakistan, and grew up in a public-housing project. His father drove a bus, and his mother was a seamstress.

While his Conservative opponent Zac Goldsmith was busy exploiting racial and cultural stereotypes about Muslims through a dog whistle campaign, Sadiq’s campaign focused on bread-and-butter issues like the cost of housing and transportation. In the end, the nasty campaign of Goldsmith hit a solid wall and Londoners told him to get lost. There is a limit to how far bigotry can go to win popular votes. In his acceptance speech, Khan said that he was “proud that London has today chosen hope over fear and unity over division.”

The 45-year-old new mayor has enough credentials for the job. A human rights lawyer by profession, he was elected to Parliament in 2005, appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary Communities and Local Government in 2008, and Secretary of State for Transport—a cabinet position—in 2009 under Labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Sadiq has taken a hot seat. To run a city with an acute shortage of affordable homes and a creaking, overcrowded mass transit network is by no means going to be easy. And unlike his counterparts in the US and Europe, the amount of hands-on power that he will enjoy is limited.

He has a lot of great ideas about how to provide more affordable housing to low-income people but any major decision needs the approval of the central government. When he needs extra money above an annual budget of $24.5 billion for more police or an expansion of the city’s railway, he has to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Conservative who may be reluctant to pay for Labour ideas.

Would he be a successful mayor? Well, strong convictions precede great actions. He has promising plans to improve residents’ skills and speed up the construction of a new underground railway that will run from London’s south-west to its north-east. Most excitingly, he wants to expand the power and scope of mayoralty—puny in comparison with its New York equivalent—pledging to lobby for new tax-raising abilities.

His pro-business programme is also interesting. It seems to be more about what firms can do for the city – things like building infrastructure and houses, raising wages and giving policy advice -than what the mayor can do for firms. And the best thing going for him, by all accounts, is that he is an efficient and likeable manager, aware of his weaknesses and open to new ideas.

Sadiq’s victory sends a powerful message to bigots everywhere. That religious prejudice might be real but it is ultimately a losing proposition. That the kind of divisive strategy that has so far worked for the Donald in the US is unlikely to be a formula for winning elections everywhere.

And it wasn’t for former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. When he started playing the anti-Muslim card as he sought re-election last year, he was trounced by his opponent Justin Trudeau who ran a more inclusive campaign. Like most Londoners, Canadians made it clear that there is no place for religious bigotry in their secular societies.

The calm, unyielding yet racially and religiously inclusive campaign of Sadiq Khan has come to symbolise all that is most impressive about London: its diversity. About a quarter of its residents are foreign-born, and one-eighth Muslim. But he is not the first Muslim to hold important office in Europe. Sajid Javid is the British Secretary of State for business, a cabinet rank. Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, has had a Morocco-born Muslim mayor since 2009. Across Britain many councilors – typically in the Labour party – and 13 MPs are Muslim.

The win, which garnered more than 1.3 million votes, reaffirms London’s multicultural image at a time when Europe’s anti-immigration parties have been making inroads in recent months, fuelled by rising public fears following the attacks in Brussels and Paris. Lord Hain, a former Labour cabinet minister, said, “In the dominant British city, probably the most important city in the world, to have a Muslim mayor is an important statement.”

And yet the fact remains – many of those who demand that Muslims in the West prove their fidelity to secular values have not yet begun to internalise these values themselves.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

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

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Why Set Up a Shell Company in Panama?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 13:28:21 +0000 Robert Burrowes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145091 The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘ ]]> Panama City financial district | 22 March 2016 | Author: Dronepicr | Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

Panama City financial district | 22 March 2016 | Author: Dronepicr | Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

By Robert J. Burrowes
Daylesford, Australia, May 12 2016 (IPS)

A previously little-known law firm called Mossack Fonseca, based in Panama, has recently been exposed as one of the world’s major creators of ‘shell companies’, that is, corporate structures that can be used to hide the ownership of assets. This can be done legally but shell companies of this nature are widely used for illegal purposes such as tax evasion and money laundering of proceeds from criminal activity.

See ‘Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption: The Panama Papers‘.

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes

Despite widespread awareness of offshore tax havens in many countries around the world, governments have never acted in a concerted manner to halt these illicit financial flows.

Why? In essence, because wealthy elites are heavily involved in using these mechanisms to isolate their wealth from the usual scrutiny to which the rest of us are subjected precisely so that they can evade tax. And governments do as these controlling elites instruct them.

There is an important reason why wealthy individuals want to maximise their wealth and evade contributing to any country that gave them the opportunity to make this wealth. You might think that you know this reason too: greed.

However, greed is a simplistic explanation that fails to explain, psychologically, why an individual might be greedy. So let me explain it now.

Individuals who engage in dysfunctional behaviours, ranging from accumulating excess wealth to inflicting violence, do so because they are very frightened that one or more of their vital needs will not be met. In virtually all cases, the needs that the individual fears will not be met are emotional ones, particularly including the needs for listening, understanding and love.

So, bizarre though it might seem, the dysfunctional behaviour is simply a (dysfunctional) attempt to have these needs met.

