Inter Press Service » Regional Categories http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:26:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.13 Uncertainty Mars Potential for Peace in South Sudanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/uncertainty-mars-potential-for-peace-in-south-sudan/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 00:26:14 +0000 Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147127 A delegation from the UN Security Council visited South Sudan at the beginning of September 2016. UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

A delegation from the UN Security Council visited South Sudan at the beginning of September 2016. UN Photo/Isaac Billy.

By Jonathan Rozen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 28 2016 (IPS)

Nearly one month after UN Security Council members visited troubled South Sudan, disagreement reigns over even the limited outside measures proposed to try to bring the security situation in the world’s newest country under control.

“To fix South Sudan you will need 250,000 soldiers, you will need four or five billion dollars per year. Who is going to do that? Nobody.” Berouk Messfin, Senior Researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in Addis Ababa, told IPS.

While it is clear that neither an arms embargo nor an additional 4000 UN troops – two measures currently on the table – will be a panacea for troubled South Sudan, there is a slim hope that they may pressure the country’s leadership to act in the interests of its people.

As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told a high-level meeting on South Sudan’s humanitarian situation on September 22: “Time and again, (South Sudan’s) leaders have resorted to weapons and identity politics to resolve their differences.”

For three days in early September Security Council members traveled to South Sudan. At the end of the visit a ‘joint communiqué’ was issued that seemingly brokered an agreement with the interim Transitional Government of National Unity. It outlined the strengthening of the existing 12,000-troop UN peacekeeping mission (UNMISS) through an additional 4000-troop Regional Protection Force, and the removal of restrictions to humanitarian access. But in the days since the communiqué, South Sudanese officials have insisted that specifics of the additional force remain unresolved.

“We have agreed in principle … but the details of their deployment, the countries that will contribute … that is the work that is left now,” Hussein Mar Nyuot, Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management for the South Sudan government told IPS. “I don’t see the difference that this [4000] will come and do.”

“To fix South Sudan you will need 250,000 soldiers, you will need four or five billion dollars per year. Who is going to do that? Nobody.” -- Berouk Messfin, Senior Researcher with the Institute for Security Studies.

The proposed additional force would be under the command of UNMISS and was endorsed in July by the east African Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) body leading the South Sudan peace talks. Building on UNMISS’ existing mandate, which already calls for the “use all necessary means” to protect UN personnel and civilians from threats, the Security Council believes the additional troops would strengthen the security situation.

The force is to be deployed as soon as possible, Hervé Ladsous, Under Secretary General for UN Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters Friday. Though he also said they were trying to elucidate “contradictory statements” from the capital, Juba.

In this context, human rights advocacy groups, along with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, have continued their calls for the UN Security Council to impose an arms embargo to stop both sides’ continued militarization.

“It’s going to be more difficult for parties to the conflict to get access to ammunition and supplies,” Louis Charbonneau, UN Director for Human Rights Watch, told IPS. “Combine it with the boosting of UNMISS … [and] it’s going to make a difference for civilians.”

However, the South Sudanese government, whose soldiers have been implicated in ethnically motivated killings, rape, and looting, disagrees on the value of an embargo.

“[The] issue is not actually the arms that are coming … even if you have an arms embargo there are already arms in the hands of the local people … the arms that are coming in are not actually the ones causing any problems,” Hussein Mar Nyuot told IPS.

If they say they want to have [an] arms embargo, ok, but what will you do with the arms that are in the hands of the people?” he continued. “We should encourage the government to disarm the civilian population.”

Peacekeepers and UN police officers (UNPOL) with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Credit: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

Peacekeepers and UN police officers (UNPOL) with the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). Credit: UN Photo/Eric Kanalstein

As a party to the conflict, South Sudan’s government is not impartial in their position, however they are also not entirely alone in their hesitance. “[An embargo] has to be a last course … we are not there yet,” Mahboub Maalim, Executive Secretary of IGAD, told IPS.

Despite the existing arms in the country and the potential for continued illicit inflows, targeted sanctions by the Security Council may signal deeper commitment to ending the violence and protecting civilians. Nevertheless, neither an embargo nor 4000 additional troops will cure the political divisions among South Sudan’s leadership, which lie at the heart of the conflict.

Paths forward

“The South Sudanese have a string to hang on now … and that is the implementation of the [August 2015] agreement,” Maalim said. “It has had some problems because of the July incident, but it’s going to come on track,” he added referring to violent clashes which took place in South Sudan in July, bringing the country to the brink of all-out war.

However, not everyone agrees on the viability of the previous agreement.

“You have two sides that are not negotiating in good faith … who do not understand how to implement peace agreements they have signed,” said Messfin.

So what is to be done? Beyond the intended value for the protection of civilians, additional troops and restrictions will only go so far without political commitment from the country’s leadership.

Conflict prevention in South Sudan is about strategically applied political leverage, Cedric de Conning, Senior Researcher at the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes and the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, explained to IPS.

A protection force like a reinforced peacekeeping mission can only implement what is agreed to politically, and the warring parties are not committed and remain mistrustful. While immediate action is necessary to save lives, there will eventually need to be a “reset” and a new administration, he continued.

Meanwhile, civil society groups have also reported increased repression of their activities, indicating a further weakening of South Sudan’s social resilience.

“There has been a steady uptick in press freedom violations in South Sudan in recent months,” Murithi Mutiga, East Africa correspondent for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told IPS. “We have seen a number of cases of newspaper outlets being arbitrarily closed down, the most prominent cases being the Nation Mirror and the Juba Monitor.”

Press freedom can support the pursuit of a sustained cessation of hostilities, urged CPJ, because accurate and accessible public information allows citizens to better understand how to react to crises without turning to violence. A well-informed population may also be better positioned to define a peaceful future for their country.

The importance of uninhibited civil society for conflict prevention also matches the priorities outlined in two identical resolutions passed by the UN Security Council and General Assembly in April, which recognize pathways to “sustaining peace.” Notably, this includes the development and maintenance of social, political and economic conditions necessary for conflict to be prevented.

South Sudan has experienced persistent violence since 2013, when armed conflict broke out between groups loyal to president Salva Kiir and opposition leader in exile Riek Machar. Fighting escalated along ethnic lines, pitting Dinka against Nuer, until a peace agreement was signed in August 2015. But fighting continued and escalated in July 2016 with a series of clashes in Juba, which left approximately 300 dead. Over the last three years thousands have been killed, over 1.6 million people remain internally displaced, and roughly 4.8 million currently suffer from food insecurity, according to the UN.

