Inter Press ServiceEurope – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 11 Dec 2018 19:40:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Migrant’s Compact Mischaracterized for Political Reasonshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/migrants-compact-mischaracterized-political-reasons/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrants-compact-mischaracterized-political-reasons http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/migrants-compact-mischaracterized-political-reasons/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 14:51:27 +0000 Alice Thomas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159130 Alice Thomas is Refugees International’s Climate Displacement Program Manager.

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By Alice Thomas
MARRAKESH, Morocco, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

The fact that a handful of countries have indicated their intention not to come to Marrakesh to endorse the compact signifies how the issue of migration has been politicized and become a political flashpoint.

Unfortunately, certain right-wing, political parties in some of these countries have been successful in misleading the public regarding what the compact is, and what it seeks to achieve which is to promote cooperation among countries of origin, transit and destination to ensure that migration is safe, regular and orderly.

Moreover, with respect to countries like Switzerland – which was a co-chair of the process to develop the compact — there is nothing in the compact that is contrary to its current policies and practices. This demonstrates how the compact has been mischaracterized for political purposes.

Ultimately, however, that a handful of countries may not come to Marrakesh should not detract from the fact that over 180 nations will, meaning the compact has received overwhelming global support.

What is unique about this is that countries that are withdrawing are doing so despite the fact that (a) the compact is non-legally binding, and (b) all of these countries (other than the U.S.) participated – presumably in good faith – in the 18-month process to negotiate its terms, yet are now not supporting it.

How effective is the compact if its implementation is only voluntary?

The compact will only be effective if countries move forward with its implementation. However, what is important is that the compact’s 23 objectives embody a comprehensive set of best practices for managing migration in a safe, orderly manner which requires the cooperation of countries of origin, transit and destination.

In other words, implicit in the compact is the understanding that not implementing these practices results in unsafe, irregular, and disorderly human movement, in loss of life, in human trafficking, in exploitation and abuse of migrants in situations of vulnerability including children, etc..

It results in a failure to address the factors in countries of origin that are driving more and more people to migrate out of necessity and desperation, not choice.

It also seeks to protect persons in situations of vulnerability who are not squarely included in the Refugee Convention, including those compelled leave their countries due to disasters and the adverse effects of climate change.

All countries need to address these drivers, to promote practices that ensure that people are moving safely and regularly. At the same time, the compact recognizes the sovereign right of every nation to manage its borders. As such, that a country does not want to implement these best practices is contrary to its own self-interests.

Political parties will come and go, but ultimately, over the longer-term, the compact should prove effective in improving migration governance and in addressing the current challenges of migration in a smarter, more effective way that is everyone nation’s interests.

Has the concept of refugees undergone a dramatic change?

The concept of refugees has evolved. There are over 258 million migrants today (that is 1 in 30 people) most of whom migrate for economic reasons, to gain skills, to fill labor needs in countries of destination, and to support their families and communities back home through remittances.

In fact, unlocking the full economic potential of migration to contribute to GDP and sustainable development in origin and host countries is much of what the compact is about.

What has changed is the fact that increasingly, more and more people are migrating not out of choice – not as “economic migrants” – but because of other drivers like generalized violence, corruption, and the impacts of climate change in their home countries.

These persons are not included in the definition of refugee under the 1951 Refugee Convention, despite the fact that they are in “refugee-like” situations meaning they are in need of some level of international protection.

One of the goals of the compact is to ensure that those migrating out of desperation- and who are not protected under refugee law – are not exploited or abused, and that their human rights are upheld.

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Excerpt:

Alice Thomas is Refugees International’s Climate Displacement Program Manager.

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Senegal Hosts Unique Community Events on Irregular Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/senegal-hosts-unique-community-events-irregular-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=senegal-hosts-unique-community-events-irregular-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/senegal-hosts-unique-community-events-irregular-migration/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 13:09:53 +0000 Mikaila Issa http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159104 It is four o’clock in the afternoon in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, when pupils, students and workers begin to fill the municipal town halls of Grand Yoff and Sociocultural Centre Grand Médine to attend a unique community event – a film screening and a debate. What they hear there surprises them. Men and women, both in person and […]

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At the Guédiawaye town hall in Dakar, Senegal's capital, the community attends a unique community event – a film screening and a debate about irregular migration. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)/Alioune Ndiaye

By Mikaila Issa
DAKAR, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

It is four o’clock in the afternoon in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, when pupils, students and workers begin to fill the municipal town halls of Grand Yoff and Sociocultural Centre Grand Médine to attend a unique community event – a film screening and a debate.

What they hear there surprises them.

Men and women, both in person and on video, relate stories of human suffering, exploitation and abuse they experienced on their journeys as irregular migrants.

“You are beaten, threatened with weapons, you lose all your rights as soon as you enter this country. You are sold by your own brothers.” It is one of the poignant testimonies heard in a 45-minute documentary made by returnee migrants and with the support of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

IOM is running a unique Migrants as Messengers (MaM) programme in Senegal, Guinea Conakry and Nigeria. It is a peer to peer messaging campaign that shares information about the dangers of irregular migration as told through the stories of returnee migrants. IOM has trained 80 returnee migrants in these three countries on how to interview and collect the stories of fellow returnees. The campaign also uses innovative mobile technology to empower migrants to share their experiences and to provide a platform for others to do the same.

A young man at Grand Médine town hall in Dakar, Senegal, engages in a discussion about irregular migration. Credit: Samuelle Paul Banga/IPS

The town hall discussions

The town hall screenings are also part of the campaign. They offer the community and returnee migrants a platform to share their stories since a participatory approach is used and the film is followed by a debate in French and in the local language, Wolof.

Back at the town halls in Dakar, during both screenings, silence reigns supreme for 45 minutes.

Those who sit in attendance look clearly stunned by the depth of suffering explained through the testimonies of the returnee migrants.

“We have seen and survived,” Ndèye Fatou Sall, a MaM volunteer, tells IPS. She lived previously in Saudi Arabia where she was employed as a domestic worker.

One thread is common through most of the discussions here. And it is that the youth resort to irregular migration in order to find work and better opportunities for themselves that they feel are not available to them at home. Many are driven and supported by their families, who have significant influence over their lives. In some cases, families use all of their savings to send their sons to Europe.

“Personally, I left because of my family. When I got my [Bachelor’s degree]…my mother saw that the sons of other families went abroad easily. So she used all her savings to finance my trip,” Issa Ngom says during the discussion at Grand Médine. After a few months amid harsh living conditions he decided to return to Senegal.

“I think we need to do a lot more outreach and show young people the opportunities [at home]. But we must go beyond because the reality is that most kids hang out on the streets, drinking tea all day instead of finding things to do,” Aminata Diop says during the session at Grand Yoff Dakar.

You can succeed at home

IOM volunteer Seckouba Cissé agrees during the debate that, “It’s not the trip that will make you a successful man.”

“We are used to blaming just the youth for all, because we dismiss them as people without ambition. But we never implement a policy to encourage young people to generate local wealth,” Cissé says.

Babacar Gueye, a young graduate who is currently looking for a job, explains during the Grand Yoff session that the money used to travel irregularly to Europe could be better invested in creating work opportunities at home.

“I went to Europe and I came back. The money you spend to go there to suffer, you can invest it here in Senegal to find something to do. We refuse to stay [home] because the family puts pressure on us to ‘succeed’; we get tired of this word.”

One thread is common through most of the discussions here. And it is that the youth resort to irregular migration in order to find work and better opportunities for themselves that they feel are not available to them at home. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)/Alioune Ndiaye

The dangers behind irregular migration 

But the poignant testimonies in the film made Charle Diatta aware of the realities and the risks involved with irregular migration. He speaks up during the debate and says he wants the returnee migrants to warn his cousins about this.

“I have cousins ​​in Yarakh who want to go to Europe, and I want you to go there, if possible, in order to try to make them aware before it’s too late.”

The screening of the film and the resultant debate is part of IOM’s impact evaluation approach “to measure the dimension of community engagement, public interaction with returning migrants volunteers; as well as to touch the perception of indigenous peoples on the issues of irregular migration and migrant status,” Marilena Crosato, media engagement and advocacy at IOM Senegal, tells IPS.

A total of 16 screening and debate sessions are being held throughout Senegal. And returnee migrants are actively working as volunteers and stakeholders to raise awareness.

And many of them are using the MaM Facebook page to share their experiences. Though it is on social media where many feel they first saw distorted realities of what it was like to live as irregular migrants in Europe.

Participants at the Grand Yoff session say that social networks can be shimmering surreal things that belie the true facts of irregular migration.

“Because of the beautiful photos and videos about life in Europe that my friends sent me, I was about to leave so as to have such a good life too,” Djiby Sakho says.

But the town hall screening and debate has shown him the darker side of the journey.

  • Additional reporting by Samuelle Paul Banga in Dakar.

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US Blasts Migrant’s Compact – Even as 180+ Countries Embrace ithttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/us-blasts-migrants-compact-even-180-countries-embrace/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-blasts-migrants-compact-even-180-countries-embrace http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/us-blasts-migrants-compact-even-180-countries-embrace/#respond Mon, 10 Dec 2018 12:11:34 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159123 As UN delegates met in Morocco to adopt a global compact to protect the rights and safety of refugees and migrants (GCM), the Trump administration launched a blistering attack condemning it as a violation of national sovereignty. “The United States proclaims and reaffirms its belief that decisions about how to secure its borders, and whom […]

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Credit: IOM

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 10 2018 (IPS)

As UN delegates met in Morocco to adopt a global compact to protect the rights and safety of refugees and migrants (GCM), the Trump administration launched a blistering attack condemning it as a violation of national sovereignty.

“The United States proclaims and reaffirms its belief that decisions about how to secure its borders, and whom to admit for legal residency or to grant citizenship, are among the most important sovereign decisions a State can make, and are not subject to negotiation, or review, in international instruments, or fora”.

The Trump administration, which pulled out of the negotiations last December, “maintains the sovereign right to facilitate or restrict access to our territory, in accordance with our national laws and policies, subject to our existing international obligations.”

“We believe the Compact and the process that led to its adoption, including the New York Declaration, represent an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign right of States to manage their immigration systems in accordance with their national laws, policies, and interests,” the US said in a “national statement” released on the eve of the conference¸which began in Marrakesh December 10 and concludes December 14.

But despite strong US opposition, more than 180 of the UN’s 193 member states, along with human rights organizations, international relief agencies and civil society organizations (CSOs) , either expressed support for it or are participating in the conference.

In an interview with IPS, Sarnata Reynolds, Oxfam International’s Policy Advisor for Global Displacement & Migration, said the contents of the GCM represent the culmination of two years of hard work, debate, and good faith negotiations among 192 UN member states, civil society and UN agencies, to bring together a blueprint for cooperation on migration that both respects the rights of the women, men and children leaving home, and the ability of states to respond to their economic and political challenges, among others.

Excerpts from the interview:

REYNOLDS: As we move into these last few days before adoption of the GCM, some world leaders and political actors are avoiding domestic grievances by shifting attention to the GCM, and asserting it will undermine sovereignty or worker’s rights, which is just not true.

Regardless of justifications provided so far, governments withdrawing from the GCM have not done so based on the contents of the GCM, which create no new rights and are not legally binding, they have done so based on current domestic politics.

Given this moment of heightened and heated rhetoric, positions of governments now may not remain the same as new administrations take office, and indeed they may temporarily get worse. But they could also get better.

Currently it looks as if 183 out of 193 UN members will adopt the GCM on Monday and Tuesday. A few countries have dropped out, and while that is of course unfortunate, the GCM does not require all UN member states to be functional and effective.

Ultimately, the GCM’s success will be measured by how well states work together to ensure that labor, demographic, family, education and other needs are addressed in a mutually beneficial way that bolsters human rights. It’s not particularly unusual in terms of international agreements, that 10 states will not adopt the GCM at the outset.

For example, the Rome Statute, which brought the International Criminal Court into effect, was adopted without the support of the US, has 139 signatories now, and has had a profound impact on international jurisprudence since it entered into force in 2002, whether states are parties to it or not.

There are 145 parties to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. No one would question that it has been highly influential and a lifeline to millions of people.

IPS: How effective is the compact if its implementation is only voluntary — particularly in the context of the Refugee Convention (signed and ratified by all UN member states) which is being violated by countries such as the US, Hungary and Poland?

REYNOLDS: It was never the intent for the GCM does to create any new rights or obligations. Indeed, the GCM arose out of commitments made in the New York Declaration (July 2016), https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/declaration. Neither the NY Declaration nor the GCM are legally binding, and this is specifically stated in both documents.

The entire impetus for this process arose because states around the world were struggling with the mobility of so many migrants and refugees, and there was a shared recognition that global coordination and a common governance was necessary.

The GCM is a carefully crafted understanding of what is needed and what can be claimed by right. If applied as written, it would mean that nations are finally tackling the newer migration occurring because of climate change, environmental degradation and increasing disasters.

It would mean that more visas are made available for students, workers and those in need of respite abroad in a way that is mutually beneficial. Going forward, we will be monitoring and participating in national plans of action consistent with the GCM monitoring alongside hundreds of other civil society organizations that have engaged in this process.

No doubt countries are violating the Refugee Convention, but governments do take their obligations to refugees into account when developing migration and protection policies. They are sensitive to the criticism they receive from civil society, and many make efforts to address them, even if partially.

And over and over again, through conflicts and across decades, ordinary people, mayors, families and organizations have taken on the responsibility to welcome and protect refugees.

Almost 70 years after the passage of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, governments generally accept that people fleeing conflict and persecution have the right to seek protection in another country, and countries neighboring those in conflict have protected tens of millions of refugees for protracted periods of time.

Over the past 40 years, millions of women, men, and children from dozens of countries have been resettled elsewhere, and States have contributed billions of dollars in support to refugees and their host countries. So there is hope in the GCM (and GCR) and there is also the reality that states will likely always need to be pushed to live up to their obligations.

IPS: Has the concept of refugees undergone a dramatic change — from political refugees of the cold war era to economic refugees of today?

