Inter Press ServiceEurope – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Jul 2018 00:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Immigration, Lot of Myths and Little Realityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=immigration-lot-myths-little-reality http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/immigration-lot-myths-little-reality/#comments Tue, 17 Jul 2018 16:03:25 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156748 Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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The Italian Navy rescues migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Credit: Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

According to the latest statistics, the total flow of immigrants so far in 2018 is 50.000 people, compared with 186,768 last year, 1,259,955 in 2016 and 1,327,825 in 2015. The difference between reality and perceptions is so astonishing, we are clearly witnessing one of the most brilliant manipulations in history.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

The latest survey carried out of 23,000 citizens of France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States shows an enormous level of disinformation. In five of those countries, people believe that immigrants are three times higher than they actually are.

Italians believe they account for 30% of the population when the figure is actually 10%, an average which is lower than the media of the European Union. Swedes are those closest to reality: they believe immigrants account for 30%, when in fact the figure is 20%.

Italians also believe that 50% of the immigrants are Muslim, when in fact it is 30%; conversely, 60% of the immigrants are Christian, and Italians think they are 30%.

In all six countries, citizens think that immigrants are poorer and without education or knowledge, and therefore a heavy financial burden. Italians think that 40% of immigrants are jobless, when the figure is close to 10%, no different from the general rate of unemployment.

Meanwhile, the 7th report on the economic impact of immigration in Italy from the Leone Moressa Foundation, which based its research on Italian Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) data, has presented some totally ignored facts.

The 2.4 million immigrants in Italy have produced 130 billion euros, or 8.9% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) – an amount larger than the GDP of Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia. In the last five years, out of a total of nearly 6 million Italian companies, 570.000 – or 9.4% of the total – were started by immigrants. Tito Boeri, president of Italy’s national pension agency INPS, has told Parliament that immigrants give 11.5 billion euro to the system, more than what they cost. He also stressed that Italy is going through a demographic crisis, with only seven births for every eleven deaths.

The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

Well, Matteo Salvini, the emerging Italian leader, who has based all his political success on making immigrants the greatest threat facing Italy, answered on Twitter: Boeri lives on Mars. And that was the end of the story. For more than 50% of Italians, Salvini’s tweet was more conclusive than real statistics.

The same happened with the outgoing Director General of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), William Swing, who quoted a study conducted by the IOM and McKinsey Global Institute which “determined that although only 3.5% of the world’s population are migrants, they are producing nine percent of the global wealth measured in GDP terms, which is more than four percent than if they stayed at home”. This made no impact on Trump electors, white rural and red collars, who are convinced that immigration is a threat to the country, even though they all have immigrant roots.

In other words, facts are irrelevant. Perceptions count more.

Let us take Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is being weakened by the immigration issue, barely escaping a revolt of her Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, who is leader of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Merkel’s party.

The shy and timid Trump was glad to come to Seehofer’s help, tweeting that the people of Germany are “turning against” their government over the issue of migration, which has led to an increase in crime. The fact that Germany has witnessed a strong decrease in crime is, of course, irrelevant for someone who has made more than 3,750 false statements over his 38.187 tweets (as of July 14).

Now, Trump’s tweets have 53,111,505 followers (as of July 15). The total circulation of the 1,331 dailies newspapers in the United States is close to 62 million, but the total circulation of the 100 largest dailies is below 10 million copies. So, whatever they write is massively overwhelmed by Trump’s tweets.

Trump is not alone in his campaign … he has allies in Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Italy’s Matteo Salvini, Poland’s Jaroslaw Kazynscky, Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini and the Czech Republic’s Milos Zeman, all in power. Then, in the wings, we have Marine Le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in Great Britain and so on for nearly every European country, with the exception of Spain and Portugal. All together, they have been using immigration, nationalism and xenophobia as the tool of the new “alternative right” for success.

Let us go back to the case of Germany. Bavaria, which is threatening Berlin’s government, is the richest state in Germany, with a population of 12.2 million people. Munich is the third largest city, after Berlin and Hamburg, with 1.4 million people, is the second largest employer in the country, and has attracted immigrants, which are all together less than 200,000. The local daily, Suddeutsche Zeitung, estimates Muslims at 32.000.

Alternative for Germany (AfD), the extreme right-wing party that won 13% of the vote (and 92 seats in parliament) in the last elections, is essentially based on an anti-immigrant platform. In a poll in March it narrowly surpassed the centre-left Social Democrats for the first time in history. The poll, by INSA and commissioned by the newspaper Bild, showed AfD support at 16% compared with the SPD’s 15.5% – a  new low for what has traditionally been one of Germany’s largest parties.

In the last polls, AfD appears to win over CSU in Bavaria, where Muslim immigrants are rare. But the main base for AfD comes from the old East Germany, where immigrants are one-quarter of those in West Germany. So, there is no rational link between reacting to the presence of immigrants and votes. AfD wins more votes where there are fewer immigrants.

The CDU is now running frantically towards extreme right-wing, xenophobic positions in order not to lose out to the AfD. It will probably lose anyway since history shows that voters always prefer to vote the original than copies. But Germans, and Bavarians, are thought to be rational people.

The statistics are clear. Each year there are 300,000 less working people. Of the 80.6 million Germans, only 61% is of working age. In 2050, this will shrink to 51%, and those older than 65 will increase from 21% to 33%. The birth rate in Germany is 1.5%, while a birth rate of 2.1% is necessary to keep the population at the same level. The huge influx of immigrants has increased the birth rate to a modest 1.59%. Immigrants tend to imitate local trends and do not have many children.

Therefore, it is clear to all that within two decades productivity will decline dramatically (some say by 30%) because of less people working, and there will be not enough payers to keep the pension and social security systems going. It will be the end of the German locomotive.

The same consideration applies throughout Europe, which has a statistical birth rate of 1.6, meaning that it will lose close to one million people each year. The UN Population Division considers that Europe should have an influx of 20 million immigrants just to maintain its course. This is clearly impossible in today’s political system.

With impeccable observation, Spanish philosopher Adela Cortina has noted that football players, artists and rich people, even those who are Muslims, like princes are most welcome in Europe. Those who are not welcome are the poor. So, she wrote a book on why we are not faced with real xenophobia. What we face, she wrote, is aporofobia, a term she coined using the word ‘apora’, the Greek word for ‘poor’. In fact, this defence of European civilisation is an updated version of colonialism.

And yet we have plenty of data about the positive impact of immigration. The last is a very complex study over 30 years of immigration, carried out by the very respected French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and published by Science Advances, on the 15 European countries which received 89% of demands for asylum in 2015, the year of the great influx from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

After four years, partly due to the length of the bureaucratic process, GNP rises by 0.32%. Impacts on the fiscal system are also relevant. Prof. Hippolyte D’Albis, one of the authors, observes that initially immigrants are of course a cost, but this public money is reinvested in society, and for ten years they produce more wealth than the general population. After ten years they melt into the general statistics.

It is obvious that the dream of people who come in Europe to escape hunger or war is to find a job as soon as possible, pay taxes and contributions to ensure their stability and future, and work hard. At least for a decade.

And it is interesting to see the difference between the new right and the old right. The old right was not against immigrants, also because they provided cheap labor. It was mildly nationalist but was never xenophobic (Jews apart). The alternative right is not interested in statistics and economics. It is interested only in stirring fear, to get to power.

 

People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

 

Reality is fake news. Trump has claimed that the 250,000 demonstrators opposed to his visit to Great Britain and kept him out of the centre of London, were in fact his supporters. You need not be only a narcissist, you also need to reverse reality.

The question, therefore, is what has happened to people? Trump’s changing the intention of 250,000 demonstrators would once have attracted ridicule. Not now: for Trump’s supporters, his tweets are undisputed truth.

His meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought the vaguest of results, He walked out of the Iran deal, which had several pages of agreement, saying it did not address issues. At the July NATO summit in Brussels, he attacked everybody, and then said that all had engaged to increase to their military budget  to 4% (the United States stands at 3.6%). In his visit to the United Kingdom, he scolded beleaguered Prime Minister Theresa May, defended a hard Brexit and saluted resigning Minister of Foreign Affairs and hard Brexiter Boris Johnson as his favorite. He told May that he had not come to negotiate, but to obtain what he wanted. He then met Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that the United States was responsible for the bad relations between the two countries, that Putin was to be believed when he said that there was no Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections, and that the intelligence agencies and the Department of Justice, with the probe into those elections by special counsel Robert Mueller, were an American disgrace. When in US history has a president scolding his allies and praising enemies of the United States raised not even an eyebrow from the Republican US electorate, which is now Trumpian over and above anything else?

The fact of the matter is that, as a survey released in June last year by Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) shows, the concept of democracy itself is in danger.

The survey asked more than 3,000 scholars and country experts to evaluate each of 178 countries on the quality of core features of democracy. At the end of 2016, most people lived in democracies. Since then, one-third of the world population, or 2.5 billion people, have gone through “autocratisation”, in which a leader or group of leaders begins to limit democratic attributes and rule more unilaterally.

Four of the most populous countries – India, Russia, Brazil and the United States – have been affected by autocratisation. Other large countries in democratic decline in the past !0 years include Congo, Turkey, Ukraine and Poland.

The United States fell from 7th to 31st place in just two years. The US Congress does not like to be able to put reins on the president, the opposition party appears unable to have any influence over the governing party, and the Judiciary is becoming much more partisan than balanced. The US Supreme Court looked like a counterweight to the Executive, but now its ranking has slipped to 48th place.

A poll by the McKinsey Institute found that today a full 41% of Americans would not mind not living in democracy if the leader they liked were to remain in power beyond the constitutional term.

It is fact that people elect those they like, and therefore any country has the leader its voters elect, be it Putin, Erdogan, Orban, Trump … and not centuries ago Mussolini and Hitler. If they want to listen to saviours sent by God, who care nothing about reality, that is their right. We can only mourn the growing somnambulism of people.

The serious problem is that this view of the world will only bring with a disaster in the not too distant future. It is really urgent, for example, to create an immigration policy, to establish criteria for those that the industrialised countries need to be able to to remain in global competition.

This will not happen. All immigrants are presented as a threat, just as a cynical road to power, regardless of reality. Africa’s population will double in the next few decades. Nigeria will grow to 400 million, the present population of Europe. Sixty percent of Africa’s population is now under 25, compared with 32 percent in the United States and 27 percent in Europe.

Are Europeans going to machine gun the immigrants, (as some xenophobes are already asking) and decline to a region of old people, with little if no pension and a non-existent social system? Is Europe going to lose its original identity, and the values that are enshrined not only in the European constitution, but also in those at national level?

The French Parliament has eliminated the term “race” from its constitution, and the Portuguese government will give Portuguese citizenship to immigrants who have a stable job after one year.

On the other hand, the government of the Netherlands, with the support of parliament, has decided that will refuse to allow children born by Dutch parents enrolled with ISIS to return on the grounds that those children have been born and raised in a climate of hate and violence, and thus constitute a danger for Dutch society.

The Netherlands was once a symbol of tolerance, and for centuries refugees went there, fleeing from religious or political conflicts. Today, the Netherlands has a population of 17.2 million people, with a high standard of living. How many such ISIS children are there? The astounding number of 145! Would it not be possible to find 145 families where those children – who have no responsibility for their situation – could forget the horrors they went through and enjoy the benefits of their nationality which, by international law, is considered non-waiverable? Meanwhile, the United States is separating more than 5.000 children from their immigrant parents.

Under this unprecedented face of the West, is this the new Europe and United States that their citizens want?

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Excerpt:

Roberto Savio is founder of IPS Inter Press Service and President Emeritus

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Europe Needs to Stop the Criminal Business Behind Immigrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/europe-needs-stop-criminal-business-behind-immigration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-needs-stop-criminal-business-behind-immigration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/europe-needs-stop-criminal-business-behind-immigration/#comments Tue, 10 Jul 2018 09:03:35 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156618 Debating on migration as an emergency is a huge mistake and treating it as such opens the door for illegal and unfair activities, says a migration expert. Laura Verduci, a humanitarian officer who has worked with migrants both in Europe and Africa for more than 20 years, tells IPS that she has seen migrant emergency […]

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According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, about 42,000 migrants arrived in Europe this year as of Jun. 30. The number of migrants entering Europe have reduced in comparison to previous years. Courtesy: Laura Verduci/Doctors Without Borders.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jul 10 2018 (IPS)

Debating on migration as an emergency is a huge mistake and treating it as such opens the door for illegal and unfair activities, says a migration expert.

Laura Verduci, a humanitarian officer who has worked with migrants both in Europe and Africa for more than 20 years, tells IPS that she has seen migrant emergency funds being squandered or embezzled.

Verduci, who currently works for Doctors Without Borders and is now based in the West African nation of Sierra Leone, says: “Once you consider it as an emergency, this implies the allocation of extra [financial] resources … I realised during my experience in Sicily, that they are subcontracted to private entities that bring the entire process into illegal and unfair activities.”

