Inter Press ServiceEurope – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Fri, 22 Sep 2017 19:12:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-understanding-economic-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/#respond Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:19:45 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152132 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poor Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 15 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key numbers

Hunger and food security


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

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

Malnutrition in all its forms

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

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

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

• Children under 5 who are overweight: 41 million

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

The impact of conflict

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

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

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

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

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

The Consequences

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

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

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

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

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

More Chronically Undernourished People

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children, Stunned

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

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

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

Economic Slowdown

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

Credit: WHO/C. Black

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

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

Alarm Bells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 12 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Land Degradation, More Climate Change

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

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

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

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

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

High Temperature, Water Scarcity

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

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

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


Monocultures, Genetically Modified Crops

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

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

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

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

Credit: UNCCD

Global Challenges

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

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

No Land, No Civilisation

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

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

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

A Bit of History

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

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

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

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

The Solution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Achieving Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN)

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

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 5 2017 (IPS)

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

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


Land Degradation Neutrality – UNCCD

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

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

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

Africa

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

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

Asia

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

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


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

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

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

Latin America and the Caribbean

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

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

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

Summit in China

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work in Progress

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 31 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Lucky” Kingsley

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

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

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

Being males, they consider themselves lucky.

Nigerian female migrants face a much worse, dramatic fate.

 

The Tragic Fate of Nigerian Migrant Women

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Nigeria, Top Nationality

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

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

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

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


Stranded Nigerian Migrants Return Home from Libya

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

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

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

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

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

 

Where to Go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Vladimir Popov
BERLIN, Aug 9 2017 (IPS)

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

Vladimir Popov

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

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

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

Geopolitics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alcoholism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Parliamentarians Study Nexus of Youth, Refugees and Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/parliamentarians-study-nexus-youth-refugees-development/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 18:04:54 +0000 Safa Khasawneh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151397 Held for the first time in the Arab world, an annual meeting of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians examined how regional conflicts hinder the development of effective policies to achieve sustainable development, particularly as they generate large numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants. To reach a comprehensive solution, legislators called for examining the roots […]

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Delegates of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians in Amman, Jordan. Credit: Safa Khasawneh

By Safa Khasawneh
AMMAN, Jordan, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

Held for the first time in the Arab world, an annual meeting of Asian and Arab Parliamentarians examined how regional conflicts hinder the development of effective policies to achieve sustainable development, particularly as they generate large numbers of refugees, internally displaced persons and migrants.

To reach a comprehensive solution, legislators called for examining the roots and background of conflicts in the region."Governments should create societies where people can realize their dreams and achieve their goals." --Acting Chair of JPFP Ichiro Aisawa

The meeting kicked off Tuesday, July 18 in the Jordanian capital Amman with a focus on challenges faced by youth, including high unemployment rates and poor access to healthcare, as well as women’s empowerment and other sustainable development issues.

Around 50 legislators and experts from Asian, Arab and European countries attended the meeting, organized annually by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) which serves as the Secretariat of Japan’s Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP).

This year’s meeting was held under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs” and hosted by the Jordan Senate and Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD).

On behalf of the conference organizers, Acting Chair of JPFP Ichiro Aisawa addressed the gathering, devoting his remarks to the need to address challenges facing youth in the region, which he described as the birthplace of two of the world’s three major monotheistic religions and which has contributed richly to humankind’s cultural heritage.

Aisawa, who is also Director of APDA, called on parliamentarians to work together to realize sustainable development for the good of all.

In his opening statement, Jordan’s Acting Senate President Marouf Bakhit reiterated his country’s commitment to promoting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adding that issues of population and development are at the “forefront” of legislation approved by Arab parliaments and that holding this event is a “positive indicator and a step in the right direction.”

Bakhit stressed that population and development problems in Arab countries are caused mainly by conflicts, wars and forced migration.

Tackling the situation in the region, Vice Chair of JPFP Teruhiko Mashiko said in his keynote “the only solution is to prepare basic conditions for development based on knowledge and understanding of social sciences and integrating youth into the economic system.”

The first session touched on regional challenges, young refugees and means of fostering social stability. Jordan’s MP Dr. Reda Khawaldeh told IPS that building peaceful and stable societies is a responsibility that must be shouldered by the state, religious leaders, media and other civil society organizations.

Picking up on the main theme of Amman meeting – a youth bulge in the region, which describes the increasing proportion of youth relative to other age groups – Aisawa told IPS that frustration is one of the reasons that led angry Arab youth (most of whom were highly educated but with no jobs) to protest in the streets and topple their leaders.

These young men had lost their hopes and dreams of having a decent life, he said, stressing at the same time that this phenomenon is not limited to Arab countries, but could happen anywhere.

“To address this key dilemma, governments should create societies where people can realize their dreams and achieve their goals. Politicians must also advocate policies based on democracy where the rule of law prevails and people identify themselves as constructive stakeholders who participate in building their country rather than be the source of disruption and chaos,” Aisawa said.

The second session discussed the demographic dividend and creating decent jobs for youth. Sharing his experience in this regard, Philippines MP Tomasito Villarin said his country has adopted five local initiatives to give youth quality education essential for enhancing their productivity in the labor market and providing them with decent jobs.

Villarin told IPS that to achieve SDGs, his country must also address other grave challenges, including massive poverty in rural areas and an armed conflict south of Manila.

Focusing on women’s empowerment in the region as a driving force for sustainable development, Jordan’s MP Dr. Sawsan Majali warned that gender inequality is still a major challenge, especially for women with disabilities.

The second day was dedicated to a study visit to a number of sites in the ancient city of Salt, some 30 km northwest of the capital, where participants had the opportunity to explore and share good practices of development projects provided by the Salt Development Corporation (SDC), aimed at supporting community services and raising public awareness.

SDC Director Khaldoun Khreisat said financial and technical support came from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), whose officials saw Salt as a similar model to the Japanese city of Hagi.

During the three-day meeting, close consultations were held on other issues, including the key role parliamentarians play in achieving the SDGs, promoting accountability and good governance.

In his closing address, Vice Chair of JPFP Hiroyuki Nagahama stressed that politicians are accountable for the outcome of their policies and they have the responsibility and power to build a society where everybody can live in dignity.

At the end of meeting, Algerian MP Abdelmajid Tagguiche proposed the establishment of a committee to follow up and implement recommendations and outcomes of the conference.

As the curtain came down on July 20, a draft statement was issued calling for examining causes of conflicts in the region to achieve the SDGs, create decent jobs for youth and provide societies with health care and gender equality.

APDA was established on Feb. 1, 1982 and since that time it has engaged in activities working towards social development, economic progress, and the enhancement of welfare and peace in the world through studying and researching population and development issues in Asia and elsewhere.

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Early Death in Russiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/early-death-russia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=early-death-russia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/early-death-russia/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 16:09:37 +0000 Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151376 Vladimir Popov was a Senior Economics Officer in the United Nations Secretariat. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development.

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The Russian mortality crisis underscores the impact of stress on life expectancy. Credit: Alexey Yakushechkin/IPS

By Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
MOSCOW and KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)

The transition to market economy and democracy in the Russian Federation in the early 1990s dramatically increased mortality and shortened life expectancy. The steep upsurge in mortality and the decline in life expectancy in Russia are the largest ever recorded anywhere in peacetime in the absence of catastrophes such as war, plague or famine.

