Inter Press ServiceRegional Categories – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 22 Aug 2018 01:30:31 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Kofi Annan Strengthened the U.N.’s Dignity with the Help of Two Brazilianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/kofi-annan-strengthened-u-n-s-dignity-help-two-brazilians/#respond Wed, 22 Aug 2018 01:30:31 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157305 Kofi Annan’s stature as a global leader grew after he finished his second term as United Nations Secretary-General in 2006. Time confirmed his excellence in defending the principles and values of multilateralism, which is currently on the decline and subject to all kinds of attacks. Some of the crucial actions carried out by Annan, who […]

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Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General from 1997 to 2007 and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who died on Aug. 18, seen together with Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello (left), one of his right-hand men and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who died in Baghdad in 2003. Credit: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation

Kofi Annan, U.N. Secretary General from 1997 to 2007 and 2001 Nobel Peace Prize-winner, who died on Aug. 18, seen together with Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello (left), one of his right-hand men and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, who died in Baghdad in 2003. Credit: Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation

By Mario Osava
RÍO DE JANEIRO, Aug 22 2018 (IPS)

Kofi Annan’s stature as a global leader grew after he finished his second term as United Nations Secretary-General in 2006. Time confirmed his excellence in defending the principles and values of multilateralism, which is currently on the decline and subject to all kinds of attacks.

Some of the crucial actions carried out by Annan, who died on Aug. 18, such as condemning the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, had the key backing of two Brazilian diplomats.

Sergio Vieira de Mello, who died in Baghdad on Aug. 19, 2003, was U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and Annan’s right-hand man in dealing with conflicts and rebuilding shattered nations.

He was sent to Iraq as the secretary-general’s special representative in May 2003, two months after the invasion, a spectacle of violence and bombings instantly reported by the global media.

A truck bomb destroyed the Canal Hotel used as a U.N. office in Baghdad.

Vieira and 21 other U.N. officials were killed in the suicide attack by the Al-Zarqawi organisation, the seed of what would later call itself the Islamic State (IS), according to Carolina Larriera, Vieira’s Argentine widow and a member of his team who survived in the rubble.

In memory of the victims, the U.N. General Assembly decided in 2008 to designate Aug. 19 as World Humanitarian Day, dedicated to all those who risk their lives to assist people affected by armed conflicts and other crises.

Vieira, a Brazilian who worked at the U.N. since he was 21, died at the age of 55 as a hero of humanitarian and peace operations in the most dangerous situations, in Bangladesh, Sudan, Cyprus, Mozambique, Peru and Iraq.

He mediated conflicts in Cambodia, Lebanon, Rwanda and other countries, while in Kosovo and East Timor he supported the “building of new nations.”

Between 1999 and 2002 he led the U.N. peacekeeping forces that oversaw the transition to independence of East Timor, a former Portuguese colony occupied by Indonesia since 1975.

The son of a Brazilian diplomat, Vieira rose through the ranks of the United Nations, occupying positions in its refugee and human rights agencies.

He reached the peak of his career in the missions commissioned by Annan, such as the operation in East Timor. Many even pointed to him as a possible successor to the secretary general because of his proven capacity and extensive experience.

“Annan was a giant at the United Nations,” the last great promoter of multilateralism, which has recently lost momentum, overtaken by the current wave of nationalism,” said Clóvis Brigagão, a political scientist who headed the Centre for the Study of the Americas at a university in Rio de Janeiro.

Born in Ghana 80 years ago, Annan was the first black U.N. secretary-general. He held the position from 1997 to 2006.

He was recognised as perhaps the last global head of state that the powers-that-be allowed the world and as a leader who promoted human rights as a priority and strengthened the mechanisms of peace, democratisation and development.

One of his triumphs was to achieve a consensus on the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that set 17 targets to reduce poverty, hunger, child and maternal mortality, among other scourges of humanity, from 2000 to 2015.

Expanded and renewed, 169 targets now make up the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDOs), the heirs to the MDGs, seeking to promote social, human, environmental and economic advances by 2030.

For his work, Annan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the U.N. in 2001.

But it was the tragedy in Iraq that marked his two terms at the General Secretariat, as the first career staffer to be promoted to the top post in the U.N.

During that crisis, in addition to Vieira he also had the support of another Brazilian diplomat, José Mauricio Bustani, in adopting a position against the invasion by the U.S.-led coalition that also included Great Britain, Australia and Poland.

Bustani had led the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) since it was created in 1997 to enforce the international convention that seeks to eradicate these weapons worldwide.

His reports were key to the U.S. government’s decision to attack Iraq under George W. Bush (2001-2009), in what was known as the second Gulf War (2003-2011) after the one that took place between 1990 and 1991.

The pretext for the attack was the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction, mainly chemical weapons, in the hands of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

In 2001, Bustani was negotiating Iraq’s accession to the OPCW, which would allow for inspections and would prove, according to him, the absence of such weapons in the country.

This was a challenge to the U.S. government, which exerted pressure that led to Bustani’s removal from the organisation in 2002. A year later, Iraq was bombed under a justification that was never proven, which reinforced Annan’s condemnation of the Iraq war, which he deemed “illegal”.

Bustani shared his experience in the article “Brazil and OPCW: Diplomacy and Defence of the Multilateral System Under Attack,” published in late 2002, and continued his career, as Brazil’s ambassador to Britain and France, before retiring in 2015.

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Q&A: A New Leader with a Vision to Redefine Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-new-leader-vision-redefine-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=qa-new-leader-vision-redefine-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/qa-new-leader-vision-redefine-human-rights/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 20:42:57 +0000 IPS Correspondents http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157299 The human rights movement must be bigger, bolder, and more inclusive if we are to tackle today’s challenges, said Amnesty International’s first South African Secretary General. Laying out his ambitious goals for the organisation and the global human rights movement as a whole is Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s newest Secretary General. “In my first message […]

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The worst drought in 40 years has forced thousands in Sri Lanka to abandon their livelihoods and seek work in cities. Amnesty International says that they will be taking on climate change as a human rights issue. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By IPS Correspondents
JOHANNESBURG/UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

The human rights movement must be bigger, bolder, and more inclusive if we are to tackle today’s challenges, said Amnesty International’s first South African Secretary General.

Laying out his ambitious goals for the organisation and the global human rights movement as a whole is Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s newest Secretary General.

“In my first message as Secretary General, I want to make clear that Amnesty International is now opening its arms wider than ever before to build a genuinely global community that stretches into all four corners of the world, especially in the global south,” Naidoo said as he took up his position.

“I want us to build a human rights movement that is more inclusive. We need to redefine what it means to be a human rights champion in 2018. An activist can come from all walks of life,” he continued.

Hailing from South Africa, Naidoo got his start in social justice while protesting apartheid in his home country and has since worked on issues of education, inequality, and climate change.

“Our world is facing complex problems that can only be tackled if we break away from old ideas that human rights are about some forms of injustice that people face, but not others. The patterns of oppression that we’re living through are interconnected,” said Naidoo.

IPS spoke to Naidoo about the importance of intersectionality, climate change, and his vision for one of the biggest human rights organisations in such divisive times.

Kumi Naidoo, Amnesty International’s newest Secretary General, says climate change is a human rights issue that the organisation will now also focus on. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

IPS: Why is it so important for intersections and the coming together of human rights organisations, and how do you envision this happening?

Naidoo: Well firstly, I think people would be being somewhat delusional if they think individual organisations are going to deliver results. Part of whether Amnesty is able to be successful is that we depend upon the quality of the relationships and alliances that we build with organisations working on the ground.

The good thing is that because of Amnesty’s moving-to-the-ground strategy, which was to move more capacity from London to the different regions, means now we’ve got on-the-ground capacity so those partnerships can happen more easier.

But more than that, it is about the intersection of the agendas.

Say you are taking up the issue of gender equality, you can’t take up the issue of gender equality without understanding that economic exclusion of women is much greater so it brings in economic rights as well as gender rights.

So part of our success will depend on how good we are at making common cause with issues where they are intersecting.

Part of the problems in the past is that people only wanted to form an alliance if they agreed on everything, and that’s not what alliances are about and not what coalitions are about.

An example I use is when I was the chair of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty which IPS was part of. One of the big tensions there was how do you, in that broad movement keep the religious folks and the women’s movement together? The women’s movement wanted very explicit commitment by the Global Call to Action Against Poverty that we are committed to reproductive rights. And then the religious folks said if you put that there, then we are leaving the coalition.

So what we did was put them in the same room, and said come up with a solution. And at the end, they came up with language that said we support reproductive health. So it was less than what the feminist movement wanted, but it was more than what the religious movement wanted but they found a way to actually live with that.

Because on everything else—on women’s employment, on stopping violence against women and all of that—they had no disagreement.

Let’s be honest the problem is so many fault lines and divisions that are emerging on religious ground, on race, class, migration and so on and unless we can create safer and more spaces for dialogue to talk about differences, and how do we manage difference, we will end up with more and more conflicts.

IPS: What does that mean for the Global South? You said that Amnesty is now on the ground in many countries. What does that mean for these regions and these people to see Amnesty International more on the ground?

Naidoo: What I hope it means is that Amnesty’s being on the ground means that it is more sensitive to on the ground knowledge, taking its lead from local people and being more humble in how it analyses and understands its own role.

For people on the ground, hopefully it means it gives them a great sense of confidence that a well-known organisation that has a long track record, has won the Nobel Peace Prize and all of that, is an ally that will strengthen their struggles.

And sadly, you know, I’ve seen it happen a thousand times, many of our leaders on the continent: if a local NGO says I want to meet with you about about A,B,C, they will say no. If some international organisation that is a big brand says they want to meet, they will get the meeting.

So part of what it hopefully means is we will help amplify the voices of the people that we partner with.

IPS: IPS has been covering climate change for decades. Could you tell us why climate change is a human rights issue to Amnesty?

Naidoo: Let’s put it in the words of Sharan Burrow, the first woman to lead the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). She and I were having a meeting with former Secretary-General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, and we were waiting for him and so we swapped each other’s notes around. She was doing the climate change pitch and I did the labor and decent worker pitch. And you could see Ban Ki-moon looking at his [notes]—is this the Greenpeace person or is the labour person?

And [Burrow] said to him, “You know Mr. Secretary General, you must wonder why me as a trade unionist, where I supposed to fight for decent work and better working conditions, am so passionate about climate change?”

And she said, “it is because as a mother, as a human being, and as a worker leader, I recognise there are no jobs on a dead planet. And so if there are no jobs on a dead planet, there are no human beings on a dead planet. If there are no human beings on a dead planet, then there are no human rights on a dead planet.”

So I mean, there is no more important human right than the right to life, right?

And that is why I always say, our struggle is not to save the planet. The planet does not need saving. Because the end result is that if we continue on the path that we are, we warm the planet to a point where we become extinct. The planet will still be here. And in fact once we become extinct as a species, the forests will recover, the oceans will replenish themselves.

So the struggle we are engaged in is whether humanity can fashion a new way to mutually co-exist with nature in an interdependent relationship for centuries and centuries to come.

And that is why the human rights movement has to take climate change seriously.

*Interview has been edited for clarity and length

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If Vanuatu Can Ban Single-Use Plastics, so Can the Other Commonwealth Countries!http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/if-vanuatu-can-ban-single-use-plastics-so-can-the-other-commonwealth-countries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=if-vanuatu-can-ban-single-use-plastics-so-can-the-other-commonwealth-countries http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/if-vanuatu-can-ban-single-use-plastics-so-can-the-other-commonwealth-countries/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 16:14:52 +0000 Ralph Regenvanu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157297 Op-ed by Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vanuatu

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There are an estimated 13,000 pieces of plastic litter afloat every single square kilometer of ocean. Credit: Bo Eide Snemann/CC-BY-2.0

By Ralph Regenvanu
PORT VILA, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Cradled in the South Pacific, my home country Vanuatu is made mostly of ocean.  The Pacific covers 98% of the national jurisdiction. Here, some 280,000 Ni-Vanuatu like myself live simply off the land and sea.  We view the ocean as a living ‘bridge’ that connects islands and continents while sustaining life in all its forms. Where we come from, the ocean has a heartbeat.

So when scientists collected nearly 24,000 pieces of non-biodegradable trash on the beaches of the capital city Port Vila last August, it was a harsh reality check for us all. A tally of more than 4,400 plastic bags, 3,000 food wrappers, 4,400 plastic and foam packages, 2,600 beverage cans and 2,100 plastic drinking bottles showed that the addiction to cheap, convenient plastics had crept onto our shores and into our lives. The debris was choking marine life, slowly poisoning fish (and those who eat them) and negatively affecting tourism.

Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vanuatu

To save our oceans, the country had to take swift and decisive action.

Last month, Vanuatu became one of the first in the world to implement a ban on single use plastic bags, straws and polystyrene food containers. The Government announced the new rules in January, prohibiting the importation and manufacturing of certain non-biodegradable plastic products, followed by a six-month grace period so local businesses and manufacturers could use up supplies.

Alternatives were developed. Traditional natural fibre baskets took the place of plastic bags. Home-grown innovators such as Tom Yaken created community water taps using bamboo instead of the usual plastic pipes. We were guided by a National Ocean Policy for sustainable ocean management, framed around the traditional ‘Nakamal’ – the customary Ni-Vanuatu institution for governance.