While the implementation of September’s joint communiqué will be reviewed with next steps considered at the end of the month, South Sudan’s Humanitarian Response Plan is severely under-funded at just over 50 percent; despite there being no doubt that South Sudan needs immediate assistance.

But this will only serve as a stop-gap against man-made famine. While the Security Council may still unite for the application of an embargo, the fate of South Sudan ultimately lies with its leadership. Their ability to find a lasting agreement, with support from the UN, the African Union, and IGAD, hinges on their willingness to stop the conflict.

“The lives and future of an entire generation hang in the balance,” Tony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, said Thursday. “Literally the future of South Sudan.”

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First Acid Test for Peace in Colombia Will Be the Referendumhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/first-acid-test-for-peace-in-colombia-will-be-the-referendum/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=first-acid-test-for-peace-in-colombia-will-be-the-referendum http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/first-acid-test-for-peace-in-colombia-will-be-the-referendum/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 20:52:15 +0000 Constanza Vieira http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147126 Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the peace agreement, observed by FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño, Latin American presidents and other dignitaries, in an open-air ceremony in the city of Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Colombian presidency

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signs the peace agreement, observed by FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño, Latin American presidents and other dignitaries, in an open-air ceremony in the city of Cartagena de Indias. Credit: Colombian presidency

By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTA, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

It was like a huge party in Colombia. “Congratulations!” people said to each other, before hugging. “Only 20 minutes to go!” one office worker said, hurrying on her way to Bolívar square, in the heart of Bogotá. And everyone knew what she was talking about, and hurried along too. Complete strangers exchanged winks of complicity.

Starting at 5:00 PM on Monday Sept. 26, the people in the square watched a live broadcast of the ceremony in Cartagena de Indias, 664 km to the north, where the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels signed a peace agreement, putting an end to 52 years of armed conflict.

Fifteen presidents, 27 foreign ministers and three former presidents, as well as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, took part in and witnessed the historic event.

The first big test for peace will come on Sunday Oct. 2, when Colombians will vote for or against the peace deal, in a referendum.

The ceremony began with one minute of silence for the Colombians who were killed or forcibly disappeared in the last half century, while dozens of white flags were raised.

This was followed by an a capella song by traditional singers from Bojayá, a town in the northwestern department of Chocó where 79 people were killed in May 2002, including 44 children. The United Nations blamed the FARC, the far-right paramilitaries and the army for the war crime.

“We are very happy/full of joy/that the FARC guerrillas/are laying down their arms,” they sang. During the war, “in our community/they didn’t even let/us go out to fish or work. We want justice and peace/to come from the heart/for health, peace and education to reach our fields.”

At 5:30 PM, President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, known by his nom de guerre Timochenko, signed the “final agreement to end the conflict and build a stable and lasting peace”, agreed on Aug. 24 in Havana after five years of peace talks held with international observers.

Colombians are “bidding farewell to decades of flames and sending up a bright flare of hope that illuminates the world,” Ban Ki-moon said.

The two leaders signing the accord spoke next.

The former rebel leader apologised “to all the victims of the conflict for all of the pain that we have caused in this war,” receiving a standing ovation in Cartagena as well as Bogotá, while thousands of people chanted “Yes we could!”

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the ceremony for the signing of the peace deal in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Credit: UN

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks at the ceremony for the signing of the peace deal in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia. Credit: UN

The FARC rebel organisation will now become a new political party. ““No one should doubt that we are moving into politics without arms,” Londoño said. “The war is over. We are starting to build peace.”

Santos said “I welcome you to democracy. Exchanging bullets for votes, weapons for ideas, is the bravest and most intelligent decision…you understood the call of history.”

“We will undoubtedly never see eye to eye about the political or economic model that our country should follow, but I will staunchly defend your right to express your ideas within the democratic regime,” the president said.

After 14 years, the European Union removed the FARC from its list of terrorist organisations. And U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said his government would “review” doing the same.

Ban confirmed that the signing of the agreement marked the start of the U.N. Security Council peacekeeping mission to verify and monitor the ceasefire and the laying down of arms within 180 days.

On the sunny afternoon in Bolívar square, 70-something Graciela Laverde, wearing a colourful cotton dress, told IPS her biggest wish was “peace, education and recreation for so many children, an end to all the corruption and the killing of so many innocent people….If God wills, there will be peace.”

The referendum

The first big step along the complex route to consolidating peace will be the Oct. 2 referendum in which Colombians will vote whether or not they back the final peace deal.

The campaigns urging people to vote “yes” have been diverse and have included initiatives too numerous to count. For example, grandmothers playing with their grandchildren cut out large signs reading “si” (yes) to tape in their windows.

The campaign for the “no” vote, meanwhile, was led first and foremost by the far right: former president Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010) and former attorney general Alejandro Ordóñez, who may be Uribe’s candidate in the 2018 presidential elections.

The campaign has targeted Colombians in urban areas, who make up 70 percent of the population. “The people living in rural areas are prepared to vote ‘yes’,” analyst Jesús Aníbal Suárez told IPS, adding that it was urban residents who had the most doubts.

Suárez expects low voter turnout of around 35 percent, which would still be high enough to meet the legal requirements for the referendum. He projects a 60-40 percent result in favour of “yes”.

President Juan Manuel Santos (R) shows FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño the symbolic pen that the two will use to sign the peace agreement putting an end to over half a century of conflict in Colombia. Credit: Colombian presidency

President Juan Manuel Santos (R) shows FARC chief Rodrigo Londoño the symbolic pen made from a bullet that the two used to sign the peace agreement putting an end to over half a century of conflict in Colombia. Credit: Colombian presidency

“There is a great deal of uncertainty, and that leads people to abstain from voting,” he said. “Uribe’s effort has made its mark, it has managed to confuse people,” by widely disseminating false information about the peace agreement, he added.

But there is a new segment of the population in favour of the “yes” vote: the military and police, who total nearly half a million people in this country of 48 million.

“The members of the military can’t vote, but their families, the people around them, can,” said Suárez. “I heard retired general (former police chief) Roso José Serrano say: ‘I don’t want one more police officer to die.”

“Soldiers and police officers feel like they have been cannon fodder. Their families will vote for the ceasefire, just as a matter of logic,” because the deaths in combat have been reduced to zero.

During the 2014 presidential elections voters were polarised between reelecting Santos, so he could continue the peace talks with the FARC, and voting for Uribe’s candidate Óscar Zuluaga, who wanted to suspend the negotiations and relaunch them on a different footing.

Today, the “no” camp is calling for a renegotiation of the accord.

Suárez believes that in 2014, the families and friends of the half million soldiers and police voted for Zuluaga, but will now vote “yes”.