During 1987-1994, the Russian mortality rate increased by 60%, from 1.0% to 1.6%, while life expectancy went down from 70 to 64 years. Although life expectancy declined from 1987, when Mikhail Gorbachev was still in charge, its fall was sharpest during 1991-1994, i.e., during Boris Yeltsin’s early years.

In fact, mortality increased to levels never observed during the 1950s to the 1980s, i.e., for at least four decades. Even in the last years of Stalin’s rule (1950-1953), mortality rates were nearly half what they were in the first half of the 1990s.

Economic output fell by 45% during 1989-1998, while negative social indicators, such as the crime rate, murder rate, suicide rate and income inequalities, rose sharply as well, but even these alone cannot adequately explain the unprecedented mortality spike.

Distress
This Russian mortality crisis underscores the impact of stress on life expectancy. Anne Case and Angus Deaton have linked deteriorating American white male real incomes to various distress indicators since the turn of the century. Their careful work helps us better understand the election of US President Trump, thanks to the electoral majorities he secured in the ‘rust belt’ states, so crucial in the American ‘electoral college’ system.

During the Enclosure movement and the Industrial Revolution in Britain from the 16th to the 18th century, mortality increased and life expectancy fell by about a decade – from about 40 to slightly over 30 – due to lifestyle changes, increased income inequalities and mass impoverishment.

Other instances of life expectancy reduction due to social changes – without wars, epidemics and natural disasters – are very few and never involved a fall in life expectancy by five years, from 69 to 64 years, in the three years from 1991 to 1994 for the entire population of a large country like Russia!

This dramatic fall has been obscured in much of the Western media coverage, although some academic research has been more accurate. Thus, the Economist implied that the fall was greater during Gorbachev’s final years (1987-1992) compared to Yeltsin’s early years (1992-1997).

Why premature death?
What kinds of stress did the transition induce, and why did they lead to premature death? Stress is correlated to the rise in unemployment, labour mobility, migration, divorce, and income inequalities.

These stress indicators turn out to be good predictors of changes in life expectancy in Russia during the ‘post-Soviet’ transition. Men in their forties and fifties who had lost their jobs, or had to move to another job and/or region, or lived in regions with greater inequality or higher divorce rates, were more likely to die prematurely in the 1990s.

The major popular alternative ‘explanation’ is increased alcoholism, which does not stand up to closer critical scrutiny for several reasons. First, during some periods, per capita alcohol consumption and death rates moved in opposite directions, e.g., during 2002-2007, death rates due to external causes – including murders, suicides and poisoning – fell as alcohol consumption rose.

Second, according to both official statistics and independent estimates, per capita alcohol consumption levels in the 1990s were equal to or lower than in the early 1980s, whereas death rates due to external causes doubled, and the total death rate increased by half. This simultaneous increase in indicators (total death rate, death rate due to external causes, and alcohol consumption) appear to be driven by another factor, namely stress.

Post-communist transitions varied
But not all post-communist transitions had equally traumatic consequences. Countries which proceeded more gradually – such as China, Uzbekistan and Belarus – managed to preserve institutional capacities and capabilities, thus avoiding or at least mitigating the output collapse and the sudden, dramatic increase in socio-economic stress indicators.

China and Vietnam did not experience any recession during their transitions, while life expectancy in both these countries continued to rise, although more slowly in China compared to before the 1980s, and to other countries with similar per capita GDPs and life expectancy levels.

In the case of Cuba, the 40% output reduction during 1989-1994 did not result in a mortality crisis. Instead, life expectancy in Cuba increased from 75 years in the late 1980s to 78 years in 2006.

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Death Toll Rises in the Mediterranean Sea as EU Turns Its Backhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/death-toll-rises-mediterranean-sea-eu-turns-back/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=death-toll-rises-mediterranean-sea-eu-turns-back http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/death-toll-rises-mediterranean-sea-eu-turns-back/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 21:05:51 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151194 The failure of European Union (EU) to buckle up safety for migrants and refugees reaching its shore has been condemned by Amnesty International in a report today. The most notorious instances in the seas of the Mediterranean plummeted with stricter actions from the EU in the wake of dooming deaths in 2015. The image of […]

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The failure of European Union to buckle up safety for migrants and refugees reaching its shore has been condemned by Amnesty International

A wide view of the Security Council meeting on the Situation in Libya. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 6 2017 (IPS)

The failure of European Union (EU) to buckle up safety for migrants and refugees reaching its shore has been condemned by Amnesty International in a report today.

The most notorious instances in the seas of the Mediterranean plummeted with stricter actions from the EU in the wake of dooming deaths in 2015. The image of a three year old Syrian boy, who was found dead off the shores of Turkey, shook the world to pay more attention to the plight of refugees fleeing war.

Two years on, efforts to ensure the safety of migrants and refugees have once again dropped off the radar of EU.

In the first half of the year alone, 2000 refugees died in the Mediterranean sea, three times the numbers from 2015.

Smugglers off the coast of Libya, for instance, often hurl refugees onto inflatable rubber boats that are inadequately equipped, or have insufficient fuel.

Migrants in large numbers arrive in Libya to ultimately make their way across the sea to Italy. This year alone, 73,000 refugees reached Italy.

The EU, disconcerted by its own fragmentation of agenda in the region, has largely neglected the safety of persons crossing the high seas. Instead, the European bloc has focussed on policies to disrupt smugglers and stall the departure of boats all together.

This strain of policy—strengthening Libyan coastguards and keeping boats at bay—to rein in the numbers from capsizing boats has largely failed.

This is why, ministers from the EU met today in Tallin to commit to better cooperation with NGOs to navigate the deadly waters of this route, a senior campaigner at Amnesty International, told IPS News.

The only way to ensure safety for migrants and refugees is offering safe and alternative routes as well as breaking up smuggling operations off the coast of Libya, a country already marred with instances of human rights abuse.

“European states have progressively turned their backs on a search and rescue strategy that was reducing mortality at sea in favour of one that has seen thousands drown and left desperate men, women and children trapped in Libya, exposed to horrific abuses,” said John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International in Europe.

The senior campaign manager, in an email to IPS news, called upon the international community’s help to end the strongmanship of Libyan coastguards, and for compliance with the Refugee Convention of 1951.

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U.S. “Dumping” Dark Meat Chicken on African Marketshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/u-s-dumping-dark-meat-chicken-african-markets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-dumping-dark-meat-chicken-african-markets http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/u-s-dumping-dark-meat-chicken-african-markets/#comments Thu, 06 Jul 2017 00:01:14 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151131 The United States and Europe’s preference for white meat is hurting Africa’s poultry industry, says Luc Smalle, manager at the agro firm Rossgro in South Africa’s Mpumalanga area. With 3000 Ha of maize and 1000 Ha of soya, as well as 1,500 heads of beef cattle, Rossgro mills its own feed, which also caters for […]

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Bags of feed at the Rossgro agribusiness firm in South Africa. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Bags of feed at the Rossgro agribusiness firm in South Africa. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
MPUMALANGA, South Africa, Jul 6 2017 (IPS)

The United States and Europe’s preference for white meat is hurting Africa’s poultry industry, says Luc Smalle, manager at the agro firm Rossgro in South Africa’s Mpumalanga area.