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, about  42,000 migrants arrived in Europe this year as of Jun. 30. It may still be early to compare this with last year’s figure of about 172 000 migrants, but if the overall migration in previous years is anything to go by the numbers seem to be decreasing from a high of just over one million migrant arrivals in 2015 to almost a third that in 2016. In comparison to Europe’s total population of about three quarters of a billion people, some see this as a drop in the ocean and not an emergency situation. 

The reduced numbers do not explain the long delays many migrants experience.

In Italy, most migrants are still trying to obtain political asylum or, in some cases, be included on official asylum lists.

A cultural mediator who works in a refugee centre in the north of Italy and wanted to speak anonymously, tells IPS that in some cases the bureaucratic procedures to obtain asylum in Italy are intentionally slowed by authorities in order to prolong the residence time of migrants in those centres, purely for the allocation of public funds. The International Press Foundation has previously reported on the issue.

Verduci has experienced the wasteful spending firsthand.

“I remember while I was working in Trapani, that we had to wait for slippers for migrants that were purchased from a supplier in Messina, which is on the other side of Sicily. We could buy slippers anywhere close to Trapani but the [purchase of the slippers] had been subcontracted to that specific seller,” she tells IPS.    

Last year, an Italian court convicted 41 people, including personalities and politicians both from right-wing and left-wing parties, for stealing money from public contracts. The Mafia-like system used intimidation to win contracts in Rome. 

The racket controlled many municipal services, such as rubbish collection and management, public spaces’ maintenance and refugee centres. The investigation revealed that most of those financial resources were never spent for what they were intended — to improve living conditions in the refugee centres — but were siphoned off.

“I can see clearly a link between criminality and some political parties in Italy,” says Verduci.

“There are criminal organisations are interested in prolonging the economic and social uncertainty of migrants who, if unemployed and isolated from society, risk to enter into illegal activities,” says Verduci.

Verduci refers not only to the alleged links between criminal organisations and Italian politics but also to the more transnational aspect of human trafficking that has been taking place between Libya and Italy.

There have been reports in the media accusing the previous Italian government of striking a deal with Libyan militias involved in human trafficking to stop migration flows to Italian shores. The government had denied the reports at the time. But it was reported that after the alleged agreements were made, migrants arrivals dropped significantly.

Analysts like Den Boer from the University of Kent and Valerie Hudson from Texas A&M University believe that it would be a mistake to consider only the benefits of migration, which also brings some negative effects if not addressed with the suitable policies.

There is also the risk that migrants could remain trapped in a limbo of inadequacy in European societies if countries do not offer suitable integration policies. 

Migrants, if forced to live in poverty, without the chance of gaining employment or an education, risk being exploited by criminal organisations.

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United Nations Compact Must End Child Detentionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/#respond Sat, 07 Jul 2018 06:17:28 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156589 World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said. Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations. As images and […]

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People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2018 (IPS)

World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said.

Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations.

As images and stories of children trapped in detention centres in the United States continue to come out, Amnesty International (AI) has called on negotiation participants to end child detention. “Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the USA irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action.”

“The appalling scenes in the U.S. have illustrated why an international commitment to ending child migration detention is so desperately needed – these negotiations could not have come at a more crucial time,” said AI’s Senior Americas Advocate Perseo Quiroz.

“Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the U.S. irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action,” he added.

As a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and detained since May after crossing the country’s southern border.

Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S.

“At the U.N. next week there is a real opportunity for states to show they are serious about ending child migration detention for good by pushing for the strongest protections possible for all children, accompanied or otherwise,” Quiroz said.

The current draft of the GCM does mention the issue including a clause to “work to end the practice of child detention in the context of international migration” and to “use migration detention only as a last resort.”

However, AI believes the language is not strong enough as there is no circumstance in which migration-related detention of children is justified.

While U.S. president Donald Trump has signed an executive order reversing the family separation policy, he has replaced it with a policy of detaining entire families together.

This means that children, along with their parents, can be detained for a prolonged and indefinite period of time.

“Now is not the time to look away,” said Brian Root and Rachel Schmidt from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Family separation and detention policies are symptoms are a much larger global issue: how receiving countries treat migrants, who are often fleeing unstable and/or violent situations,” they added.

Recently, Oxfam found that children as young as 12 are physically abused, detained, and illegally returned to Italy by French border guards, contrary to French and European Union laws.

Over 4,000 child migrants have passed through the Italian border town of Ventimiglia between July 2017 and April 2018. The majority are fleeing persecution and conflict in countries such as Sudan, Eritrea, and Syria and are often trying to reach relatives or friends in other European countries.

Children have reported being detained overnight in French cells without food, water, or blankets and with no access to an official guardian.

In Australia, over 200 children are in asylum-seeker detention centres including on Nauru and are often detained for months, if not years.

“The Global Compact on Migration…offers some hope, but it will not work if many countries continue to see the issue purely in terms of border control,” HRW said.

“In addition, this compact will have little effect on an American president who seems to hold contempt for the idea of international cooperation,” they continued.

Last year, the U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Global Compact on Migration, just days before  a migration conference in Mexico, citing that the document undermines the country’s sovereignty.

Though the GCM itself is also not legally binding, AI said that it is politically binding and establishes a basis for future discussions on migration.

“Recent events have shone a spotlight on the brutal realities of detaining children simply because their parents are on the move, and we hope this will compel other governments to take concrete steps to protect all children from this cruel treatment,” Quiroz said.

Starting on Jul. 9, leaders of the 193 U.N. member states will meet in New York to agree on the final text of the GCM.

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Tackling Goal 8 and Modern Day Slavery through Technologyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/tackling-goal-8-modern-day-slavery-technology/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=tackling-goal-8-modern-day-slavery-technology http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/tackling-goal-8-modern-day-slavery-technology/#respond Fri, 22 Jun 2018 08:55:50 +0000 GSN http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156355 Pursuant to the ‘Joint Declaration of Faith Leaders Against Modern Slavery’ signed under the auspices of Pope Francis at the Vatican on 2 December 2014, the ‘Global Sustainability Network – GSN’ and ‘Rani’s Voice’, commemorate and reaffirm support for the victims in the lead up to the ‘World Day Against Trafficking in Persons’ on July […]

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By GSN
Vatican City, Jun 22 2018 (GSN)

Pursuant to the ‘Joint Declaration of Faith Leaders Against Modern Slavery’ signed under the auspices of Pope Francis at the Vatican on 2 December 2014, the ‘Global Sustainability Network – GSN’ and ‘Rani’s Voice’, commemorate and reaffirm support for the victims in the lead up to the ‘World Day Against Trafficking in Persons’ on July 30th, 2018

Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo – Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences hosts the Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) gathering on Tackling Goal 8 and Modern Day Slavery through Technology and in conjunction with ‘Rani’s Voice’ commemorate the ‘Freedom of Former Victims’ and announce the ongoing support of the GSN to those at the coal-face of battling Modern Day Slavery in the lead up to the ‘World Day Against Trafficking in Persons’, on July 30, 2018.

The GSN is a network of over 700 global change-makers across the Government, Business, Faith, Media, Community & NGOs and Academia sectors committed to achieving Goal 8 ( with special emphasis on Goal 8.7 of tackling Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking ) of the United Nations 17 Sustainability Goals.

Rani Hong, is the CEO of Rani’s Voice, and President of the Tronie Foundation and a survivor of child slavery and has had the privilege of speaking at the Pontifical Academy on their plans to place a focus on refugees and how to keep them from being at risk of falling into slavery or forced labor. She advocates, campaigns and tells her personal story in lectures and presentations to bring a voice to the voiceless as an advocate for those who are still enslaved around the world. “This is why I’m telling my story today,” Hong explains, “There are millions of other individuals, like that little girl I was — imprisoned, enslaved, and silenced — unable to tell my story. I therefore speak for those without a voice”.

“Today, the GSN is providing its further endorsement and support of Rani’s Voice in the call upon all that recognize the ongoing need to protect the rights of the victims of human trafficking. The GSN will continue to engage in supporting those, whom like Rani, are taking concrete action aimed at permanent and sustainable change” says Romy Hawatt – Founding Member – Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ).

 

SOME HISTORY

In 2010, the General Assembly adopted the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which urges governments around the world, as well as the UN’s programs to integrate and encourage integrate human trafficking awareness, security, and an establishment of a trust fund for victims of trafficking.

Due in part to Rani’s advocacy, in 2013, the United Nations designated July 30th as World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. On this powerful day, individuals and communities are invited to gather together, consider the lives of victims, and share the facts and truths about human trafficking, in order to honor and recognize those who still suffer from modern day slavery while also spreading awareness of this global issue. “I call upon all of you to commit yourselves-to create a world we know is possible: a world in which every person has the right to human dignity,” says Hong,

In 2014, the UNDOC and world leaders spread the awareness of human trafficking and slavery through social media campaigns and other events that engaged the community and the world, Continuing to 2015, the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda was adopted by the world and embraced goals that targeted the eradicated of modern day slavery. Target 8.7 of the Agenda commits States to take strong, immediate measures to eradicate forced labor in all its forms.

In 2016, the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking collaborated with the UNDOC and the Tronie Foundation organized a high-level event to discuss the topic of slavery and the eradication of the issue.

Following up in 2017, the Trust Fund created for victims of human trafficking showed that it had produced positive and hopeful results, assisting an average of 2,500 victims per year.

 

ABOUT THE GSN

The Global Sustainability Network ( GSN ) is a network of over 700 global change-makers across the Government, Business, Faith, Media, Community & NGOs and Academia sectors committed to achieving Goal 8 ( with special emphasis on Goal 8.7 of tackling Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking ) of the United Nations 17 Sustainability Goals.

Global Sustainability Network ( GSN )

Contact: Romy Hawatt – Founding Member
Tel: +447788200528
Email: romy@rianagroup.com

 

ABOUT THE TRONIE FOUNDATION

The Tronie Foundation is an organization that mentors survivors of slavery to both help them become leaders and empower them to work with global leaders in the movement to end human trafficking. The organization was co-founded by Rani and Trong Hong, both survivors of child trafficking and two of the world’s leading voices in the fight against modern-day slavery. For more information please visit www.troniefoundation.org and follow us on Twitter @RanisVoice.

Rani’s Voice

Contact: Rani Hong, CEO of Rani’s Voice International
C: 360-790-5159 (media only)
email: rani@ranisvoice.com

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Ukraine Puts Water Strategy High on Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/ukraine-puts-water-strategy-high-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ukraine-puts-water-strategy-high-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/ukraine-puts-water-strategy-high-development-agenda/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 00:01:25 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156328 A campaign to raise awareness of water security in Ukraine could be an inspiration around the world, activists behind it say, after it forced a change in the country’s approach to its water resources. After almost five years of promoting a vision of water security and proactive water management among various stakeholders and the government […]

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A lake in Ukraine, which has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas. Credit: Vitaliy Motrinets/cc by 4.0

A lake in Ukraine, which has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas. Credit: Vitaliy Motrinets/cc by 4.0

By Ed Holt
KIEV, Jun 21 2018 (IPS)

A campaign to raise awareness of water security in Ukraine could be an inspiration around the world, activists behind it say, after it forced a change in the country’s approach to its water resources.

After almost five years of promoting a vision of water security and proactive water management among various stakeholders and the government in Kiev, the issue of water security is now a top development priority for the government.“Ageing infrastructure dating back to Soviet times, canals, dams and reservoirs require huge resources – financial, human and technical – and there are new challenges as the climate changes." --Andriy Demydenko

Anna Tsvietkova of local NGO MAMA-86, a partner of the Global Water Partnership (GWP) intergovernmental organisation, and which was involved in the campaign, told IPS this was an example of how expert knowledge combined with awareness-raising could move water, or potentially other topics, to near the top of a country’s development agenda.

“Our work could be an inspiration for groups in other countries. We were active and we gave the best advice. Our government had to accept our proposals [on water security],” she said.

Like many countries, the issue of water security is becoming increasingly important for Ukraine.

Groups like GWP Ukraine have said that the state of water resources and water supply in Ukraine is a serious threat to national security, with its effects exacerbated by economic and political crisis, military conflict and climate change.

The country has a relative scarcity of naturally-occurring water supplies in populated areas and studies have shown that surface and ground water resources are unequally distributed between seasons and across the country.

The inefficient management of available water resources, including excess abstraction and pollution, has led to depletion and contamination of water resources, according to local environmental groups.

Meanwhile, ageing and poorly-maintained infrastructure and outdated water and wastewater treatment and technology have caused further problems, including serious sanitation and related health issues.

But until relatively recently, water security in Ukraine was not viewed by the authorities as a concept on its own and was dealt with as part of wider, overarching environmental protection legislation. Authorities – and the wider public at large – were fixed on the concept of water protection rather than risk-based management.

“One of the main threats to water security is that water management is perceived by the people managing it as management of water infrastructure and extracted water, which leaves all other sources of water unmanaged,” Dr Andriy Demydenko of the Ukrainian Center of Environmental and Water Projects told IPS.

“As a result authorities just control water quality and quantity parameters without having any responsibility to reach water targets,” he explained.