At the same time, the “no” campaign has complained about the government’s new sex education for preteens.

Because the peace agreement has a gender perspective, an unprecedented aspect in any peace deal anywhere in the world, Ordóñez’s followers protested on the day of the signing ceremony, in a small demonstration in Cartagena, that the peace accord represented a threat to children because of its “gender ideology.”

Evangelical Christians, who number several million in Colombia, vote in a disciplined manner, and their preachers have told them to vote “no”. The local Catholic Church leaders, despite Pope Francis’ support for the peace talks, declared themselves neutral with regard to the referendum.

“The referendum will define which direction this will take,” said Carlos Lozano, director of the Communist weekly publication Voz, who was close to the Havana talks.

“If the ‘no’ vote wins, which I don’t believe will happen, things would change a great deal, even if the war didn’t break out again,” he told IPS.

“It would be very difficult to hold another process of peace talks and reach another agreement,” he said. “It’s a document that has consensus support, which is worthy of the state, worthy of the guerrillas, and was built with great care, in a very detailed manner.”

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Poverty Eradication Greatest Global Challenge, Say G77 Ministershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/poverty-eradication-greatest-global-challenge-say-g77-ministers/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=poverty-eradication-greatest-global-challenge-say-g77-ministers http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/poverty-eradication-greatest-global-challenge-say-g77-ministers/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:18:31 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147120 UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

By an IPS Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

The 133-member Group of 77 (G77), joined by China, unanimously endorsed a Ministerial Declaration strongly reiterating its support to the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change agreement.

The Declaration, which was adopted at the 40th annual meeting of G77 Foreign Ministers on September 23, reaffirmed “the overarching objective of eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions,” describing it as “the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”

Reiterating that poverty eradication is a central imperative of the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Ministers emphasized “the need to address poverty in all its forms and dimensions in order to truly leave no one behind.”

The targeted deadline for the eradication of poverty worldwide is 2030.

General Prayut Chan-O-Cha (Ret), Prime Minister of Thailand and G77 chair of the Ministerial Meeting said: “This year, we have together taken the first steps in translating vision into concrete action, in line with developing countries’ needs and interests and to realize the SDGs.”

Since the start of this year, he pointed out, the Group has played an active role in implementing the 2030 Agenda through (1) negotiating a resolution on Follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the global level; (2) reviewing global agenda outcomes under the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development; (3) following-up on Financing for Development (FfD); (4) determining a global indicator framework for SDGs; (5) supporting implementation of the Agenda in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) through negotiating a political declaration for the High-Level Mid-term Review according to the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs; and (6) strengthening cooperation among developing countries on the High-Level Meeting on South-South Cooperation.

Addressing the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the key role played by the G77 in the adoption of both the SDGs and the Climate Change agreement last year.

The United Nations and the G-77 have an invaluable partnership, he told the Ministers. ”Together, we have made enormous progress for human rights and human dignity.”

The Ministers called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

Singling out the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development on September 29, Ban said the G-77 was also a driving force behind the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – “our truly transformative plan for the planet and all people.”

“Many G-77 countries also helped push for the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Thank you for this advocacy,” he said.

Ban pointed out that G-77 kept its distinctive name even after the membership expanded to 133 countries, joined by China (from the original 77). ”In the same way, I hope you keep the Group’s founding spirit to stand up for the countries of the South while expanding your engagement to tackle emerging threats. “

With this mix of timeless values and timely action, he declared, “we can build on our proud record and leave a better world for generations to come. Thank you for your leadership and commitment.”

40th Annual Declaration

Some of the key elements of the Declaration include the following:

The Ministers highlighted that the year 2016 marked the first year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development towards a sustainable future. Thus, it is important to show the international community the Group’s continued unwavering commitments to further translate ambitions set out in the Agenda into real actions.

In this context, the Ministers noted that 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 which adopted in October 1967 the “Charter of Algiers”, the first platform of the G-77 calling for joint efforts by developing countries towards economic and social development, peace and prosperity.

The Ministers welcomed the progress made by Member States in their national  implementation, but stressed that implementing the 2030 Agenda at all levels requires a revitalized global partnership and the full implementation of the 17th Sustainable Development Goal, which is dedicated to this purpose.

In this context, said the Declaration, enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology on favorable terms including on concessional and preferential terms, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system.

The Ministers urged the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

They appreciated the G20 2016 Summit, which took place in Hangzhou, China in September 4-5, being the first G20 Summit which took place in a developing country after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with broad participation of developing countries, including the Chair of G77, which endorsed the G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an important contribution to the global implementation of the 2030 Agenda

The Ministers also approved the Report of the 31st Meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) and endorsed its recommendations.

The Ministers commended the Chairman of the PGTF for his continued commitment and expressed their satisfaction with the results achieved by the PGTF.

In light of the substantial decrease in the interest earnings of the Fund caused by the current world financial situation, as reported by the Chairman of the PGTF, the Ministers appealed to every Member State to make a significant contribution to the PGTF on the occasion of the UN Pledging Conference for Development Activities to be held in New York on 7 November 2016.

Thailand, ahead of the conference, made a contribution of $520,000 to the PGTF.

The Ministers noted the commemoration of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) + 40 to be held in 2018 which represented an opportunity to enhance the current institutional arrangements to better support South-South cooperation and promote the South-South agenda.

In this context, the Ministers strongly recommended the consolidation of existing mechanisms of South-South cooperation and called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

The Ministers underlined that the achievement of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda will depend on enabling international environment for development, facilitating the necessary means of implementation, particularly in the areas of finance, international trade, technology and capacity-building to developing countries.

In this regard, they called for a sincere and effective follow up on global commitments of all actors, particularly developed countries.

The Declaration also said there was a dire need for development partners to meet their current official development  assistance  (ODA) commitments  and  to  upscale  these  in  support  of  the aspirations that have been set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

The Ministers reasserted that developing  countries  will  continue  to  advocate  for additional  funding  for  development  to  be  made  available,  with  North-South cooperation central to these efforts

While commending the few countries who reach the ODA target, the Ministers stressed the need to urgently address the unmet ODA commitments since North-South Cooperation is still the main channel of financing for development for developing countries.

They noted with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in the 2016 outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address these important issues.

The Ministers reaffirmed the paramount importance of ODA in supporting the sustainable development needs of developing countries, in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small islands developing States and the middle-income countries and countries in conflict and post-conflict situations.

In this context, developed countries must commit to fully implementing their ODA commitments in keeping with their previously made undertakings and to upscale these efforts to play a meaningful role in eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions. The Ministers called for the global partnership for development to be revitalized and reinvigorated.