REYNOLDS: The general concept of refugees has not undergone a dramatic change. The Refugee Convention was drafted in the aftermath of World War II and reflects both the circumstances, social norms, and populations displaced during that period. It had limitations as a result, including that rape and sexual slavery (common weapons of war) were not even considered forms of persecution until the 1990s. It has always been a living document.

Just as in the 1950s, in this decade there are people fleeing home and moving home for a variety of reasons – some for work, others for education, and still others to marry or reunite with family members. This is a constant throughout human history. Another constant is the migration taking place. In the 1970s, about 3% of the world’s populations were migrants.

Since then, in every decade, the number of migrants has remained at 3%, even until today. There is much myth-making around migration, which is positive and negative, ebbs and flows with economies and politics. Currently we’re in negative space.

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A UN Conference Undermined by 11th Hour Withdrawalshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/un-conference-undermined-11th-hour-withdrawals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-conference-undermined-11th-hour-withdrawals http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/un-conference-undermined-11th-hour-withdrawals/#respond Fri, 07 Dec 2018 17:10:34 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159088 When the long-awaited UN conference focusing on the rights and safety of migrants and refugees takes off in Morocco, it will be a rare, if not an unprecedented meeting, for one reason: the withdrawal of at least seven member states almost at the 59th minute of the eleventh hour. As the international community struggles to […]

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Refugees from South Sudan. Credit: UNHCR/Will Swanson

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 7 2018 (IPS)

When the long-awaited UN conference focusing on the rights and safety of migrants and refugees takes off in Morocco, it will be a rare, if not an unprecedented meeting, for one reason: the withdrawal of at least seven member states almost at the 59th minute of the eleventh hour.

As the international community struggles to resolve a spreading global humanitarian crisis, and restrict the intake of refugees and migrants, the approval of a “Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration” is turning out to be a politically sensitive issue.

The United States, which withdrew from the long-drawn-out negotiations back in December last year, will be a notable absentee, along with Austria, Hungary, Poland, Israel, Switzerland and Australia—all of whom have problems relating either to refugees or migrants.

Other non-starters may include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, according to published reports.

Not surprisingly, these countries don’t want to be a party to a compact, which is expected to be adopted at the meeting in Marrakesh December 10-14.

This despite the fact that 192 member states, minus the US, finalized the Global Compact last July, after years of negotiations.

The reluctance is all the more surprising because the implementation of the compact is voluntary – unlike the mandatory 1951 Refugee Convention which has been signed and ratified by virtually all of the 193 UN member states, but not necessarily implemented.

Asked about the non-participants, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters November 30: “ I think what is regrettable, as we’ve seen, is a number of countries walking away from what was agreed already here in New York when the pact was adopted. I think it bears reminding again and again, that this is not a binding legal instrument. This is non-binding. This is guidance for countries on how to manage migration.”

As the Marrakesh conference is about to get off the ground, Denmark has announced plans to move “unwanted” immigrants to Lindholm Island, two miles out to sea, and once used for studying sick animals, according to Cable News Network (CNN).

“Rising far-right and anti-immigration sentiments that have swept Europe have now reached the highest levels of government in Denmark. Some of the country’s legislators have made it clear they have no qualms about testing the boundaries of human rights conventions to preserve what they call the Danish way of life. The controversial deal still must be passed by the parliament”, CNN said.

So, it seems very likely that Denmark may also join the rest of the team of absentees at the conference.

Joseph Chamie, a former director of the United Nations Population Division and an independent consulting demographer, told IPS the migration conference, despite its shortcomings, “is certainly an achievement.”

However, about a dozen countries are not participating and some additional countries are having strong objections raised by opposition parties to signing the Global Migration Compact (GMC), he added.

This will certainly have serious negative consequences on the Compact, especially as the United States — the largest immigrant receiving country — is having no part of the Global Compact.

“It will also be problematic for the European Union (EU) as these countries are divided on the Compact and some are not participating in the conference,” he noted.

Asked if this was unprecedented, Chamie said: “Yes, it is unusual for so many countries to bow out of a UN conference and this will weaken the effectiveness of the Global Compact.“

In an interview with the Associated Press (AP), Louise Arbour, the UN Special Envoy on International Migration, said she was “very disappointed” that some countries are reneging on their support — and in some instances for “bizarre” reasons.

She rightly pointed out that the global compact was “not legally binding” and “there is not a single country that is obligated to do anything that it doesn’t want to.”

Arbour was quoted as saying: “Some have said, for instance, we will not sign which is rather strange because there’s nothing to sign. It’s not a treaty. Others have said we will not come. Others have said we don’t endorse the compact.”

Meanwhile, one in every 70 people around the world is caught up in a crisis, including the refugee crisis, with more than 130 million people expected to need humanitarian aid next year.

The United Nations and its partners will aim to help more than 93 million of the most vulnerable people, according to the 2019 Global Humanitarian Overview presented by Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock in Geneva last week.

In a statement released December 5, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said migration has always been a polarizing topic.

But in recent years it has become even more divisive, to the point of dominating elections in many countries.

Concerns about the impacts of migration on receiving states have led some governments to adopt strategies specifically designed to reduce and deter migration, extending even so far as restricting access to essential and lifesaving services including basic health care, shelter, food and legal assistance.

The IFRC said governments have the right to set migration policies. However, contrary to conventional wisdom, all migrants, even those with no claim to asylum, have rights under international law. These rights include access to health, safety and protection.

Chamie told IPS that while the implementation of the Compact is voluntary, it is establishing global norms concerning international migration, which is a goal in itself.

“Of course, countries may not follow conventions and international compacts and there are certainly many instances of violations in the recent past.”

Countries are sovereign — something that has universal agreement– and they will promote their national interests even when it violates agreements they’ve signed, he added.

Asked about Denmark’s plans, he said confining “unwanted” immigrants to a remote island as Denmark proposes is likely to be problematic in many respects.

Aside from the important issue of human rights, it will be difficult logistically and will become increasingly problematic, especially with respect to children and those needing medical care. Moreover, over time as the numbers increase, the difficulties will be compounded, he added.

Chamie also pointed out the simple fact : the supply of potential immigrants is FAR, FAR greater than the demand.

In addition, the receiving countries are selecting immigrants and many of those who wish to migrate will not be selected.

“As a result, many of those migrating without legal status are claiming asylum and seeking refugee status when in fact they are actually seeking employment opportunities and improved living conditions for themselves and families,” he added.

And as a consequence, Chamie pointed out, people are migrating illegally and upon arrival at their desired destination will attempt to remain in the country by all means possible, including seeking refugee status.

Again, one has to face the demographic facts, something most politicians typically avoid. Many of the populations of migrant sending countries are growing rapidly and most developed receiving countries are growing slowly.

The considerable pressures and strong forces for illegal immigration will certainly continue and the receiving countries are still lacking effective policies to address this demographic phenomenon, declared Chamie.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Citizen Action in Europe’s Periphery: “An Antidote to Powerlessness”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/citizen-action-europes-periphery-antidote-powerlessness/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=citizen-action-europes-periphery-antidote-powerlessness http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/citizen-action-europes-periphery-antidote-powerlessness/#respond Thu, 06 Dec 2018 13:54:42 +0000 Daan Bauwens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159076 Unjustified extra charges on drinking water, exploitation of labourers in the countryside and uncontrolled property speculation. In Europe’s periphery, citizens’ initiatives show how all too prevalent modern-day ailments can be tackled successfully. More often than not with the help of artists. Spring 2014. Pressured by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European […]

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Polish Mothers in Krakow. Polish artist Cecilya Malik began a campaign against the removal of the obligation for private landowners to apply for permission to cut down trees. Credit: Tomasz Wiech

By Daan Bauwens
GHENT, Belguim, Dec 6 2018 (IPS)

Unjustified extra charges on drinking water, exploitation of labourers in the countryside and uncontrolled property speculation. In Europe’s periphery, citizens’ initiatives show how all too prevalent modern-day ailments can be tackled successfully. More often than not with the help of artists.

Spring 2014.

Pressured by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank, the government of an Ireland suffering from imposed austerity measures decides to introduce an additional levy on drinking water. Spontaneous protest ensue. A single woman, waking up in the middle of the night when workers are installing a water meter outside her house, comes out and blocks their way whilst still her night gown. She manages to get them to leave without finishing the job.

The meter fairy

Thousands follow her example in the following weeks. Some are arrested and convicted. In the southern coastal town of Cobh, citizens set up guard posts on bridges and boats to inform other citizens when the water company is arriving and where exactly it’s heading. Soon the protest receives the support of the trade unions and political parties, leading up to a demonstration march of 120,000 people in October of the same year. Mass demonstrations are subsequently held all through the country, often ending in concerts by popular Irish artists.

The largest protest campaign the country had ever seen forced the government to reduce the proposed water tax by 75 percent. The water tax is currently still on the table, but the Irish now have got the “meter fairy”. Residents of a house where a new water meter has just been installed can text their address to a certain number. The same night craftsmen will come over and remove the meter.

Property speculation

“Let me conclude with a warning,” says Brendan Ogle, one of the leading activists in the protests, “while we are progressing in some ways, we are at the same time slipping back to the darkest of ages.” Ogle refers to the housing emergency in his hometown Dublin, where rents have risen so sharply that this year the city has become most expensive place to live in the Eurozone, leaping ahead of both Paris and London.

“We squatted in an empty building and started a community centre for homeless people where they could stay and sleep,” says Ogle. “The court finally ordered we leave building, stating that while the homeless emergency is important, it is not more important than the right to property. Last Thursday, the 24th person that we housed in the building died on the streets. This in only 16 months.”

It seems to be a trend in cities all over Europe: a housing market under pressure causes speculation, leading to growing numbers of homeless people. The state doesn’t act and the law is not on the side of those who want to solve the problem.

Summit for activists

The same happened to Maria Sanchez of Cerro Liberdad, an citizen’s initiative which occupied an empty Andalusian farm owned by a bank. Sanchez put local labourers to work in decent conditions in a region that suffers from poverty and exploitation, and in March of this year she was arrested. All traces that her movement had left in the farm were erased.

“I did what the government fails to do,” she says, “I told that to the judge. This was not a crime.”

Ogle and Sanchez were just two of the 90 activists from all over Europe present at the summit “The Art of Organising Hope” that was held in early November in the Belgian town of Ghent. At the summit they showed each other how exactly they realised their plans to fight injustice, with the emphasis on the practical side of things.

The summit was the culmination of a research all across Europe that a fellowship of volunteers, journalists, artists and activists undertook in 2016 and 2017. Thoroughly documenting 60 grassroots and civil society organisations, they looked for hopeful discourses, methods and practices to counter the present-day upsurge of Euroscepticism and indifference.

Radical imagination

In the final selection of activists to be present at the summit, the majority turned out to be from Europe’s periphery with an especially large representation from the Balkans. That was no coincidence according to initiator and organiser Dominique Willaert, artistic leader of the Ghent-based social-artistic movement Victoria Deluxe.

“Activism and imagination at Europe’s external borders is much more radical than in Western Europe,” he says, “we brought them here especially to fertilise us with their imagination. During our trips around Europe we noticed that people in the periphery don’t feel as though they belong to Europe. That is most noticeable in countries that have fallen victim to European austerity measures.”

“The difference between them and us is striking,” he continues, “in Western Europe we strive for consensus and negotiation with the government, many organisations depend on the government for funding, so they become policy implementers. The activism and imagination of the external borders is much more radical.”

According to Willaert, it is exactly that imagination and radicalism that Western Europe needs. “We must give citizens the feeling that they have power and can create movements that bring change. Powerlessness can mean the end of Europe.”

Polish mothers on tree stumps

In the citizen’s projects at the summit it was moreover apparent that a large number was led by artists. “In order to develop deep democracy, new methods and symbols are needed,” Dominique Willaert explains his team’s choice, “we must go beyond the idea of parliaments and elected representatives. There is a need for new stories and images that can fertilise communities and mobilise people. That requires the help of artists.”

And social media seem to be quite an effective to tool in bringing that about, it seems. At the main stage, Polish Anna Alboth and Belgian Leen Van Waes told the story of how their Facebook solidarity campaign for for Syrian civilians led to a march that mobilised more than 4000 participants from 62 countries. The Civil March For Aleppo lasted eight and a half months, passing through Europe on foot from Berlin to Syria, an action that got the organising team nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The most mobilising image came from the Polish artist Cecilya Malik. In the beginning of January a controversial new law removed the obligation for private landowners to apply for permission to cut down trees, pay compensation or plant new trees, or even inform the authorities of the plans to cut down trees. Up until now, more than one million trees have been reported cut down with newly cleared spaces in cities, towns and countryside as a consequence.

“I knew I had to do something,” Malik says, “but I had a six-month-old baby. So I came up with the plan to sit on one of the stumps every day, let someone take a picture of me while I was breastfeeding and share that image on social media.” The Polish government did not reverse the law despite the hundreds of mothers following Malik’s example. But the media attention on breastfeeding mothers on tree stumps did lead to a surge in environmental consciousness with the general public. This way, a new draft law excluding the vast majority of NGOs from the consultation process on environmental projects, was shelved for the time being.

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‘Antimicrobial Resistance Knows No Boundaries’http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/antimicrobial-resistance-knows-no-boundaries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=antimicrobial-resistance-knows-no-boundaries http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/12/antimicrobial-resistance-knows-no-boundaries/#respond Tue, 04 Dec 2018 15:27:23 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=159011 European Union officials and global health bodies have called for help for poorer countries as growing resistance to antibiotics threatens to become a ‘global health tragedy’ and jeopardises Sustainable Development Goals in some parts of the world. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has risen by as much as two thirds in the last two decades, according to […]

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Community health worker Urmila Kasdekar performs a health check on a new born baby in Berdaball village of western India. In India, for example, where it is thought that as many as 120,000 babies alone die every year from sepsis caused by antimicrobial-resistant infections, doctors say two of the key factors behind rising AMR are pharmacies selling antibiotics without a prescription and poor infection control in overcrowded healthcare facilities. Credit: Stella Paul/IPS

By Ed Holt
BRUSSELS, Dec 4 2018 (IPS)

European Union officials and global health bodies have called for help for poorer countries as growing resistance to antibiotics threatens to become a ‘global health tragedy’ and jeopardises Sustainable Development Goals in some parts of the world.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has risen by as much as two thirds in the last two decades, according to some studies, and is now responsible for an estimated 700,000 deaths annually worldwide.

