Inter Press Service » Europe http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 24 Aug 2016 15:51:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Ships Bring Your Coffee, Snack and TV Set, But Also Pests and Diseaseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/ships-bring-your-coffee-snack-and-tv-set-but-also-pests-and-diseases/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ships-bring-your-coffee-snack-and-tv-set-but-also-pests-and-diseases http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/ships-bring-your-coffee-snack-and-tv-set-but-also-pests-and-diseases/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:22:26 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146649 Containers pile up in the Italian port of Salerno. Photo: FAO

Containers pile up in the Italian port of Salerno. Photo: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 23 2016 (IPS)

“Every evening, millions of people all over the world will settle into their armchairs to watch some TV after a hard day at work. Many will have a snack or something to drink…

… That TV probably arrived in a containership; the grain that made the bread in that sandwich came in a bulk carrier; the coffee probably came by sea, too. Even the electricity powering the TV set and lighting up the room was probably generated using fuel that came in a giant oil tanker.”

This is what the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)  wants everybody to keep in mind ahead of this year’s World Maritime Day. “The truth is, shipping affects us all… No matter where you may be in the world, if you look around you, you are almost certain to see something that either has been or will be transported by sea, whether in the form of raw materials, components or the finished article.”

Yet few people have any idea just how much they rely on shipping. For the vast majority, shipping is out of sight and out of mind, IMO comments. “This is a story that needs to be told… And this is why the theme that has been chosen for the World Maritime Day 2016 is “Shipping: indispensable to the world.” The Day is marked every year on 29 September.


Over 80 Per Cent of Global Trade Carried by Sea

Some $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year. Photo: FAO

Some $1.1 trillion worth of agricultural products are traded internationally each year. Photo: FAO

Meanwhile, another UN organisation–the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), informs that around 80 per cent of global trade by volume and over 70 per cent of global trade by value are carried by sea and are handled by ports worldwide.

These shares are even higher in the case of most developing countries, says UNCTAD.

“There are more than 50,000 merchant ships trading internationally, transporting every kind of cargo. The world fleet is registered in over 150 nations and manned by more than a million seafarers of virtually every nationality.”

A Floating Threat

All this is fine. But as another major United Nations organisation also reminds that not all is great about sea-born trade. See what happens.

A Floating Threat: Sea Containers Spread Pests and Diseases’  is the title of an information note issued on August 17 by the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

FAO highlights  that that while oil spills garner much public attention and anguish, the so-called “biological spills” represent a greater long-term threat and do not have the same high public profile. And gives some good examples.

“It was an exotic fungus that wiped out billions of American chestnut trees in the early 20th century, dramatically altering the landscape and ecosystem, while today the emerald ash borer – another pest that hitch-hiked along global trade routes to new habitats – threatens to do the same with a valuable tree long used by humans to make tool handles, guitars and office furniture.”

FAO explains that perhaps the biggest “biological spill” of all was when a fungus-like eukaryotic microorganism called Phytophthora infestans – the name of the genus comes from Greek for “plant destroyer” – sailed from the Americas to Belgium. Within months it arrived in Ireland, triggering a potato blight that led to famine, death and mass migration.

“The list goes on and on. A relative of the toxic cane toad that has run rampant in Australia recently disembarked from a container carrying freight to Madagascar, a biodiversity hotspot, and the ability of females to lay up to 40,000 eggs a year make it a catastrophic threat for local lemurs and birds, while also threatening the habitat of a host of animals and plants.”

In Rome, FAO informs, municipal authorities are ramping up their annual campaign against the tiger mosquito, an invasive species that arrived by ship in Albania in the 1970s. Aedes albopictus, famous for its aggressive biting, is now prolific across Italy and global warming will make swathes of northern Europe ripe for colonisation.

“This is why the nations of the world came together some six decades ago to establish the  International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) as a means to help stem the spread of plant pests and diseases across borders boundaries via international trade and to protect farmers, foresters, biodiversity, the environment, and consumers.”

“The crop losses and control costs triggered by exotic pests amount to a hefty tax on food, fibre and forage production,” says Craig Fedchock, coordinator of the FAO-based IPPC Secretariat. “All told, fruit flies, beetles, fungi and their kin reduce global crop yields by between 20 and 40 per cent.”

Credit: IMO

Credit: IMO

Trade as a Vector, Containers as a Vehicle

Invasive species arrive in new habitats through various channels, but shipping, is the main one, FAO reports.

“And shipping today means sea containers: Globally, around 527 million sea container trips are made each year – China alone deals with over 133 million sea containers annually. It is not only their cargo, but the steel contraptions themselves, that can serve as vectors for the spread of exotic species capable of wreaking ecological and agricultural havoc.”

For example, an analysis of 116,701 empty sea containers arriving in New Zealand over the past five years showed that one in 10 was contaminated on the outside, twice the rate of interior contamination.

“Unwelcome pests included the gypsy moth, the Giant African snail, Argentine ants and the brown marmorated stink bug, each of which threaten crops, forests and urban environments. Soil residues, meanwhile, can contain the seeds of invasive plants, nematodes and plant pathogens,” FAO informs.

“Inspection records from the United States, Australia, China and New Zealand indicate that thousands of organisms from a wide range of taxa are being moved unintentionally with sea containers,” the study’s lead scientist, Eckehard Brockerhoff of the New Zealand Forest Research Institute, told a recent meeting at FAO of the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures (CPM), IPPC’s governing body.

These phytosanitary (the health of plants) measures are intended to ensure that imported plants are free of specified pests.

Here, FAO warns that damage exceeds well beyond agriculture and human health issues. Invasive species can cause clogged waterways and power plant shutdowns.

Biological invasions inflict damages amounting to around five per cent of annual global economic activity, equivalent to about a decade’s worth of natural disasters, according to one study, Brockerhoff said, adding that factoring in harder-to-measure impacts may double that.

Around 90 per cent of world trade is carried by sea today, with vast panoply of differing logistics, making agreement on an inspection method elusive. Some 12 million containers entered the U.S. last year, using no fewer than 77 ports of entry.

“Moreover, many cargoes quickly move inland to enter just-in-time supply chains. That’s how the dreaded brown marmorated stink bug – which chews quickly through high-value fruit and crops – began its European tour a few years ago in Zurich.”

This animal actively prefers steel nooks and crannies for long-distance travel, and once established likes to set up winter hibernation niches inside people’s houses.

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The Time is Ripe to Act against Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-time-is-ripe-to-act-against-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-time-is-ripe-to-act-against-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-time-is-ripe-to-act-against-drought/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 14:13:32 +0000 Monique Barbut http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146601

The author is the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which co-organized with the Namibian government the Africa Drought Conference on 15-19 August in Windhoek. This Op-Ed is based on Barbut’s opening speech to the Conference High –level Segment.

By Monique Barbut
WINDHOEK, Aug 18 2016 (IPS)

Let us start with some good news.  Sort of.  The strongest El Niño in 35 years is coming to an end. [1]

In 2015/2016 this “El Niño effect” led to drought in over 20 countries [2].  There were scorching temperatures, water shortages and flooding around the world.  Worst hit were eastern and southern Africa[3]

Monique Barbut

Monique Barbut

To understand what that means for people, you just have to look at the numbers about food insecurity[4].  32 million people in southern Africa were affected by food insecurity as a result.  Across Africa, 1 million children required treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

And though the worst of the drought is coming to an end, predictions are high (at about 75%) that La-Nina will arrive later in 2016. La Nina – El Niño’s opposite number – is known for the flooding it brings.

There may not be much relief for policy makers and people across Africa before the end of the year.

But then, if will be over, we can breathe again.  We can go back to business as usual – right?

Well…if you will allow me…for Albert Einstein…one of the definitions of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Going back to business as usual fits this definition of insanity very well.

  • We know the next El Niño droughts are likely to return regularly.  Probably as often as every two to seven years.
  • We know that the extent and severity of droughts will increase.  This is because of climate change and unsustainable land use.   Scientists have estimated that the fraction of the land’s surface regularly experiencing drought conditions is predicted to increase from less than 5 percent today to more than 30 percent by the 2090s[5].
  • We know we will miss our targets on water scarcity (6.4, 6.5 and 6.6) under the sustainable development goals[6].
  • We know poor people, who tend to be wholly dependent on natural resources like water and land to provide for their families, will suffer.

Unless we change our approach, when drought comes and the rains fail, the future of the 400 million African farmers who rely on rain fed subsistence agriculture, for example, is put in jeopardy.

Rain-fed agriculture accounts for more than 95 percent of farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa. And water scarcity alone could cost some regions 6 percent of their Gross Domestic Product.

Unless we change our approach, people are going to be increasingly forced to decide whether to ride out a drought disaster and then rebuild.  Or simply leave.

It is a form of madness that we force our people to make these difficult choices.

 

Especially if the cycle of drought disaster and recovery could be broken. 

Progress is starting to happen. Mexico, Brazil, Vietnam and Morocco, to name just a few countries, are now implementing drought plans with a strong emphasis on risk mitigation and preparedness.

And in the areas where land has been restored in Central and Eastern Tigray in Ethiopia, ecosystems and people seem to have fared better in recent El Nino related droughts than areas where no restoration has been undertaken.

But because by 2050, one in four people – up to 2.5 billion people – will be living in a country at risk of water scarcity, more needs to be done. Everywhere.  We must prepare better and manage drought risks proactively.

Africa has already done a lot[7] but needs to stay on its toes.

UNCCD is proposing three important pillars for your consideration.

 

Firstly, Early Warning Systems. 

Declaring a drought too late can have a devastating impact on lives and livelihoods. Yet when you declare a drought, it can often be very subjective and highly political.

Africa would benefit from an effective Early Warning System (EWS) in all countries. The system would need good data and – equally important – local and traditional knowledge. It would guide you by providing timely information that you can use to reduce risks and to better prepare for an effective response.

 

Secondly, vulnerability and risk assessment.

Of course, no amount of early warning will work without action to protect the most vulnerable.

Some people and some systems are more vulnerable to drought as a result of social, economic, and environmental factors. So it is important to combine better forecasts with detailed knowledge on how landscapes and societies respond to a lack of rain.

Which communities and ecosystems are most at risk? Why are important sectors like agriculture, energy, tourism, health vulnerable?

Then turn that knowledge into early intervention.

We can assure it would be highly cost effective.  Before the cost of a single late response is reached, you can “overreact” up to six times.

In Niger and Mozambique for example, the cost of an early intervention and resilience building efforts would lead to a cost reduction of 375 million US dollars in Mozambique and 844 million US dollars in Niger when compared to late humanitarian response to drought.[8]

 

Finally, drought risk mitigation measures.

We can identify measures to address these risks head on.  There are things that can be done at a very practical level to reduce drought risk, which if started right away, can deliver real and tangible benefits to your communities.

African countries could consider the development of sustainable irrigation schemes for crops and livestock or water harvesting schemes or the recycling and reuse of water. They can explore the cultivation of more drought tolerant crops, expand crop insurance schemes and establish alternative livelihoods that can provide income in drought-prone areas.

Investing in improved land management, for example, can improve on-farm water security by between 70 and 100%[9].

This would result in higher yields and more food security.   In Zimbabwe, water harvesting combined with conservation agriculture increased farmers gross margins by 4 to 7 times and increased returns on labour by 2 to 3 times. [10]

This is the type of proactive drought risk management, which could save lives and the livelihoods of millions of people, is something that we all should aspire to.

 

The Africa Drought Conference is a rare window of opportunity.

An opportunity for the continent to recognize that the traditional approach of “responding” to drought is no longer viable. It has proved to be ineffective far too often. Instead, Africa could lead a proactive drought revolution.

By investing in early warning systems and addressing their vulnerabilities head on, well-planned and coordinated drought action will have a positive ripple effect across sectors and across borders.

Nelson Mandela once said, “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right”.

The time is ripe. Taking proactive action against drought is the right thing to do.

 

Footnotes

[1] http://media.bom.gov.au/releases/267/el-nino-ends-as-tropical-pacific-ocean-returns-to-neutral/

[2] List compiled from: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/22/southern-africa-worst-global-food-crisis-25-years and https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/30/el-nino-is-over-but-it-leaves-nearly-100-million-people-short-of-food.

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/may/22/africa-worst-famine-since-1985-looms-for-50-million

[4] https://docs.unocha.org/sites/dms/Documents/OCHA_ElNino_Overview_13Apr2016.pdf

[5]  WMO( 2011): Towards a Compendium on National Drought Policy, p. 9.

[6] https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg6

[7] i.e. The Sahel and Sahara Observatory (OSS), IGAD’s Drought Resilience Sustainability Initiative (IDDRSI), the Southern Africa Development Community – Community Climate Service Center (SADC-CSC) or the African Drought Risk and Development Network (ADDN).

[8] Department for international development : The Economics of Early Response and Resilience Series, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/226255/TEERR_Two_Pager_July_22.pdf

[9] Bossio, Deborah et al( 2010): Managing water by managing land: Addressing land degradation to improve water productivity and rural livelihoods, p. 540.

[10] Winterbottom, R. (et al.): Improving Land and Water Management. Working Paper, Installment 4 of Creating a Sustainable Food Future. World Resources Institute, 2013, p. 18.

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Humanitarian Crises: Business Called to Take a Leadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/humanitarian-crises-business-called-to-take-a-lead/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-crises-business-called-to-take-a-lead http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/humanitarian-crises-business-called-to-take-a-lead/#comments Wed, 17 Aug 2016 17:03:43 +0000 IKEA Foundation http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146592 Courtesy of IKEA Foundation

Courtesy of IKEA Foundation

By IKEA Foundation
LEIDEN, The Netherlands, Aug 17 2016 (IPS)

With more than 65 million people forced to flee their homes due to violence and armed conflicts, this year’s Wold Humanitarian Day on August 19 will call on all governments and social sectors to work together to tackle this unprecedented human crisis.

The IKEA Foundation believes that businesses and foundations have an important role to play in strengthening the global response to refugee crises worldwide.

On this, Per Heggenes, CEO of the IKEA Foundation, says: “The corporate sector must come together to support those caught up in one of the biggest displacements of people in history. It’s not just up to governments and aid agencies. Businesses also have a responsibility to respond in their own way.”

“Financial support, through giving grants to organisations working directly with refugees, is certainly one way they can help. But we believe businesses have much more to offer. Their expertise and ability to innovate can help make life better for refugees, and they can use their influence to galvanise others to help,” Heggenes adds.

 

Focus on Innovation and Creativity

The Foundation supports refugee children and their families around the world through the UN Refugees agency (UNHCR) and other leading international organisations. The IKEA business makes good use of its creativity and problem-solving skills to find practical ways to help refugees.