The Ministers reiterated their position that South-South cooperation is a complement to, rather than a substitute for, North-South cooperation, and reaffirmed that South-South cooperation is a collective endeavour of developing countries and that, consequently, South-South cooperation deserves its own separate and independent promotion, as reaffirmed in the Nairobi outcome document.

In this context, the Ministers stressed that South-South cooperation and its agenda must be driven by the countries of the South. South-South cooperation, which is critical for developing countries, therefore requires long-term vision and a global institutional arrangement, as envisioned at the Second South Summit.

The Ministers stressed that developing countries attach importance to scaling up international tax cooperation and combating illicit financial flows in order to mobilize domestic resources for the SDGs.

The Ministers welcomed the convening of the G-77 Bangkok Roundtable on Sufficiency Economy: An Approach to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 28-29 February 2016 and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in Business: A G-77 Forum on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 1-2 June 2016.

They noted that there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country to achieve sustainable development, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities as well as its own development context.

And, in this regard, welcomed the initiative by the Kingdom of Thailand to share its development experience and promote partnership among G-77 members on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular through applying the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) as an approach for sustainable development that focuses on transforming the economics of exploitation into the economics of moderation, resilience and self-immunity guided by knowledge as well as ethics and moral consideration with a view to harmonizing the economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects of development.

The Ministers welcomed the fruitful and productive discussion from the interactive thematic dialogue on SEP for Sustainable Development Goals convened on the occasion of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 under the leadership of the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand as chair country of the Group of 77.

They noted the various experiences and home-grown approaches to achieve the SDGs and the importance of learning and sharing of best practices including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.

They recognized the SEP as a practical approach that can support the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and its universality underscored by its successful application in various development projects in a number of G-77 countries, including “SEP for SDGs Partnership”

The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of respect for the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, in particular of peoples living under colonial or foreign occupation and other forms of alien domination, which adversely affects their social and economic development, respect for the independence of States, national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, including through the use of information and communications technologies, in particular social networks, contrary to the principles of international law, for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the international covenants on human rights, and stress that full respect for the principles and purposes enshrined in the Charter and international law inspire full commitment to multilateralism.

The Ministers reaffirmed that the right of self-determination is a primordial right that anchors the United Nations. For developing countries, it has been and continues to be a beacon of hope for all those who struggle under the weight of occupation.

In this context, in the implementation and the follow-up and review of 2030 Agenda, the international community must not forget the severe difficulties faced by peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation and strive to remove the obstacles to their full realization of the right of self-determination, which adversely affect their economic and social development and their ability to achieve and implement the sustainable development goals and to ensure that they will not be left behind.

The Ministers stressed the importance of eliminating safe havens that create incentives for transfer abroad of stolen assets and illicit financial flows. They reiterated their commitment to working to strengthen regulatory frameworks at all levels to further increase transparency and accountability of financial institutions and the corporate sector, as well as public administrations.

The Ministers reaffirmed that they would strengthen international cooperation and national institutions to combat money-laundering and financing of terrorism.

The Ministers expressed their concern over illicit financial flows and related thereto tax avoidance and evasion, corruption and money laundering, by using certain practices, with negative impacts for the world economy and, in particular, for developing countries.

They maintained that, while there is increasing recognition of the central role of tax systems in development and the importance of international cooperation on tax matters, there is still no single global inclusive forum for international tax cooperation at the intergovernmental level.  There is also not enough focus on the development dimension of these issues.

In this context, the Ministers reiterated the need to fully upgrade the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters into an intergovernmental body and to provide adequate resources to the Committee to fulfill its mandate as well as increase the participation of experts of developing countries at its meetings.

This will be critical in transforming the current Committee from experts acting in their own capacity to an intergovernmental subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, with experts representing their respective Governments.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

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AfDB Injects USD 1 Billion to End Youth Unemployment in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/afdb-injects-usd-1-billion-to-end-youth-unemployment-in-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=afdb-injects-usd-1-billion-to-end-youth-unemployment-in-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/afdb-injects-usd-1-billion-to-end-youth-unemployment-in-africa/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 13:47:28 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147114 IITA Youth Agripreneurs learning how to work in the field. Credit: IITA

IITA Youth Agripreneurs learning how to work in the field. Credit: IITA

By Dominique Von Rohr
ROME, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

The African Development Bank (AfDB) together with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) is embarking on the initiative “Jobs for Youth in Africa”, aimed to put an end to youth unemployment in the continent by creating 8 million agribusiness jobs within five years. The president of the AfDB, a former Nigerian minister of agriculture, Akinwumi Adesina visited the Agripreneurs training centre at IITA today, and reiterated his commitment to the initiative.

Under Adesina’s leadership the AfDB has extended support to African youth through the IITA Youth Agripreneurs program that will be scaling up the model of youth engagement in agribusiness. In recognition of his continuous support and commitment to the cause of African youth, IITA will be preserving Adesina’s legacy by naming after him the state-of-the-art youth training centre at IITA headquarters in Ibadan and in Abuja, Nigeria.

The training centres and facilities provided by the AfDB and the IITA will assist African youths to take on work in the agricultural sector. The initiative also seeks to encourage the many unemployed African youths to become involved in agriculture in order to make it a driving force for development in Africa. "There is no reason for Africa to spend USD 35 billion importing food when the continent could feed itself"

Nigeria is not the only African country with high youth unemployment. Youth unemployment in South Africa was estimated at 51.5 percent in 2014; Namibia 40.1 percent; and Algeria 28.4 percent. Three in every five young workers in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have the level of education required for them to compete in the job market.

The AfDB president set forth his five development priorities for the institution when he took office in September 2015. One of these priorities is the ‘Feed Africa’ initiative, an agricultural transformation strategy that aims to unlock Africa’s agricultural potential. The strategy also aims to boost job creation with the view of making the agriculture sector profitable and a starting point for industrialization. With the ‘Feed Africa’ strategy, Africa would be able to feed itself and reduce net food importation by 2025.

“There is no reason for Africa to spend USD 35 billion importing food when the continent could feed itself, said Adesina, adding Africa must become a global powerhouse in food and agriculture.” And indeed, it could. Africa disposes of some 400 million hectares of agricultural land, waiting to be cultivated. However, different laws, regulations, policies and institutions applying to each African country make it hard for local farmers to access seeds, modern technology and equipment, and to transport their goods in order to sell them on the market.