He added: “Ageing infrastructure dating back to Soviet times, canals, dams and reservoirs require huge resources – financial, human and technical – and there are new challenges as the climate changes.

“Also, a lack of a scientific basis for decision making and management, shortages in in knowledge and capacity building leave Ukraine very vulnerable and unprepared for events such as water scarcity, droughts and floods.”

However, through campaigns and national stakeholder dialogues over the last five years, GWP and local partner groups introduced and promoted the new concept of risk–based or proactive water management.

In 2016 GWP Ukraine organized four stakeholder consultations on the strategic issues of water policy entitled “Rethinking of Water Security for Ukraine”.

As a result, GWP Ukraine prepared a publication presenting a proposed set of national water goals, targets of sustainable development, and indicators to assess the progress in achieving goals on the water-energy-food nexus.

And in the last year, multi-stakeholder consultations have taken place to push Ukraine to an integrated water resources management approach.

Indeed, the GWP Ukraine’s work has helped change the Environment Ministry’s policy on water strategy.

Having initially said its water sector development programme was covered under other state programmes and strategic documents for water sector development, after seeing GWP’s proposals for a water strategy the ministry decided to approach the EU Water Initiative+ project to help develop its strategy.

Of GWP Ukraine’s original proposals in its consultation document, the Ukrainian government has already accepted proposals on some targets and indicators for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on ensuring access to water and sanitation for all.

The group continues to work with the government to accept other SDG 6 indicators and include them in the country’s development strategy.

It is hoped a concept paper on water sector reforms will be formulated this summer and then passed to government for approval. A draft of the country’s water strategy is to be presented and discussed at the next National Water Policy Dialogue, which is expected to take place sometime at the end of this year.

But, stresses Tsvietkova, the importance of GWP Ukraine’s work is not confined to Ukraine.

The group’s success in pushing change in Ukraine has led to other groups within the GWP CACENA network – covering Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Mongolia – to ask for support in the development of their countries’ water policies as part of national development programmes.

“They have been very interested,” she said.

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Europe, Sharing the Love?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=europe-sharing-love http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/europe-sharing-love/#respond Fri, 15 Jun 2018 12:42:42 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156249 Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries. On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly […]

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Mediterranean waters in Spain. Credit: Photo by David Aler on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 15 2018 (IPS)

Even if arrivals of migrants into Italy by sea have decreased between 2017 and 2018 so far, recent events in the Mediterranean rim have strongly drawn attention to the migration issue and a fierce debate is now underway among European countries.

On June 10, Italy’s new Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, barred the ship Aquarius, jointly operated by the NGOs‘SOS Mediterranée’ and ‘Doctors Beyond Borders’ (MSF), from docking at Italian ports. There were 629 migrants on the ship. Among them where 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 children and seven pregnant women.

The Italian coastguard coordinated the rescue operation but after moving the migrants to the Aquarius, the new Italian government denied access to Italian harbours. Malta, similarly when asked by Italy to accept the boat and take care of the relief, denied responsibility.

In recent years Italy has been at the forefront of a constant wave of migration from North Africa and has provided a huge amount of support by allowing the vessels into Italian ports. Malta also, with its relatively small population has accepted a large number of migrants despite its fewer than 450 000 inhabitants and small land size.

While public opinion, activists, policymakers, local officials and news agencies have criticised the latest decision by the Italian Government, the Government has also given to understand that it is working towards a solution with other European governments, given the very real humanitarian concerns involved in migration to its shores and those of other Mediterranean countries.

Similarly several local officials in Italy have condemned the hardline stance, such as the mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando and the Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, the latter stating that “…the port of Naples is ready to welcome” the migrants. “We are humans, with a great heart. Naples is ready, without money, to save human lives” he tweeted on June 10.

A breakthrough in the situation occurred only when Spain’s newly elected Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, decided to welcome the 629 migrants after the mayors of Valencia and Barcelona both offered to take the boat in at their ports. “It is our duty to help avoid a humanitarian catastrophe and offer a safe port to these people” Sánchez’s office said.

As of 15 June, 792 migrants have either died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean, says the UN Migration Agency (IOM). This number represents a decrease compared to the last three years, as deaths in the same period, were 1,836 in 2017, 2,899 in 2016 and 1,806 in 2015.

However, this situation is still represents a shameful paradox in our century. In 2017, migrants dead or missing while crossing the Mediterranean waters were 3,116 and the EU initiatives and allocations of funds have not been able to avoid these tragedies. In 2018 alone, of the 52,389 people who attempted to cross the Mediterraneam rim, 792 died, making the death rate 1.5%. The deadliest route in 2018 is – as of June 15 – the central route (503 deaths), as opposed to going by the western route (244) or the east (45).

 

 

The timing of the Aquarius’ events may not be completely coincidental, as there is an EU meeting at the end of June that will consider changing the rule that asylum must be claimed in the country of first entry.

That is the rule that has put Italy on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis. If considered in this light, the latest Italian decision, could be viewed as a bid for a domestic political win, as dissatisfaction of Italian public opinion towards migration flows has been steadily increasing in recent years. It remains to be seen what will be the political outome at the EU level.

While France’s government deeply criticized Italy’s decision to deny Aquarius’ docking, other countries, such as Hungary, praised Rome’s decision. Viktor Orban, the anti-migration prime minister said that Salvini’s decision is a “great moment which may truly bring changes in Europe’s migration policies.”

After being abandoned for four days, those migrants feared they were going back to Libya, a nightmare that obviously any of them wanted to consider. On November 2017, a CNN report on slave auctions in Libya had prompted international outrage over a slave market operating in the country.

Ben Fishman, an analyst from The Washington Institute, has highlighted what are the root causes of the growth of this general abuse of African migrants in Libya. “First” he wrote in a policy paper right after the CNN report was published, “many traffickers exploit migrants’ desperation to reach Europe, often trapping them in Libya. These traffickers enjoy free rein in Libya exploiting the country’s lawlessness in the same manner that the Islamic State did in 2015-2016 when it took control of Sirte.

Smugglers and gangs overlap with the militia landscape, making it extremely difficult to curtail the activities of one group without impacting the overall profit stream”. Fishman also added that “the main push factors that compel migrants to risk these treacherous journeys – namely, poverty, and lack of opportunities […] have not been adequately addressed”. In 2015 the EU had established a 3.2 billion euros fund to facilitate migration management at the point of origin in Africa but this EU-led initiative clearly needs to be greatly expanded.

Many analysts and activists urge the EU to address the migration crisis in an adequate and sustainable manner. Migration flows will continue, especially if policy responses remain as weak as they are at the moment. The EU needs to implement a comprehensive framework that deals both with the situation in Libya and with the points of origins in Africa, as well as with the welcoming policies implemented by the receiving countries in Europe.

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From Fake News to a Fake Deathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fake-news-fake-death/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fake-news-fake-death http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/fake-news-fake-death/#respond Thu, 14 Jun 2018 00:01:38 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156225 When news broke on May 29th that journalist Arkady Babchenko had been murdered in Ukraine, serious questions about the safety of journalists in the country were raised. When news broke less than 24-hours later that Babchenko’s murder had been staged by the Ukrainian security service, serious questions about the credibility of journalists in the country […]

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Arkady Babchenko. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

By Ed Holt
KIEV, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

When news broke on May 29th that journalist Arkady Babchenko had been murdered in Ukraine, serious questions about the safety of journalists in the country were raised.

When news broke less than 24-hours later that Babchenko’s murder had been staged by the Ukrainian security service, serious questions about the credibility of journalists in the country were raised."Now we know we should check everything the authorities say not twice, but three or four times." --Anna Babinec

Now, say global press freedom advocates, efforts to keep journalists in Ukraine and other parts of the world safe have only been hampered by the deception.

Johann Bihr, Head of the East European and Central Asian Desk at Reporters Without Borders (RSF), told IPS: “This discredits journalists and hampers efforts to effectively protect them.

“The global impact of this story means that it will have an effect in other countries. Whenever something similar happens, doubts will be raised.”

Babchenko, a former Russian soldier who had fought in Chechnya, had been a vociferous critic of the Kremlin for years. He fled Russia last year fearing for his life and eventually moved to Kiev where he had been working for the Tatar TV channel ATR.

When reports of his death first emerged, there was immediate speculation of Russian involvement – a theory Ukrainian authorities swiftly confirmed.

In the hours after the killing was reported, Moscow denied any involvement and, after Babchenko appeared alive, claimed it was evidence of Kiev’s anti-Russian propaganda.

But as soon as Babchenko appeared at a press conference held by the Ukrainian security services (SBU) the day after his apparent death, revealing he had been co-operating with the SBU in an operation to expose people apparently planning to kill him, press freedom watchdogs were outraged.

In a statement, Philippe Leruth, President of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), described it as a “complete circus” and told the Ukrainian authorities it was “intolerable to lie to journalists around the world and to mislead millions of citizens”.

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said there “could be no grounds for faking a journalist’s death”. He said staging the killing “would not help the cause of press freedom,” adding in a tweet: “It is pathetic and regrettable that the Ukrainian police have played with the truth, whatever their motive…for the stunt.”

And the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) warned it could potentially “undermine public trust in journalists and to mute outrage when they are killed”.

The SBU, and Babchenko, have continued to defend the operation. In posts on Facebook, Babchenko said he did not care about criticism questioning the journalistic ethics of what he and the SBU had done, saying he was grateful that the operation had saved his life.

But groups like RSF, CPJ and IFJ say while they are relieved Babchenko is alive, they question whether the mass deception, and subsequent damage to journalists’ and the Ukrainian authorities’ credibility, was worth it.

“We are glad that Babchenko is alive and are in no doubt that the threats he had been facing were real. However, what we are waiting for is the Ukrainian government to present hard evidence that this was worth it and it has really led to some results. So far, they have failed to do so,” Bihr told IPS.

Ukraine has a poor record on journalist safety. Journalists regularly face harassment and physical attacks as well as ‘doxing’ – the publication of their personal information.

Seven journalists have been killed in the last four years in Ukraine, the most recent being Belarusian-born Russian journalist Pavel Sheremet who died in a car bomb assassination in July 2016.

The investigation into his murder has stalled amid claims of a lack of effort from investigators and Ukrainian involvement in the killing.

After Babchenko’s staged murder, Larysa Sargan, spokesperson for Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, drew up a list on her Facebook page of journalists she claimed had been “traitorous” for criticising the operation.

In the wake of the faked murder, while all local journalists have been quick to stress their relief that Babchenko is alive, their opinions on the merits of the operation differ.

Some have praised it as the best way to save a threatened journalist’s life and expose a Russian plot, but many others have been critical of it and some have linked it back to what they say are serious shortcomings among institutions of power towards journalists‘ safety and freedom of speech.

Olga Rudenko, deputy editor-in-chief at the Kyiv Post newspaper, told RFE/RL: “Ukrainian journalists feel even less safe than they used to. To make it a safer place for journalists, the authorities need to investigate crimes against journalists.

“The whole plot to kill Babchenko, if we presume there was one, was only possible in the first place because so many earlier murders and attacks on journalists remain un-investigated, making for an atmosphere of impunity. Who’d sign up to kill a high-profile journalist if they knew all previous killers had been found and punished?”

Anna Babinec, co-founder of the investigative journalism agency Slidstvo.Info, said the incident had, for many journalists, stripped them of what trust they had left in Ukrainian authorities.

She told IPS: “Many journalists who lacked trust in the Ukrainian government before now have absolutely no trust in it.

“As an investigative journalist, working the whole night at the scene of the ‘crime’ was a great test of my skills. Now we know we should check everything the authorities say not twice, but three or four times. We need to check not only if the police are doing their work properly, but whether they are lying about crimes.”

She added: “As a journalist and human being I’m happy that my colleague is alive, but there are still a lot of questions that the security service and Arkady [need to answer] about this special operation.”

This distrust has deepened in the days since the operation with the SBU reluctant to give further details and both the alleged killer and man who hired him claiming to have been working with the SBU all along.

The leak of a reported ‘hit list’ of 47 people, supposedly discovered by the SBU during the operation, has added to the confusion.

The list, which includes journalists and political activists, contains the names of many critics of the Ukrainian authorities, among others, but, pointedly, does not include Babchenko.

Some local journalists believe it is genuine, but others doubt its veracity. Speaking to RFE/RL, three journalists on the list said they had been contacted by the SBU and shown a list with their names on. They said what they had been shown was similar to the list leaked in Ukrainian media, but had a different order of names and, in some cases, spellings.

One of the journalists said they had been questioned by the SBU about their political opinions.

Whether the SBU will give any further details on the operation and show it was, as the RSF said ‘worth it’, anytime soon is uncertain.

But the fact that local and global media were misled by authorities, with the willing help of a journalist, means this is likely to be a boon for those looking to repress free speech or spread propaganda as it leads to questions about the skills and credibility of those who are supposed to be presenting unbiased facts, critics say.