Together with social enterprise Better Shelter and UNHCR, the Foundation has created a flat-pack shelter, which is safer and more durable than a tent.

UNHCR has already ordered thousands of shelters to house refugee families in Greece, Iraq, Serbia, Chad and Djibouti. The shelter will be on show at Insecurities:Tracing Displacement and Shelter, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1 October 2016 to 22 January 2017.

“This is a great example of how IKEA’s democratic design principles—of making good design available to the many people—have also influenced innovation in the humanitarian sector,” says Heggenes.

“The shelters are helping people who have been forced to flee their homes to live a better everyday life while in displacement.”

 

Build Unlikely Collaborations

The IKEA Foundation also recently teamed up with Amsterdam-based design platform What Design Can Do and UNHCR to harness the creative power of the design community.

The What Design Can Do Refugee Challenge called on designers and creative thinkers to come up with new concepts to make life better for refugee families living in urban areas.

The challenge attracted more than 600 entries, with the five winners announced on 1 July. Winners received 10,000 euro and expert support to develop their ideas.

“The great participation in the Refugee Challenge showed that people in the design community really want to use their skills to create better everyday lives for refugee children and families,” says Jonathan Spampinato, Head of Communications at the IKEA Foundation.

“Our role was to create a platform for them to showcase their ideas and provide funding to develop the best concepts. We believe that other professional communities may be equally motivated and that leading businesses can activate this desire to help.”

Courtesy of IKEA Foundation

Courtesy of IKEA Foundation

 

How Products Can Make a Difference

As well as looking for innovative design solutions, the Foundation provides financial support and donates IKEA products to partner organisations working in humanitarian crises.

“We’re really proud of how we are able to support our partners in times of disasters and conflict,” says Jonathan Spampinato. “On World Humanitarian Day, we’d like to say a huge thank you to our humanitarian partners, especially to their staff and volunteers who work on the frontline in emergencies.”

To support refugee children and families living in Iraq, the Foundation has donated 400,000 mattresses, quilts and blankets to UNHCR over three years.

Since 2013, it has also been donating IKEA children’s products to UNICEF for its Early Childhood Development Kits, which support the well-being of children, including those affected by conflicts and emergencies.

Earlier this year, the Foundation gave grants worth a total of 9.4 million euro to Save the Children and Médicins Sans Frontières. The money is supporting children and families affected by the Syrian conflict, in Syria and neighbouring countries.

It will pay for healthcare, education and child protection and help strengthen local organisations working within Syria. Moreover, the Foundation partnered up with War Child to provide quality education to 10,000 Syrian and Sudanese refugee children through the Can’t Wait to Learn e-learning programme.

 

Support Frontline Efforts

Using a similar approach, the IKEA Foundation is supporting a three-year programme run by Oxfam to strengthen local humanitarian organisations in Bangladesh and Uganda. The 7.3 million euro grant, which was announced at the World Humanitarian Summit in May, marks a major shift in the way the international community views emergency response.

Per Heggenes said: “With vast numbers of people on the move due to conflict and disaster, there’s a lot of pressure on the humanitarian system. Local organisations are often best placed to provide immediate assistance because they are on the ground and understand the community and culture. We’re funding this programme because we believe that strengthening local actors will improve the humanitarian system as a whole, and help it work more efficiently.”

 

Engaging Customers and Co-workers

Another way businesses can help is by mobilising their staff and customers to support refugees. In 2014-15, IKEA and the IKEA Foundation ran a campaign called Brighter Lives for Refugees. For every lamp or bulb sold in IKEA stores during the three campaign periods, the IKEA Foundation donated 1 euro to UNHCR.

Per Heggenes said: “We’re delighted with the way IKEA co-workers got behind the campaign, and promoted it to customers in their stores. In total, we raised 30.8 million euro to bring light and renewable energy to refugee camps in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.:

As well as raising a lot of money, I think the campaign shows how businesses can be a powerful force for good by engaging all their audiences in this important issue,” Per Heggenes concluded.

*This article has been provided by IKEA Foundation as part of an agreement with IPS.

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The Economic Partnership Agreement has never made much sense for Tanzaniahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-economic-partnership-agreement-has-never-made-much-sense-for-tanzania/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-economic-partnership-agreement-has-never-made-much-sense-for-tanzania http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-economic-partnership-agreement-has-never-made-much-sense-for-tanzania/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 17:02:17 +0000 Benjamin W. Mkapa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146567

Benjamin William Mkapa is a former President of Tanzania and the Chair of the South Centre Board

By Benjamin W. Mkapa
GENEVA, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

The EPA issue has once again re-emerged when, in early July, Tanzania informed East African Community( EAC) members and the European Union (EU) that it would not be able to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between European Union (EU)  and the six EAC member states.

The European Commission reportedly proposed signature of the EAC EPA in Nairobi, on the sidelines of the 14th session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIV).

Benjamin William Mkapa

Benjamin William Mkapa

This is a major quadrennial event where all United Nations member states negotiate guidance for UNCTAD. For the European Commission, it would have been a propitious place for a signature ceremony as it would have projected the EPA as a “trade and development” agreement to the benefit of EAC.

Nevertheless, the agreement is antithetical to Tanzania’s as well as the region’s trade and development prospects.

The EPA for Tanzania and the EAC never made sense. The maths just never added up. The costs for the country and the EAC region would have been higher than the benefits.

As a least developed country (LDC), Tanzania already enjoys the Everything but Arms (EBA) preference scheme provided by the European Union.

In other words, we can already export duty-free and quota-free to the EU market without providing the EU with similar market access terms. If we sign the EPA, we would still get the same duty-free access, but in return, we would have to open up our markets for EU exports.

The EPA is a free trade agreement. Under it, Tanzania would have to reduce to zero the tariffs on 90 per cent of all its industrial goods trade with the EU, according duty-free access for almost all the EU’s non-agricultural products into the country.

Such a high level of liberalisation vis-à-vis a very competitive partner is likely to put our existing local industries in jeopardy and discourage the development of new industries.

Research using trade data shows that Tanzania currently produces and exports on 983 tariff lines (at the HS 6 digit level.) The EU produces and exports on over 5,000 tariff lines. If the EPA were implemented, 335 of the 983 products we currently produce would be protected in the EPA’s “sensitive list,” but 648 tariff lines would be made duty-free.

So the existing industries on these 648 tariff lines would have to compete with EU’s imports without the protection of tariffs. Will these sectors survive the competition?

These 648 tariff lines include agricultural products (maize products, cotton seed oil cake); chemical products (urea, fertilisers); vehicle industry parts (tyres); medicaments; intermediate industrial products ( plastic packing material, steel, iron and aluminium articles, wires and cables); parts of machines and final industrial products (weighing machines, metal rolling mills, drilling machines, transformers, generating sets, prefabricated buildings etc); parts of machines (parts of gas turbines, parts of cranes, work-trucks, shovels, and other construction machinery, parts of machines for industrial preparation/ manufacturing of food, aircraft parts etc).

We can already export duty-free and quota-free to the EU market without providing the EU with similar market access terms. If we sign the EPA, we would still get the same duty-free access, but in return, we would have to open up our markets for EU exports
The list does not stop here. Liberalisation (zero tariffs) also applies to the many industrial sectors that Tanzania and the EAC do not yet have existing production/exports ­ about 3,102 tariff lines for Tanzania.

Statistics show that in fact, for the EAC region, the African market is the primary market for its manufactured exports. In contrast, 91% of its current trade with the EU is made up of primary commodity exports (agricultural products such as coffee, tea, spices, fruit and vegetables, fish, tobacco, hides and skins etc).

Only a minuscule 6% or about $200,000 of EAC exports to the EU is composed of manufactured goods.In contrast, of the total EAC exports to Africa, almost 50% is made up of manufactured exports – about $2.5 billion – according to 2013 ­ 2015 data. Of this, $1.5 billion are EAC country exports to other EAC countries.

These figures tell two stories: One; the importance of the African market for EAC’s aspirations to industrialise. In contrast, the EU market plays almost no role in this. Two the EAC internal market makes up 60% of EAC’s manufactured exports to Africa, i.e., the EAC regional market is extremely valuable in supporting EAC’s industrialisation efforts.

The EPA would threaten this regional industrialisation opportunity that is currently blossoming since most EU manufactured products would enter the EAC market dutyfree. Just as our manufactured products are not competitive in the EU market, even though they can be exported dutyfree, might it not be the case that when EU manufactured products can come duty-free into the EAC market, EAC manufactured products may also not sell? The EPA could in fact destroy our economic regional integration efforts.

The pains EAC has taken to build a regional market may instead help serve EU’s commercial interests by offering the EU one EAC market, rather than ensuring that that market can be accessed by our own producers.

The other area where EPA hits the heart of our industrialisation aspirations are its disciplines on export taxes. At the World Trade Organization, export taxes are completely legal.The logic of export taxes is to encourage producers to enter into value-added processing, hence encouraging diversification and the upgradation of production capacities. Developed countries themselves had used these policy tools when they were developing.

The EU has a raw materials initiative aimed at accessing non-agricultural raw materials found in other countries. According to the European Commission, ‘securing reliable and unhindered access to raw materials is important for the EU. In the EU, there are at least 30 million jobs depending on the availability of raw materials.’ In implementing this initiative, the EU has used trade agreements to discipline export taxes.

The EPA prohibits signatories from introducing new export taxes or increase existing ones. For Tanzania and the EAC region with its rich deposits of raw material, including tungsten, cobalt, tantalum etc; such disciplines in the long-run would be incongruent with our objective to industrialise and add value to our resources.

The other area of loss resulting from the EPA is tariff revenue, and the numbers are not small. Conservative estimates (assuming import growth of 0.9% year on year) show that for the EAC as a whole tariff revenue losses would amount to $251 million a year by the end of the EPA’s implementation period Cumulative tariff revenue losses would amount to USD 2.9 billion in the first 25 years of the EPA’s life.

For Tanzania, the losses based on 2013/­2014 import figures are about $71 million a year by year 25. Cumulatively, just for Tanzania, they come up to $700 million over the first 25 years.

Where is the Promised Development Aid?

EU has made many promises that the EPA would be accompanied by development assistance. Hence the EAC EPA incorporates a ‘Development Matrix’ containing a list of economic development projects for the EAC. The price tag of implementing this Development Matrix is $70 billion.

The Matrix and assistance is to be reviewed every 5 years. For the time-being, the EU has pledged to contribute a paltry $3.49 million, which translates into 0.005% of the total required funds!This is also a far cry from the tariff revenue losses the region faces ­the $251 million a year mentioned above.

The only area where the EPA is supposed to serve the interest of the EAC is by providing duty-free access to Kenya. As a non-LDC, Kenya does not have duty-free access via the EU’s EBA. Kenya’s main export item to the EU is flowers ­ just over $500,000 a year.

Without the EPA, Kenyan’s flowers would be charged a 10% customs duty. There are other Kenyan exports also ­vegetables, fruit, fish – that will face tariffs. However, the flower industry has thus far been the most vocal. Nevertheless, all in all, Kenyan exports to the EU market (including the UK) amounts to about $1.5 billion.

If no EPA is signed, the extra duties charged to Kenyan exports amounts to about $100 million a year. Is this worth signing an EPA for? — The avoidance of duties of $100 million? The tariff revenue losses as the EPA is implemented (and more tariff lines are liberalised) would be comparable.

This does not even include the tariff revenue losses of the other EAC LDCs, nor the challenges posed to domestic/ regional industries. In addition, the Brexit development is further reason for the region to pause and reconsider.

The UK is a major export market for Kenya, absorbing 28% of Kenya’s exports to the EU. This reduces the EPA’s supposed ‘benefits’ by a quarter for Kenya. There is a possible solution for Kenya ­ to apply for the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences Plus scheme (GSP+). Under this, almost all of Kenya’s current exports could enter EU duty-free including flowers and fish.

This option could be explored. Alternatively all EAC countries would do well to attempt to diversify production and exports away from primary commodities towards value-added products, and also to diversify our export destinations. Africa is a critical market for EAC’s manufactured goods. Regional integration and trade is the most promising avenue for EAC’s industrial development. The EPA would derail us from that promise.

This article was published firstly in Daily News of Tanzania

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One Humanity? Millions of Children Tortured, Smuggled, Abused, Enslavedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/one-humanity-millions-of-children-tortured-smuggled-abused-enslaved/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=one-humanity-millions-of-children-tortured-smuggled-abused-enslaved http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/one-humanity-millions-of-children-tortured-smuggled-abused-enslaved/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2016 11:19:24 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146555 A boy carrying his belongings in a large cloth bag over his shoulder is among people walking on railway tracks to cross from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into Serbia. Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2015-2203/Georgiev

A boy carrying his belongins in a large cloth bag over his shoulder is among people walking on railway tracks to cross from the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into Serbia. Photo: UNICEF/NYHQ2015-2203/Georgiev

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

Children are being smuggled, sexually abused, maimed, killed for their vital organs, recruited as soldiers or otherwise enslaved. Not only: 69 million children under five will die from mostly preventable causes, 167 million will live in poverty, and 263 million are out of school. And 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030.

These are just some of the dramatic figures that the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and other UN and international bodies released few weeks ahead of the World Humanitarian Day (WHD) marked every year on August 19.

Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general, summarized the world future generation situation: “Children continue to be tortured, maimed, imprisoned, starved, sexually abused and killed in armed conflict.”

A boy holds a large piece of exploded artillery shell, which landed in the village of Al Mahjar, a suburb of Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Photo: UNICEF/Mohamed Hamoud

A boy holds a large piece of exploded artillery shell, which landed in the village of Al Mahjar, a suburb of Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. Photo: UNICEF/Mohamed Hamoud

“In places such as Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, children suffer through a living hell,” the UN chief said as he opened the Security Council’s debate on children and armed conflict on August 2.

Meanwhile, the future of humankind continues to be bleak, “unless the world focuses more on the plight of its most disadvantaged children,” alerts a United Nations report.

“Denying hundreds of millions of children a fair chance in life does more than threaten their futures – by fuelling inter-generational cycles of disadvantage, it imperils the future of their societies,” on 28 June said UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, on the release of The State of the World’s Children, the agency’s annual flagship report.

“We have a choice: Invest in these children now or allow our world to become still more unequal and divided.”

The UNICEF report notes that significant progress has been made in saving children’s lives, getting children into school and lifting people out of poverty. But this progress has been neither even nor fair, the report flags. “The poorest children are twice as likely to die before their fifth birthday and to be chronically malnourished than the richest.”