In order to make the agricultural sector in Africa profitable, it needs to be transformed. African countries need to increase trade amongst each other, maximising their production and getting the food to where it is needed, instead of buying it from outside the continent. Removing barriers to regional trade will benefit farmers, who will make more money from the rising demand, as well as consumers, who are able to buy food cheaper and have more job opportunities by engaging in the growing agriculture sector. In order to unlock Africa’s large agricultural potential, African governments need to take collective action and produce a set of common rules, standards and taxes. Lifting the barriers to food trade could not only increase Africa’s production, eventually becoming able to feed itself, but could also contribute to decrease the high youth unemployment and give millions of young women and men a future in which they are able to sustain themselves.

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Unregulated Promotion of Mining in Malawi Brings Hazards and Hardshipshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/unregulated-promotion-of-mining-in-malawi-brings-hazards-and-hardships/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=unregulated-promotion-of-mining-in-malawi-brings-hazards-and-hardships http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/unregulated-promotion-of-mining-in-malawi-brings-hazards-and-hardships/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 08:01:37 +0000 Birgit Schwarz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147104 Nagomba E., 75, standing where her house used to be in Mwabulambo, Karonga district. She and her family were told to relocate in 2008 because the land was needed for coal mining. Credit: Lauren Clifford-Holmes for Human Rights Watch

Nagomba E., 75, standing where her house used to be in Mwabulambo, Karonga district. She and her family were told to relocate in 2008 because the land was needed for coal mining. Credit: Lauren Clifford-Holmes for Human Rights Watch

By Birgit Schwarz
LILONGWE, Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

Nagomba E. is no longer young; her hip is giving her trouble and her back is stooped from years of bending over her corn and rice fields. Yet every morning, at the crack of dawn, the wiry 74-year-old sets out on a strenuous half-hour walk to fetch water from a nearby river so that her ailing husband can take a bath. Despite her limp, Nagomba moves fast and with the sure-footedness of a mountain goat.

It would be easier for her to fetch her water from a borehole that is closer to her house. But the water is often “bad” she says, “you cannot even use it for bathing.” Besides, she adds, “if you oversleep, you are there till noon,” waiting for a turn at the pump.

Before coal was discovered in Mwabulambo, a remote rural community of Karonga District in northern Malawi, water was never something Nagomba and her neighbours would have to worry about or even line up for.

“I used to have two taps right at my house,” Nagomba says, “with running water in the kitchen and bathroom.” But then heavy trucks moved in — which turned out to belong to a mining company. The company, with government’s approval, claimed her land, forced her to relocate to the edge of the coal field further south, and tore down her house. With it went the taps and water pipes.

That was almost nine years ago. Since then, the coal mine, which Nagomba and her neighbours hoped would bring progress and development, has mainly caused regression, hazards, and hardship.

Over the past decade, Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, has promoted private investment in mining and resource extraction as a way to grow and diversify its largely agriculture-based economy. Karonga, where Nagomba lives, is the country’s test case for industrial mining.

Malawi’s first uranium mine and two of the country’s biggest coal mines are located here, on the western shores of Lake Malawi. The government said the mines would provide jobs and improve people’s livelihoods. Schools were promised, and clinics as well as boreholes to restore access to drinking water. Hardly any of these promises ever materialized.

Weak enforcement of existing laws and policies combined with lack of transparency and community involvement in decision making have left local communities unprotected and in the dark about their rights and about the risks mining activities might pose to their daily lives, Human Rights Watch says in a new report, “They Destroyed Everything.” Mining companies meanwhile are allowed to monitor themselves and are almost never held to account if they cause devastation.

When strangers knocked on her door during the 2008 rainy season and told her that she would have to move to make room for a coal mine, Nagomba was taken by surprise.

Nagomba, who supported three grandchildren and her sick husband with the income from farming a small but fertile plot of land, eventually accepted the inevitable, thinking that she would get “a lot of money.” She never asked how much, however. As it turned out, the compensation was not even enough to rebuild her house. The family had to sell two cows to put a roof over their heads again. She received no money for the land itself. It was “customary land” that her family had farmed for generations, but for which they held no individual title.

Mining machinery left behind at Eland coal mine at Mwabulambo after closure in 2015. Locals said that before the mine was closed, they were not informed about the closure or how the company intended to mitigate risks stemming from the abandoned mining site. Credit: Lauren Clifford-Holmes for Human Rights Watch

Mining machinery left behind at Eland coal mine at Mwabulambo after closure in 2015. Locals said that before the mine was closed, they were not informed about the closure or how the company intended to mitigate risks stemming from the abandoned mining site. Credit: Lauren Clifford-Holmes for Human Rights Watch

Over the years, Nagomba’s story repeated itself again and again in the mining areas of Karonga. In Mwabulambo alone, more than 30 households were relocated from their customary land between 2008 and 2015, when the mining company suspended operations. At times, the bulldozers moved in so fast that people had neither time to rebury their loved ones interred on the community’s land, nor to finish reconstructing their homes. One family spent weeks sleeping under a tree before they could move into their rebuilt house.

The mine is owned and operated by Eland Coal Mining Company, a subsidiary of the Isle of Man-based Heavy Mineral Limited, which in turn is owned by Independent Oil & Resources PLC – a company based in Cyprus. Although it has not been operational for more than a year, it continues to affect the area, its water resources, and Nagomba’s source of income, her crops.

“We used to grow corn, cassava and rice,” she recalls. “Now we are complaining of hunger.” The fields she was given lie on the edge of the mine. Every time it rains, blackish, potentially acidic, mine water runs into her fields, withering her crop and diminishing her yield. “We cannot afford to buy food. We need to farm,” she says. “But they have destroyed the land where we were producing fruit, and left us behind with nothing.”

Since the mine’s closure, the community has tried to get the company to clean up, restore their broken pipes, ensure that mine water no longer seeps into their borehole and onto their fields, and close the deep pits that were left behind. In 2015, the villagers went to the District Commissioner’s Office to air their grievances. Getting no help there, they marched to the gates of the company. “We told them ‘you are really wronging us,’” Nagomba recalls. “We don’t have water. We don’t have food. But we are still waiting for an answer.”

To this day, residents fear that the borehole and river water is putting their health at risk. Cows and even children have fallen into ill-secured, water-filled pits the company left behind. And villagers say the pits themselves have become breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitos.

“If they had built a health center, they could at least have saved some lives from malaria,” says Rojaina, another community member who was forced to relocate. As the promised clinic was never built and the nearest hospital is miles away in town, “people die on the way,” she says.

Few are aware of the dangers the water in the pits itself poses. The government had the water tested last year. These tests confirmed that the water is acidic, the deputy director for water quality at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water told Human Rights Watch, which means that it is neither safe for consumption nor bathing. But the results have never been made public. Children regularly swim in the pits behind Nagomba’s house. And no signs warn of the dangers these pools pose to human health.