Russian journalist Tanya Felgenhauer told British daily newspaper The Independent: “This story has been a victory of the post-factual world and it makes our jobs even more difficult.

“One of the only advantages we have over social media and state media is accuracy and fact-checking. Here, our fact-checking model wasn’t sufficient, and our credibility has suffered badly.”

The RSF’s Bihr told IPS: “It provides help for organisations who sow doubt and spread misinformation, who blur the lines between truth and fiction. It provides fuel for repressive governments and propaganda media working to hamper freedom of speech.”

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Nepali Mothers and an Irish Daughterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepali-mothers-and-an-irish-daughter/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nepali-mothers-and-an-irish-daughter http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/nepali-mothers-and-an-irish-daughter/#respond Tue, 12 Jun 2018 18:50:25 +0000 Tej Thapa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156183 Tejshree Thapa is a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Nepal, often in the news because of its urgent development needs, was, on this crucial issue, ahead of many of its neighboring countries, decriminalizing abortion in 2002

Adolescent girls in Nepal continue to suffer severe disadvantages, discrimination and exclusion. Credit: UNFPA Nepal

By Tej Thapa
Jun 12 2018 (IPS)

I am the daughter of a formidable campaigner for women’s reproductive rights in Nepal. Decades ago, when such issues were not part of the playbook for development activists, my mother, a medical doctor, started setting up family planning programs after seeing women die in childbirth, shifting from hospital work into public health.

She established health posts for maternal and infant care. She fought for the reproductive rights of women and girls including access to contraception and comprehensive sexuality education. And most important, she instituted a network of female health workers all over Nepal.

Much remains to be done in Nepal, however, to ensure that those rights are available to all girls and women, regardless of financial or geographical situations.
For a woman raised at a time when it was unusual for girls to be educated, my mother has travelled long distances. Not only did she fight for Nepali women to have a choice, but she ensured that her two daughters had the same privilege.

I am myself now the mother of a daughter, who will soon enter adulthood.  She will then make her own decisions, including about her reproductive choices. My daughter is an Irish national.

So I spent the weekend of 26 May, during the Irish referendum on abortion rights, vacillating between crying with joy in one moment, and overwhelmed with anxiety about the outcome at another. My colleague Aisling Reidy, who is Irish, wrote movingly about her own experience of emotion and exhilaration that weekend. And about the need for other countries to move toward that arc of justice for girls and women.

Many Irish women and men travelled back to Ireland to cast their yes votes. The hashtag #HomeToVote was trending on Twitter that weekend. The resolve to give women rights over their bodies was quite incredible.

I write this not only because I care about my daughter’s rights. I write because the rights of so many women and girls in Ireland will hopefully change as a result of this vote. But above all, I write this also because it is occasion to be proud of my own country.

Nepal, often in the news because of its urgent development needs, was, on this crucial issue, ahead of many of its neighboring countries, decriminalizing abortion in 2002.

Women who had been imprisoned for abortion were released. Women today who want to exercise their choice over their bodies can legally do so, without restriction and with access to safe health care. Much remains to be done in Nepal, however, to ensure that those rights are available to all girls and women, regardless of financial or geographical situations.

But today I celebrate my Nepali mother. And I rejoice for my Irish daughter.

 

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Excerpt:

Tejshree Thapa is a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch

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Greece: SDGs a Way to End Economic Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/greece-sdgs-way-end-economic-crisis/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 16:50:43 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156119 Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis. During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. […]

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Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

A Greek flag waving in the locality of Oia, Greece. Credit: Matt Artz on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Seven years after being on the verge of a financial collapse, Greece is now seeing better times. Its economic accounts have clearly improved but what is not under the spotlight is how the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis.

During these past years, the country has achieved some partial gains. It is the first time, since 2011, that economic accounts of Greece are so encouraging that the country is looking with some optimism to the month of August 2018 when the last phase of European aid will be over definitely.

The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people

The surplus during the first nine months of 2017 was 2.2% higher related to the 1.75% imposed by the European Union. The GDP growth was 1.9% in 2017 and estimates show it will reach 2.5% in 2018.

Among the most significant levers of the Greek recovery is the increase of its exports. In particular, the production and sale of liqueurs, as well as the car industry are both stimulating growth. Tourism remains a pillar of the Greek economy. In 2017, it was 17% higher than the year before.

However, despite these positive signs, the reality on the ground is bitter sweet. The purchasing power of the people has fallen by approximately 29% and unemployment has reached 23% for adult workers and, a stunning 40% for young people. Greece might not risk that default that was feared a few years ago but the ordinary people are facing tough challenges even to meet some basic needs such as covering rents and paying bills.

The people in general are far from being out of the crisis. However, while living this situation of high unemployment and uncertainty about their future, the Greeks have started, during these past few years, to turn back to the land in order to earn money.

Agriculture is the main sector that has not suffered in a substantial way and, has been constantly showing (relatively) positive signs. According to the Panhellenic Confederation of Unions of Agricultural Cooperatives, during the first years of the crisis, between 2008 and 2010, agriculture created 32,000 new jobs and the majority of these jobs were taken up by Greek nationals.

Those who owned a plot of land, in some cases inherited, on a small island or in the countryside, decided to leave the dramatic situation in Athens and return to their lands to work on ecotourism or farming.

Greece is now seeing better times: its economic accounts have clearly improved but the Greek people are still paying for the effects of the crisis

Credit: Vesela Vaclavikova on Unsplash

Additionally, many young people started to show interest in the faculties of agriculture, as applications for such courses tripled in the past few years. However, among those who decided to abandon the urban areas to live and work in the rural ones, the majority are aged between 40 and 60 years old. The majority of these people had lost their jobs just before retirement, waiting to receive their pension.

According to the Food Sustainability Index (FSI) 2017, which was developed in collaboration between the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) and the Economist Intelligence Unit with the objective to “promote knowledge on food sustainability”, Greece earned a positive score in sustainable agriculture.

The FSI ranks 34 countries according to their food system sustainability. It aims to highlight issues across three pillars: food loss and waste, sustainable agriculture and nutritional challenges. Despite having only a mid-level score for food loss and waste, and minimal scores for the policy response to food loss, “Greece earned a high score for sustainable agriculture, with a strong performance for the air category (GHG emissions), and for sub-indicators such as diversification of agricultural system, land ownership and sustainability of water withdrawal serving to bring up the score in the land and water categories”.

When considered in conjunction with the water scarcity situation of the country, this high score in the agricultural sector gains an additional prize. Indeed, according to the FSI, the average number of months of freshwater scarcity in Greece is six and despite that, the country has been able to maintain a high level of performance in the sector.

Not surprisingly, Greece has recently showed interest in sharing its high expertise and level of innovations in agro-technology with Qatar in a bid to develop and support the tiny Gulf country’s agriculture sector and self-sufficiency initiatives.

Greece’s third bailout is due to expire in August 2018 and the Hellenic country aims to return to a path of growth after years of crisis and uncertainty. During the Fourth Agricultural Business Summit, which took place in Larissa on May 3, 2018, organized by The Economist under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Rural Development and Food, experts and policymakers gathered to discuss the priorities and challenges that need to be resolved as of 2018 and beyond in the field of agriculture in relation to business.

The analysts discussed if Greece could play a leading role in South-East Europe and whether the Greek Agribusiness sector will be able to transform uncertainty into stability, competitiveness and growth.

It is hard to forecast with accuracy the outcome of the next following months and years but, the fact that the Greek establishment (academia, businesses, policymakers, etc.) is showing its willingness to act and implement a concrete roadmap to end the crisis through the SDG Agenda, means that the country strongly believes in Agenda 2030which is the driving force to start growing again.

In addition, a study, published by SEV Business Council for Sustainable Development and conducted by the Climate Change and Sustainability Services Practice of Ernst & Young in Greece highlighted “to identify the current status in Greece, regarding the level of awareness, readiness and willingness of Greek companies towards integrating the SDGs in their strategy”. One of the key findings of the study brings some optimism for the future of Greece.

For example, regarding awareness and readiness on SDGs among Greek companies, the study revealed that “senior executives, regardless of company size, have a high level of knowledge of sustainable development issues related to the Goals. The engagement and awareness of middle management executives on sustainable development issues related to the Goals constitute a crucial factor for their successful implementation”.

Beginning in August 2018, the economic system of Greece will once again have to walk on its own legs. Many analysts believe that the commitment of Greek authorities in the past few years in planning and implementing a sustainable agenda will help Athens to develop in the next future without the support of the EU and IMF.

By the end of 2018, we will undoubtedly have the first answers to this dilemma and the 2019 elections will also tell us if the Greek people view the government’s efforts of the past few years as the best it could do and achieve.

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Experts Urge Lawmakers to Focus on Food-Migration Nexushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/experts-urge-lawmakers-focus-food-migration-nexus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=experts-urge-lawmakers-focus-food-migration-nexus http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/experts-urge-lawmakers-focus-food-migration-nexus/#respond Fri, 08 Jun 2018 12:31:36 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156114 Lawmakers at the highest levels urgently need a “revolution in thinking” to tackle the twin problem of sustainable food production and migration. Starting with an inaugural event in Brussels, then travelling on to New York and Milan, an international team of experts led by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) is urging far-reaching […]

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Pulses are good for nutrition and income, particularly for women farmers who look after household food security, like those shown here at a village outside Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Pulses are good for nutrition and income, particularly for women farmers who look after household food security, like those shown here at a village outside Lusaka, Zambia. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Daan Bauwens
BRUSSELS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Lawmakers at the highest levels urgently need a “revolution in thinking” to tackle the twin problem of sustainable food production and migration. Starting with an inaugural event in Brussels, then travelling on to New York and Milan, an international team of experts led by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition (BCFN) is urging far-reaching reforms in agricultural and migration policy on an international scale.

“We should be scared about the situation that is in front of us, but we should also be fascinated by the solution,” Paolo Barilla, BCFN Vice Chairman, said at the start of the first International Forum on Food and Nutrition which took place June 6 in Brussels."As we see it right now, there is no strategy at all at governmental levels in the EU to deal with migration, let alone how food policy might help.” --Lucio Caracciolo

Barilla and several experts speaking at the event pointed out the many problems lying ahead involving world-wide sustainable food production.

“One third of all food worldwide is thrown away, nearly one billion people go to sleep hungry every night and in the meantime, 650 million are obese. We urgently need new comprehensive, multi-stakeholder food systems to fix this situation,” said Andrea Renda, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for European Policy Studies, organizer of the event together with BCFN and the United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network (UN SDSN).

“In thirty years we will need to feed nine billion people. But at the same time, because of climate change the arable land is diminishing. The Sahara desert has increased ten percent in size the last decade and the South of Italy and Spain are drying up. How will we feed everyone?” asked Lucio Caracciolo, geostrategist and President of research company MacroGeo.

The experts called on all states that are signatory to the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to urgently establish an Intergovernmental Panel on Food and Nutrition, modeled after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who succesfully achieved international consensus on how to tackle climate change.

Moreover, they called upon the EU to change the focus of its agricultural policies from simply increasing production to focusing on new systems that assure healthy, nutritious, affordable diets for everyone. Instead of a “Common Agricultural Policy,” the EU should shift to a “Agri-Food Policy.”

“In the current EU Common Agricultural Policy, two-thirds of the subsidies have nothing to do with sustainable development,” Andrea Renda tells IPS, “and one third is spent on innovation in agriculture, in a broader, more holistic approach. This must at least be reversed.”

Throughout the event, hunger and food insecurity were repeatedly cited as the long-term drivers of migration across the Mediterranean. For the occasion of the event, MacroGeo launched a 109-page report on the nexus between migration across the Mediterranean and food security in Africa.

The authors state that there is a particularly strong link between migration, food and conflicts. “Refugee outflows per 1000 population increase by 0.4 percent for each additional year of conflict and by 1.9 percent for each percentage increase of food insecurity,” the MacroGeo authors write, referring to recent research by the World Food Program.

“That might not seem a lot but in a country of fifty million that amounts to one million refugees per year,” said Valerie Guarnieri, assistant executive director of the World Food Program who repeated the statistics in front of the audience of 600 attendees on Wednesday.

“The connection between migration and food is heavily neglected in policy, this is a way to push it into the agenda,” Lucio Caracciolo told IPS, “because as we see it right now, there is no strategy at all at governmental levels in the EU to deal with migration, let alone how food policy might help.”

The contentious matter of dumping of European surplus produce – often named as one of the causes of hunger, food insecurity and migration – in Africa was accordingly dealt with in a talk with EU Commissioner for Agriculture Phil Hogan, not coincidentally just ahead of long-awaited negotiations on the reform of the EU’s agricultural policy. The Commissioner pledged that the new Common Agriculture Policy 2021-2027 program will reduce spending on production of commodities often dumped in the developing world. At the same time, he said Europe was ending trade barriers on imports of food from the developing world.

