Inter Press ServiceRegional Categories – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 22 Aug 2017 13:25:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 2017 World Water Week: ‘Water and Waste: Reduce and Reuse’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/2017-world-water-week-water-waste-reduce-reuse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2017-world-water-week-water-waste-reduce-reuse http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/2017-world-water-week-water-waste-reduce-reuse/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 13:25:22 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151768 With a growing global population, a rise in energy and industrial production, the demand for water is reaching new levels. By 2050 it is expected that approximately 6.4 billion people will live in cities, making urban water management an essential building block for resilience and sustainable growth. Cities are increasingly recognized as critical to achieving […]

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2017 World Water Week: ‘Water and waste: reduce and reuse’

2017 World Water Week: ‘Water and waste: reduce and reuse’

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 22 2017 (IPS)

With a growing global population, a rise in energy and industrial production, the demand for water is reaching new levels.

By 2050 it is expected that approximately 6.4 billion people will live in cities, making urban water management an essential building block for resilience and sustainable growth.

Cities are increasingly recognized as critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. While wastewater isn’t only an urban challenge, cities can serve as a hub for wastewater innovation.

Water supply, sanitation and storm water are integral components of the urban water system. New approaches to ‘smart cities’, with greater emphasis on integrated urban water and wastewater management, are required..

Success in urban water management relies on people, good governance and cross-sectoral collaboration.

 

 

When properly harnessed, wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other consumables. This is why the theme of this year’s World Water Week is ‘Water and waste: reduce and reuse’.

A circular economy, in which water and waste are reused and managed as economic assets, is an important part of the solution to this challenge.

World Water Week, annually hosted by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), will bring together scientists, policy makers, private sector and civil society actors to network, exchange ideas and foster new thinking.

Have your say at this year’s World Water Week in Stockholm.

Visit the Exhibit area where SIWI along with the Global Water Partnership and several stakeholders will share their knowledge and insights, bringing a diversity of perspectives to the World Water Week.

Water is key to our future prosperity, and together, we can achieve a water wise world.

 

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Jordan Abolishes Law Allowing Rapists to Avoid Prosecutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-abolishes-law-allowing-rapists-to-avoid-prosecution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jordan-abolishes-law-allowing-rapists-to-avoid-prosecution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-abolishes-law-allowing-rapists-to-avoid-prosecution/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 10:06:41 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151763 In just three weeks time, two Arab countries adopted major steps to combat violence against women, with Jordan abolishing a law allowing rapists to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims, while Tunisia adopting its first national law to prevent gender-based violence and provide support to survivors. In the case of Jordan, the law until now […]

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Violence against women - Young Tunisian women. Photo: UN Women

Young Tunisian women. Photo: UN Women

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 22 2017 (IPS)

In just three weeks time, two Arab countries adopted major steps to combat violence against women, with Jordan abolishing a law allowing rapists to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims, while Tunisia adopting its first national law to prevent gender-based violence and provide support to survivors.

In the case of Jordan, the law until now allowed a rapist to avoid prosecution by marrying his victim for a minimum period of five years. However, the Parliament of Jordan on 4 August voted to abolish the so-called “rape law” of the Penal Code.

Jordan becomes the third county in the region, after Morocco and Lebanon, to abolish the use of marriage to avoid rape prosecutions, the United Nations specialised body, UN Women, informed.

“The abolishing of article 308 is an important victory for the women’s movement in Jordan,” said Wafa Saed Bani Mustafa, a lawyer and Member of the Parliament (MP), currently serving as head of the Women’s Caucus and Chairperson of the Coalition of Women MPs to Combat Violence against Women the UN specialised entity reported.

The law eliminates impunity for perpetrators of violence, for example, by amending the article 227 of the penal code, which pardoned a perpetrator of a sexual act with a minor when the perpetrator married his victim. The passing of the law follows several years of advocacy efforts led by Tunisian civil society and national institutions, in collaboration with international organisations, including UN Women.

“My engagement began in 2013, when I started advocating for the abolishment of this article, along with a group of other parliamentarians while serving in Jordan’s 17th Parliament. I started this action because of my strong belief in the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in our national laws, as I believe that Jordanian women are citizens with equal rights and duties.”

In recent years, the advocacy to abolish Article 308 has been growing into a strong front, led by national and international organisations, justice sector professionals, journalists and women’s rights activists, adds the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

 

“Continued Drama, Fear and Abuse”

Emphasising the “continued trauma, fear and abuse that rape survivors endure when forced to marry their rapists,” civil society, parliamentarians and other actors formed a dedicated coalition in 2015. Together, they demanded the adoption of better legal measures to protect survivors of rape, sexual assault and harassment, and to punish the perpetrators to end impunity, adds UN Women.

“It is important to introduce the concept that marriage is not the only option for rape survivors,” added Mustafa. “Survivors should know that they can receive adequate physical and psychological support, that they can become financially independent and be reintegrated into the society.”

More than 200 activists and representatives of the civil society attended the discussion in Parliament on 2 August and circulated an online petition, which gathered 5,000 signatures from the public in one day, in support of this legislative reform, according to UN Women.

“Also invaluable was the contribution of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, the national women’s agency, headed by Princess Basma bint Talal, who is as well the UN Women’s National Goodwill Ambassador in Jordan.”

The unfailing advocacy efforts of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, the joint action of the civil society and the continuous commitment of the women’s movement at all levels in the past years have paved the way for this historic reform, and continue to sustain the advancement of the women’s empowerment in Jordan,” said Ziad Sheikh, UN Women Representative in Jordan.

UN Women has been a steadfast supporter of the Jordanian National Commission for Women and Jordanian civil society in their advocacy efforts.

In 2016, it also organised a dialogue on the issue between Jordanian and Moroccan parliamentarians, since Morocco had successfully abolished similar discriminatory provisions from its laws.

Violence against women - Salma Nims, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. Photo: Jordanian National Commission for Women.

Salma Nims, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. Photo: Jordanian National Commission for Women.

Violence against Women in Tunisia

For its part, Tunisia made new strides by passing its first national law to combat violence against women, on 26 July this year.

The long-awaited legislation, which passed with 146 votes out of 217 and zero abstentions, takes a comprehensive approach by combining measures for prevention of violence and support for survivors, UN Women reports.

“As a Tunisian woman, I am very proud that this law has been adopted. This is the climax of the steps that began through the adoption of the Code of Personal Status in 1956,”said Naziha Labidi, Minister of Women, Family and Childhood.

The new violence against women law adopts a broad definition of violence. In addition to physical violence, the law recognises other forms of violence against women and girls, including economic, sexual, political and psychological.

It also provides for new protection mechanisms that will enable survivors to access the necessary services and legal and psychological assistance.

 

No Impunity for Perpetrators

Furthermore, the law eliminates impunity for perpetrators of violence, for example, by amending the article 227 of the penal code, which pardoned a perpetrator of a sexual act with a minor when the perpetrator married his victim.

The passing of the law follows several years of advocacy efforts led by Tunisian civil society and national institutions, in collaboration with international organisations, including UN Women.

“Prior to this law, the only progressive legislation that promoted gender equality was the Code of Personal Status, which abolished polygamy, established the minimal age for marriage, introduced the requirement of mutual consent of both parties for a marriage, and created a judicial procedure for divorce.”

UN Women supported the development of advocacy tools, including guidance for parliamentarians on the international standards to combat violence against women and an article-by-article analysis of the draft law, which was then submitted by the UN System to the Assembly of People’s Representatives (Tunisian Parliament).

50% of Tunisian Women Experienced Violence

Pointing to several recent studies, including the national survey on violence against women in 2010, which estimated that nearly 50 per cent of Tunisian women have experienced violence in their lifetime, Member of Parliament, Bochra Belhaj Hmida said: “This is why the establishment of a legal framework against violence was needed.”

She also stressed on the importance of education within the family and from an early age to prevent such violence, adds UN Women

UN Women Maghreb is proud to have contributed to every step of this great success—from the very first drafting [of the law] in 2014, to the challenging debates that ensued. The law marks a major step towards achieving gender equality in Tunisia,” said Leila Rhiwi, UN Women Representative in Maghreb Multi-Country Office.

“I would like to stress the incredible mobilization, tenacity and perseverance of Tunisian civil society in this process. The sustainable and long-term dialogue and partnerships that we built with them since 2014 is undoubtedly a key factor of this success, ” she added.

While passing of the law marks a significant step in the right direction, translating it into practice through appropriate implementation measures and resources will be key to making a tangible difference to women’s lives, according to the UN Women.

“Some mechanisms are already in place to assist the process—for example, five Tunisian Ministries (Social Affairs, Justice, Women, Family and Children, the Interior and Health) adopted and signed multi-sectoral protocols in December 2016.”

These protocols constitute a set of procedural guidance and mechanisms to improve coordination among frontline service providers under these sectors to better serve survivors of violence, whose needs often encompass a full range of services, from justice to health and housing. Representatives from the five Ministries also meet every month to jointly follow up on individual cases of women survivors.

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Quantitative Easing for Wealth Redistributionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/quantitative-easing-for-wealth-redistribution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=quantitative-easing-for-wealth-redistribution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/quantitative-easing-for-wealth-redistribution/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 08:51:10 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151760 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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Quantitative Easing for Wealth Redistribution - A man pushes a cartful of garbage near a busy intersection in Yangon, Myanmar. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

A man pushes a cartful of garbage near a busy intersection in Yangon, Myanmar. Credit: Amantha Perera/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 22 2017 (IPS)

Following the 2007-2008 global financial crisis and the Great Recession in its wake, the ‘new normal’ in monetary policy has been abnormal. At the heart of the unconventional monetary policies adopted have been ‘asset purchase’ or ‘quantitative easing’ (QE) programmes. Ostensibly needed for economic revival, QE has redistributed wealth – regressively, in favour of the rich.

As its failure to revive most economies becomes apparent, and opposition to growing inequality rises, QE may soon end, judging by recent announcements of some major central banks. Already, the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of England have been phasing out purchases of financial assets, while the European Central Bank (ECB) is publicly considering how quickly to do so from December. Meanwhile, these monetary authorities are considering raising interest rates again.

Evaluated by its own declared objectives, QE has been a failure. Forbes magazine, the self-avowed ‘capitalist tool’, has acknowledged that QE has “largely failed in reviving economic growth”. By ‘injecting’ money into the economy, QE was supposed to induce banks to lend more, thus boosting investment and growth. But in fact, overall bank lending fell after QE was introduced in the UK, with lending to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) – responsible for most employment – falling sharply.

Bank failure to finance productive investments was not because corporations were short of cash as they have considerable reserves. Instead, the problem is due to under-consumption or overproduction, exacerbated by protracted stagnation and worsening inequality. After all, producing more when demand is soft or shrinking only leads to excess supply or gluts.

 

QE’s regressive wealth distribution

But QE has transferred wealth and income to the rich in the guise of reviving the world economy. New money created by QE was not invested in new productive activities, but instead mainly flowed into stock markets and real estate, pushing up share and property prices, without generating jobs or prosperity. QE has enriched asset owners, increasing the wealth of the rich, while not generating real wealth.

By effectively devaluing currency, QE has diminished money’s buying power, thus reducing real incomes. However, first-time or new asset purchasers lose, having to spend more to buy more expensive assets such as shares or real property. While increased asset prices have to be paid by purchasers, the additional cost to existing asset owners is partially compensated for by higher prices received for assets sold.

Thus, the claim that QE would encourage investment as well as boost growth and employment has disguised the massive redistribution or wealth transfer to the rich. QE, especially in the US and UK, has seen real wages fall as profits rose. While output may have recovered, real wages have been generally lower.

 

In the South too

QE has had similar effects in the global South, enriching asset owners at the expense of the ‘asset-poor’, while making their economies more vulnerable. QE also caused housing, stock market and commodity price bubbles as speculators rushed to buy up such assets. Until petrol prices fell in late 2014, oil-exporting countries enjoyed cash windfalls, at the expense of oil-importing countries, sometimes with devastating consequences, even if only temporary.

QE triggered huge capital flows into the developing world. Around 40 percent of the US Fed’s first QE credit expansion and a third from QE2 went abroad, mostly to ‘emerging markets’. Much of this went into buying existing assets, rather than into productive new investments. And if their currencies strengthened, their exports were undermined.

On the other hand, QE also exacerbated competitive currency devaluations. By reducing the value of their own currencies, ‘reserve currency’ monetary authorities effectively caused other currencies to appreciate, damaging their exports and trade balances.

 

Be prepared

Unlike productive long-term investments, ‘hot money’ inflows of speculative capital worsen currency volatility. Rising interest rates in the West are likely to trigger a mass exodus of capital from emerging markets, potentially triggering currency collapses in emerging markets again, as in mid-1997.

With various recent developments conspiring to reverse the last several years of unconventional monetary policies in the North, emerging markets and other developing economies are generally poorly prepared for the forthcoming change in circumstances.

While policy options in different scenarios are already being publicly considered in the Western reserve currency economies, an ostrich-like approach of not discussing and preparing for such changes is much more widespread in other economies, with potentially catastrophic consequences.

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Buffalo Revive Local Economy in Remote Bay of Bengal Islandshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/buffalo-revive-local-economy-remote-bay-bengal-islands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=buffalo-revive-local-economy-remote-bay-bengal-islands http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/buffalo-revive-local-economy-remote-bay-bengal-islands/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 00:01:25 +0000 Shahiduzzaman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151704 Visitors might be confused after arriving in Char Chatkimarai, a tiny island of eight square miles situated in the extreme south of Bangladesh close to the Bay of Bengal. Many might think they have just landed in an amazing part of a big national park of buffalo. It is an eye-catching sight to say the […]

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About 7,000 farmers are benefitting from this IFAD-supported project and the buffalo population has risen to more than 9,100 in the district. Credit: GJUS

By Shahiduzzaman
BHOLA, Bangladesh, Aug 22 2017 (IPS)

Visitors might be confused after arriving in Char Chatkimarai, a tiny island of eight square miles situated in the extreme south of Bangladesh close to the Bay of Bengal. Many might think they have just landed in an amazing part of a big national park of buffalo.