Now that Nagomba no longer has piped water, she depends on the river a lot, particularly during dry season, when borehole and well run dry, walking there up to four times a day to fetch water for bathing, drinking and cooking. She worries about the safety of the river water, too, but at least she can treat it with chemicals the government provided after a cholera outbreak at the beginning of the year.

The river Nagomba depends on flows into Lake Malawi, a fragile ecosystem and a key source of livelihood for over 1.5 million people. More than 10 extraction projects are located on the lake’s shores and tributaries, which are protected UNESCO World Heritage sites. Not all are active yet. But the risks these mining activities pose to the lake’s ecosystem and to the bordering communities’ health and livelihoods are enormous without proper government oversight.

So far, Malawi’s law has failed to protect the needs and rights of mining communities like Nagomba’s and her neighbours’ from the adverse effect mining has had on their lives. It has also failed to protect their environment and water resources. A new mining bill being drafted could help change this, strengthening governmental control over mining projects and the communities’ right to know.

Malawi’s government has taken some steps in the right direction, and acknowledged the need to enforce a rehabilitation plan the owners of the defunct Mwabulambo mine had promised to carry out. So far the company has done nothing.

“I never had problems,” says Nagomba, recalling a time where there was enough to eat and safe water to drink. “The mining company brought me problems.” After nine years of suffering and hunger without protection from the government or the mining company, she has little hope that things will change for the better in her lifetime. “Time is already up,” she says in a voice that sounds as if she is reciting poetry. “We are just waiting to go to our graves now.”

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A Historic Day in Colombiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/a-historic-day-in-colombia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-historic-day-in-colombia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/a-historic-day-in-colombia/#comments Tue, 27 Sep 2016 06:46:42 +0000 Martin Santiago http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147109 Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in Colombia and Resident Representative of UNDP]]>

Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations in Colombia and Resident Representative of UNDP

By Martín Santiago
BOGOTA, Colombia , Sep 27 2016 (IPS)

Betsaida and her family abandoned their home and a small business in the port of Tumaco, in the Pacific of Colombia, and were forced to follow the road that more than 7 million displaced Colombians have as a result of the armed conflict.

Their story, and that of millions of victims of the war, is at the heart of what the United Nations Organization is and does. Seventy-one years after its creation, the universal aspiration to end war, reaffirm the fundamental human rights and promote social progress is latent and more crucial than ever.

Despite the progress we have made in the last quarter of the century, in which we achieved a significant reduction of armed conflicts, we have witnessed serious setbacks in the last four years: the number of civil wars and attacks by governments and armed groups against civilians have increased for the first time since 2005. More than fifty million people, the highest number recorded in history, have been uprooted from their homes around the world as a result of armed conflicts.

In the face of adversity by human tragedies, the Peace Agreement by the Government of Colombia and the FARC-EP that will be signed today is of great significance for Colombia and for the world. With it, the possibility of ending 52 years of war in Colombia, and ending the scourge of armed political violence throughout the Americas, becomes real. Before this beacon of hope, the United Nations System in Colombia pays tribute to the victims of the conflict and to the many Colombians who have fought every day to build peace in their country.

We are privileged to accompany this crucial moment in history, and, with the excitement, I also feel a deep sense of solemnity, characteristic of those historic moments that challenge us and urge us to step up the realization of the purpose to which we owe ourselves: that peace be translated into the real expansion of human freedoms for everyone, and, in particular, for those most severely affected by the conflict, and to whom development has bypassed: the rural population, peasants, women, indigenous groups, youth, Afro-Colombians and the displaced.

Experience demonstrates that it is not enough to sign peace. That building peace and, furthermore, making peace with each other, entail arduous work. The commitment of the United Nations System in Colombia is to work relentlessly, together with the national public and private stakeholders, for Betsaida, and thousands of families like hers, to restore their livelihoods and realize themselves with equal opportunities; to generate reconciliation and sustainable development that contributes to closing the gaps that originated the conflict; to promote that each community and municipality be a peacebuilding agent.

The prospect of a Colombia in peace invites us to walk the path firmly and decisively on the basis of reparations for the victims, of an inclusive democracy and a more equitable development in which no one be left behind.

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What Does Leaving No One Behind Really Mean?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/what-does-leaving-no-one-behind-really-mean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-does-leaving-no-one-behind-really-mean http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/what-does-leaving-no-one-behind-really-mean/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2016 22:55:26 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147101 World leaders attending the UN General Assembly in NYC in September encountered a Rainbow Crosswalk to remind them of LGBT rights. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

World leaders attending the UN General Assembly in NYC in September encountered a Rainbow Crosswalk to remind them of LGBT rights. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

By Lyndal Rowlands
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 26 2016 (IPS)

One year after UN member states adopted the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda their repeated vow to “leave no one behind” seems almost as idealistic and impractical as ever.

2016 has so far proved a difficult year for the UN’s objective of including the world’s most vulnerable and marginalised in development efforts.

Last week’s UN Refugee and Migration summit fell short for child refugees; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) advocates were left out of an important HIV and AIDS meeting in June and no women were voted onto an important disability committee by UN member states also in June.

Danny Sriskandarajah Secretary General of CIVICUS told IPS that the objective of leaving no one behind will require governments to consider serious changes in both policy and social norms.

“If we’re serious about finding and helping those who are furthest behind that’s not a technical exercise that’s a deeply political exercise,” said Sriskandarajah.

“If our leaders say 42 times in their agreement that they are not going to leave anyone behind we now very quickly need to find out who is being left behind,” -- Danny Sriskandarajah.

The first step, says Sriskandarajah is making sure that we identify and include those at risk of being left out.

“If our leaders say 42 times in their agreement that they are not going to leave anyone behind we now very quickly need to find out who is being left behind,” he said.

However the marginalised and excluded are not always easy to reach, Vladimir Cuk, Executive Director of the International Disability Alliance (IDA) told IPS.

Truly for everyone means that you have implement for those that are hardest to reach, hardest to count, hardest to include in the programs, hardest to know anything about, and those are typically persons with disabilities,” he said.

Cuk noted that some efforts have been made to include persons with disabilities in the 2030 sustainable development agenda so far, a welcome change from the previous millennium development goals which did not refer to disability.

However reaching persons with disabilities will also be difficult since they are also over-represented among the extreme poor, he added.

This points to another reason why it will be difficult for UN member states to ensure no one gets left behind – different types of disadvantage and exclusion often overlap.