With 3000 Ha of maize and 1000 Ha of soya, as well as 1,500 heads of beef cattle, Rossgro mills its own feed, which also caters for millions of chickens housed in 40 environmentally controlled houses.Africa’s young, dynamic population has the potential to lead an economic revival in the region, backed by targeted long- and short-term reforms in key areas.

But Smalle is uncertain about the future of the poultry business, not only in South Africa but the whole continent.

He recalled how the US and Europe exported millions of tonnes of chicken meat to the then Soviet Union (now Russia). Historically, Russia was the major importer of America’s dark meat. According to available data, in 2009 alone, Russia is said to have doled out 800 million dollars for 1.6 billion pounds of U.S. leg quarters.

But in 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin banned U.S. chicken from Russian shores, allegedly because it was treated with ‘unsafe’ antimicrobial chlorine. The ban remains in place, although some say it’s more about politics than public health.

Either way, according to Smalle, the ban “has led America and Europe to look for alternative markets to dump brown meat because most of the First World eats white meat, so they are dumping chicken in the third world, especially Africa. We should stand together and work with our governments to stop imports or put high tariffs so that they can’t dump it anymore.”

In a chicken, white meat refers to the breast and wings while legs and thighs are considered red/dark meat. The nutritional difference is fat content. White meat is a leaner source of protein, with a lower fat content, while dark meat contains higher levels of fat, hence the developed world preference for white meat on health grounds.

Smalle believes this state of affairs is hurting African poultry industry competitiveness where the average cost of raising a chicken is far much higher than in the developed world. He says most African farmers rely on bank loans from banks while their European and American counterparts are heavily subsidised by their governments.

“It’s going to kill the whole poultry industry in Africa if nothing is done to reverse the trend; they have subsidies which the African farmer does not have,” Smalle told IPS, citing the South African poultry industry, where he says a third of the workers have lost their jobs because firms have been pushed out of business.

Under free market economics, Smalle’s arguments might seem out of order. But the latest Africa Competitiveness Report 2017 jointly issued by the African Development Bank, World Bank and World Economic Forum seems to support the continent’s argument.

The report warns that without urgent action to address stagnating levels of competitiveness, Africa’s economies will not create enough jobs for young people entering the job market, adding that if current policies remain unchanged, fewer than one-quarter of the 450 million new jobs needed in the next 20 years will be created.

The biennial report comes at a time when growth in most of the region’s economies has been slowing despite a decade of sustained growth, and is likely to stagnate further in the absence of improvements in the core conditions for competitiveness.

Compounding the challenge to Africa’s leaders is a rapidly expanding population, which is set to add 450 million more to the labour force over the next two decades. Under current policies, only an estimated 100 million jobs will be created during this period.

Africa’s young, dynamic population does, however, possess the potential to lead an economic revival in the region, backed by targeted long- and short-term reforms in key areas, the report finds.

“To meet the aspirations of their growing youth populations, African governments are well-advised to enact polices that improve levels of productivity and the business environment for trade and investment,” says the World Bank Group’s Klaus Tilmes, Director of the Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice, which contributed to the report.

“The World Bank Group is helping governments and the private sector across Africa to take the steps necessary to build strong economies and accelerate job creation in order to benefit from the potential demographic dividend.”

Some of the bottlenecks and solutions include strengthening institutions, which experts believe is a pre-condition to enable faster and more effective policy implementation; improved infrastructure to enable greater levels of trade and business growth; greater adoption of technology and support to developing value-chain links to extractive sectors to encourage diversification and value addition.

The World Economic Forum’s Richard Samans, Head of the Centre for the Global Agenda and Member of the Managing Board, believes that “removing the hurdles that prevent Africa from fulfilling its competitiveness potential is the first step required to achieve more sustained economic progress and shared prosperity.”

The Africa Competitiveness report was released in May during the 27th World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban, South Africa, attended by more than 1,000 participants under the theme “Achieving Inclusive Growth through Responsive and Responsible Leadership.”

The report combines data from the Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) with studies on employment policies and city competitiveness.

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Europe Stands by Caribbean on Climate Fundinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/europe-stands-caribbean-climate-funding/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-stands-caribbean-climate-funding http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/europe-stands-caribbean-climate-funding/#respond Mon, 26 Jun 2017 00:01:52 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151043 A senior European Union (EU) official in the Caribbean said Europe is ready to continue the global leadership on the fight against climate change, including helping the poor and vulnerable countries in the region. Underlining the challenges posed by climate change, Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS, […]

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Europe is ready to continue the global leadership on the fight against climate change, including helping the poor and vulnerable countries in the region.

Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS, and CARICOM-CARIFORUM, Ambassador Daniela Tramacere. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Jun 26 2017 (IPS)

A senior European Union (EU) official in the Caribbean said Europe is ready to continue the global leadership on the fight against climate change, including helping the poor and vulnerable countries in the region.

Underlining the challenges posed by climate change, Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS, and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Ambassador Daniela Tramacere made it clear that the EU has no plan to abandon the extraordinary Agreement reached in Paris in 2015 by nearly 200 countries.“The challenges identified in the Paris Agreement are of unprecedented breadth and scale." --Ambassador Daniela Tramacere

“Climate change is a challenge we can only tackle together and, since the beginning, Europe has been at the forefront of this collective engagement. Today, more than ever, Europe recognises the necessity to lead the way on its implementation, through effective climate policies and strengthened cooperation to build strong partnerships,” Tramacere said.

“Now we must work as partners on its implementation. There can be no complacency. Too much is at stake for our common good. For Europe, dealing with climate change is a matter of political responsibility and multilateral engagement, as well as of security, prevention of conflicts and even radicalisation. In this, the European Union also intends to support the poorest and most vulnerable.

“For all these reasons, the European Union will not renegotiate the Paris Agreement. We have spent 20 years negotiating. Now it is time for action, the world’s priority is implementation,” she added.

The 2015 Paris deal, which seeks to keep global temperature rises “well below” 2 degrees C, entered into force late last year, binding countries that have ratified it to draw up specific climate change plans. The Caribbean countries, the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU played a key role in the successful negotiations.

On June 1 this year, President Donald Trump said he will withdraw the United States from the landmark agreement, spurning pleas from U.S. allies and corporate leaders.

The announcement was met with widespread dismay and fears that the decision would put the entire global agreement in peril. But to date, there has been no sign that any other country is preparing to leave the Paris agreement.

Tramacere noted that together with the global 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, the Paris Agreement has the potential to significantly accelerate the economic and societal transformation needed in order to preserve a common future.

“As we address climate change with an eye on the future, we picture the creation of countless opportunities, with the establishment of new and better ways of production and consumption, investment and trade and the protection of lives, for the benefit of the planet,” she said.

“To accelerate the transition to a climate friendly environment, we have started to strengthen our existing partnerships and to seek and find new alliances, from the world’s largest economies to the most vulnerable island states. From the Arctic to the Sahel, climate change is a reality today, not a remote concept of the future.

“However, to deliver the change that is needed and maintain the political momentum, it is vital that the targets pledged by countries and their adaptation priorities are now translated into concrete, actionable policies and measures that involve all sectors of the economy. This is why the EU has decided to channel 40 percent of development funding towards climate-related projects in an effort to accelerate countries’ commitment to the process,” Tramacere said.

The EU has provided substantial funding to support climate action in partner countries and Tramacere said it will also continue to encourage and back initiatives in vulnerable countries that are climate relevant as well as safe, sustainable energy sources.