It is an eye-catching sight to say the least. Whichever direction one looks, there are buffalo everywhere, moving together in herds and sometimes playfully running after each other or resting with their bodies submerged in water.“Our income is slowly increasing and we can take care of our families better than before." --Hanif Hawlader

This buffalo island did not happen overnight. It is the poor people of this island who worked for decades to turn the place into buffalo land, building and rebuilding after floods, cyclones and tidal surges hit the island year after year.

The islands were inundated several times, including Char Chatkimarai, which was completely washed away and inhabitants of the island lost their loved ones and all their assets. But the people never gave up, rising every time to rebuild their lives and dreaming of a better future.

Each disaster that hit the people made them more determined to work harder. Their struggle for a better life attracted the attention of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations organisation that came up with a support programme for the island.

The government of Bangladesh welcomed IFAD’s initiative and agreed to work together to give the people of the island a fighting chance for a better life.

With IFAD support, Grameen Jano Unnayan Sangstha (GJUS), a local NGO, launched a four-year programme to provide modern technology for rearing buffalo in five sub-districts of Bhola, a southern district of the country. Ever since, the situation on the island started to improve.

About 7,000 farmers are benefitting from this IFAD-supported project and the buffalo population has risen to more than 9,100 in the district. The total buffalo population in the country is 1.464 million heads that are used for household subsistence farming as well as for extensive free range farming in the saline coastal region. Often buffalo are used as draft animals and partially for milk and meat production.

Zakir Hossain, Executive Director of GJUS, said, “Rearing buffalo is not profitable due to its high mortality rate, which is about 12 percent, and low productivity. But farmers keep buffalo in remote islands as they do not have any alternatives for survival.”

“Its products are healthier than other animals such as cow or goat,” Zakir added.

Mentioning the key activities undertaken with IFAD support on the island, Zakir said that training has been introduced for buffalo farmers to be able to adopt modern technology, keep up with continuous technical advice and health treatment services and introduce feed technology for high yielding bulls and artificial insemination technology.

The farmers are also helped to set up linkages between producers and milk purchasers and access markets and undertake promotion activities surrounding buffalo milk, milk-based products and meat, also ensuring regular vaccination.

As per the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistic (BBS) (2015-1016), the contribution of livestock to GDP is 1.66 to country’s GDP. Experts state that there are more options and opportunity to expand the sector.

Char Chatkimarai lies between two giant rivers: Tetulia and Meghna. The population of about 3,000 is ultra-poor and the literacy rate is very low. Girls and women’s lives are quite restricted. Most of them are victims of child or forced marriages.

Recently a team led by Benoit Thierry, Country Program Manager, Asia and the Pacific Division of IFAD traveled for over one and a half hours by small speed boat to reach Char Chatkimarai from Barisal division. Thierry met about 50 buffalo farmers and the people who live on this little island.

Nazim Hawlader, a 50-year-old farmer who is also a group leader, said, “Rearing buffalos was never profitable. Traditionally we have been rearing buffalos but had no treatment facilities when some buffalos had diseases. Now we have such services and this gives us new hope for survival.”

Nazim commended GJUS  for introducing modern technologies for rearing the animals, saying, “They have trained us, advised to take care of our animals in a scientific way and have provided treatment facilities.”

As a result, he said, the buffalo mortality rate has been reduced and the number of buffalo is increasing and they are producing more milk than before.

Hanif Hawlader, 55, another buffalo farmer, said, “Our income is slowly increasing and we can take care of our families better than before. Children are going to school, getting nutritious and healthy food and we also have sanitary toilets.”

He said that there is still a need for good feed at accessible cost and free fields for grazing.

Mohammad Majnu Sarkar, Assistant Manager of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), a government apex development organization, said, “We have given strong emphasis not only on Char Chatkimarai but also on the five sub-districts of Bhola and other adjacent districts where there is high potential for rearing buffalos.”

He added that the target is to reduce the buffalo mortality rate from 12 percent to 5 percent and continue transferring modern technology to improve herd health. Manju Sarker expressed confidence that most farmers will cross the poverty line and become self-sufficient within the next few years.

“At present buffalo milk, milk products and meat covers about 40 percent demand of Bhola district but it is gradually increasing after the project began. With such promising results, this project can be replicated in other parts of the country, particularly in the district adjacent to Bhola,” said veterinary doctor and Assistant Director of UJUS, Khalilur Rahman.

A study titled “Opportunities of Buffalo Farming in Bangladesh’ found that buffalo milk contains less water, more solids, fat and protein and slightly more lactose than cow’s milk. It seems thicker than cow’s milk because it generally contains more than 16 percent total solids compared with 12-14 percent in cow’s milk.

In addition, its fat content (6-8 percent) is usually 50-60 percent higher (or more) than cow’s milk. Buffalo milk has considerably higher energy value than cow’s milk because of its higher butter fat content. It is commercially more viable than cow milk for products such as butter, butter oil, soft and hard cheeses, condensed or evaporated milks, ice cream, yogurt and butter milk because of its lower water content and higher fat content.

Most significantly, the lower cholesterol value should make it more popular in a health conscious market. Also, buffalo meat is very tender and tasty and a healthy red meat substitute for beef. It is faster to cook, easier to digest, and has no allergenic effect.

The study, jointly conducted by a group of experts from Bangladesh Open University, SAARC Agriculture Centre, Sylhet Agricultural University, and the Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Discipline of Khulna University also put forward a number of recommendations, including buffalo milk and meat market and infrastructure development and private investment to be explored and encouraged to invest in buffalo development in the country.

Deputy Commissioner of the District Mohammed Selim Uddin said the government is very supportive of the project. He said there are about 42 Char lands and each of these have excellent potential for rearing buffalos and cows.

Giving it high importance, the government is now planning to build several Mujib Kellah in the Char (island) region, where people and animals will stay safe during natural calamities like cyclone, floods or high tidal surges. Each Kellah will also have sweet water reserve instead of saline water for public use.

The project initiators are now planning to give a brand name for buffalo products, aiming to make them popular and market throughout the country.

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Who is Latin America and the Caribbean leaving behind?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/who-is-latin-america-leaving-behind/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=who-is-latin-america-leaving-behind http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/who-is-latin-america-leaving-behind/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 18:11:02 +0000 Jessica Faieta http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151757 Jessica Faieta is UN Assistant Secretary-General and UN Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean

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Achieving the SDGs - Who is Latin America leaving behind? - Being a young person or a woman, afro-descendant, indigenous, LGBTI or a person with disabilities affects the opportunities and possibilities of social and economic advancement and access to services in Latin America and the Caribbean, a recent UNDP study shows. Credit: Javier Sagredo / UNDPCredit: Javier Sagredo / UNDP

Being a young person, a woman, afro-descendant, indigenous, LGBTI or a person with disabilities affects the opportunities and possibilities of social and economic advancement and access to services in Latin America and the Caribbean, a recent UNDP study shows. Credit: Javier Sagredo / UNDPCredit: Javier Sagredo / UNDP

By Jessica Faieta
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 21 2017 (IPS)

Last month at the High Level Political Forum in New York, more than 40 countries – 11 from Latin America and the Caribbean – shared their progress in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), within the new 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

The meeting has made evident the region’s political will to adopt and accomplish this universal agenda. Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Peru and Uruguay presented their progress, along with Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela that shared their reports in 2016.

The SDGs recognize the virtue of inclusive, sustainable economic growth that respects the environment and strengthens institutional and regulatory frameworks. The agenda seeks to “leave no one behind,” and admits that the market alone does not solve all problems. This is fundamental for our region, the most unequal in the world.

The region remains the most violent in the world, with 27.3 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Young Latin-Americans, especially men, are the most affected by crime and violence and yet are the most common perpetrators
During the Forum, the Secretary-General presented his global report on the SDGs, which also shows progress and challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean. Over the past two decades, the region has accomplished extraordinary achievements: the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty (or on less than $ 1.90 per day) fell from 13.9 percent (1999) to 5.4 percent (2013). In addition, 61% of Latin Americans had some type of social protection in 2016.

But the report also reveals that we remain indebted to certain groups, especially young people and women. In addition to being a young person or woman, being afro-descendant, indigenous, LGBTI or a person with disabilities affects the opportunities and possibilities of social and economic advancement and access to services in our region, as a recent UNDP study shows.

There are challenges for young people, especially those with low incomes. Annual GDP per capita growth has declined over the last decade and the youth unemployment rate (17.2) was almost three times higher than for adults (6.1) in 2016.

If the world was previously focused on measuring the number of children in school, the new agenda looks more at the quality of education. This report shows that, although there are more students than ever before, in many countries in the region only half of them have achieved minimum levels of proficiency in reading or mathematics at the end of primary education.

Moreover, the region remains the most violent in the world, with 27.3 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Young Latin-Americans, especially men, are the most affected by crime and violence and yet are the most common perpetrators,, according to a UNDP report which also calls for avoiding the criminalization and stigmatization of young people, particularly those with low income.

Many challenges remain for women. An average of 12 percent suffered physical or sexual violence by their partners in the last 12 months. In addition, we have the second highest rate of teenage pregnancies in the world. Also, women do three times more unpaid work at home than men, a disparity that increases in Latin America when there are children in the household.

On the other hand, there are more women in parliaments in our region than ever before. The proportion jumped from 15.2 percent in 2000 to 29.4 percent in 2017, with Latin America being today the second region of the world with more female MPs.

Beyond the report’s figures, the region has taken concrete steps in creating or adapting institutions to implement the SDGs, and several countries are moving towards incorporating the targets into their planning and budgeting.

This is good news. The new agenda provides a historic opportunity to rethink the region’s traditional progress model and encourages many countries to define new ways of working with the public sector, private sector and civil society, for our planet and our people, leaving no one behind.

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Internet Shutdowns in Africa Stifling Press Freedomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/internet-shutdowns-in-africa-stifling-press-freedom/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:56:10 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151755 Jonathan Rozen is a Researcher with the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Africa Program*

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Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015, according to the same data.

By Jonathan Rozen
NEW YORK, Aug 21 2017 (IPS)

The internet for journalism is now like the air you breathe,” said Befeqadu Hailu, an Ethiopian journalist and a member of the Zone 9 blogger collective who was arrested in April 2014 and charged with terrorism. “Without the internet, modern journalism means nothing.” Yet, the internet is something that journalists in multiple African countries are often forced to do without.

Between 30 May and 8 June, the Ethiopian government shut down the country’s internet service for the third time in the last year. These shutdowns have occurred in the context of an ongoing crackdown on the press by authorities, who are currently keeping nine of the 17 journalists recorded on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) 2016 prison census behind bars.

Since the state-run Ethio Telecom holds monopolistic control over both internet and telephone service, the government has the ability to effectively sever its population’s communications on a whim.

“We’ve been through extraordinarily difficult times [during] the ten days of [the] shutdown,” Tsedale Lemma, editor-in-chief of the Addis Standard, told CPJ over WhatsApp.

There was a complete digital blackout during the first few days after which broadband became available, said Hulu. But since broadband is largely only available for businesses and organisations, many journalists continued to face major challenges. The frequent clampdown on internet access prevents them from securely communicating with sources or publishing on time.

After the third day of the shutdown, Lemma ran between hotels to find internet access. “This is insecure as you are using the business centres there, which is not a secure connection,” Lemma said.

 

Congo-Brazzaville

On 25 June 2017, Congo-Brazzaville’s internet connection was restored after a 15-day shutdown that was reportedly caused by a mysterious fishing boat that damaged the country’s submarine cables.

While journalists and analysts inside and outside of Congo-Brazzaville speculated over the truthfulness of a boat’s involvement, private mobile companies were able to provide some satellite connection. Nevertheless, journalists remained hampered.

“As long as the internet is not stable, many field, remote reporters or correspondents are facing big problems to send their stories, their work,” a Congo-Brazzaville-based journalist told CPJ on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal.

Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015
While online media distributors are effectively blocked from their platforms during internet shutdowns, print and broadcast journalists’ investigative capacities also suffer greatly.

 

Cameroon

For 93 days between January through April 2017, the Cameroonian government with cooperation from private mobile operators cut off internet access in the two western, Anglophone regions of the country.

The government also imposed a suffocating culture of fear through a campaign of arrests and detentions, according to a forthcoming CPJ report on Cameroon’s use of anti-state legislation against journalists. Attacks on the press increased dramatically. At least eight journalists were arrested in connection with their journalism (six of them remain in detention in Yaoundé).

Without the internet, reporting on people’s daily realities became extremely difficult. The media environment in Cameroon was choked. Fear of reprisal, coupled with the internet shutdown, restricted communication between online and offline regions. Coverage of ongoing abuses was stifled.

“Content [was] sent to the [media] station through road,” a Cameroonian broadcast journalist based in the English-speaking regions who requested to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told CPJ. “We could therefore not relay timely news items from other areas because we had to wait for them two [to] three days after.”

With such limited information, speculation reigned supreme, the journalist said.

 

Secure communications

As governments improve their surveillance tactics, journalists are forced to use a small number of internet-based communication platforms in pursuit of private conversation.

“You pick up your phone to make that call, and you know your phone is tapped, you know there is someone on the other end listening,” Lemma told CPJ. “People don’t [even] feel safe meeting in person.”

“It’s no more a secret that many journalists are actually [wiretapped],” a Congolese journalist told CPJ over WhatsApp on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Also, internet is very important for the journalists’ work, since some social media [helps] to bypass [wiretapping] or line monitoring when they need to check or get or publish some facts.”

This perspective is supported by a 2011 report, which highlights how “the November 2009 law on electronic communications and the 2010 decree on identification of [telecommunications] subscribers show that the [Congolese] state has seemingly unlimited power to invade the privacy of its citizens in the interest of security … It seems that the state can access personal data under any pretext without the consent of the individual concerned, who can do nothing to stop it from happening.”

When journalists are too afraid to speak on regular telecommunication lines for fear that their government will intercept the communication and arrive at their door, encrypted internet-based tools like WhatsApp or Signal offer a practical method of communication and information dissemination.