This is true of Indigenous peoples who are often the “minorities within the minorities,” Marama Pala Executive Director of INA (Māori, Indigenous & South Pacific) HIV/AIDS Foundation told IPS.

“Until countries address the inequalities and injustices for Indigenous Peoples reaching the Sustainable Development Goals will be impossible,” said Pala, who is also a civil society representative at UN meetings.

Yet Indigenous peoples are also at risk of being left behind because they can be adversely affected by so-called development encroaching on their land, from land grabbing for palm oil plantations to the construction of mega dams funded by multilateral development banks.

“Massive demand for food, fuel and other commodities continues to drive industry into new territories,” Alice Harrison, Senior Communications Advisor with Global Witness told IPS.

“Increasingly those communities are finding themselves in the firing line for taking a stand against the theft or destruction of their land and natural resources.”

Some forms of inequalities were considered too politically divisive to be included in the final 2030 agenda, which had to be agreed to by all 193 UN member states.

The final version of the text refers to rights “without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status.”

References to sexual orientation and migration status were removed from earlier drafts in order to reach consensus.

In order to address the inequalities which leave marginalised groups behind, political, social and economic change is needed at the national level as well as the multinational level.

“Once you start to commit to something like leaving no one behind you unearth a whole bunch of economic and social exclusion that’s happening in society that’s driven by corporate greed, political corruption, social exclusion which will need serious changes in both policy and social norms if we’re to track it,” Sriskandarajah said.

The Sustainable Development Goals themselves also address inequality between countries. Efforts to address these inequalities such as through a global tax cooperation body have also been stymied to-date.

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Two years on, Peña Nieto cannot brush off Ayotzinapa stainhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/two-years-on-pena-nieto-cannot-brush-off-ayotzinapa-stain/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=two-years-on-pena-nieto-cannot-brush-off-ayotzinapa-stain http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/two-years-on-pena-nieto-cannot-brush-off-ayotzinapa-stain/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:15:56 +0000 Erika Guevara-Rosas http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147095 43 students were arbitrarily arrested on 26 September 2014 by local police in Guerrero state, Mexico. They haven't been seen since. Credit: Telesur / Amnesty.

43 students were arbitrarily arrested on 26 September 2014 by local police in Guerrero state, Mexico. They haven't been seen since. Credit: Telesur / Amnesty.

By Erika Guevara-Rosas
MEXICO CITY, Sep 26 2016 (IPS)

There are certain events that mark a turning point in a country. The way a government decides to handle them defines the way they will go down in the history books.

This week marks two years since 43 students from a rural school in southern Mexico were forcibly disappeared after a brutal confrontation with security forces.

The unresolved tragedy has become such a stain for the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto that it is now shorthand for the Mexican authorities’ reckless approach to human rights in the country – where those responsible for crimes such as torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances are rarely brought before the courts.

The catalogue of failures in the way the Ayotzinapa case has been handled is so long, it beggars belief.

Six months after the students were forcibly disappeared, Peña Nieto’s then Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam came out publicly with an official explanation of what they believed had happened. In a press conference, he said the students had been killed by a powerful local drug gang and that their bodies had been burned in a dumpster.

Reports that dozens of those arrested for their involvement in the disappearances had been tortured to “confess” were never followed up.

He called it the “historic truth”.

His speech caused such havoc and indignation – particularly after a team of international forensic experts said the explanation was scientifically impossible – that Murillo Karam was effectively forced to resign. But still, neither he nor the government ever retracted his theory.

A few months later and in a bid to show action was being taken to shed some light onto the tragedy, the Mexican government agreed to allow a team of world renowned experts appointed by the Inter American Commission of Human Rights to look into the case.

But a year into their investigation, and after two damning reports pointing at a catalogue of failures by the authorities in the way the investigations had been handled, they were invited to leave the country.

The Peña Nieto administration had been embarrassed internationally and it did not like it.

Authorities promised they would take the inquiries forward, they promised justice. They said international help was no longer needed, that Mexico could take on the task of determining the students’ fate and whereabouts.

Few believed them.

And they were right not to.

As was expected, in a country with an atrocious human rights record, progress on the Ayotzinapa investigation has reached a standstill.

As international pressure decreased and the world’s attention moved on, pressure lifted on the Peña Nieto administration.

Reports that dozens of those arrested for their involvement in the disappearances had been tortured to “confess” were never followed up.

The scandalous revelation by the group of experts that Tomas Zerón de Lucio, a public official who had been in charge of the investigation, tampered the crime scene in a bid to show a piece of bone belonging to one of the students had been found in the banks of a local river in late October 2014 has also gone unpunished. A shallow investigation into the accusation has not led to any concrete results and Zerón was moved from the Attorney General’s Office to a higher position in the Council of National Security.

The Peña Nieto administration’s barefaced denial of what happened to the Ayotzinapa students is so deep-seated the president no longer dares to utter the word in public.

And the disappearance of these 43 young men is emblematic of everything that is wrong in Mexico. Human rights are nothing but an illusion for the thousands of men, women and children who are tortured, murdered and disappeared every year and will continue to be so as long as the authorities insist on saying everything is fine.

The stories of the 43 Ayotzinapa students are a reminder of the more than 28,000 men, women and children who have vanished across Mexico over the last decade – most since Peña Nieto took office in 2012.

They are a reminder of the extent to which people are routinely tortured into “confessing” crimes they did not commit in a vile attempt to show the government is actually taking action against the brutal criminal gangs terrorizing the country.

Time and time again we have heard the stories of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children of those who have simply “vanished into thin air” and have no one to turn to in their desperate search for truth and justice.

On 29 July 2016, the Inter American Commission on Human Rights approved a mechanism to follow up on the findings and recommendations of the group of experts, with the aim of determining the whereabouts of the students

But without any real support from the Mexican authorities, there is no mechanism that will shed any light onto these crimes or ensure that those responsible will face justice.

The Peña Nieto administration seems to be relying on Mexico’s short-term memory; it hopes people will forget about the 43 students and many other human rights violations this country has seen over the decades have been forgotten.

What they are not counting on is the millions across this country, and around the world, who have had enough of empty promises. We will continue to fight, side by side, with all the brave human rights defenders and organizations who are not giving up hope to hold the Mexican authorities accountable and to ensure they fulfill their international obligations to protect human rights.

The time for political maneuvers is over. The relatives of the 43 young men of Ayotzinapa will never give up their fight until truth and justice for their children is achieved.