As part of its ambitious list of policy recommendations, BCFN also calls for more awareness of the illegal exploitation of migrants in EU agriculture. According to the experts, specific EU programmes should provide funding for the fight against unethical practices. And spreading a message which does not go well with the current Italian government, MacroGeo’s Lucio Caraciolo called for a “normalisation of the presence of migrant labour. European agriculture in the South cannot survive without their help. So it is up to us to assure that their rights are respected,” he told IPS.

In its report, MacroGeo proposes a circular and seasonal migration model, in which temporary workers are contacted directly from their country of origin on a yearly basis and for determined periods. The workers are granted permits and ensured that they can return to their home country. “Intended results include disincentivizing unregulated economic migration, ensuring employees are granted work conditions as per the law, and the possibility to return to the same farms, enhancing human resources effectiveness,” the report says.

Bob Geldof, musician, activist and organizer of 1984’s Live Aid. closed the event with an at times bitter speech broadening the discussion. “We had a 1200 percent increase in consumption in the last eighty years and we’re talking about sustainability?” he asked. “Sustainability is simply impossible with this irrational economic logic, which boils down to ‘more for ourselves all the time.’”

In September, the International Forum will travel to New York to coincide with the United Nations General Assembly. In November, it will hold a third and final event in Milan.

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Media Watchdogs Fear a Chill in Slovakiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/media-watchdogs-fear-chill-slovakia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=media-watchdogs-fear-chill-slovakia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/media-watchdogs-fear-chill-slovakia/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 00:03:37 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155863 International media watchdogs, EU politicians, journalists and publishers have condemned Slovak police investigating the murder of a local journalist after one of his colleagues claimed she was interrogated for eight hours before being forced to hand over her telephone – potentially putting sources at risk. Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcova had travelled from Prague to […]

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Mass protests in Slovakia in the wake of the killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova led to the resignation of the country's Prime Minister, Interior Minister and head of police. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

Mass protests in Slovakia in the wake of the killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova led to the resignation of the country's Prime Minister, Interior Minister and head of police. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, May 22 2018 (IPS)

International media watchdogs, EU politicians, journalists and publishers have condemned Slovak police investigating the murder of a local journalist after one of his colleagues claimed she was interrogated for eight hours before being forced to hand over her telephone – potentially putting sources at risk.

Czech investigative journalist Pavla Holcova had travelled from Prague to Bratislava on May 15th believing she was going to help Slovak police with their investigation into the murder of her former colleague, Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, in February this year."It starts with a phone, then a laptop, then interview notes and what is next?...Journalism is the canary in the coal mine. If it dies in these countries, then ‘European-ness’ will have died." --Drew Sullivan

But she said after she arrived she was questioned for eight hours by officers from the Slovak National Crime Agency (NAKA) repeatedly asking about the investigative reporting network she works with, her past work and links between Slovak business people and senior politicians.

They also demanded she hand over her mobile phone so they could access data on it.

When she refused she says she was threatened with a 1,650 Euro fine and police produced a warrant to confiscate the phone. She said she agreed to give them the phone but having failed to retrieve data from it when Holcova refused to give them passwords, they took it saying they would use Europol forensic resources to get past its passwords and access the information inside.

News of the interrogation and requisition of Holcova’s phone brought widespread condemnation from groups like Reporters Without Borders, the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which Holcova, and previously Kuciak, has worked with, MEPs and other groups.

Meanwhile, in Slovakia, publishing houses and dozens of editors from local newspapers and media outlets put out a joint statement demanding Holcova’s phone be returned to her immediately, reiterating the legal right to protection of journalists’ sources and calling on Slovak police to explain their conduct.

However, they say it is not just Holcova they are defending.

Beata Balogova, Editor in Chief of the Slovak daily newspaper ‘Sme’, told IPS: “This isn’t just about Pavla, it goes further than that. We need to know whether they [the police and prosecutor] think what they have done is in line with the laws of this country.”

As in some other countries in Central Europe, media watchdogs have pointed to an alarming erosion in press freedom in Slovakia in recent years with journalists facing denigration and abuse from the government and intimidation by local businessmen.

Meanwhile, many local media outlets have been bought up by oligarchs and there are serious doubts about the political independence of the country’s public broadcaster. Criminal libel prosecutions are also a permanent threat to journalists’ work.

Kuciak was shot dead by a single bullet to his chest and his fiancée by a single bullet to the head in his home east of the capital Bratislava in late February.

At the time of his death, Kuciak and Holcova had been working on a story about the links between the ‘Ndrangheta mafia and people in Smer, the senior party in the Slovak governing coalition.

In the days after the killing, there was feverish speculation about mafia or political involvement in the murder and that it had been carried out as a clear warning to other journalists.

Balogova and other Slovak journalists believe that by taking Holcova’s phone, police may have been sending a signal to journalists.

“It could have been to tell journalists that they are being watched or to try and frighten them,” she said.

There has also been speculation that the police may have been trying to get information so they can move to try and cover up links between failings in the investigation and senior figures in the Slovak police and judicial system.

In their statement, Slovak publishers and editors said: “Taking into account that many suspicions which arose after the murder of Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kusnirova point directly to representatives of criminal justice institutions, the rigorous protection of sources is more important than ever, especially when there is a risk this information could be abused.”

Drew Sullivan, Editor at the OCCRP, told IPS that the police may have been acting on orders from politicians.

“Justice is still political in Slovakia,” he said. “It is possible the ruling political party, which is more concerned about the news stories which created the protests [after Kuciak’s murder and which forced the Prime Minister’s resignation] than they are with Jan’s murder, is dictating the police‘s approach.”

And Marek Vagovic, editor in chief at Slovak news site Aktuality.sk, Kuciak‘s former employer, told the Slovak daily ‘Novy cas’: “Looking at the nature and links between those in power who control the criminal justice institutions, I don’t believe this is about investigating a double pre-meditated murder.

“I fear that in taking Pavla Holcova’s mobile phone they have a different aim: tracking down her informants so they can find out what she was working on and can warn politicians, oligarchs and members of organised crime under suspicion.”

In a statement, the Special Prosecutor’s Office, which issued the warrant to take Holcova’s phone, said that Holcova had willingly given up her phone to police and that the device had been taken solely to try and find Kuciak’s killers.

It stressed that the warrant was issued to help the investigation and not to impinge on any of Holcova’s rights as a journalist.

But Slovak lawyers and constitutional experts have questioned the police’s approach, arguing that any information relating to Kuciak’s murder found on the phone would probably not be admissible as evidence if it was accessed without Holcova giving them the password to it.

Following media attention, the Special Prosecutor’s Office said on May 18th it would send the phone back to Holcova as soon as possible and that after it was taken no attempt was made to bypass its security and access its data. But it defended the police’s conduct, saying that looking to obtain data in the phone was “a necessary and logical” step in the investigation.

It also said that Holcova would be asked to attend further questioning in the future as a witness in the investigation. Holcova, though, has said she will “consider very carefully” any future meetings with Slovak investigators.

Whatever the intentions of the Slovak police were, their actions will have had an effect, although perhaps not the one they would have been expecting if they were attempting to frighten journalists.

“It may affect how sources interact with us,” explained Balogova. “Sources speak to journalists because they believe that we can and will protect their identities. But now they may be worried that journalists cannot protect their sources. So, will they still talk to us?

“But [the police’s actions] may also have the opposite effect – journalists will just be more careful now in how they communicate with people and go about their work.”

The incident made headlines abroad and was noted in the European Parliament which has been closely following the Slovak media environment since Kuciak’s murder and the subsequent mass protests which forced the Slovak Prime Minister, Interior Minister and, eventually, the head of the police force to resign.

MEPs suggested it would have further damaged the reputation of the Slovak police, which is widely perceived as endemically corrupt and at senior level linked to powerful local business figures suspected of criminal activity.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, said in a statement: “We thought that after the murders of Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova that the Slovak government would do all it could to allow journalists to carry out their daily work and that we would see them as partners in the common fight against corruption and crime.

“Unfortunately, today we can see that, despite the Slovak government’s assurances, the opposite is happening.”

But perhaps just as importantly, the treatment of Holcova could have ramifications beyond Slovakia, potentially emboldening neighbouring governments which, critics say, are leading their own crackdowns on critical media.

Press freedom in Poland and Hungary has receded dramatically over the last few years, according to local and international media groups, with both countries’ rankings in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index plummeting.

Governments seen as populist, increasingly authoritarian and corrupt have used legislation, taxes on independent media, takeovers, forced closures and, some believe, security service surveillance, to try and silence critical news outlets, they claim.

When asked whether he thought other governments in the region could start using similar methods following what happened to Holcova, OCCRP’s Sullivan told IPS: “Absolutely. It starts with a phone, then a laptop, then interview notes and what is next?

“There is an increasing erosion of journalism rights in the East of Europe. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland have become problematic states where independent journalism is dying.”

He added: “We’ve seen this [Slovak police treatment of Holcova] and worse in Eastern Europe, Russia and the CIS states. It is something we kind of expect from drug states, captured states and the autocracies in those regions. But we haven’t seen it with a European Union member.”

And he called on the EU to act to uphold its core values. “This is a growing splinter in the eye of Europe and the European Union needs to act decisively if it doesn’t want to lose its European values. It can’t have members denying basic values.

“If this is allowed to continue, it will lead to …. further repression of journalism. Journalism is the canary in the coal mine. If it dies in these countries, then ‘European-ness’ will have died. These are states that are fundamentally becoming undemocratic. We need media there chronicling this.”

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Ex-President Leaves ILO after Corruption Scandalhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ex-president-leaves-ilo-after-corruption-scandal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ex-president-leaves-ilo-after-corruption-scandal http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/ex-president-leaves-ilo-after-corruption-scandal/#respond Wed, 09 May 2018 09:06:07 +0000 Ivar Andersen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155688 Together with the president of Mauritius, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was to draw up a plan for the future focus of the UN-body ILO. But the work has hit an unexpected speed bump. Löfvens copartner has been forced out of office after a credit card scandal, where she shopped shoes and jewels in London for USD 26,000.

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Together with the president of Mauritius, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was to draw up a plan for the future focus of the UN-body ILO. But the work has hit an unexpected speed bump. Löfvens copartner has been forced out of office after a credit card scandal, where she shopped shoes and jewels in London for USD 26,000.

By Ivar Andersen
STOCKHOLM, May 9 2018 (IPS)

There is a compact silence surrounding how the corruption scandal affects ILO’s work on developing a plan to change the UN body.

In August 2017, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and the then President of Mauritius Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​were appointed to lead the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work.

Their mission was to develop an overall strategy for how the ILO would ensure that the gains of globalization are more equally shared, and how the global labour market shall deal with challenges such as climate change, digitization and aging populations.

The Commission brought together twenty-one experts and politicians from all over the world, under the lead of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Ameenah Gurib-Fakim.

”It’s time for everyone to take part in globalization. This is done by addressing the problems in the global labour market and building social cohesion and creating confidence that benefits everyone and does not oppress anyone,” said Stefan Löfven when the Commission was presented in Geneva in August 2017.

”When we look at the future, we must do it from many different perspectives and situations. We must place people’s well-being first and build the agenda around it,” added Ameenah Gurib-Fakim .

But the Commission barely had time to start working before one of its chairpersons found herself mixed up in a corruption scandal.

 

 Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and Stefan Löfven in Geneva when the Global Commission on the Future of Work was presented. Foto: ILO


Ameenah Gurib-Fakim and Stefan Löfven in Geneva when the Global Commission on the Future of Work was presented. Foto: ILO

 

The Mauritanian newspaper L’Express was able to publish documents that showed that Gurib-Fakim ​​had bought jewels and apparel for USD 26,000 during a shopping trip to London.

ILO

On May 28th , the ILO will launch its annual meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, where leading representatives of states, employers’ organizations and trade unions will discuss how they want to shape the global labor market.
On May 15th, the Global Commission on the Future of Work, led by Stefan Löfven, will meet in Geneva.
The ILO, or International Labour Organization, is a UN body that has existed since 1919 and brings together 187 countries.

Source: ILO
She paid for the luxury items with a credit card that she had received for an NGO for which she did pro bono work. The chairperson of the NGO, an Angolan businessman, had been granted permission to open an investment bank in Mauritius – prompting allegations of corruption.

Gurib-Fakim claimed to have used the NGO’s credit card by accident, and that she had paid back the full amount. But faced with harsh criticism Gurib-Fakim eventually decided to resign from the largely ceremonial president post earlier this spring.

When Arbetet Global writes to the Swedish Prime Minister’s Office to ask whether the controversy surrounding Gurib-Fakim in Mauritius is affecting the work of the Commission’s, the reply is a brief one.

”Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​has resigned as co-chair of the ILO Commission. If you have any other questions, I have to refer to the ILO,” states Dan Lundqvist Dahlin, press secretary to the Prime Minister.

The ILO appears equally unwilling to comment. In an e-mail, the Director-General’s cabinet writes that the decision to resign from the Commission was Gurib-Fakim’s own.

Would it have been inappropriate for Gurib-Fakim to stay on as co-chair after having resigned as president of Mauritius?

“We cannot comment on this hypothetical question since she took the decision to resign.”