Unfortunately, the individual who compulsively accumulates wealth and/or hides money in a shell company is never aware of their deep emotional needs and of the functional ways of having these needs met which, admittedly, is not easy to do given that listening, understanding and love are not readily available from others who have themselves been denied these needs.

These are the countries, where country leaders, politicians, public officials, or their close family/associates are implicated in the Panama Papers. | Author: JCRules | 3 April 2016 | Brown: Countries of people implicated | Grey: Countries without people implicated (excludes businesspeople and celebrities) | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Wikimedia Commons.

These are the countries, where country leaders, politicians, public officials, or their close family/associates are implicated in the Panama Papers. | Author: JCRules | 3 April 2016 | Brown: Countries of people implicated | Grey: Countries without people implicated (excludes businesspeople and celebrities) | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Wikimedia Commons.

Moreover, because the individual is unconscious of their emotional needs, the individual (particularly one who lives in a materialist culture) often projects that the need they want met is, in fact, a material need.

This projection occurs because children who are crying, angry or frightened are often scared into not expressing their feelings and offered material items – such as a toy or food – to distract them instead.

Because their emotional responses to events in their life are not heard and addressed, the distractive items become addictive drugs. This is why most violence and ‘business’ involving illicit financial flows is overtly directed at gaining control of material, rather than emotional, resources.

The material resource becomes a dysfunctional and quite inadequate replacement for satisfaction of the emotional need.

And, because the material resource cannot ‘work’ to meet an emotional need, the individual is most likely to keep using direct and/or structural violence to gain control of more material resources in an unconscious and utterly futile attempt to meet unidentified emotional needs.

This is the reason why individuals using the services of Mossack Fonseca seek material wealth and are willing to take advantage of tax evasion structures beyond legal scrutiny.

They are certainly wealthy in the material sense; unfortunately, they are emotional voids and each of them justly deserves the appellation ‘poor little rich boy’ (or girl). For a full explanation of how this emotional damage occurs, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

Were they emotionally healthy, their conscience, their compassion, their empathy, their sympathy and, indeed, their love would compel them to not hide their wealth and, in fact, to disperse it in ways that would alleviate world poverty (which starves to death 100,000 people in Africa, Asia and Central/South America each day) and nurture restoration of the ancient, just and ecologically sustainable economy: local self-reliance. See ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

Of course, it is not just those who use tax havens to evade their social responsibilities or, more generally, those billionaires and millionaires of the corporate elite who have suffered this emotional destruction.

Those intellectuals in universities and think tanks who accept payment to ‘justify’ the worldwide system of violence and exploitation, those politicians, bureaucrats and ordinary businesspeople who accept payment to manage it, those judges and lawyers who accept payment to act as its legal (but immoral) guardians, those media editors and journalists who accept payment to obscure the truth, as well as the many middle and working class people who perform other roles to defend it (such as those in the military, police and prison systems, as well as many school teachers), are either emotionally void or just too frightened to resist violence and exploitation.

Of course, it takes courage to resist violence and exploitation. But underlying courage is a sense of responsibility towards one’s fellows and the future.

As an extension of the above point, governments that use military violence to gain control of material resources are simply governments composed of many individuals with this dysfunctionality, which is very common in industrialized countries that promote materialism.

Thus, cultures that unconsciously allow and encourage this dysfunctional projection (that an emotional need is met by material acquisition) are the most violent both domestically and internationally. This also explains why industrialized (material) countries use military violence to maintain political and economic structures that allow ongoing exploitation of non-industrialized countries in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

In summary, the individual who has all of their emotional needs met requires only the intellectual and few material resources necessary to maintain this fulfilling life: anything beyond this is not only useless, it is a burden.

What can we do? We need to recognize that several generations of people who were extremely badly emotionally damaged created the world as it is and that their successors now maintain the political, economic and social structures that allow ruthless exploitation of the rest of us and the Earth itself. We also need to recognize that the Earth’s ecological limits are now being breached.

And if we are to successfully resist these emotionally damaged individuals, their structures of exploitation and their violence, then we need a comprehensive strategy for doing so. If you wish to participate in this strategy you are welcome to sign online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Whatever else they do, the Panama Papers give us insight into the extent of the psychological damage suffered by wealthy elites and those who serve them.

(End)

The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?

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OPINION: Greece, the Punching Ball of Germanyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/opinion-greece-the-punching-ball-of-germany/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-greece-the-punching-ball-of-germany http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/opinion-greece-the-punching-ball-of-germany/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 18:45:52 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145072 Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 11 2016 (IPS)

Greece is again in the media, because a new negotiation is due between the embattled country and its creditors. The North-South divide of Europe is coming back with force (while the East-West relationship is increasingly looking as beyond repair). The German minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schäuble , has come back with his peculiar view of the economy as a branch of moral and ethical discipline, and not as a reading of reality. He has asked the Greeks “to not get distracted” by the refugees crisis, and not forget their primary task, which is to pay their debt. The request is to cut 2% of the Gross National Product; in case there will not be a 3.5% budget surplus within 2018.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Such parameters have never been reached by any country in the world, on occasion though only for a short period. And these are totally out of reality in a small economy, which has lost 25% of its GNP in seven years, and is facing a serious deflation because of lack of demand and because of daunting unemployment caused by the austerity programs.