In his 2015 piece titled Surveillance forces journalists to think and act like spies“, CPJ’s staff technologist Tom Lowenthal explains how important encryption technology is for journalists to connect with sources and write important stories. Without secure communication tools, journalists’ ability to communicate privately with sources becomes limited and self-censorship flourishes.

“Internet shutdowns are particularly censorious in areas where fear of reprisal for critical journalism reigns, and unfortunately, this fear exists in many of the African countries that have experienced internet shutdowns,” said CPJ’s emergencies director María Salazar-Ferro. “Journalists should never feel that their work is putting them or those they communicate with in danger.”

 

Resisting shutdowns

Internet shutdowns are on the rise. In 2016, the #KeepItOn campaign documented 56 shutdowns worldwide, including in six African nations. This is up from 15 documented shutdowns in 2015, according to the same data.

Many of these shutdowns occur during elections and other moments of political tension, when access to information is critical for the public to make informed decisions.

In response, internet freedom advocates have mobilised to compel governments and telecommunications companies to resist shutting off internet access.

In March 2017, the Freedom Online Coalition, which is composed of 30 national governments working to advance internet freedom, expressed deep concern over the “growing trend of intentional state-sponsored disruptions”. They also offered a list of five good practices for governments to avoid shutdowns and seize the economic and social growth brought by the internet.

In Ethiopia, for example, a 30-day shutdown cost the government upwards of US$8.5 million, while a separate 15-day shutdown in the Republic of the Congo cost over US$72 million, according to a 2016 Brookings Institute report.

On 10 April 2017, a creative advocacy proposal was put to the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), the body that allocates Africa’s IP addresses, which are identifiers for computers and other devices that connect to the internet. The proposal called for the denial of new IP addresses for one year to countries that order their internet to be shut down.

Though media reports indicate that the proposal was denied as a result of intense opposition from African governments, AFRINIC subsequently issued a statement calling for African governments to “renounce the use of internet shutdowns as a policy tool”.

Internet advocates are also targeting telecommunications companies and internet service providers in an effort to get them to resist government calls for shutdowns.

On 15 February 2017, nearly a month into Cameroon’s internet shutdown, CPJ was among 27 signatories on a letter to three Cameroon telecommunication companies’ CEOs, requesting “support in restoring internet access”.

A month later, United Nations Special Rapporteur on free expression David Kay’s report to the UN Human Rights Council highlighted the responsibility of private “provider” companies to “ensure that they do not cause, contribute or become complicit in human rights abuses” involved in shutdowns.

“Being able to survive as a journalist in this age without access to the internet – the idea itself is very daunting,” Lemma told CPJ. “But beyond the idea, it’s everything from losing your security [to] not being able to communicate the way you want.”

Respect for press freedom means letting it breathe by enabling journalists to conduct their work. Without internet access journalists cannot publish online, nor can they conduct thorough investigations or talk securely with their sources. To have a free press, African governments need to #KeepItOn.

This article originally appeared on Africa Portal

 

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Union Conflict Rages on in South Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/union-conflict-rages-on-in-south-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=union-conflict-rages-on-in-south-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/union-conflict-rages-on-in-south-africa/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 11:53:45 +0000 Linda Flood http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151753 South African labour unions are at war with each other. Union members are harassed, beaten, and murdered. Five years after the Marikana massacre, when police shot and killed 34 demonstrators, the conflict is ongoing and the wounds do not heal.

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Striking mineworkers at the Marikana mine - Striking miners who were relased from police custody on Sep. 3 2012. Credit: Nat Nxumalo/IPS

Striking miners relased from police custody on Sep. 3 2012. Credit: Nat Nxumalo/IPS

By Linda Flood
RUSTENBURG, South Africa , Aug 21 2017 (IPS/Arbetet Global)

It was two thirty at night. Inside his home, the telephone rang. Sibongile Nota’s brother’s life drew nearer its end. A few minutes passed, the telephone rang again. His brother was now dead.

“His workmates killed him on his way to work”.

Five years have passed since that day when they lost brothers, fathers, husbands. Inside the conference room, silence is near absolute. Outside there is the noise of traffic. The local office in Rustenburg for the National Union of Mineworkers sees a gathering of eight women and men. All sitting with their backs to the wall.

“Now…for the first time I feel like a normal person again”, Sibongile Nota adds.

Reliving the past. On the 9th of August 2012 a group of miners working for the British mining corporation Lonmin at the platinum mine in Marikana, 120 kms northwest of Johannesburg choose to go on strike.

They demand higher wages. Their monthly salary of around 300 euros is far below the union demands of 800.

Over the next few days, their action gains support. The conflict between employees, the company and the police increases, and turns violent. Nearly ten employees are killed or injured. Two Lonmin security guards are also killed.

The violence does not end there.

On the 13th of August, three miners are found dead. One is Sibongile Nota’s brother.

In 2012, 70 percent of Lonmin’s 23000 strong workforce were members of the miners’ union NUM.

“For a long time, we had been demanding wage increases, but in vain. Yet the management of Lonmin, while claiming the wage level couldn’t be raised, saw their own salaries increase by 18 percent. That fuelled protests” recalls Eric Gcilitshana, Health and Safety Secretary of NUM.

A majority of the mineworkers at Lonmin were members of NUM, who thereby represented all workers in negotiations. There was though an existing rivalry and power struggle between labour unions with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) criticizing NUM for being too closely aligned with the governing political party in South Africa, the ANC.

The rivalry between the unions starting getting out of hand. In order to gain the upper hand, AMCU put forward more radical demands and attempted to engage all workers in a strike. Eric Gcilitshana describes that development;

“They said our negotiations with the employers was undermining their strike. And they said that they would kill us!”

Marikana – five years later

Due to the risk of reprisals the names of the relatives of NUM members killed in conflict are fictitious. These persons have also declined to be photographed.

Arbetet Global has for several months attempted to reach spokespersons for AMCU, including president Joseph Mathunjwa. They have rejected approaches by telephone call, e-mail and sms.

No policemen have been charged for the mass shootings of 2012.

44 miners were killed during August 2012.

During the 1990’s Joseph Mathunjwa was the chairman of a local branch of NUM before being sacked in 1999 after clashing with Gwende Mantashe, the present-day General Secretary of the ANC. He chose to register a new union in 2001, the Association of Minworkers and Construction Union, AMCU.

At present, AMCU have about 100 000 members spread around all of South Africa. NUM have 190 000 members, although before the Marikana massacre that number was 300 000.
The violence continues. More are injured. More are killed.

The strike is in its seventh day. The demonstrating strikers and the police negotiate to cease hostilities.  But reach no deal.

The following day is the 16th of August. Demonstrators gather in a field a few hundred meters away from the mine. A special unit of the police open fire. Within minutes they shoot and kill 34 mineworkers. Injuring at least 78.

South Africa was in shock. A new massacre in South African contemporary history. The worst since the Sharpeville shootings in 1960.

“I was so afraid”, Themba Gowana gestures with his hand, “I ran that way when the police started shooting”

The field where it took place is dry. The grey loamy soil is cracked. Themba Gowana’s tin shed is nearby. He stands in his garden peeling potatoes over a bowl. 5 years have passed.

”Things are a little better now. After the strike I became a member of AMCU. They have made our jobs more secure.

He wasn’t alone in turning to NUMs rival. After the shootings, AMCU won over thousands mineworkers and could therefore push forth their agenda in negotiations with the corporate management.

“Lonmin are alright. Although mineworkers can be sacked without due warning, just because they might do something wrong. If you talk too much, you get sacked. They don’t want us to talk….”

After the Marikana massacre, wage levels for mineworkers have almost doubled. Now they are at around 9000 rand, about 600 euros. But that is still a few thousand rands less than what the union demands.

Themba Gowana grows quiet.

Birdsong can be heard from the trees and a sheep bleats at a distance.

“I am afraid I will lose my job”.

Across the gravel path from Themba Gowana’s shed lives Siyabongile Rofu. He has just woken after nightshift in the mine. A stainless steel refrigerator stands next to the bed that he shares with his brother. Siyabongile Rofu starts cleaning his shack. Near the ceiling, three green soaps lay on a board. Next to the fridge, there’s a plastic basin, two buckets and two pots. A calendar from a local health center hangs on the wall.

Siyabongile Rofu is meticulous. After an hour of cleaning, he still hasn’t finished despite the schack being no larger than ten square meters. White lace fabrics from under the TV are dusted and the plastic floor is swept and wiped.

”Tonight I am going home, to my wife and my three children. They live in the Eastern Cape province and the minibus trip takes twelve hours”.

His children are twelve, eight and five years old. Siyabongile Rofu has worked in Marikana for fifteen years and expects to go on for an equally long time.

“That should be enough”, he says.

Following the strike of 2012, life has improved. The higher wage allows Siyabongile Rofu to send more money home to his family as well he can buy better food.

“I joined AMCU because it is stronger and better than NUM. Almost everyone at the mine belongs to AMCU now”

Siyabongile Rofu knew several of the men who died in the conflict five years ago.

“It was so stupid. But now worker relations are better”.

At NUM’s headquarters in Johannesburg, Health and Security secretary Eric Gcilitshana bemoans the situation.

“We try to recruit new members but it is difficult”.

He rejects the criticism that NUM were too close to Lonmins management and the governing ANC.

“We had to have a positive cooperation. Without it we wouldn’t have had any possibility to influence management”.

14 members of NUM were murdered by other miners in the days before and after the massacre. Their cases have not been included in the commission of inquiry that formed soon after the shootings.

With their own lawyers and with private detectives, NUM has tried to find out what happened in these killings of its members.

“We will help the families and justice must be served” , says Eric Gcilitshana.

Back in the conference room in Rustenburg, a short distance from Marikana, tears roll down the cheeks of Kefiloe Gungqwa.

“Since my husband died I have felt no joy, not at home and not at work. I do not speak to my workmates, I just say hello”.

The stories told by family members in the conference room are not only tragic in their loss of loved ones, but also peculiar as they were forced to seek employment at Lonmin.

Lonmin’s Communications Group Head Wendy Tlou explains: ”This was done to look after the families of the deceased and to ensure that their livelihoods were not negatively impacted by the tragedy.”

Kefiloe Gungqwa dries her tears. She was married for 14 years. A month after the Marikana strike, her husband was stabbed to death. He was an elected representative at NUM.

“Since no one in the family could take my husband’s position I was forced to move here. Now I work as a cleaner and often I am insulted by my co-workers”.

Hands in her lap, fingering a white tissue damp from her tears. Kefiloe Gungqwa may be seated in the NUM office but she is a member of ACMU. She explains:

“I was forced to join. I felt my life was in danger if I didn’t”.

The story is echoed by Thando Nqumkana. And by Siphokazi Mankhala. Nomhle Dibakwane, a teacher, tells a slightly different story. Her husband was murdered but she refuses to join AMCU:

“I cannot betray my husband and join a union that murdered him. Labour unions are a good thing but you cannot force people to join”.

Nomhle Dibakwane says she lives in constant fear.

“It is awful. Our voices, our stories have not been heard. Deaths are deaths. Why is a difference made between those who died in the massacre and those that died before and after it?

The rivalry and the violence between AMCU and NUM has not been limited to Marikana. There are many examples of fatal violence. One year ago a member of AMCU was hacked to death at the platinum mine Northam, north of Marikana.

And last autumn, at the gold mine Sibanye, south of Johannesburg, a NUM member was killed by workmates who belonged to AMCU.

Crispen Chinguno, a researcher at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, points to the root of the conflict:

“As the absolute rights are given to one union at a particular mining house, unions fight to meet the minimum threshold to get the absolute rights and push others out. It will be very difficult for the unions to cooperate if the labour relations system is not changed to allow and promote a multiplicity of unions at the same work place.”

The rivalry between AMCU and NUM is part of the system.

Lonmin’s Wendy Tlou declines to comment on the rivalry between the unions within the company and ascertains that relations between parties depend on mutual respect.

“This was evident in the recent signing of a 3 year wage agreement without any work stoppages“.

The silence from the official political leadership has been evident.

It wasn’t until earlier this year that the South African government conceded the right to compensation for the families of the victims of Marikana.  Also, over ten police who were involved in the shooting will be charged and brought to trial.

ACMU’s official comment was:

“We have waited more than four years for a commitment from government. But those at the top still haven’t taken responsibility, including Lonmin bosses, the police and the state.”

One of the key persons involved in the disastrous developments of Marikana was the South African Deputy president and former union leader Cyril Ramaphosa.

He was one of the founders of NUM in 1982. During the following decade his career in the union married well with his advancement in both politics and the private sector. In 1994, following South Africa’s first democratic election, he was given a seat in parliament representing ANC.

In 2012 Cyril Ramaphosa was a non-executive director in Lonmin. In the days leading up to the massacre, he requested police reenforcements to the area and called the strike “dastardly criminal acts”. He also opposed negotiations with the miners, which was revealed in the investigation that followed. In 2015 the report into the massacre, exonerated both Cyril Ramaphosa and the minister of police Nkosinathi Nhleko.

In May of this year, for the first time, Cyril Ramaphosa apologised for his behaviour during the strike and said that he was willing to make amends with those he had insulted.

Political analyst Nic Borain commented in the newspaper Business Day: ”His claim was that it was a criminal act, not a strike, but history has proven him wrong. The characterisation of the workers as criminals was wrong and thoughtless and in a way arrogant because it implied the only legitimate union was NUM”.

”The legacy of colonialism and apartheid is central in explaining some of the main challenges faced by the workers” says researcher Crispen Chinguno, pointing to the difficulty for South African unions in keeping out of politics.

Life in Marikana goes on as usual for most people. Despite the horrible memories, Siyabongile Rofu’s brother Abongile dreams of a job in the mine, regardless of the tough shifts in the dark.

”Look at my arms”, he says showing the red stripes on his lower arms – scars from lemon trees.

”If I fill 50 sacks a day with lemons, I make only 20 euros per week. I have to find a better job. I am desperate.”