The chairmanship of the Commission is attached to the person elected, and is not affected by changes in the chairpersons home country.

Stefan Löfven will remain chairperson regardless of whether the Social Democratic Party stay in power after the Swedish general election in September. In theory, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​could have stayed on as co-chair despite having stepped down in Mauritius.

However, a source with intimate knowledge of the internal politics of the ILO describes the appointments as being “incredibly sensitive”.

“There is a lot of politics behind the appointments and the composition of delegates is supposed to keep everyone happy and make sure the Commission has legitimacy. That she resigned was most probably politically motivated.”

Asked whether a new chairperson will be appointed or if Stefan Löfven is to lead the Commission by himself, the Director-General’s cabinet responded that ”consultations are ongoing based on this new situation”.

At the time of publication of this article, Ameenah Gurib-Fakim ​​was still presented as Chairperson of the Commission, and President of Mauritius, on the ILO’s website.

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Excerpt:

Together with the president of Mauritius, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was to draw up a plan for the future focus of the UN-body ILO. But the work has hit an unexpected speed bump. Löfvens copartner has been forced out of office after a credit card scandal, where she shopped shoes and jewels in London for USD 26,000.

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Economic & Social Costs of Gun Violence Appallinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-costs-gun-violence-appalling/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=economic-social-costs-gun-violence-appalling http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/economic-social-costs-gun-violence-appalling/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 14:35:00 +0000 Izumi Nakamitsu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155675 Izumi Nakamitsu is the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

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Izumi Nakamitsu is the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

By Izumi Nakamitsu
UNITED NATIONS, May 8 2018 (IPS)

Every day, hundreds of lives are lost due to gun violence worldwide. Guns are responsible for about half of all violent deaths – nearly a quarter million each year.

But the dire consequences of gun violence are not limited to those slain by guns. For every person killed by a gun, many more are injured, maimed, and forced to flee their home and community. Still many more live under constant threats of gun violence.

UN Under Secretary-General Izumi Nakamitsu. Credit: UN

Economic and social cost of gun violence is appalling. It is estimated that nearly 2 trillion US dollars could be saved – equivalent to 2.6 per cent of the global GDP1 -, if the global homicide rates were significantly reduced.

If we were to achieve the ambitious goals set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – which explicitly links sustainable development and security-, we need to tackle this scourge of gun violence head-on.

The pandemic of gun violence has many roots. These range from legal, political, to socioeconomic, to cultural factors. Lack of adequate legislation and regulation on gun control, insufficient resource and capacity to enforce such legislation, lack of employment and alternative livelihood for youths, ex-gangs and ex-combatants, and a culture that glorifies violence and equates guns with masculinity – all exacerbates gun violence.

Such complex, multi-faceted problems require equally multi-faceted, sustainable solutions that address root causes. Governments, while primarily responsible for controlling guns, cannot do it alone.

To end the crisis of gun violence, we must work together. The Global Week of Action Against Gun Violence is a conduit for fostering cooperation on this critical issue among all stakeholders – government, international, regional and sub-regional organizations, research institutes, private companies, and civil society organizations-, to come together and pool our experience, strength and expertise.

And we must address the human factor behind the gun violence. It is essential that we recognize that gun violence affects women, men, girls and boys differently and that we need to seek different strategies to address all dimensions of gun violence.

Next month, States will gather at the United Nations in New York for the Third Review Conference on the Programme of Action on small arms – the key global instrument that has guided international efforts in the fight against the illicit trade in small arms over the past two decades.

The Conference will provide an important opportunity for the international community to renew its commitment to silence the guns that affect so many innocent lives, and to continue its work towards achieving our common goal of peace, security and development for all.”

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Excerpt:

Izumi Nakamitsu is the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs

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How Do You Attain “Sustainable Peace” Amidst Rising Military Conflicts?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/attain-sustainable-peace-amidst-rising-military-conflicts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=attain-sustainable-peace-amidst-rising-military-conflicts http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/attain-sustainable-peace-amidst-rising-military-conflicts/#comments Tue, 08 May 2018 14:00:08 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155672 The underlying message at the fifth annual Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development was summed up in its telling title “The politics of peace.” But the task ahead was overwhelmingly difficult: How do you advance peace and development against the backdrop of political unrest in parts of Asia and Africa and continued conflicts in the […]

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The opening panel of the Forum, 'The urgency and logic of investing in violent conflict'. Credit: SIPRI

By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 8 2018 (IPS)

The underlying message at the fifth annual Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development was summed up in its telling title “The politics of peace.”

But the task ahead was overwhelmingly difficult: How do you advance peace and development against the backdrop of political unrest in parts of Asia and Africa and continued conflicts in the Middle East— all of them amidst rising global military spending triggering arms sales running into billions of dollars.

In his opening address, the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Jan Eliasson set the theme for the three day meeting when he declared: “No peace without development and no development without peace”.

“And none of the above without human rights,” said Ambassador Eliasson, the former Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The three-day meeting, May 7-9, was attended by more than 350 political leaders, high-level policy makers, academics and representatives of civil society organizations.

In his keynote address to the plenary, the President of the UN General Assembly (PGA) Miroslav Lajcak underlined the new UN concept of “sustaining peace” which has been the focus of two resolutions, one by the Security Council and the other by the General Assembly.

“It has spurred new initiatives. It has got us all talking – and acting,” he said.

And, two weeks ago, the UN hosted a High-Level Meeting on “Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace”.

The meeting showcased some best practices. “We learned about how we are moving from stand-alone actors or activities for peace, to pooling our assets”, said Lajcak, who is also the Foreign Minister of Slovakia.

Providing one concrete example, the PGA said he actually saw this in action, when he travelled to the Colombian town of Totoró. “There, I saw a real commitment to peace – from the various United Nations Agencies, from government officials and from indigenous communities.”

“And, I saw how all these stakeholders could come together – under a United Nations inter-agency programme –for a common goal: to make the peace agreement stick.”

Secondly, he said, “we talked a lot about partnerships. Years ago, the United Nations was like an island. Too often, it acted alone. But, we have all, now, realised something important: Sustaining Peace is not owned by any one entity. It can only be achieved, if we all work together. “

“We heard, during the Meeting, that partnerships with regional organisations are particularly crucial. And, given where we are, today, this Forum is a good opportunity to look at how we can build up stronger links between the European Union and the United Nations, for Sustaining Peace.”

“Thirdly, I want to say this – very clearly: Not one discussion failed to have a gender dimension. And, I mean that. Not one.”

The other featured high-level participants at the Forum included Margot Wallstrom, the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Isabella Lovin, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation and Climate Change, Gbehzohngar Milton Findley, Foreign Minister of Liberia, Adela Raz, Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan and Hassan Hussein Hajji, Minister of Justice of Somalia.

Meanwhile, a new SIPRI report, released last week, highlights the rise in global military spending at a time when there is widespread speculation about a new cold war between the United States and Russia.

And US President Donald Trump’s public war-mongering and military threats against countries such as Iran, and until recently, North Korea -– is also likely to escalate military spending further.

And, most visibly, the continued conflicts in Syria and Yemen and the instability in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, have triggered a rise in arms spending and bolstered US and Western arms sales to the war zones in Asia and the Middle East.

Asked if there are any hopes of a decline in arms spending in the foreseeable future, Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher in the Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), told IPS “right now there is little hope that global military expenditure will decrease in the near future.”

For 2017, he said, global military spending remained stable for yet another year.

However, this happened at a time that Russia had to decrease its military spending due to the bad economic situation in the country and the year after Saudi Arabia had cut its spending a lot, he explained.

“If those two countries will maintain ambitions to improve their armed forces, we can expect they will increase military spending as soon as their economies improve,” Wezeman predicted.

Saudi Arabia started to increase its spending in 2017, despite the continuing low oil prices. At the same time there are no indications that China will end the long lasting steady annual increases in its spending.

The decrease in US spending ended in 2016, according to Wezeman.

Trump has pushed for increases and a substantial increase in 2018 is likely. Finally, many states in Europe have started to increase their spending in response to heightened threat-perceptions towards Russia, and in relation to the conflicts in the Middle East.

On the contrary, doesn’t it appear that spending will also keep rising in the context of a “new cold war between the US and Russia?

He pointed out that the heightened tensions between the US and most of Europe on one side and Russia on the other are a clear motive for increased military spending.

However, rivalry between major states in the Asia Pacific region, roughly China on the side and the USA, India Japan on the other are also a major element, he declared.

In its report, released May 2, SIPRI said total world military expenditure rose to $1.7 tillion in 2017, a marginal increase of 1.1 per cent in real terms from 2016.

“Continuing high world military expenditure is a cause for serious concern”’ warned Ambassador Eliasson. It undermines the search for peaceful solutions to conflicts around the world.”

After 13 consecutive years of increases from 1999 to 2011 and relatively unchanged spending from 2012 to 2016, total global military expenditure rose again in 2017.* Military spending in 2017 represented 2.2 per cent of global gross domestic product (GDP) or $230 per person.

‘The increases in world military expenditure in recent years have been largely due to the substantial growth in spending by countries in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East, such as China, India and Saudi Arabia,’ said Dr Nan Tian, Researcher with the SIPRI Arms and Military Expenditure (AMEX) programme. ‘”At the global level, the weight of military spending is clearly shifting away from the Euro–Atlantic region”, he added.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Protests, Strikes, Solidarity – France Revisits May ‘68http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protests-strikes-solidarity-france-revisits-may-68/#respond Sat, 05 May 2018 11:44:19 +0000 A. D. McKenzie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155633 “It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.” Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were […]

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Nanterre conference poster. Credit: SAES

By A. D. McKenzie
NANTERRE, France, May 5 2018 (IPS)

“It’s good to be in Paris on a sunny May day and see many universities occupied … and the strikes against neo-liberalism,” declared British Pakistani writer and activist Tariq Ali at an event in the Paris suburb of Nanterre on May 3. “That’s very pleasing.”

Ali and the American civil rights icon Angela Davis were the speakers at the free public event, “Solidarité et Alliances”, to commemorate 50 years since the massive May 1968 civil unrest, which paralysed the French economy through nation-wide strikes and demonstrations.

As they spoke at a packed theatre, students were blocking buildings at nearby Paris Nanterre University, hence Ali’s comments. Similar action has been taking place at universities in Paris and other cities such as Toulouse and Rennes.

Echoing 1968, France is currently gripped by a series of strikes involving railway employees and other workers, while students are demonstrating against the government’s higher-education reforms that would make admittance to public universities more selective.

American civil rights icon Dr. Angela Davis. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

The students say the changes are contrary to the French tradition of offering all high school graduates a place at public universities and would adversely affect poorer students, who are already underrepresented on campuses. The government’s stance is that reform is necessary to deal with a high drop-out rate and overcrowded institutions.

Rail workers, meanwhile, object to the restructuring of the national railway company, the SNCF. On Labour Day, May 1, street marches in Paris erupted in violence, with masked far-Left “anarchist” agitators burning vehicles and smashing shop windows.

The widespread protests coincide with several conferences and cultural programmes that are reflecting on themes of revolution in remembrance of “May ‘68”.

Davis, for instance, will be back in France next month as the keynote speaker at a conference at Paris Nanterre University titled “Revolution(s)”. The organizers – La Société des Anglicistes de l’Enseignement Supérieur (SAES) – are hoping the campus will by then be accessible to the 400 expected participants.

“Nanterre as a town doesn’t have much of a historical aspect; it’s not like Paris or Bordeaux. The one thing we have here is the university and the ’68 protests,” said Bernard Cros, the main organizer of the meeting and a lecturer in British and Commonwealth studies.

The 1968 student demonstrations actually started at Nanterre, when students occupied an administrative building to protest class discrimination and other societal issues. Subsequent confrontations with the university administration and law enforcement agents led to additional universities and the public joining the protests, and, at the height of the May ’68 movement, more than 10 million workers were on strike in France.

Fifty years later, the current protests at Nanterre began when a group of students occupied a classroom in April to voice disapproval of the government’s reforms. The situation escalated when the university’s president called in the police to remove them, and officers in riot gear descended on the university. That in turn caused others to join the protest in solidarity.

Since then, students have shut down the campus. Visitors can see iron barricades in front of doorways, along with graffiti such as “Make Nanterre great again”, a paraphrasing of the slogan used by Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, and that used by French President Emmanuel Macron to show his support for climate action (“Make our planet great again”).

The conference with Davis may not make the university “great again” but her presence in France generates huge interest among students, faculty and the public.

Cros said that Davis’s name was the “first that came to mind” when Nanterre was chosen as the 2018 site of the annual congress of the SAES – an academic association for those researching and teaching English language, literatures and culture. The university awarded Davis an honorary doctorate in 2014, so she is “already linked” to the institution, he added.

“What is not revolutionary about Angela Davis is what you have to ask,” Cros said in an interview. “Where would the world be without people like her? She put her own safety on the line. It raises questions about what it means to be politically committed. Whether you agree with all her views or not, this is something that attracts support.”