This has lead to a once unimaginable situation: the International Monetary Fund, against which thousands of mass demonstrations have been held worldwide, as the symbol of fiscal intransigence and total disregard for social issues, has been the force for a more lenient approach against Germany’s wishes. The IMF has declared that either some measures must be adopted for cutting the impossible amount of the debt, or lower interest, or a longer time or it will not participate in the negotiations. This Germany cannot afford.

Schäuble is representing not only the general aversion of German citizens toward leniency for countries from the South, who have spent beyond their means, and must be now disciplined, there is also the fear of playing the game of the extreme right wing party Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD), which is now projected to be a decisive force in the next German elections. Its electors besides being anti euro and anti refugees are also opposed to any help to Greece and any European solidarity. So Schäuble is playing the strong guy not giving any ammunition to AfD.

This strategy of robbing the political platform for the extreme right wing parties, has led the traditional parties, and especially the social democrats, to take positions incompatible with their electorate, without any visible gain. A good example comes from the resignation of the Austrian Prime Minister, Werner Faymann who reversed the original position of openness to immigrants, to erecting barriers and refusing to apply European norms to refugees. Faymann declared: “we are not going to leave to the extreme right the banner of curbing refugees”. The result is that the Freedom Party, came second in the September regional elections in Northern Austria. Faymann then took a harder stance, menacing to close the border with Italy. And on April 24, the Freedom Party candidate, Norbert Hofer, won the first round of the Presidential elections, with more than a third of the votes. For the first time since the end of the war, the President will not be from the two traditional parties: Social Democrat Party and the Austrian People’s Party that received together only 22% of the first round vote. It is clear that this strategy lends legitimacy to the extreme right wing parties, and alienates the traditional faithful.

Schäuble accused Draghi, with its monetary policy of low interest, (which affects those with strong traditions of savings, like Germany and the Netherlands), of being responsible for 50% of the increase in votes for AfD. The growing loss of moral leadership in Germany, increasingly centred on a domestic agenda, and at the same time public urging the other countries to follow its priorities is becoming a serious problem for Europe. Economists know well that the feeble demand still alive in Greece is also due in great measure from the pensioners who act as a safety net in a country with large youth unemployment. But now, after eleven cuts in pension, the request is for another new cut of 6%. Meanwhile hospitals are without bandages, schools without books, public transport is in a mess and the country on its knees.

Schäuble must have read the study from the Berlin European School of Management and Technology (ESMT). The study demonstrates that 95% of subsidy to Greece went to bail out the banks (largely German and French), which were overexposed with Greek bonds. According to ESMT, only 9.7 billion euro of a total of 184.6 billion
reached the Greek citizens. About 86.9 billion went to pay old debts, 52.3 billion to pay accumulated interests, and 37.3 billion to refinance the Greek banks. Why Schäuble does not present these figures to German citizens does not present these figures to German citizens to show that it is not about solidarity, but creditor’ s interests ?

There is a clear lack of an analysis on how different are the Bonn’s Germany and the Berlin’s Germany. The most salient trait is that Bonn’s Germany was an active engine for European Integration. To get accepted the German proposal for the creation of an European Central Bank , Helmut Kohl agreed that the first governor would not be a German (it was Win Duisenberg, a Dutch national). For the Germans, who were afraid of dropping the strong Mark for the unknown euro, was quite a shock. Now Draghi had to fight to phase out the 500 euro notes (widely used for illicit operations), because it did remind the Germans of their 500 Marks note…

And Schäuble, (and Merkel), who always tell others what to do, suddenly became deaf when others did the same with them. The IMF has now again repeated what also OECD have been saying for a long time. Berlin should reinvest at least some of its large economic surplus into the economy, as an urgent and necessary measure to speed up Europe’s recovery. IMF has now come up again with the same request, but Schäuble finds it more convenient to attack Draghi than to implement some of the IMF recommendations.

The German Parliament is to approve a law, which gives access to national welfare only to those who have resided in Germany for at least five years. Germany is coping with Great Britain, that has this clause in the negotiations with Europe to avoid its exit from the European Union. This is the first negative result of the concessions given to Great Britain, which will hold a referendum on Europe in five weeks from now. It was always feared that such concessions would set a precedent for other member states. Germany is the first one…..

So, the Greek agony is here to remind all of us that the constant rise of xenophobes and nationalist parties at every election has not generated until now an appropriate response from the traditional parties, and especially those from the left.

The xenophobes are aiming to form an international coalition and Marine Le Pen is going to campaign in the UK against the European Union. It is interesting though, that Donald Trump has refused to meet any of them, not because of ideological differences, but because he has no interest beyond American borders. He has expressed positive views on Vladimir Putin, as all the right wing European parties have also done (Russia even gave a loan to Le Pen’s party). All this should bring us to reflect deeply when we see Europe, again led by Germany, donate 6 billion dollars to an openly autocratic Recep Erdogan; and block 1 million Syrian refugees (and open the doors to 70 million Turks).