For the Caribbean region, grant funding for projects worth 80 million euro is available, Tramacere said, noting that the aim is twofold: to improve resilience to impacts of climate change and natural disasters and to promote energy efficiency and development of renewable energy.

“This funding will be complemented by substantial financing of bankable climate change investment programmes from the European Investment Bank and other regional development banks active in the region. With the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) instrument, the European Union already works with agencies in the Caribbean such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) or the Caribbean Climate Change Community Center (5C’s),” Tramacere said.

In November this year, countries will gather in Bonn for the next UN climate conference – COP23 – to continue to flesh out the work programme for implementing the Paris Agreement.

Next year, the facilitative dialogue to be held as part of the UN climate process will be the first opportunity since Paris to assess what has been done concretely to deliver on the commitments made. These are key steps for turning the political agreement reached in Paris into reality.

“The challenges identified in the Paris Agreement are of unprecedented breadth and scale. We need enhanced cooperation and coordination between governments, civil society, the private sector and other key actors,” Tramacere said.

“Initiatives undertaken not only by countries but also by regions, cities and businesses under the Global Climate Action Agenda have the potential to transform the impact on the ground. Only together will we be able to live up to the level of ambition we have set ourselves – and the expectations of future generations. The world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership in the fight against climate change.”

Caribbean countries are highly vulnerable and a significant rise in global temperatures could lead to reduced arable land, the loss of low-lying islands and coastal regions, and more extreme weather events in many of these countries. Many urban in the region are situated along coasts, and Caribbean islands are susceptible to rising sea levels that would damage infrastructure and contaminate freshwater wetlands.

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Putting the Spotlight on Women Migrant Workershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/putting-spotlight-women-migrant-workers/#respond Sat, 24 Jun 2017 22:25:30 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151040 Migrant workers, and their economic contribution to the development of both the country of origin and the host country, have caught the eye of governments and policymakers worldwide. But the hardships faced by women migrants, who disproportionately bear the brunt of discrimination at work, are often swept under the rug. This is why, experts from […]

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Eni Lestari Andayani Adi (Indonesia), Chairperson of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), addresses the opening segment of the United Nations high-level summit on large movements of refugees and migrants. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 24 2017 (IPS)

Migrant workers, and their economic contribution to the development of both the country of origin and the host country, have caught the eye of governments and policymakers worldwide.

But the hardships faced by women migrants, who disproportionately bear the brunt of discrimination at work, are often swept under the rug.

This is why, experts from UN Women and the United Nations University (UNU) in New York came together this week to discuss and raise awareness about migrant women workers’ rights.

In 2015, female migrant workers, who number 117 million, contributed about half of the world’s total remittance flow.

As labour markets shuffle in the new world order, two distinct patterns have emerged. Women have increasingly moved to hospitality and nursing industries, or the “domestic” economy, as well as areas previously dominated by men, such as agriculture. Demand has continued to rise in developed countries, but women’s contributions have been severely underappreciated.

By contributing to the gaps of the labour economy, women have lifted the working age population, and contributed to technological and human capital. By virtue of their soft skills, they have closed the gaps of a receding tax base, undermined by an aging population, and have come to the assistance of the elderly in the chaos of cutbacks in the health sector.

In the Philippines, for instance, which is the world’s third highest remittance receiving country, women migrant workers have been the sole breadwinners for their family. Typically, women largely migrate to Europe and North America.

Still, with the change in the world order and the growth of newer economies, this flow is likely to change. Experts predict that the flow from the Global North to the Global South will shift, as migrants move into the fast growing economies of Asia, like China and India.

“Migration is going to continue because a single country will not have all the resources in and of itself. Even if technology advances, we are not going to put our children in the hands of a robot,” Dr. Francisco Cos Montiel, a senior research officer at UNU, told IPS.

Inkeri Von Hase, an expert on gender and migration issues, told IPS that “we have to prioritise women’s empowerment so they are able to realise their full potential.” The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, which was adopted in 2016 with this very aim to protect and empower migrant workers, has largely failed to take into account specific rights for women’s protection.

Still, all this is not to say that all women migrant workers are necessarily victims of sexual assault and discrimination at work. Many have found a renewed sense of agency and purpose, for instance, the women who have fled violence in Guatemala and El Salvador. To ensure they can continue to tread this path, however, it becomes crucial to adopt newer policies today.

It is also significant that many migrants have become de-skilled in the process of migration, and have settled for the first jobs they found, in a bid to earn money to send home.

The new recommendations by experts in the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration report could be crucial to ensure the autonomy and independence of women migrant workers across the world.

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Valuing Water Beyond the Moneyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/valuing-water-beyond-the-money/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=valuing-water-beyond-the-money http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/valuing-water-beyond-the-money/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 11:29:03 +0000 Paula Fray http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150629 Amid the worst drought in a century, South Africans are kick-starting a global consultative process to agree on the values of water in a bid to ensure more equitable use of the finite resource. On May 30, ministers, officials, civil society, business and local regional organisations will gather outside Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of […]

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The catchment area of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, which flows into South Africa. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

The catchment area of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, which flows into South Africa. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

By Paula Fray
JOHANNESBURG, May 29 2017 (IPS)

Amid the worst drought in a century, South Africans are kick-starting a global consultative process to agree on the values of water in a bid to ensure more equitable use of the finite resource.

On May 30, ministers, officials, civil society, business and local regional organisations will gather outside Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of a high-level consultation on water called the “Valuing Water Initiative”.“The distribution of water has always been a point of advocacy in relation to the land transformation debate. [There can be] no land reform without water reform.” --Herschelle Milford

The High Level Panel on Water – first convened by the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and then UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon – consists of 11 sitting Heads of State and Government and one Special Adviser, to provide the leadership required to “champion a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services”.

The HLPW’s core focus is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, as well as to contribute to the achievement of the other SDGs that rely on the development and management of water resources.

The members of the panel are Heads of State from Australia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Jordan, Mauritius (co-chair), Mexico (co-chair), Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, and Tajikistan.

The South African consultation takes place on May 30, followed by consultations in Mexico, Senegal, Tajikistan and Bangladesh ahead of a global presentation at the Stockholm World Water Week in August 2017.

Global Water Partnership’s (GWP) executive secretary Rudolph Cleveringa explained that, as the first in a series of consultations, the South Africa meeting was expected to “set the tone and pace”.

“South Africa is extremely committed to the water agenda. South Africa went from an Apartheid policy-driven water policy to a human rights approach. We are very keen to see the country lead not only from a South Africa view but also from a southern Africa perspective,” said Cleveringa.

When she presented her budget speech to South Africa’s Parliament on May 26, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane – acknowledging her participation on the HLPW –  said “water knows no boundaries and water can be a social, security and economic catalyst, both nationally and internationally”

Announcing that South Africa, in partnership with GWP and working together with the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), was hosting the regional consultations, Mokonyane said the initiative would “support countries to enhance job creation through investments in water infrastructure and industrialisation”.

On the table will be the draft principles that note “making all the values of water explicit gives recognition and a voice to dimensions that are easily overlooked. This is more than a cost-benefit analysis and is necessary to make collective decisions and trade-offs. It is important to lead towards sustainable solutions that overcome inequalities and strengthen institutions and infrastructure.”