A medium and long-term communication strategy is being put in place to begin the discussion on how to achieve lasting change in the age of plastic.

Looking at the region, I am proud that other Pacific ‘big ocean states’ are also rallying against the curse of marine plastic pollution. Samoa recently announced plans to ban all single-use plastic bags and straws by January 2019. New Zealand made a similar pledge to phase out single-use plastics over the next year. Meanwhile, island countries such as Palau, the Marshall Islands, Northern Marianas, Guam, and parts of the Federated States of Micronesia have all outlawed single use plastic shopping bags. Fiji and Tonga have levy systems in place to discourage plastic bag use.

But even beyond the Pacific, the momentum towards a major global transition has never before been so great.

In April, at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, 53 countries made a joint commitment to preserve the health of the ocean, recognising its role in sustaining life on our planet.  Under the Commonwealth ‘Blue Charter’, Vanuatu and the United Kingdom stepped forward as ‘champion countries’ to tackle marine plastic pollution.

It is a pressing global issue – scientists predict that if current trends continue, there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. Even now, the accumulation of trash floating in the Northern Pacific Ocean (commonly known as the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’) spans an area three times the size of France and is estimated to weigh 80,000 tonnes – equivalent to 500 jumbo jets. The effects are dire for marine ecosystems, ocean economies and human life, and demand a global response.

Fortunately, the vast majority of Commonwealth countries are island or coastal states (just seven are landlocked).  There is huge potential for resources and good practices to be shared, refined and scaled across the Commonwealth, and with the rest of the world.

My own hope is that all 53 leaders who signed on to the Commonwealth Blue Charter commit to concrete steps to address plastic waste in their countries. We have a remarkable opportunity to jointly make improvements to our planet, and it must not be missed.

Vanuatu’s journey so far has been instructive. I am confident that between traditional marine resource management practices and new knowledge and innovations, solutions to the plastic problem are available, or ready to be discovered. It just takes leadership.

Pacific Island countries like Vanuatu have already shown themselves to be ready and willing.

 

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Excerpt:

Op-ed by Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vanuatu

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Has Globalization Enhanced Development Cooperation?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/globalization-enhanced-development-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=globalization-enhanced-development-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/globalization-enhanced-development-cooperation/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 15:05:52 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157295 Protracted economic stagnation in rich countries continues to threaten the development prospects of poorer countries. Globalization and economic liberalization over the last few decades have integrated developing countries into the world economy, but now that very integration is becoming a threat as developing countries are shackled by the knock-on effects of the rich world’s troubles. […]

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Colombo, Sri Lanka. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS.

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Protracted economic stagnation in rich countries continues to threaten the development prospects of poorer countries. Globalization and economic liberalization over the last few decades have integrated developing countries into the world economy, but now that very integration is becoming a threat as developing countries are shackled by the knock-on effects of the rich world’s troubles.

 

Trade interdependence at risk

As a consequence of increased global integration, growth in developing countries relies more than ever on access to international markets. That access is needed, not only to export products, but also to import food and other requirements. Interdependence nowadays, however asymmetric, is a two-way street, but with very different traffic flows.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Unfortunately, the trade effects of the crisis have been compounded by their impact on development cooperation efforts, which have been floundering lately. In 1969, OECD countries committed to devote 0.7% of their Gross National Income in official development assistance (ODA) to developing countries. But the total in 2017 reached only $146.6 billion, or 0.31% of aggregate gross national income – less than half of what was promised.

In 2000, UN member states adopted the Millennium Development Goals to provide benchmarks for tackling world poverty, revised a decade and a half later with the successor Sustainable Development Goals. But all serious audits since show major shortfalls in international efforts to achieve the goals, a sober reminder of the need to step up efforts and meet longstanding international commitments, especially in the current global financial crisis.

 

Aid less forthcoming

Individual countries’ promises of aid to the least developed countries (LDCs) have fared no better, while the G-7 countries have failed to fulfill their pledges of debt forgiveness and aid for poorer countries that they have made at various summits over the decades.

At the turn of the century, development aid seemed to rise as a priority for richer countries. But, having declined precipitously following the Cold War’s end almost three decades ago, ODA flows only picked up after the 9/11 or September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Monterrey Consensus, the outcome of the 2002 first ever UN conference on Financing for Development, is now the major reference for international development financing.

But, perhaps more than ever before, much bilateral ODA remains ‘tied’, or used for donor government projects, rendering the prospects of national budgetary support more remote than ever. Tied aid requires the recipient country to spend the aid received in the donor country, often on overpriced goods and services or unnecessary technical assistance. Increasingly, ODA is being used to promote private corporate interests from the donor country itself through ostensible ‘public-private partnerships’ and other similar arrangements.

Not surprisingly, even International Monetary Fund staff have become increasingly critical of ODA, citing failure to contribute to economic growth. However, UN research shows that if blatantly politically-driven aid is excluded from consideration, the evidence points to a robust positive relationship. Despite recent efforts to enhance aid effectiveness, progress has been modest at best, not least because average project financing has fallen by more than two-thirds!

 

Debt

Debt is another side of the development dilemma. In the last decade, the joint IMF-World Bank Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative and its extension, the supplementary Multilateral Debt Relief initiative, made some progress on debt sustainability. But debt relief is still not treated as additional to ODA. The result is ‘double counting’ as what is first counted as a concessional loan is then booked again as a debt write-off.

At the 2001 LDCs summit in Brussels, developed countries committed to providing 100% duty-free and quota-free (DFQF) access for LDC exports. But actual access is only available for 80% of products, and anything short of full DFQF allows importing countries to exclude the very products that LDCs can successfully export.

Unfortunately, many of the poorest countries have been unable to cope with unsustainable debt burdens following the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Meanwhile, there has been little progress towards an equitable and effective sovereign-debt workout framework despite the debilitating Argentine, Greek and other crises.

 

Technology gap

In addition to facing export obstacles, declining aid inflows, and unsustainable debt, the poorest countries remain far behind developed countries technologically. Affordable and equitable access to existing and new technologies is crucial for human progress and sustainable development in many areas, including food security and climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

The decline of public-sector research and agricultural-extension efforts, stronger intellectual-property claims and greater reliance on privately owned technologies have ominous implications, especially for the poor. The same is true for affordable access to essential medicines, on which progress remains modest.

An international survey in recent years found that such medicines were available in less than half of poor countries’ public facilities and less than two-thirds of private facilities. Meanwhile, median prices were almost thrice international reference prices in the public sector, and over six times as much in the private sector!

Thus, with the recent protracted stagnation in many rich countries, fiscal austerity measures, growing protectionism and other recent developments have made things worse for international development cooperation.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Mixed Signals as Guyana Develops its Green Economy Strategyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/mixed-signals-guyana-develops-green-economy-strategy/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 11:52:57 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157293 Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president. The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in […]

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About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. The country is making plans for a green economy while also looking to exploit its fossil fuel reserves. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
GEORGETOWN, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Guyana is forging ahead with plans to exploit vast offshore reserves of oil and gas, even while speaking eloquently of its leadership in transitioning to a green economy at a recent political party congress addressed by the country’s president.

The mixed signals on plans for a green economy have increased in the past year, in the wake of a 2015 discovery of what has been termed one of the largest discoveries of oil and gas 120 miles off Guyana’s shores, which saw major international oil companies vying for exploration rightseven as the government began work on a Green State Development Strategy (GSDS).

Central to the GSDS is “the structural transformation of Guyana’s economy into a green and inclusive one [that] will recognise the economic value of the extractive sectors, instituting measures to ensure their environmental sustainability while facilitating new economic growth from a more diverse set of inclusive, green and high value-adding sectors.”

In line with its goal to transition to a green economy, Guyana entered into a seven-year partnership with Norway for a REDD+ investment fund, on the basis of its 19 million hectares of forest with a carbon sink capacity of 350 tons/hectare, in what it described as “the world’s first national-scale, payment-for-performance forest conservation agreement.” The USD250 million investment fund from Norway is earmarked for pioneering Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy.

At the same time, government agencies of this small South American country, the only English-speaking one on the continent, gave some assistance to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) as it researched the most effective measures for ensuring the Guyanese labour force developed the skills needed in a green economy.

The ILO agreed to respond to IPS’ queries about the paradox of Guyana exploiting its fossil fuel reserves while making plans for a green economy, whereas repeated efforts by the IPS to obtain an interview with Guyana’s Office of Climate Change were unsuccessful.

Andrew Small, the consultant commissioned by the ILO to carry out the study on greening Guyana’s labour force, told IPS via e-mail that he thinks the country is indeed ready and positioning itself for a green economy. He pointed to changes in the education curricula at both secondary school and tertiary level, as well as efforts at encouraging climate smart agriculture. “Guyana is indeed a small country but a major contributor to the global effort to reduce carbon emissions from economic and social activities,” he said.

He also pointed out the move by some large businesses to incorporate renewable energy into their buildings and processes, and an attendant move by the government to enable further uptake of renewable energy. “In particular the Guyana Energy Agency and Guyana Power and Light Company are leading the final draft and implementation of the Draft Guyana Energy Policy (2017) and Guyana Energy Sector Strategic Plan (2015-2020), respectively. These policies outline anticipated energy demand, an optimal energy mix for Guyana including a 100 percent increase in renewable energy sources aligned to Guyana’s transition to an environmentally sustainable economy,” he said.

However, with an estimated four billion barrels of oil in its waters, the pull of oil money has been creating a shift in focus for some who might potentially have taken up working in green jobs. Small admits, “The shift is already happening. The magnitude of this sector will attract many highly skilled Guyanese. There have been some local concerns expressed about this, in particular in the case of engineers from the Public Infrastructure Ministry or [with regard to those] who would otherwise seek employment with this Ministry among others.”

At the same time, the ILO Caribbean’s Enterprise and Job Creation Specialist Kelvin Sergeant told IPS that the impact of oil and gas exploration on the green transition could go either way. “It can be positive or negative. Positive if the resources from the oil sector are used to develop the green economy and ensure sustainability of the environment and the rest of the society, especially the more vulnerable in the society. If this is not done, then there could be many new problems in the future.”

Nevertheless, he explained, the ILO commissioned the “Skills for green jobs” in Guyana study because his organisation believes a green economy is a sustainable one. “The ILO places great emphasis on greening of the economy and green jobs. This is critical towards sustainable economies and societies. …The ILO, however, argues that policies towards greening of the economy will have an impact on workers. There will be job losses, job gains or jobs will be redefined. Because of this, the ILO believes that any policy towards greening of the economy should be just and fair and must leave no one behind.”

The focus on fossil fuels “can be only detrimental if there is no trickling down of the gains from the oil sector. The whole process has to be carefully managed to avoid Dutch disease and other problems which have plagued Caribbean countries that have oil,” he said. “There needs to be careful policies which ensure that everyone benefits from the oil finds.”

Apart from labour market concerns, it remains to be seen how Guyana will live up to its Nationally Determined Contributions tabled last year. The country promised “to avoid emissions in the amount of 48.7 MtCO2e annually if adequate incentives are provided”, on the basis of its forest cover. If the four billion barrel estimate given is correct, Guyana’s reserves alone represent almost four-fifths of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 estimate of the amount of energy that will be generated by Latin America’s industrial sector including its fossil fuel industry in the years leading up to 2030. The IPCC estimates the approximately 33 EJ of energy (roughly equivalent to 5.4 billion barrels of oil) Latin America will generate up to 2030 will result in 2,417 MtCO2 emissions, making Guyana’s promises in support of the Paris Agreement inconsequential in the light of emissions its billions of barrels would produce.

But Sergeant remains upbeat about the viability of a green economy. He said the focus on fossil fuel exploration does not mean efforts to promote green skills for a green economy are moot. “It does not have to, if the guidelines for a just transition are followed.”

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The Gender of Law: What the Mapping of Family Laws Revealshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/gender-law-mapping-family-laws-reveals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-law-mapping-family-laws-reveals http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/gender-law-mapping-family-laws-reveals/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 11:02:46 +0000 Rangita de Silva de Alwis http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157289 Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Global Adviser, UN SDG Fund & UN Women High Level Working Group on Women’s Access to Justice

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Women protest on the streets of Rabat to demand equal rights. Credit: Abderrahim El Ouali/IPS.

By Rangita de Silva de Alwis
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Recent developments around the world give support to the idea of the #MeToo movement’s transformative potential. A postmodernist claim was that the feminist movement was essentialist and that no one expression of feminism can be applicable to women of different ethnicity, cultural, or class identity. The #Me Too movement has found expression in different cultural traditions and helped to challenge this theory. 

China’s #我也是; Latin America’s #YoTambien; the Middle East’s and the United States’ #MeToo have sparked a mini revolution for women.  However, the data on the laws remain disappointing.

The newly released IFC Report on Women, Business and the Law (2018) reveal that 104 economies still prevent women from working in certain jobs, because of their gender.  In 59 economies there are no laws on sexual harassment in the workplace.