Democracy is on the wane…. May be we should oblige students to read “Authoritarianism goes Global: the challenge to Democracy’, written by Christopher Walker, Marc Plattner and Larry Diamond. They repeat what we know: that in times of crisis, the credibility of a strong man increases exponentially. But their analysis is updated and worrying . And we have only to look at the past Presidential election in the Philippines, to see the winner as a cross between a strongman of the past, like Ferdinand Marcos, with a strident nationalist and xenophobe, like Trump. Rodrigo Duterte has won the elections by promising the execution of thousand of criminals, the expulsion of foreigners, and “not letting the niceties of democracy compromise the need for exceptional measures against corruption and crime”. How is it possible that we hear the same language in so many different parts of the world? Should we agree that we are in a global economic, social and value crisis, that the present globalization is dying, and therefore we are in a time of transition to something of which we have no idea?

(End)

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Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalismshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mass-migration-eu-european-nationalisms/#comments Wed, 11 May 2016 13:46:26 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145064 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]>

The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

By Johan Galtung
Antwerp, Alfaz, May 11 2016 (IPS)

We are dealing with mass migration, basically into EU, and European nationalisms, many in favor of exits from the EU.

Why this mass migration, maybe to the point of Völkerwanderung, mainly into EU–but then what kind of EU–and why the European nationalisms now found one way or the other in many member states?

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

The forecast for migration from Africa into Italy in 2016 is about 100,000; 28,000 already arrived in the first quarter, with 1,000 drowning in the Mediterranean (INYT, 6 May 2016). Big numbers. They knew the risks they were taking, so the push away from Africa and the pull towards Italy, and beyond, must have been considerable.

Better think in terms of 50 million migrants over 50 years, from regions considered uninhabitable to inhabitable regions. There seem to be five major causes underlying this basic world asymmetry:

Slavery, four centuries, depriving societies particularly of able-bodied males, by Arabs, then Westerners, cross-Atlantic transportation mainly by the English (Liverpool);
Colonialism, by Muslims after the death of the prophet in 632, from Casablanca to Southern Philippines, till the end of the 15th century, close to nine centuries, then by Christians close to five centuries, till colonialism was officially ended in the 1960s;
Robbery Capitalism, stealing or paying next to nothing for resources processed into manufactured goods, pocketing the value added;
Wars, mainly initiated by the West, killing millions (the USA more than 20 million in 37 countries after WWII), destroying property;
Ecological Factors, like depletion-pollution, often toxic for humans or nature, erratic climate partly due to climate gases, NOX, CO2, CH4.

These are the causes of poverty in some parts of the world but also of wealth in others; creating the asymmetry uninhabitable vs inhabitable by exploitation, becoming rich at the expense of others becoming poor.

That clearly applies to slavery, colonialism, robbery capitalism and many wars (the difference between bombing and being bombed). But the ecological factor hits both; so, the West attends to that factor.

Anyhow, many think: Time has come to share more equitably this wealth.

Of 28 EU members, 11 were colonial powers. 9 in Africa: England, Netherlands, France, Belgium-Luxembourg, Italy, Spain, Portugal, till the end of WWI Germany; all enriching themselves.

To believe that the other 28 – 9 = 19 members will accept “quotas” for migration due to the violence of the 9–England-France particularly, in the Middle East by Sykes-Picot colonization (*)–is simply naive. EU has institutions, but has not managed fusion into a Europe of one for all, all for one.

EU today is an exploitative pyramid: Germany on top; 8 Northern-Germanic countries; 5 Southern-Latin countries with France, Ireland; 12 Eastern countries; Greece at the bottom. With inequity and quotas, not strange that nationalisms flourish, tearing EU apart. Remove the causes: England-France, pick up the bill; EU, flatten the pyramid. (**)

Nevertheless, that only solves the intra-EU problem, not the world problem of mass migration from parts of the world mainly damaged by the West. Migrating into the EU, over land and across the Mediterranean, with a small part into a USA protected by two major oceans from the problems they helped to cause–except for migration via and from Mexico.

Mass migration is now an “industry” with “helpers”, smugglers, drugs and trafficking, dubious migrants, police and military among them. Yet that does not detract from the role of the five root causes, even if all kinds of lesser causes and effects make them less visible.

EU redirects migrant flows from the Middle East to Turkey at high costs; the flow from Africa to Nigeria; NATO patrols the Mediterranean. But these are at most stopgap measures. They are migrants not only from but also to–to the colonial “mother countries”, England and France.

Today they travel on foot, by bus, taxis–tomorrow by submarines (like drug smugglers), planes (many do) or by more massive numbers? Claiming a right to settle, uninvited, where much of their human and natural resources has been processed into the wealth of others–who also settled, uninvited. How do we handle this? Are there solutions?

5 Causes, 2 (groups of) Solutions. For Each, Negative and Positive

Slavery:

Negative: CARICOM [Caribbean Community] leads in denouncing slavery, followed by eLAC Summit meeting in Quito; EU endorsing; joint history books (USA: Frederick Douglass testimony); mapping levels of slavery; museums-memorials.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; negotiate compensation.

Colonialism:

Negative: South Africa leads in denouncing, followed by AU; others should join; joint history books on the experience.

Positive: EU-AU conciliation sessions; cover federation-confederation costs for multi-nation states and multi-state nations.