But this is projected to rise to 10 million per year by 2050 and cost up to 100 trillion dollars unless governments ramp up efforts to tackle it.

The growing problem with AMR has been put down largely to inappropriate use of antibiotics for both humans and animals.

As antibiotics have been used more widely and more frequently in both humans and animals, bacteria have built up resistance to them, rendering them effectively useless in some cases. Doctors say this would make routine operations more dangerous and certain medical treatments, such as for some cancers, would disappear completely.

When antibiotic resistance emerges in one place it also quickly spreads to other locations, meaning it must be tackled on a global scale.

While all World Health Organization (WHO) member states signed up to a multi-sectoral Global Action Plan on AMR in 2015, progress on its implementation has been mixed.

Some countries, notably in Europe, have made good progress, in other parts of the world things have moved much more slowly, if at all, raising fears that in poorer countries the problem is worsening and SDGs may not be reached.

EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Dr Vytenis Andriukalitis, told IPS: “We need a global framework for tackling AMR in all regions, not just Europe. It needs to be dealt with because otherwise some countries won’t be reaching the SDGs.”

The size of the challenge presented by AMR in developing countries has been underlined in a slew of data and studies released during the World Antibiotic Awareness week last month (November).

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) study showed that while AMR rates averaged 17 percent in OECD countries in 2015, rates in India, China and Russia averaged 42 percent and were as high as 90 percent for some antibiotic-bacteria combinations.

Meanwhile, it said, AMR is forecast to grow up to four to seven time faster in some low and middle-income countries than in OECD states and in countries where healthcare systems are financially constrained, AMR is likely to cause ‘an enormous’ death toll, mainly among new-borns, infants and the elderly.

Another study earlier this year by researchers at ETH Zurich, the University of Antwerp and Princeton University showed that while global use of antibiotics in humans was estimated to have risen 65 percent between 2000 – 2015, use in low- and middle-income countries increased 114 percent.

Developing new antibiotics is complex – it has been decades since new classes of antibiotics were invented – and much of the focus in fighting AMR is being put on prevention.

The Global Action Plan is based on a multi-sectoral approach to AMR and charges governments with adopting national action plans involving improved awareness, understanding, surveillance, stewardship and prevention and control measures.

But in many developing countries, lack of funds in both healthcare and animal industries as well as weak legislation and enforcement are major barriers to those measures being effectively implemented.

In India, for example, where it is thought that as many as 120,000 babies alone die every year from sepsis caused by antimicrobial-resistant infections, doctors say two of the key factors behind rising AMR are pharmacies selling antibiotics without a prescription and poor infection control in overcrowded healthcare facilities.

Supporters of over the counter antibiotic sales in India argue that it is vital that antibiotics are available without prescription as there is a severe shortage of qualified doctors in many areas.

The government has tried to limit the sale of at least so-called ‘last resort’ antibiotics which are used when all others fail. However, the measure – putting a red line on boxes of the medicines in pharmacies to alert people – has been largely ineffective.

There are also concerns over the use of antibiotics in livestock.

According to the European Commission, in Europe, 70 percent of antimicrobials are consumed in food-producing animals. The figure is similar in the U.S. and is over 50 percent in China.

But monitoring antibiotic use in the animal industry in poorer countries is often more difficult.

“[Use of antibiotics in animal farming] is extremely difficult to enforce unless you have very good legislation and a system for monitoring,” Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director Programme Manager, WHO Europe, told IPS.

While legislation on animal antibiotic use exists and is closely checked in developed states, particularly in the EU, in poorer countries it is sometimes absent or adherence is impossible to monitor effectively because of a lack of resources.

Despite the Indian government’s approval of a national action plan on AMR a year a half ago, critics point out that legislation and networks to control use of antibiotics for animal growth and tracking the sale and use of antibiotics in food production are, in reality, non-existent or ineffective.

The WHO has said that many middle- and low-income countries may need long-term development assistance to implement their AMR plans effectively and sustainably.

“We need financial support for low and middle-income countries,” Emiroglu told IPS.

She added this was crucial to ensure progress in one region of the world was not undermined by a lack of progress elsewhere.

“AMR knows no boundaries. What happens in one part of the world affects people in another,” she told IPS.

But many experts on healthcare in developing countries say a one-size fits all approach for all developing states will not work.

“Measures need to be different for different countries, especially when we are talking about poorer states. You cannot compare somewhere like India and Liberia,” Andriukalitis told IPS.

“In some countries they have problems with access to simple antibiotics, but in others there are problems because people are self-treating with no proper controls. In some places there is a lack of any basic understanding of hygiene and sanitation. We need long-term local strategies for [different] countries,” he added.

Meanwhile, AMR is putting SDGs in jeopardy in some places. Although AMR alone is unlikely to stop an SDG being achieved, left unchecked it could contribute to health, poverty and sustainable economic growth SDG targets being missed.

Longer hospital stays because of slower patient recovery and greater risk of treatment complications would put a massive extra strain on already struggling healthcare systems and worsen mortality rates and quality of life. Economies would be hit hard with the cost of not dealing with AMR forecast to cause a drop of as much as 3.8 percent in global GDP by 2050.

Meanwhile, AMR makes illnesses more expensive to treat and, as universal health coverage is limited in many poor countries and people have to pay out of their own pockets for treatment, these increased costs – as well as potential loss of income from morbidity and mortality – could drive individuals and families with limited resources into even greater poverty.

Dr Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) which has been involved in monitoring AMR in Europe, told IPS: “​To achieve SDG3 [on health], AMR is not the only issue that needs to be addressed, but it is a crucial component.

“A high rate of AMR indicates that various elements in a health system may not be working satisfactorily because of a mix of factors. The factors causing high AMR rates could be cultural values, behaviour of healthcare providers and patients, regulatory issues such as OTC availability, or infection control. These factors may also prevent other targets included within SDG3 being achieved.”

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Why I Became a Disaster Experthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/became-disaster-expert/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=became-disaster-expert http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/became-disaster-expert/#respond Mon, 26 Nov 2018 11:48:58 +0000 Armen Grigoryan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158865 Armen Grigoryan is team leader for Disaster Risk Reduction at UNDP’s regional bureau for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

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A man in northern Armenia remembers the victims of the Spitak earthquake. Credit: Jodi Hilton

By Armen Grigoryan
Nov 26 2018 (IPS)

Thirty years ago, a powerful earthquake ripped through my home country of Armenia, leaving 25,000 dead, 500,000 homeless and annihilating an estimated 40 percent of the national economy.

The northern city of Spitak and many other villages around it were wiped out completely.

I was 20 and felt helpless, angry and at the same time eager to act. The police and army were clearly overwhelmed. Ordinary people tried to remove the rubble, while soldiers stood outside the central bank to prevent people from looting it.

Rescue teams and humanitarian cargo started to pour into Armenia three days after the earthquake. Cars blocked the incoming aid on some of the main arteries. There was no reception center at the airport and no available transport from Yerevan to the affected areas. The government came under heavy criticism for its lack of coordination of the aid response.

Two years earlier, Soviet authorities had been accused of covering up Chernobyl. This time around, they decided to publicly announce the disaster. The outspoken Armenian diaspora in the West also put pressure.

As a result, this was the first disaster within the Soviet Union where foreign aid was allowed to intervene. The entire world descended on the quake zone: Russians, Italians, French, Germans, Czechs and Georgians, all with their cranes and tractors, food and medical supplies.

I took the road with several university friends, most of us fresh out of military service. We didn’t take any bags with us.

We had to walk the last twenty kilometers to finally reach Spitak. What I saw there was unimaginable. An army friend of mine died in the rubble just within five days of returning, like us, from military duty. Fifty-three children died in that same building. “We cried and worked, hoping to find someone alive”, his family said.

After helping out for three days, I left as the French arrived. We had become a burden, needing food, water, shelter and clothes as temperatures plunged to minus 20 degrees at night. And though we thought of ourselves as strong young folks, physical and mental strength turned out to be very different things.

The aftermath

The earthquake in Spitak triggered the first wave of Armenian emigration in modern history. In total, 500,000 left, having lost their jobs, homes and in many cases friends and relatives.

The event brought seismology and earthquake preparedness in Armenia to new heights. The population also became intensely aware of its surroundings. For instance, the nearby town of Kirovakan was known for its chemical factory. While there were officially no major leaks, people felt insecure as the plant broke down and lay in disrepair.

Quickly, the cemeteries around Spitak outgrew nearby villages. There were villages built by the Italians, a hospital staffed by Norwegians, a residential block erected with money from Uzbekistan, schools and hospitals from Russia and Ukraine and even a street rebuilt by Georgia.

To make matters even worse, a conflict with neighboring Azerbaijan erupted that year. That and the collapse of the Soviet Union slowed down recovery efforts as Western teams departed. In the midst of war, Armenia prioritized security over reconstruction.

Preparedness and recovery

One of the by-products of the earthquake was the creation of a United Nations mechanism that immediately deploys national search and rescue teams to disaster sites. That system has served hundreds of disasters and saved thousands of people.

Having experienced a devastating earthquake at first hand and noticed how long-lasting its consequences were, I became a disaster expert at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), focusing on preparedness and long-term economic recovery.

Nowadays, preparing for natural disasters is not just a science and a practice. It is part of every international development framework: Because economic investments and living standards can be razed to the ground within a few minutes, as was the case in Armenia, then how do we limit the possible impact of such a disaster?

Governments, which are primarily responsible for protecting people, need to work on risk maps, early warning mechanisms, building standards, insurance mechanisms and many other important measures.

Today, Armenia has among the best seismic building codes and has all the laws in place to enable a quick emergency response. It even sends experts abroad.

These efforts cannot bring back the people we loved. But should the worse come to worst, they could protect many more down the line.

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Excerpt:

Armen Grigoryan is team leader for Disaster Risk Reduction at UNDP’s regional bureau for Eastern Europe and Central Asia

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Inside a Wagon in the Forest of Compiègnehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=inside-wagon-forest-compiegne http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/11/inside-wagon-forest-compiegne/#respond Sun, 11 Nov 2018 14:26:10 +0000 Manuel Manonelles http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158629 What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris. Indeed, […]

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Picture taken after the signature of the armistice in the Forest of Compiègne. Credit: Public Domain

By Manuel Manonelles
GENEVA, Nov 11 2018 (IPS)

What is the link between the current civil war in Syria, the austerity policy imposed by Germany during the last economic crisis or the Arab-Israeli conflict? Its origin, which lies in the world that was born a hundred years ago, inside a wagon in the middle of the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Indeed, it was on November 11, 1914 that the signature of the Armistice between the Allied powers and the German Empire took place, in the above-mentioned wagon. This event marked de facto the end of World War I (1914-18), a conflict that changed the world and still today projects its shadows.

The Armistice was followed by the Paris Peace Conference and, as a consequence, the Treaty of Versailles, that of Sèvres and many others. The birth of the League of Nations, the policy of “reparations” or the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian, German and Ottoman empires, and in part the Russian one, were other outputs of the end of the Great War. The consequences of some of these historical events are still present today in the international agenda and determine the lives of millions of people, one century later.

 

The Middle East, Kurdistan and Syria

The dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, through the Treaty of Sèvres of August 1920, opened a Pandora’s Box that we still strive to close today. Three examples: the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the civil war in Syria and the case of the Kurdistan.

Let us start with the last one, with Kurdistan. Sèvres foresaw the holding of a referendum to decide its future, a referendum that never took place. The uprising of Kemal Atatürk in Turkey, the subsequent war and the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) were the main causes, but the disunity between the Kurds we could call “pragmatic” and the supporters of a greater Kurdistan also influenced. Similarly, the fact that Sèvres planned to include the oil rich province of Mosul within the territory of an eventual free Kurdistan (which the British were coveting) helped to tip the balance in favor of Turkish interests.

Another unfortunate legacy is, in part too, the current civil war in Syria. It is widely known that the origin of this conflict is related to the emergence of the Arab Spring, the resilience of the al-Assad regime, the infiltration of radical jihadist groups, and the interests of many regional and global powers.

However, part of the current war’s cruelty is intimately related to a State, Syria, resulting from the end of the WWI, with their borders designed to satisfy, exclusively, the French and British colonial interests. A division based on a Franco-British secret agreement taken before the end war, the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916, that unscrupulously mixed and divided diverse ethnic and religious groups.

Even more, we cannot ignore the icing on the cake of all conflicts, the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its origin is linked to the Balfour declaration (1917) before the end of the Great War. This declaration was assumed by the San Remo Conference (1920) -also linked to the Paris Peace Conference- within the framework of the complex maneuvers of the great powers, and other influential groups of interests, during the reshaping of borders of the post-Ottoman Levant.

 

Inheritances in financial policy

In another vein, one of the main elements that also defined the treaties resulting from the Paris Peace Conference, and especially the Treaty of Versailles, was the policy of “reparations”. This policy mainly entailed that the countries that lost WWI had to face the payment of enormous sums to compensate the Allies.

This policy, so aggressive, led to the resignation of a young economist from the British delegation at the Peace Conference, called Keynes, who warned of the destabilizing effects in the economic and financial field that this could have. Indeed, this was one of the main causes of the German hyper-inflationary crisis of the years 1920-23, in which a loaf of bread reached the cost of billions of German marks. The influence of this crisis on the discrediting of the Weimar Republic and the consequent rise of Nazism is well known.