The meeting takes place as the Western Cape province of South Africa has been declared a disaster area as a result of the drought which has seen dam levels drop to crisis levels. The City recently said its feeder dam levels were at 20.7 percent, with only 10.7 percent left for consumption.

According to the minister, it is the “worst drought in the last 100 years and the severest for the Western Cape in the last 104 years.

“This drought has not only affected South Africa, but also the rest of the world because of global warming, climate change,” she said, adding that it would take at least two to three years for the Western Cape to recover.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city would increase emergency water schemes in the coming months with programmes such as drilling boreholes and exploring desalinisation.

In a recent speech, De Lille emphasised the need for public-private partnerships.

“We need to be innovative and diversify our financing mechanisms and these efforts will require partnership with the private sector,” De Lille was quoted as saying.

The city council has introduced Level 4 restrictions – one level below emergency level.

Western Cape-based Surplus People Project CEO Herschelle Milford, whose organisation works to support agrarian transformation, said that the city had blamed migration as a reason for the water crisis in Cape Town.

“However, the biggest consumers of water is industry, then agriculture and then households,” she noted. This called for dialogue on how water could be shared equitably among all its users, noted Milford.

“The water crisis is a discussion point in the context of large-scale commercial farmers using irrigation with limited recourse amongst land and agrarian activists,” said Milford.

Water was much more than simply about access: “The distribution of water has always been a point of advocacy in relation to the land transformation debate. [There can be] no land reform without water reform.”

Cleveringa said the discussions were being generated from very high international dialogues to discussions at the local level. To this end, the draft principles offer a range of perspectives on how water can be valued.

Not only will the South African dialogue include a host of ministers but regional input will be provided by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, as well as various organisations such as Dr Oyun Sanjaasuren, Chair of the Global Water Partnership; and Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

SADC head of water Phera Ramoeli said water valuation was a critical component of water resources management as it allowed “policy and planning across all the developmental spectrum”.

“The SADC region has 15 Shared Watercourses which accounts for over 70 percent of all the available renewable water resources in the region. If they are properly managed and adequately funded they will ensure the continued availability of these resources for the current and future generations for the various needs and uses that water is put to,” he said, noting that water was present in a large number of value chains including agro-processing, mineral processing, pharmaceuticals, energy production, even health.

“Valuing water is important as it will ensure that water resources management, development, conservation and monitoring receives an appropriate share of the national budget,” he added.

The water principles being discussed also emphasise the collaborative process to build water champions and ownership at all levels that allows users to meet all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are moving away from valuing water in its fiscal interpretation only. We’re not just looking at it in terms of how much does water cost but going beyond this utilitarian approach. The Bellagio principles demonstrate that there is more than just a utilitarian approach to water and we hope that these consultations will draw out those discussions,” said Cleveringa.

“The value of water is basically about making choices,” he said, adding that this called for “not just a cross-sectoral approach but also all of society input into valuing water”.

It is in this discussion that the high level panels aim to provide leadership to champion a “comprehensive, inclusive, and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services”.

The dialogues need to generate an open debate on the values of water as well as get regional input to the Bellagio principles.

Over half of the consultations are happening in non-OECD settings that are being led by the global South.

“This sets the right tone for buy-in at multiple levels,” said Cleveringa.

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Macron Likely to Diffuse Tensions as Independence Vote Looms in New Caledoniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/macron-likely-to-diffuse-tensions-as-independence-vote-looms-in-new-caledonia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=macron-likely-to-diffuse-tensions-as-independence-vote-looms-in-new-caledonia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/macron-likely-to-diffuse-tensions-as-independence-vote-looms-in-new-caledonia/#respond Mon, 22 May 2017 13:06:44 +0000 Catherine Wilson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150518 The political future of New Caledonia, a French South Pacific Island territory of 273,000 people, is a profound question mark as a referendum on independence rapidly approaches next year. Equally, how the newly elected French Government, led by Emmanuel Macron, will perform as arbiter of the challenging process in the months ahead is a relative […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Norwegian Trade Union Boycott Israelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/norwegian-trade-union-boycott-israel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=norwegian-trade-union-boycott-israel http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/norwegian-trade-union-boycott-israel/#comments Mon, 22 May 2017 11:23:38 +0000 Linda Flood http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150514 The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) has voted in favour of a boycott against Israel, which is expected to affect cultural, economical and academic ties. Condemnation has come from Isreali politicians, diplomats and unions. By a vote of 197 for and 117 against, the LO congress passed the motion even though the representative General […]

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Israel's separation barrier as seen from Al Ram. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D'Amours/IPS

Israel's separation barrier as seen from Al Ram. Credit: Jillian Kestler-D'Amours/IPS

By Linda Flood
STOCKHOLM, May 22 2017 (IPS)

The Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO) has voted in favour of a boycott against Israel, which is expected to affect cultural, economical and academic ties. Condemnation has come from Isreali politicians, diplomats and unions.

By a vote of 197 for and 117 against, the LO congress passed the motion even though the representative General Council has not been in support of such a step.

According to Norwegian media organisation NRK, the newly elected president of LO, Hans-Christian Gabrielson, had warned delegates that a boycott could have negative consequences for Palestinian workers and trade unions.

Hans-Christian Gabrielsen. Photo: LO Norge

Hans-Christian Gabrielsen. Photo: LO Norge

Histadrut, Israel’s largest federation of trade unions, reacted with great disappointment.

In correspondence with Arbetet Global, the Director of international relations,  Avital Shapira-Shabirow, expressed:

”It would have been better for the organization to concentrate on promoting positive agendas between the parties rather than to adopt this miserable resolution, which is in utter contradiction to the cooperation of the Histadrut and PGFTU”.

She continues:

”Once again this emphasizes the unbalanced and discriminatory policy of LO-Norway towards the Histadrut and its workers.”

LO has also encouraged the Norwegian government to recognize a Palestinian state within the borderlines of 1967.

”Precisely at this time when there is another attempt to renew the negotiations between the parties, it would have been appropriate to show more responsibility and avoid adopting a unilateral resolution that does not contribute at all to promoting a possible solution to the conflict”, Avital Shapira-Shabirow writes to Arbetet Global. 

”Norwegian government strongly opposes Norwegian Labour Union’s decision” stated Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs on Twitter, adding:  ”We need more cooperation and dialogue, not boycott”

LO’s close political ally, the social democratic Norwegian Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet) were also critical to the result of the vote. Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre told news agency NTB:

”I am against the boycott. I do not believe it will move us closer to a political solution for Israelis and Palestinians, with the establishment of a Palestinian state and a strengthening of human rights”

The Israel embassy in Oslo condemned the decision. Ambassador Raphael Schutz wrote in an e-mail to news agency AFP:

”This immoral resolution reflects deeply rooted attitudes of bias, discrimination and double standard towards the Jewish state”

Swedish LO though have no plans to follow suit. ILO expert Oscar Ernerot explains their position:

”In Sweden we actively support a two state solution and that Israel will cease to occupy Palestine.  That is why we collaborate with the Isreali labour union Histadrut”

The Norwegian LO has 900 000 members which is about one-fourth of the national workforce.

Linda Flood

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Young People: You Didn’t Vote, And Now You Protest?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/young-people-you-didnt-vote-and-now-you-protest/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=young-people-you-didnt-vote-and-now-you-protest http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/young-people-you-didnt-vote-and-now-you-protest/#comments Tue, 16 May 2017 11:33:32 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150432 Roberto Savio is co-founder of Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and its President Emeritus. He is also publisher of OtherNews.