In 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working. A tour- de- force of Penn Law’s newly released first phase of the family law data base show that legalized discrimination remains enshrined in the law.  See: http://www.law.upenn.libguides.com/globalwomensleadership

 

Constructing ‘Honor” and “Shame” in the Law:

Notions of a woman’s “honor,” “shame,” and “obedience” are intimately tied to the way in which the law constructs those concepts. The Algerian Family Code in Article 39 (1) legalizes a woman’s obedience not only to her husband but to his relatives:

Despite much remaining legalized discrimination, the year 2017 was a watershed year for women. Although it is difficult to prove causation, it could be argued that the #MeToo movement has helped to spark some policy change and debate in different parts of the world

“The wife is required to obey her husband and grant him respect as the head of the family. The wife is required to “respect the parents of her husband and relatives.”

In Gabon too, according to Article 178 of the Family Law, “the spouses may, during the marriage, renounce the option of monogamy.” In Gabon, women still need the permission of a guardian or husband to open a bank account.

According to Article 257 of the Civil Code although a woman may, on her own signature, open a special current account to deposit or withdraw funds reserved for the household, the opening of this account must be notified by the custodian to the husband.

The law’s power to construct marriage relations and shape women’s inferior status in the family can be both subtle or direct. In Tanzania, Marriage Act. Section 63(a) states that it shall be the duty of every husband to maintain his wife or wives and to provide them with such support as to his means and station in life.  However, the duty of support is not mutual.

Polygamous marriages are recognized in several legal systems and reduces women’s status in the marriage and family. In Tanzania according to the Marriage Act. Section 10, monogamous marriages can be converted to polygamous unions at any time during the marriage.

Several countries also call for four adult witnesses of good moral conduct to bear witness to a crime of rape making it almost impossible for a victim of rape to meet this evidentiary requirement.  Moreover, these provisions render a woman’s evidence worth half that of a male witness. For example, The Iranian Penal Code states:

“Article 74: Adultery, whether punishable by flogging or stoning, may be proven by the testimony of four just men or that of three just men and two just women.”

Virginity testing is sanctioned by law and is meant to control a woman’s sexuality and the notions of a woman’s chastity is tied to a family’s honor. The South African Children’s Act 12(3) allows for virginity testing of girls over the age of 16.

A woman’s so-called honor plays a role in regulating abortion too. For example, in Chile, according to Article 344 of the Penal Code, the punishment shall be reduced if the abortion was done in order to hide a woman’s “dishonor.”

An estimated 93 percent of women of reproductive age in Africa live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. The Ugandan and Zambian Penal Code carry a similar penalty of a seven-year imprisonment for any woman who tries to voluntarily miscarry. In Namibia, the prison sentence could be extended up to 14 years.

 

A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

A demonstration in support of legal abortion in Argentina. Credit: Demian Marchi/Amnesty International

 

Second Class Citizenship in the Law

Nationality laws in over twenty countries (The Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Brunei, Burundi, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Nepal, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Togo, United Arab Emirates) worldwide exclude mothers from passing their nationality to their children on an equal basis with fathers.

This creates a category of second class citizens and when children are unable to acquire their parents’ nationality; it leads to statelessness. Gender discrimination in nationality laws impede a child’s access to public education and health care.  Unequal nationality laws also curtail access to driver’s licenses, bank accounts and access to social welfare programs and employment.

Unexamined assumptions in the law such as overprotection of women or exclusion of women from certain categories of work reinforce stereotypes that women are fragile and do more harm than good to a woman’s ability to care for her family and community.

Russia excludes women from 400 categories of employment, and the Nigerian Labor Act in Section 57 provides the Minister of Labor a blanket authorization for the exclusion of women from categories of employment as he/she thinks fit: “The Minister may make regulations prohibiting or restricting, subject to such conditions as may be specified in the regulations, the employment of women in any particular type or types of industrial or other undertakings or in any process or work carried on by such undertakings.”

 

Protest march of women workers for higher wages, and against male domination in trade union politics in tea plantations at Munnar in southern Indian state of Kerala. Credit: K.S. Harikrishnan/IPS

 

Are Laws Changing?

A longitudinal mapping of the alterations in the laws that regulate the status of women will reveal whether there are changes in the law and how and where these changes occur.

Despite much remaining legalized discrimination, the year 2017 was a watershed year for women.  Although it is difficult to prove causation, it could be argued that the #MeToo movement has helped to spark some policy change and debate in different parts of the world.

In Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon, parliaments repealed provisions in their penal codes that allowed rapists to escape punishment by marrying their victims. In 2017, the Tunisian parliament repealed Article 227 of the penal code exonerating the rapist if he married his victim.

The recent domestic violence law approved by the Tunisian parliament in 2017 was a long time coming and was preceded by a decade long struggle by women to create a normative and legal framework to address violence against women.

However, it could be argued that the global forces unleashed by the #MeToo movement was the final nudge to see it through parliament. The law also criminalizes sexual harassment in public spaces.

After years of mobilizing by women, in 2017, Lebanon’s parliament rolled back Article 522 of the Penal Code, which had allowed rapists to escape prosecution by marrying the victim. However, the legislative body retained a loophole relating to sex with children between the ages 15-17 and seducing a “virgin” girl into having sex with the promise of marriage.

Again in 2017, India’s Supreme Court banned the controversial Islamic divorce practice known as “triple talaq” or instant divorce in a landmark ruling. The practice allowed a husband to divorce his wife simply saying the Arabic word for divorce, talaq three times.

Even when laws failed to pass, it seems that the #MeToo movement helped spark otherwise long suppressed debate. Just this month, in the Pope’s home country, the Argentinian senate narrowly rejected a Bill that would allow elective abortion in the first fourteen weeks of pregnancy.

In Brazil, home to the largest Catholic population, where abortion carries a punishment of three years, both supporters and opposers discussed a bill to decriminalize abortion.

More than 25 years ago Radhika Coomaraswamy, who was Secretary General Kofi Annan’s  First Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and Under Secretary General, gave me a copy of the 1985 case of Sha Bano. Shah Bano, a sixty-five year old woman living deep in the byzantine confines of the old royal state of Madhya Pradesh, was divorced after forty-five years of marriage by her husband by the triple talaq method.

Shah Bano filed an action in court seeking a small subsistence from her wealthy lawyer husband under Section 125 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, a colonial piece of legislation intended to prevent “vagrancy” of wives. The Indian Supreme Court’s decision to award Sha Bano maintenance of five dollars a month polarized the Hindu and Muslim communities and created fissures in the Muslim community.

A year later, Martha Minow, now the 300th Anniversary Professor at Harvard University gave me a copy of her article, “Forming Underneath Everything that Grows: Toward a History of Family Law.” She argues that family law grows “underneath” other legal fields in the sense that its “rules about roles and duties between men and women, parents and children, families and strangers historically and conceptually underlie other rules about employment and commerce, education and welfare, and perhaps the governance of the state.”

Both Coomaraswamy and Minow hoped that my generation would address the contested nature of family law reform. It seems that it is the next generation- the #Me Too generation that will propel these changes.

Catharine MacKinon argues that #MeToo has done what the law could not.  I argue that the #MeToo movement has the power and potential to mobilize political and social forces to influence debate and to contribute to law and social reform.

At a moment when the traditional liberal world order as we know is floundering, the global women’s movement and the #MeToo movement offer potentially transformative ways to translate women’s experiences into lawmaking in areas where the law itself is complicit in the unequal status of women. The mapping of laws will allow us to see how far we have come and how far we still have to go.

Footnote: I thank the Council on Foreign Relations and Rachel Vogelstein, Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and Director of Women and Foreign Policy Program for hosting a discussion on Family Law Reform and Women’s Rights on September 5th. I am grateful to Under Secretary Gender Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Head of UN Women for inspiring the Mapping of Family Law and Dean Theodore W. Ruger, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School for making the first phase of the Mapping possible. I also thank Dr. Paula Johnson, President of Wellesley College for setting the standard for the reexamination of ways in which gender differentials in different systems, whether in the global legal systems or in health care, impact women.       

This is excerpted from an article to be published on the “SDG Goal 5 and de Jure Discrimination in the Law” by the UN SDG Fund.

 

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Excerpt:

Rangita de Silva de Alwis is Associate Dean of International Affairs, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Global Adviser, UN SDG Fund & UN Women High Level Working Group on Women’s Access to Justice

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Old Age Is a Curse in Indiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/old-age-curse-india/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=old-age-curse-india http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/old-age-curse-india/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 10:19:37 +0000 Pratima Yadav, Raghav Gaiha, and Vani Kulkarni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157285 The swift descent of the elderly in India into non-communicable diseases could have various disastrous consequences.

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Old age morbidity is a rapidly worsening curse in India. The swift descent of the elderly in India (60 years+) into non-communicable diseases (NCDs e.g. cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes) could have disastrous consequences in terms of impoverishment of families, excess mortality, lowering of investment and consequent deceleration of growth

Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Pratima Yadav, Raghav Gaiha, and Vani S. Kulkarni
NEW DELHI, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

Old age morbidity is a rapidly worsening curse in India. The swift descent of the elderly in India (60 years+) into non-communicable diseases (NCDs e.g. cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes) could have disastrous consequences in terms of impoverishment of families, excess mortality, lowering of investment and consequent deceleration of growth.

Indeed, the government has to deal simultaneously with the rising fiscal burden of NCDs and substantial burden of infectious diseases. As a recent Lancet report (2018) points out, failure to devise a strategy and make timely investment now will jeopardise achievement of SDG 3 and target 4 of a one-third reduction in premature mortality from NCDs by 2030.

Pratima Yadav

NCDs are chronic in nature and take a long time to develop. They are linked to ageing and affluence, and have replaced infectious diseases and malnutrition as the dominant causes of ill health and death in much of the world including India. The four NCDs (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes) share a set of modifiable risk factors: unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, smoking, excessive use of alcohol and failure to detect and control intermediate risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and excess weight (Bloom et al. 2014).

Of the 56 million deaths worldwide each year, 38 million (68%) are due to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and 16 million (more than 40%) of these deaths are premature (before 70 years of age).

The four NCDs (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes) account for 42% of all deaths in India. These diseases contribute to 22% of disability-adjusted life-years in India (or DALYs—the combination of years lived with serious illness and those lost due to premature death). So the cost in terms of lives lost is horrendous.

Our analysis with National Sample Survey (NSS) data for 2004 and 2014 highlights some of these concerns in a striking way.

Vani S. Kulkarni

The burden of NCDs rose sharply among the old. It doubled among 61-70 years and 71-80 years and nearly tripled among 80 + years. In sharp contrast, prevalence of communicable diseases also rose but only slightly. So there are strong grounds for an epidemiological transition away from communicable diseases to non-communicable diseases among the old that require longer-term and more expensive solutions.

Between rural and urban areas, the latter had higher prevalence of NCDs and the disparity grew. This gap is largely attributable to greater dependence on processed food, and environmental pollution.

Comparison by gender yields an interesting reversal. In 2004, aged women had higher prevalence of NCDs than aged men, but there was a reversal in 2014. Part of the explanation lies in difference in health-seeking behaviour, with women more restricted in their access to medical care.

Highest prevalence of NCDs was observed among the widowed, followed by the divorced/separated and lowest among never married. Each of these groups recorded higher prevalence except never married who recorded a decline. Ostracised by society, widows often seek solace in slow death.

Raghav Gaiha

Does education make a difference? It does. Among the illiterates and those below primary, the prevalence rose while in all other categories of education it declined. The decline was sharpest among the graduates, followed by those with middle to higher secondary education.

NCDs are often associated with affluence and associated sedentary lifestyle and diets rich in carbohydrates and fats. So we examined the association between per capita income quintiles and NCDs. One striking feature is that both in 2004 and 2014, prevalence rose steadily across these quintiles except in the lowest/least affluent. Besides, prevalence rose more than moderately among the more affluent fourth and fifth quintiles. So the characterisation of NCDs as diseases of affluence is accurate.

Typically, socio-economic hierarchy comprises: the most disadvantaged STs, followed by SCs, OBCs and Others. Prevalence of NCDs was lowest among the STs, higher among the SCs, still higher among the OBCs and highest among the Others in 2004. This pattern remained unchanged in 2014. While the STs experienced a slight reduction, all other groups recorded increases in prevalence of NCDs—especially OBCs and Others.

While the recent National Health Policy 2017 and Niti Aayog have ambitious agenda for curtailing premature death and morbidity due to NCDs, the measly increase in this year’s budget is ironical. Indeed, the neglect of NCDs is worse than tragic given the prediction that cumulative losses in output between 2012 and 2030 due to NCDs may be as high as one-and-a half times of India’s GDP.

 

Pratima Yadav is an independent researcher; Vani S. Kulkarni is Lecturer in Sociology, University of Pennsylvania; and Raghav Gaiha is (Hon.) Professorial Research Fellow, Global Development Institute, University of Manchester, and Visiting Scholar, Centre for Population Studies, University of Pennsylvania.

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Excerpt:

The swift descent of the elderly in India into non-communicable diseases could have various disastrous consequences.

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New Relationship Evolves Between Society and Energy in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/new-relationship-evolves-society-energy-brazil/#respond Tue, 21 Aug 2018 02:08:00 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157279 “We want to make history,” agreed the teachers at the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School. They are the first to teach adolescents about generating power from bad weather in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil. The Renewable Energies course was the most popular one in the secondary education institution that began its classes in […]

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Diploma award ceremony for the 28 teenagers who completed the course on making LED lamps in a small farmers' association in Aparecida. The lamp on the ceiling is made at the "school factory" where young people study and work in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Diploma award ceremony for the 28 teenagers who completed the course on making LED lamps in a small farmers' association in Aparecida. The lamp on the ceiling is made at the "school factory" where young people study and work in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
SOUSA, Brazil, Aug 21 2018 (IPS)

“We want to make history,” agreed the teachers at the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School. They are the first to teach adolescents about generating power from bad weather in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil.