This sequence of events is at the base of the almost pathological animosity of the German economists to inflation. Since the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany, German official economic and financial policy has been always conditioned by a strict control of inflation: perceived as the mother of all possible and imaginable evils. This was the policy that Chancellor Merkel imposed, not only in Germany but also in the rest of Europe, during the last economic and financial crisis; a restrictive policy that would avoid the supposed danger of inflation. With the consequent austerity policies and their consequences…

All of this and more, a hundred years ago, started in a wagon inside the Forest of Compiègne, northeast of Paris.

Manuel Manonelles is the Delegate of the Government of Catalonia in Switzerland, as well as Visiting Professor at the University Ramon Llull – Blanquerna (Barcelona)

 

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“Governments are Starting to See that Organic Food Policy Works”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/governments-starting-see-organic-food-policy-works/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=governments-starting-see-organic-food-policy-works http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/governments-starting-see-organic-food-policy-works/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 18:22:54 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158460 Many countries and farmers around the world are not readily making the switch to organic farming. But the small Himalayan mountain state of Sikkim, which borders Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, is the first 100 percent organic farming state in the world.  Earlier this month, Sikkim, won the Future Policy Award 2018 (FPA) for being the […]

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According to ‘The World State of Agriculture 2018’, India is the country with the highest number of organic producers (835'000). This is a woman cultivating her tea plantation in the southwestern Indian state of Kerala. Credit: Ilaria Cecilia/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Oct 31 2018 (IPS)

Many countries and farmers around the world are not readily making the switch to organic farming. But the small Himalayan mountain state of Sikkim, which borders Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan, is the first 100 percent organic farming state in the world. 

Earlier this month, Sikkim, won the Future Policy Award 2018 (FPA) for being the first state in the world to declare itself, in 2015, 100 percent organic.

Its path towards becoming completely organic started in 2003, when Chief Minister Pawan Chamling announced the political vision to make Sikkim “the first organic state of India”.

The FPA, also known as the ‘Oscar for Best Policies’ is organised every year by the World Future Council (WFC). The aim of the FPA is to investigate solutions to the challenges in today’s world. The WFC looks at which policies have a holistic and long-term outlook, and which protect the rights of future generations. And once a year the WFC awards showcases the very best of them.

This year, in cooperation with IFOAM-Organics International (IFOAM) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the FPA decided to focus on the best policies to scale up agroecology.

In 2004, one year after the vision was announced, Sikkim adopted its Policy on Organic Farming and in 2010, the state launched the Organic Mission, an action plan to implement the policy. In 2015, thanks to strong political coherence and strategy planning, the goal was achieved.

Among the noteworthy measures adopted by Sikkim during that decade, the fact that 80 percent of the budget between 2010 and 2014 was intended to build the capacity of farmers, rural service providers and certification bodies. The budget also supported farmers in acquiring certifications, and had various measures to provide farmers with quality organic seeds.

Best practices on agroecology: Denmark’s Organic Action Plan

The WFC has also rewarded other government policies with Silver Awards, Vision Awards and Honourable Mentions. Among the Silver awardees was Denmark’s Organic Action Plan, which has become a popular policy planning tool in European countries over the last decade.

Almost 80 percent of Danes purchase organic food and today the country has the highest organic market share in the world (13 percent).

“What has made Danish consumers among the most enthusiastic organic consumers [in the world], is that we have done a lot of consumer information and we have worked strategically with the supermarkets to place organics as part of their strategy to appeal to consumers on the value of food, putting more value into food through organics,” Paul Holmbeck, Political Director of ‘Organic Denmark’, told IPS.

The importance of being organic and agroecological

The policies of Sikkim and Denmark, as well as those of Ecuador and Brazil — countries that also received Silver Awards — are steps towards a world where agroecology becomes widespread and practiced globally. In fact, to conceive cultivated land as ecosystems themselves, in which every living and nonliving component affects every other component, is vital to obtain not only healthy and organic food, but also to preserve our environment.

Indeed, it would be a mistake to think that having organic products on our tables necessarily means having solved all problems related to intensive agriculture and to the damages on the environment.

“Agroecology is one approach that applies ecological concepts and principles to food and farm systems, focusing on the interaction between micro-organisms, plants, animals, humans and the environment, to foster sustainable agriculture development, in order to ensure food security and nutrition for all, now and in the future,” Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director General, told IPS. “It is based on co-creation of knowledge, sharing and innovation, combining local, traditional, indigenous practices with multi-disciplinary science.”

Emerging trends on organic

According to the report, The World of Organic Agriculture 2018 – Statistics and Emerging Trends, released earlier this year and authored by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and IFOAM, 57.8 million hectares (ha) worldwide were farmed organically in 2016. This is an increase of 7.5 million ha (or 13 percent) compared to the previous year.

In 2016, the share of land dedicated to organic farmland increased across the globe: Europe (6.7 percent increase), Asia (34 percent increase), Africa (7 percent increase), Latin America (6 percent increase), North America (5 percent increase).

Australia had the largest agricultural area farmed organically (27.2 million ha), followed by Argentina (3 million ha), and China (2.3 million ha).

In 2016, there were 2.7 million organic farmers. Around 40 percent of whom live in Asia, followed by Africa (27 percent) and Latin America (17 percent).

According to the report, the total area devoted in Asia to organic agriculture was almost 4.9 million ha in 2016 and there were 1.1 million organic producers in the region, with India being the country with the highest number of organic producers (835,000).

So the success of Sikkim is not surprising considering that the Asian continent can be considered among the regions at the forefront of organic production.

Perspectives about the future

However, favouring the scale up of agroecology, which includes producing organic products, is unfortunately not that simple.

“To harness the multiple sustainability benefits that arise from agroecological approaches, as enabling environment is required, including adapted policies, public investments, institutions and research priorities,” said Semedo.  “However, this is not yet a reality in the majority of countries.”

Indeed, poverty, malnutrition, unfair distribution of wealth, decreasing of biodiversity, deterioration of natural resources like soil and water, and climate change are significant challenges in most countries.

Agriculture will become one of the greatest challenges, if not addressed properly. Therefore, moving towards more sustainable agriculture and food systems is certainly a potential part of the solution, not only for our health and wellness but for the planet itself.

“It’s vital for everyone to be organic [and] for every person to eat organic because otherwise people would eat poison and basically writing a recipe for chronic diseases. It could be cancer [as well as] neurological problems,” warned Vandana Shiva, a food and agriculture expert and member of the WFC, told IPS during the ceremony of the Future Policy Award 2018 at FAO headquarters in Rome this October.

“Organic is the only living solution to climate change. Chemical farming is a very big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions but organic farming takes the excess carbon out of the atmosphere and puts it in the soil,” she added.

However, there seems to be a large consensus with the fact that the planet needs to move towards a more sustainable way of living and this is a reason for optimism.

“I’m very optimistic about organics [because] we are creating new solutions for climate and animal welfare, sustainability and good soil every single day,” said Holmbeck. “Governments are starting to see that organic food policy works: it is good for farmers, for consumers and for the planet.”

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Q&A: Creating a Safe Space for Survivors of Sexual Exploitation in the Aid Sectorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-creating-safe-space-survivors-sexual-exploitation-aid-sector/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-creating-safe-space-survivors-sexual-exploitation-aid-sector http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/qa-creating-safe-space-survivors-sexual-exploitation-aid-sector/#respond Sun, 28 Oct 2018 07:56:18 +0000 Wambi Michael http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158398 Wambi Michael speaks on INGVILD SOLVANG, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Global Lead on Gender and Social Development on safeguarding staff against sexual harassment and exploitation.

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Panel at the Safeguarding Conference in London. the Department for International Development (DFID) held a Safeguarding Summit which brought together 500 people to commit to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment in the international aid development sector. Credit: DFID/MichaelHughes

By Wambi Michael
KAMPALA, Oct 28 2018 (IPS)

How to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment in the aid sector is a question that has come to the forefront in the past year as allegations have been made against various global organisations, including the United Nations.

In July the U.N. announced that it received 70 new allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse across all its entities and implementing partners, between the beginning of April to the end of June. In April, global charity Save the Children was accused of not investing allegations of sexual abuse by staff.

And in February, Oxfam workers were accused of hiding an investigation into hiring sex workers by staff in Haiti in 2011 and in Chad in 2006. Oxfam, a confederation of 20 NGOs, receives funding from both the United Kingdom government and it’s government department responsible for administering overseas aid, the Department for International Development (DFID). Save the Children also received funding from DFID.

This month DFID, working with Interpol and the Association of Chief Police Officers, held a Safeguarding Summit which brought together 500 people to commit to prevent sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment in the international aid development sector. The NGO side to the summit was controversially convened by Save the Children.

Ingvild Solvang, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Global Lead on Gender and Social Development attended the summit where practical steps aimed at making the humanitarian and development sectors safer and more accountable where agreed upon.

Around 500 high level representatives from the U.N., NGOs, private sector, academic and financing community attended.

“I was there to represent GGGI and to share GGGI’s experience on how we approach these important issues. These issues have been mostly focused on work in the humanitarian situation where the big power gaps between vulnerable and effected populations and agencies who are there to help create an environment that might foster exploitation and abuse,” Solvang tells IPS.

Excerpts from the interview follow:

Ingvild Solvang, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Global Lead on Gender and Social Development. Courtesy: Ingvild Solvang

Inter Press Service (IPS): From your previously experience, why was it important to ‘put people first’ as per the theme of the summit?

Ingvild Solvang (IS): I think particularly in the humanitarian sector where several reports over the last couple of decades have unearthed that actors have not been able to deal with this effectively, the learning is that this has caused tremendous suffering from the abuse itself, but also from people being re-traumatised as a result of organisations’ inadequate ways of handling the issues when reports are made.

GGGI has effective mechanisms to deal with violations in our Codes of Conduct, and that includes sexual harassment and exploitation. At the same time we know that we can always improve, and we need to continue to communicate about these issues to ensure that our standards are known, and that we hold ourselves to account.

A strength of GGGI’s approach to sexual harassment and exploitation is that the message comes from the highest level and works in synergy with a broad participatory approach internally as a part of an Organisational Culture Initiative to define of our core values.

One powerful statement that came out of the DFID summit was that it is important to articulate clearly what is acceptable behaviour, and to signal through dealing with “the smaller stuff” that the big things are unacceptable.

IPS: So what has been GGGI’s experience with sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse?

IS: Our policies for good governance and accountability include policies aimed at safeguarding people both in programme and operations. Though much focus around sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse (SHEA) is on the humanitarian sector, GGGI has worked from the start since we were founded as an international organisation six years ago to ensure that staff, interns, partners and communities that come in contact with our operations are safeguarded.

IPS: What is the importance of safeguarding? And what steps have been taken by GGGI to raise awareness of safeguarding issues?

IS: GGGI has from the start implemented staff codes of conduct and ways to handle complaints and grievances both internally and externally. GGGI’s whistleblower mechanism enables external parties to raise grievances and concerns. For internal issues we are working with an ombudsman, who is trained to mediate in staff related issues, including issues of SHEA.

GGGI’s human resources has recently established a team of Respectful Workplace Advisors at different levels and geographical locations of GGGI, who are trained to advise staff on how to seek solutions to problems they may face, including on SHEA. All new staff are required to take an online course on SHEA.

GGGI’s Projects are designed in alignment with the GGGI Environmental and Social Safeguards Rules, which align with international recognised standards.

IPS: You said you shared GGGI approach to safeguarding issues at the conference. Can you tell us what you shared with participants?

IS: Perhaps most innovative of GGGI’s approaches is GGGI’s Culture Initiative, which is a movement of staff across the organisation who are deliberately engaged in articulation of our core values and behaviours we want to promote in GGGI.

As a young organisation we believe we have a unique opportunity to deliberately shape culture. And the creation of a culture of respect and accountability is key to the tackling of SHEA. The issue of culture was frequently addressed also during the summit, that it is important to find a balance between hard policy and system and approaches to culture building.

Though GGGI didn’t formally present at the DFID summit…people I talked to were particularly interested in GGGI’s approaches to shaping the organisational culture through both formal and informal channels. While, I could learn a lot from more established organisations who willingly shared their SHEA policies for us to learn from. 

Q: Were there some learning points from the summit that can be incorporated into GGGI?

As a follow up from the summit, a GGGI working group for SHEA will meet to discuss follow up actions. For example, we will discuss the need for a separate SHEA Policy in addition to SHEA being defined in Staff Codes of Conduct. A separate policy will add additional strength to the signal that this is an important issue.

We will also align our staff training on SHEA with internal procedures to ensure that everyone is aware of how we define acceptable behaviours on the one hand, but of equal importance is the need to ensure that anyone in and around GGGI who experience sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse should know where to turn to for help and assistance.

This is what the summit was really about: ensuring that survivors of SHEA are at the centre of how organisations handle these issues. Another issue we are looking into is how to report on any such cases. A challenge is that personnel issues are confidential, so organisations struggle with how to effectively report. Other organisations have feared reputation issues. The summit highlighted the importance of reporting to show that issues are dealt with effectively and appropriately. This is not least important for people who have experienced harassment or exploitation to know they have been heard.

Q: What do you make of the outcomes from the conference?

IS: The Summit was a good opportunity for GGGI to reconfirm our commitment to the issue. It is important that the donor community represented by DFID takes such a clear stand and promises clear guidelines and support in building up effective safeguard mechanisms.

From here we at GGGI will continue to work to create a good place to work, to be a good partner, and to have transformational impact where we work. At GGGI we want to contribute so that #metoo and attention to this issue in the international development sector become game changers.

The post Q&A: Creating a Safe Space for Survivors of Sexual Exploitation in the Aid Sector appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Wambi Michael speaks on INGVILD SOLVANG, Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Global Lead on Gender and Social Development on safeguarding staff against sexual harassment and exploitation.