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 16 2017 (IPS)

Immediately after the vote on Brexit, thousands of young people marched in the streets of England to show their disagreement over the choice to leave Europe. But polls indicated that had they voted en masse (only 37 percent voted), the result of the referendum would have been the opposite.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

In the political system, it is now taken for granted that youth will largely abstain, and the agenda tends to ignore them more and more. This has created a vicious circle, setting up priorities which do not represent them. Yet, the analysis of the elections after the shattering economic and social crisis of 2008-9 is clear and statistically evident.

The European Parliament conducted research on the European elections of 2014 in the 28 member countries. While the youngest Europeans (18-24) are more positive about the European Union than the oldest (55+), far fewer of them turned out to vote. Turnout was higher among the oldest respondents.

Some 51 percent of the 55+ voted, while only 28 percent did in the 18-24 age group. This is relatively unchanged since the 2009 elections. And young people were more inclined to decide on the day of the elections, or a few days before (28 percent compared with the +55 group).

Already in 2014, 31 percent of the younger group said they never voted, against 19 percent of the 55+ age group. Yet, the younger the age, the more people had the feeling of being Europeans: 70 percent for the 18-24 year-olds, and 59 percent for the 55+ group.

It could be said, of course, that European elections are a special case. But a look at the past national elections in Europe confirms this trend. In the Austrian presidential elections of 2016, youth participation was at 43 percent. In 2010, it was 48 percent.

In the Dutch parliamentarian elections of 2017, the age group 18-24 vote was at 66 percent: it was 70 percent in 2012. In the Italian referendum of December 2016, the youth abstention was 38 percent, against 32 percent of the general population. And in the recent French presidential elections, the data are consistent: 78 percent abstention for the 25-34 age group; 65 percent for the 24-35; a solid 51 percent for the 35-49; and then 44 percent for the 50-64, with only 30 percent for those 65 and over.

In Israel, just 58 percent of under 35s, and just 41 percent of those under 25, voted in 2013, compared with 88 percent of over 55s. In Britain and Poland less than half of under 25s voted in the last general elections, compared with 88 percent of over 55s.

The growing youth abstention has significant implications. Let us take the last American elections that brought Donald Trump to the White House. The so-called Millennials, those of the age group 18-35, now make up 31 percent of the electorate. The Silent Generation (those 71+) are now 12 percent of the voting pool, and Generation X (36-51) makes up about 25 percent of the electorate.

Bernie Sanders’ run was based on 2 million votes from the 19-24 age group – voters who basically abandoned the elections after his loss in the primaries. Young people’s abstention rate, close to 67 percent, made the Millennials equivalent to the Silent Generation, and lost its demographic advantage. Millennials had a favourable view of Sanders at 54 percent, against 37 percent of Clinton. Just 17 percent of young people had a positive view of Trump.

Had only millennials voted, Clinton would have won the election in a landslide, with 473 electoral votes to Trump’s 32.

The first obvious observation is that if the traditional intergenerational rift disappears, we will have little change in politics, as older voters are usually more conservative. And the second obvious observation is that citizens’ participation will progressively shrink, as the young will age.

What is worrying is that we have too many polls on the reasons behind the political disenchantment of young people to think that the political system is unaware. On the contrary, many political analysts think that parties in power don’t mind abstentions in general terms. It shrinks the voters to those who feel connected, whose priorities are clear and simpler to satisfy, as the older generations feel more secure than the younger ones.

And the theme of young people is disappearing in the political debate, or is merely rhetorical. A good example is that the Italian government devoted in 2016 a whopping 20 billion dollars to save four banks, while it dedicated a total of 2 billion dollars to create jobs for young people, in a country which has close to 40 percent youth unemployment.

For youth, the message is clear: finance is more important than their future. So they do not vote, and they are less and less a factor in the political system.

Spending on education and research are the first victims (together with health) when austerity hits. The results are evident. In Australia (where 25 percent of the young people said that “it does not matter what kind of government we have”), those over 65 pay no tax on income under 24,508 dollars. Younger workers start paying taxes at 15,080 dollars.

In rich countries the world over, people over 65 have subsidies and special discounts, such as on the cinema and other activities. Not the young people…. But when somebody with a message for the young comes into the picture, participation changes. In Canada, just 37 percent of the 18-24s voted in the election of 2008, against 39 percent in 2011. But when Justin Trudeau campaigned on a message of hope in 2015, youth participation rose sharply to 57 percent.

What is a real cause of concern for democracy, as an institution based on the waning concept of popular participation, is that young people are not at all apolitical. In fact, they are very aware of priorities like climate change, gender equality, social justice, common goods, and other concepts, much more than the older generation. At least 10 percent of young people volunteer in social groups and civil society, against 3 percent of the older generations.

They feel much more connected to the causes of humanity, have fewer racial biases, believe more in international institutions, and are more interested in international affairs. A good example is Chile. In 2010 general abstention was 13.1 percent. In 2013 it went to 58 percent. Youth abstention was 71 percent. If young people would vote, they could change the results.

Simply, they have given up on political institutions as corrupt, inefficient, and disconnected from their lives. A report last year found that 72 percent of Americans born before the Second World War thought it was “essential” to live in a country that was governed democratically. Less than a third of those born in the 1980s agreed.

We must note that the decline of participation in elections is a worldwide phenomenon, not just among young people, but also the general population. The last elections at the writing of this article were in the Bahamas; only 50 percent of the population went to vote. In Slovenia abstention is now at 57.6 percent, in Mali 54.2 percent, in Serbia 53.7 percent, in Portugal 53.5 percent, in Lesotho 53.4 percent, in Lithuania 52.6 percent, in Colombia 52.1 percent, in Bulgaria 51.8 percent, in Switzerland 50.9 percent…and this in regions as different as Latin America, Europe, Africa and Asia…the crisis of political participation goes from the cradle of the parliamentarian system (Great Britain), 24 percent abstention, in 1964, to 34.2 in 2010 to Italy (7.1 percent in 2063, and in 2013 24.8 percent).

There is a general consensus among analysts that the damages of globalization and the discrediting of political parties are the major causes for the decline in participation. Yet the winners never take into account the reasons of the losers. The victory of Macron in the last French elections was well-received in Germany, but as soon as the new president started to speak about the need to strengthen Europe, for instance by creating a European finance minister, the immediate reaction was: Germany is not going to place one cent of its well-earned surplus with Europe to the service of other countries: those who spend their money on women and drinks and now expect solidarity form the North of Europe (the Dutch President of Eurofin, Jeroen Dijsselbloem).

How long it will it take to get the winners inside the European Union to understand that the political crisis is a global one, and must be addressed urgently? Voter turnout has been dropping precipitously in Germany, from over 82 percent in 1998 to only 70.8 percent in 2009. As at the last election, this year the number of non-voters is expected to surpass the number of voters in favor of the most successful party.

Manfred Güllner, the head of the Forsa polling institute, warns of a non-voter record. “There is reason to fear that fewer than 70 percent of eligible voters will go to the polls,” he says. If the non-voters were included on a conventional TV graphic, they would have the highest bar in the chart. They should actually be touted as the true winners of the election — if it weren’t for the fact that this also represents a defeat for democracy.