Across much of South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, children born to mothers with no education are almost three times more likely to die before they are five than those born to mothers with a secondary education, says UNICEF’s report. And “Girls from the poorest households are twice as likely to marry as children than girls from the wealthiest households.”

Worst in Sub-Saharan Africa

Nowhere is the outlook grimmer than in sub-Saharan Africa, where at least 247 million children – or 2 in 3 – live in multidimensional poverty, deprived of what they need to survive and develop, and where nearly 60 per cent of 20- to 24-year-olds from the poorest fifth of the population have had less than four years of schooling, the report warns.

At current trends, the report projects, by 2030, sub-Saharan Africa will account for nearly half of the 69 million children who will die before their fifth birthday from mostly preventable causes; more than half of the 60 million children of primary school age who will still be out of school; and 9 out of 10 children living in extreme poverty.  her twin

The UNICEF report goes on to warn that about 124 million children today do not go to primary- and lower-secondary school, and almost two in five who do finish primary school have not learned how to read, write or do simple arithmetic.

Youth, The Other Lost Generation

Meanwhile, there is another lost generation—the youth. “Today, over 70 million youth are looking for jobs while nearly 160 million are working, yet living in poverty. These figures embody a massive waste of potential and a threat to social cohesion,” on August 12 wrote Azita Berar Awad, Director of Employment Policy Department at the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence, 160 million live in high drought severity areas. Of the 530 million children in the flood-prone zones, some 300 million live in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty – on less than $3.10 a day. Photo: UNICEF.

More than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence, 160 million live in high drought severity areas. Of the 530 million children in the flood-prone zones, some 300 million live in countries where more than half the population lives in poverty – on less than $3.10 a day. Photo: UNICEF.

“Youth unemployment and decent work deficits depreciate human capital and have a significant negative influence on health, happiness, anti-social behaviour, and socio-political stability. They impact the present and future well-being of our societies,” she added.

Moreover, Berar stressed, conditions in youth labour markets are changing constantly and rapidly, so are the profiles and aspirations of young women and men who are entering the labour force every day.

“For most, expectations of decent work are not only about earning an income and making a livelihood. Youth see decent work as the cornerstone of their life project, the catalyst for their integration into society, and the pathway to their participation into the broader social and political arena.”

Anyway, this year’s WHD follows on one of the most pivotal moments in the history of humanitarian action: the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which was held on May 23-24 May in Istanbul.

The WHS main objective was to mobilise world leaders to declare their collective support for the new Agenda for Humanity and commit to bold action to reduce suffering and deliver better for the millions of people in need of humanitarian assistance.

But while succeeding in attracting world’s attention to the current humanitarian emergency, the Istanbul Summit failed to mobilise the urgently needed funds to alleviate the sufferance of up to 160 million people and growing: as little and affordable 21 billion dollars.

Now, the WHD 2016 will continue communications around the Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit. For instance, the #ShareHumanity campaign, which kicked off last year on 19 August, beginning a global countdown to drive awareness for the WHS.

“Impossible Choices”

Previously, the campaign ‘Impossible Choices’ was launched In April this year with a call to world leaders to attend the Summit and to ‘Commit to Action’.  The launch of final phase of this UN vast campaign coincides with the WHD on 19 August and will run up until the UN secretary-general presents the Wold Humanitarian Summit Report at the UN General Assembly in September.

Following on this ‘Impossible Choices’ campaign earlier this year, the WHD digital campaign ‘The World You’d Rather’ will launch on 19 August.

Featuring a quiz based on the popular game ‘Would you rather’, the digital campaign will bring to light the very real scenarios faced by people in crisis. After being confronted with challenging choices, users will be able to share a personalised graphic on social media, tweet their world leader and learn about the Agenda for Humanity.

But while the UN starves to raise awareness among political decision-makers and mobilise humanity to take speedy, bold actions to alleviate, end and hopefully prevent the on-going, unprecedented human sufferance, world’s biggest powers continue to spend over 1,7 trillion dollars a year on weapons production and trade.

One Humanity? Yes. But whose? And for Whom?

This story is part of special IPS coverage of World Humanitarian Day on August 19.

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Expansionary fiscal consolidation mythhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/expansionary-fiscal-consolidation-myth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=expansionary-fiscal-consolidation-myth http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/expansionary-fiscal-consolidation-myth/#comments Thu, 11 Aug 2016 12:15:03 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146514 Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development.]]>

Anis Chowdhury was Professor of Economics, University of Western Sydney, and held various senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok. Jomo Kwame Sundaram was UN Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development.

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Aug 11 2016 (IPS)

The debt crisis in Europe continues to drag on. Drastic measures to cut government debts and deficits, including by replacing democratically elected governments with ‘technocrats’, have only made things worse. The more recent drastic expenditure cuts in Europe to quickly reduce public finance deficits have not only adversely impacted the lives of millions as unemployment soared. The actions also seem to have killed the goose that lay the golden egg of economic growth, resulting in a ‘low growth’ debt trap.

Government debt in the Euro zone reached nearly 92 per cent of GDP at the end of 2014, the highest level since the single currency was introduced in 1999. It dropped marginally to 90.7 per cent at the end of 2015, but is still about 50 per cent higher than the maximum allowed level of 60 per cent set by the Stability and Growth Pact rules designed to make sure EU members “pursue sound public finances and coordinate their fiscal policies”. The debt-GDP ratio was 66 per cent in 2007 before the crisis.

High debt is, of course, of concern. But as the experiences of the Euro zone countries clearly demonstrate, countries cannot come out of debt through drastic cuts in spending, especially when the global economic growth remains tepid, and there is no scope for the rapid rise of export demand. Instead, drastic public expenditure cuts are jeopardizing growth, creating a vicious circle of low growth-high debt, as noted by the IMF in its October 2015 World Economic Outlook.

Deficits, debt and fiscal consolidation

Using historical data, a number of cross-country studies claimed that fiscal consolidation promotes growth and generates employment. Three have been the most influential among policy makers dealing with the economic crisis unleashed by the 2008-2009 global financial meltdown.

First, using data from advanced and emerging economies for 1970-2007, the IMF’s May 2010 Fiscal Monitor claimed a negative relationship between initial government debt and subsequent per capita GDP growth as a stylized fact. On average, a 10 percentage point increase in the initial debt-GDP ratio was associated with a drop in annual real per capita GDP growth of around 0.2 percentage points per year. By implication, a reduction in debt-GDP ratio should enhance growth. Released just before the G20 Toronto Summit, it provided the ammunition for fiscal hawks urging immediate fiscal consolidation. The IMF has since admitted that its fiscal consolidation advice in 2010 was based on an ad-hoc exercise.

Using a different methodology, the IMF’s 2010 World Economic Outlook reported that reducing fiscal deficits by one per cent of GDP “typically reduces GDP by about 0.5% within two years and raises the unemployment rate by about 0.3 percentage point”. Domestic demand—consumption and investment—falls by about 1%”. Similarly, a 2015 IMF research paper concluded that “Empirical evidence suggests that the level at which the debt-to-GDP ratio starts to harm long-run growth is likely to vary with the level of economic development and to depend on other factors, such as the investor base”.

The second study, of 107 episodes of fiscal consolidation in all OECD countries during 1970-2007 by Alberto Alesina and Silvia Ardagna, found 26 cases (out of 107) of fiscal consolidation associated with resumed growth, probably influenced policy makers most. This happened despite the actual finding that “…sometimes, not always, some fiscal adjustments based upon spending cuts are not associated with economic downturns.”

Yet, in Harvard Professor Alesina’s public statement, “several” became “many” and “sometimes” became “frequently”, and mere “association” implied “causation”. In April 2010, Alesina told European Union economic and finance ministers that “large, credible and decisive” spending cuts to rescue budget deficits have frequently been followed by economic growth. Alesina was even cited in the official communiqué of an EU finance ministers’ meeting.

Jonathan Portes of the UK Treasury has acknowledged that Alesina was particularly influential when the UK Treasury argued in its 2010 ‘Emergency Budget’ that the wider effects of fiscal consolidation “will tend to boost demand growth, could improve the underlying performance of the economy and could even be sufficiently strong to outweigh the negative effects”. Christina Romer, then Chair of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisors, also acknowledged that the paper became ‘very influential’, noting exasperatedly that “everyone has been citing it”.

Researchers have found serious methodological and data errors in this work. Historical experience, including that of current Euro zone economies, suggests that the probability of successful fiscal consolidation is low. These successes depended on factors such as global business cycles, monetary policy, exchange rate policy and structural reforms.

Drawing on the IMF’s critique of Alesina and his associates, even the influential The Economist (30 September, 2010) dismissed the view that fiscal consolidation today would be “painless” as “wishful thinking”. Nevertheless, the IMF’s policy advice remained primarily in favour of fiscal consolidation regardless of a country’s economic circumstances or development level. There seems to be a clear disconnect between the IMF’s research and its operations.

The third study, by Harvard Professors Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff on the history of financial crises and their aftermaths, claimed that rising government debt levels are associated with much weaker economic growth, indeed negative rates. According to them, once the debt-to-GDP exceeds the threshold ratio of 90 per cent, average growth dropped from around 3 per cent to -0.1 per cent in the post-World War II sample period. Since then, however, significant data omissions, questionable weighting methods and elementary coding errors in their original work have been uncovered. Nevertheless, the Reinhart-Rogoff findings were seized upon by the media and politicians around the world to justify austerity policies and drastic public spending cuts.

Bill Clinton, fiscal hawk?

Supporters of austerity based fiscal consolidation often cite President Bill Clinton’s second term in the late 1990s. However, the data shows that fiscal consolidation was achieved through growth, contrary to the claim that austerity produced growth. Clinton broke with the traditional policy of using the exchange rate to address current account or trade imbalances, opting for a strong dollar. Thus, the US dollar rose against major currencies from less than 80 in January 1995 to over 100 by January 2000.

The strong US dollar lowered imported inflation, allowing the Fed to maintain low interest rates even though unemployment fell markedly. The low interest rate policy not only boosted growth, but also helped keep bond yields close to nominal GDP growth rates. Thus, the interest burden was kept under control, with primary balances stable at close to zero.

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The -Sad- US Nominationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-sad-us-nominations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-sad-us-nominations http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/the-sad-us-nominations/#comments Tue, 02 Aug 2016 11:00:13 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146351 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]>

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

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, Aug 2 2016 (IPS)

The US mountain, so rich in human talent, labored and produced the two dwarfs for the huge job. A radical Republican strongman[i] and a conventional Democrat, disliked by 62% and 67%–bad for electing the president of a country that still puts some stamp on the world.

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Trump challenged, successfully, the Republican machine. The Democratic machine got a Hillary who challenged absolutely nothing.

In both parties, in the name of unity, a veil was drawn over these basic US conflicts today, not between the parties, but within. Cruz did not give in, Sanders did–maybe bribed by some verbal rephrasing.

So there they are. Trump has his base in the vast WASP, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant middle class middle-aged who used to rule the country [ii], promising to make America–meaning WASP–great again.

Hillary has her base in that other Democratic Party, the Southern Democrats, in older people and the groups traditionally voting Democrat–Blacks, Hispanics, cultural minorities, women and much of labor– greatly aided by that wasp, Trump, stinging all of them.

Younger people may abstain. So may many, even most, in the choice between a less war-and-market Republican and a market-and-war Democrat willing, on sale for more wars.

Add the careers of these big Egos: one a businessman wrecking others, the other wrecking state secrets. “Stop him by all means” and “Lock her up” become mantras heard often. The high dislikes are well rooted. BUT, there is a difference: there is also much enthusiasm for Trump; none, it seems, for Hillary.

The election campaign started long before the nominations were over and the foretaste is bad. One thing is the candidates fighting; another, the burning issues for the USA and the world. They may both be right when certifying that the other is unfit for the presidency.

But that is still personal, ad hominem, cutting huge political cakes along personal lines. How about the issues facing the USA?

Take the issue-complex “speculation-massive inequality-misery”. 1% vs 99%. Traditionally, causes for the Democrats.

Sanders got at it; but his proposals were unclear or missing. Here some policy staples that the Democrats missed: separating investment and savings banking; holding Capital responsible for failures, not drawing upon State = tax-payers’ money; attacking inequality by illegalizing companies with the CEO:worker salary ratios way above, say, 10; lifting the bottom of US society with credits for the basic needs focused cooperatives.

How could Democrats justify such policies? Through Human Rights:

universal_620

What a marvelous collection of rights and freedoms! Democrats should not forever be accepting the US non-ratification of ESC human rights.

Trump, eager to make his middle class great, may actually do some ESC at the expense of UD to protect them from “trade” with loss of jobs from above and the threat of revolution, with violence from below that has already started, along racial lines, initiated by the White police.

Take the issue-complex “foreign policy-war”. “An isolationist Trump could save American lives”[iii] (and many more non-American lives). But doing so to save money is not good enough; take the issues head on.

“Clinton and Trump jostle for a position over North Korea”[iv] is more to the point: Trump is open to negotiate directly with Kim Jung-un, Hillary sticks to conventional isolation-sanctions-multilateralism.

Trump might become the first US president to take North Korea on the word: “peace treaty-normalization-a nuclear-free Korean peninsula”. Hillary’s line leads nowhere. What is missing is an open debate on the two untouchables: US foreign policy and the US right and duty to war.

The “less-than-Third World” infrastructure” has been mentioned.

However, how about the suicide and homicide rates? Not only the easy gun access aspect, what it says about demoralized US society? How about the shortening of lives due to deteriorating living conditions? How about the climate and the environment, specifics, not generalities? How about the whole American dream or dreams becoming exactly that, a dream only, dreamt in the past?

Trump has a new dream for his chosen people, greatness, Hillary’s dream is status quo since nothing has gone wrong.

And to that we may add: how about US democracy? Does it exist?

“Clinton did not run a clean campaign, she cheated. Caucus after caucus, primary after primary, the Clinton team robbed Sanders of votes that were rightfully his. Here is how. Parties run caucuses. States run primaries. The DNC controlled by Clinton allies like Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz[v]. Democratic governors are behind Clinton: State election officials report to them. These officials decide where to send voting booths, which votes get counted, which do not. You thought this was a democracy? Ha.”[vi]

The details make the “Ha” an understatement. And that in a country so bent on lecturing to others on their lack of democracy. Forget it. Even so, Sanders won 22 states; had basic rules been respected, he would have made a majority of states even if Clinton had delegate majority.