Translation: Ravi Dar

This story was originally published by Arbetet Global

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Climate Migrants Might Reach One Billion by 2050http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-migrants-might-reach-one-billion-by-2050/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-migrants-might-reach-one-billion-by-2050 http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-migrants-might-reach-one-billion-by-2050/#respond Mon, 21 Aug 2017 10:33:35 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151741 Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and/or floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation. Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, the proven speed with […]

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Photo by UNICEF 2010/Olivier Asselin

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Aug 21 2017 (IPS)

Imagine a world with as many as one billion people facing harsh climate change impacts resulting in devastating droughts and/or floods, extreme weather, destruction of natural resources, in particular lands, soils and water, and the consequence of severe livelihoods conditions, famine and starvation.

Although not yet based on definite scientific projections, the proven speed with which the process of climate change has been taking place, might lead to such a scenario by 2050. If so, 1 in 9 human beings would be on the move by then.

Currently, forecasts vary from 25 million to 1 billion environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis, with 200 million being the most widely cited estimate, according to a 2015 study carried out by the Institute for Environment and Human Security of the United Nations University.

“This figure equals the current estimate of international migrants worldwide.

Other specialised sources estimate that “every second, one person is displaced by disaster.” On this, the Oslo-based Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports that in 2015 only, more than 19.2 million people fled disasters in 113 countries. “Disasters displace three to ten times more people than conflict and war worldwide.”

Children celebrate International Migrants Day in Egypt, 18 December 2016. Photo: Ingy Mehanna/UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2016

Children celebrate International Migrants Day in Egypt, 18 December 2016. Photo: Ingy Mehanna/UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2016

 

One Person Displaced Every Second

As climate change continues, adds NRC, it will likely lead to more frequent and severe natural hazards; the impact will be heavy, warns this independent humanitarian organisation providing aid and assistance to people forced to flee.

“On average, 26 million people are displaced by disasters such as floods and storms every year. That’s one person forced to flee every second.” See: Climate Victims – Every Second, One Person Is Displaced by Disaster

For its part, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) also forecasts 200 million environmental migrants by 2050, moving either within their countries or across borders, on a permanent or temporary basis. Many of them would be coastal population.

In an interview to IPS, the IOM Director General William Lacy Swing explained that political crises and natural disasters are the other major drivers of migration today.

“We have never had so many complex and protracted humanitarian emergencies now happening simultaneously from West Africa all the way to Asia, with very few spots in between which do not have some issue.”

The UN specialised body’s chief added “We have today 40 million forcibly displaced people and 20 million refugees, the greatest number of uprooted people since the Second World War.” See: Q&A: Crisis and Climate Change Driving Unprecedented Migration

 

Women in Somali region, where 3.3 million people suffer from hunger and need urgent support. Photo: FAO/Tamiru Legesse.

Women in Somali region, where 3.3 million people suffer from hunger and need urgent support. Photo: FAO/Tamiru Legesse.

 

Droughts, Desertification

Another warning comes from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which estimates that some 135 million people may be displaced by 2045 as a result of desertification.

Up to 12 million hectares of productive land become barren every year due to desertification and drought alone, which is a lost opportunity to produce 20 million tons of grain, adds the Bonn-based Convention secretariat.

Meantime, the increase in droughts and flash floods that are stronger, more frequent and widespread is destroying the land – the Earth’s main fresh water store, according to UNCCD.

“Droughts kill more people than any other single weather-related catastrophe and conflicts among communities over water scarcity are gathering pace. Over 1 billion people today have no access to water, and demand will increase by 30 per cent by 2030.”

On the other hand, getting sustainable energy to all represents one of the biggest development challenges of the 21st century, it continues.

“Research suggests that 1.4 billion people — over 20 per cent of the global population — lack access to electricity, and that at least 2.7 billion people — some 40 cent of the global population — rely on the traditional use of biomass for cooking.”

In short, land, water and energy as resources are all pillars of our survival and of sustainable development.

“They stand or fall together. To be sustainable and in particular to reach poor rural populations, we need to enhance supply, access and security across all three pillars, at the same time, while supporting global climate ambitions.”

 

National Security, Migration

On this, based on the UN Environment Programme’s 2009 study “From Conflict to Peace-building. The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment,” UNCCD reminds that 40 per cent of all intrastate conflicts in the past 60 years are linked to the control and allocation of natural resources.

“The exposure of more and more poor people to water scarcity and hunger opens the door to the failure of fragile states and regional conflicts. Non-state actor groups are increasingly taking advantage of large cross-border migration flows and abandoned lands.”

Where natural assets including land are poorly managed, warns the Convention, violence might become the dominant means of resource control, forcing natural resource assets out of the hands of legitimate government.

Meanwhile, the number of international migrants worldwide has been on the rise. According to the International migration report (2015), their number has continued to grow rapidly over the past fifteen years reaching 244 million in 2015, up from 222 million in 2010 and 173 million in 2000.

Losing productive land is driving people to make risky life choices, says UNCCD, adding that in rural areas where people depend on scarce productive land resources, land degradation is a driver of forced migration.

Africa is particularly susceptible since more than 90 per cent of economy depends on a climate-sensitive natural resource base like rain-fed, subsistence agriculture.

“Unless we change the way we manage our land, in the next 30 years we may leave a billion or more vulnerable poor people with little choice but to fight or flee.”

 

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South Asia Faces Fury of Floodshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/south-asia-faces-fury-floods/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-asia-faces-fury-floods http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/south-asia-faces-fury-floods/#respond Sun, 20 Aug 2017 11:32:50 +0000 Farid Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151737 Aid agencies warn of a serious unfolding humanitarian crisis as floodwaters continue to inundate new areas of three South Asian countries, forcing millions of people to flee their homes for shelters. The death toll from drowning, snakebite, house collapse and landslide triggered by monsoon rains and floods rose to over 600 people, officials said on […]

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South Asia Floods: Women with goats come out of their submerged house, in Shibaloy, Manikganj district, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Women with goats come out of their submerged house, in Shibaloy, Manikganj district, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

By Farid Ahmed
DHAKA, Aug 20 2017 (IPS)

Aid agencies warn of a serious unfolding humanitarian crisis as floodwaters continue to inundate new areas of three South Asian countries, forcing millions of people to flee their homes for shelters.

The death toll from drowning, snakebite, house collapse and landslide triggered by monsoon rains and floods rose to over 600 people, officials said on Aug. 19.In Bangladesh, farmers are bearing the brunt of the ongoing flooding as the country’s agriculture department estimated rice and other crops cultivated in half a million hectares of land in 34 districts were washed away.

More than 16 million have been affected by monsoon floods in Nepal, Bangladesh and India, with many of them either displaced or marooned without food or electricity.

In many areas, although the floodwater has started receding, rivers are still swelling.

A large number of displaced have taken refuge in squalid makeshift camps and are staying in extremely unhygienic conditions, according to aid agencies.

Road and rail communications in the affected areas have been also severely disrupted. Thousands of educational institutions have been forced to close, while submerged hospitals are unable to assist flood victims even as water-borne diseases are spreading.

“This is fast becoming one of the most serious humanitarian crises this region has seen in many years and urgent action is needed to meet the growing needs of millions of people affected by these devastating floods,” said Martin Faller, Deputy Regional Director for Asia Pacific, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“Millions of people across Nepal, Bangladesh and India face severe food shortages and disease caused by polluted flood waters,” Faller said in a statement.

The aid agency Oxfam said there was urgent need for supplies like drinking water, food, shelter, blankets, hygiene kits and solar lights.

Bangladesh authorities said more than a third of the country was submerged, and water levels in major rivers were still rising, inundating new areas every day.

South Asia Floods: The premises of a school inundated by floodwater in Shibaloy, Manikganj district, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

The premises of a school inundated by floodwater in Shibaloy, Manikganj district, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

In Bangladesh, flooding by major rivers has surpassed the levels set in 1988, the deadliest floods the country had seen to date.

According to the disaster management department control room of the Bangladesh government, at least 98 people died in August.

The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief estimated that more than half a million people in Bangladesh were affected by flooding.

In Bangladesh, farmers are bearing the brunt of the ongoing flooding as the country’s agriculture department estimated rice and other crops cultivated in half a million hectares of land in 34 districts were washed away.

Abdul Hamid, a farmer in Rangpur district, said he had cultivated rice in 10 bighas of land, but it was completely ruined by floods. “I don’t know how to recover the loss,” he said, adding that his house was also destroyed.

In India, over 11 million people have been affected by floods in four states across the north of the country. India’s meteorological department is forecasting more heavy rain for the region in the coming days.

The flood situation in parts of India’s northern West Bengal remained grim until August 18, with many rivers still flowing well above the extreme danger level despite improvement in the overall situation in the region, Rajib Banerjee, West Bengal’s minister for irrigation and waterways, told IPS on Aug. 19.

“The situation in Malda still looks grim and remains as a matter of concern as the water of the River Mahananda continues to rise,” he said.

The situation in villages in the Indian state of Assam is very serious, as embankments of rivers in many areas have been breached, forcing hundreds of families to flee their houses. Poor people, mostly farmers, were the chief victims and many took refuge on roadsides and embankments.

South Asia Floods: Children on a boat come to their two-storey tin-roofed house half of which is submerged in flood water, in Shibaloy, Manikganj district, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Children on a boat come to their two-storey tin-roofed house half of which is submerged in flood water, in Shibaloy, Manikganj district, Bangladesh. Credit: Farid Ahmed/IPS

Thousands of people in northern Uttar Pradesh in India, where the authorities sought military help, were also badly affected and many of them still remained marooned.

Bihar, the worst-hit district in India, also estimated over 150 dead and half a million displaced in the past couple of weeks.

“In Nepal, government recorded 134 dead and 30 missing in flood-affected areas,” a senior journalist and director of news and current affairs of Nepal’s ABC News TV, Dr. Suresh Achaya, told IPS.

Some 14 districts out of 75, mostly located along the border with India, were badly affected, Acharya said.

In Nepal, many areas remain cut off after the most recent destructive floods and landslides on Aug. 11 and 12. Villagers and communities are stranded without food, water and electricity though the government said it had been providing the victims with foods and other support.

In the flood-hit areas, thousands of people had taken shelter in schools, temples and sides of roads and embankments.

The Nepalese ministry of agricultural development estimated that floodwaters had washed away rice and other crops worth Rs. 8.11 billion (77 million dollars) and feared the crop damage could cast a long shadow on the economy.

The Nepalese government, at a meeting with chief secretary Rajendra Kishore in the chair on Aug. 18, decided to accept foreign support and aid to meet the need.

Scientists attribute the deadly floods in South Asia to a changing climate, which they believe increased the magnitude of the current flooding many-fold.

“The untimely floods being experienced in Nepal, India and Bangladesh can definitely be attributed to climate change-induced changes in the South Asian monsoon system,” Dr Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD), told IPS.

The countries in the region have already been taking the brunt of changing climate that caused extreme weather patterns increasing the daily rainfall amount, droughts, untimely flooding and frequent tropical storms.

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Civilians Increasingly Bearing Burden of Armed Conflicts in Arab Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:32:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151695 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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World Humanitarian Day / Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

The war in Syria has now entered its 6th year and is becoming the world’s worst man-made disaster.

The humanitarian calamity in Syria has affected millions of lives; more than half of Syria’s pre-war population has been forced to flee, including 6.3 million internally displaced persons and 5.1 million refugees living in refugee camps in the Middle East and in Europe. It is also estimated that approximately 465,000 people have lost their lives because of this enduring conflict with no immediate end in sight.

Arab civilians are also suffering in other major armed conflicts in the Middle East. According to UNHCR and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, at least 3 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the civil strife in Iraq.

Iraq Body Count estimates that more than 50% of the war-related deaths – following the 2003 Iraq invasion – were civilians.

In Yemen, the United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 civilians have perished from the fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthi rebels. On top of this, IOM and UNHCR estimates that around 3 million Yemeni civilians have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the conflict.

World Humanitarian Day / Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

The high civilian tolls witnessed in these conflicts reveal that civilians are increasingly bearing the burden of armed conflicts in the Arab region.

The pattern of modern warfare has changed: battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.
The theme of the 2017 World Humanitarian Day – Civilians caught in conflict are not a target – reaffirm the vision expressed in the 10 May 2017 report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict calling for “collective action to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict.”

A “global protection crisis” has emerged – noted the Secretary General in the same report – owing to the rise of use of force of which civilians are ultimately the main victims. Since the end of World War II, it is estimated that between 60-90% of war-related deaths are primarily among civilians. Civilians have become the primary casualties of war in the 21st century.

The irregular and black market arms trade have fuelled the rise of violent and extremist groups in numerous countries in the Arab region.

The illicit arms trade has enabled terrorist groups to thrive in countries affected by conflict and violence. Disturbing images of civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals being bombed in Palestine, in Syria and in Iraq show that civilian infrastructure is increasingly being targeted by belligerents.

Although the Arms Trade Treaty sought to regulate the international arms trade, the flow of arms and weapons to violent and extremist groups continues to fuel bloody conflicts in the Arab region owing to the lack of ratification of the Treaty by the member states of the United Nations.

Warfare and armed conflicts are increasingly being fought in urban centres in the Arab region. It has brought the war closer to people. The pattern of modern warfare has changed: Battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.

World Humanitarian Day / Civilians are Not a Target

The use of heavy weapons, so-called strategic bombardments and the use of modern technologies such as drones have increased the likelihood of inflicting collateral damage on civilians during armed conflicts. The disproportionate use of force has caused immense suffering leading to abuse and to killings of civilians. Collateral damage has emerged as an acceptable term to justify errors and the indiscriminate use of force.

In order to respond to the need to provide protection to civilians in armed conflict, the world has a moral responsibility to end the illegal trade of arms and weapons fuelling the growth of violent and extremist groups.

States need to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and comply with its provisions so as to end the illicit arms trade that is currently estimated to lie at around 10 billion US dollars per year. Weapons and arms should not end up in the hands of extremist groups such as DAESH that commit heinous and unscrupulous crimes on civilian populations in the Arab region.

I also appeal to the international community to ensure that all parties to conflict comply with their provisions to protect the lives of civilians in line with the provisions set forth in the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War commonly known as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Respect for international law must guide the actions of belligerents in armed conflicts. Widespread crimes against humanity affecting civilians must be condemned uniformly by world leaders regardless of where they take place. Civilians should not bear the burden of the devastating consequences of military conflicts.