The Renewable Energies course was the most popular one in the secondary education institution that began its classes in February this year in Sousa, a city in the interior of Paraiba, a state in Brazil’s semi-arid ecoregion.

Sixty of the 89 students chose that subject. The rest opted for the other alternative, marketing strategies, in the school named after a local engineer and entrepreneur who died in 2006.

“It was the local community that decided, in a public hearing, that these would be the two courses offered at the school,” 35-year-old Cícero Fernandes, a member of the school’s staff, told IPS.

“It’s about building a life project with the students. Renewable energies use different resources, but solar power is the predominant one here and is the focus of the course, because we have a lot of sunshine,” said Kelly de Sousa, who is the school’s principal at the age of 30.

The interest of the teenagers, most of them between 15 and 17 years old, reflects the solar energy boom they have been experiencing since last year in and around Sousa, a region considered the one with the most solar radiation in Brazil. The local Catholic church, businesses, factories and houses are already turning to this alternative source.

Energy, specifically electricity, is no longer something foreign, distant, that comes through cables and poles, at prices that rise for unknown reasons.

The municipality of Sousa, with more than 100 photovoltaic systems and a population of 70,000, 80 percent urban, is in the vanguard of the change in the relationship between society and energy that it is promoting in Brazil the expansion of so-called distributed generation, led by consumers themselves.

The share of photovoltaic generation in Brazil’s energy mix is still a mere 0.82 percent of the total of 159,970 MW, according to the government’s National Electric Energy Agency (Aneel), the regulatory agency.

Students in one of the classrooms of the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School, in the city of Sousa, where 60 students learn techniques and theories about renewable energies, especially solar power. The course was adopted after consultation with the local community at public hearings in this town in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Students in one of the classrooms of the Chiquinho Cartaxo Comprehensive Technical Citizen School, in the city of Sousa, where 60 students learn techniques and theories about renewable energies, especially solar power. The course was adopted after consultation with the local community at public hearings in this town in northeastern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

But it is the fastest growing source. In the plants still under construction, it already accounts for 8.26 percent of the total. This refers to power plants built by suppliers.

Added to these are the “consumer units of distributed generation” as Aneel calls them, residential or business micro-generators which now total 34,282, of which 99.4 percent are solar and the rest are wind, thermal or hydraulic. The total power generated is 415 MW – three times more than 12 months ago.

The Northeast, the poorest and sunniest region, still generates little solar energy, in contrast to wind power, which is already the main local source, consolidated after drought made the water supply drop over the last six years.

The acceleration of the solar revolution in Sousa has been driven by civil society, especially the Semi-Arid Renewable Energy Committee (Cersa), a network of activists, researchers, and social and academic organisations created in 2014.

This unincorporated organisation with no formal headquarters operates in three areas, as its coordinator, 60-year-old Cesar Nóbrega, who lives in Sousa, told IPS: community training and empowerment, installation of pilot project systems and lobbying for public policies on renewable energy.

Genival Lopes dos Santos stands in the garden he cultivates together with his wife thanks to a solar water pump. With this system and other technologies adopted on their farm, they were able to continue to plant crops during the six-year drought in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast, which began in 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Genival Lopes dos Santos stands in the garden he cultivates together with his wife thanks to a solar water pump. With this system and other technologies adopted on their farm, they were able to continue to plant crops during the six-year drought in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which began in 2012. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The technical school of Sousa proves that Cersa’s preaching fell on fertile ground. Other activities organised by the committee include short courses, seminars, and forums with the participation of university students, government officials and community organisations.

“I want to know how the panels absorb sunlight and generate energy, and that course was what I was hoping for,” said Mariana Nascimento, 16, who attends the school with her twin sister Marina. They live in the city of Aparecida, 20 km from Sousa.

The course drew not only young people. Emanuel Gomes, 47, decided to return to school to “learn to design residential (solar) projects, save energy costs and protect the environment.” He attends class together with his 18-year-old son.

“The students are enthusiastic, thirsty for knowledge and eager for practice,” and they proved it by participating in the seminar by the Solar Parish during their holidays, said the school principal Sousa, referring to the debate that took place at the inauguration of the solar power plant in Sousa’s Catholic church on Jul. 6.

Engaging and training students on energy and its environmental and economic effects is a task taken on by Walmeran Trindade a teacher of electrical engineering at the Federal Institute of Paraíba and technical coordinator of Cersa.

On Jul. 17, 28 students graduated from his 30-hour course at the “school factory” of LED lamps, examples of energy efficiency, in a rural town near Aparecida, supported by the Catholic Breda Institute.

“It is for professional training, income generation and promoting coexistence with the semi-arid climate,” the teacher told IPS. He travels more than 400 km from João Pessoa, the capital of Paraiba, to teach classes pro bono.

The lamps, made from plastic bottles, give off less light than mass-produced lamps, but are sold for just five reais (1.30 dollars), making them affordable to poor farmers. And they are made by “young people who are also poor,” and thus earn some income, he said.

“I made four lamps, I learned how it works and I want to work with energy, although I dream of studying law to defend society,” said 16-year-old Gaudencio da Silva, a second year high school student who participates in the “School Factory.”

Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos, a farming couple, stand next to the biodigester they obtained as part of the campaign for clean energy in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. In addition to biogas, the biodigester also provides them with natural fertilisers for their orchard and garden. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Marlene and Genival Lopes dos Santos, a farming couple, stand next to the biodigester they obtained as part of the campaign for clean energy in the municipality of Sousa, in the northeast of Brazil. In addition to biogas, the biodigester also provides them with natural fertilisers for their orchard and garden. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Renewable energy pilot plants have mushroomed, meeting the second objective of Cersa.

In addition to the Solar Parish church, the Oliveiras Community Bakery and urban and rural solar systems are positive examples of the sun as an environmentally sound source that empowers consumers and communities.

The Farmers’ Association of the Acauã Settlement, which emerged under the 1996 land reform, now has a solar plant that ensures the supply of water to its 120 families. The energy pumps water to a reservoir on a hill 800 m from the community.

“We were paying 2,000 Brazilian reais (540 dollars) a month in electricity to pump water to a tank on a hill 800 m from the community,” Maria do Socorro Gouveia, the head of the Farmers’ Association, told IPS.

Another rural example of the use of solar power is the farming couple Genival and Marlene Lopes dos Santos, both 48 years old, who were also settled on land of their own thanks to the agrarian reform. In addition to generating electricity, they use solar energy to pump water from a well and irrigate small orchards and their garden.

A biodigester, another system that is spreading in the rural part of the municipality of Sousa, provides them with cooking gas. And they fertilise their crops with manure processed to produce biogas.

“The drought didn’t stop us from planting our crops,” the farmers, who are also engaged in fishing and beekeeping, said proudly.

“There is a need for the public sector” to promote public policies in these alternative energy sources, said Nóbrega. The municipality of Sousa spends six million reais (1.6 million dollars) a year on electricity.

Adopting solar energy in public offices and street lighting would represent a great saving in terms of spending on municipal services and infrastructure and, as a result, the money paid to the electricity distributor, based in the capital João Pessoa, would give a boost to the local economy, argued the coordinator of Cersa.

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Poverty-Stricken Communities in Ghana are Restoring Once-Barren Landhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/poverty-stricken-communities-ghana-restoring-barren-land/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 13:53:53 +0000 Albert Oppong-Ansah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157270 In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them. “We […]

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Drone visual of the area in Upper East Region, Ghana that have not been restored. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah /IPS

By Albert Oppong-Ansah
GARU and TEMPANE, Ghana, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

In the scorching Upper East Region of Ghana, the dry seasons are long and for kilometres around there is nothing but barren, dry earth. Here, in some areas, it is not uncommon for half the female population to migrate to the country’s south in search of work, often taking their young children with them.

“We realised that the long dry spell, bare land and high temperature of 40 degrees and the absence of irrigation facilities for farmers to [allow them] to farm year-round…effectively made them unemployed for the seven-month dry season,” Ayaaba Atumoce, chief of the Akaratshie community from the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS.“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed." Talaata Aburgi, a farmer from the Garu and Tempane districts in Ghana.

The Garu and Tempane districts, which encompass 1,230 square kilometres or 123,000 hectares, had large portions of barren and degraded land until just three years ago. Now, there are pockets of lush grass, neem trees, berries and indigenous fruit growing on some 250 hectares of restored land. The dry earth is beginning to flourishing, albeit it slowly.

Atumoce remembers that growing up in the area, there was dense forest cover. But it gradually diminished over time as the mostly farming communities here supplemented their income by making charcoal and selling it at regional centres. According to the 2015 Ghana Poverty Mapping report, the rate of poverty in these two districts is 54.5 percent or 70,087 people—accounting for the highest number of impoverished people in the entire region.

The rate at which trees were cut down surpassed the rate at which new trees grew, if they did at all. And soon there were less and less trees for people to make charcoal with. Sprouts were soon unable to grow also as the land became hard and lacked nutrients.

And rainfall patterns changed.

“Previously, we would prepare our farmlands in early February and start planting when the rains begin in late March or early April and ended in late September or mid-October. Now, our planting is pushed to the end of June or early July and ends just around the same period it used to. We are getting low yields,” Atumoce says.

Carl Kojo Fiati, director of Natural Resources at Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, tells IPS that deforestation and indiscriminate bush burning in the Upper Region has reduced the natural water cycles band, a natural cycle of evaporation, condensation and precipitation, and resulted in the reduced rainfall pattern and unproductive land.

“When the shrubs are allowed to grow it draws water from the ground that evaporates into the atmosphere and becomes moisture. This moisture adds to other forms of evaporation and this is condensed and comes down as rain,” he explains.

Women and children affected

The reduced rainfall affected this community significantly. According to the Garu and Tempane districts Annual Report, 2014, large portions of the population migrated south in search of jobs from November 2013 to April 2014. According to the report, 53 percent of women in the Kpikpira and Worinyanga area councils migrated with their children to the southern part of Ghana to engage in menial jobs, exposing their children to various forms of abuse, and depriving them of basic needs such as shelter, education, health care and protection.

But three years ago, World Vision International (WVI) Ghana began implementing the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) programme. FMNR is a low-cost land restoration technique.

“After watching the video [presented by WVI] we got to know and accepted that we are suffering all these consequences because we harvested trees for timber, firewood, and constantly cleared our farmlands, engaged in indiscriminate burning and cutting,” Atumoce says.

But by this time, farmers in Garu and Tempane already knew that their crops like maize, millet, groundnuts, onions and watermelon would not grow without the use of chemical fertilisers, Atumoce explains.

“For the past 20 years, our parcels of land have not been fertile because one cannot plant without applying fertiliser. There was a long spell of drought; I observed that because the rainy season was delayed and the period of rain has now shortened. It decreased our crop yield and left us poor,” Atumoce says.

Asher Nkegbe, the United Nation Convention to Combating Desertification and Drought focal person for Ghana, explains to IPS that Ghana has adopted Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and set nationally determined contributions (NDCs). NDCs are commitments by government to tackle climate change by 2030. As part of Ghana’s NDCs, the country has committed to reforesting 20,000ha of degraded lands each year.

This includes identifying highly-degraded areas, establishing a baseline and increasing the vegetation cover. The Garu and Tempani districts are considered LDN key areas.

Ghana’s natural resources are disappearing at an alarming rate. More than 50 percent of the original forest area has been converted to agricultural land by slash and burn clearing practices. Wildlife populations are in serious decline, with many species facing extinction, according to a World Bank report.

The Garu and Tempane districts were the second and third areas in which the project was implemented, run in conjunction with the ministry of food and agriculture, the Ghana National Fire Service and other government agencies. From 2009 to 2012 the pilot was conducted in Talensi, Nabdam District, which is also here in Upper East Region.

The projects have been handed over to the communities and another one is now being introduced in Bawku East District, also in Upper East Region.

Farmers undertaking periodic pruning at vegetation Susudi, in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Credit: Albert Oppong-Ansah/IPS

Simple restoration methods

The restoration in Garu and Tempane began using simple principles. This community of mostly farmers selected a degraded area and were asked to not destroy the shrubs there but to protect and allow them to grow.

They were also taught by the ministry of food and agriculture how to periodically prune away weak stems, allowing the shoots to grow into full sized trees rapidly. They were also advised to allow animals to graze on the vegetation so that their droppings could become a source for manure.

“The critical science behind regeneration and improved soil nutrient are that the leaves of the shrubs or vegetation drops and decay. The decayed leaves constitute carbon in the soil and that promotes plant growth,” says Fiati.

So far, 23 communities in Garu and Tempane have adopted the approach, and 460 people were trained by the ministry of food and agriculture. Volunteers were also trained in fire fighting techniques by the Ghana Fire Service. Community volunteer brigades were then formed, and these play an active role in quashing bushfires threatening the land.

New bylaws to regulate the harvesting of surplus wood, grasses, and other resources were also passed and enforced to prevent the indiscriminate felling of trees.