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Towards a Global Role for ACP?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/towards-a-global-role-for-acp/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=towards-a-global-role-for-acp http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/towards-a-global-role-for-acp/#respond Sun, 07 May 2017 11:04:33 +0000 Goele Geeraert http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150328 The African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) met this week in Brussels for the 105th Session of its Council of Ministers to discuss the key question of how these 79 countries could play a more effective role for their own citizens and in the international arena. The ACP-group was established by the 1975 […]

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

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

By Goele Geeraert
BRUSSELS, May 7 2017 (IPS)

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

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

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

Post-2020 relations

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

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

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

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

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

Comparative advantage

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

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

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

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

Intra-ACP cooperation

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

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

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

Sustainable financing

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

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

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

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

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In France, ‘Us and Them’ Amid Electionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/in-france-us-and-them-amid-elections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-france-us-and-them-amid-elections http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/in-france-us-and-them-amid-elections/#respond Sat, 06 May 2017 10:55:07 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150325 Launched in the run-up to the French presidential elections, a daring exhibition in Paris is sparking dialogue about the origins and nature of racism, both in Europe and elsewhere. Titled “Nous et les Autres: Des Préjugés aux Racisme” (Us and Them: From Prejudice to Racism), the exhibition’s aim is clear: to have visitors emerge with […]

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A scene from the exhibition in Paris at the Musée de l’Homme: “How do we categorise others?” Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

A scene from the exhibition in Paris at the Musée de l’Homme: “How do we categorise others?” Credit: A.D. McKenzie/IPS

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, May 6 2017 (IPS)

Launched in the run-up to the French presidential elections, a daring exhibition in Paris is sparking dialogue about the origins and nature of racism, both in Europe and elsewhere.

Titled “Nous et les Autres: Des Préjugés aux Racisme” (Us and Them: From Prejudice to Racism), the exhibition’s aim is clear: to have visitors emerge with a changed perspective — especially in a climate of divisive politics that have created tensions ahead of the second and final round of the presidential elections on Sunday, May 7."It makes no scientific sense to attribute a moral value to differences among people.” --Evelyne Heyer

“We hope that visitors will leave different from how they entered,” says Bruno David, president of France’s National Museum of Natural History and of its anthropology branch the Musée de l’Homme, which is hosting the exhibition.

“That’s the objective. What we’re doing is in the tradition of the museum, a humanist tradition, asking questions of society,” he adds.

Many residents of France are in fact wondering how the country reached its current stage, with an extreme-right candidate again making it to the second round of French presidential elections.

Marine Le Pen, the former leader of the National Front party (she has temporarily stepped down from leading the party during the elections), won 21.5 percent of the votes in the first round, placing after independent candidate Emmanuel Macron (24 percent), and beating the candidates of the formerly mainstream conservative and socialist parties, François Fillon and Benoît Hamon.

Polls predict that Le Pen will lose in the second round — like her father Jean-Marie Le Pen in 2002 – and that Macron will be president. But she is still expected to garner around 40 percent of the vote, with her anti-immigration and anti-globalisation platform.

Xenophobia and using cultural differences to promote hatred and discrimination have especially caused concern among institutions with a commitment to human rights and equality, as the museum says it is.

“The first network of the Resistance [during World War II] was born here,” David said in an interview at the museum, which opened in 1937 and is located in the landmark buildings of the Trocadéro area, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. (An infamous visitor to the site was Adolf Hitler in 1940.)

“The exhibition is in line with our principles. It is not militant, because we’re a museum and our approach is scientific, but it is fairly courageous, especially during this time,” David told IPS.

Using photos, film, sculptures and installations in an interactive manner, the exhibition highlights how “differences” have been used throughout history to “imprison individuals in readymade representations and to divide them into categories”.

It stresses that “as soon as these ‘differences’ are organized into a hierarchy and essentialized, racism is alive and thrives.”

The curators have organized the display into three parts, focusing on the processes of categorization, on the historical development of institutional racism and on the current political and intellectual environment.

“It is natural to categorize,” says Evelyne Heyer, co-curator of the exhibition and a professor of genetic anthropology. “But it’s the moral value that we give to differences that determine if we’re racist or not. It makes no scientific sense to attribute a moral value to differences among people.”

Heyer says that based on genetic study, humans have fewer differences among them than breeds of dogs, for example, and that the “categorisation of race is inappropriate to describe diversity”.

The exhibition attempts to give scientific answers to questions such as “if there are no races, why does human skin colour vary,” and it presents information tracing the origins of mankind to the African continent.

Apart from the scientific aspect, the curators have put much emphasis on the historical and international facets of “racialization”, focusing for instance on Nazi Germany and the “exaltation of racial purity”; the treatment of the indigenous Ainu people in Japan; the divisions between Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda; and segregation in South Africa and the United States.

During the opening night, as people crowded in front of a screen showing footage of civil rights struggles in the United States, a Paris-based African American artist commented, “I remember that so well.”

When a French spectator responded, “But you don’t look that old”, the artist stated firmly: “I am. I was there,” and so a conversation began.

The curators are hoping that the exhibition will engender long-term dialogue across political divides, but in the end the conversation might only continue among the already converted, say some skeptics, who also wonder about the display’s target audience: who exactly is “us” or “them”?

Still, for anyone wanting to learn more about the consequences of racism and discrimination, the exhibition presents a range of statistics.

It provides information, for instance, about the lack of access to employment for certain “groups” in France (job applicants with North African-sounding names often don’t receive responses to letters), as well as figures showing that the population most subjected to racism in the country are the Roma.

“Racism is difficult to measure, but many studies have been done on access to employment and on people’s views of those they consider different,” says historian and co-curator Carole Reynard-Paligot. “We want people to see these statistics and to ask questions.”

She said that she and her colleagues also wished to show the move from individuals’ racism to state racism, to examine how this developed and the part that colonization and slavery have played.

Throughout the exhibition, which runs until Jan. 8, 2018, the museum is organizing lectures, film screenings and other events. From May 10 to July 10, it is presenting works by photographers from French territories, Brazil, Africa and the United States in a show titled “Impressions Mémorielles”. This is to commemorate the French national day (May 10) of remembrance of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

Meanwhile, other museums are also taking steps to counter the anti-immigration mindset. The Paris-based Musée national de l’histoire de l’immigration (National Museum of the History of Immigration) has invited the population to visit its “Ciao Italia!” exhibition, either “before or after” they vote on Sunday.

This museum, which like the Musée de l’Homme has been controversial in the past because of its “colonialist” displays, says the Sunday free access will be an opportunity to learn about the story of Italian immigration to France from 1860 to 1960.

It will also be a chance to “discover … the numerous contributions of immigrants to French society”, the museum adds.

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Politicians Hijack Macedoniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/politicians-hijack-macedonia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=politicians-hijack-macedonia http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/04/politicians-hijack-macedonia/#respond Tue, 18 Apr 2017 12:28:19 +0000 Frank Mulder http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150014 The political crisis in Macedonia is deepening. With the president and former coalition preventing the formation of a new government, the state threatens to disintegrate in a climate of corruption and nationalism. The television is turned up loud in a hamburger shop in a suburb of Skopje called Šutka. The ethnic Albanian owner and his […]

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Thousands of people gather daily in the center of Skopje, Macedonia to express their support for the president. Credit: Aleksandra Jolkina/IPS

Thousands of people gather daily in the center of Skopje, Macedonia to express their support for the president. Credit: Aleksandra Jolkina/IPS

By Frank Mulder
SKOPJE, Apr 18 2017 (IPS)

The political crisis in Macedonia is deepening. With the president and former coalition preventing the formation of a new government, the state threatens to disintegrate in a climate of corruption and nationalism.