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Women Slowly Break Barriers in Bangladeshhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/women-slowly-break-barriers-bangladesh/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 00:54:22 +0000 Mahfuzur Rahman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151717 When one thinks of Bangladesh, its political leadership naturally comes to mind as the leaders of the country’s major parties are women, including the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Speaker of the National Parliament. When it comes to gender equality in daily life, the reality is still different, but many women in Bangladesh […]

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Four women’s groups from Mohalbari, Surail and Damoir villages in Northern Bangladesh participated in a two-day leadership and mobilization training in Dinajpur to spread the initiative of successful women-led cooperatives improving the livelihood of the rural poor. Among the 51 participants, most were landless women coming from Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities. Credit: IFAD

Four women’s groups from Mohalbari, Surail and Damoir villages in Northern Bangladesh participated in a two-day leadership and mobilization training in Dinajpur to spread the initiative of successful women-led cooperatives improving the livelihood of the rural poor. Among the 51 participants, most were landless women coming from Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities. Credit: IFAD

By Mahfuzur Rahman
DHAKA, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

When one thinks of Bangladesh, its political leadership naturally comes to mind as the leaders of the country’s major parties are women, including the Prime Minister, the Opposition Leader and the Speaker of the National Parliament.

When it comes to gender equality in daily life, the reality is still different, but many women in Bangladesh are breaking barriers by taking traditionally male jobs – once unthinkable. Take the case of six rural women working in a refueling station in the port city of Narayanganj near the capital Dhaka, a job that entails a degree of personal risk.A 2015 World Bank report said women in Bangladesh account for only 27 percent of the total labour force - a scenario the government and its development partners are determined to change.

Happy Akhter of Magura, Lippi Akhter of Moulvibazar and Rikta of Patuakhali districts are among the six women employees of the refueling station, set up by Saiful Islam, a former police officer, in 2001.

“It’s important to utilise the potential of everyone, including women. And the well-off section of society should come up to support them,” Islam told the Narayanganj correspondent of UNB, a national news agency.

Lippi Akhter added, “My satisfaction is that I can support my family — two daughters and one son — with what I get from this job. I’m not at all worried about myself but I want my children to be educated.”

Asked about their security as they are dealing with male motorists, Lippi said, “We’re safe here as our owner is an ex-police officer. We appreciate his concern about us. He has also made arrangements for our accommodation.”

Taking such a job, where the women have to deal with transport workers, is a matter of great courage as violence against women is widespread.

In the district where these women are working, a 15-year-old girl was raped a by a group of transport workers in a moving truck on the night of August 2. Police arrested the driver hours after the incident. During a preliminary investigation, he confessed to committing the crime with the other men.

In a press statement, Naripokkho, a women’s rights body, said, “The society is being affected due to the repeated incidents of violence against women and children. We’re aggrieved and concerned in such a situation.

“Some 280 women and children fell victims to rape from January to June this year,” Naripokkho said referring to a report of Ain o Shalish Kendro, a human rights body.  It said 39 more were the victims of attempted rape during the period, while 16 were killed after rape, and five committed suicide after rape.

Citing police data, Naripokkho said 1,914 rape cases were filed and 1,109 rape incidents took place between April and June, indicating 12 rape incidents every day.

As elsewhere in the world, women account for almost half of Bangladesh’s total population. Today, the country’s total population is 1.65 million, including 49.40 per cent women, according to the Bangladesh Election Commission.

However, a 2015 World Bank report said women in Bangladesh account for only 27 percent of the total labour force. Nepal has the highest female labour participation rate of 80 percent. “The labour market [in Bangladesh] remains divided along gender lines and progress towards gender equality seems to have stalled,” the World Bank said.

According to a 2014 study by Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), a civil society think tank of Bangladesh, “…the contribution of women to the national income has continued to remain insignificant when compared to men because of the under-representation of their contribution to the national income accounts.”

Worldwide, women account for about one-third of the workforce in the unorganised sector. But the International Labour Organization says in Bangladesh, only 3.25 percent of employed women are working in the public sector and 8.25 percent in the private sector. The remaining 89.5 percent are employed in the informal sector with varying and often unpredictable earning patterns – or as it so often happens, work without any payment at all.

Non-recognition of women’s unpaid activity, the CPD study says, also leads to undervaluation of their economic contribution.

The situation is slowly changing as the government takes on various projects with support from international partners. To give women’s empowerment a boost, particularly in the country’s impoverished north, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh in collaboration with International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has launched a project on Climate Resilient Community Development (CRCD) Project with a greater focus on gender parity.

The six-year project will be implemented in six districts, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Rangpur, Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, and Jamalpur, which are known as poverty pockets.

The project seeks to achieve at least 33 percent of women in the overall labour market, and 15 percent in construction-related areas with relevant actions like subsidised courses for women, inclusion of informal sectors and incentives to employers to employ females, functional literacy, and skill development training.

The project follows a gender sensitive design, noting that 10 per cent of households in the project areas are headed by women, and most of these households are extremely poor.

As it does always, IFAD is promoting the active participation of ‘Labour Contracting Society (LCS).  Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project (CCRIP) is one of them.

CCRIP Project Director A.K.M. Lutfur Rahman said poverty alleviation, education, irrigation, agriculture, women’s empowerment and tree planting are the social aspects of the project apart from its engineering aspects, and women are participating.

The project is expected to contribute to the construction of gender sensitive infrastructure that meets the needs of both women and men. In line with national development policies and IFAD’s Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policy, the goal is to empower women and men to ensure equal access to project benefits.

As security concerns prevail due to the growing violence against women, Professor Sharmind Neelormi of the Department of Economics of Jahangir Nagar University in Bangladesh stressed the importance of ensuring a gender-friendly working environment in the project areas, in addition to revisiting the wage rate.

Professor Sharmind came up with the suggestions on August 1 last in Dhaka while presenting the findings of a study she conducted with support from LGED and IFAD.

Talking to IPS, MB Akther, Programme Director & Interim Country Director of OXFAM Bangladesh, said women’s empowerment is a continuous process. A woman needs five to six years of multidimensional supports, he said. She also needs help in building market linkages for income-generating activities.

Akther said providing capital resources to women is not the only solution. They should also know how to invest resources for generating income and for that they need trainings, raising knowledge and cooperation to build market linkages.

“ICT, particularly the operation of mobile phones, is also an effective tool for women to search job markets or market prices for a product,” he said, adding that he is aware of the IFAD projects.

Talking about women’s contributions to both the household economy and the national one, Dr Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, Chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation, a public-sector apex development body, told IPS in October last year that women’s contributions come from their participation both in formal and informal sectors, and even those, who work outside home in formal or informal sectors, also take care of household chores.

“If women’s household-level activities and their works in informal sectors are economically evaluated and added to the national income, Bangladesh may already be a middle-income country,” he added.

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Soy Changes Map of Brazil, Set to Become World’s Leading Producerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/soy-changes-map-brazil-set-become-worlds-leading-producer/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 17:22:11 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151713 “Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil. Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central […]

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The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

The soybean harvest this year in Brazil will hit record levels and reaffirm that the country is about to displace the United States as the world’s top producer of soy. Credit: Embrapa

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

“Our wealth lies in the climate, not in the land,” said Antonio Galván, president of the Rural Union of Sinop, a municipality created just 37 years ago, which has prospered due to the continued expansion of soy in Brazil.

Sinop, population 133,000, is the biggest city in northern Mato Grosso, a state in west- central Brazil which has experienced a major expansion of the agricultural frontier since the 1970s, and is currently the leading national producer of soy, accounting for 27 per cent of Brazil’s production.

“We have 14 to 15 million hectares of land available to expand soybean crops by 150 per cent in Mato Grosso, with no need to deforest,” Galván told IPS from Sinop.

For this reason, “it is a natural tendency,” he said, for Brazil to soon overtake the United States as the world’s leading producer of soy, as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predict, in the report “2017-2026 Agricultural Outlook”.

More or less regular rainfall from October to May is the main factor for the growth of agriculture in northern Mato Grosso, explained Galván.

Besides soy, which is planted at the start of the rainy season and harvested about four months later, other crops are also planted, but at the end of the rainy season – generally cotton and maize, of which Mato Grosso has also become the biggest producer in the country in the past four years.

State-owned lands, divided between the “Cerrado” ecoregion – the Brazilian savannah – and the Amazon forest, used to be undervalued for their low fertility, until they became the new agricultural frontier.

Galván, originally from the far south of Brazil, moved to Sinop in 1986, when land was still cheap. “Soybean was just starting in Sinop when I came, the local economy was only based on livestock and logging,” he recalled.

That year, Mato Grosso produced 1.9 million tons of soybean. But by 2016 the state’s soy crop reached 26.03 million tons, and this year it is expected to increase between 11 and 12 per cent, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s National Supply Agency.

Many of the migrants from southern Brazil who founded and settled in Sinop did not share that prosperity reflected in one of the highest human development rates in Brazil’s hinterland. “They went bankrupt and returned to their places of origin,” defeated by the harsh living conditions and lack of transport at the beginning, lamented Galván.

The city’s name comes from the initials (in Portuguese) of the company that “colonised” the area, the Real Estate Company of Northeastern Paraná (a southern state), buying lands, building the first houses and streets, and attracting families to an illusory El Dorado.

 Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS


Complex of soy and maize storehouses and processing plants in Lucas Rio Verde, in the heart of the state of Mato Grosso, the country’s main producer of soy, maize and cotton, in west-central Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

This is how Brazil’s Amazon region was populated, with the 1964-1985 military dictatorship promoting internal migration, which expanded the deforestation and provoked land conflicts, massacres of indigenous people and malaria epidemics.

The production of soy also expanded from south to northwest, although more slowly.

Soy began to be grown in Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state, in 1914, because it had the most temperate climate, the only one suitable at the time. The expansion began in 1970, when national output was just 1.5 million tons.

In a decade production rose tenfold, and it more than doubled again in the 1990s, advancing towards the north until Mato Grosso took the lead in production in 2000.

While production stagnated in the south, in Mato Grosso it tripled so far this century, and expanded to previously inconceivable areas, such as the Northeast, including the semi-arid parts, and the humid northern Amazon region.

Soy became the main national agricultural product, representing half of the production of cereals, pulses and oilseeds, and the largest export revenues: 25 billion dollars in 2016. The rural map and economy of Brazil changed radically in the process.

“The main obstacles for the expansion of soy are infrastructure and logistics. On the large agricultural estates technology continues to improve while productivity grows, with yields approaching the U.S. average of 3,730 kilos per hectare,” said Alexandre Cattelan, head of Technology Transfer in Embrapa Soy.

Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation), created in 1973 by the Agriculture Ministry, is a complex of 47 specialised units, including Embrapa Soy, scattered around the country.

It played a decisive role in the adaptation of soy to Brazil’s tropical climate, with increasing productivity. Output, using new seeds and techniques, increased 6.17 times, while the cultivated area grew 3.82 times since 1980.

“We have the land and know-how to overtake the U.S., but we lack proper roads, ports, railways and sufficient storage facilities,” Cattelan told IPS. This year, because of a record harvest, the storehouses are full and there is no space for the maize that is now being harvested.

Highway BR163, which crosses the most productive area in Mato Grosso and runs to the river ports in the Amazon, is the shortest way for exporting locally produced soy and maize. But it still has an unpaved 100-km stretch and is impassable during the rainy season.

Adequate seeds and the use of lime, fertilisers and micronutrients to improve the soil helped to expand the crop to the Cerrado savannah region, said Cattelan, an agronomist who has a PhD in soil microbiology.

Direct seeding, which excludes plowing of the earth and involves covering it with straw, the inoculation of bacteria which fix nitrogen in the soil, reduce costs and environmental damage, such as the contamination of the water table, he said.

A bottleneck for the production of soy could be a slowdown in the consumption of protein in China, from a 7.9 per cent increase in the last decade to a 2.3 per cent increase over the next decade, according to the FAO and OECD report.

The report also projects a lower level of growth of per capita consumption of food in the countries of the developing South, from 1.1 per cent against the previous 3.1 per cent, and the stabilisation of the use of vegetable oils for making biodiesel.

Moreover, the expansion of soy generates controversy, especially because of the intense use of genetically modified seeds and agrochemicals, sald Alice Thuault, associate director of the non-governmental Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), which operates in northern Mato Grosso.

In 2011, a study identified toxic agrochemicals in the breastmilk of many women in Lucas do Rio Verde, a municipality next to Sinop.

The production of soy also drives the deforestation of the Amazon forest, although in a much lower proportion than livestock production, which “occupies 50 to 70 per cent of the recently deforested areas,” Thuault told IPS.

Furthermore, soybean growers, mostly producers with large extensions of land, dominate local politics and rule according to their interests, to the detriment of family farmers, the environment and public health. Former Mato Grosso governor Blairo Maggi is currently Brazil’s agriculture minister.

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Resettling Congolese Refugees in Angola, a New Shot at a Normal Lifehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/resettling-congolese-refugees-in-angola-a-new-shot-at-a-normal-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=resettling-congolese-refugees-in-angola-a-new-shot-at-a-normal-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/resettling-congolese-refugees-in-angola-a-new-shot-at-a-normal-life/#respond Thu, 17 Aug 2017 12:58:52 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151707 The UN’s refugee agency is relocating more than 33,000 Congolese refugees from overcrowded temporary shelters in northern Angola to a more permanent establishment in Lóvua. From April this year, Angola witnessed an influx of refugees—who were fleeing violence in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo—to its Lunda Norte province. The government rushed to manage the situation […]

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Congolese Refugees in Angola - Families who fled militia attacks in Kasai Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrive at the newly established Lóvua settlement in northern Angola. Credit: UNHCR/Rui Padilha

Families who fled militia attacks in Kasai Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo arrive at the newly established Lóvua settlement in northern Angola. Credit: UNHCR/Rui Padilha

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

The UN’s refugee agency is relocating more than 33,000 Congolese refugees from overcrowded temporary shelters in northern Angola to a more permanent establishment in Lóvua.