Doorways barricaded at Paris Nanterre University. Credit: A.D. McKenzie

Indeed some 900 people filled the Nanterre-Amandiers Theatre at the May 3 event where Davis and Ali spoke (the event is separate from the coming university conference). As the activists walked onto the stage, there was deafening applause and several young people leapt to their feet with shouts of appreciation.

“I’m not a person who tends to be inspired by nostalgia, but sometimes I find myself wanting that closeness (from 1968) again,” said Davis, in response to a question from one of the evening’s moderators about whether the “historical memory of ‘68” could help the world to imagine a better future.

“I don’t know if you know my story, but I needed some solidarity myself … I take solidarity very seriously,” she said. “If it wasn’t for this, I wouldn’t be here this evening.”

Davis was a member of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s, and active in the civil rights movement before and after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King in April 1968. Later, in 1970, guns she had bought were used by a high-school student when he took over a courtroom to demand the freeing of black prisoners including his brother, and left the building with hostages, including the judge.

In a subsequent shootout with police, the perpetrator, two defendants he had freed and the judge were killed, and Davis was arrested following a huge manhunt, and charged with “aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder” of the judge, although she had not been in the courtroom.

She declared her innocence, and sympathisers in the United States and other countries, including France, mobilised to demand her freedom. After being incarcerated for 16 months, she was released on bail and eventually acquitted of the charges in 1972.

During the theatre discussion, Davis described the civil rights struggles in which she had participated, highlighting the gender battles in particular, and pointing out that the U.S. civil rights movement was “very much informed” by what was happening around the world at the time.

For Tariq Ali, the ’68 movement was a time of international solidarity. In contrast, “there is very little solidarity with the Arab countries” at present, he said.

Speaking of conflicts in the Middle East, Ali said: “All these wars create refugees … then you give the refugees a kick in the backside and say ‘we don’t want you’.”

He said that citizens should demand of countries that if they start a war they should “take 100,000” refugees.

Many in the audience reacted with applause to these words. (In another university near Paris -at Saint Denis – migrants have occupied a building for several months, largely with the support of students who’re also demonstrating).

Outside the theatre, the “revolutionary” fervor is continuing. General strikes are expected to last throughout May and June, and the Nanterre students have voted to continue the protests until May 7 for now.

“The university is a very mixed population, and some support the demonstrations while others don’t,” Cros told IPS. “But nearly everyone understands the reasons for the protests. If you tell students: ‘we’re not spending money on you’, what is the message you’re sending them?”

With more than 2 million students in higher education, France ranks 19th among 26 developed countries for the quality of the sector, according to statistics from the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, and other observers note that funding for public universities is decreasing. (The government has promised increased financing).

Meanwhile, some students just want to get on with their lives. One third-year student said that while he understood the motivations of his protesting peers, his concern was to take his exams and finish his programme.

“I’ve been preparing for a long time,” he said. “For me personally, all this is tough.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @mckenzie_ale

 

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Exhibition of Artifacts Stolen From Ethiopia Revives Controversyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/exhibition-artifacts-stolen-ethiopia-revives-controversy/#respond Mon, 23 Apr 2018 00:01:08 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155390 A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest. The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle […]

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A manuscript from Maqdala now at the British Library. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By James Jeffrey
LONDON, Apr 23 2018 (IPS)

A new exhibition that opened April 5 at London’s famous Victoria and Albert museum of ancient treasures looted from Ethiopia has revived debate about where such artifacts should reside, highlighting the tensions in putting Western imperialism in Africa and the past to rest.

The exhibit comprises 20 royal and religious artifacts plundered during the Battle of Maqdala in 1868, when a British force laid siege to the mountain fortress of Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros.  “We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard.” -- Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library

After their victory, the British force was at liberty to take what it wanted. The scale of the treasures stolen by the army isn’t widely known—inside the British Library are hundreds of beautiful Ethiopian manuscripts taken too.

While the argument for returning such artifacts appears strong, and perhaps obvious to most, legal issues surrounding a museum’s responsibility as a global custodian, as well as how best to make items available to the public, make the matter more nuanced than it seems.

“Museums have a global responsibility to better understand their collections, to more fully uncover the histories and the stories behind their objects, and to reveal the people and societies that shaped their journeys,” says Tristram Hunt, the Victoria and Albert museum’s director. “To this end, we want to better reflect on the history of these artifacts in our collection – tracing their origins and then confronting the difficult and complex issues which arise.”

The V&A website describes the museum’s collection of Ethiopian treasures as an “unsettling reminder of the imperial processes which enabled British museums to acquire the cultural assets of others.”

Hence efforts over the years by those like Richard Pankhurst, recognised as arguably the most prolific scholar in the field of Ethiopian studies, who helped found the Association for the Return of the Ethiopian Maqdala Treasures (AFROMET), and focused his efforts on the roughly 350 Maqdala manuscripts that ended up in the British Library.

“It is not widely known what happened,” said Pankhurst before his death in 2017. “The soldiers were able to pick the best of the best that Ethiopia had to offer. Most Ethiopians have never seen manuscripts of that quality.”

Tewodros had the country scoured for the finest manuscripts and collected in Maqdala for a grand church and library he planned to build.

“They are so lavish as they were made for kings,” says Ilana Tahan, lead curator of Hebrew and Christian Orient studies at the British Library, whose staff take their duties of guardianship as seriously as those trying to get the manuscripts returned to Ethiopia.

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

The front page of one of the Makdala manuscripts given to the British Library, on which is written: Pres. [Presented] by H. M. the Queen [Queen Victoria] 21 Jan. 1869. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

“It’s true that the level of care and quality in Briton is much better than ours, but if you come to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies where we have a few Maqdala items previously returned you can see how well they are kept and made available to the public,” says Andreas Eshete, a former president of Addis Ababa University—which houses the institute—and another AFROMET co-founder. “These manuscripts are among the best in the world and one of the oldest examples of indigenous manuscripts in Africa, and they need to be studied carefully by historians here.”

Tewodros had actually admired Britain, even hoping they would help develop his country. But a perceived snub when Queen Victoria didn’t reply to a letter of his, led to him imprisoning a small group of British diplomats, resulting in General Robert Napier mounting a rescue mission with a force of 32,000.

On Easter Monday, 13 April 1868, with the British victorious in the valleys surrounding his mountaintop redoubt Maqdala and about to launch a final assault, Tewodros bit down on a pistol—a previous present from Queen Victoria—and pulled the trigger.

In Ethiopia today, Tewodros remains revered by many for his unwavering belief in his country’s potential, while the looting of Maqdala continues to spur the efforts of AFROMET and others continuing the activism of Richard Pankhurst.

“Though Richard was unsuccessful with the British Library manuscripts, there was the return of a number of crosses, manuscripts from private collections,” says his son, Alula Pankhurst, himself a historian and author.

Alula Pankhurst notes that the family of General Napier recently returned a necklace and a parchment scroll to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies.

“My father would have argued that the items should be returned as they were wrongly looted,” Alula Pankhurst says. “There is now the technology available to make copies [of the manuscripts] that are indistinguishable from the originals and microfilms mean that copies could be retained.”

But such technology is also seen by those at the British Library as a reason why the manuscripts can remain where they are.

“We have both a growing opportunity and growing responsibility to use the potential of digital to increase access for people across the world to the intellectual heritage that we safeguard,” says Luisa Mengoni, head of Asian and African collections at the British Library.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

One of the items in the V&A exhibit: a gold and gilded copper crown with glass beads, pigment and fabric, made in Ethiopia, 1600-1850. Photo courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The British Library is continuing its efforts to make the manuscripts accessible to the public through new exhibits. And during the next two years the library plans to digitise some 250 manuscripts from the Ethiopian collection, with 25 manuscripts already available online in full for the first time through its Digitised Manuscripts website.

“The artwork suffers when it is digitalised, plus many of the manuscripts have detailed comments in the margins—there are many reasons scholars need to attend to the originals and which are not met by digital copies,” Andreas says.

But the return of the manuscripts is actually out of the library’s hands. New legislation would have to be passed by the British Parliament for the manuscripts, or any artefacts held in British museums, to be returned.

“While some restitutionists may grumble that the majority of items have not been returned, much has been done to spread knowledge of their existence – and great artistry – to Ethiopian scholars, and to the world at large,” says Alexander Herman, assistant director of the Institute of Art and Law,  an educational organisation focused on law relating to cultural heritage. “This has been made possible by the willingness of the British Library to invest in this once-overlooked part of its collection.”

The complex issue of repatriating looted objects has rumbled on in Europe and the United States for years without much resolution, though now there appears an increasing openness to engage with the issue, both on the part of major Western museums and governments.

President Emmanuel Macron of France said in November that the restoration of African artefacts was a “top priority” for his country, and at a speech in Burkina Faso said that “African heritage can’t just be in European private collections and museums.”

In the meantime, other options treading a middle ground are beginning to be talked about more openly. Hunt says he is “open to the idea” of a long-term loan of the objects to Ethiopia, a move Alula Pankhurst says “would be a step in the right direction.”

But that’s still not good enough for others.

“The restitution of Ethiopian property is a matter of respecting Ethiopia’s dignity and fundamental rights,” says Kidane Alemayehu, one of the founders of the Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center, and executive director of the Global Alliance for Justice: The Ethiopian Cause.

“Looting another country’s property and offering it on loan to the rightful owner should evoke the deepest shame on any self-respecting country.”

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Brexit Reopens Old Wounds in Northern Irelandhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/brexit-reopens-old-wounds-in-northern-ireland/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=brexit-reopens-old-wounds-in-northern-ireland http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/brexit-reopens-old-wounds-in-northern-ireland/#respond Mon, 16 Apr 2018 09:04:46 +0000 Erik Larsson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155286 In less than 12 months, the United Kingdom will leave the EU. One of the hardest issues to solve is how to handle the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Border shop employees are particularly worried about what's going to happen with their jobs.

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Excerpt:

In less than 12 months, the United Kingdom will leave the EU. One of the hardest issues to solve is how to handle the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Border shop employees are particularly worried about what's going to happen with their jobs.

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Getting Away with Murder in Slovakiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/getting-away-murder-slovakia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=getting-away-murder-slovakia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/getting-away-murder-slovakia/#comments Mon, 16 Apr 2018 00:57:17 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155283 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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World Press Freedom Day: A protester in the Slovak capital, Bratislava holds up a picture of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests across the country in the weeks after the killing, eventually forcing the resignation of the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

A protester in the Slovak capital, Bratislava holds up a picture of murdered journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova. Hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests across the country in the weeks after the killing, eventually forcing the resignation of the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRATISLAVA, Apr 16 2018 (IPS)

Sitting in a cafe in the Slovak capital, Bratislava, Zuzana Petkova admits that like many other investigative journalists in the country today, she is scared.

She explains how she and colleagues investigating possible links between the country’s politicians, businessmen and the Italian mafia, have started using special methods to remain as anonymous as possible in their work – encrypting emails, using anonymous communication groups and foregoing bylines, among others.“The rising authoritarianism and illiberalism of countries, such as Poland and Hungary for example, will lead to more censorship and, in the long term, increase the likelihood of violence.” --Ilya Lozovsky

She recalls how just days before she had been walking down a dimly-lit alley when she heard footsteps behind her and turned to see a man in a hooded top walking towards her. Scared, she froze until he had walked past her and she realized he was just a passerby.

Until a few weeks ago, Petkova, a well-known investigative journalist at the Slovak current affairs and news weekly ‘Trend’, would probably not have paid any attention to the footsteps.

A seasoned reporter – “I’ve been through a few things,” she says – she has been taken to court numerous times, had the country’s serious crime squad investigate her, and had anonymous threats made to her in the past. However, she has brushed all these off with little real fear for herself.

But the murder in late February of her some-time colleague Jan Kuciak, and his fiancée, Martina Kusnirova, both 27, at Kuciak’s home in Velka Maca, 40 miles east of Bratislava, changed things.

Across Central Europe, media watchdogs have pointed to an alarming erosion in press freedom in recent years, highlighting how governments in some countries have used legislation, takeovers and shutdowns of media outlets, criminal libel cases, crippling fines and repeated denigration of media and individual journalists to silence critics.

In Slovakia, investigative journalists had got used to what some dub ‘psychological’ pressure from the government in the form of repeated police hearings and court summonses over articles into corruption, as well as public attacks on their integrity.

But few had really thought that anyone would use physical force to try and stop them doing their work. After Kuciak’s murder, they fear that may no longer be the case.

“None of us ever thought something like this would happen. Doing investigative journalism, there’s always some kind of risk, I knew that. But it’s only now that I, that all of us doing it, are fully aware of it,” she tells IPS.

At the time of his death, Kuciak had been working on a story about the links between the ‘Ndrangheta mafia and people in Smer, the senior party in the governing coalition. In the days after the killing, there was feverish speculation about mafia or political involvement in the murder and that it had been carried out as a clear warning to other journalists.

Investigating police say they are working on the assumption the killing was connected to Kuciak’s work.