The Garu, Tempane and Talensi districts are estimated to now have over 868,580 trees, with an average density of about 4,343 trees per hectare, compared to a baseline of around 10 trees per hectare.

“We gave the farmers animals to keep as a source of an alternative livelihood so that farmers do not go back to the charcoal burning,” Maxwell Amedi, Food Security and Resilient Technical officer of WVI Ghana tells IPS.

A significant number of people, including mothers and their children, now remain in the area thanks to this alternative source of livelihood.

Amedi notes that forests are essential to realising the world’s shared vision for its people, and the planet. Forests, he says, are central to future prosperity as well as the stability of the global climate.

Talaata Aburgi, 60, from Susudi community in the Garu and Tempane districts, tells IPS that neem trees have always been used here to cure ailments including diabetes, skin ulcers, birth controls, malaria fever and stomach ache. She is glad that these trees are now repopulating the area.

In addition, red and yellow berries and other indigenous fruit have started growing again. Birds, butterflies and wild animals, like monkeys and rabbits, have reappeared. As IPS travelled through the region and visited Aburgi’s farm, we saw a significant number of farmers adopting FMNR.

The FMNR project, Fiati says, is an excellent method of correcting the problem of reduced rainfall by bringing the production cycle in sync with nature.

Nkegbe is optimistic.

“With lessons learned and the results observed with regeneration initiatives, there is hope. We are scaling it up and have even expanded it to include traditional healers and have set up 14 herbaria. It may not be 100 percent but for sure there are positive signs. More support is needed,” Nkegbe says.

Meanwhile, Aburgi says that adopting the initiative has contributed to young herders spending less time seeking grazing land and allows them to attend school for longer periods.

“But for this initiative, our younger and future generation may have never known the beauty and importance of such indigenous trees as they [would have] all been destroyed,” Aburgi says.

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Critical funding shortage threatens WHO’s response in northwest Syriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/critical-funding-shortage-threatens-whos-response-northwest-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=critical-funding-shortage-threatens-whos-response-northwest-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/critical-funding-shortage-threatens-whos-response-northwest-syria/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 11:08:28 +0000 WAM http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157290 As the conflict in northwest Syria escalates, WHO is appealing for US$11 million to provide life-saving health care to people in parts of Aleppo, Hama, Idleb, and Lattakia governorates. Hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have been previously displaced, may be displaced yet again as they flee growing insecurity and violence. The situation […]

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By WAM
Aug 20 2018 (WAM)

As the conflict in northwest Syria escalates, WHO is appealing for US$11 million to provide life-saving health care to people in parts of Aleppo, Hama, Idleb, and Lattakia governorates.

Hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom have been previously displaced, may be displaced yet again as they flee growing insecurity and violence. The situation in Idleb is particularly dire; more than half a million people have been displaced to and within the governorate since January 2017, the World Health organisation said in a statement.

"If WHO does not receive additional funding, more than two million people caught in the cross-fire may have no access to essential health care services, including life-saving trauma care,"
Dr Michel Thieren, WHO Regional Emergencies Director
Growing levels of crime and inter-factional fighting are adding to the insecurity, and targeted assassinations and kidnappings are on the rise.

Many internally displaced persons, IDPs, are living in makeshift, overcrowded shelters with little access to health care and safe water and sanitation. Poor health following years of conflict makes them vulnerable to communicable diseases. Rates of acute malnutrition are likely to increase. Moreover, a decline in vaccination coverage rates may lead to renewed outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio, jeopardising WHO’s efforts to eradicate the disease worldwide.

“The health situation in northwest Syria is already dire and looks set to deteriorate. If WHO does not receive additional funding, more than two million people caught in the cross-fire may have no access to essential health care services, including life-saving trauma care,” said Dr Michel Thieren, WHO Regional Emergencies Director. “As matters stand, over half of the country’s public health care facilities have been destroyed or forced to close after years of conflict.”

Facing widespread need across many parts of Syria, the humanitarian community is finding itself increasingly compromised as a gaping funding deficit for health has placed millions of vulnerable Syrians at increased risk.

WHO will use any additional funds received from donors to support primary health care, childhood vaccination and trauma services in northwest Syria. The UN health agency will also strengthen referral systems to ensure that critically ill and wounded patients can be transferred to hospitals for specialised care. WHO will also facilitate medical evacuations and deliver essential life-saving and life-sustaining medicines and equipment to hospitals, clinics and mobile teams to help them treat people in need.

WAM/جنف/Nour Salman

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Annan Denounced Iraqi Invasion as “Illegal” & Criticized Military Leaders Addressing UNhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/annan-denounced-iraqi-invasion-as-illegal-criticized-military-leaders-addressing-un/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=annan-denounced-iraqi-invasion-as-illegal-criticized-military-leaders-addressing-un http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/annan-denounced-iraqi-invasion-as-illegal-criticized-military-leaders-addressing-un/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 10:17:43 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157266 The Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is  a creature of member states, rarely challenges or defies his creators. But Kofi Annan, who died last week at the age of 80, did both. Surprisingly, he lived to tell the tale– but paid an unfairly heavy price after being hounded by the United States. When the […]

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Kofi Annan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Kofi Annan. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is  a creature of member states, rarely challenges or defies his creators. But Kofi Annan, who died last week at the age of 80, did both. Surprisingly, he lived to tell the tale– but paid an unfairly heavy price after being hounded by the United States.

When the US invaded Iraq in March 2003, he described the invasion as “illegal” because it did not have the blessings of the 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC), the only institution in the world body with the power to declare war and peace.

But the administration of President George W. Bush went after him for challenging its decision to unilaterally declare war against Iraq: an attack by one member state against another for no legally-justifiable reason.

The weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), reportedly in Iraq’s military arsenal, which was one of the primary reasons for the invasion, were never found.

Subsequently, Annan came under heavy fire for misperceived lapses in the implementation of the “Oil-for-Food” programme which was aimed at alleviating the sufferings of millions of Iraqis weighed down by UN sanctions.

Ian Williams, author of UNtold: The Real Story of the United Nations in Peace and War, told IPS: “While I am heartened by the outpouring of appreciation for Kofi Annan, I can’t help but notice the contrast with the sound of silence when the Rupert Murdoch press and its followers had his back to the wall with the spurious Oil-for-Food crisis they had manufactured.”

All too many stood back and stayed silent as Annan spent long months under constant sniper fire, he recounted.

While few now remember the Oil for Food crisis, said Williams, it was billed at the time as the “greatest financial scandal” in history.

He said the so-called crisis “was a savage assault on Kofi’s greatest asset– and his perceptible integrity took a severe personal toll, as people who should have known better kept their silence.”

“It was in fact one of the greatest “fake news” concoctions in history, almost up there with Iraqi WMDs. That was no coincidence since many of the sources for both were the same,” said Williams, a senior analyst who has written for newspapers and magazines around the world, including the Australian, The Independent, New York Observer, The Financial Times and The Guardian.

“While I am heartened by the outpouring of appreciation for Kofi Annan, I can’t help but notice the contrast with the sound of silence when the Rupert Murdoch press and its followers had his back to the wall with the spurious Oil-for-Food crisis they had manufactured.”
Annan also virtually challenged the General Assembly which continued to offer its podium to political leaders who had come to power by undemocratic means or via military coups.

In 2004, when the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor of the present African Union (AU), barred coup leaders from participating in African summits, Annan singled it out as a future model to punish military dictators worldwide.

Annan went one step further and said he was hopeful that one day the UN General Assembly, the highest policy making body in the Organization, would follow in the footsteps of the OAU and bar leaders of military governments from addressing the General Assembly.

Annan’s proposal was a historic first. But it never came to pass in an institution where member states, not the Secretary-General, rule the roost.

The outspoken Annan, a national of Ghana, also said that “billions of dollars of public funds continue to be stashed away by some African leaders — even while roads are crumbling, health systems are failing, school children have neither books nor desks nor teachers, and phones do not work.”

He also lashed out at African leaders who overthrow democratic regimes to grab power by military means.

Jayantha Dhanapala, who served under Annan as Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, told IPS that Annan was “my friend and my Secretary-General”.

He was without doubt the “best Secretary-General the UN was privileged to have, after Dag Hammarskjold,” and steered the global body into the 21st century, with a vision and dedication sadly unmatched by the global leaders of the day, said Dhanapala.

“Kofi was dedicated to the cause of disarmament and re-established the Department for Disarmament Affairs in 1998 appointing me as its head, as part of his UN reforms. It was an honour to serve in his Senior Management Team for five eventful years and implement his policies for the reform of the UN.  His legacy will endure and be an inspiration,” he declared.

“I had known Kofi before he became Secretary-General. He remained unassuming, dignified and sincere in his commitment to peace,” said Dhanapala, a former Sri Lankan envoy to the United States.

Asked about Annan’s criticism of the American invasion of Iraq, he said “the USA went after him for saying that, and harassed him”.

Annan’s public declaration of the illegality of the US invasion provoked negative reactions both from the White House and from U.S. politicians.

White House Spokeswoman Claire Buchan said U.S. officials disagreed with Annan. “We previously made clear that coalition forces had authority [to invade Iraq] under several UN resolutions.”

“If Kofi had his way, [Iraqi President] Saddam Hussein would still be in power,” said Senator John Cornyn, a member of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee.

Williams told IPS that Annan was a person of integrity, and recognized his own failings, as in the Balkans and Rwanda, and tried to do something about them, commissioning reports that implicated him.

“With his experience in the UN machinery, he could have put the blame elsewhere but he accepted his share and that gave him the standing to represent the UN.”

People sometimes say that he was not outspoken enough, not loud enough, but that was actually a strength. When Annan spoke, said Williams, it was not just a trite soundbite because “he said what had to be said even it was sometimes unpopular.”

When Annan came back from negotiating with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and said it was a testament to the efficacy of diplomacy, not enough people listened to his corollary – when backed with the threat of force.

That posture of dignity, noted Williams, allowed him to steer the landmark Responsibility to Protect (R2P) resolution through the sixtieth anniversary summit and it is still a landmark even if many of those who did not have the political courage to oppose it at the summit have done so much to frustrate it since.

“Annan was no mere bureaucrat and he was not after the big desk and the title. He wanted to contribute to the world and thought the secretary-general’s office was the best place to do so. No one is perfect, high office demands compromises for practical achievements to win allies and majorities.”

But in office, on development goals, poverty, human rights, gender equality and many other issues, he advanced the UN agenda even as he re-wrote it. After office, Annan continued to do so, with the Elders and his own Foundation, said Williams.

James Paul, who served as executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum and monitored the United Nations for over 19 years, told IPS there are many stories about Kofi that deserve attention.

The most important may be about how he told a reporter that the Iraq War was contrary to the UN Charter, and not long afterwards sent a letter to US President George W Bush calling on the United States not to attack Fallujah.

This was before the 2004 US elections and Bush was livid. Soon thereafter Washington claimed to have uncovered a huge “financial scandal” at the UN.  Kofi was threatened by the US and was nearly forced out of office, said Paul.

He was summoned to a meeting at a private apartment in New York and forced eventually to agree to a wholesale change in his top staff in the fall of 2004 (which was detailed in a New York Times article).

After losing his key lieutenants and being humiliated, his wings were clipped. And throughout his tenure, his policies were never up to his charisma. He cut the budget to please Senator Jesse Helms.

He was the first secretary-general to promote a UN relationship with multinational companies (the Global Compact) and he gave backing to the aggressive US-UK program of “humanitarian intervention,” said Paul, author of “Of Foxes & Chickens: Oligarchy and Global Power in the UN Security Council”

When Annan completed his 10-year tenure as secretary-general, he left behind a mixed political legacy: his acknowledged successes in promoting peace, development, gender empowerment and human rights, and his self-admitted failures in reining in a sprawling U.N. bureaucracy facing charges of mismanagement.

 Annan, who served as the seventh secretary-general, from January 1997 to December 2006, shared the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize with the United Nations.

At his farewell press conference in mid-December, Annan specifically zeroed in on the multi-billion-dollar oil-for-food programme, which he said was “exploited to undermine the organization.”

“But I think when historians look at the records, they will draw the conclusion that yes, there was mismanagement; (and) there may have been several U.N. staff members who were engaged” in unethical behaviour.

“But the scandal, if any, was in the capitals, and with the 2,200 companies that made a deal with (Iraqi President) Saddam (Hussein) behind our backs,” he added.

The “capitals” he blamed were primarily the political capitals of the 15 member states of the Security Council — and specifically the five permanent members, namely the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia (P-5), under whose watchful eyes the notorious oil-for-food kickbacks took place.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

 

 

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An Appreciation – Kofi Annan: A Great Man of Peace & Multilateralism has Left Ushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/appreciation-kofi-annan-great-man-peace-multilateralism-left-us/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=appreciation-kofi-annan-great-man-peace-multilateralism-left-us http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/appreciation-kofi-annan-great-man-peace-multilateralism-left-us/#respond Mon, 20 Aug 2018 08:18:01 +0000 Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157264 I woke up on Saturday morning with the heart-breaking news that our dear Kofi is no more. The peoples of the world are unequivocal in expressing their feelings of the love, respect and recognition that they have for his qualities of head and heart. Knowing him for more than four decades, my calling him “Saint […]

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Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcoming in his office Ambassador Chowdhury on first day at work as Under-Secretary-General March 2002

Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcoming in his office Ambassador Chowdhury on first day at work as Under-Secretary-General March 2002

By Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 20 2018 (IPS)

I woke up on Saturday morning with the heart-breaking news that our dear Kofi is no more. The peoples of the world are unequivocal in expressing their feelings of the love, respect and recognition that they have for his qualities of head and heart.