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Did post-Soviet Russians drink themselves to death?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/post-soviet-russians-drink-death/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=post-soviet-russians-drink-death http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/post-soviet-russians-drink-death/#comments Tue, 23 Oct 2018 13:42:57 +0000 Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158322 Although initially obscured by The Economist, among others, the sudden and unprecedented increase in Russian adult male mortality during 1992-1994 is no longer denied. Instead, the debate is now over why? Having advocated ‘shock therapy’, a ‘big bang’, ‘sudden’ or rapid post-Soviet transition, Jeffrey Sachs and others have claimed that the sudden collapse in Russian […]

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By Vladimir Popov and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
MOSCOW and KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 23 2018 (IPS)

Although initially obscured by The Economist, among others, the sudden and unprecedented increase in Russian adult male mortality during 1992-1994 is no longer denied. Instead, the debate is now over why?

Having advocated ‘shock therapy’, a ‘big bang’, ‘sudden’ or rapid post-Soviet transition, Jeffrey Sachs and others have claimed that the sudden collapse in Russian adult male life expectancy was due to a sudden increase in alcohol consumption, playing into popular foreign images of vodka-binging Russian men.

In Russia, vodka is a killer. Credit: Pavol Stracansky/IPS

In fact, the transition to the market economy and democracy in Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics dramatically reduced life expectancy owing to greater stress exacerbated by the nature and impact of the early post-Soviet transition under Boris Yeltsin, especially during his first term.

 

Did post-Soviet Russians drink much more vodka?

While alcohol consumption did increase greatly after Gorbachev’s anti-alcoholism campaign (1985-1987) ended, it never reached the highest Soviet level in 1984.

While there has been a strong correlation between alcohol consumption and the adult male mortality rate, there have been several periods when per capita alcohol consumption levels and death rates moved in opposing directions. In 2002-2007, for example, death rates from deliberately inflicted (‘external’) causes, including murder, suicide and poisoning, fell despite rising alcohol consumption.

Similarly, from 1960 to 1970, alcohol consumption increased from 4.6 to 8.5 litres per capita, according to official statistics (and from 9.8 to 12 litres, according to other estimates), whereas life expectancy did not change much, rising from 69 years in 1960 to 70 in 1965, and then falling back to 69 again in 1970.

 

How did much poorer Russians afford more vodka?

Not surprisingly, claims of strong correlations between lower alcohol prices, higher alcohol consumption and adult male mortality focus on the price effect without considering the income effect. While increased alcohol intake has been attributed to the lower relative prices of spirits in the early 1990s, it ignores the fact that real incomes fell even more sharply.

In fact, Russian vodka consumption has fallen sharply, by more than half, in recent decades, from over 200 billion litres in the early 1980s and 1990s, to about 100 billion litres in 2015. Meanwhile, the wine and beer shares of alcohol consumption have increased markedly.

Some studies claim that at least 30 per cent of alcohol consumption in Russia is unrecorded, and official figures understate drinking low cost alcohol with high toxicity. But this claim has no empirical support, even if only indirect.

Thus, the impact of increased alcohol intake on cardio-vascular diseases remains moot, with per capita alcohol consumption and death rates moving in opposite directions at times. Death rates due to deliberately inflicted (‘external’) causes, including murder, suicide and poisoning, fell despite rising alcohol consumption during 2002-2007.

 

How does vodka kill?

Some Western observers attributed as much as a third of total deaths in Russia to alcohol related causes. These are the highest estimates available, but are doubted by most other experts.

This very high share is much greater than official statistics which suggest that less than four per cent of deaths were due to alcohol consumption, i.e., alcohol poisoning, liver cirrhosis, alcoholism, and alcoholic psychosis. Some independent researchers have an intermediate position, attributing about 12 per cent of all deaths to alcohol-related causes.

Other observers argue that average alcohol consumption levels are not necessarily a good indicator of health risks. One such argument is that not all consumption of alcohol, but only of hard spirits, particularly vodka in the case of Russia, is responsible for the increased mortality.

 

Why did Russian life expectancy fall after Gorbachev?

Russia has long had extensive post-mortem causes of death data, having done autopsies for more than 60 per cent of all deaths, i.e., more than anywhere else. Some public health experts argue that while cardiovascular disease was the main cause of death, much of this was due to lethal levels of alcoholism.

Deaths from alcohol poisoning are widely regarded as the better indicator of excessive alcohol consumption compared to official production figures as liquor may be produced illegally within a country or smuggled into it.

Deaths from alcohol poisoning increased from 10 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1990-1991 to nearly 40 in 1994, exceeding the number due to suicide and murder. By 2007, however, such alcohol related deaths had fallen to late Soviet levels, even though the overall mortality rate remained well above the rate from those times.

 

Stress kills

There is growing evidence that stress kills, using extensive data on earlier declines in life expectancy among men in all former Soviet republics and East European countries. In Georgia, Armenia and Eastern Europe, mortality increased, lowering life expectancy, without increased drinking.

Only a few causes of male deaths during 1980–2013 were alcohol-related, e.g., accidental poisoning by alcohol, liver cirrhosis, ischemic heart diseases, stroke, travel accidents, and other ‘external’ causes.

The continuous decline in adult male mortality in Belarus and Russia cannot be fully explained by anti-alcohol policies, although such interventions probably contributed to the large mortality falls in both countries during 2005–2006, and in Belarus in 2012. These mortality declines coincided with and probably accelerated to already declining alcohol-related mortality.

All statistics and estimates agree that per capita alcohol consumption in the 1990s was equal to or lower than in the early 1980s, while deaths due to ‘external’ causes doubled, and the total death rate increased by half.

Thus, simultaneous increases in the total death rate, the death rate due to external causes and to alcohol consumption were all probably due to another factor, namely stress.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was assistant director-general for Economic and Social Development, Food and Agriculture Organisation, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

Vladimir Popov is Research Director at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute in Berlin

 

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Caribbean-American Artist Blazes in New Showhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/caribbean-american-artist-blazes-new-show/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-american-artist-blazes-new-show http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/caribbean-american-artist-blazes-new-show/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 18:02:41 +0000 SWAN http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158053 When Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings were shown in France a few years ago, a visitor overheard a teenager remarking that the artwork seemed to have come from “a very angry little boy”. Now, that sense of artistic fury or frenetic energy is put into context in a stunning new exhibition that comprises more than 120 works […]

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The works of Caribbean-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (pictured here) are on display in the the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. It presents Basquiat in a new light, emphasising his status as a major figure in the history of art, 30 years after his death at the age of 27. Credit: CC by 2.0

By SWAN
PARIS, Oct 8 2018 (IPS)

When Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings were shown in France a few years ago, a visitor overheard a teenager remarking that the artwork seemed to have come from “a very angry little boy”.

Now, that sense of artistic fury or frenetic energy is put into context in a stunning new exhibition that comprises more than 120 works displayed in the remarkable setting of the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris  –  the museum and cultural centre designed by the architect Frank Gehry and launched in 2014.

The Foundation’s spacious galleries present the Caribbean-American artist in a new light, emphasising Basquiat’s status as a major figure in the history of art, 30 years after his death at the age of 27.

“The Foundation spotlights an artist I personally consider to be among the most important of the second half of the twentieth century,” said Bernard Arnault, president of the Foundation, and CEO of global luxury-goods company LMVH, which sponsors the museum.

In a foreword to the exhibition, Arnault, an avid art collector, added that the “complexity of Basquiat’s work is equalled only by the spontaneity” of the feelings it arouses.

“He figures among the origins of my collection and I owe him a tremendous amount for inspiring my passion for art in general, and for contemporary art in particular,” wrote Arnault, whose collection has contributed to that of the Foundation.

The exhibition comprises an impressive range of huge paintings and drawings on canvas, wood and other materials. They are shown in a thematic fashion that takes viewers into Basquiat’s thoughts and feelings about issues such as discrimination and inequality, and one can’t help being impressed by the immense number of works he produced in his short life.

The show runs in tandem with an exhibition on Austrian painter Egon Schiele, who also died in his twenties – 70 years before Basquiat, in 1918. Both artists are “signal figures in the art of their time, the early and late twentieth century respectively,” says Suzanne Pagé, artistic director of the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Although their art is presented separately, in different parts of the museum, the artists are linked by “their breath-taking, youth-driven work” which has made them “icons” for new generations, according to Pagé.

The “Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition certainly addresses his iconic stature: his work is easily identifiable from his graphic style of painting, his use of vibrant colours and the subjects he addressed. As viewers walk through the eight galleries, over four flours of the museum, the works form a searing biography of the artist.

Born in Brooklyn in 1960 to a mother of Puerto Rican descent and a father from Haiti, Basquiat grew up with a love for art, as his mother took him to museums in New York and enrolled him in art lessons.

His childhood was marked by an accident in 1968 when, at the age of seven, he was hit by a car as he played in the street. While recovering from a broken arm and internal injuries, his mother gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, a book on human anatomy with illustrations of body parts, skulls and skeletons.

More than 120 works of Caribbean-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat are on display in the the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. Pictured here is his work Taking Venus. Credit: Thomas Hawk/CC by 2.0

According to biographers, this book would have a great influence on his work; indeed, a theme in the current exhibition is Basquiat’s preoccupation with the inner functions of the body and with dying.

As a child, Basquiat also experienced his parents’ separation and his mother’s mental illness, as the family moved between New York and Puerto Rico. He dropped out of high school at age 17 and was homeless for a while, producing postcards and other items to support himself. But his precocious talent soon caught the eye of gallery owners, collectors and fellow artists including the influential Andy Warhol.

“With a natural instinct for openness, linked to his twin Haitian and Puerto Rican roots, Basquiat absorbed everything like a sponge, mixing the lessons of the street with a repertoire of images, heroes, and symbols from a wide range of cultures,” Pagé said in a text introducing the exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

The sequence of his works at the show begins with the 1980 painting Untitled (Car Crash) and ends with Riding With Death – a striking painting that depicts a figure on a horse-like skeleton and which Basquiat produced shortly before he died in 1988 of a heroin overdose.

In between, visitors can view the works portraying boxers such as Sugar Ray Robinson and Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali, and see Basquiat’s artistic and political commentary on exploitation and the slave trade through paintings that include Price of Gasoline in the Third World and Slave Auction.

“Basquiat mirrored himself in his figures of black boxers and jazz musicians, as well as in victims of police brutality and everyday racism,” said Dieter Buchhart, curator of the exhibition, in an interview published by Le Journal de la Fondation Louis Vuitton.

“He connected the Black Atlantic, African diaspora, slavery, colonialism, suppression and exploitation with his time in New York in the 1980s, always keeping his own circumstances in view as well as those of humanity in general.”

For Basquiat, who was a forerunner of hip-hop culture, music and musicians were an essential part of the diaspora experience, and he paid homage to jazz artists, particularly Charlie Parker, with Horn Players, Discography and other works in his signature style of skulls, teeth, frantic figures, and text that send cryptic messages.

His collaborations with Warhol also form a significant part of the exhibition, with huge mural-type paintings that they jointly produced. The painting Eiffel Tower illustrates their respective styles as they playfully depict the most symbolic structure in the French capital. It’s a fitting inclusion in this Paris-based retrospective.

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An Urgent Need to Turn Down Rhetoric Against Migrants & Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/urgent-need-turn-rhetoric-migrants-refugees/#comments Tue, 18 Sep 2018 15:02:29 +0000 Carl Soderbergh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157666 Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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Sub Saharan Africans - Israel
Female African asylum-seekers during a protest march where they called on the government to recognise African migrants as refugees, and for the release of Africans who are held in detention facilities.

By Carl Söderbergh
LONDON, Sep 18 2018 (IPS)

Migration has become a focus of debate in recent years. From United States President Donald Trump’s vehemently anti-migrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric to Denmark’s new ‘ghetto laws’, the language has become increasingly heated.

The Danish government adopted these measures in 2018, specifically targeting low-income immigrant districts and including compulsory education on ‘Danish values’ for children starting at the age of one. In the United Kingdom, while still Home Secretary, Prime Minister Theresa May instituted a ‘hostile environment’ policy in 2012 that was intended to catch undocumented migrants whenever they came into contact with public services.

The policy particularly affected members of the so-called ‘Windrush generation’, the tens of thousands of Afro-Caribbean men, women and children who came over to the UK after World War Two and settled there legally. It is thought that the number of those deported runs into the hundreds, while many thousands more have had to live for several years in considerable uncertainty.

While a public outcry led to an official apology by the UK government, other leaders and governments have been resolutely unapologetic. Indeed, Trump’s travel ban for citizens of several Muslim-majority countries was approved as constitutional by the US Supreme Court in June 2018.

Such policies – and the often vitriolic language accompanying them – have had a direct and negative impact on migrant and refugee communities. According to data released by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the annual number of hate crimes against US Muslims recorded by the organization rose 15 per cent in 2017, following on from a 44 per cent increase the previous year – an increase it attributed in part to Trump’s divisive language and the discriminatory measures put forward by his administration.

Muslim woman – Thailand
A Thai policeman checks the papers of a Muslim woman at a checkpoint in Pattani.

On 11 September 2018, Minority Rights Group International launched its annual Minority and Indigenous Trends report by hosting a seminar for journalists in Krakow, Poland. This year, we focused the report on migration and displacement. We chose the theme for two reasons.

One is what I have outlined above – the casual disregard that we have repeatedly witnessed by people in power for the immediate impact of their actions and their words on minority and indigenous communities. Whenever politicians chase voters or news outlets seek to increase their readerships and advertising revenues by targeting migrants, they ignore the very real consequences in terms of increased hatred towards those same communities.

The other reason is that we sought to reflect the lived realities of migrants and refugees themselves – in particular, how discrimination and exclusion drive many people to make the very hard choice to leave their homes. It remains very difficult to arrive at a total percentage of minorities and indigenous peoples among the world’s migrants and refugees.

This is partly due to lack of interest – after all, much of the reporting on migration remains fixated on overall numbers rather than on the individual stories. More particularly, migrants and refugees who belong to minorities or indigenous peoples may well feel a need to remain silent about their ethnicity or religious faith, for fear of further persecution in transit or upon arrival in their new homes.

However, there are many clear indicators from around the world of an immediate causal link between marginalization and movement. The horrifying targeting of Yezidis by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, as well as more recently of Rohingya by the military and its allies in Myanmar, are by now well-documented. In both cases, the overwhelming majority of the communities have been displaced.