“The world is watching US elections,” CNN says with nationalistic pride. In disbelief and dismay, waiting for guidance beyond mutual name-calling. They may be dwarfs relative to a giant job. But nobody is born a president; they are made by the campaigns and on the job.

So far, the impression is that Trump learns more than Clinton, testing out new ideas well before he can put them into practice. Because he has more to learn, having no experience? Yes, he has a lot to learn. But her “experience”, in killing? In not solving conflicts? Maybe she has a lot to unlearn. Any evidence she does that? None whatsoever.

This gives an edge favoring Trump. We know what to expect from Hillary; not from Trump. On the two huge issue-complexes mentioned above, Hillary spells status quo, Trump not. Trump is gambling on his own–proven to be very high–persuasion capacity. Not quite hopeless.

Notes:
[i]. J. R. Hibbing and E.Theiss-Morse, in an article in Washington Post, make the point that “A Surprising amount of Americans dislike how messy democracy is. They like Trump.”, english@other-news.info, 17 May 2016. In their study 60 percent believed that “government would work better if it were run like a business”.

[ii]. Bryce Covert, “America was great, again”, INYT 17 May 2016: “Donald Trump’s campaign promise is appealing because it promises–to make the country great again for the people who had it pretty great in the first place”.

[iii]. Dough Bandow, Japan Times, 31-05-2016.

[iv]. INYT, 20 May 2016.

[v]. Now dismissed because of an e-mail scandal.

[vi]. Ted Rall, “Clinton beating Sanders by hook and by crook”, Japan Times, 05 July 2016.

Johan Galtung’s article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 25 July 2016: TMS: The US Nominations.

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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Lessons from Germany for Latin America’s Energy Transitionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/lessons-from-germany-for-latin-americas-energy-transition/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lessons-from-germany-for-latin-americas-energy-transition http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/lessons-from-germany-for-latin-americas-energy-transition/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2016 20:02:13 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146344 A house with solar panels on the roof in a town in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany - a common sight in this European nation, but still rare in many countries of Latin America. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A house with solar panels on the roof in a town in North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany - a common sight in this European nation, but still rare in many countries of Latin America. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
DÜSSELDORF, Germany, Aug 1 2016 (IPS)

Germany has been undergoing an energy transition for over 20 years, and it can offer valuable lessons to Latin America with regard to promoting renewable energy and moving towards a low-carbon economy.

Germany’s transformation formally began in 2011, based on six laws that foment alternative energies through a surcharge for suppliers, the expansion of the power grid to boost the incorporation of renewables, and cogeneration, to use energy that goes to waste in power plants that run on fossil fuels.

There are twice as many laws that bolster the generation and consumption of renewable sources worldwide as there were at the start of the century, and Latin America is no exception to this trend.

“Other countries, including those of Latin America, should probably look at Germany’s experiences and learn from both the good and the bad,” Sascha Samadi, an analyst with the German Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy, which carries out research on the energy transformation, told IPS.

The expert said that “at the start of the energy transition, everything was about how to rise up against the big energy companies that so many people hated,” while now the main driver of support for the transition is concern about climate change.

To move towards a low-carbon energy mix, “in the countries of Latin America, other aspects can be more important on the agenda, such as reducing dependence on imports or making supplies more stable,” he said.

In Germany, renewables accounted for 30 percent of the electricity produced in 2015 and this European nation is the third-largest producer of renewable energy – not including hydropower. It is third in wind energy and biodiesel and fifth in geothermal.

It is also a leader in per capita solar power, despite its relatively low amount of sunlight.

In the last decade, strides have been made in developing renewable energies in Latin America, a region highly dependent on fossil fuels, either because the countries are major producers of them, such as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela, or because they depend on imports, like the nations of Central America or Chile.

Most countries in the region have included plans to foment the energy transition, policies to make production and consumption more efficient, and targets for the generation of renewable energy.

Reaching Germany’s goal, a low-carbon economy, requires social change and modifications in consumption patterns and industrial policies, and will force plants like the ThyssenKrupp steel mill in the city of Duisburg to replace coal with cleaner sources. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Reaching Germany’s goal, a low-carbon economy, requires social change and modifications in consumption patterns and industrial policies, and will force plants like the ThyssenKrupp steel mill in the city of Duisburg to replace coal with cleaner sources. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

For example, Mexico passed in December an energy transition law, Chile has its 2050 energy plan, and Uruguay has a 2005-2030 energy policy. This legislation includes medium to long-term goals for the generation of renewable energy, tax incentives, and other actions aimed at a cleaner energy mix.

In 2015, Brazil drew more than 7.1 billion dollars in investment in renewables – 10 percent less than the previous year; Mexico drew 4.0 billion – double the 2014 level; and Chile, 3.4 billion – an increase of 150 percent, according to the report “Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016”.

Nations like Honduras and Uruguay also received over 500 million dollars in investment in renewables in 2015, according to the study produced by the United Nations Environment Programme Collaborating Centre for Climate and Sustainable Energy Finance at the Frankfurt School of Finance & Management.

The study reports that investment in Brazil climbed from 800 million dollars in 2004 to 7.1 billion in 2015.

Without counting the region’s leading producer, Latin America captured 1.7 billion in investment in 2004, rising to 12.8 billion in 2015. But last year’s capital flows fell from 2014 levels, due to factors such as political instability in some countries and low oil prices.

The region generates 209,419 MW of renewable energy, of which hydropower represents 171,960.

To promote a low-carbon energy mix, there is an element in which Latin America should try to emulate Germany, Sophia Schönborn, an analyst with the German multisectoral organisation on energy KlimaDiskurs.NRW e.V, told IPS.

“Germany’s transition shows the importance of bottom-up decision-making and listening to the public’s concerns. It was not imposed; society pushed for changes in the energy model,” said the expert.

In the hands of the market

Germany has reached the point where it is producing excess renewable energy. As a result, parliament revoked fixed rates for renewables as of January 2017, and created auctions for all sources of clean energy.

The reform of the renewable energy law that will go into effect at that time rewards suppliers that have the lowest prices, sets caps on energy generation, and leaves fixed rates in place only for cooperatives and small-scale producers.

Germany’s energy transition has included facilities for wind and solar power generated by cooperatives and private citizens, such as the innovative bioenergy park in Saerbeck, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Germany’s energy transition has included facilities for wind and solar power generated by cooperatives and private citizens, such as the innovative bioenergy park in Saerbeck, in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Under the German model, citizens can generate their own electricity, and can even sell it to the grid, as part of the construction of what experts and organisations are referring to as the “energy citizenship”. But that is far from being the reality in Latin America.

The fixed rates, which included a surcharge to support suppliers of renewables, helped fuel the expansion of alternative sources in Germany.

In Latin America, countries such as Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Peru and Uruguay use surcharges or mix them with net metering, which allows consumers who produce their own electricity to use it at any time, rather than when it is generated. The consumers only pay the difference between what they consume and what they generate.

And countries like Chile, Mexico and Peru have put in place renewable energy auctions since 2015, which have led to a drop in prices per kilowatt-hour, partly due to their vast renewable sources, according to the Global Status Report 2016 released in June by REN21, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century.

According to experts, the recent swings are a signal to Latin America with respect to the handling of the renewable energy market, to avoid risks of over-production or excessive payments to suppliers.

Samadi stressed that “the costs of the expansion of renewables are paid by consumers in Germany.”

“This might not be a good mechanism for the countries of Latin America, where low energy prices could be important for social development and cohesion,” he said. With this in mind, he suggested taxes or special funds.

There is another lesson too. “If the huge growth in renewables was just starting now in Germany, with today’s low technological costs our overruns for generation would be lower than what we pay now.”

In his view, “the countries that start to invest heavily today in wind and solar energies will not face the same high costs as Germany, especially when the solar potential in most of Latin America is taken into account.”

Schönborn concurred, stressing the competitive costs of renewable sources. But she warned of the risk of “social division” for those who cannot generate their own energy and must buy it from the grid.

This inequality “requires intervention by the state to guarantee access,” she said.

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Mainstream Media Are Betraying Humanityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/mainstream-media-are-betraying-humanity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mainstream-media-are-betraying-humanity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/mainstream-media-are-betraying-humanity/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2016 19:21:32 +0000 John Scales Avery http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146343 The author was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organising the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. He is Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen. He was chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy, and he is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century.]]>

The author was part of a group that shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for their work in organising the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. He is Associate Professor Emeritus at the H.C. Ørsted Institute, University of Copenhagen. He was chairman of both the Danish National Pugwash Group and the Danish Peace Academy, and he is the author of numerous books and articles both on scientific topics and on broader social questions. His most recent book is Civilization’s Crisis in the 21st Century.

By John Scales Avery
OSLO, Aug 1 2016 (IPS)

Physicians have a sacred duty to their patients, whose lives are in their hands. The practice of medicine is not a business like any other business. There are questions of trust and duty involved. The physician’s goal must not be to make as much money as possible, but rather to save lives.

John Scales Avery

John Scales Avery

Are broadcasting and journalism just businesses like any other business? Is making as much money as possible the only goal? Isn’t the truth sacred? Isn’t finding the truth and spreading it a sacred trust?

Questions of thermonuclear war are involved, or catastrophic long-term climate change.

The survival of human civilization and the survival of the biosphere depend completely on whether the public receives true and important facts, or whether it receives a mixture of lies, propaganda and trivia.

If the erratic, self-centered, bigoted, racist, misogynist, neofascist Republican candidate, Donald Trump, is elected to the US Presidency in 2016, it will be because mass media like CBS find his deliberately outrageous outbursts entertaining and good for ratings.

Besides being manifestly unqualified for the position of President, Trump is an avid climate change denier, and he has said that if elected, he would repudiate the Paris Agreement.“Donald Trump is bad for America, but he is good for CBS” Leslie Roy Moonves, President of CBS

We need to wake up to the real dangers that are facing humanity. Terrorism is not a real danger. The number of people killed by terrorists each year is vanishingly small compared to the number killed in traffic accidents, not to mention the tens of millions who die each year from starvation and preventable diseases.

But the mass media shamelessly magnify terrorist events (some of which may be false flag actions) out of all proportion in order to allow governments to abolish civil liberties and crush dissent.

Meanwhile, the real dangers, the threat of thermonuclear war, the threat of catastrophic climate change, and the threat of a large-scale global famine, these very real threats remain unaddressed.

Our mainstream media have failed us. They are betraying humanity in a time of great crisis. Our educational systems are also failing us, too timid and tradition-bound to warn of the terrible new dangers that the world is facing.

What we need from all the voices that are able to bring a message to a wide public is a warning of the severe dangers that we are facing, combined with an outline of the practical steps that are needed to avert these dangers.

We need realism, we need the important facts, but we also need idealism and optimism.

The fact that our future is in danger must not be an excuse for dispair and inaction, but instead a reason for working with courage and dedication to save the future.

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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Attacks Take Toll on French Tourismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/attacks-take-toll-on-french-tourism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=attacks-take-toll-on-french-tourism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/08/attacks-take-toll-on-french-tourism/#comments Mon, 01 Aug 2016 16:45:50 +0000 Anne Sophie and Katia Dolmadjian http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146339 By Anne-Sophie Morel and Katia Dolmadjian
Aug 1 2016 (Manila Times)

PARIS: France’s already-battered tourism industry took a further hit in late July during what should have been the height of the season as foreign visitors stayed away after 84 people were killed in Nice on Bastille Day.

In the week following the July 14 attack on the Riviera city’s Promenade des Anglais boulevard, arrivals by air slumped 8.8 percent compared to the same period in 2015, according to data from ForwardKeys which daily sifts more than 14 million air travel transactions.

The sector has been struggling for months, not least since the Nov. 13 attacks in and around Paris that claimed 130 lives.

Between January and July 10 arrivals to France by air were down 5.8 percent, and down 11 percent to Paris.

Flight reservations to France following the Nice attack were down 20 percent.

France is the world’s top tourist destination and the tourism sector accounts for around nine percent of GDP.

France had hoped the Euro 2016 football championships would give tourism a shot in the arm—but has been disappointed.

Euro 2016 shine tarnished
“Nice wiped out the Euro football effect, which went off well in security terms and polished France’s image,” said Frederic Valletoux, chairman of the Ile de France regional tourist authority, which covers the Paris region and its environs.

After Nice, President Francois Hollande extended the state of emergency “which doesn’t help us—we continue to see customer numbers contract, especially Americans and Asians,” said Valletoux.

He says a consolation is that “French clients seem to be staying firm,” even if Herve Becam, chairman of the main hoteliers’ union Umih, noted that overall “the trend is not good”.

The Cote d’Azur area around Nice, usually a major summer draw, saw hotel occupancy rates fall between five and 10 percent through to latest figures running to last week.

And in Paris, Umih expects a fall of nearer 20 percent, hitting restaurants as well as hotels.

Other regions have also been hit, including Normandy, where a priest was killed by two jihadists last Tuesday.

China demand falls, too
Revenue per room for five-star Parisian establishments had been up nine percent before the Nice attacks, but by July 28 was 45 percent below the norm, says Umih’s Prestige offshoot—which adds that Chinese demand has been sorely affected.

“What is new is the disaffection of Chinese clients for Paris and France,” noted Umih Prestige, saying that some business congresses scheduled for the second half of the year had been cancelled.

Prior to Nice, July had been looking strong but “the July 14 attack brusquely pushed us down five percent,” says Alain de Mendonca, chairman of travel firm Karavel-Promovacances, adding that “people are afraid to go to the airport, to take a plane.”

Sector specialist Protourisme believes July hotel stay data will come in four percent down on last year.

“But it could have been worse,” said Protourisme chairman Didier Arino, not least given that much of France suffered weeks of unseasonable weather going into July while Air France was hit by a strike at the start of Euro 2016—and is now in the midst of another one.

Neighboring Germany has also seen a spate of recent attacks but has not to date seen suffered a wave of cancellations, a spokeswoman for the German national tourist board told Agence France-Presse on Friday.

Asked about potential impact, she said “we’re in close contact with our representations abroad and we’ve been watching the reactions—immediately after the latest attacks there hasn’t been any sign of a reaction. There haven’t been any cancellations.”

May saw a three percent overall rise in hotel stays despite a two percent fall for foreign tourists, German statistical body Destatis reported.

The tourist board blamed that on “different factors “ including economic and political instability. “We were expecting growth to fall, independently of any attacks.”