Robbery Capitalism:

Negative: Documentation, like using Sevilla customs data calculating the value as debt of the resources robbed; “Hands Off Africa”.

Positive: Africa processing its own resources; the Gaddafi 3 points; SSS trade also with China; lifting the bottom up; new infrastructure.

Wars:

Negative: Stop killing (bombing, SEALs); how many killed in how many countries, like for USA; denounce events (like Berlusconi for 1911).

Positive:
Use military defensively against IS violence; solve conflicts with “terrorists” (IS)–with “communists” (Vietnam) after they won.

Ecology:
Negative: reduce CO2+CH4 levels controlling fossil fuels and fracking.

Positive: Switch to renewable non-polluting resources like sun, wind; increase diversity of biota and abiota resources; help with symbiosis (enough CO2!); improve light-dark balance to absorb less solar heat.

Much more awareness is needed to understand the damage done. But three positive approaches, from “trickling down” capitalism to lifting the bottom up, from offensive to defensive use of military, from victory to solution, could carry far way, even quickly. Likely?

Notes:

(*) To tilt the WWI power balance in their favor one century ago, the four colonies they created–instead of freedom for the Arabs–have been at the root of most Middle East problems. Take Syria as example, an artificial state constructed by Paris, with 7 built-in conflicts: with Israel-USA blocking for Eretz Israel (Golan is one aspect); with Russia if a government should deny Russia their only base (as opposed to at least 800 US bases); between minority Shia-Alawite dictatorship with tolerance for others and a majority Sunni dictatorship without; between Arab Muslims and others like Kurds, Turks, Christians, Jews; between Shia and Sunni and their countries, the Shia living in the Fertile Crescent; between Al Qaeda+ and foreigners; and between all of the above and the Islamic State. IS wants to undo Sykes-Picot and to recreate the Ottoman Empire and their Caliphate without Istanbul; and see themselves as Islamic responses to the EU and the Vatican.

In so doing IS has a decisive advantage relative to “all of the above” who reify Syria as something sustainable with basic changes. IS relates to a reality where today’s Syria is located that lasted four centuries, 1516-1916. They want to reconstruct a past based on provinces and proceed accordingly. This author would be surprised if Iraq as a state survives beyond 2020 and Syria as a state beyond 2025.

(**) If we collapse the top three and the bottom 2 levels 14 Western and 12 Eastern; with ten islands 28. Add Turkey and the point of gravity moves further East, with Istanbul challenging Brussels. And what happe then to the migrants stranded in Turkey?

Johan Galtung’s op-ed originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 May 2016: TMS: Mass Migration, EU, European Nationalisms

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A Region’s Eyes Turn to Healthy Nutritionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-regions-eyes-turn-to-healthy-nutrition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-regions-eyes-turn-to-healthy-nutrition http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-regions-eyes-turn-to-healthy-nutrition/#comments Thu, 05 May 2016 12:00:36 +0000 Jose Graziano da Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144976 José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).]]>

José Graziano da Silva is Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

By José Graziano da Silva
ROME, May 5 2016 (IPS)

After its remarkable success in reducing hunger, Europe must now rise to the challenge of making sure food assures more than survival and furnishes healthy lives. As head of a global hunger-fighting organization, nothing gives me more satisfaction than to see a vast region of the world achieving food security for its people.

José Graziano da Silva

José Graziano da Silva. Credit: FAO

With 53 member countries and one member organization, Europe and Central Asia is FAO’s largest region, stretching across 13 time zones from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Our data show that in almost every country, this region has succeeded in driving down food insecurity to below 5 percent of the population. The absolute number of hungry in the region has fallen by at least 40 percent since 1990.

Unfortunately, the story does not end here.

Malnutrition – as distinct from undernourishment (caloric insufficiency) – is a concern that cuts across the entire region. It takes many forms: micronutrient deficiencies, stunting, wasting, overweight and obesity. In fact, most countries in the region have alarming rates of obesity – more than 20 percent in adults. Malnutrition has health, social and economic costs that no society can afford to bear.

Why is this happening? Because just as countries emerge from the age-old problem of hunger, people’s diets and lifestyles are being influenced in negative ways by globalization, nutrition transition, and other changes.

Economic and social transformations – including higher incomes in many poor and middle-income nations, and the easy availability of over-processed foods at relatively cheap prices – are leading to changes in eating patterns that are driving up obesity rates. Other lifestyle changes, such as reduced physical activity, have made the situation even worse.

Ensuring access to adequate, nutritious and safe food for a growing population is one of the major challenges of our times. The problem is compounded as competition for scarce natural resources intensifies, and the adverse long-term effects of climate change are felt.

For Europe and Central Asia, the challenge now is to pass through this unhealthy interim stage as quickly as possible, into diets and eating habits that are diverse, nutritious, safe, and sustainable.

We took a firm step in the right direction with the Second International Conference on Nutrition in November 2014, when countries adopted the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and a framework for action on ending all forms of malnutrition. Countries committed to enhancing sustainable food systems by developing coherent policies from production to consumption and across all relevant sectors to provide year-round access to food that meets nutrition needs, and to promote safe and diversified healthy diets.