Migrant workers – Russia

But there are many other examples of membership in minority and indigenous populations and displacement. In Ethiopia, the government’s crackdown on political dissent, aimed particularly at the Oromo population, contributed directly to an upsurge in migration from that community. Data collected by the Regional Mixed Migration Secretariat (RMMS) showed that by the beginning of 2017 as many as 89 per cent of arriving Ethiopian migrants in the key nearby transit country Yemen stated that they belong to the Oromo community. In Colombia, displacement by armed groups has continued despite the 2016 peace accord.

This disproportionately affects Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities who made up more than a quarter (26 per cent) of the more than 139,000 forcibly displaced in the country between January and October 2017, double their share of the national population as a whole.

In fact, the Colombian example is important as it highlights how, while global attention shifts away from a particular situation, the plight of minorities and indigenous peoples continues. Here, the distinction governments and UN agencies seek to make between refugees on the one hand and migrants on the other becomes blurred and even unhelpful.

The US government denies asylum to victims of Central American gang violence. However, much of the brutal gang-related violence in Guatemala, for instance, has affected indigenous communities disproportionately: decades of conflict and discrimination have left them impoverished and marginalized, with little recourse to protection from police or the judiciary. Indeed, in many cases their situation has been aggravated by official persecution.

The discrimination that caused many migrants and refugees to leave their homes often follows them while in transit. While the abusive treatment of asylum seekers and their families crossing into the US has been widely reported, the crackdown within Mexico on Central American migrants, particularly indigenous community members, has received less coverage.

Significantly, it has resulted not only in the targeting of foreign nationals, including many women and children, but also the arrest and intimidation of indigenous Mexicans by police. Over the past year, reports have emerged from Libya of sub-Saharan Africans trapped by the containment policies of the European Union, who now find themselves targeted by security forces, militias and armed groups. There have been widespread reports of torture, sexual assault and enslavement of migrants, many of whom are vulnerable not only on account of their ethnicity but also as non-Muslims.

The situation is further complicated for groups within minority or indigenous communities, such as women, children, persons with disabilities and LGBTQI people, who contend with multiple forms of discrimination and as a result face heightened threats of sexual assault, physical attacks and other rights abuses – in their places of origin, whilst in transit and upon arrival at their destinations.

What then is needed?

Firstly, all those participating in national and international debates on migration need to tone down their rhetoric. The Danish government could, for instance, have devised policies supporting marginalized urban districts without resorting to the historically loaded term, ‘ghetto’, which immediately stigmatizes residents while giving a green light to racists.

Secondly, governments need to abide by fundamental human rights principles, including the basic right to live with dignity. And finally, all those who are contributing to the debate – including media – must get past the numbers and reveal the individual stories. In order to discuss migration, one needs to understand it fully.

While the way forward may appear challenging, I was inspired by the many Polish journalists who attended our launch event in Krakow and who are already rising to the challenge by seeking out the stories that migrants and refugees have to tell us.

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Excerpt:

Carl Soderbergh is Director of Policy & Communications, Minority Rights Group International

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Global Warming Threatens Europe’s Public Healthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/global-warming-threatens-europes-public-health/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2018 10:16:43 +0000 Ed Holt http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157598 Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent. This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are […]

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Parched olive groves in northern Croatia, where West Nile Virus has already claimed one victim this year. West Nile Virus infections have sharply increased in Europe this year, the World Health Organisation says, largely due to a longer transmission season in the region which this year saw high temperatures and extended rainy spells followed by dry weather, helping mosquito breeding and propagation. Credit: Ed Holt/IPS

By Ed Holt
VIENNA, Sep 13 2018 (IPS)

Climate change and health experts are warning of the growing threat to public health in Europe from global warming as rising temperatures help potentially lethal diseases spread easily across the continent.

This summer Europe has had to contend with record temperatures, drought, and destructive storms caused by heat and wildfires as forests in turn are left parched.

It has also, though, seen a spike in cases of the West Nile Virus – which by early September had claimed 71 lives – and the dramatic spread of the potentially lethal vibrio bacteria in an exceptionally warm Baltic Sea. The West Nile Virus is a viral infection spread by mosquitos and can cause neurological disease and death. Various species of vibrio bacteria cause Vibriosis, which can sometimes lead to deadly skin infections or gastrointestinal disease.“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.” -- Anne Stauffer, Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL).

And there have been warnings that global warming has increased the risk of tick-borne diseases on the continent and that the geographical range of mosquitoes, which can transmit diseases like dengue, chikungunya, and Zika, is also expanding.

While disease experts are keen to stress that climate change is just one factor involved in the greater incidence of tropical diseases in Europe – increasing global travel, unplanned urbanisation and others factors are also involved – they do, however, agree that changes to temperature, rainfall and humidity make it easier for mosquitoes and other vectors to spread, survive and pass on infections.

Meanwhile, the incidences of vibrio infections – which can cause lethal illnesses in some people with compromised immune systems – reported in the Baltic Sea this year do appear to be directly linked to higher temperatures.

Jan Semenza, acting head of Section Scientific Assessment at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), told IPS: “The warming of the Baltic Sea is clearly related to global climate change and the increase in sea surface temperatures there is linked to [the increase in] vibrio bacteria.

“There seems to be a link with a warming climate and vibrio infections in the Baltic Sea.”

He added: “Climate change projections for sea surface temperature ….. indicate a marked upward trend during the summer months and an increase in the relative risk of  these infections in the coming decades.”

Groups dealing with the impact of climate change on health say that this year has been a watershed in European perception of climate change and its effects.

Anne Stauffer, director of Strategy at the non-profit Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) group which addresses the effects of climate change on human health, told IPS: “In terms of public awareness this summer’s heatwave has really made people see that climate change is happening in Europe and that we are facing threats.

“In previous years people thought about the effects of climate change only in terms of what’s happened in Africa and other places, not Europe, but now they see that Europe is affected and that Europe is facing challenges.”

But while public awareness of the health threats of climate change in Europe has improved over the last decade, it is still lacking, she says.

Experts on tropical diseases agree that in some countries, people are, perhaps understandably, ignorant of even the presence of certain diseases in Europe.

Rachel Lowe, an assistant professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told IPS: “It would probably not occur to a lot of people in, say the [United Kingdom], to think about West Nile Virus when they go to Romania.”

Indeed, some tropical diseases have been present in Europe for many years, but confined to very southerly latitudes, while ticks, some of which can carry lyme disease (results in flu-like symptoms and a rash) and encephalitis (inflammation of the brain through an infection), are present in many parts of the continent.

But this year has seen a rise in cases of tick-borne encephalitis in central and southern Europe.

But with temperatures rising, that could change in the future. Cases of West Nile Virus, which have been reported in some parts of Europe for many years now, were much higher this year than in recent years and were seen much earlier than previously. This has been put down, in large part, to higher temperatures earlier in the year.

At the same time, there has been a documented expansion in the range of disease-carrying ticks in recent years to more northerly latitudes and higher elevations. Hot summers and mild winters have also been reported to be linked, along with other factors, to high incidence of tick-borne disease in certain parts of central and northern Europe.

A spokesman for the World Health Organization (WHO) told IPS: “Increases in temperatures in Europe might allow the establishment of tropical and semitropical vector species, permitting transmission of diseases in areas where low temperatures have hitherto prevented their over-wintering.”

Facing this potential threat, the WHO’s European Region Office has devoted increasing attention over recent years to what it says is the “emerging challenge of vector-borne diseases”.

It has developed a regional framework for surveillance and control of mosquitoes and recommends involving a mix of action, including, among others, political commitment supported with adequate financial resources as well as community engagement for both personal protection against insect bites and vector control activities.

But experts say that general awareness of the presence and threat of tropical diseases in Europe needs to be raised, especially as climate change models see similar long, hot summers as well as milder winters becoming more common across the continent in future and countries could suddenly face outbreaks of diseases they have not had to deal with in the past.

The WHO spokesperson told IPS: “Due to globalisation, increasing volume and pace of travel and trade and weather patterns, vector-borne disease may spread to new areas, thus affecting new populations never exposed to them before.

“In these areas, low general awareness about diseases such as West Nile Virus, dengue or chikungunya among the public and both human and animal health professionals might challenge early detection of cases.”

And Lowe told IPS: “People need to be more aware of this [tropical diseases in Europe]. People are becoming more aware of infectious diseases in general, but probably not so aware of the fact there are certain infectious diseases in Europe.”

It is not just public awareness, though, which will help Europe deal with the health threats posed by a changing climate. Whether, for example, mosquito-borne disease outbreaks, would be successfully contained, would depend on a number of factors. “This would include factors such as surveillance of mosquito spread, mosquito control as well as general public awareness,” Lowe told IPS.

The WHO told IPS that public health advice needs to be communicated to people for self-protection and while authorities need to make sure mosquito breeding sites are drained so that they do not become breeding grounds for mosquitos while doctors need to be regularly trained to recognise diseases which were uncommon in Europe.

But what some other experts suggest is, rather than trying to deal with outbreaks of diseases, governments should be working to halt climate change and prevent disease outbreaks happening in the first place.

Stauffer told IPS: “There are still unknowns with regards to the health threats potentially posed by climate change and we do not know how they will play out… but the lesson learnt from this summer is that we need to strengthen efforts to tackle climate change – not just adapting healthcare to cope with a warmer climate but also acting to reduce emissions.

“We need to think about preventing health problems by dealing with the causes of climate change itself.”

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Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/qa-water-scarcity-becomes-new-normal-manage-scarce-resource/#respond Tue, 11 Sep 2018 12:42:37 +0000 Manipadma Jena http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157558 Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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In south west coastal Satkhira, Bangladesh as salinity has spread to freshwater sources, a private water seller fills his 20-litre cans with public water supply to sell in islands where poor families spend 300 Bangladesh Taka every month to buy drinking and cooking water alone. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

By Manipadma Jena
STOCKHOLM, Sep 11 2018 (IPS)

Growing economies are thirsty economies. And water scarcity has become “the new normal” in many parts of the world, according to Torgny Holmgren executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

As climate change converges with rapid economic and urban development and poor farming practices in the emerging economies of South Asia, water insecurity for marginalised people and farmers is already intensifying.

By 2030 for instance, India’s demand for water is estimated to become double the available water supply. Forests, wetlands lost, rivers and oceans will be degraded in the name of development. This need not be so. Development can be sustainable, it can be green.

Technology today is a key component in achieving water use sustainability – be it reduced water use in industries and agriculture, or in treating waste water, among others. Low and middle income economies need water and data technology support from developed countries not only to reach Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 on water, which relates to access to safe water and sanitation as well as the sound management of freshwater supplies, but several global goals in which water plays a critical role.

Speakers at SIWI’s 28th World Water Week held last month in Stockholm, Sweden, underpinned water scarcity as contributing to poverty, conflict, and the spread of waterborne diseases, as well as hindering access to education for women and girls.

Women are central to the collection and the safeguarding of water – they are responsible for more than 70 percent of water chores and management worldwide. But the issue goes far deeper than the chore of fetching water.  It is also about dignity, personal hygiene, safety, opportunity loss and reverting to gender stereotypes.

Women’s voices remain limited in water governance in South Asia, even though their participation in water governance can alleviate water crises through their traditional knowledge on small-scale solutions for agriculture, homestead gardening, and domestic water use. This can strengthen resilience to drought and improve family nutrition.

Holmgren, a former Swedish ambassador with extensive experience working in South Asia, among other regions, spoke to IPS about how South Asia can best address the serious gender imbalances in water access and the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries. Excerpts of the interview follow:

Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), says as water scarcity becomes the new normal, traditional knowledge must be combined with new technology to ensure water sustainability. Photo courtesy: SIWI

IPS: What major steps should South Asian economies adopt for sustainable water services from their natural ecosystems? 

TH: South Asia is experiencing now a scarcity of water as demand now grows, thanks to a growing economy and also growing population. For the region specifically, a fundamental aspect is how its countries govern their water accessibility. We at SIWI have seen water-scarce countries manage really efficiently while those with abundance mismanage this resource.

It boils down to how institutions, not just governments but communities, industries at large govern water – how water systems are organised and allocated. We have instances from Indian village parliaments that decide how to share, allocate and even treat common water resources together with neighbouring catchment area villages.

One good example of this is 2015 Stockholm Water Prize winner Rajendra Singh from India who has worked in arid rural areas with local and traditional water harvesting techniques to recharge river basins, revive and store rain water in traditional water bodies and bring life back to these regions. These techniques can also help to manage too much water from more frequent climate-induced floods.

Even though the largest [amount] water is presently still being consumed for food production, more and more water is being demanded by industries and electricity producers. As competition for the scarce resource accelerates, soon we have to restructure user categories differently in terms of tariffs and allocation because households and food production have to be provided adequate water.

Even farm irrigation reforms can regulate and save water as earlier award winning International Water Management Institute research has shown – that if governments lower subsidies on electricity for pumping, farmers were careful how much and for how long they extract groundwater, without affecting the crop yield. Farmers pumped less when energy tariffs were pegged higher.

IPS: What is SIWI’s stand on the issue of sustainable water technology support from developed economies to developing countries?

TH: Water has key advantages – it connects all SDGs and it is a truly global issue. If we look around we see similar situations in Cape Town, China and California. Water is not a North-South matter. Africa can learn from any country in any region. This is the opportunity the World Water Week offers.

It is true that new technology is developing fast, but a mix of this with traditional technology and local knowledge works well. We also need to adapt traditional technologies to modern water needs and situations. These can be basic, low cost and people friendly. And it could encourage more efficient storage and use of ‘green water’ (soil moisture used by plants).

Drip irrigation has begun to be used more in South Asia, India particularly. There is need to encourage this widely. Recycling and the way in which industries treat and re-use water should be more emphasised.

Technology transfer is and can be done in various ways. The private sector can develop both technologies and create markets for them. Governments too can provide enabling environments to promote technology development with commercial viability. A good example of this is mobile phone technology – one where uses today range from mobile banking to farmers’ access of weather data and farming advisory in remote regions.