From April this year, Angola witnessed an influx of refugees—who were fleeing violence in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo—to its Lunda Norte province. The government rushed to manage the situation by setting up temporary centers in Cacanda and Mussunge.

From the very beginning, authorities in Angola deliberated on questions of a more permanent settlement to ensure stability within the country.

“The centers quickly became overcrowded and the situation became very difficult. The government began working on setting up Lóvua two months ago,” Margarida Loureiro, who works as an external relations officer at the UN Field Office in Dundo, the provincial capital of Lunda Norte, told IPS.

Not all refugees who have biometrically registered—and all 33,142 have—chose to live in the temporary centers. Many lived with other host communities across Lunda Norte. Unintentionally, this allowed the government to relocate, for instance, roughly 400 families from Mussunge, and close the shelter quickly.

Now, the UN refugee agency and government authorities, through town hall meetings, have brought attention to a more cohesive space for all Congolese refugees in Lóvua.

Lóvua, which is located 100 kms (or 62 miles) from the DRC border, has been bracketed into nine zones. Every zone is divided by nine villages and every village is divided by 72 plots of land. Each village can host a maximum of 360 people. When families first arrive at the shelter, they are assisted with food and blankets. After a 24-hour period of assistance, they are sent to their plot of land where they work to build their own homes.

Still, funding the project, in spite of an interagency appeal by the UN in June for 65.5 million dollars, has had dismal results—only 32 percent of the money has come through.

Agencies are predicting that an estimated 50,000 Congolese refugees will need help by the end of the year.

“Although the number of refugee arrivals have swindled at this time of the year, the government has kept its borders open. To ensure Lóvua’s sustainability, we still need greater funding,” said Margarida.

Angola is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and has historically received refugees from the DRC. Before the influx in April, Angola hosted as many as 13,400 refugees from DRC.

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When Policies Speak the Same Language, Africa’s Trade and Investment Will Listenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/policies-speak-language-africas-trade-investment-will-listen/#comments Thu, 17 Aug 2017 11:21:24 +0000 Busani Bafana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151709 The rising Maputo-Catembe Bridge is a hard-to-miss addition to Mozambique’s shoreline. The 725-million-dollar bridge – billed to be the largest suspension bridge in Africa on its completion in 2018 – represents Mozambique’s new investment portfolio and a show of its policy commitment to boosting international trade. But the country can improve on its trade and […]

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Mozambique is open for business. A new suspension bridge rises on Maputo Bay. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Mozambique is open for business. A new suspension bridge rises on Maputo Bay. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
MAPUTO, Aug 17 2017 (IPS)

The rising Maputo-Catembe Bridge is a hard-to-miss addition to Mozambique’s shoreline.

The 725-million-dollar bridge – billed to be the largest suspension bridge in Africa on its completion in 2018 – represents Mozambique’s new investment portfolio and a show of its policy commitment to boosting international trade.“African governments have identified policy incoherence as the elephant in the room." --Wadzanai Katsande of FAO

But the country can improve on its trade and investment if it can effectively align its national trade and agricultural policies to ensure sufficient coordination between trade and agricultural policymakers, experts say.

Initiatives to improve agricultural productivity, value chain development, employment creation, and food security are often constrained by market and trade-related bottlenecks which are a result of the misalignment between agricultural and trade policies.

This was part of findings discussed at a meeting convened by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the Mozambican capital earlier this month. The high-level meeting attracted decision makers from the ministries of agriculture, finance, trade, industry and commerce, private sector representatives and donor groups.

To help address this challenge, FAO, in collaboration with Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) at the World Trade Organisation and the European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), has piloted a regional project to help countries coordinate policy making processing, starting with agriculture and trade.

Mozambique is one of four countries in East and Southern Africa targeted in the pilot project aimed at developing a model for best practices in policy development and harmonization in enhancing economic development.

An assessment of the agriculture and trade policy framework and policymaking processes in Mozambique has been done to understand decision making in setting objectives and priorities for the country’s agriculture and trade sector.

The assessment also sought to contribute to the development of a coherent national policy framework on agricultural trade in Mozambique, said Wadzanai Katsande, Outcome Coordinator for the Food Systems Programme of the FAO.

Though listed as one of the Least Developed Countries (LDC) in the world, Mozambique is rich in natural and mineral resources including gas. The country is a bright investment destination in Africa.

Policy alignment is the key

“On paper, policies sound well and good, but in practice the story is different. There are still coordination and consistency issues in the policy formulation and implementation processes within and between agriculture and trade and these need to be addressed,” says Samuel Zita, an International Trade and Development Consultant, who recently led on an analytical study commissioned by the FAO on “Coordination between agriculture and trade policy making in Mozambique.”

“When agriculture and trade policies speak the same language that creates some predictability to investors, any disconnect between the two can have a negative effect on foreign direct investment,” Zita told IPS.

The study which focused on the country’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) processes also looked at the policy documents from these processes such as the CAADP National Agricultural Investment Plan (PNISA)] and the Diagnostic Trade Integration Strategy (DTIS). It recommended that Mozambique should improve the dissemination of policies, plans and strategies to stakeholders through various media. In addition, there should be an improvement in the description and publication of agricultural production and trade data.

Agriculture – defined by the national constitution as the basis of the country’s economic development – contributes 25 percent to Mozambique’s GDP of nearly 14 billion dollars. Raw aluminium, electricity, prawns, cotton, cashew nuts, sugar, citrus, coconuts and timber are major exports.

Policy cohesion can help facilitate trade development by simplifying the regulatory and policy environment for small businesses, so countries can attract private sector investment at local and international levels, says Jonathan Werner, Country Coordinator, Executive Secretariat of the Enhanced Integrated Framework at the WTO.

“We are facing many challenges for regional trade integration in Africa,” Werner Told IPS. “Our findings have shown that aligned policy processes can help create an enabling environment for trade and development.”

Policy cementing the SDGs

African governments have committed themselves to a multitude of agreements, protocols and declarations meant to promote greater agriculture productivity and trade which are major drivers of economic growth, but something is still missing in getting it all together: effective policies both at national and regional levels. Until the well-meaning policies trade and agriculture are aligned, Africa will continue to miss out on attracting the level of investment it should.

Mozambique has taken the first steps towards aligning its national agriculture and trade sector policies to boost economic development.

“African governments have identified policy incoherence as the elephant in the room and getting the policies in trade and agriculture to speak to each other is key to turning policies into action,” Katsande said noting that agriculture and trade development form the basis of key initiatives such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Malabo Declaration and African Union’s Agenda 2063.

A boost for Inter-Africa trade

Africa has no less than 14 regional trading blocs but inter-Africa trade is low at 12 percent of the continent’s trade, according to statistics from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). However, Africa’s trade with Europe and Asia is at nearly 60 percent. Some of the bottlenecks to Africa trading with Africa include trade policy harmonization, reducing export/import duties low production capacity, differing production quality standards and poor infrastructure.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) set to be signed into operation by December 2017 will help double inter African trade. In 2012 African head of state endorsed the establishment of the free trade area by 2017. Trade is one of the pathways to unlocking economic growth in Africa to boost employment and foster innovation in a continent replete with opportunities.

Gerhard Erasmus, an associate at the Trade Law Centre, a trade law capacity building institution based in Cape Town, South Africa, said low inter-Africa trade was a real issue which has been blamed by some economists on the fact that African nations often produce the same goods (mostly agriculture and basic commodities) for which the intra-African export opportunities are limited.

“Unless we move up the ladder of value addition, industrialization and services we will remain stuck,” Erasmus said. “Thus domestic development plans need adjustment and targeted investments are necessary. There are many trade facilitation challenges, from long queues at border posts, corruption, uncoordinated technical standards and requirements, to red tape and inadequate infrastructure.”

Eramus said regional economic communities and even the African Union had policies and plans to address the many trade challenges, but implementation often encountered problems at national levels regarding political buy-in, lack of resources, technical capacity problems, and plain bad governance.

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Minamata Convention, Curbing Mercury Use, is Now Legally Bindinghttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/minamata-convention-curbing-mercury-use-is-now-legally-binding/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=minamata-convention-curbing-mercury-use-is-now-legally-binding http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/minamata-convention-curbing-mercury-use-is-now-legally-binding/#respond Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:47:56 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151690 The Minamata Convention — a legally-binding landmark treaty, described as the first new environmental agreement in over a decade – entered into force August 16. The primary aim of the Convention is “to protect human health and the environment” from mercury releases, which are considered both environmental and health hazards, according to the United Nations. […]

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Minamata Convention - Informal gold mining is one of the main sources of mercury contamination. An artisanal gold miner in El Corpus, Choluteca along the Pacific ocean in Honduras. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS.

Informal gold mining is one of the main sources of mercury contamination. An artisanal gold miner in El Corpus, Choluteca along the Pacific ocean in Honduras. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS.

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 16 2017 (IPS)

The Minamata Convention — a legally-binding landmark treaty, described as the first new environmental agreement in over a decade – entered into force August 16.

The primary aim of the Convention is “to protect human health and the environment” from mercury releases, which are considered both environmental and health hazards, according to the United Nations.

So far, the international treaty has been signed by 128 of the 193 UN member states and ratified by 74 countries, which are now legally obliged to comply with its provisions.

The Minamata Convention joins three other UN conventions seeking to reduce impacts from chemicals and waste – the Basel Convention (1992), Rotterdam Convention (2004) and Stockholm Convention (2004).

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG), an international coalition of over 95 public interest non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from more than 50 countries, has been calling for a legally binding treaty for over a decade and “welcomes the new protocol”.

The treaty holds critical obligations for all 74 State Parties to ban new primary mercury mines while phasing out existing ones and also includes a ban on many common products and processes using mercury, measures to control releases, and a requirement for national plans to reduce mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

In addition, it seeks to reduce trade, promote sound storage of mercury and its disposal, address contaminated sites and reduce exposure from this dangerous neurotoxin.

According to ZMWG, mercury is a global pollutant that travels long distances. Its most toxic form – methylmercury – accumulates in large predatory fish and is taken up in bodies through eating fish, with the worst impacts on babies in utero and small children.

In an interview with IPS, Michael Bender and Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, Co-coordinators of ZMWG said despite its flaws, the new treaty presents the best opportunity to address the global mercury crisis.

‘’The ZMWG looks forward to effective treaty implementation and providing support, where feasible, particularly to developing countries and countries with economies in transition”.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: What would be the significant impact of the Minamata Convention entering into legal force on August 16? How will it advance the longstanding global campaign to end the widespread use of mercury which has long been declared both an environmental and health hazard worldwide?

A: The new treaty is a mixture of mandatory and voluntary elements intended to control the burgeoning global mercury crisis.  It holds critical obligations that affect global use, trade, emissions and disposal of mercury.  In the near term, such provisions include a prohibition on any new primary mining of mercury, and phasing out mercury added products (by 2020) and mercury bearing processes (by 2025).

Some of these steps were unthinkable several years ago.  Now, viable, available and cost effective alternatives exist for most all products containing mercury like thermometers, dental amalgam, thermostats, measuring devices and batteries, as well as processes using mercury (e.g. production of chlorine.)

Support for treaty implementation will be provided through a financial mechanism established in the Convention text. Furthermore, the treaty includes reporting provisions (also relevant to the question below) which entails the Convention Secretariat monitoring progress and, over time, having the Conference of the Parties address issues that may arise.

The treaty also includes other provisions which provide information and guidance necessary to reduce major sources of emissions and releases. Taken together, these steps will eventually lead to significant global mercury reductions.

However, while heading in the right direction, the treaty does not move far enough nor fast enough in the short run to address the spiraling human health risks from mercury exposure.

In the case of major emission sources, like coal-fired power plants, the requirements are for countries to follow BAT/BEP practices (best available technologies/best environmental practices) to curtail releases, but no numerical reduction targets were established. New facilities will not be required to have mercury pollution controls for 5 years after the treaty enters into force, with existing facilities given 10 years before they begin their control efforts.

The treaty also addresses artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), which is both the largest intentional use and emission source of mercury globally.  However, while required ASGM national action plans (NAPs) will foster reduced use, the treaty fails to include a provision to require an eventual end to mercury use. It is envisioned, however, that NAPs will eliminate many of the worst practices that constitute the vast majority of mercury use in the sector.

While the Convention bans new primary mercury mining, it allows existing primary mining for 15 years (but does not allow supplying such uses as ASGM.)  From this source, mercury is only allowed in the manufacturing of mercury-added products and other manufacturing processes.

Q: What in your opinion are the key provisions of the Convention that could eventually lead to a worldwide ban on the use of mercury?

A: The Convention contains control measures aimed at significantly limiting the global supply of mercury to complement and reinforce the demand reduction control measures. Specifically, the Article 3 provisions limit the sources of mercury available for use and trade, and specify procedures to follow where such trade is allowed. Eventually, as mercury uses diminish, via the different Convention provisions – (e.g. the Convention’s 2020 mercury-added product phase out, and 2025 ban on the mercury use in the chlorine production)–  the production and exports from primary mercury mines will be reduced.

As discussed above, while the Convention does not ban its use, the provision to develop plans for curtailing mercury use in artisanal and small scale gold mining is important, since it is the largest mercury use and release sector, far surpassing emissions from coal fired power plants.

Q: With 74 ratifications so far, is there any mechanism that will help monitor the implementation of the convention by the 74 countries that are state parties and who are legally obliged to comply with the provisions of the convention?  Does the convention lay out any penalties against those who violate the convention or fail to implement its provisions?

A: The Convention establishes reporting requirements by the Parties, including reporting on “measures it has taken to implement provisions of the Convention and on the effectiveness of such measures…”   Further, no later than six years after the Convention enters into force, the Conference of the Parties (COP) is charged with evaluating the effectiveness of the Convention The evaluation shall be based on available reports and monitoring information, reports submitted pursuant and information and recommendations provided the Implementation and compliance committee.

This is why discussions during COP1 (scheduled to take place in Geneva September 24-29) regarding reporting forms are so important. The Article 21 reporting requirements will provide critical information on the global mercury situation and the effectiveness of the Convention in achieving mercury reductions and protecting human health.