To succeed, countries will need to put the right policies in place to reform the food system, reduce food losses and waste, make it easier for consumers to make healthy food choices, empower people with nutrition education, provide accurate food labelling, promote cultivation of crops like pulses, develop small-scale, local agriculture, and connect those farmers with markets.

Next week, the countries of Europe and Central Asia will tackle the issue of unhealthy diets and other food- and agriculture-related issues when they convene in Antalya, Turkey for the 30th FAO Regional Conference for Europe. Ministers and other delegates and representatives of civil society and the private sector will discuss both problems and solutions and set priorities for FAO’s work across the region in the coming two-year period.

The societies of Europe and Central Asia today have the opportunity to choose a healthy future, and FAO is ready to support them in that choice.

(End)

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Odd Situation in the “Paradise” of Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/odd-situation-in-the-paradise-of-press-freedom/#comments Mon, 02 May 2016 16:54:45 +0000 Milla Sundstrom http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144930 By Milla Sundström
HELSINKI, Finland, May 2 2016 (IPS)

A strange situation has emerged in Finland where some people feel that the press freedom is currently jeopardised. The small Nordic country is a press freedom celebrity leading the index kept by Reporters Without Borders since 2009 and hosting the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The case is related to the so-called Panama Papers that were recently leaked by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The papers originate from the Panama based law company Mossack Fonseca and include information about over 210,000 companies that operate in fiscal paradises.

The Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) was involved in publishing the leak and fiscal authorities of Finland now insist that the company has to hand the material over to them. The dead line expired on Friday but YLE has refused.

The company is appealing the tax authorities’ decision and stating that it’s basic freedom is to protect the news sources. Besides YLE emphasised that it does not possess the material but a few journalists just have access to it.

What has most surprised both journalists and the public here is the fact that this happens in Finland while no other country whose media is involved in the Panama case has experienced same kind of threat from the authorities.

“We understand very well about why the tax office and politicians are interested in the documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca”, the responsible editors of YLE investigative group, Ville Vilén and Marit af Björkesten, said in their statement referring to the possible tax evasions and their social consequences.

They admit having partly shared purposes with the authorities but refuse to violate old principles that have been followed for decades in the European countries that respect press freedom.

“Despite their wideness the Panama papers are not a reason to endanger the protection of the news source and the possibilities of Finnish journalists to practice influential investigative journalism on a longer run,” they continue.

“Surprisingly we are not here to celebrate press freedom but instead to ponder an amazing situation”, the president on the Finnish Council of Mass Media, Elina Grundström, said Monday on YLE’s morning television.
The Council of Mass Media is an organ of the Finnish media’s self-regulation meant to supervise the ethics of the press from all stakeholders’ angle. Grundström gave her support to YLE’s decision not to give up the Panama papers to the tax authorities.
Susanna Reinboth, the law reporter of the biggest national daily, agreed while Pekka Mervola, editor-in-chief of the regional paper Keskisuomalainen, thinking that the material could be delivered with certain reservations that are meant to protect the sources.
The problem may be at least partly solved on May 9th when the ICIJ has promised to publish part of the Panama material.

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Choose Humanity: Make the Impossible Choice Possible!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:03:47 +0000 Herve Verhoosel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144850 Herve Verhoosel is the Spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24. He was previously leading the Roll Back Malaria office at the UN in New York and was also Head of External Relations, Advocacy and Communication. In this Op-Ed Verhoosel introduces this major event, the first ever of its kind, which will bring together governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector to propose solutions.]]>

Herve Verhoosel is the Spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24. He was previously leading the Roll Back Malaria office at the UN in New York and was also Head of External Relations, Advocacy and Communication. In this Op-Ed Verhoosel introduces this major event, the first ever of its kind, which will bring together governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector to propose solutions.

By Herve Verhoosel
UN, New York, Apr 27 2016 (IPS)

We have arrived at the point of no return. At this very moment the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War Two. We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.

Herve Verhoosel

Herve Verhoosel

More than $20 billion is needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts. Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030. Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before.

The situation has hit home. We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters. We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards. We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.

These are desperate times. With so much at stake, we have only one choice to make: humanity. Now is the time to stand together and reverse the rising trend of humanitarian needs. Now is the time to create clear, actionable goals for change to be implemented within the next three years that are grounded in our common humanity, the one value that unites us all.

This is why the United Nations Secretary-General is calling on world leaders to reinforce our collective responsibility to guard humanity by attending the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.

From May 23rd to the 24th, our leaders are being asked to come together in Istanbul, Turkey, to agree on a core set of actions that will chart a course for real change. This foundation for change was not born overnight. It was a direct result of three years of consultations with more than 23,000 people in 153 countries.

On the basis of the consultation process, the United Nations Secretary-General launched his report for the World Humanitarian Summit titled “One Humanity, Shared responsibility. As a roadmap to guide the Summit, the report outlines a clear vision for global leadership to take swift and collective action toward strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and crisis relief.

Aptly referred to as an “Agenda for Humanity,” the report lays out ground-breaking changes to the humanitarian system that, once put into action, will promptly help to alleviate suffering, reduce risk and lessen vulnerability on a global scale.