AFP

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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The Psychology of Ideology and Religionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-psychology-of-ideology-and-religion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-psychology-of-ideology-and-religion http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-psychology-of-ideology-and-religion/#comments Wed, 27 Jul 2016 10:32:15 +0000 Robert Burrowes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146261 The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘]]> The Yazılıkaya sanctuary in Turkey, with the twelve gods of the underworld. Credit: Klaus-Peter Simon. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

The Yazılıkaya sanctuary in Turkey, with the twelve gods of the underworld. Credit: Klaus-Peter Simon. Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

By Robert J. Burrowes
DAYLESFORD, Australia, Jul 27 2016 (IPS)

Two of the drivers of world affairs that manifest in the daily decisions that affect our lives are ideology and religion.

Ideology is the term widely used to describe the underlying set of values, myths, ideas, attitudes, beliefs and doctrine that shape the behavioural approach to political, economic, social, cultural and/or ecological activities of an individual or organisation.

This organisation might be a political party, government, multinational corporation, terrorist group, non-government organisation, community or activist group.

Religion usually describes the belief in a superhuman controlling power involving a God or gods; it entails a system of faith and worship as well as, like ideology, an underlying set of values, myths, ideas, attitudes, beliefs and doctrine that shape the behavioural approach to political, economic, social, cultural and/or ecological activities of an individual or organisation.

At the macro level, there are worldwide or regional ideologies such as capitalism, fascism, conservatism, communism, socialism, feminism, pacifism and environmentalism as well as religions including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.

There are also variations of these major ideologies and religions. But even at the micro level, the local service club, neighbourhood charity and sporting club operates in accordance with an ideology or religion that is shared by its members too.

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes

Frequently, a shared ideology or religion is a functional way for like-minded people to find each other and to work together to achieve a shared aim. When this helps to achieve a desirable social outcome, the shared ideology or religion has a valuable purpose.

Unfortunately, however, often enough the shared ideology or religion has a dysfunctional basis and the outcome is detrimental both individually and socially with the (violent) consequences sometimes reverberating throughout a national or even global society.

This is why it is useful to understand the psychology of ideology and religion.

When a child is very young, they start to learn from the people around them. Predominantly, they learn by being participants, one way or another, in the events in which they are involved. That is, when their parents, other significant adults (such as relatives, school teachers and religious figures) or an older sibling involve the child in an activity, the child is taught and copies the mental responses and behaviours of those around them. This is what is called ‘socialization’.

However, it is important to identify the ideological/religious elements in this process too. First, there are ideological and religious imperatives around raising children.

These imperatives are sometimes deliberately shaped by an ideology or a religion but, often enough, they are simply copied on the advice of, or by observing the behaviour of, other nearby adults.

Second, and more importantly however, the child unconsciously acquires a set of values, myths, ideas, attitudes, beliefs and doctrine (in relation to social, cultural, political, economic, religious, sporting and ecological issues) that are approved by the adults in the child’s life.

There is much that is functional about this process and, historically, it can explain a great deal about human behavior, including in particular cultural contexts.

But I would like to discuss the dysfunctional aspects of this process which arise from the way in which the child’s fear is deliberately played upon so that, consciously or unconsciously, they copy the ideology or religion of the adults around them.

And the reason that the child does this is so that the ideology or religion that they acquire, together with the behavioural outcomes that arise from this, does not scare these same adults.

In an ideal world, a child would be socialised in an environment devoid of fear and in which they are loved, there is no ‘visible’, ‘invisible’ or ‘utterly invisible’ violence – see ‘Why Violence?‘ – damaging them in any way, they have their needs met and they are utterly free to choose (and later change if they wish) the values, myths, ideas, attitudes, beliefs and doctrine by which they will live their life, preferably with the benefit of substantial aware listening from adults while they work this out for themselves. Needless to say, this never happens.

In fact, the typical child is endlessly terrorised into adopting some version of the individual ideologies and religions, which are sometimes bizarrely conflicting, of the people around them.

This means that a fixed set of values, myths, ideas, attitudes, beliefs and doctrine – including those in relation to violence – become fearfully and unconsciously embedded in the child’s mind and they cease to be values, myths, ideas, attitudes, beliefs and doctrine that are easily and consciously accessible for review and reconsideration in light of new information or evidence. Let me briefly illustrate this point.

For some people, it is easy to laugh at or be outraged by the absurd statements they hear uttered by a very conservative politician, especially if they display a pronounced bias against a particular racial or religious group or a class of people.

But to a conservative, their ideology is imperative and it reflects a childhood of being terrorised into believing certain things.

There is no conscious awareness of this unconscious terror and even if asked, they would readily proclaim that they are not terrified (because they have been terrorised into suppressing their awareness of this terror, which is why it is now unconscious to them).

Similarly, most socialists are very attached to the ideology that puts class (based on the production relations of capitalism) predominantly at the centre of their analysis, feminists usually believe that gender relations under patriarchy are the primary problem in society, many people who combat racism view white domination as the core issue in social oppression, and religious fundamentalists believe that they know the one truth to the exclusion of people of other faiths.

Irrespective of the proclaimed original basis of the ideology or religion, often enough, at least some of its adherents also learn to believe that violence is the appropriate behaviour for achieving some or all of their aims.

The issue in this context, however, is not whether any of these people is right or wrong but why they hold so tenaciously to a worldview that they do not willingly and fearlessly subject to ongoing scrutiny. And that is why the psychology of ideology and religion is so important.

If any person is willing to fearlessly and open-mindedly consider other worldviews and analyses of society’s social relationships and problems, as well as how to tackle these problems, then it is likely that their ideology or religion is one that has been genuinely and intelligently acquired of their own free will and their mind will be capable of analysis and reconsideration if compelling evidence of the merits of an alternative worldview or explanation is made available.

They are also likely to be highly tolerant of other worldviews as some religions, for example, specifically teach.

But if someone, whatever their ideology or religion, is dogmatically insistent on their own worldview, then their fear of further analysis and reconsideration will be readily apparent and it is a straightforward conclusion that they were terrorised out of the capacity to think fearlessly for themselves when they were a child. They are also more likely to behave violently.

If you would like to read a detailed explanation of how a child is terrorised, to a greater or lesser extent, into unconsciously absorbing a version of the ideologies and/or religions of the adults around them, you can do so in ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice.’

These documents explain the visible, invisible and utterly invisible violence to which children are subjected throughout childhood and which few survive. Moreover, it is this adult violence against children that leads to all other manifestations of violence.

Now, you might well ask: Is this simply my ideology? Well perhaps it is. But five decades of research, which included substantial reading and thoughtful consideration of many ideologies and religions, led me to this conclusion.

Nevertheless, I remain happy to review my beliefs in this matter if someone offers me compelling evidence in support of another explanation.

Even better, when I witness Christian parents raising children who have chosen to be Muslims and conservative parents raising children who have chosen to be anarchists and… I will have all of the evidence I need to know that I am wrong.

If you would like to work towards creating a world in which fear does not shape every single outcome of human endeavour, you might like to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

In essence, most children are terrorised into believing what the adults around them want them to think. This is because most adults are far too (unconsciously) frightened to let children think for themselves and to then let them believe and behave as they choose.

Consequently, therefore, it is fear, often mediated through ideology and religion, that drives most human behaviour.

Roberto J. Burrowes website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com and his email address is flametree@riseup.net

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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How Did We Arrive at This Chaos?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/how-did-we-arrive-at-this-chaos/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 13:28:11 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146233 Roberto Savio is founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News. ]]>

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

By Roberto Savio
ROME, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

A Chinese curse is “May you live in interesting times”. That meant that too many events would disrupt the essential elements of harmony, on which the Chinese pantheon is based.

We certainly live in very interesting times where every day dramatic events pile on us, from terrorism to coup d’etat, from climate disaster to the decline of institutions and ever increasing social turmoil. It would be important, even if very difficult, to look in a nutshell why we are in this situation now – “lack of harmony” . So here goes a dramatically compressed explanation.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Let us start from a little known fact. After the Second World War, there was a general consensus on the need to avoid the repetition of its horrors. The United Nations served as the meeting place for all countries, and the Cold War created as a reaction, an association of the newly independent countries, the Non Aligned countries, which acted as a buffer between the East and West camps. More, the North South divide become the most important aspect of international relations. So much so that in 1973, the United Nations General Assembly adopted unanimously a resolution on a New International Economic Order (NIEO).The world agreed to establish a plan of action to reduce inequalities, foster global growth and make of cooperation and international law the basis for a world in harmony and peace.

After the adoption of the NIEO, the international community started to work in that direction and after a preparatory meeting in Paris in 1979, a summit of the most important heads of state was convened in Cancun, Mexico in 1981, to adopt a comprehensive plan of action. Among the 22 heads of state, came Ronald Reagan, who was elected a few weeks before, and this is where he found Margaret Thatcher who was elected in 1979. The two proceeded to cancel the NIEO and the idea of international cooperation. Countries would do policy according to their national interests, and did not bow to any abstract principle. The United Nations started its decline as the meeting place on governance.

The place for decisions became the G7, until then a technical body, and other organizations, which would defend the national interests of the powerful countries.

At the same time, three other events did help Reagan and Thatcher to change the direction of history.

One was the creation of the Washington’s consensus, elaborated in 1989 by the American Treasure, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, which imposed as policy that the market was the only real engine of societies. States were an obstacle, and they should shrink as much as possible (Reagan also considered abolishing the Ministry of Education). The impact of the Washington Consensus on the ‘Third World’ was a very painful one. Structural adjustments severely cut the fragile public system.

The second was the fall of the Berlin Wall, also in 1989, which brought an end to ideologies, and obliged adoption of neoliberal globalization, which turned out to be an even more strict ideology. The main points of neo-liberal globalization included: the rule of the market (liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government); cutting public expenditure for social services (and reducing the social safety net); deregulation (reducing government regulation of everything that could diminish profits); privatization (selling state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors); eliminating the concept of “the public good” or “community”and replacing it with “individual responsibility (pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves – then blame them, if they fail, as “lazy”).

The third was the progressive elimination of rules of the financial sector, started by Reagan and completed by Bill Clinton in 1999. Deposit banks were able to use the depositor’s money for speculation. Finance, that was considered to be the lubricant of economy, went on its own way, embarking on very risky operations, not any longer linked to the real economy. Now we have for every dollar of production for goods and services, 40 dollars of financial transactions.

Nobody defends any longer the Washington Consensus, and the neoliberal globalization. It is clear to all that while at macro level, globalization increased trade, finance and global growth, at microeconomic level it has been a disaster. The proponents of neoliberal globalization claimed that the growth would reach everyone in the planet. Instead, growth has been concentrating more and more in fewer and fewer hands. Six years ago, 388 individuals owned the same wealth as that of 3.6 billion people. In 2014, the number of the super wealthy come down to 80 individuals. In 2015, this number came down to 62 individuals. The IMF and the World Bank have been asking to reinforce the state as the indispensible regulator, reversing their policy. But the genie is out of the bottle. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Europe has lost 18 million of its middle class citizens and the US 24 million. On the other hand, there are now 1,830 billionaires with a net capital of 6.4 trillion dollars. In the UK, the level of inequality in 2025 is expected to be the same at the time of Queen Victoria in 1850 at the time of the birth of capitalism.

The new world created by Reagan is based on greed. Some historians claim that greed and fear are the two main engines of history; and values and priorities change in a society of greed.

Let us come to our days. We have again a new group of three horses of Apocalypse. The damages of the previous 20 years (1981-2001), are compounded by those of the continuing twenty years (2001-2021) and we are not through yet .

The first, was that in 2008 the banking system of the US went berserk for absurd speculations on mortgages. That crisis moved to Europe in 2009, caused by the falling value of the state’s title, like the Greek ones. Let us recall that to save the banking system, countries have spent close to 4 trillion dollars. An enormous amount, if we consider that banks still have toxic titles for 800 billion dollars. Meanwhile the banks have paid 220 billion dollars in fines for illegal activities. No banker has been incriminated. Europe is not yet back to its pre-crisis level of life. Meanwhile, many jobs have disappeared because of delocalization to the cheapest place of production, and jobs with substandard salaries have increased, together with precarious ones.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), today a worker makes in real terms 16% less than before the crisis. This has affected especially young people, with a European average of 10.5% of youth unemployment. Yet, the only stimulus for growth is for the banking system, into which the European Central Bank‚ is injecting 80 billion of dollars per month. This would have solved easily the youth’s unemployment.

Economists speak now of a “New Economy”, where unemployment is structural. From 1950 to 1973, world’s growth was over 5% per year. It came down to about 3% during 1973 and 2007 (OPEP’s blockade of petrol price in 1973 marked the shift.). Since 2007 we are not able to reach 1%. We have to add the growing unemployment that the technological development is causing. Factories need a fraction of the workers they had before. The Fourth Industrial Revolution (robotizing), will bring robot production, now at 12%, to 40% in 2025. Some mainstream economists, like Larry Summers, (the establishment voice) say that we are in a period of stagnation that will last for many years. Fear for the future has become a reality, fueled by terrorism and unemployment, with many dreaming that is possible to go back to the better yesterday. This is what populist leaders, from Donald Trump to Le Pen, are riding. A consequence of the crisis was that in several European countries populist parties, engaged in a nationalist call, riding xenophobia and nationalism have emerged, 47 at the last count. Several of them are already in coalitions that govern, or directly, like in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia. Now watch the next Austrian elections.

The second horse of Apocalypse has been the result of the interventions made in Iraq by US, and then Libya and Syria by Europe (with a particular role by former French president Nicolas Sarkozy).

As a result, in 2012 Europe started to receive massive immigration, for which there was no preparation. Suddenly, people were afraid of the human tide coming, and its impact in workplace, culture, religion, etc. That become a major factor for fear.

And then the third horse was the creation of ISIS in Syria, in 2013, one of the gifts of the invasion in Iraq. Let us not forget the global crisis started in 2008, and since then populism and nationalism were on the rise. But ISIS spectacular media impact and the radicalization of many young Europeans from Arab descent, usually from the margin of societies and laws, accentuated Fear, and was a gift for the populist, now able to use xenophobia for mobilizing disaffected and insecure citizens. The decline of European institutions has brought several countries (after Brexit), to call for a deep revision of the European project. Hungary is going for a referendum on 2 of October. Would you accept an immigrant quota imposed by the EU, against the will of the Hungarian parliament? The same day there will be the re-run of Austrian elections, that the extreme right wing lost for 36,000 votes. Then the Netherlands, France and Germany will follow, with an expected increase of the extreme right wing parties. At the same time, Poland and Slovakia also want to have a referendum about the EU. It could well be that at the end of 2017, European institutions will be deeply wounded.