Information Parties report on should be made publicly available. This should include information on emissions and releases; the quantities of waste mercury (i.e., commodity-grade mercury no longer used) that was disposed, and the method of final disposal; and the decisions on frequency of reporting.  Most importantly (at least for mercury production and trade) we recommend the data be provided annually in order to accurately monitor the changing global circumstances, and because of the problems with other data sources.

Finally, the Convention does not foresee penalties for noncompliance.  However, the Convention compliance committee will also focus on assisting countries come into compliance as well as also identifying areas where countries may need more assistance. In addition, individual country laws can enact penalties – (e.g. the EU regulation on mercury discusses penalties, and the Member States have to define these within their national laws.)

The NGOs will also play the watchdog role in monitoring progress, and ‘naming and shaming’ as relevant, as we follow the process in the COPs, etc.

Q: Are there any concerns that some of the leading countries, including UK, Russia, Germany, India, Italy, South Africa, Australia and Spain are not on the list of ratifiers of the convention? Have they given any indications of future ratifications?

A: For developed countries, it’s anticipated that they already have implemented many of the conference provisions, or are in a position to finance them in the future (unlike developing countries, which will rely on Convention funding.)

As far as South Africa, our partner NGO, Ground Work, has stated that ratification remains a challenge in South Africa because the industrial sector is very heavily driven by the coal industry, with almost 90% of the energy from coal. The large-scale mining sector is also not willing to declare the amount of mercury released from the ore that they mine.

All EU countries will eventually all ratify.  India has started the process toward ratification, as has Australia and also Russia- but it may take some time.

In the meantime, India has taken some affirmative steps in shifting out of mercury-cell chlor-alkali plants and regulating mercury.  However, emissions from thermal power plants is still a concern since almost 60 % of the energy generated is from coal and the cost associated with capturing mercury from coal emissions is viewed as a constrain.

Minamata Convention, Curbing Mercury Use, is Now Legally Binding

 

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Wonder Woman Should STILL be a UN Ambassadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/wonder-woman-still-un-ambassador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wonder-woman-still-un-ambassador http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/wonder-woman-still-un-ambassador/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 17:22:38 +0000 Felix Dodds http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151687 Felix Dodds is Senior Fellow at the Global Research Institute University of North Carolina and Associate Fellow at the Tellus Institute Boston and City of Bonn International Ambassador

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Wonder Woman should STILL be a UN Ambassador - Cristina Gallach (centre), Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, poses for a group photo with, from left to right: Diane Nelson, Lynda Carter, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

Cristina Gallach (centre), Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, poses for a group photo with, from left to right: Diane Nelson, Lynda Carter, Gal Gadot and Patty Jenkins. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

By Felix Dodds
NEW YORK, Aug 15 2017 (IPS)

I realize it’s a lot easier saying this now after the film of the same name has come out and has taken over $400 million in US box office receipts. It is at present taken the 8th most revenue for a super hero comic book ever.

But it does begin to look as though UNICEF and DPI – bowing to the significant number of staff whose unprecedented, outraged opposition prompted their reversal – made a mistake. A huge, global mistake.

Here’s the history –

UNICEF announced the comic book heroine Wonder Woman as a UN Ambassador last year on UN Day, the 21st of October. Her role was meant to empower young girls by seeing her as an example the original UN Press Release said:

“the iconic superhero, has been named an Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Women and Girls by the United Nations and will be tasked with raising awareness about Goal 5 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030.”

And 2016 was a very important year for Wonder Woman it’s the 75th anniversary of her first appearance as a superhero.

The reaction on her becoming an Ambassador wasn’t very positive in UN circles and women’s organizations. There was an online petition against the decision which over 45,000 people signed and key UN staff and women’s groups were vocal about their opposition to the decision.   A group of staffers attending the launch meeting stood and pointedly turned their backs as the event started.

Their criticisms ranged from Wonder Women’s role as a figure promoting violence, as a sexual stereotype, and as a representative of US jingoism (her red, white and blue uniform indeed reflected American patriotism of the WWII era during which she was produced).

“The message to girls is that you are expected to meet a male standard in which your significance is reduced to your role as a sexual object,” said Anne Marie Goetz, a professor of global affairs at New York University and a former adviser on peace and security issues to the United Nations agency, U.N. Women.

It was a rather extraordinary rebellion. But it was also understandable. The fictional character’s ‘appointment’ had been announced just after the real-world selection of António Guterres as UN Secretary General, contrary to months of wide expectation was that the next SG would be a woman.

But historically and on substance, the reaction was in some ways surprising. The 1970s feminists including Gloria Steinem saw Wonder Woman as an inspiration. In fact, the first issue of the feminist magazine Ms. had Wonder Woman on its front cover.

Perhaps those criticizing actually hadn’t done a due diligence on who Wonder Woman was. Clearly none of them were comic fans.

William Marston who invented the Wonder Woman character, was a friend and great admirer of Margaret Sanger, the co-founder of Planned Parenthood. His description of the character was anything but stereotypical or belittling. In 1947 Marsten said:

‘You know, you need a female superhero because she will embody the nurturing values of womanhood. She will be about peace not war. The only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity. Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

So now we come to the film itself. First it was one of the best films of 2017 so far. It was directed by a great director Patricia Lea Jenkins whose previous 2003 crime drama film Monster about serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a former prostitute who was executed in Florida in 2002 for killing six men in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Because of Wonder Woman success, Jenkins now holds the highest take for a film directed by a woman. It has become the highest-grossing movie directed by a woman, surpassing previous record holder Mamma Mia.

She achieved that as a director with a remarkable grasp of characterization and emotional depth. The film doesn’t present Wonder Woman as a sex symbol, but as friendly and very intelligent young woman. The choice of Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was masterful. As an actor, she comes over as a real and accessible individual. While there has been some criticism of her being Israeli, I have to assume that no UN representative would support discrimination based on nationality or religion.

Besides, I thought it neatly complemented the fact that the lead individual who advanced the idea of Wonder Woman in the UN as a UN Ambassador was Mayer Naser – a Palestinian.

Here are some of the reviews:

“Wonder Woman embraces issues of female power and the need to turn from hate to love, war to peace in a mainstream delivery system. And the female lead is not solely a mother, sister, girlfriend or hooker, however gold her heart: wonder of wonders!”  Thelma Adams New York Observer

“Wonder Woman” is a tale of transmission, of wisdom passed down from generation to generation, from woman to woman, and from individual women to society at large—for those in society at large who are able to hear and heed it. It’s a visual tale of oral history, an allegory that cuts both ways: even as the segregation of women on Themyscira sends Diana into the world with a narrowed view of humankind, male-dominated human society at large, which keeps women largely out of power and cultural authority, keeps itself stultified, blinded, ignorant, oppressive, violent, warmongering. This, too, is part of the film’s exemplary present-day framework, both dramatic and ideological. Diana isn’t a warrior to end all wars, she’s a warrior to warn against wars—and against the parochial, self-enclosed island doctrines which are employed to justify them. In her work at the Louvre, she cultivates not just her own garden but a garden for humanity at large.” Richard Brody The New Yorker

“Yes, she is sort of naked a lot of the time, but this isn’t objectification so much as a cultural reset: having thighs, actual thighs you can kick things with, not thighs that look like arms, is a feminist act. The whole Diana myth, women safeguarding the world from male violence not with nurture but with better violence, is a feminist act. Casting Robin Wright as Wonder Woman’s aunt, re-imagining the battle-axe as a battler, with an axe, is a feminist act. A female German chemist trying to destroy humans (in the shape of Dr Poison, a proto-Mengele before Nazism existed) might be the most feminist act of all.

Women are repeatedly erased from the history of classical music, art and medicine. It takes a radical mind to pick up that being erased from the history of evil is not great either. Wonder Woman’s casual rebuttal of a sexual advance, her dress-up montage (“it’s itchy”, “I can’t fight in this”, “it’s choking me”) are also feminist acts. Wonder Woman is a bit like a BuzzFeed list: 23 Stupid Sexist Tropes in Cinema and How to Rectify Them. I mean that as a compliment.” Zoe Williams Guardian

As I publish this article Wonder Woman is $3.5 million short of overtaking the top grossing Spiderman movies. She may very well do that this weekend. She is also only $8 million short of overtaking the top Captain America movie and $9 million short of overtaking the top Iron Man movie. That will bring her to the 5th biggest domestic taking for a comic book adaptation with only Batman ahead of her as a movie about a single superhero – the other slots are Avengers movies.

Finally let’s go back to the original UN Press Release and reflect on it. It said:

“Wonder Woman’s strength and fight for justice and peace will help to focus the campaign’s attention in five key areas:

  • Speaking out against discrimination and limitations on women and girls;
  • Joining forces with others against gender-based violence and abuse;
  • Supporting full and effective participation and equal opportunity for women and girls in leadership in all spheres of life – including the workplace;
  • Ensuring all women and girls have access to quality learning, and:
  • Sharing examples of real life women and girls who are making a difference every day.”

All of the above were in one way or another reflected in the film and add to that the grace that Gal Gadot brought as Wonder Woman then perhaps the time is right for Wonder Woman to become again a UN Ambassador.

 

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Population Aging: Hallmark of the 21st Centuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/population-aging-hallmark-of-the-21st-century/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=population-aging-hallmark-of-the-21st-century http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/population-aging-hallmark-of-the-21st-century/#respond Tue, 15 Aug 2017 10:36:07 +0000 Joseph Chamie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151682 Joseph Chamie is an independent consulting demographer and a former director of the United Nations Population Division.

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Population Aging: women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

Women sitting in front of an old age home in Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, India. Credit: K. S. Harikrishnan/IPS

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Aug 15 2017 (IPS)

While rapid population growth may be the defining feature of the 20th century, with world population nearly quadrupling from 1.6 to 6.1 billion, the hallmark of the 21st century is likely to be population aging.

The consequences of the population aging are reverberating across the globe. The evolving transitions to older populations are challenging the existing world order and impacting virtually every aspect of society, including economic activity, investments, politics, taxation, education, housing, household/family structure, retirement and healthcare services.

Throughout much of human history population age structures were comparatively young. In the past century, for example, the percent elderly, those aged 65 years and older, averaged around five percent. In striking contrast, the proportion elderly will more than triple during the 21st century, reaching close to one-quarter of the world’s population (Figure 1).

Population Aging: : Percent of World Population Aged 65 Years and Older: 1900-2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Percent of World Population Aged 65 Years and Older: 1900-2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Although substantial differences in national age structures are evident today, countries are heading to the same irreversible destination:  significantly older populations. For example, the G20 countries, which together represent more than 60 percent of world population, are well along in the process of momentous aging transformations of the 21st century.

Nearly all the G20 countries are expected to have no less than one-quarter of their populations aged 65 years and older by 2100. And eight of those countries, including China, Germany, Italy and Japan, are projected to have one-third or more of their population elderly by the close of the century (Figure 2).

Population Aging: Percent Aged 65 Years and Older for G20 Countries: 2000 and 2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Percent Aged 65 Years and Older for G20 Countries: 2000 and 2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

As women make up the majority of the elderly in nearly all countries, population aging will affect women more than men. For example, in countries such as Japan, Portugal, Singapore and South Korea, the proportion of the female population aged 65 years and older is expected to reach 40 percent during the 21st century. Given that women typically survive their partners, many elderly women will need care and assistance, especially the growing numbers living alone.

Another clear indicator of the unprecedented population aging underway worldwide is the Historic Reversal, or the demographic turning point when children (0 to 14 years) in a population become fewer than its elderly (65 years and older). The Historic Reversal first occurred in 1995 in Italy.

Today some 30 countries have experienced the Historic Reversal, including Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Spain and the United Kingdom.  In 2075, and for the first time in human history, the world’s population will go through the Historic Reversal with the elderly increasingly outnumbering children (Figure 3).

Population Aging: Global Percent of Children (0-14) and Elderly (65+ years): 2000 - 2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Global Percent of Children (0-14) and Elderly (65+ years): 2000 – 2100. Source: United Nations Population Division

Lower mortality rates and living longer increase the numbers of elderly. But the primary driver of population aging is fertility. Low fertility results in age structures having relatively fewer children, a growing concern of many governments, and comparatively more elderly. In addition, the faster the decline from high to low fertility levels, such as has taken place in China, the more rapid the transition to older population age structures.

Fertility rates below the replacement level of about two births per woman also mean declining populations for many countries, especially those with limited immigration. Today more than 80 countries, accounting for nearly half of the world’s population, have fertility levels below replacement, including China, United States, Brazil, Russia, Japan, Viet Nam, Germany, Iran, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

The combination of declining birth rates, increased longevity and growing proportions of elderly are raising serious economic questions and fiscal concerns within many countries. In particular, population aging is resulting in growing financial stresses on government-sponsored retirement, pension and healthcare programs that are challenging the sustainability of those programs.

When Germany’s Chancellor Otto von Bismarck in 1889 and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 established their respective pay-as-you-go retirement programs, their countries had in excess of ten people in the working ages per elderly person. Today those ratios have declined to less than a handful of people in the working ages per older person. In short, fewer workers are supporting more retirees.

In addition to rising old-age dependency, declines in the proportions of young workers are believed to have negative consequences on innovation. Recent studies report that aging populations lead to declines in innovation activity. When combined with aging’s impact on savings and investment, declines in innovation have serious implications for the growth of GDP.

Governments with extensive social programs for the elderly, such as income support, healthcare services and social benefits, are experiencing escalating costs as the numbers of elderly grow rapidly and the duration of support lengthens. Loathe to raising taxes, governmental attempts to address the escalating costs of those programs have by and large focused on adjustments in retirement ages, benefits, contribution rates and savings plans.

Those adjustments alone, however, are likely to be insufficient to cover the rising costs. Shortfalls in many programs for the elderly will need to be financed by general tax revenue. This in turn may negatively impact economic growth and overall societal wellbeing if governments divert their current spending from education, infrastructure investments and social welfare to programs for the elderly.

As consumption varies over the human life cycle, population aging is also bringing about noteworthy changes in the demand for goods and services. The prevalence and overall costs for health services and care giving, for example, can be expected to increase as populations become older.