The Agenda is also linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically maps out a timeline for the future and health of our world. Imagine the end of poverty, inequality and civil war by 2030. Is it possible? Undoubtedly so. Most importantly, the Secretary-General has called for measurable progress within the next three years following the Summit.

As such, the Summit is not an endpoint, but a kick-off towards making a real difference in the lives of millions of women, men and children. It’s an unprecedented opportunity for global leaders to mobilize the political will to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. So, how to take action?

The Agenda specifies five core responsibilities that the international community must shoulder if we expect to end our shared humanitarian crises. These core responsibilities offer a framework for unified and concentrated action to Summit attendees, leadership and the public at large. Once implemented, change will inevitably follow.

1. Prevent and End Conflict: Political leaders (including the UN Security Council) must resolve to not only manage crises, but also to prevent them. They must analyse conflict risks and utilize all political and economic means necessary to prevent conflict and find solutions, working with their communities – youth, women and faith-based groups – to find the ones that work.

The Summit presents a unique opportunity to gain political momentum and commitment from leaders to promote and invest in conflict prevention and mediation in order to reduce the impacts of conflicts, which generate 80 percent of humanitarian needs.

2. Respect Rules of War: Most states have signed and implemented international humanitarian and human rights laws, but, sadly, few are respected or monitored. Unless violators are held accountable each time they break these laws, civilians will continue to make up the vast majority of those killed in conflict – roughly 90 percent. Hospitals, schools and homes will continue to be obliterated and aid workers will continue to be barred access from injured parties.

The Summit allows a forum for which leadership can promote the protection of civilians and respect for basic human rights.

3. Leave No One Behind: Imagine being forcibly displaced from your home, being stateless or targeted because of your race, religion or nationality. Now, imagine that development programs are put in place for the world’s poorest; world leaders are working to diminish displacement; women and girls are empowered and protected; and all children – whether in conflict zones or not – are able to attend school. Imagine a world that refuses to leave you behind. This world could become our reality.

At the Summit, the Secretary-General will call on world leaders to commit to reducing internal displacement by 50 percent before 2030.

4. Working Differently to End Need: While sudden natural disasters often take us by surprise, many crises we respond to are predictable. It is time to commit to a better way of working hand-in-hand with local systems and development partners to meet the basic needs of at-risk communities and help them prepare for and become less vulnerable to disaster and catastrophe. Both better data collection on crisis risk and the call to act early are needed and required to reduce risk and vulnerability on a global scale.

The Summit will provide the necessary platform for commitment to new ways of working together toward a common goal – humanity.

5. Invest in Humanity:
If we really want to act on our responsibility toward vulnerable people, we need to invest in them politically and financially, by supporting collective goals rather than individual projects. This means increasing funding not only to responses, but also to crisis preparedness, peacebuilding and mediation efforts.

It also means being more creative about how we fund national non-governmental organizations – using loans, grants, bonds and insurance systems in addition to working with investment banks, credit card companies and Islamic social finance mechanisms.

It requires donors to be more flexible in the way they finance crises (i.e., longer-term funding) and aid agencies to be as efficient and transparent as possible about how they are spending money.

Our world is at a tipping point. The World Humanitarian Summit and its Agenda for Humanity are more necessary today than ever before. We, as global citizens, must urge our leaders to come together at the Summit and commit to the necessary action to reduce human suffering. Humanity must be the ultimate choice.

Join us at http://www.ImpossibleChoices.org and find more information on the Summit at https://www.worldhumanitariansummit.org.
@WHSummit
@herveverhoosel
#ShareHumanity

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Any Ways to Combat Extremism?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/any-ways-to-combat-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=any-ways-to-combat-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/any-ways-to-combat-extremism/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 13:45:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144817 Mehla Ahmed Talebna, Director General of Cultural, Social and Family Affairs of the OIC. Credit: Courtesy of the OIC

Mehla Ahmed Talebna, Director General of Cultural, Social and Family Affairs of the OIC. Credit: Courtesy of the OIC

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 25 2016 (IPS)

“The objective of extremists is for us to turn on each other [and] our unity is the ultimate rebuke for that bankrupt strategy.”

This is what the UN chief Ban Ki-moon has recently said. “While it may be inevitable to draw on examples, such as Da’esh [also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL] or Boko Haram, “the phenomenon of violent extremism conducive to terrorism is not rooted or confined to any religion, region, nationality or ethnic group.”

“Let us also recognize that today, the vast majority of victims worldwide are Muslims,” Ban on April 8 stressed while addressing the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism – The Way Forward.

There, Ban stressed, “violent extremism is clearly a transnational threat that requires urgent international cooperation.” Then he explained that his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism puts forward a comprehensive and balanced approach for concerted action at the global, regional and national levels.

Such Plan was first submitted to the General Assembly on 15 January. Then, on 12 February, the 193-nation body adopted a resolution that welcome Ban’s initiative, pledging to give further consideration to the Plan, including in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy review in June 2016, as well as in other relevant forums.

So far, so good.

Barely six days after the UN chief’s assertion that the vast majority of victims of extremism are Muslims, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)—which was founded in 1969 being the second largest inter-governmental body after the UN, grouping 57 member states – held its 13th Islamic Summit in Istanbul on 14-15 April to discuss ways on how to combat the escalation of extremism and terrorism and the resulting growing Islamophobia.