The real problem is that since the failed Cancun Summit in 1981, countries have lost the ability to think together. India, Japan, China, and many other are going through a tide of nationalism. In Cancun, all participants, from Francois Mitterrand to Indira Gandhi, from Julius Nyerere to Pierre Trudeau shared a set of common values.: social justice, solidarity, the respect of international law, and the conviction that strong societies were the basis for democracy (except of course for Reagan and Thatcher). She famously declared: there is no such thing as a society, there are only individuals). They shared many books. They considered peace and development as the paradigm for governance. All this has been swept away. Politicians, left without ideologies, subordinated to finance, have turned mainly to an administrative debate, on singles issues, without a framework, where left or right have become difficult to discern. We are clearly in a period of Greed and Fear.

Time is not helping. In 1900 Europe had 24% of the world population. At the end of this century, Europe will be 4%. Nigeria will be more populous than the US. Africa, now at 1 billion, will be 2 billion by 2050, and 3 billion by 2100. It is time now to engage all together to discuss how to face the coming world. We took 25 years to reach an agreement on climate, maybe it is too late. On migration and employment, two and a half decades is an eternity. But this must be a global agreement, not just a kneejerk reflex by Chancellor Angela Merkel in total solitude, without even consulting French President Francois Hollande. But this kind of agenda is politically unimaginable. How to discuss these issues with Le Pen, Donald Trump, the other emerging populists and the nationalist tide that runs in the world?

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400 Million People Live with Hepatitis But They Do Not Knowhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/400-million-people-live-with-hepatitis-but-they-do-not-know/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=400-million-people-live-with-hepatitis-but-they-do-not-know http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/400-million-people-live-with-hepatitis-but-they-do-not-know/#comments Tue, 26 Jul 2016 11:15:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146231 Peru is carrying out a strategy to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of hepatitis B. The most important preventative intervention is the universal vaccination, which can prevent infection in 95 per cent of cases. Photo credit: PAHO

Peru is carrying out a strategy to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of hepatitis B. The most important preventative intervention is the universal vaccination, which can prevent infection in 95 per cent of cases. Photo credit: PAHO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 26 2016 (IPS)

With some 400 million people around the world infected with hepatitis B or C, mostly without being aware, the United Nations top health agency encourages countries to boost testing and access to services and medicines for people in need to combat the ‘ignored perils’ of this disease.

A staggering 95 per cent of people infected with hepatitis B or C do not know they are infected, often living without symptoms for many years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warns. And over 90% of people with hepatitis C can be completely cured within 3–6 months.

“The world has ignored hepatitis at its peril,” said Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s director general, ahead of the World Hepatitis Day, which is observed annually on 28 July.

“It is time to mobilise a global response to hepatitis on the scale similar to that generated to fight other communicable diseases like HIV AIDS and tuberculosis,” she said.

The number grows by 6 to 10 millions a year, WHO reported, while announcing plans to release new testing guidelines for both hepatitis B and C.

With this, among other actions, the Geneva-based World Health Organisation attempts “to encourage testing and reach the 95 per cent of people who are not aware they are infected with the disease.”

The theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day is Know Hepatitis; Act Now.

What is Hepatitis? Credit: WHO

What is Hepatitis? Credit: WHO

Together with its partner, Social Entrepreneurship for Sexual Health, WHO on July 25 said it recently launched #HepTestContest, a global contest to show how the testing guidelines could translate into real action on the ground.

“We needed examples of innovations and best practices to help guide and inspire others,” said Philippa Easterbrook from the WHO Global Hepatitis Programme, who co-led the project.

The contest received 64 contributions from 27 countries, WHO said.

Five finalists were selected by a panel of experts including representatives from WHO, the World Hepatitis Alliance and Médecins sans Frontières, who reviewed the testing models for innovation, effectiveness, and plans for sustainability.

In addition to national testing campaigns, approaches included testing in prisons, testing in the workplace and hospital emergency rooms, integrated HIV-hepatitis testing, as well as the use of internet, social media, and electronic medical records to flag higher-risk patients for testing in primary care.

Are you at risk? Credit: WHO

Are you at risk? Credit: WHO

“From prisons in Australia, use of an internet-based risk self-assessment tool in the Netherlands, community testing camps for drug users in India, to testing in primary care in Mongolia we learned some great lessons about how to build awareness of this hidden disease, improve testing rates and link those infected to treatment and care,” Philippa Easterbrook added.

An important feature of the approach was the strong community involvement and support as well as strategic partnerships to leverage reductions in the price of treatments, WHO said.

“Bringing together pharmaceutical companies, government, research organisations and communities to help negotiate price reductions make hepatitis treatments more affordable,” said Easterbrook.

“The contest demonstrated a range of possibilities. It showed that if we can develop acceptable testing approaches to suit different contexts and cultures, then we can increase effective hepatitis testing in more countries and communities,” she added.

In May of this year, the World Health Assembly – WHO’s decision-making body – called for treating eight million people for hepatitis B or C by 2020, to reduce new viral hepatitis infections by 90 per cent, and to decrease the number of deaths by 65 per cent in 2030, as compared with 2016. These targets are part of the first ever Global Health Sector Strategy on viral hepatitis.

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Social Media a Curse and a Blessing in Munich Shootinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/social-media-a-curse-and-a-blessing-in-munich-shooting/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=social-media-a-curse-and-a-blessing-in-munich-shooting http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/social-media-a-curse-and-a-blessing-in-munich-shooting/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 16:39:42 +0000 Editor Manila Times http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146213 By Editor, The Manila Times, Philippines
MUNICH, Germany, Jul 25 2016 (Manila Times)

Social networks were both a curse and a blessing in the deadly shopping mall shooting in Munich, as police sometimes found themselves chasing fictitious leads and false alarms.

The 18-year-old gunman, a German-Iranian named David Ali Sonboly, also used the internet to plan and carry out his crime, in which he killed nine people and wounded 16 others.

Nevertheless, the social networks provided a valuable source of information and solidarity for the city’s frightened population during the long lockdown while the incident was going on.

As soon as the terrifying events started to unfold late on Friday afternoon, Munich’s police were quick to take to Twitter to try to keep the public informed about the confusing and fast-evolving situation.

“We’re working as fast as we can to apprehend the attackers,” they tweeted in German, English and French. “The suspects are still on the run. Please avoid public places. #munich #gunfire”. “Unconfirmed reports of more violence and possible #gunfire in the city center. Situation is unclear. Please avoid public areas.”

False alarms
But as social network users began to tweet and re-tweet their own experiences and versions of events, it rapidly became difficult for the police to retain an overview and in some cases differentiate between fact and fiction.

At one point, for example, there was a flurry of reports of another shooting in the city center, on the pedestrianized square called the Stachus not far from the main station.

But those reports turned out to be false.

Another headache for police were eyewitness accounts, photos and videos that were rapidly being uploaded onto the web.

Police were concerned that the attackers—at that point, they erroneously believed there might have been more than one—could track where officers were being deployed and in what numbers, thereby making them easier to evade.

In the end, the police desperately tweeted: “Please don’t take fotos or video of police action in order to avoid any helpful information for the suspects.”

Police chief Hubertus Andrae told ZDF public television late Saturday that the speed and volume of information, which needed to be verified was “challenging.”

The official Twitter account proved useful in keeping the public informed about the latest confirmed facts, such as the number of victims or the time and place of the next press conference.

But police themselves inadvertently helped fan some of the speculation by tweeting, for example, that the theory of a possible terrorist act was being looked at.

At one point, police felt compelled to publish a plea, “Please restrain any speculations—that would help us a lot!”

Lured via the internet
“Nowadays, in the age of social networks, it is no longer the police who have control over the quantity and timing of the release of information, but everyone,” said Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere.

“There are sometimes advantages in that, as can be seen in the number of investigations that have been brought to a successful conclusion thanks to photos and videos taken by private individuals,” he told a news conference.

In the United States, for example, the investigation into the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013 was able to progress quickly as a result of such information.

“But it’s clear that rumors can spread rapidly and that isn’t always conducive to an accurate evaluation of the situation,” the minister said.

He praised the “fair” and “comprehensive” way in which police had communicated the recent attacks in Europe.

According to the interior ministry, the Munich gunman may have hacked a Facebook account to lure some of the victims to the McDonald’s fast-food outlet where the shooting began by offering them special discounts.

“I will give you whatever you want, for not a lot of money,” the online invite read, according to German media reports.

AFP

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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A Case of Failing Democracy or Fading Geo-politicshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/a-case-of-failing-democracy-or-fading-geo-politics/#comments Mon, 25 Jul 2016 13:35:05 +0000 Adil Khan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146203 By M. Adil Khan
Jul 25 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The ‘coup’ of July 15 in Turkey failed within hours of its start, and given that it enlisted very limited support within the army itself, some called it not a coup but a ‘mutiny’.

oped_1_afp__In recent times, there have been many reports, mainly in the West, of unhappiness with Erdogan’s Islamism and authoritarian style of governing, but no one thought that this would translate into a coup. After all, it was not that long ago when the world cheered “The Rise of Turkey”. Under Erdogan’s leadership and with a mix of liberal democracy and neoliberal economic policy, Turkey marched ahead economically. Turkey looked like the poster boy of the Muslim world – modern, progressing and yet Muslim.

However, while the economy was growing, Islamist nationalism also surged unnoticed in the beginning. Islamist nationalism was hailed as Islam’s democratic answer to ‘terrorism’ that in recent times has become the scourge of most Muslim majority nations.

But all of a sudden, the scene changed and the tone became very different – to some, Turkey is now a “failed model” and this is because Erdogan “changed the Constitution for his own benefit and restarted his wicked conflict with the Kurds” (Independent, July 16, 2016) , and yet others argue that “the successful liberalisation in Turkey during the last three decades itself paved the way for Islam’s later authoritarian and conservative incarnations” (The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism, Cihan Tugal).

So which one of these views is correct?

It is not easy to answer that, but one thing is clear: the way millions poured into the streets at the call of Erdogan to repel the ‘mutiny’, the answer is not the disapproval of Erdogan by his people as their leader nor does it seem to be his governance style, not at this stage at least. Notwithstanding, the fact that there has been a ‘mutiny’ (not coup) indicates that not everything is hunky dory in Turkey these days.

Since its inception as a ‘modern’ state in 1923 under Kemal Ataturk, a post-colonial invention of the West which was built on the ashes of the defeated, humiliated and dismantled Ottoman monarchy, Turkey has rotated between booms and busts, democracy and coups, secularism and Islamism, and this largely depended on the not-so-apparent changing mood of its benefactors. It is no surprise that any effort by Turkey – regardless of whether this is done through a democratic or an authoritarian polity – that pursues nationalistic aspirations at the cost of the hegemon’s agenda in the region is to invite trouble. Like many previous coups, the July 15, 2016 ‘mutiny ‘is no exception and thus, needed to be seen in this context.

Indeed, this ‘mutiny’ is nothing but a culmination of several policy clashes that manifested themselves through Turkey’s resurgent sovereign Islamist nationalist identity that challenged the diktats of geopolitics at different levels, and on many occasions has put Erdogan at odds with the West’s idea of ‘modern’ Tukey – a secularised, de-cultured, de-Islamised ‘lackey’.

In the context of these complex and conflated dynamics, it is difficult to say which of the factors, Erdogan’s authoritarianism or the West’s diminishing control over Turkey, has prompted the mutiny but the picture that emerges – and given that millions poured on the street at the call of Erdogan to foil the mutiny – is that the West’s script that the mutiny has been caused by deficits of democracy is anything but true. The answer lies somewhere else.

Erdogan blames his nemesis, the US based self-exiled cleric Gulen for the mutiny and accordingly, asked the US government to extradite him to face trial in Turkey. In response, the Obama administration asked for evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the mutiny.

Erdogan’s woes started with a number of policy shifts, some good and some terrible, that he initiated lately. Firstly, his move to severe diplomatic ties with Israel in 2013, in the aftermath of the latter’s attack on a Turkish Gaza peace ship, a principled decision, earned him the wrath of a powerful and dangerous foe that many believe to be behind the numerous political and economic unrests that have been plaguing Turkey lately. Secondly, his clash with Russia was unnecessary and proved costly. Most importantly, his government’s alleged patronisation of ISIS has proved to be a grave mistake, and Erdogan has been paying for it since. Thirdly, encouraged by NATO and inspired by his reported personal hatred, Erdogan’s dogged determination to evict Assad in Syria cost Turkey dearly.

However, it is his recent reversals of some of these policies, especially cementing of relationships with Russia and peace overtures to Syria, that have put him at extreme odds with the Zionist/NATO conglomerate, Turkey’s post-colonial ‘nurturer’. Indeed, a delayed and somewhat less-than-strong disapproval of the coup by the NATO is instructive and has prompted speculations that they might have expected a different outcome.

Nevertheless, Erdogan be warned, his adversaries have noted one thing quite clearly that more than the support or non-participation of the loyal faction of his army, it is the people who have foiled the mutiny. They are his main strength and therefore, to ensure that the next coup or ‘revolution’ does not fail, many believe that is quite possible that the hegemon’s nexus will make sure to weaken Erdogan’s support base, the people, by alienating them through the engineering of a false economic crisis (remember Iran’s Mosaddek, Chilli’s Allende!).

Therefore, for Erdogan, the journey ahead is fraught and as he has found out already, a stricter form of authoritarianism and purging of critics is not the solution. The people are his answer and thus the way forward is not to shrink that base but expand it by engaging people to build a Turkey that is economically progressive, politically inclusive and spiritually nourishing.

The writer is a former senior policy manager of the United Nations.

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Is Kemalism on Its Way out in Turkey?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/is-kemalism-on-its-way-out-in-turkey/#comments Thu, 21 Jul 2016 16:48:48 +0000 Taj Hashmi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146166 By Taj Hashmi
Jul 21 2016 (The Daily Star, Bangladesh)

The enigmatic coup-attempt in Turkey on the night of July 15 and 16 signals something ominous about the future of Turkey, NATO, and the entire region. There’s more to read into the event than what appears on the surface. We don’t know much about the nature of the coup, but it has definitely tarnished the “Turkish Model” of success, which its Arab neighbours envied, and European ones admired for the co-existence of liberal Islam, secularism, and democracy. The “abortive coup” seems to have further consolidated Erdogan’s power, at least for the time being. Seemingly, Erdogan and his followers are marching together toward “illiberal democracy”, if not toward the utopia of Islamist totalitarianism.