The television is turned up loud in a hamburger shop in a suburb of Skopje called Šutka. The ethnic Albanian owner and his workers follow the parliamentary debate live. Their faces, however, are full of contempt. While the owner is preparing an impressively filled bread for less than a euro, he shakes his head despondently."Let's be open: the dispute with the EU about the name is partly the reason for all this mess." --Aleksander Kržalovski

“Those politicians are only getting more and more nationalistic,” one of his clients explains.

Outside we hear the call to prayer. The majority of the people here in Šutka are Muslim. A Roma woman with red-streaked hair is selling ten euro jeans from her market stall. A man with a fluffy salafi-like beard and prayer trousers sells knick-knacks ranging from facial masks and incense sticks to Albanian Korans from beneath a Zlatan Dab Pilsener umbrella.

Filibuster

It looks like nonsensical chatter, what happens on television, but it’s not. What we see is a so-called filibuster, which means politicians preventing any decision-making by just keeping on talking. The right-wing party VMRO-DPNME doesn’t want the social democrats to form a government because that would grant the Albanian minority too many rights.

This has had a disastrous effect on the small Balkan country, which a few years ago was still a promising economy. Since the collapse of Yugoslavia there haven’t been any serious tensions between the Macedonian orthodox majority (about one and a half million) and the Albanian Muslim minority (about half a million), except for limited clashes in 2001.

But corruption has grown since then, along with nationalist rhetoric. In this climate a kind of mini-Watergate scandal has broken out, starting two years ago. Leaked secret service documents showed that ruling VMRO politicians had tapped the phone conversations of 20,000 people, for dubious ends. The country burst out in revolt. Finally, last December, after protests and diplomatic pressure, new elections were held.

VMRO won most of the seats again. Yet, they didn’t manage to form a coalition. The quarrelling Albanian parties, brought together by Albania, decided to strike a coalition deal with the social democrats. To which President Gjorge Ivanov, member of the VMRO, responded with a veto, and the VMRO parliamentarians with a filibuster. Their motive is, they say, that the new coalition wants to accept Albanian as official language, and they will not allow this to happen.

‘Captured state’

“It went very well in Macedonia,” says Samuel Žbogar, ambassador on behalf of the European Union in Skopje. “But the last few years we’ve seen a serious backsliding. We call it a ‘captured state’. Independent institutions like the judiciary are used by politicians.”

The European Union itself is partly to be blamed for the misery. For years, Macedonia has been tempted to enact reforms with a carrot called EU Membership, but year after year Greece has demanded that the country change its name first, for fear of territorial claims on its own Macedonia province.

“People feel deeply hurt,” a source within the European representation in the country says. “They have long been a EU candidate member but are overtaken by other countries.” It is an invitation for countries like Russia to step into the void, although this consists more of vocal instead of financial support – so far.

Fake majority

Thousands of people, mostly grey-haired, gather daily in the center of Skopje to express their support for the president. “Ma-ke-donia! Ma-ke-donia!” they chant, waving red-yellow flags and whipped up by nationalist songs.

“We reject the fake majority of the social democrats and the Albanian parties,” says one young demonstrator, dressed in red and yellow and wearing a 130-year-old cap from anti-Ottoman rebels. He smells strongly of of alcohol but is sure about his case. “The Albanian parties are directed by Albania. We can’t let a neighboring country decide what happens here, can we? They want to create a Great Albania. They want the Macedonian country to disappear. We cannot let this happen.”

This is nonsense, says Nasser Selmani, an ethnic Albanian and president of the Association of Journalists in Macedonia. “I am a Macedonian, this is my country. I don’t belong to Albania, I belong here.” Yet others have more to lose if the state should collapse, he explains. “We have Albania with which we have good relations. But what do the ethnic Macedonians have? Do you think there is anyone who would acknowledge their identity? Greece and Bulgaria won’t.”

The breakdown of the state is not unthinkable. Because of the stalemate, the necessary decisions can’t be made anymore. In a few months, local elections are scheduled. If they don’t take place, the local authorities lose their legitimacy, too.

What also will end in June is the mandate of the Special Prosecutor researching the wiretapping scandal. This is the real reason that politicians have hijacked the country, insiders say. They want to escape prosecution by any means possible.

“They are using the fear of Albanians for their own interest,” says Selmani. “They are using more and more nationalist language. The orthodox church is also promoting this. The cathedral in Skopje is even the gathering place for the daily protests.”

Conservatives

In the big cathedral, however, beneath beautiful icons, all looks peaceful. Evening prayer is silently attended by not more than four people. Even among orthodox believers the Macedonian church, which has declared itself independent from the Serbian orthodoxy, is known as a very nationalistic branch. But demonstrators are not there.

A young orthodox priest in Skopje is willing to explain what he thinks about the current crisis, if only on the basis of anonymity. He serves tea with pieces of Turkish fruit. “We have a separation between church and state. We don’t call for demonstrations here and we don’t give any voting advice. That’s forbidden. But if you ask me personally, I’m against Albanian as an official language. I originally come from a region without Albanians. What if all public servants would be obliged to speak Albanian because it’s an official language? That would be impossible. Our only language is Macedonian.”

On the wall behind the black-robed priest there is a small Macedonian flag with an orange-black Saint George Ribbon, a Russian nationalist symbol. When I ask him what he hopes what will happen, he says, “I hope the crisis will soon be over. That we can live in peace with each other again, without politics being between the people.” The priest doesn’t seem radical, rather very conservative.

Alexander

Through the window of a restaurant in Skopje I look down at the paragon of nationalistic Balkan kitsch, made possible by millions of taxpayers’ money. Between the statues of the Macedonian hero Alexander the Great, to the left, and the Father of Alexander, to the right, we see nobody less than the mother of Alexander, in fourfold. Alexander in her belly, Alexander at her breast, Alexander on her lap, and Alexander around her neck. It’s all completely over the top. It’s the way the current leaders want to bring the people together, at least the ethnic Macedonians.

Inside the restaurant I have a conversation with Aleksander Kržalovski, leader of the Macedonian Centre for International Cooperation, which is the second largest NGO of the country and funder of many small NGOs. He is critical of the current nationalistic wave, he says.

“But it doesn’t make sense to demonize the more conservative population. Many left-wing organisations are very radical. They don’t want to work with fascists, they say. We, instead, believe in cooperation. It’s necessary to bridge the divide between different groups.

“To be honest, it’s unfair to blame right-wing politicians for everything,” Kržalovski continued. “The social democrats use very polarizing rhetoric as well. And many Albanians show no respect for the progress we’ve seen, the rights they have got. Many don’t want to wave the Macedonian flag or sing the national anthem. That raises suspicion. Some people have seen their house burnt down by ethnic Albanians three times, in 2001. And now they see them having a much higher birth rate. It’s understandable that people have fear.”

This doesn’t mean that we have to accept corruption, he says. “Impunity has to end now, that’s very important. But let’s not blame one party. And let’s be open: the dispute with the EU about the name is partly the reason for all this mess. We see that reflected in the diminishing support for the EU in the polls that we do. The EU clearly hasn’t done the job.”

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