How to do this? IPS posed this question in an interview to Mehla Ahmed Talebna, Director General of Cultural, Social and Family Affairs of the OIC.

OIC summit in Istanbul. Credit: Courtesy of the OIC

OIC summit in Istanbul. Credit: Courtesy of the OIC

“The OIC summit agreed on a set of measures to counter Islamophobia. And member states have been also be urged to establish stronger dialogue with the international community at the bilateral and multilateral levels and engage with the West in order to establish stronger cross-cultural and religious ties as a counterweight to polarising sentiment against religious minorities.”

Talebna explained that the Istanbul summit discussed “the need to reinforce the role of religious and social leaders in halting tendencies towards extremism, which sometimes fuel Islamophobia, by encouraging the principles of tolerance, moderation, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.”

Asked what are the key reasons behind on-going wave of Islamophobia in Western countries in general and in Europe in particular, Talebna said “despite the growing social ethics, the Economy in Europe has gone towards the opposite direction, hand-in-hand with populist rhetoric and a resurgence in far-right politics.”

“Negative Stereotypes Against all Muslims”

This coupled with the extremist acts of a few Muslims that have made it easier to generalise negative stereotypes and discrimination against all Muslims to take place, she said.

“Such circumstances inter-mingled with the rising intolerance against Islam and Muslims in western countries, which to a large extent was proliferated by widespread reporting, writings, articles, interviews, commentaries, and editorials in some western print and visual media, including social media and cinema that has resulted in negative stereotyping and racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims and distortion of the Islamic faith.”

According to the OIC senior official, “ironically, terrorist groups like DAESH and right-wing extremist groups in the west, and the negative media campaigns feed off each other. Here at the OIC, we are committed to oppose right wing extremists and to combat terrorist groups like DAESH.”

“We also encouraged all OIC Member States to work with the media to promote the understanding of responsible use of freedom of speech, to hold the media accountable for perpetuating hate speech and extremism, and to speed up the implementation of the OIC Media Strategy in Countering Islamophobia, adopted at the Ninth Islamic Conference of Information Ministers held in Libreville, Republic of Gabon, in 2012.”

This requires partnership and mutual trust with the West, and notably advancing cultural rapprochement something the OIC is committed to, Talebna added.

Asked about the role of religious and social leaders in halting tendencies towards extremism, Talebna said “We are setting up an anti-extremism messaging centre that uses leading Islamic clerics, through the International Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence) Academy, to create religiously sound counter-narratives against extremist propaganda.”

“We will also collaborate with various NGOs and institutions and community leaders advocating and promoting tolerance, moderation and mutual respect and countering extremist rhetoric.”

Empowering Women to Restrain Extremism

The OIC is also making efforts to restrain extremism by taking actions such as empowering women as well as building capacity among the youth in order to promote peace and development in the Muslim world. We expect that such an approach will help easing the problem of extremism in the long run, she said.

Asked how could she explain to lay people the reasons behind the growing trend of Muslim societies, especially in the Middle East, to seek refuge in religion, Talebna said, “If such a trend is indeed taking place, then this is not a trend confined to Muslim societies. Religion is generally on the rise across the developing world.”

She explained that countless surveys have shown that religious people are more law-abiding happier and generally not prone to extremism. “If it makes people happier then more religion and religious practice should be welcomed. Even many people believe that religion could bring about, not only happier, but also healthier life.“

“Religion can play a positive social, political, economic, cultural and spiritual role in society. After all, it has done so for centuries across the Islamic world and led the world in scientific discovery, education, governance and proven conducive to building strong multicultural societies. There is no reason any increased observance of religion in the Islamic world cannot, with the right institutions and intellectual leadership, lead to similarly positive results.”

The OIC Summit planned to adopt a set of “practical” measures “to counter mounting anti-Muslim sentiment, both in Western countries and other regions of the world. How?

“The official communiqué of the Islamic Summit calls on all Member States to increase the role of religious and community leaders to curb tendencies of extremism, and to diminish Islamophobia, which is in fact main factors of extremism,” Talebna said to IPS.

“The conference encouraged all Member States to promote inter-faith and inter-religious dialogues within the OIC Member States to raise awareness about religious interpretations and beliefs, and open space for further discussion about Islam and faith and to initiate relevant projects at the level of United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.”

The OIC also encouraged all Member States to make further efforts to effectively implement of the Action Plan contained in Res. 16/18 of the Human Rights Council that focuses on combatting anti-religious hatred without double standards

“In an attempt to address the root causes of factors giving rise to the resurgence of racism and xenophobia more generally, of which Islamophobia is a part, the OIC expressed support for efforts to galvanize the international community towards re-engaging with the on-going discourse on the negative historic legacies of trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism.”

According to the OIC high official, such a discourse would include the reference to the looting of cultural heritage and artifacts and the related issues of restitution, reparations and atonement for these wrongs, including the need for an agreement on strategies for achieving them.

In this regards, the Istanbul summit further mandated the OIC to support the convening of an international conference to comprehensively discuss the issue of the slave trade, slavery, colonialism, restitution and reparations.

(End)

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