A man lies in front of a Turkish army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul. PHOTO: AP

A man lies in front of a Turkish army tank at Ataturk airport in Istanbul. PHOTO: AP

Kemalism turned Turkey too secular too soon to sustain for generations. Thus, the resurgence of political Islam in Turkey indicates the country is preparing itself for a departure from Kemalism. One’s not sure as to how this seesaw is going to affect Turkish society and politics in the future. I think the following are Turkey’s nemeses, which we need to understand as to what might happen to the country now: Kemalism; the Kurdish problem; Turkey’s neighbours; and Turkey’s relationship with America.

Turkey is very unique from its European and Muslim neighbours. Being straddled on two continents, this Muslim-majority country is officially secular in the strictest sense. It’s not just another postcolonial country in the Muslim World, it’s rather a former colonial power, the centre of the mighty Ottoman Empire, which once ruled parts of Eastern Europe, West Asia, and North Africa for several centuries up to the end of World War I. Turkey’s Ottoman legacy of ruthless subjugation of European nations – including forcible conversions of Christians into Muslims, and the infamous Armenian Genocide – is still a factor behind its exclusion from the EU by European nations.

Turkey isn’t a nation state. Fifteen million of its 80 million people are ethnically and linguistically non-Turkish Kurdish Muslims, in the process of being fully integrated into the main stream of population. Turkey has a checkered history of military rule and democracy; and many Turks aren’t sure if they are primarily Asian, Muslim, or European.

Now, to look at the enigmatic “abortive coup”, one may agree with an analyst that: “Erdogan is using this failed coup to get rid of the last vestiges of secular Turkey.” Some people question the coup and whether it was staged to further consolidate his power, and to turn Turkey into an Islamist autocracy. The amateurish and excessive brutal behaviour of the soldiers on the street, who didn’t even close down all electronic media outlets, including cell phones, and TV stations, raises questions among people whether it was really a coup-attempt, or a false flag operation!

Interestingly, while Erdogan blames his former ally and present adversary, Hanafi Sufi Master Fethullah Gulen – self-exiled in the US – for the “coup-attempt”, Gulen points fingers at the President for staging the whole thing for further consolidation of power. To Erdogan, Gulen is corrupt and a terrorist, although there’s no Turkish court decision to charge Gulen with any terrorist activity. The day after 9/11 attacks, he wrote an article in the Washington Post and stated: “A Muslim cannot be a terrorist, nor can a terrorist be a true Muslim.” Contrary to Erdogan’s allegations, Gulen believes in interfaith dialogue, multi-party democracy, and asserts: “Studying physics, mathematics, and chemistry is worshipping God”.

The end of the Ottoman Empire in 1922 and the Kemalist Revolution of 1923 transformed Turkey into a modern, ultra-secular country, where the military and urban classes became the main custodians of secular democracy. With the end of the Cold War and the acceleration of the globalisation process, and the IT Revolution in early1990s, Muslims across the world became more Islamised than before. Henceforth, Turkish Muslims started questioning the utility of Kemalist “Godless” secularism. Erdogan became one of the bold advocates of political Islam. He is not only an Islamist but also an admirer of “authoritarian democracy” – a euphemism for dictatorship, a la “Mahathirism” in Malaysia.

As Erdogan’s support for Islamist rebels in Syria has contributed to the instability in Turkey and, so is his tacit support for the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Turkey is accused of having bought cheap oil from the ISIS controlled Iraqi oilfields, and it didn’t stop foreign nationals at its border from entering ISIS-occupied territories in Syria to join the terror outfit, till the recent past. Why so? One assumes to topple the pro-Iranian Assad regime, and to stop secular nationalist Syrian Kurds from gaining any foothold in Syria.

The Kurds are in Turkey by default since 1919. The League of Nations arbitrarily divided Kurdistan into four parts, giving each to Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. Up to 2009, Kurds in Turkey couldn’t publicly speak their language or sing any Kurdish song. Turkey didn’t even recognise them as Kurds, but as “Mountain Turks”. After the US-led Iraq invasion of 2003, Iraqi Kurdistan has become an autonomous entity. The Turkish government is very uncomfortable with this development.

Erdogan tried his best to make Turkey a EU member. The EU has been unwilling to accept Turkey as a member so far. European and North American NATO members have had no problem in having Turkey as a member of this military alliance. However, as The New York Times has pointed out [“The Countercoup in Turkey”, July 18, 2016]: Erdogan’s use of Islamist language and harsh retaliatory measures against his secular opponents might “compromise Turkey’s democracy and its ability to be a stabilising influence in NATO and the region”.

In view of Erdogan’s position vis-à-vis the democratic and secular values of the EU and the West, it’s strange that till the other day Turkey was insisting its main strategic relationships remained with the NATO and the EU, and that it had “zero-problem” with European neighbours. But now it seems like Erdogan and his party may be laying the ground for the creation of a Muslim bloc. Both the EU and US seem to have emerged as the biggest nemeses for Turkey.

To conclude, one is least likely to be enamoured by Erdogan’s authoritarian Islamism; his attitude towards the Kurds; mass arrests of journalists, opposition supporters, and alleged coup makers; his promotion of Islamist rebels in Syria; and last but not least, his alleged links with the ISIS at least in the earlier stages. However, one can’t solely blame Turkey or Erdogan for the drift in Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies, which are deviations from Kemalist principles of secular democracy. Western obduracy, racism, and Islamophobia are also responsible for the messy situation in Turkey. This doesn’t bode well for regional and global security in the long run.

Turkey, its European and Asian neighbours, and America must find out a durable solution to the problems dogging Turkey and the entire Middle East and North Africa, and their mutual relationship with each other.

The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University in the US. He is the author of several books, including his latest, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan (Sage, 2014). Email: tajhashmi@gmail.com

This story was originally published by The Daily Star, Bangladesh

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Global List of Smart Cities Gives MM Kulelat Statushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-list-of-smart-cities-gives-mm-kulelat-status/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-list-of-smart-cities-gives-mm-kulelat-status http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/global-list-of-smart-cities-gives-mm-kulelat-status/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 19:30:01 +0000 Marlen Ronquillo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146162 By Marlen V. Ronquillo
Jul 20 2016 (Manila Times)

IESE, the graduate school of business of the University of Navarra, recently released a ranking of the “smart cities” of the world. This is a yearly ritual for the Opus Dei-founded school, which has a solid reputation as one of the best graduate schools of business in Europe.

Marlen V. Ronquillo

Marlen V. Ronquillo

There was some predictability to the “Smartest Ten” list drawn up by IESE, in Pamplona, Spain. American and European cities dominated. What list would take off New York, or San Francisco—or Chicago and Boston, for that matter—from the roll call of smart cities? London’s place is a given: it was No.1 last year; it placed second this year. Paris seems to have locked third place.

The only Asian country on top of that list is Seoul. Sydney, also in the top 10, would not consider itself an Asian city. The notable absence was Tokyo, now ranked 12th. It used to be very high on that list. Singapore was relatively high in the list, too.

Where was Metro Manila? It was given a kulelat status—145th out of 181 cities surveyed. In contrast, the Vietnamese city named after Uncle Ho—Ho Chi Minh—was in the middle of the list, with Canton and Shenzhen.

Why was Metro Manila among the kulelats? It was viewed as failing the 10 distinct benchmarks used by the IESE study: economy, technology, human capital, social cohesion, international outreach, environment, mobility and transportation, urban planning, public management, and governance. While some foreigners revel in the chaos of Metro Manila, the serious students on what makes a city “smart” were not impressed.

The list just validated the earlier report that the Philippines ranked low in the general area of “competitiveness.” One cannot be “smart” by being laid-back, complacent, indolent and incurious.

On top of the benchmarks was “economy.” Why MM was ranked low, we do not know. MM, according to data, accounts for more than 30 percent of the country’s GDP. The rest just account for the more than 60 percent. Was that not impressive enough, given MM’s disproportionate share of the country’s total GDP? And given the Aquino government’s boast of impressive GDP growth? Why were the IESE people not impressed?

The failure of MM’s economy to impress, despite its outsize role in the country’s economy, may be related to the next two criteria—technology and human capital.

The output of Metro Manila may not be impressive enough to those looking for elements of smartness. There are no serious technology hubs, no world-class innovation facilities, no venture capitalists that exist to fund the would-be Twitters, Ubers or Airbnbs. We have small-scale versions of all that, but they are not even impressive from an Asian context. The IESE people found nothing that could change the world with the kind of technology and innovation work being done in MM.

Our technology workers are BPO workers, doing routine voice and tech support work. And the elite technology workers are in security, firewall, network engineering and some programming. If we go down below the work chain, we will find service industry workers, from fast-food crew to restaurant staff, who mostly serve the BPO staffers.

Growth is driven by consumer spending, mostly the OFW income that is being spent in Metro Manila, and the BPO income. With the human capital engaged in dreary, boring, underpaid jobs, those looking for elements of smartness will not really be impressed. No Sundar, no Satya will emerge from the human-capital pool.

The government allocates very little for research and development. The top research university in the country has the physical space required to host and nurture great technology hubs. But it does not have the funding. It does host squatter colonies.

The P1.4 trillion PPP spending does not even allocate a peso for technology hubs.

We can’t even talk about “environment.” Look at the Pasig River, the grand old river that is dying if not yet dead, with almost zero BOD. Look at the air pollution index. Our air pollution trackers conk out after some use due to the gravity of the air pollution. Just look at Manila Bay after days of rain. You can easily net 10 tons of garbage along the seawall alone. Look at the blight and overall grimness of the urban slums.

Transportation and mobility is our Waterloo. Waze, the traffic-monitoring app, just ranked Metro Manila traffic as the worst in the world. The endless gridlock has been exacting a grievous economic and psychological toll on the nation. Yet, traffic management is about neglecting the urban rail system and discriminating against the de facto mode of mass transport—buses. Private vehicles, which each carries one-and-a-half passengers on the average, are king. What kind of transport policy holds cars sacrosanct except in our stupid, and science- and math-ignoring country?

Governance? MM’s grand cities are governed by ex-felons, comedians, and sons and daughters of dynastic families.

Urban planning? The so-called “urban planners,” who bloviate on primetime TV, are mostly poseurs.

This story was originally published by The Manila Times, Philippines

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Lessons of a Failed Couphttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/lessons-of-a-failed-coup/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lessons-of-a-failed-coup http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/lessons-of-a-failed-coup/#comments Wed, 20 Jul 2016 19:12:05 +0000 Zahid Hussain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146159 By Zahid Hussain
Jul 20 2016 (Dawn, Pakistan)

The spectacle of unarmed civilians blocking army tanks, overpowering soldiers and forcing them to the ground in the streets seemed surreal. It was a rare show of people’s power defeating a coup attempt. What happened in Turkey last weekend is a sign of changing times.

zahidAlthough it was a putsch by renegade members of the armed forces, the events of the past week have completely altered the power dynamics in the country where the military had for long wielded supreme authority. It may not be a victory for democracy, but certainly if a triumph for a populist elected leader-turned-autocrat.

Editorial: Post-coup Turkey

For almost a century, since the birth of modern Turkey, the military had remained the guardian of the country’s secular tradition. The military’s political role has been enshrined in the constitution that legitimised its frequent intervention in the country’s politics. It had successfully staged three coups in the last century and had executed elected leaders. The Islamists were barred from politics for not being in line with the country’s founding vision.

The danger of the military striking back has not gone away as Erdogan consolidates his power.

But the situation changed dramatically over the past decade with the coming to power of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), a socially conservative party with an agenda for economic development led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in 2002. The party has won four elections since then. Its popularity went up each time it pulled out the country out of political instability and perpetual economic crisis. Turkey became one of the fastest-growing economies. The country has earned a coveted place among the top 20 global economies.

This remarkable economic turnaround of Turkey strengthened the civilian authority and consequently undermined the power and influence of the military. Erdogan, who earlier served two terms as prime minister and was recently elected as the country’s president, had opened up cases against retired top military officers for plotting a coup against elected governments, many of whom are serving jail sentences. He had further consolidated his power by purging the military.

This accumulation of power has made Erdogan unarguably the most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal, the founder of modern Turkey. That has also turned him into an autocrat. He has ruthlessly crushed any opposition and clamped down on the independent media. His rule has also eroded the secular character of the country, raising its Islamic identity. All these factors could be the reason behind the mutiny within the military.

For sure, it was mostly Erdogan supporters who came out on the streets defying the rebels, but secular forces too backed the government despite being victimised by the increasingly authoritarian rule of Erdogan. That underlines the growing political consensus in Turkey that a military takeover is not a solution.

It, however, remains to be seen whether the triumph would make Erdogan more autocratic, or return him to the democratic path. The danger of the military striking back has not gone away as Erdogan consolidates his power. It is hard to imagine the same kind of public uprising against a more organised and coordinated coup attempt in the future.

What happened in Turkey has triggered intense political debate in Pakistan about whether the same could happen here in the event of a military intervention. With a common tradition of frequent military coups in the two countries, the comparison seems inevitable. Imran Khan has further fired up the controversy by declaring that the people would come out in support of the military in Pakistan. One is not sure whether it is just wishful thinking of a political leader longing for some ‘divine’ help or whether he is merely reflecting the public frustration with the Sharif government.

Surely the PTI chairman is not the only one predicting a smooth takeover if the generals decide to move in. Pakistan’s past experience may lend some credence to such arguments.

Yet one must not ignore the changing political dynamics in the country that may not allow the return of military rule, notwithstanding the public disenchantment with the government and desire of some politicians and self-serving TV anchors. Surely the military leadership is mature enough to understand the cost and political ramifications of any Bonapartism.

There is little probability of a Turkey-like popular resistance to any military takeover bid in Pakistan. Yet there is no mass welcome waiting for a potential coup-maker either. Indeed the armed forces have regained public respect and won admiration for their role in fighting militancy and terrorism in the country.

Gen Raheel Sharif may well be the most popular person in the country. But it would certainly be a different situation if he decided to intervene. Imran Khan and others of his ilk are grossly mistaken about the public’s likely reaction to a military takeover. It is no more a situation where the generals could just walk into the corridors of power amidst public cheering. Despite bitter political rivalries, most of the political parties are in agreement not to support any direct military intervention.

Interestingly, days before the bungled putsch in Turkey, posters imploring Gen Sharif to take over appeared in all the major cities of Pakistan. Similar posters appeared earlier too when some obscure groups took out rallies in support of the army chief. But there was no groundswell of support for the move. It only brought embarrassment to the general, who has already announced he will not seek another term in office.

Despite all the problems of governance and ineptitude, the political system is still working. Unlike in the past, all the major political parties have stakes in the present political order. All of them are part of the power structure and are not likely to support any move to derail the system, notwithstanding Imran Khan’s dire predictions.