Knowing him for more than four decades, my calling him “Saint Kofi” because of what he stood for, started at the beginning of the new millennium.

I recall with pride that the African Group decided to pick my Presidency of the Security Council in June 2001 to present a rather-early proposal for Kofi’s second term.

As the Security Council President, I introduced the resolution for his re-election to the General Assembly on 29 June 2001 which it did that very day with thunderous acclamation.

No Secretary-General both in the past and in the future, I believe, would know this most complex organization as thoroughly and as intimately as him. He was superbly knowledgeable in every aspect of UN’s work.
Kofi’s knowledge of the UN as the world’s biggest and most important multilateral body has been unparalleled. Starting at the entry level and reaching its topmost position accorded him a unique insight and understanding.

No Secretary-General both in the past and in the future, I believe, would know this most complex organization as thoroughly and as intimately as him. He was superbly knowledgeable in every aspect of UN’s work.

As the Chairman of Fifth Committee dealing with his UN reforms and restructuring in his first year as Secretary-General, I had experienced that time and again in the most enlightening way.

I recall Kofi’s invaluable advice as the Director of the UN Budget office when I was Vice Chair of the Committee on Programme and Coordination (CPC) in the early 1980s.

It was a distinct honor for me to serve in his team beginning in 2002 as the first Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the new office for the most vulnerable countries of the world, for whom he was himself a genuine and persistent advocate.

Personally, it was a pleasure for me to have received Kofi’s support, encouragement and advice for my initiatives in piloting in the General Assembly the UN Declaration and Programme of Action on the Culture of Peace in 1998-99 and in achieving the political breakthrough for UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women’s equality of participation in 2000, both taking place during his first term.

His personal connection with his staff, particularly those at the functional levels, was full of compassion and collegiality. He knew hundreds by their first names.

This following quote by Kofi underscoring the need for the culture of peace has been cited by me often: “Over the years we have come to realize that it is not enough to send peacekeeping forces to separate warring parties. It is not enough to engage in peace-building efforts after societies have been ravaged by conflict. It is not enough to conduct preventive diplomacy. All of this is essential work, but we want enduring results. We need, in short, the culture of peace.”

On 8 April this year, I sent him “our warmest greetings and heart-felt felicitations on the occasion of your super milestone eightieth birthday.”   I added “Our world has been immensely blessed with your leadership of the United Nations and the humanity continues to be blessed with your wisdom and engagement in making our planet a better place to live. We are so proud of you!”

I will miss Kofi tremendously.

*Anwarul K. Chowdhury was Ambassador of Bangladesh (1996-2001), President of the Security Council (March 2000 & June 2001), Chairman of the UN General Assembly’s Fifth Committee (1997-98), and Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN (2002-2007)

 

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IPS Mourns the Passing of Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ips-mourns-passing-former-united-nations-secretary-general-kofi-annan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ips-mourns-passing-former-united-nations-secretary-general-kofi-annan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ips-mourns-passing-former-united-nations-secretary-general-kofi-annan/#respond Sun, 19 Aug 2018 10:44:31 +0000 IPS Correspondents http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157260 Dear Nane Annan & Family, The IPS family would like to express our deepest condolences to you and your family on the passing of a husband, a father, a global statesman. As journalists, we find that few words can express our deep loss for a man who personalised and lived the vision and truth of a just and equal […]

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Kofi Annan's outstanding leadership on the global scale has been in the pursuit of the very mission for which the United Nations was created. Courtesy: Kofi Annan Foundation/Johannes Simon

By IPS Correspondents
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 19 2018 (IPS)

Dear Nane Annan & Family,

The IPS family would like to express our deepest condolences to you and your family on the passing of a husband, a father, a global statesman. As journalists, we find that few words can express our deep loss for a man who personalised and lived the vision and truth of a just and equal world.

IPS honours Kofi Annan’s outstanding leadership in the pursuit of the very mission for which the United Nations was created: a world seeking global peace, political stability, recognition of human dignity and the pursuit of human development.

Through some of the greatest global crises of our time, Annan stood steady and firm, championing global peace and equality, even long after his retirement.

No news agency has recognised more Annan’s commitment towards the advancement of the concerns of the world’s poorer nations in their fight against poverty and hunger, and their battle against the spread of HIV/AIDS.

His firm commitment to environmental sustainability, his consistently strong advocacy of human rights, his promotion of gender empowerment and the attainment of a larger freedom for all are values and missions that run through the heart and soul of our organisation. Just as it ran through him.

As this soul of matchless courage and integrity is laid to rest, we look to the stars and know, that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but merely changes form. And through this pain of a hard goodbye, we take up the energy and continue the services to humankind that Annan and IPS began at the same time.

Sincerely,

Inter Press Service Director General, Journalists
and Global Associates 

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UAE, New Zealand foster food security cooperationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/uae-new-zealand-foster-food-security-cooperation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uae-new-zealand-foster-food-security-cooperation http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/uae-new-zealand-foster-food-security-cooperation/#respond Sun, 19 Aug 2018 10:43:49 +0000 WAM http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157268 Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security has got a firsthand experience of the New Zealand’ s experience in areas of limnology, and agricultural and food sciences as part of the UAE’s endeavours to develop sustainable food solutions. This came during the minister’s visit to the cities of Wellington, Nelson and Auckland, during […]

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Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security has got a firsthand experience of the New Zealand' s experience in areas of limnology, and agricultural and food sciences as part of the UAE's endeavours to develop sustainable food solutions.

By WAM
DUBAI, Aug 19 2018 (WAM)

Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security has got a firsthand experience of the New Zealand’ s experience in areas of limnology, and agricultural and food sciences as part of the UAE’s endeavours to develop sustainable food solutions.

This came during the minister’s visit to the cities of Wellington, Nelson and Auckland, during which she got onsite knowledge on the best practices pursued by New Zealand, being among the top world countries in the field.

She was also briefed on the Garden-to-Table Initiative aimed at teaching children how to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, seasonal food, with the objective of learning from New Zealand’s vast experience in this domain.

UAE’s cooperation ties with New Zealand have borne fruit over the past period, with the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, for example, having developed a crop calculator to optimise the allocation of the groundwater used to irrigate crops. The model calculates the soil water balance by considering the inputs (rainfall and irrigation) and losses (plant uptake, evaporation, run-off and drainage) of water from the soil profile. The crop calculator is an initiative to promote optimum groundwater use in agriculture sector and to protect red zones where groundwater levels are falling rapidly.

 

WAM/Hatem Mohamed

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Statement by the Secretary-General on the Passing of Former Secretary-General Kofi Annanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/statement-secretary-general-passing-former-secretary-general-kofi-annan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=statement-secretary-general-passing-former-secretary-general-kofi-annan http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/statement-secretary-general-passing-former-secretary-general-kofi-annan/#respond Sat, 18 Aug 2018 15:57:22 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157257 Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good.  It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing.  In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination. Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi […]

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By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18 2018 (IPS)

Kofi Annan was a guiding force for good.  It is with profound sadness that I learned of his passing.  In many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.

Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor. I was deeply honoured by his trust in selecting me to serve as UN High Commissioner for Refugees under his leadership. He remained someone I could always turn to for counsel and wisdom — and I know I was not alone. He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world.  In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all us.

My heartfelt condolences to Nane Annan, their beloved family, and all who mourn the loss of this proud son of Africa who became a global champion for peace and all humanity.

New York, 18 August 2018

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Use of Water for Electricity Generation Triggers Outcry in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/outcry-use-water-electricity-generation-mexico/#respond Sat, 18 Aug 2018 01:46:35 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157253 One of the fears of the people of the Sierra Huasteca mountains in the state of San Luis Potosi in northeast Mexico is the construction of combined cycle power plants, which would threaten the availability of water. “We have heard rumours about the installation of two more plants, but we have no information. They operate […]

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Non-governmental organisations in Mexico are promoting a citizen water law to guarantee the human right to water. In the picture, social activists take part in a national workshop on watersheds on Aug. 11-12 in Tlalmanalco, a city in the south-central part of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Non-governmental organisations in Mexico are promoting a citizen water law to guarantee the human right to water. In the picture, social activists take part in a national workshop on watersheds on Aug. 11-12 in Tlalmanalco, a city in the south-central part of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
TLAMANALCO, Mexico, Aug 18 2018 (IPS)

One of the fears of the people of the Sierra Huasteca mountains in the state of San Luis Potosi in northeast Mexico is the construction of combined cycle power plants, which would threaten the availability of water.

“We have heard rumours about the installation of two more plants, but we have no information. They operate with very obscure mechanisms,” said Esther Peña, an advisor to the non-governmental Coordinator of Peasant and Indigenous Organisations of Huasteca Potosina, which was founded in 1994 and which brings together 12 organisations of indigenous people and small farmers in six municipalities.

Peña told IPS that the Tamazunchale combined cycle plant, which has been operating since 2007 with a capacity of 1,187 megawatts (MW), is polluting the environment and damaging coffee and citrus plantations, as well as cattle ranching.

The Spanish company Iberdrola, which owns the plant, plans to build two additional plants, Tamazunchale I and II, with a total capacity of 1,187 MW, which are still in the design phase.

The expansion of these natural gas-fired thermal power plants, whose waste gases are reused to produce more energy from steam, is a concern for defenders of water and enemies of fossil fuels because of the social and environmental impacts.

The threats identified by these groups also include the extraction of unconventional hydrocarbons from shale and the use of water by mining companies, soft drink and brewery plants, and other industries.

They were all discussed this month by experts and community leaders in Tlamanalco, a city in the state of Mexico, in the south-central part of the country

During the National Workshop of Promoters of Water and Basin Councils, 121 representatives from 51 Mexican organisations analysed how to redress the impact of these activities on access to water, as well as how to promote solutions that put water management in the hands of citizens.

The emphasis of this vision is on community management of water, the human right to water access, the care of water and water quality, as laid out in the proposed General Water Law, drafted since 2014 by civil society organisations, academics, local communities and indigenous peoples.

The organisations elected representatives from 28 basin councils, who will carry out the local work of disseminating the citizens’ initiative and mobilising support.

From this perspective, the link between water and energy becomes relevant, above and beyond the construction and modernisation of hydroelectric power plants and amidst the impacts of climate change caused by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.

“Today, the vision of using water to produce energy, such as in hydropower plants, combined cycle power plants and natural gas, has taken hold. Water is being misused,” said Óscar Monroy, president of the non-governmental Amecameca and La Compañía River Basin Commission.

 For two days, representatives of 51 Mexican non-governmental organisations debated measures to defend water at a meeting in the city of Tlalmanalco, in the state of Mexico, in the centre-south of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS


For two days, representatives of 51 Mexican non-governmental organisations debated measures to defend water at a meeting in the city of Tlalmanalco, in the state of Mexico, in the centre-south of the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The activist told IPS that “the problem is getting worse, because the current law considers water a commodity. The government subsidises water for the big polluters.”

Monroy was one of the participants in the meeting in Tlalmanalco – which means “place of flat land” in the Nahuatl language – a city of 47,000 people about 50 km southeast of Mexico City.

Encouraged by the importation of natural gas from the United States, the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and private companies are working on the assembly of combined cycle power plants, favoured by the opening of the energy sector to private capital in 2014.

The 2017 report “Neoliberal threat to common goods: national outlook for electricity megaprojects,” prepared by the non-governmental company Geocomunes, indicates that the CFE currently operates at least 27 thermoelectric, combined cycle and turbo-gas power plants, while there are at least 22 others in private hands.

Another 16 plants of this type are currently in the project stage and the CFE is building at least six additional plants that will come into operation in the coming years, according to data from the state agency.

In the second electricity auction, in September 2016, the Mexican government awarded a CFE combined cycle project in the northern state of Sonora and another private project along the border with the United States, in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, while in the 2017 electricity auction, two other private facilities were awarded.

By 2017, the autonomous public Energy Regulatory Commission had granted 645 permits for fossil fuel power generation – including combined cycle thermoelectric plants – equivalent to half of the authorised total.

In the first quarter of 2018, combined cycle plants, whose consumption of water for driving steam turbines is unknown, contributed 30,920 MW of the national total of 75,570 MW.

A future water crisis

Several studies predict a water crisis in Mexico by 2040, especially from the centre to the north of the country.

Of the 653 national aquifers, 105 are overexploited. Data from Oxfam Mexico indicate that almost 10 million people, out of the 130 million who live in this country, lack water in their homes, so that using water for generating energy conflicts with these needs.

The last straw for critics was the decision by the government of conservative Enrique Peña Nieto in June to lift the ban on water in 10 of the country’s watersheds to encourage its use for electricity generation, manufacturing, mining, brewing and other industrial uses, which would leave some 51 billion litres of water under concession for 50 years.

In response, communities of indigenous peoples and non-governmental organisations filed 36 applications for a writ of amparo – an action brought to enforce constitutional rights – against the decision: 12 were accepted by the courts, 12 were rejected and 12 are still pending.