Housing and household structures are also being affected by population aging.  In the past and continuing in some developing countries, elderly persons generally lived with adult children and grandchildren. With rising levels of urbanization, increasingly neither the elderly nor their adult children are choosing to live together, but prefer separate households with proximity.

Population aging is certainly a significant human achievement, the result of smaller family sizes, lower mortality rates and increased longevity. However, this notable achievement comes with both challenges and opportunities for governments, businesses, organizations and private citizens. Those able to recognize and adjust to the 21st century’s demographic transformation are far more likely to benefit and prosper than those who ignore or dismiss the momentous consequences of population aging

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What Does “Climate-Smart Agriculture” Really Mean? New Tool Breaks It Downhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/climate-smart-agriculture-really-mean-new-tool-breaks/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 23:20:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151680 A Trinidadian scientist has developed a mechanism for determining the degree of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) compliance with respect to projects, processes and products. This comes as global attention is drawn to climate-smart agriculture as one of the approaches to mitigate or adapt to climate change. Steve Maximay says his Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides […]

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The base for a water catchment tank. Faced with severe droughts, many farmers in the Caribbean have found it necessary to set up catchment areas to harvest water whenever it rains. Credit: CDB

By Desmond Brown
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

A Trinidadian scientist has developed a mechanism for determining the degree of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) compliance with respect to projects, processes and products.

This comes as global attention is drawn to climate-smart agriculture as one of the approaches to mitigate or adapt to climate change.“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture...all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers." --Steve Maximay

Steve Maximay says his Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides a certification and auditing scheme that can be used to compare projects, processes and products to justify the applicability and quantum of climate change funding.

“C-SAC provides a step-by-step, checklist style guide that a trained person can use to determine how closely the project or process under review satisfies the five areas of compliance,” Maximay told IPS.

“This method literally forces the examiner to consider key aspects or goals of climate-smart agriculture. These aspects (categories) are resource conservation; energy use; safety; biodiversity support; and greenhouse gas reduction.”

He said each category is further subdivided, so resource conservation includes the use of land, water, nutrients and labour. Energy use includes its use in power, lighting, input manufacture and transportation. Safety revolves around production operations, harvesting, storage and utilization.

Biodiversity support examines land clearing, off-site agrochemical impact, limited introduction of invasive species, and ecosystem services impact. Greenhouse gas reduction involves enteric fermentation (gas produced in the stomach of cattle and other animals that chew their cud), soil management, fossil fuel reduction and manure/waste management.

“These subdivisions (four each in the five categories) are the basis of the 20 questions that comprise the C-SAC tool,” Maximay explained.

“The manual provides a means of scoring each aspect on a five-point scale. If the cumulative score for the project is less than 40 it is deemed non-compliant and not a truly climate smart agriculture activity. C-SAC further grades in terms of degree of compliance wherein a score of 40-49 points is level 1, (50-59) level 2, (60 -69) level 3, (70-79) level 4, and (80-100) being the highest degree of compliance at level 5.

“It is structured with due cognizance of concerns about how the global climate change funds will be disbursed,” he added.

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) describes climate-smart agriculture as agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience (adaptation), reduces or removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals.

The climate-smart agriculture concept reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness. It aims to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.

CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, and require planning to address tradeoffs and synergies between these three pillars: productivity, adaptation, and mitigation.

While the concept is still evolving, many of the practices that make up CSA already exist worldwide and are used by farmers to cope with various production risks.

Mainstreaming CSA requires critical stocktaking of ongoing and promising practices for the future, and of institutional and financial enablers for CSA adoption.

Maximay said C-SAC is meant to be a prioritizing tool with a holistic interpretation of the perceived benefits of climate-smart agriculture.

“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture…all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers,” he said.

“C-SAC will provide bankers and project managers with an easy to use tool to ensure funded projects really comply with a broad interpretation of climate smart agriculture.”

Maximay said C-SAC incorporates major categories of compliance and provides a replicable analysis matrix using scalar approaches to convert qualitative assessments into a numeric compliance scale.

“The rapid qualitative analysis at the core of C-SAC depends on interrelated science-based guidelines honed from peer reviewed, field-tested practices and operations,” Maximay explained.

“Climate-smart agriculture often amalgamates activities geared towards adaptation and mitigation. The proliferation of projects claiming to fit the climate smart agriculture designation has highlighted the need for an auditing and certification scheme. One adaptation or mitigation feature may not be enough to qualify an agricultural operation as being climate-smart. Consequently, a more holistic perspective can lead to a determination of the level of compliance with respect to climate-smart agriculture.

“C-SAC provides that holistic perspective based on a structured qualitative assessment of key components,” Maximay added.

The scientist notes that in the midst of increased opportunities for the use of global climate funds, it behooves policymakers and financiers to ensure projects are not crafted in a unidimensional manner.

He added that small farmers in Small Island Developing States are particularly vulnerable and their needs must be met by projects that are holistic in design and implementation.

Over the years, agriculture organisations in the Caribbean have been providing funding to set up climate-smart farms as demonstrations to show farmers examples of ecological practices that they can use to combat many of the conditions that arise due to the heavy rainfall and drought conditions experienced in the region.

Maximay was among the first agricultural scientists addressing climate change concerns during the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change (CPACC).

A plant pathologist by training, he has been a secondary school teacher, development banker, researcher, World Bank-certified training manager, university lecturer, Caribbean Development Bank consultant and entrepreneur.

Maximay managed the first Business Development Office in a Science Faculty within the University of the West Indies. With more than thirty years’ experience in the agricultural, education, health, financial and environmental sectors, he has also worked on development projects for major regional and international agencies.

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New Tool Separates Wheat from Chaff for Climate-Smart Ag Financehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-tool-separates-wheat-chaff-climate-smart-ag-finance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-tool-separates-wheat-chaff-climate-smart-ag-finance http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/new-tool-separates-wheat-chaff-climate-smart-ag-finance/#comments Mon, 14 Aug 2017 13:40:56 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151669 Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.  CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, and require planning to address tradeoffs and synergies between these three pillars: productivity, adaptation, and mitigation. Trinidadian scientist Steve Maximay says his new Climate-Smart Agriculture […]

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Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand

Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand

By Desmond Brown
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad , Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

Climate-smart agriculture seeks to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand. 

CSA initiatives sustainably increase productivity, enhance resilience, and reduce/remove greenhouse gases, and require planning to address tradeoffs and synergies between these three pillars: productivity, adaptation, and mitigation.

Trinidadian scientist Steve Maximay says his new Climate-Smart Agriculture Compliant (C-SAC) tool provides a certification and auditing scheme that can be used to compare projects, processes and products to justify the applicability and quantum of climate change funding.

“C-SAC provides a step-by-step, checklist style guide that a trained person can use to determine how closely the project or process under review satisfies the five areas of compliance,” Maximay told IPS.

“This method literally forces the examiner to consider key aspects or goals of climate-smart agriculture. These aspects (categories) are resource conservation; energy use; safety; biodiversity support; and greenhouse gas reduction.

“It can be used as a preliminary filter to sort through the number of ‘green-washing’ projects that may get funded under the rubric of climate-smart agriculture . . . all in a bid to access the millions of dollars that should go to help small and genuinely progressive farmers,” he said.

Climate-smart agriculture

The United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) describes climate-smart agriculture (CSA) as agriculture that sustainably increases productivity, enhances resilience (adaptation), reduces or removes greenhouse gases (mitigation) where possible, and enhances achievement of national food security and development goals.

The climate-smart agriculture concept reflects an ambition to improve the integration of agriculture development and climate responsiveness. It aims to achieve food security and broader development goals under a changing climate and increasing food demand.

While the concept is still evolving, many of the practices that make up CSA already exist worldwide and are used by farmers to cope with various production risks.

 

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Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/will-renewable-energies-finally-get-chance-argentina/#respond Mon, 14 Aug 2017 12:39:10 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151672 The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.” This indicates the importance that the government gives to the issue, although translating the slogan into reality does not seem as easy as putting it in the headings of public documents. Renewable […]

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Will Renewable Energies Finally Get Their Chance in Argentina?

The solar farm in Arribeños, a locality in the province of Buenos Aires, which began to inject 500 Kw into the Argentinian power grid in August. Credit: Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energy

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 14 2017 (IPS)

The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.” This indicates the importance that the government gives to the issue, although translating the slogan into reality does not seem as easy as putting it in the headings of public documents.

Renewable sources of energy today make up an insignificant proportion of Argentina’s energy mix. But under a law passed in 2015, with the consensus of all political sectors, this scenario is to be reverted in the next few years.“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources.” -- Javier Cao

The objective is not only based on commitments of turning to clean sources of energy undertaken by Argentina within the framework of global agreements to combat climate change, but also on the need, imposed by the economy, to expand and diversify the energy mix.

For years, Argentina has been spending a fortune to import fossil fuels, although the amount has decreased, from seven billion dollars in 2014 to less than three billion dollars last year.

However, that did not happen due to increased productivity or a diversification of local sources, but because of a fall in international oil prices.

“Fossil fuels form an absurdly large portion of our energy mix. We have to change that,” Daniel Redondo, the government’s secretary of strategic energy planning, acknowledged in July in front of an auditorium of experts.

“We are going to live up to the law on renewable energies, which stipulates that 20 per cent of our energy should come from clean source by 2025,” he added.

According to official data, Argentina’s primary energy supply is based on 51 per cent natural gas and 33 per cent oil.

With respect to power generation, thermal plants which use fossil fuels cover 64 per cent of the supply, while 30 per cent comes from hydroelectric plants. The country’s three nuclear plants provide four per cent of the total.

Since 2016, the government has signed 59 contracts with private investors to develop renewable energy projects around the country. These initiatives, which should begin functioning next year, involve an overall investment of about four billion dollars, according to the Energy Ministry.

These projects will jointly add 2,423 megawatts (MW) to the energy supply, which the state has assumed the commitment to buy and incorporate into the national grid, which currently has some 30,000 MW of installed capacity.

China, a decisive player in the energy sector

Besides these projects, which form part of the government’s RenovAr Programme, the governor of the northern province of Jujuy, Gerardo Morales, announced that he signed a contract with the Power China company for the construction and financing of a 300-MW solar farm in the Salar de Cauchari, some 4,000 metres above sea level.

The contract was signed during President Mauricio Macri’s visit to China in May, when Morales was part of the official delegation. According to the governor, it will be “the biggest solar farm in Latin America.”

The first thing anyone who looks at any official document this year in Argentina will read is: “2017, the year of renewable energies.”

President Mauricio Macri signs contracts for renewable energy projects, together with members of his administration and representatives of the Buenos Aires city government. Credit: Argentine Presidency

During the visit, China consolidated its role as a key player in the renewal of the power industry in Argentina. In Beijing, an agreement was reached for the Asian giant to finance 85 per cent of the construction of two nuclear plants, with an investment of 14 billion dollars.

Before the visit, they had agreed for China to finance the construction of two hydroelectric plants in Argentina’s southern region of Patagonia, at a cost of nearly five billion dollars. But the two mega-projects are still on hold by a Supreme Court order, in response to a complaint filed by environmental organisations.

The government is keen on solving this situation, as the Chinese investors have threatened to apply a “cross-default” clause and block their investments in other projects.

Energy Ministry officials reiterate in every public forum in which they participate that the goal is for 20,000 MW of power to be added to the electric grid by 2025, and for half of this to come from renewable sources.

To finance this, the government created the Fund for the Development of Renewable Energies (Foder), which was endowed with 800 million dollars from the state, in addition to another 480 million approved by the World Bank to finance the projects.

The ones that are already underway are mainly wind and solar power projects, since Argentina has favourable conditions for the former in the windy southern region of Patagonia, and for the latter in the high plateaus of northwestern Argentina, where solar radiation is intense.

There are also small-scale hydroelectric and biogas projects.

“This is the first time that Argentina is really moving forward in the development of renewable energies. Today we have what we used to lack: financing,” said Javier Cao, an expert in renewable energies for the economic consulting firm Abeceb.

“The main driver of these initiatives is that Argentina has a large energy deficit and needs new power from all sources: from hydroelectric plants as well as the two new projected nuclear plants, while increasing its production of natural gas and also boost production from renewable sources,” he told IPS.

Will the third time be the charm?

Argentina’s dream of developing renewable energies is not new, but up to now all the efforts made had failed.

The first law that declared renewables a matter of “national interest” was passed by Congress in 1998. But the financial incentives created by that law were destroyed by the late 2001 economic and political crisis that led to the resignation of President Fernando de la Rúa.

In 2006 a second law was enacted, which set a target: eight per cent of the electric power consumed was to come from renewable sources by 2016. But once again, it failed, due to problems with financing.

The third, which will hopefully be the charm, was passed in 2015, with votes from lawmakers who backed then president Cristina Fernández (2007-2015) as well as members of the opposition, in a rare example of consensus.

This law created tax and customs incentives for investors and included among renewable sources hydroelectric dams up to 50 MW of capacity, in contrast to the ceiling of 30 MW set by the previous law.

In addition, it established the obligation to reach the target of eight per cent renewable energies in the electric grid by Dec. 31, 2017 – a deadline that will not be reached. However, the government hopes to meet the target by 2019.

The government does hope to reach the second target set by the law, on time: 20 per cent renewables by 2025.

“One of the challenges in this respect is decentralising production,” said Marcelo Álvarez, president of the Argentine Chamber of Renewable Energies, which represents companies in the sector.

Towards that end, Congress is expected to pass a new power distribution law this year, which will allow users who generate renewable power to sell their surplus to the grid, which would be a real innovation in Argentina.

“We already have achieved a unified text for the bill in the Energy Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, with the participation of technical advisers from all the parties and technicians from the executive branch,” said Juan Carlos Villalonga, a former Greenpeace environmental activist who is now a lawmaker for the governing alliance Cambiemos.

“The take-off of renewable energies will be one of the legacies of this government,” said Villalonga.

Within the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed by 196 member states in December 2015, Argentina committed itself to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent before 2030, a level criticised as low, but to which this country would add another 15 per cent if it receives special funds.

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