But while local journalists have their own varied theories about who may have been behind the murder, they largely agree that years of government hostility towards journalists and public attacks on critical media may have emboldened the killers.

Just after the murder, the Slovak Section of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) released a statement saying the killing had been “a dire consequence of the climate engendered by systematic long-term aggressive verbal attacks on journalists by various leading state representatives“.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who was forced to resign in a political crisis in the wake of the murder, had repeatedly insulted and criticised journalists while in office. Just last year he was attacked by international press watchdogs for labelling local journalists “dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes” and only days after Kuciak’s murder publicly insulted one of the dead journalist’s colleagues.

Ilya Lozovsky, Managing Editor of the international investigative reporting platform, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), told IPS the problem of hostile rhetoric against journalists should not be underestimated.

He said: “When a politician publicly mocks or threatens journalists, often other actors will take things into their own hands, without the government having to do anything. Russia is well known for this – various independent actors -(individuals, institutions – will often do something as a ‘gift’ to Putin, without him having to direct anything himself. Journalists and opposition leaders are often killed this way.”

Worryingly, verbal attacks and other intimidation of journalists by politicians are far from uncommon in other parts of Central Europe, especially in countries with governments widely seen as populist, increasingly authoritarian, and corrupt.

In Hungary, critics say that since coming to power in 2010, the government led by populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken a tight grip on the media, using legislation, taxes on independent media and takeovers and forced closures of opposition media outlets to silence critics.

After a political rally last summer at which Orban spoke of the need to “battle” local media outlets which he said were actively working against his party, government-friendly media launched a campaign against individual journalists, publishing lists of reporters who had been critical of the government and denigrating them and their work.

Local journalism associations said the list was reminiscent of the practices under the communist regime.

In Poland, where since the ruling conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) came to power in 2015 the country’s ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index has plummeted from 18 to 54 out of 180, local journalists have spoken of facing unprecedented state pressure.

The PiS has issued reporters with threats of legal action, cut off their access to some officials, taken control of public media, and cut advertising and subscriptions to various news publications. Some Polish journalists also believe they are being spied on by state security agencies.

Meanwhile, Czech President Milos Zeman has never tried to hide his antipathy for journalists. He has sparked controversy with comments likening journalists to animals, jokingly calling for them to be “liquidated” during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and appearing at a press conference last October soon after investigative journalist Daphne Galizia was killed in Malta with a Kalashnikov and the words “for journalists” written on it.

Recent comments accusing public broadcaster CT of bias also infuriated many, prompting thousands of Czechs to join street protests demanding he respect journalists.

The attacks are not, though, simply politicians getting angry with critics, experts say.

Drew Sullivan, Editor at the OCCRP, told IPS: “Populist and nationalist politicians like those who run Slovakia and the Czech Republic do not like journalists acting as watchdogs.

“They’ve learned from [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and others that the best way to deal with them is to publicly blame the journalists, attack them, demean them and try to undermine their credibility.”

Corruption scandals are far from uncommon across the region and the links between government corruption and intimidation of those trying to expose it are clear, says Lozovsky.

“As a government grows more authoritarian and secretive, journalists come under more pressure. At the same time, that government will almost always become less accountable to its people and more corrupt. When it becomes more corrupt, there will be greater entanglement with organized crime, and when a corrupt government has connections with organized crime, that’s when the threat of physical violence against journalists starts to grow.

“Both Jan Kuciak and Daphne Galizia were working on the same theme – the nexus between corrupt politics and organized crime. This is no coincidence. When criminals ‘buy’ politicians, they feel more empowered to intimidate and attack journalists because they feel immune from the consequences. “

And he warned: “The rising authoritarianism and illiberalism of countries, such as Poland and Hungary for example, will lead to more censorship and, in the long term, increase the likelihood of violence.”

In Slovakia, investigative journalists are determined to continue their work, despite having to operate in a new climate of fear. Petkova says some journalists considered walking away from the profession after the killing and while none have left yet, many had considered police protection.

However, issues of trust between journalists and police have complicated matters.

There is a widespread perception among the Slovak public that police and other justice institutions are endemically corrupt. Indeed, the mass protests across the country after Kuciak was killed and which eventually forced Fico out of office were driven in large part by the fact many felt the murder would never be investigated properly as any links between the killers and government would be covered up by politically-nominated senior police chiefs.

After Kuciak was killed, it emerged that he had contacted police over a threat made to him by a local businessman with links to the government. Kuciak had said in a Facebook post months after contacting them that the police never investigated.

And Petkova is adamant that the perception of a corrupt or politically-influenced police executive may have prompted the killers to act. “They probably came to the conclusion that they could get away with anything and that they’d get away with this murder,” she says.

Sullivan questioned what effect this has on local journalists’ willingness to approach police for either protection or giving up information to investigators in sensitive criminal cases.

“Many journalists know that elements of their governments are protecting criminal groups, drug traffickers, arms traffickers and others. Nobody knows who is on whose side. The Slovak government is corrupt and has been corrupt. There are many Eastern European and Balkan criminals operating out of Bratislava and the police do nothing.  [A journalist] cannot feel safe in that environment,” he said.

While a new government has been appointed in Slovakia, journalists hold little hope of any improvement in politicians’ approach to them. The new Prime Minister, Peter Pelligrini, was directly appointed by his predecessor, who will now head the ruling Smer party.

Juraj Porubsky, former Editor in Chief of the Slovak daily Pravda, told IPS: “Will politicians treat journalists better after this? No, why would they?”

Meanwhile, as the investigation into Kuciak’s murder continues, Slovak journalists are sceptical anyone will be brought to justice for the killing.

“I don’t think it will ever be properly investigated,” Petkova says, shaking her head sadly. “I don’t think Jan’s killer will ever be found.”

The post Getting Away with Murder in Slovakia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

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For Many Migrants, No Land Is Sweeter Than Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/many-migrants-no-land-sweeter-home/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 05:36:01 +0000 Rafiqul Islam Sarker http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155200 Most migrants to Europe, Australia and the United States from Rangpur in northern Bangladesh leave home at a young age and return when they have just passed middle age. Intensely connected and immersed in family bonds and Bangladeshi cultural values, they tend to return to their birthplace despite obtaining citizenship from a second country. For […]

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Poland Sues Argentine Newspaper Under New Holocaust Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/poland-sues-argentine-newspaper-new-holocaust-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poland-sues-argentine-newspaper-new-holocaust-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/poland-sues-argentine-newspaper-new-holocaust-law/#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2018 01:53:40 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155041 Can an official historical truth be universally imposed in defence of a nation’s reputation? Poland believes that it can, and launched a crusade against those who accuse the Polish State or citizens of complicity with the Holocaust. An Argentine newspaper was its first victim. An article about a massacre of Jews perpetrated by their own […]

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The monument in memory of the Jedwabne massacre, vandalised with pro-Nazi grafitti. In 1941, in that Nazi-occupied town in Poland, 1,600 Jews were massacred by their neighbours. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

The monument in memory of the Jedwabne massacre, vandalised with pro-Nazi grafitti. In 1941, in that Nazi-occupied town in Poland, 1,600 Jews were massacred by their neighbours. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Mar 27 2018 (IPS)

Can an official historical truth be universally imposed in defence of a nation’s reputation? Poland believes that it can, and launched a crusade against those who accuse the Polish State or citizens of complicity with the Holocaust. An Argentine newspaper was its first victim.

An article about a massacre of Jews perpetrated by their own neighbours in a Polish town during World War Two (1939-1945), which was not ordered by the Nazi occupiers, prompted a lawsuit in the Polish courts against the newspaper Página 12 in early March.

Just a few days earlier, an unusual law that caused an international controversy had entered into force in the eastern European country, creating penalties of up to three years in prison for those who claim, anywhere around the world, that Poland or the Poles were responsible for the crimes committed against the Jews in their territory during the Nazi occupation.

“The lawsuit was filed by a group linked to the Polish government. We are going to make an international case of this, not to make ourselves famous, but because they are trying to impose a kind of global censorship for which there are not many precedents around the world,” the chief editor of Página 12, Martín Granovsky, told IPS.

“The article published in Página 12 did not mean to say that all Poles were anti-Semitic or that there were no non-Jewish Poles killed under Nazism. We told about a case of neighbours who tortured and killed other neighbours,” he added.

Granovsky said the lawsuit – of which the newspaper has not yet been notified – will be fought in the courts as well as in the court of public opinion. To this end, Página 12 is contacting organisations that defend journalism and freedom of expression around the world.

The complaint against Página 12, a centre-left newspaper that was founded in the 1980s, after Argentina’s return to democracy following the 1976-1983 dictatorship, was filed by the Polish League Against Defamation, a non-governmental organisation created in 2012 with the aim of “initiating and supporting actions to correct false information about the history of Poland, in particular about the role of the Poles in the Second World War, their attitudes towards the Jews and the German concentration camps,” according to its website.

There is a patent similarity between the organisation’s aims and the philosophy that inspired the bill passed by the Polish parliament on Feb. 1 and signed into law by ultraconservative President Andrzej Duda five days later.

The law, according to a statement issued by Poland’s Foreign Ministry, seeks to “combat all forms of denial and distortion of the truth about the Holocaust, as well as attempts to underestimate (the responsibility) of the real perpetrators.”

“Accusing the Polish State and nation of complicity with the Third German Reich in Nazi crimes is wrong, deceptive and hurtful for the victims,” the text continues.

The U.S. State Department had released a statement, when the Polish parliament was about to sanction the law, saying that it “could undermine free speech and academic discourse.”

Mar. 4 headline in the Argentine newspaper Página 12, reacting to a lawsuit brought under a controversial Polish law that penalises anyone, anywhere around the world, who states that the Polish State or citizens were complicit in the Holocaust. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

Mar. 4 headline in the Argentine newspaper Página 12, reacting to a lawsuit brought under a controversial Polish law that penalises anyone, anywhere around the world, who states that the Polish State or citizens were complicit in the Holocaust. Credit: Courtesy Página 12

The questioning by the United States is of particular significance since it is the main ally of Poland, a country that has been accused of violations of the rule of law by the European Union, of which that country is a member.

In December, the EU began to take steps to sanction Warsaw for the enactment of laws that, it argued, sought to weaken judicial independence.

The U.S. State Department suggested that the attempt to restrict opinions about Poland’s role in the Holocaust will lead the country to greater international isolation, as it pointed out that the law could have repercussions “on Poland’s strategic interests and relations, including with the United States and Israel.”

For Damián Loreti, former director of Communication Sciences at the University of Buenos Aires, the Polish law on the Holocaust “violates all international standards in the field of freedom of expression and scientific research.”

“This is because it tries to impose an official historical truth, against which there can be nothing said to the contrary,” Loreti told IPS.

The academic said that “a country’s honour is not a legitimate legal subject to be protected by imposing restrictions on free speech, according to the European Convention on Human Rights, and it also violates United Nations resolutions.”

The op-ed that triggered the lawsuit was published by Página 12 on Dec. 18, 2017, under the title “Familiar Faces”. It was written by Federico Pavlovsky, a psychoanalyst who told IPS that he preferred not to make public statements while the case was making its way through the courts.

In his column, Pavlovsky describes “one of the cruelest and most incredible events recorded in the Second World War,” which occurred on Jul. 10, 1941 in Jedwabne, 190 km from Warsaw.

“That day, 1500 people killed or watched another 1600 being killed, the latter of whom were of Jewish origin,” reads the article, adding: “One of the peculiarities of this massacre is that in Nazi-occupied Poland, the Germans did not order the killing or participate in it, they merely authorised the sequence of events and took photographs.”

The op-ed basically collects the information made public in 2001 by historian Jan Gross in his book “Neighbours: the destruction of the Jewish community in Jedwabne, Poland”, which had a strong impact both in that country and in the United States.

Gross is a Pole born in 1947, the son of a Jewish father and Christian mother, who in 1969, during the communist regime, went into exile in the United States.

The Polish law punishes in particular anyone who speaks of “Polish concentration camps”, instead of clarifying that they were in Polish territory but were the responsibility of the Nazi regime, which was occupying the country.

“It is true that the Polish state had ceased to exist and that there was only a Polish government in exile in London, which fought the Nazis,” psychotherapist and writer Diana Wang told IPS. The daughter of Holocaust survivors, she was born in Poland in 1945 and has lived in Argentina since the age of two.

“However, Poland has a long tradition of anti-Semitism at a cultural level, and hundreds of thousands of Poles participated in the murder of Jews and appropriated their property,” added Wang, who heads Generations of the Shoah, an organisation dedicated to keeping alive the memory of the Holocaust in Argentina.

“It’s true that to talk about Polish concentration camps does not exactly represent the historical truth, because they were under the control of the Germans, but everyone has the right to say what they want,” said Wang, who after hearing about the lawsuit published an op-ed in Página 12 titled: “Poland can sue me too.”

Since the lawsuit was filed, the newspaper has published daily articles about the legal case and about the history of Jewish people in Jedwabne.

The post Poland Sues Argentine Newspaper Under New Holocaust Law appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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