In Tamaulipas, “we face the threat of energy projects,” such as hydraulic fracturing, said Ricardo Cruz, a member of that state’s Association of Environmental Lawyers.

This technique, also known as “fracking,” releases large volumes of oil or gas from deep rock by injecting massive amounts of water and chemical additives that pollute the air and water, according to environmentalists.

“We are very alarmed, because it could have a negative impact on health, agriculture and livestock farming,” Cruz told IPS.

For those who attended the workshop, the solution lies in the approval of the citizen-initiated bill on water. To comply with the constitutional reform of 2012 that guarantees the human right of appeal, the government was supposed to endorse new legislation in 2013, a deadline it failed to meet.

Therefore, its promoters will present the initiative next September, when the next Congress, elected in July, begins its session.

“The solution to the megaprojects is the citizen law, because it stipulates that water cannot be used for these megaprojects,” said Peña, in whose region people complain that the state-owned Petróleos Mexicanos oil giant intends to exploit gas with fracking, at the expense of people in at least 12 municipalities.

The 2016 report “Territorialisation of energy reform: control of energy exploitation, transport and energy transformation in northeastern Mexico,” by Geocomunes, says the construction of combined cycle plants “weakens the traditional main activity, agriculture,” in San Luis Potosi.

The organisation dedicated to mapping social conflicts also says that state “is consolidating its position as an energy-producing region for the central industrial areas of the country.”

The citizens’ initiative promotes the elimination of the state-owned National Water Commission and its replacement by a National Water Council made up of Regional Basin Councils.

In addition, it creates the Office for the Defence of Water, which has the power to punish anyone who wastes or pollutes water, or uses the resource for agricultural and environmental activities.

“A balance is needed for there to be water for all. Other types of projects are possible, with citizen organisations,” Monroy said.

Cruz concurred with Monroy, saying that “it is important to prioritise and water is not for profit. The goal must be to protect the human right” to water, he said.

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SLIDESHOW: Planet Earth, The Only Home We Havehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/slideshow-planet-earth-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=slideshow-planet-earth-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/slideshow-planet-earth-home/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 17:11:55 +0000 Trevor Page http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157243 Trevor Page is a writer and photographer living in Alberta, Canada. His op-eds and articles, often illustrated by his own photographs, have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic on-line and in numerous books. Mr. Page is a former director of emergency humanitarian assistance for the World Food Programme and WFP Country Director is several African, Asian and Caribbean countries.

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The melting polar ice cap in July 2018, at 80 degrees North, inside the Arctic Circle between Svalbard, Norway and Greenland. Climate change is warming polar regions twice as fast as other parts of the world. Credit: Trevor Page

The melting polar ice cap in July 2018, at 80 degrees North, inside the Arctic Circle between Svalbard, Norway and Greenland. Climate change is warming polar regions twice as fast as other parts of the world. Credit: Trevor Page

By Trevor Page
ROME, Aug 17 2018 (IPS)

Climate change is on us. Parts of the planet are burning up. Heatwaves across the northern hemisphere have dried vegetation and withered crops. Forests are ablaze in North America, Europe and Asia – even as far north as the Arctic Circle. The polar ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising. Massive storms and floods have devastated communities. Deserts continue relentlessly to encroach. And the extraordinarily hot spells this summer followed on from the extraordinarily cold spells of last winter. In 2018, extreme weather is the order of the day.

It’s not that we haven’t had adequate warning. Climate scientists, the United Nations and its intergovernmental panel on climate change, the IPCC, have been predicting this for decades. But it’s hard to get people to accept something remote in space and time, and whose very livelihood depends on maintaining the status quo. And for many still in denial, climate change is a natural phenomenon that we can’t influence anyway.

Be that as it may, Planet Earth is the only home we have – at least for the present. We must do everything we can to preserve it, lest the natural environment that spawned us be gone forever.

 

All along the Gerlach Strait in Antarctica, snow and ice is melting much faster than in earlier years, and glaciers are receding further. Credit: Trevor Page

All along the Gerlach Strait in Antarctica, snow and ice is melting much faster than in earlier years, and glaciers are receding further. Credit: Trevor Page

 

Glacier in Paradise Bay, Antarctica.Whalers operating in the area in the 1920s named the bay; though likely for the abundance of whales rather than the natural beauty! Credit: Trevor Page

Glacier in Paradise Bay, Antarctica. Whalers operating in the area in the 1920s named the bay likely for the abundance of whales rather than the natural beauty. Credit: Trevor Page

 

The face of the glacier in Antarctica’s Paradise Bay. The glacier periodically calves huge chunks of ice into the sea. Blue ice in Antarctica can be up to 1 million years old. Credit: Trevor Page

The face of the glacier in Antarctica’s Paradise Bay. The glacier periodically calves huge chunks of ice into the sea. Blue ice in Antarctica can be up to 1 million years old. Credit: Trevor Page

 

Iceberg in Hope Bay, Antarctica. Over 90% of an iceberg’s volume (and mass) is underwater. Icebergs that calve from glaciers on land cause sea levels to rise. Credit: Trevor Page

Iceberg in Hope Bay, Antarctica. Over 90% of an iceberg’s volume (and mass) is underwater. Icebergs that calve from glaciers on land cause sea levels to rise. Credit: Trevor Page

 

Gullfoss waterfall on the Hvita river in southwest Iceland. Although most of Iceland’s electricity comes from hydropower, the country has been able to strike a balance between renewable energy for industrial use and the conservation of nature. Credit: Trevor Page

Gullfoss waterfall on the Hvita river in southwest Iceland. Although most of Iceland’s electricity comes from hydropower, the country has been able to strike a balance between renewable energy for industrial use and the conservation of nature. Credit: Trevor Page

 

Wildfire damage in Glacier National Park, USA. The summer heatwave across the globe has helped the spread of wildfires from Canada and the USA to Sweden as far north as the Arctic Circle, to Greece and Japan. Credit: Trevor Page

Wildfire damage in Glacier National Park, USA. The summer heatwave across the globe has helped the spread of wildfires from Canada and the USA to Sweden as far north as the Arctic Circle, to Greece and Japan. Credit: Trevor Page

 

Ranching in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.Still small, growing numbers are favouring organically grown food and sustainable agricultural practices over factory farming. Credit: Trevor Page

Ranching in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.Still small, growing numbers are favouring organically grown food and sustainable agricultural practices over factory farming. Credit: Trevor Page

 

Huangshan or the Yellow Mountain in China’s Anhui Province. The natural beauty of rock formations, lush green pine trees and a sea of cloud has inspired countless painters and poets over the ages. Credit: Trevor Page

Huangshan or the Yellow Mountain in China’s Anhui Province. The natural beauty of rock formations, lush green pine trees and a sea of cloud has inspired countless painters and poets over the ages. Credit: Trevor Page

 

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Excerpt:

Trevor Page is a writer and photographer living in Alberta, Canada. His op-eds and articles, often illustrated by his own photographs, have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic on-line and in numerous books. Mr. Page is a former director of emergency humanitarian assistance for the World Food Programme and WFP Country Director is several African, Asian and Caribbean countries.

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Take Charge of Your Food: Your Health is Your Businesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/take-charge-of-your-food-your-health-is-your-business/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 10:22:03 +0000 Sunita Narain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157235 Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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Credit: IPS

By Sunita Narain
NEW DELHI, Aug 17 2018 (IPS)

The minimum we expect from the government is to differentiate between right and wrong. But when it comes to regulating our food, it’s like asking for too much. Our latest investigation vouches for this. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)’s pollution monitoring laboratory tested 65 samples of processed food for presence of genetically modified (GM) ingredients.

The results are both bad and somewhat good. Of the food samples tested, some 32 per cent were positive for GM markers. That’s bad. What’s even worse is that we found GM in infant food, which is sold by US pharma firm, Abbott Laboratories, for toddlers with ailments; in one case it was for lactose intolerant infants and the other hypoallergenic—for minimising possibility of allergic reaction.

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

Sunita Narain. Credit: Center for Science and Education

In both cases, there was no warning label on GM ingredients. One of the health concerns of GM food is that it could lead to allergic reactions. In 2008 (updated in 2012), the Indian Council of Medical Research issued guidelines for determining safety of such food, as it cautioned that “there is a possibility of introducing unintended changes, along with intended changes which may in turn have an impact on the nutritional status or health of the consumer”.

This is why Australia, Brazil, the European Union and others regulate GM in food. People are concerned about the possible toxicity of eating this food. They want to err on the side of caution. Governments ensure they have the right to choose.

The partial good news is that majority of the food that tested GM positive was imported. India is still more or less GM-free. The one food that did test positive is cottonseed edible oil. This is because Bt-cotton is the only GM crop that has been allowed for cultivation in India.

This should worry us. First, no permission has ever been given for the use of GM cottonseed oil for human consumption. Second, cottonseed oil is also mixed in other edible oils, particularly in vanaspati.

Under whose watch is GM food being imported? The law is clear on this. The Environment Protection Act strictly prohibits import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sale of any genetically engineered organisms except with the approval of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) under the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

In fact, they will say, there is no GM food in India. But that’s the hypocrisy of our regulators–make a law, but then don’t enforce it. On paper it exists; we are told, don’t worry. But worry we must.

The 2006 Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA) reiterates this and puts the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in charge of regulating use. The Legal Metrology (Packaged Commodities) Rules 2011 mandate that GM must be declared on the food package and the Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act 1992 says that GM food cannot be imported without the permission of GEAC. The importer is liable to be prosecuted under the Act for violation.

Laws are not the problem, but the regulatory agencies are. Till 2016, GEAC was in charge–the FSSAI said it did not have the capacity to regulate this food. Now the ball is back in FSSAI’s court. They will all tell you that no permission has been given to import GM food.

In fact, they will say, there is no GM food in India. But that’s the hypocrisy of our regulators–make a law, but then don’t enforce it. On paper it exists; we are told, don’t worry. But worry we must.

So, everything we found is illegal with respect to GM ingredients. The law is clear about this. Our regulators are clueless. So, worry. Get angry. It’s your food. It’s about your health.

What next? In 2018, FSSAI has issued a draft notification on labelling, which includes genetically modified food. It says that any food that has total GM ingredients 5 per cent or more should be labelled and that this GM ingredient shall be the top three ingredients in terms of percentage in the product.

But there is no way that government can quantify the percentage of GM ingredients in the food—this next level of tests is prohibitively expensive. We barely have the facilities. So, it is a clean chit to companies to “self-declare”. They can say what they want. And get away.

The same FSSAI has issued another notification (not draft anymore) on organic food. In this case, it says that it will have to be mandatorily “certified” that it does not contain residues of insecticides. So, what is good needs to be certified that it is safe.

What is bad, gets a clean bill of health. Am I wrong in asking: whose interests are being protected? So, take charge of your food. Your health is your business.

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Excerpt:

Sunita Narain is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine in New Delhi

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How Ghana’s Rapid Population Growth Could Become an Emergency and Outpace Both Food Production and Economic Growthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/ghanas-rapid-population-growth-become-emergency-outpace-food-production-economic-growth/#respond Fri, 17 Aug 2018 09:27:15 +0000 Jamila Akweley Okertchiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157229 Paul Ayormah and his fellow farmers make their way home after hours spent manually weeding a friend’s one-acre maize farm in Ghana’s Eastern Region. “Tomorrow it will be the turn of my maize farm,” he tells IPS. This year, Ayormah and his colleagues who live in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of the […]

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Paul Ayormah and his friends on his maize farm in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of Ghana’s Eastern Region. Credit: Jamila Akweley Okertchiri/IPS

By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri
ACCRA and DONKORKROM, Ghana, Aug 17 2018 (IPS)

Paul Ayormah and his fellow farmers make their way home after hours spent manually weeding a friend’s one-acre maize farm in Ghana’s Eastern Region.

“Tomorrow it will be the turn of my maize farm,” he tells IPS.

This year, Ayormah and his colleagues who live in Donkorkrom in the Kwahu Afram Plains District of the Eastern Region, have resorted to alternative means of cultivating their farms. The farmers group together and travel to each other’s farms, where they work to prepare and weed the farmland, taking turns to do the same for everyone else in the group. They have also resorted to using cattle dung to fertilise their crop.

“We are doing this to cut down on the cost involved in preparing our land for planting our maize,” Ayormah tells IPS.

Ayormah, a father of five, inherited his two-acre maize farm from his late father. And as the breadwinner in his family, Ayormah relies solely on his produce as a source of income.

Ayormah says that in a good season he is able to harvest 40 bags of maize, which he then sells in Koforidua, the capital of the Eastern Region, for an average of USD27 per bag.

“The money I make is what I use to take care of my family. Two of my children are in tertiary [education], one is in high school, and the other two are in junior high and primary school [respectively]. So there is hardly enough money at home,” he explains.

Ayormah believes he will have a good enough harvest this season, but says “I cannot promise a bumper harvest.”