Technology transfer from different countries can be donor or bank funded or through multi-lateral organisations like the international Green Climate Fund, but any technology always has to be adapted to local situations.

Training, education, knowledge and know-how sharing – are, to me, the best kinds of technology transfers. Students and researchers – be it through international educational exchanges or partnerships between overseas universities – get the know-how and can move back home to work on advancing technologies tailored to their national needs.

Is technology transfer happening adequately? There is a need to build up on new or local technology hardware. For this infrastructure finance is (increasingly) available but needs scaling up faster.

IPS: How can South Asia best address the serious gender imbalances in water access, bring more women into water governance in its patriarchal societies?

TH: It is important that those in power need encourage gender balance not in decision-making alone but in educational institutions. Making room for gender balance in an organisation’s decision-making structure is important. This can be possible if there is equal access to education. But we are seeing an encouraging trend – in youth seminars sometimes the majority attending are women.

Finding women champions from water organisations can also encourage other women to take up strong initiatives for water equity.

When planning and implementing projects there is a need to focus on what impacts, decisions under specific issues, are having on men and women separately. And projects need be accordingly gender budgeted.

IPS: How can the global south – under pressure to grow their GDP, needing more land, more industries to bring billions out of poverty – successfully balance their green and grey water infrastructure? What role can local communities play in maintaining green infrastructure? 

TH: When a water-scarce South Asian village parliament decides they will replant forests, attract rain back to the region, and when rain comes, collect it – this is a very local, community-centred green infrastructure initiative. Done on a large scale, it can bring tremendous change to people, livelihoods and societies at large.

We have long acted under the assumption that grey infrastructure – dams, levees, pipes and canals – purpose-built by humans, is superior to what nature itself can bring us in the form of mangroves, wetlands, rivers and lakes.

Grey infrastructure is very efficient at transporting and holding water for power production. But paving over the saw-grass prairie around Houston reduced the city’s ability to absorb the water that hurricane Harvey brought in August 2017.

It isn’t a question of either/or. We need both green and grey, and we need to be wise in choosing what serves our current and potential future set of purposes best.

Be it industrialised or developing countries, today we have to make more sophisticated use of green water infrastructures. Especially in South Asia’s growing urban sprawls, we must capture the flooding rainwater, store it in green water infrastructure for reuse; because grey cannot do it alone.

The post Q&A: As Water Scarcity Becomes the New Normal How Do We Manage This Scarce Resource? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Manipadma Jena interviews the executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute TORGNY HOLMGREN

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International Law Experts Warn Europe’s ‘Pull Back’ of Migrants is Illegal – Part 2http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/international-law-experts-warn-europes-pull-back-migrants-illegal-part-2/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2018 11:41:32 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157538 This is the second part of our series about migration to Italy.

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Even though fewer people are attempting irregular migration to Europe since the start of the year, the number of deaths that occur along the Mediterranean route has dramatically increased, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Amnesty International estimates. Courtesy: International Organization for Migration (IOM)

By Maged Srour
ROME, Sep 10 2018 (IPS)

“The Italian and other European authorities are engaging – on the migration issue – in a policy which has the foreseeable results of numerous deaths.” It is a grim warning from expert on international law, refugees and migration issues, and member of the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN), Itamar Mann.

In February 2017, Italy entered into an agreement with Libya to provide funds to Libyan authorities for the coordination of relief operations in the central Mediterranean. Since the agreement, the Libyan Coast Guard has returned migrants to Libya who attempted to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

However, according to a recent Amnesty International report both “Italy and the European Union (EU) are bolstering their policy of supporting the Libyan Coast Guard to ensure it prevents departures and carries out interceptions of refugees and migrants on the high seas in order to pull them back to Libya. This is also contributing to rendering the central Mediterranean route more dangerous for refugees and migrants, and rescue at sea unreliable.”

When IPS asked Mann if he thought there was a direct link between the “pull back” of migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean and the increased number of migrant deaths, Mann described this policy as “killing by omission.”

Even though fewer people are attempting irregular migration to Europe since the start of the year, the number of deaths that occur along the Mediterranean route has dramatically increased, according to International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Amnesty International estimates.

According to Amnesty International:

• From January to July 2018, 1,111 people were reported dead or missing along the central Mediterranean route,

• The death rate among those attempting the crossing from Libya has surged to 1 in 16 in the period June-July, 2018,

• This was four times higher than the rate recorded from January-May 2018, which was 1 in 64.

Migrants arriving at Lampedusa, Italy in this picture dated 2011. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

Moral responsibility lies not only with Italy, but Europe too

In May, GLAN filed an application against Italy with the European Court of Human Rights for a 2017 incident where the Libyan Coast Guard allegedly intervened in the rescue, by an non-governmental organisation, of a sinking dinghy. At least 20 people died, including two children, when the vessel sunk. But the Libyan Coast Guard is reported to have engaged in “pull back” and returned the survivors to Libya, where they reportedly endured detention in inhumane conditions and were beaten, starved and raped.“While Italy retains legal responsibility, the process has been facilitated in multiple ways by the EU, and [therefore] the moral responsibility is not exclusively Italian.” -- Itamar Mann, Global Legal Action Network (GLAN).

According to Violeta Moreno-Lax, a senior lecturer in law from Queen Mary University of London, and legal advisor to GLAN: “The Italian authorities are outsourcing to Libya what they are prohibited from doing themselves. They are putting lives at risk and exposing migrants to extreme forms of ill-treatment by proxy, supporting and directing the action of the so-called Libyan Coast Guard.”

Mann, however, pointed out that, “while Italy retains legal responsibility, the process has been facilitated in multiple ways by the EU, and [therefore] the moral responsibility is not exclusively Italian.”
“The EU, for example, has tried to advance migrant processing centres in Libya, engaged in training of Libyan forces, and turned a blind eye to continued violations. So beyond the legal case, simply blaming Italy and ignoring the larger context would be misleading,” he told IPS via email.

The Italian government is expected to respond in due course to the legal papers.

Italy’s response to irregular migration

Italy’s stance on migrants has been reported previously. The country’s interior minister Matteo Salvini was reported by the Telegraph as saying his country would no longer be “the doormat of Europe” as it had been left to largely deal with the migrant crisis on its own. The newspaper reported that in May he had called for Italy’s coast guard and naval ships to be pulled back from patrolling the Mediterranean and brought closer to home.

There have been a number of other reported incidents of alleged “pull back”.

At the end of July, Italian authorities reportedly rescued migrants at sea and returned them to Libya. Also in July, the story of how migrants on the Italian coast guard ship, the Diciotti, were reportedly blocked from disembarking by the country’s ministry of interior generated much criticism and gave rise to a heated debate in Europe. The migrants were eventually allowed to disembark in Trapani, Sicily, after intervention by Italy’s president Sergio Mattarella. 

“The repatriation of refugees to Libya is illegal, as international law prohibits the transfer of people, who encounter distress at sea, to ‘unsafe havens,’” Benjamin Labudda, an expert on migration issues and housing conditions of refugees in the European context and a PhD Scientific Assistant at the Institute of Sociology of University of Muenster, told IPS.

Non-refoulement’, a well-known fundamental principle of international law, no country receiving asylum seekers can expel or return them to territories where their lives or freedom could be threatened on account of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Concern for migrants sent back to Libya

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for IOM, told IPS he was also concerned about the return of migrants to Libya.

“If a boat is rescued in international waters and returned to Libya, we are facing a ‘pull back’. The fact that we are referring relief operations in international waters to Libya is ambiguous because the migrants would probably be taken to an unsafe port,” he said.

He said the issue should be kept under close observation, as according to international law migrants rescued at sea should not be returned to Libya, which was “not a safe harbour.”

“We must promote legality, through more residence permits and integration policies,” said Di Giacomo. “A simple closure would be misunderstood by the countries of origin of these migrants. They would only see ‘the rich Europe that sends back the poor Africans.’”

Labudda added that agreements for the distribution of refugees among EU countries must be institutionalised and enforced, as many countries still refuse to welcome refugees.
“A solution regarding the structure of a process of distribution has to be found as soon as possible in the upcoming months,” he added.

The post International Law Experts Warn Europe’s ‘Pull Back’ of Migrants is Illegal – Part 2 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This is the second part of our series about migration to Italy.

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Climate Change Becomes a Reality Check for the Northhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/climate-change-becomes-reality-check-north/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2018 15:53:42 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157468 “This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending […]

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A drought stressed maize crop on Leo De Jong's farm, in the Netherlands. De Jong says he spends between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
WAGENINGEN, The Netherlands, Sep 5 2018 (IPS)

“This season, the month of May was particularly hot and dry,” says Leo De Jong, a commercial farmer in Zeewolde, in Flevopolder, the Netherlands. Flevopolder is in the province of Flevoland, the largest site of land reclamation in the world. Here a hectare of land costs up to 100,000 Euros. “At the moment, we are spending between 20,000 and 25,000 Euros per week on irrigation.”

While most reports point to developing nations being the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, it is slowly emerging that farmers in the North who generally have more resources are feeling the heat too.

From incessant wild fires and powerful hurricanes in the United States and the Caribbean, to record-breaking high temperatures and droughts in Europe and Asia, the scientific community is unanimously in agreement that climate change is the more likely cause of these extremes in weather.

And it is causing severe disruptions to agricultural production systems, the environment and biodiversity.

This is troubling as, according to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a rise in temperature of more than 2°C could exacerbate the existing food deficit and prevent the majority of African countries from attaining their Sustainable Development Goals on poverty and hunger.

While De Jong can afford spending thousands of Euros on irrigation each week, he knows it is no longer sustainable for his farming business. He currently grows potatoes, onions and wheat, among other crops, on 170 hectares of reclaimed land.

Leo De Jong in his potato field, in the Netherlands. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Soil health emerges as key

With 18 million inhabitants, the Netherlands is densely populated. Half of the Netherlands is below sea level, but part of the sea was reclaimed for agricultural purposes.

After a flood in 1916, the Dutch government decided that the Zuiderzee, an inland sea within the Netherlands, would be enclosed and reclaimed. And later, the Afsluitdijk was completed—a 32 kilometre dyke which closed off the sea completely. Between 1940 and 1968, part of this enclosed inland sea was converted into land and in 1986 it became the newest province of the Netherlands—Flevoland.

Soil health in the Flevopolder, Flevoland, which sits about four meters below sea level, is of particular importance. De Jong sees it as a hallmark for every farmer in this era of climate change, regardless of their location.

He believes the answer to the climate challenge lies in farmers’ ability to “balance between ecology and economy.” This, he tells IPS, can be achieved through various ways such as improved and efficient irrigation technology, research and innovation, as well as farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchanges like the one to which he belongs—the Skylark Foundation. At the foundation he exchanges knowledge with a group of colleagues, mainly focusing on soil health.

“I have a feeling that the climate is getting extreme but consistent usage of manure, cover crops and other efficient sustainable practices guarantees good soil health, and soil health is the hallmark on which sustainable crop production is built.”

Similarly, Peter Appelman, who specialises in farming broccoli and cabbage, agrees with the soil health argument.

Appelman says that farmers should not be preoccupied with the various systems (conventional and organic farming) currently being propagated by researchers. He says that farmers should rather adopt systems that work for them depending on the type of soils on their farms.

“We have stopped feeding the crop but the soil,” he tells IPS, pointing at a pile of composite manure. “I am not an organic farmer but I try to be sustainable in whatever way because this comes back to you. You can’t grow a good product in bad soil.”

Market access for sustainability

In addressing the production cost side of the business, Appelman points to consumer satisfaction and predictable markets as key enablers to farmers’ sustainability in this era of climate stress.

As consumer preferences become more obvious, Appelman says farmers should not expend their energies complaining about market access and growing consumer demands but should rather work hard to satisfy them.

“I think my fellow farmers complain too much, which is not the best practice for the business,” he says. “As farmers, we should exert this energy in looking for customers, and work to satisfy them—I believe better farmer-to-customer relations should be the way forward.”

According to Appelman, production should be determined by consumer/market preferences. “I travel around the world looking for markets, and through these interactions, I learn and do my work according to the needs of my customers. Look for customers first and then proceed to produce for them, because it is tough in the production stage,” says Appelman, whose farm has an annual turn-over of about two million Euros.

The Appelman family grow broccoli on 170 hectares and red and white cabbage on 60 hectares.

Research and innovation

According to Professor Louise Fresco, president of the research executive board of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the answer to the global food challenge lies in ensuring that the contribution of agriculture to climate change is positive rather than negative.

This, she says, is only possible through investment in research and innovation in order to achieve maximum efficiency for food production and to minimise waste.

“The agriculture sector therefore needs to do more than produce food—but produce efficiently,” she said in her opening address to the 2018 International Federation of Agricultural Journalists congress held in the Netherlands in July. “Food has to be produced not as a chain, but in a circular way. Water and energy use are highlights.”

Under the theme: Dutch roots—small country, big solutions; the congress highlighted what lies at the centre of the Netherlands’ agricultural prowess.

“Productivity through innovation and efficiency is the answer to why the Netherlands,ca small country, is the second-largest agricultural exporter [in the world],” said Wiebe Draijer, chief executive officer and chairman of Rabobank.

Draijer said Rabobank, which was founded as a cooperative, was happy to be associated with the Dutch agricultural prowess, which is anchored in sustainable and innovative practices.

“In response to the global food challenge, we keep refining our lending modalities to support environmental sustainability. For example, we track farmers that we give loans to to monitor their environmental sustainability practices, and there is an incentive in the form of a discount on their loans.”

Sustainability is the buzz word globally. However, it seems there is much more to be done for farmers to achieve it, especially now that negative effects of climate change are similarly being felt in both the north and the global south.