What Imran Khan has failed to understand is that it would be a collective failure of the political forces and not just of the Sharif government if the military returns to power and is greeted by the people. Pakistan may not be Turkey, but those inviting military intervention must learn some lessons from the events of the last week.

The writer is an author and journalist.
zhussain100@yahoo.com
Twitter: @hidhussain

This story was originally published by Dawn, Pakistan

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Germany’s Energy Transition: The Good, the Bad and the Uglyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/germanys-energy-transition-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly/#comments Tue, 19 Jul 2016 12:19:42 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146128 In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In Germany, wind and solar energy coexist with energy generated by burning fossil fuels. A wind farm next to one of the electric power plants fired by lignite in the Western state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
COLOGNE, Germany, Jul 19 2016 (IPS)

Immerath, 90 km away from the German city of Cologne, has become a ghost town. The local church bells no longer ring and no children are seen in the streets riding their bicycles. Its former residents have even carried off their dead from its cemetery.

Expansion of Garzweiler, an open-pit lignite mine, has led to the town’s remaining residents being relocated to New Immerath, several kilometres away from the original town site, in North Rhine-Westphalia, whose biggest city is Cologne.

The fate of this small village, which in 2015 was home to 70 people, reflects the advances, retreats and contradictions of the world-renowned transition to renewable energy in Germany.

Since 2011, Germany has implemented a comprehensive energy transition policy, backed by a broad political consensus, seeking to make steps towards a low-carbon economy. This has encouraged the generation and consumption of alternative energy sources.

But so far these policies have not facilitated the release from the country’s industry based on coal and lignite, a highly polluting fossil fuel.

“The initial phases of the energy transition have been successful so far, with strong growth in renewables, broad public support for the idea of the transition and major medium and long term goals for government,” told IPS analyst Sascha Samadi of the non-governmental Wuppertal Institute, devoted to studies on energy transformation.

Renewable electricity generation accounted for 30 percent of the total of Germany’s electrical power in 2015, while lignite fuelled 24 percent, coal 18 percent, nuclear energy 14 percent, gas 8.8 percent and other sources the rest.

This European country is the third world power in renewable energies – excluding hydropower – and holds third place in wind power and biodiesel and fifth place in geothermal power.

Germany is also renowned for having the highest solar power capacity per capita in photovoltaic technology, even though its climate is not the most suitable for that purpose.

But the persistence of fossil fuels casts a shadow on this green energy matrix.

“The successful phasing out of fossil fuels entails a great deal of planning and organisation. If we do not promote renewables, we will have to import energy at some point,” Johannes Remmel, the minister for climate protection and the environment for North Rhine-Westphalia, told IPS.

Germany has nine lignite mines operating in three regions. Combined, the mines employ 16,000 people, produce 170 million tonnes of lignite a year and have combined reserves of three billion tonnes. China, Greece and Poland are other large world producers of lignite.

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A part of the Garzweiler open-pit lignite mine, in North Rhine-Westphalia. One of the greatest challenges facing the energy transition in Germany is the future of this polluting fuel. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Garzweiler, which is owned by the private company RWE, produces 35 million tonnes of lignite a year. From a distance it is possible to see its cut-out terraces and blackened soil, waiting for giant steel jaws to devour it and start to separate the lignite.

Lignite from this mine fuels nearby electricity generators at Frimmersdorf, Neurath, Niederaussen and Weisweiller, some of the most polluting power plants in Germany.

RWE is one of the four main power generation companies in Germany, together with E.ON, EnBW and Swedish-based Vattenfall.

Coal has an expiry date

The fate of coal is different. The government has already decided that its demise will be in 2018, when the two mines that are still currently active will cease to operate.

The Rhine watershed, comprising North Rhine-Westphalia together with other states, has traditionally been the hub of Germany’s industry. Mining and its consumers are an aftermath of that world, whose rattling is interspersed with the emergence of a decarbonized economy.

A tour of the mine and the adjoining power plant of  Ibberbüren in North Rhine-Westphalia shows the struggle between two models that still coexist.

In the mine compound, underground mouths splutter the coal that feeds the hungry plant at a pace of 157 kilowatt-hour per tonne.

In 2015 the mine produced 6.2 million tonnes of extracted coal, an amount projected to be reduced to 3.6 million tonnes this year and next, and to further drop to 2.9 million in 2018.

The mine employs 1,600 people and has a 300,000 tonne inventory which needs to be sold by 2018.

“I am a miner, and I am very much attached to my job. I speak on behalf of my co-workers. It is hard to close it down. There is a feeling of sadness, we are attending our own funeral”, told IPS the manager of the mine operator, Hubert Hüls.

Before the energy transition policy was in place, laws that promoted renewable energies had been passed in 1991 and 2000, with measures such as a special royalty fee included in electricity tariffs paid to generators that are fuelled by renewable energy sources.

The renewable energy sector invests some 20 billion dollars yearly and employs around 370.000 people.

Another measure, adopted in 2015 by the government in Berlin, sets out an auction plan for the purchase of photovoltaic solar power, but opponents have argued that large generation companies are being favoured over small ones as the successful bidder will be the one offering the lowest price.

Energy transition and climate change

Energy transition also seeks to meet Germany’s global warming mitigation commitments.

Germany has undertaken to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in 2020 and by 95 per cent in 2015. Moreover, it has set itself the goal of increasing the share of renewable energies in the end-use power market from the current figure of 12 per cent to 60 per cent in 2050.

In the second half of the year, the German government will analyse the drafting of the 2050 Climate Action Plan, which envisages actions towards reducing by half the amount of emissions from the power sector and a fossil fuel phase-out programme.

In 2014, Germany reduced its emissions by 346 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 27.7 per cent of the 1990 total. However, the German Federal Agency for Environment warned that in 2015 emissions went up by six million tonnes, amounting to 0.7 per cent, reaching a total of 908 million tonnes.

Polluting gases are derived mainly from the generation and use of energy, transport and agriculture.

In 2019, the government will review the current incentives for the development of renewable energies and will seek to make adjustments aimed at fostering the sector.

Meanwhile, Germany’s last three nuclear power plants will cease operation in 2022. However, Garzweiler mine will continue to operate until 2045.

“There are technological, infrastructure, investment, political, social and innovation challenges to overcome. Recent decisions taken by the government are indicative of a lack of political will to undertake the tough decisions that are required for deep decarbonisation”, pointed out Samadi.

Companies “now try to mitigate the damage and leave the search for solutions in the hands of the (central) government. There will be fierce debate over how to expand renewable energies. The process may be slowed but not halted”, pointed out academic Heinz-J Bontrup, of the state University of Applied Sciences Gelsenkirchen.

Meanwhile, the regional government has opted to reduce the Garzweiler mine extension plan, leaving 400 million tonnes of lignite underground.

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The Delusion ‘I Am Not Responsible’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-delusion-i-am-not-responsible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-delusion-i-am-not-responsible http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/07/the-delusion-i-am-not-responsible/#comments Wed, 13 Jul 2016 11:48:32 +0000 Robert Burrowes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=146028 The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘]]> A scared child shows fear in an uncertain environment. Credit: D Sharon Pruitt. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Wikimedia Commons

A scared child shows fear in an uncertain environment. Credit: D Sharon Pruitt. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Wikimedia Commons

By Robert J. Burrowes
DAYLESFORD, Australia, Jul 13 2016 (IPS)

- One of the many interesting details to be learned by understanding human psychology is how a person’s unconscious fear works in a myriad of ways to make them believe that they bear no responsibility for a particular problem.

This psychological dysfunctionality cripples a substantial portion of the human population in ways that work against the possibility of achieving worthwhile outcomes for themselves, other individuals, communities and the world as a whole.

In an era when human extinction is now a likely near-term outcome of this dysfunctionality, it is obviously particularly problematic. So why does this happen and how does it manifest?

In essence, if a person is frightened by the circumstances of others or a particular set of events, their fear will often unconsciously delude them into believing and behaving as if they bear no responsibility for playing a part in addressing the problem.

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes

This fear works particularly easily when the person or people concerned live at considerable social and/or geographic distance or when the events occur in another place.

But it can also work with someone who is socially or geographically close, or with an event that occurs nearby. Let me illustrate this common behaviour with several examples which might stimulate your awareness of having witnessed it too.

I first became seriously interested in this phenomenon after hearing someone, who had just returned from India, describe the many street beggars in India as ‘living a subsistence lifestyle’.

As I listened to this individual, I could immediately perceive that they were very frightened by their experience but in a way that made them not want to help.

Given that this individual has considerable wealth, it was immediately apparent to me that the individual was attempting to conceal from themselves their unconscious guilt (about their own wealth and how this was acquired) but I could perceive an element of anger in their response as well.

This anger was obviously shaping the way in which street beggars were perceived so that there was no apparent need to do anything. So what was the unconscious anger about? Most probably about not getting help themselves when they needed it as a child.

A widespread version of this particular fear and the delusion that arises from it, is the belief that it is the direct outcome of the decisions of others that make them responsible for the circumstances in which they find themselves.

Obviously, this belief is widespread among those who refuse to take structural violence, such as the exploitative way in which the global economy functions, into account. If the victim can be blamed for their circumstances then ‘I am not responsible’ in any way.

Men who like to blame women who have been sexually assaulted for their ‘provocative dress’ are also exhibiting this fear and its attendant delusional behaviour.

But perhaps the most obvious manifestation of evading responsibility occurs when instead of doing what they can to assist someone in need, a person laments ‘not being able’ to do something more significant.

And by doing this, their fear enables them to conceal that they might, in fact, have done something that would have helped.

This often happens, for example, when someone is too scared to offer help because it might require the agreement of someone else (such as a spouse) who (unconsciously) frightens them. But there are other reasons why their fear might generate this behaviour as well.

Another common way of evading taking responsibility (while, in this case, deluding yourself that you are not) is to offer someone who needs help something that they do not need and then, when they refuse it, to interpret this as ‘confirmation’ that they do not need your help.

A variation of this behaviour is to dispose of something that you do not want and to delude yourself that you are, in fact, ‘helping’.

I first became fully aware of this version of evading responsibility (and assuaging guilt) when I was working in a refugee camp in the Sudan at the height of the Ethiopian war and famine in 1985.

Companies all over the world were ‘giving’ away unwanted stock of unsaleable goods (presumably for a tax benefit) to aid agencies who were then trying to find ways to use it.

And not always successfully. I will never forget seeing the Wad Kowli Refugee Camp for the first time with its wonderfully useless lightweight and colourful overnight bushwalking tents instead of the large, heavy duty canvas tents normally used in such difficult circumstances. Better than nothing you might say. For a week, perhaps, but only barely in 55 degrees Celsius.

Another popular way of evading responsibility is to delude yourself about the precise circumstances in which someone finds themselves.

For example, if your fear makes you focus your attention on an irrelevant detail, such as the pleasantness of your memory of a town as a tourist destination, rather than the fact that someone who lives there is homeless, then it is easy to delude yourself that their life must be okay and to behave in accordance with your delusion rather than the reality of the other person’s life.

One way that some people evade responsibility is to delude themselves that a person who needs help is ‘not contributing’ while also deluding themselves about the importance of their own efforts.

This is just one of many delusions that wealthy people often have to self-justify their wealth while many people who work extremely hard are paid a pittance (or nothing) for their time, expertise and labour.

Variations of another delusion include ‘I can only give what I have got’ and ‘I can’t afford it’ (but you might know of others), which exposes the fear that makes a person believe that they have very little irrespective of their (sometimes considerable) material wealth.

This fear/delusion combination arises because, in the emotional sense, the person probably does have ‘very little’.

If a person is denied their emotional needs as a child, they will often learn to regard material possessions as the only measure of value in the quality of their life.

And because material possessions can never replace an emotional need, no amount of material wealth can ever feel as if it is ‘enough’. For a fuller explanation of this point, see ‘Love Denied: The Psychology of Materialism, Violence and War‘.

If someone is too scared to accept any responsibility for helping despite the sometimes obvious distress of a person in need, they might even ask for reassurance, for example by asking ‘Are you okay?’

But the question is meaningless and asked in such a way that the person in need might even know that no help will be forthcoming. They might even offer the reassurance sought despite having to lie to do so.

A common way in which some people, particularly academics, evade responsibility is to offer an explanation and/or theory about a social problem but then take no action to change things themselves.

Another widespread way of evading responsibility, especially among what I call ‘the love and light brigade’, is to focus attention on ‘positives’ (the ‘good’ news) rather than truthfully presenting information about the state of our world and then inviting powerful responses to that truth.

Deluding ourselves that we can avoid dealing with reality, much of which happens to be extremely unpleasant and ugly, is a frightened and powerless way of approaching the world. But it is very common.

Many people evade responsibility, of course, simply by believing and acting as if someone else, perhaps even ‘the government’, is ‘properly’ responsible.

Undoubtedly, however, the most widespread ways of evading responsibility are to deny any responsibility for military violence while paying the taxes to finance it, denying any responsibility for adverse environmental and climate impacts while making no effort to reduce consumption, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of other people while buying the cheap products produced by their exploited (and sometimes slave) labour, denying any responsibility for the exploitation of animals despite eating and/or otherwise consuming a range of animal products, and denying any part in inflicting violence, especially on children, without understanding the many forms this violence can take.

See ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

Ultimately, of course, we evade responsibility by ignoring the existence of a problem.

Despite everything presented above, it should not be interpreted to mean that we should all take responsibility for everything that is wrong with the world. There is, obviously, a great deal wrong and the most committed person cannot do something about all of it.

However, we can make powerful choices, based on an assessment of the range of problems that interest us, to intervene in ways large or small to make a difference. This is vastly better than fearfully deluding ourselves and/or making token gestures.

Moreover, powerful choices are vital in this world. We face a vast array of violent challenges, some of which threaten near-term human extinction.

In this context, it is unwise to leave responsibility for getting us out of this mess to others, and particularly those insane elites whose political agents (who many still naively believe that we ‘elect’) so demonstrably fail to meaningfully address any of our major social, political, economic and environmental problems.

If you are interested in gaining greater insight into violent and dysfunctional human behaviour, and what you can do about it, you might like to read ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’ mentioned above.

And if you are inclined to declare your own willingness to accept some responsibility for addressing these violent and dysfunctional behaviours, you might like to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘ and to join those participating in ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

You might have had a good laugh at some of the examples above. The real challenge is to ask yourself this question: where do I evade responsibility? And to then ponder how you will take responsibility in future.

Roberto J. Burrowes website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com and his email address is flametree@riseup.net

The statements and views mentioned in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

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