Food Security

Ghana’s economy is predominately dependent on agriculture, particularly cocoa, though the government has taken steps to ensure that the cultivation of staples such as rice, maize and soya is also enhanced.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) says that 52 percent of the country’s labour force is engaged in agriculture, which contributes 54 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. However, it notes that the country’s agricultural sector is driven predominately by smallholder farmers, and about 60 percent of all farms are less than 1.2 hectares in size and are largely rain-fed.“Already our economy is not developing at the level we want it to and then we have this huge number of people depending on a small population for survival. So the little income or food must be shared among many people and this retards our economic growth and development.” -- Dr. Leticia Appiah, National Population Council director

Last April, president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo launched Ghana’s flagship agricultural policy, Planting for Food and Jobs, a five-year plan geared towards increasing food productivity and ensuring food security for the country. The policy’s long-term goal is to reduce food import bills to the barest minimum.

The programme also provides farmers who own two to three acres of land with a 50 percent subsidy of fertiliser and other farm inputs, such as improved seedlings.

Farmers who enrol in the programme enjoy a flexible repayment method where they pay their 50 percent towards the fertiliser cost in two instalments of 25 percent prior to and after harvest. Each payment is estimated to cost USD12.

Ayormah benefited from the programme last year, and had hoped that the use of chemical fertiliser would increase his farming yield and income. However, delayed rains and an armyworm infestation caused him to lose almost half of his produce.

He says although the programme was helpful, he cannot afford to pay the final USD12 he owes the government.

“With the little I will get from my farm produce this year, I will pay the money I owe the government so I can benefit [from the fertiliser] next year and get a bumper harvest,” he explains.

“If all goes well I hope to [harvest] my 40 bags. But this year is going to be a little difficult for my family because I am not getting the government fertiliser,” Ayormah laments.

A report by the ministry of food and agriculture assessing the one-year implementation of the Planting for Food and Jobs policy, notes the negative impact of delayed rains and armyworm infestation on maize production in the country. So far, government interventions such as the routine pesticide spraying on farms is bringing the armyworm infestation under control. But 20,000 hectares of land have already been affected.

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, Ghana’s minister of food and agriculture, tells IPS the situation faced by farmers in other parts of the country, particularly the Northern Region, poses a potential threat to food security for this west African nation.

Agenda 2030

Hiroyuki Nagahama, vice chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP) at the Asian and African Parliamentarians, spoke with IPS during a three-day visit this August to learn the opportunities and challenges that Ghana faces.

Nagahama says that if the current grown rate on the continent, in excess of two percent, is not checked, U.N. Population estimates and projections put Africa at a risk of contributing 90 percent to the increase in the world’s population between 2020 to 2100.

He further notes that the population growth rate does not correspond with the food produced on the continent and this poses a threat to food security.

“According to calculations by the FAO, food security can be possible through cutting down on losses from food and engaging appropriately in farm management and production. But, economic principles compels us to ask difficult questions about how the population of Africa will have access to food supply,” Nagahama says.

A new project by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the JPFP, which focuses on enhancing national and global awareness of parliamentarians’ role as a pivotal pillar for achieving the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, was launched this year. The project also supports parliamentarians as they implement necessary policy, legislative changes and mobilise resources for population-related issues.

It is a platform to examine the ways in which both developed and developing countries can, in equal partnership, serve as the driving force to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and create a world where no one is left behind.

Rashid Pelpou, chair of Ghana’s Parliamentary Caucus on Population and Development, tells IPS it is estimated that 1.2 million of Ghana’s 29.46 million people are currently food insecure.

And that a further two million Ghanaians are vulnerable to food insecurity nationwide. In the event of an unexpected natural or man-made shock, their pattern of food consumption can be greatly impacted.

He says that as representatives of the people, parliamentarians’ priorities are to ensure that laws and budget allocations translates into constituents having physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

Reproductive Health

In Ghana, the National Population Council (NPC) stated last August that the country’s current 2.5 percent population growth rate was high above the global rate of 1.5 percent, calling it a disturbing trend.

Dr. Leticia Appiah, NPC director, tells IPS that population management is an emergency that requires urgent action. She previously said that the “annual population increase is 700,000 to 800,000, which is quite alarming.”

Appiah tells IPS that when people give birth to more children than they can afford, not only does the family suffer in terms of its ability to care for these children, but the government becomes burdened as it provides social services.

“Already our economy is not developing at the level we want it to and then we have this huge number of people depending on a small population for survival. So the little income or food must be shared among many people and this retards our economic growth and development,” Appiah explains.

African Development Bank Group data shows that “economic growth fell from 14 percent in 2011 at the onset of oil production to 3.5 percent in 2016, the lowest in two decades.” In April the Ghana Statistical Service announced an 8.5 percent expansion in gross domestic product.

“We have to really focus on reproductive health otherwise we will miss the investment we have made in immunisation and create more problems for ourselves,” Appiah says.

Nagahama addresses the issue of Africa’s population growth: “It is an individual’s right to choose how many children they will have and at what interval. But in reality there are many children who are born from unwanted pregnancies and births.”

“To remove such plight, it is important for us parliamentarians to legislate, allocate funding and implement programmes for universal access to reproductive health services in ways that are culturally acceptable,”Nagahama says.

Niyi Ojoalape, the U.N. Population Fund’s Ghana representative, tells IPS that strong government coordination is the way to harness demographic dividend—the growth in an economy that is the resultant effect of a change in the age structure of a country’s population.

Ghana currently has a national population policy with strategies to manage the country’s population for long term benefit, but implementation of this has lacked political will over the years.

Ojoalape notes that without sustainable implementation over the long term, Ghana will not be able to reap the benefits.

The post How Ghana’s Rapid Population Growth Could Become an Emergency and Outpace Both Food Production and Economic Growth appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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Music: Nigeria’s New Cultural Exporthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/music-nigerias-new-cultural-export/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=music-nigerias-new-cultural-export http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/music-nigerias-new-cultural-export/#respond Thu, 16 Aug 2018 12:19:51 +0000 Franck Kuwonu http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157227 It is a cold evening in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, famous for diamonds, beer, art and high-end fashion. Inside a small restaurant, a mix of the latest American pop and rap—clearly enjoyed by diners—is playing on a radio. Nigerians Olalekan Adetiran and Adaobi Okereke, enjoying a kebab dinner, are startled when the radio begins playing […]

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Wizkid performs in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Alamy/Michael Tubi - Nigerian music is drawing interest from beyond the borders, showcasing the vitality of a creative industry that the government is now depending on, among other sectors, to diversify the economy and foster development.

Wizkid performs in London, United Kingdom. Photo: Alamy/Michael Tubi

By Franck Kuwonu, Africa Renewal*
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16 2018 (IPS)

It is a cold evening in Antwerp, Belgium’s second-largest city, famous for diamonds, beer, art and high-end fashion. Inside a small restaurant, a mix of the latest American pop and rap—clearly enjoyed by diners—is playing on a radio. Nigerians Olalekan Adetiran and Adaobi Okereke, enjoying a kebab dinner, are startled when the radio begins playing the unmistakable “Ma Lo”—a catchy, midtempo and bass-laden song by popular Nigerian artistes Tiwa Savage and Wizkid.

The song, currently a hit in Nigeria and across Africa, awakens thoughts of home; they cannot stop smiling at the pleasant surprise. They are visiting Belgium as part of a tour of European countries and their cultural landmarks.

A week earlier, barely two months after its release, the eye-popping video of the song had been viewed on YouTube more than 10 million times—and counting.

For Mr. Adetiran, hearing “Ma Lo” on a Belgian radio station not known to cater to African communities confirms that music from Naija (as Nigerians fondly refer to their country), is going places. It reflects the greater reach of a new generation of Nigerian artists.

Just like the country’s movie industry, Nollywood, Nigerian music is drawing interest from beyond the borders, showcasing the vitality of a creative industry that the government is now depending on, among other sectors, to diversify the economy and foster development.

 

 

Greater recognition

Last November, Wizkid won the Best International Act category at the 2017 MOBO (Music of Black Origin) Awards held in London, the first for an Africa-based artist. He beat back competition from more established global celebrities such as Jay-Z, Drake, DJ Khaled and Kendrick Lamar.

At the same MOBO Awards, Davido, another Nigerian artist, took home the Best African Act award for “If,” one of his hit songs—a love-themed ballad with a blend of Nigerian rhythms and R & B.

Since its release in February 2017, the official “If” video has racked up more than 60 million views on YouTube, the highest number of YouTube views for any Nigerian music video and one of the highest ever recorded for a song by an African artist.

Across the African continent, other musical groups, such as Kenya’s boy band Sauti Sol, Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz and South Africa’s Mafikizolo, have collaborated with or featured Nigerian top stars in attempts to gain international appeal. Reuters news service calls Nigerian music a “cultural export.”

The Nigerian government is now looking to the creative industries, including performing arts and music, to generate revenues.

 

A billion-dollar industry?

“When we talk about diversifying the economy it is not just about agriculture or solid minerals alone, it is about the creative industry—about the films, theatre and music,”
Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s minister of information and culture


In rebasing or recalculating its GDP in 2013, the Nigerian government included formerly neglected sectors, such as the entertainment industries led by Nollywood. As a result, the country’s GDP increased sharply, from $270 billion to $510 billion, overtaking South Africa that year as the continent’s biggest economy, notes the Brookings Institution, a US-based nonprofit public policy think tank.

Brookings reports, however, that the GDP rise didn’t show an increase in wealth and that a recent crash in the price of oil, the country’s main export, is slowing economic growth.

Nigerian music sales revenues were estimated at $56 million in 2014, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), an international accounting and auditing firm. The firm projects sales revenues to reach $88 million by 2019.

Globally, the creative industry is among the most dynamic economic sectors. It “provides new opportunities for developing countries to leapfrog into emerging high-growth areas of the world economy,” the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), a UN body that deals with trade, investment and development issues, said in a 2016 report.

Over the last decade, Europe has been the largest exporter of creative products, although exports from developing countries are growing fast too, UNCTAD reported.

According to PwC, lumped together, annual revenues from music, movies, art and fashion in Nigeria will grow from $4.8 billion in 2015 to more than $8 billion in 2019,.

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics reports that the local music sector grew “in real terms by 8.4% for the first three months of 2016” and that in the first quarter of 2017, the sector grew by 12% compared with the same period one year prior.

The growth may be attributed to a reversal in music consumption patterns, according to local media reports. Up to the early 2000s, the music in clubs and on the radio in Nigeria was dominated by British and American hit songs.

Not anymore. Reportedly, most Nigerians now prefer songs by their local artists to those by foreigners, even the big ones in the West.

“When I go out, I want to hear songs by Davido or Whizkid or Tekno; like other people, I cannot enjoy myself listening to songs by foreign artistes anymore,” says Benjamin Gabriel, who lives in Abuja. With a population of about 180 million, Nigerian artists have a huge market to tap into. The big ones like Whizkid and Davido are feeling the love—maybe the cash too!

 

The new oil

“We are ready to explore and exploit the ‘new oil,’” Nigeria’s minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, commented ahead of a creative industry financing conference held in Lagos last July.

“When we talk about diversifying the economy it is not just about agriculture or solid minerals alone, it is about the creative industry—about the films, theatre and music,” Mr. Mohammed said.

He was reacting to UNCTAD’s findings that the creative industry contributed £84.1 (about $115.5) billion to the British economy in 2014 and $698 billion to the US economy that same year. “Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind,” Mr. Mohammed declared.

The Nigerian government is already providing incentives to investors in the sector, including a recent $1 million venture capital fund to provide seed money for young and talented Nigerians looking to set up business in creative industries.

The government is also allowing the industry “pioneer status,” meaning that those investing in motion picture, video and television production, music production, publishing, distribution, exhibition and photography can enjoy a three- to five-year tax holiday.

Other incentives, such as government-backed and privately backed investment funds, are also being implemented.

Yet as hopes of a vibrant industry rise, pervasive copyright violations could stunt its growth.

 

Profits are “scattered”

In December 2017, the Nigerian police charged three people in Lagos with copyright violations. Their arrests had been widely reported in the country months earlier. “Piracy: Three suspects arrested at Alaba with N50 million [US$139,000] worth of materials,” Premium Times, a Lagos-based newspaper, announced in a headline.

Alaba market in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, is famous for electronics, but it is also notorious for all things fake and cheap, attracting customers from across West Africa to East Africa.

Recent efforts by the authorities to fight piracy led to police raids of Alaba and other markets in the country, resulting in the seizure of pirated items worth $40 million.

Despite such raids, the business of pirated music and movie CDs continues unabated, turning enforcement efforts into a game of Whack-A-Mole. With minimal returns from CD sales, Nigerian artists rely on ringtone sales, corporate sponsorship contracts and paid performances to make ends meet. Most Nigerian artists now prefer online releases of their songs.

Still, online release poses its own challenges. For example, Mr. Adetiran and Mr. Okereke recall visiting in March 2017 a club in Dakar, Senegal, where DJs spun Nigerian beats nonstop. The two realised only much later that those songs had been downloaded from the Internet.

“When you create your content and put it out, it’s scattered,” Harrysong, a Nigerian singer, told the New York Times in June 2017, echoing Mr. Adetiran and Mr. Okereke’s experience. He was expressing performers’ sense of powerlessness as they lose control of sales and distribution of their music.

The Times summed it up like this: “Nigeria’s Afrobeat music scene is booming, but profits go to pirates.”

*Africa Renewal, a magazine published by the United Nations, was launched in 1987. It was formerly published as Africa Recovery/Afrique Relance. 

This article was originally published here

 

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