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Crisis alla Turcahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/crisis-alla-turca/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-alla-turca http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/crisis-alla-turca/#respond Tue, 28 Aug 2018 11:05:40 +0000 Yilmaz Akyuz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157380 Yilmaz Akyüz is former Director, UNCTAD, and former Chief Economist, South Centre, Geneva

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Yilmaz Akyüz is former Director, UNCTAD, and former Chief Economist, South Centre, Geneva

By Yilmaz Akyüz
GENEVA, Aug 28 2018 (IPS)

The meltdown of the Turkish currency over a matter of a few days in August 2018 has elicited various reactions and interpretations both at home and abroad, and created widespread concern that it could mark the beginning of a series of crisis in emerging economies exposed to a reassessment of risks by international investors and lenders as well as a rapid normalization of monetary policy in the United States.

Some commentators have attributed the crisis to the sanctions imposed by the Trump administration discontent with the foreign policies pursued by Turkey on many fronts.  The Erdogan government has been too happy to put the blame on “the economic warfare launched by the United States”, rather than years of misguided policies that rendered the economy highly susceptible to political and economic shocks.  It has even enjoyed support from some western governments weary of Trump’s errant foreign policy. Others drew parallels with previous crises in emerging economies, notably the East Asian crisis, placing particular emphasis on the role of external debt in dollars, notably excessive short-term borrowing.

Yilmaz Akyüz

In reality Trump sanctions only acted as a trigger as the economy was sitting on a time bomb.  The currency was already under pressure before the sanctions came into force because of growing awareness of the fragility of the economy.  The lira had lost a quarter of its value against the dollar between January and July 2018.

On the other hand, there are some crucial differences between the underlying vulnerabilities culminating in Turkish and East Asian crises, particularly with respect to the size of current account deficits, the foreign presence in domestic securities, credit and deposit markets, the extent of dollarization and the scope for capital flight by residents.  In all these respects Turkey has been much more vulnerable to currency turmoil than were the East Asian economies in the 1990s.

In a book published by OUP last year, I identified Turkey as the most fragile emerging economy highly vulnerable to external financial crisis after examining, as of end 2013, various sources of potential pressure on its currency and drain on its international reserves in the event of a sharp turnaround in market sentiments and a sudden stop of capital inflows.  It was clear that in such an event, Turkey could not at the same time finance its current account deficit, remain current on its external debt payments in dollars and allow a rapid exit of non-resident portfolio investors from domestic financial markets even in the absence of capital flight by residents.  It was also remarked that capital flight for residents often constituted greater pressure on the currency and international reserves. This was a serious potential threat in Turkey as residents could freely buy and sell dollars, hold forex deposits in local banks and transfer their assets abroad.

The economy has become even more fragile since then.  The current account deficit has remained unchecked as the government sought consumption/construction-led, debt-driven economic expansion which has added very little to productive capacity and export potential.  Persistent deficits have been financed by massive sale of national assets and external borrowing, leading to a rapid deterioration of the net international investment position, from around ‒42 per cent of GDP in 2013 to over ‒54 per cent by 2018.

External debt as a proportion of GDP rose from 41 per cent in 2013 to 63 per cent on the eve of the crisis.  A large proportion of this debt, over 25 per cent of GDP, had a remaining maturity of up to one year. The sum total of short-term debt and current account deficits was more than twice as much as international reserves.  Furthermore, the presence of non-resident portfolio investors in domestic markets became more visible and capital flight by residents remained an even more serious source of pressure on the currency and reserves for political as well as economic reasons.

Turkey, as most other major emerging economies, is highly averse to recourse to the IMF for international liquidity because of its appalling record in interventions in past crises in emerging economies

Sovereign external debt now accounts for some 20 per cent of the total while the rest is equally divided between banks and non-financial corporations.  The latter have been allowed to borrow in dollars both at home and abroad irrespective of their potential to earn foreign currency to service it. Such debt poses greater threat to stability than sovereign debt since, at times of currency turmoil, private debtors attempt to close their open positions by purchasing foreign currency in order to avoid further losses and this in turn accelerates the decline of the currency.

Turkey has thus practised an extreme form of laissez faire in financial affairs and, in effect, become a highly dollarized, dual-currency economy.  Not only liabilities and assets are increasingly denominated in the dollar, but also an important part of property prices, incomes and rents, as well as government contracts in public private partnership projects are fixed in dollars.

In such an economy, a significant loss of confidence can exert intense pressure on the currency irrespective of volume and terms of external debt.  With Trump sanctions the lira started a free fall primarily because of flight of residents, both asset holders and dollar debtors, from the currency, sudden stop of capital inflows and the exit of non-residents from local markets.  Besides, the decline was accentuated by speculators, shorting liras in swap operations in anticipation of a significant drop in the currency. The short-term dollar debt to international creditors has not yet come into play. Still, the outcome has been steep falls in the lira and stocks and a hike in yields on local-currency sovereign debt.  The cost of insuring Turkish debt (Credit Default Swaps – CDS) has shot up, reaching 500 basis points compared to 240bp for Brazil and 315bp for Greece.

In view of stern opposition of the President, the Central Bank avoided a hike in lending rates, but closed its low-cost repo funding, forcing banks to borrow at its more expensive overnight rate ‒ something aptly described as “stealth” tactic to hike borrowing costs.  Further, it has limited currency swap transactions to curb speculation against the lira.

Turkey, as most other major emerging economies, is highly averse to recourse to the IMF for international liquidity because of its appalling record in interventions in past crises in emerging economies.  As anticipated in an earlier IPS article, it thus sought help from its close allies, securing a pledge of $15 billion from Qatar.

These measures, together with 9-days respite from Muslim Eid Al-Adha brought some calm to currency and financial markets.  But all is not over yet. The underlying structural fragilities remain unabated and cannot be remedied overnight because they involve severe balance sheet distortions and imbalances.

Even if the lira remains relatively stable from now on, the sharp decline it has so far undergone ‒ by some 40 per cent since the beginning of the year ‒ could impinge heavily on unhedged debtors, resulting in serious debt servicing difficulties and even defaults.  As Bloomberg reports the CDS curve is inverted ‒ as it was in Greece in the worst days of its debt crisis ‒ not only for sovereign debt but also for the debt of some of the biggest commercial banks; that is, it costs more to insure one-year default than to buy five-year protection.  This suggests that markets are expecting imminent debt-servicing difficulties.

As loans and bonds mature in coming months, the country may find it very difficult to persuade creditors to roll over debt or to replace maturing bonds with new ones even at significantly higher rates.  An important part of syndicated bank loans is due for renewal in September 2018. The dispute with the US involving the state-owned Halkbank over Iranian sanctions can make the renewal process complicated (I thank Hakan Ozyildiz for this point).  Thus, with short-term debt coming into play, the crisis could cease to be a currency crisis but a full-blown debt and banking crisis, leading to a deep and protracted economic contraction.

The crisis could also generate severe contagion to the rest of the world.  Defaults by Turkish debtors could squeeze some European creditors, mainly a number of banks in Spain, Italy and France who have relatively high exposure directly or through subsidiaries in Turkey.  This would also have a serious impact on global risk appetite. A sharp reassessment of risks, together with monetary tightening in the US and Trump follies in trade, could wreak havoc in several emerging economies who have gone out of bounds in the years of easy money since 2008.

When so many policy mistakes are committed and so much debt is accumulated and assets are lost, there is no easy way out.  But, it is always possible to ease the pain. It is not clear if the Turkish government will be able to move from populist rhetoric to effective economic measures to address the root causes of the crisis.  On the other hand, should the crisis spread globally, the international community is unlikely to be able to manage it in an orderly and equitable way, rather than muddling through it as in the past, because it is no more prepared to respond to such crises than it had been in previous episodes.

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Yilmaz Akyüz is former Director, UNCTAD, and former Chief Economist, South Centre, Geneva

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I am a Nigerian Migrant, Struggling to Live the ‘European Dream’ – Part 1http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/nigerian-migrant-struggling-live-european-dream-part-1/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nigerian-migrant-struggling-live-european-dream-part-1 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/nigerian-migrant-struggling-live-european-dream-part-1/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2018 09:41:54 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157316 This is the first part of our series about migration to Italy.

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Migrants arriving at Lampedusa, Italy in this picture dated 2011. Jim arrived in Italy via an ocean port in 2010. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS.

By Maged Srour
ROME, Aug 23 2018 (IPS)

Jim*, a 34-year-old Nigerian, has been living in Italy for the last eight years. And even though he has a legal permit to reside in the country, he is yet to find steady employment. Instead, for three days a week you will find him begging for alms in front of a supermarket in Rome.

“Nobody is giving me a job even if I go four days a week to give my resume all around the city,” he tells IPS.

Before leaving Nigeria in 2009, he was president of a Christian youth congregation in his hometown. One day, his church was bombed. Jim blames the bombing on a major, central-right political party in Nigeria.

He says the party was against the donation of a generator to his church by another political party."More closure creates only more illegality and consequently the impossibility of promoting and applying integration policies for those migrants, who do not have a legal permit to stay in Europe.” -- Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for IOM.

“We were not subtly colluding with any party,” says Jim.

“Simply, a certain party that had been successful in the last elections, had given us an electric generator and this was not good with the [major central-right political party] because it was afraid of losing its influence.”

As an important figure-head at the church, Jim’s life was at risk.

“One day I was beaten by some militants of the [central-right political party],” Jim tells IPS, closing his eyes when he describes those moments.

He eventually fled the country. And when he arrived in Libya in 2009, Gaddafi was still in power.

When IPS asks him if it was a good place to live, Jim does not hesitate: “It was a terrible place. There was no freedom. I could not walk freely on the streets. [If I did] I would have been stopped by the Asma boys, the criminal gangs who would have robbed me and called the police to lock me up. This was daily life there.”

He says in order to feel safe he would pay to travel by taxi. In 2009, it cost him between USD 7 to USD 144.

“Walking in the streets for a black African was too dangerous.”

Jim worked for five months as a car washer in Libya and saved the USD 1,200 he needed to pay for the trip to Italy.

“The journey is not easy at all, my friend,” he says, his eyes full of emotion.

“I remember that big wave.”

The boat’s captain, a young Algerian man, was able to navigate the wave without any losses.

“Everyone was alone with himself [in that moment], praying to God not to die.

“And when they came to rescue us, I just felt so relieved.”

Nigerian migration to Italy: trends and facts

Jim is one of the 106,069 Nigerians, according to the Italian ministry of interior, who are residing in Italy as of the start of the year. These numbers do not include the many irregular migrants, estimated by the ministry to be in the thousands.

According to the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM), although the number of Nigerian migrants entering Italy decreased between 2017 and the first half of 2018; from 2015 to 2017 Nigerian migrants were the largest single group entering the country, largely via ocean ports.

These are the numbers:

  • In 2015: out of 153,842 arrivals, 22,337 were from Nigeria;
  • In 2016: out of 181,436 arrivals, 37,551 were from Nigeria;
  • In 2017: out of  119,369 arrivals, 18,158 were from Nigeria.
  • In the first six months of 2018 Nigerian arrivals numbered only 1,229.

The sharp decrease in 2018 is mainly due to the new closure policies regarding the migration flows, which was initiated in April 2017 by the previous Italian government and supported by the current one.

According to data from the Italian National Institute of Statistics, which is the main producer of official statistics in Italy, Nigerians living in country have risen from:

  • 48,220 registered as of January 2012,
  • to 88,527 in 2017,
  • and to 106,069 in 2018.

“More closure creates only more illegality”

It seems incredulous that Jim, who has a legal permit to stay and work in the country, is still begging for money almost a decade since his arrival.

The only job he was ever able to secure, he tells IPS, was one selling drinks at the Stadio Olimpico. But that had been only for a few months, and the salary was incredibly low.

Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for IOM, tells IPS that something has to change in terms of integration policies.

“Today we are witnessing the management of immigration by European countries marked by closure. This is very wrong: we need to reopen the legal routes,” Di Giacomo says.

“Let’s not forget that an efficient immigration policy, must include everything, even forced repatriations. More closure creates only more illegality and consequently the impossibility of promoting and applying integration policies for those migrants, who do not have a legal permit to stay in Europe.”

In Italy, thousands of migrants struggle to find a regular job that will allow them to legalise their documents.

So in Jim’s case, the paradox is a bitter one. While he has legal rights to stay in Italy, he just cannot find employment.

And struggles to feed himself, let alone his wife and son who live back in Nigeria.

IPS asks him if he ever though about doing something illegal to earn money. But he says: “I am a good Christian, I could never do that.”

*Not his real name.

The post I am a Nigerian Migrant, Struggling to Live the ‘European Dream’ – Part 1 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This is the first part of our series about migration to Italy.

The post I am a Nigerian Migrant, Struggling to Live the ‘European Dream’ – Part 1 appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 61,517 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,524http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-61517-2018-deaths-reach-1524/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-61517-2018-deaths-reach-1524 http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mediterranean-migrant-arrivals-reach-61517-2018-deaths-reach-1524/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 16:13:41 +0000 International Organization for Migration http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157209 IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 61,517 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2018 through 12 August. This compares with 118,436 arrivals across the region through the same period last year, and 265,640 in 2016. Arrivals to Spain in 2018 continue to outpace all other destinations along the littoral – with 2,170 […]

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Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 61,517 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,524

By International Organization for Migration
GENEVA, Aug 14 2018 (IOM)

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 61,517 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2018 through 12 August. This compares with 118,436 arrivals across the region through the same period last year, and 265,640 in 2016.

Arrivals to Spain in 2018 continue to outpace all other destinations along the littoral – with 2,170 through less than two weeks of August, or nearly the entire volume (2,476) to Spain through this date in all of 2016. By contrast, arrivals to Italy – 19,231 through 12 August of this year – are lower than arrivals recorded during certain individual months in the years 2015-2017 (see chart below).

 

Arrivals to Spain in 2018 continue to outpace all other destinations along the littoral – with 2,170 through less than two weeks of August, or nearly the entire volume (2,476) to Spain through this date in all of 2016. By contrast, arrivals to Italy – 19,231 through 12 August of this year – are lower than arrivals recorded during certain individual months in the years 2015-2017

 

Read on: Mediterranean Migrant Arrivals Reach 61,517 in 2018; Deaths Reach 1,524

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