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Canals Save Cambodian Farmers in Times of Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/canals-save-cambodian-farmers-in-times-of-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=canals-save-cambodian-farmers-in-times-of-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/canals-save-cambodian-farmers-in-times-of-drought/#comments Mon, 26 Sep 2016 12:03:51 +0000 Amy Fallon http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147084 Phal Vannak, a farmer from Amlaing commune in Cambodia, who has benefitted from the rehabilitation of a water irrigation scheme by FAO. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

Phal Vannak, a farmer from Amlaing commune in Cambodia, who has benefitted from the rehabilitation of a water irrigation scheme by FAO. Credit: Amy Fallon/IPS

By Amy Fallon
KAMPONG SPEU PROVINCE, Sep 26 2016 (IPS)

In Kampong Speu province, when the wet weather doesn’t come, as in other parts of Cambodia, it can affect whether food goes on the dinner table.

“When there’s drought, it strongly affects crop production,” Vann Khen, 48, a married father of three from Amlaing commune, who farms corn for his family’s consumption, and rice, cattle, pigs, chickens and ducks to sell, told IPS.Tens of thousands of households are thought to be affected by drought every year, with "millions" spent saving lives and recovering livelihoods, according to FAO Cambodia.

What has been worsening the situation for farmers in Kampong Speu, some 40 miles west of the country’s capital Phnom Penh and with a population of at least 700,000, was that a 770-metre water canal, made during the reign of dictator Pol Pot, needed urgent restoration, so when it did rain farmers could access water.

In each irrigation scheme, a command area normally allows all farmers access to water. But in many instances lack of maintenance, destruction due to floods or animals, and culverts or other gates not working properly can prevent farmers from accessing water, stress officials with FAO Cambodia.

In other cases, if the irrigation scheme is not built correctly or if there is ineffective land levelling, the water won’t flow. Those not having water access, in both cases, rely mainly on rain patterns. During long dry spells and drought, they suffer more than farmers who have access to irrigation water.

“Last year wasn’t a good harvest, I got only about 500 dollars in total,” Phal Vannak, 28, a married father of three, who mainly farms corn and rice, told IPS.

For corn alone, he earned only about 100 dollars due to the delay in rainfall.

Kampong Speu has been on the other end of extreme weather, suffering from floods and storms.

But the province experienced severe droughts in 1987, 1999, 2000 and the last two years in a row.

“In 2015 and 2016, as in other countries, Cambodia has been hit by El Nino, affecting crop production,” Proyuth Ly, from FAO Cambodia, told IPS.

The dry periods are the “most prominent hazard” threatening the agriculture sector in Kampong Speu, says FAO Cambodia. The industry is one of the sectors most impacted by drought, and smallholder farmers particularly suffer. Tens of thousands of households are thought to be affected by drought every year, with “millions” spent saving lives and recovering livelihoods, according to FAO Cambodia.

Vannak is the president of a Farmer Water User Group (FWUG) for the Kampong Speu irrigation scheme.

There are 500 households from six villages who are members.  To effectively manage water use, they established six sub-committees (one for each village), and a sub-committee of between four to eight people.

“The farmers weren’t happy (last year) because they needed the water to get into the rice field,” said Vannak.

After a request for help from Cambodia’s ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, FAO Cambodia, with funding from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DIPECHO), rehabilitated the canal.

“Livelihoods would be affected as they could not grow intended crops,” Etienne Careme, in charge of operations at FAO Cambodia, told IPS. “FAO Cambodia rehabilitated the canal to ensure correct flow of water to needy farmers. It meant rehabilitating canal corridor, strengthening slopes, constructing or rehabilitating culverts.”

The 80,000-dollar, three-month project, completed last December, included setting up software to train farmer water user groups in water management (a figure that doesn’t include staff time and other travel costs).

Today, even though Kampong Speu is still experiencing a dry period, rice grows in lush green fields.

The irrigation scheme is connected from a stream located about 20 miles from the Aoral mountain, the main source, and can supply water to 400 ha of paddy fields.

“This water has really saved this rice crop,” said Ly on a recent field trip to Kampong Speu to monitor the irrigation scheme and the farmer’s needs, trips conducted regularly, as water rushed past him.

Vannak said this season’s harvest was already an improvement on last year.

“When I heard this (canal) was being fixed I was very happy because some people didn’t have water to save their crops,” he said, clutching a handful of corn in a field.

Khen said he was also happier. “We can open or close the water gate,” he said. “Also the small water gate is allowing us to better regulate water and better distribute it to farmers in the commune.”

Careme said the restoration of the irrigation scheme had improved rice yields.

“It allows better production and therefore increases incomes through sale of rice,” he said.

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Governments Band Together to Address Antibiotic Resistancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/governments-band-together-to-address-antibiotic-resistance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=governments-band-together-to-address-antibiotic-resistance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/governments-band-together-to-address-antibiotic-resistance/#comments Sat, 24 Sep 2016 17:06:08 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147075 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/governments-band-together-to-address-antibiotic-resistance/feed/ 0 The Right to Development at 30 Yearshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-right-to-development-at-30-years/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-right-to-development-at-30-years http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-right-to-development-at-30-years/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 22:04:40 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147076 Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre, based in Geneva]]>

Martin Khor is the Executive Director of the South Centre, based in Geneva

By Martin Khor
GENEVA, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

It’s had a very useful if sometimes controversial past and it will have great relevance for many more years ahead. That’s the sense one has about the Declaration on the Right to Development as it is commemorated 30 years after its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 1986.

Three decades ago, the Declaration “broke new ground in the struggle for greater freedom, equality and justice,” remarked the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, at a session of the Human Rights Council on 15 June, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Declaration.

The right to development has had great resonance among people all over the world, especially in developing countries. Even the term itself “the right to development” carries a great sense and weight of meaning and of hope.

In the past three decades it has been invoked numerous times in international negotiations. The right to development is a major component of the Rio Principles endorsed by the 1992 Earth Summit, and most recently it was included in the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change of 2015.

It is fitting to recall some of the important elements of this right to development. It is human and people centered. It is an inalienable human right , where every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy development in which all rights and freedoms can be fully realized . The human person is the central subject of development and should be the active participant and beneficiary of development.

It gives responsibility to each state to get its act together to take measures to get its people’s right to development fulfilled. But it also places great importance to the international arena, giving a responsibility to all countries to cooperate internationally and especially to assist the developing countries.

The right to development is also practical. The Declaration makes it a duty for governments to work towards the realisation of the right to development. It recognises that there are national and international obstacles to the realisation of this right and calls on all parties to eliminate these obstacles.

It is thus useful to identify some of the present key global issues that have relevance to the right to development, or that constitute obstacles to its realisation, and to take steps to address them.

Firstly is the crisis in the global economy. The economic sluggishness in developed countries has had adverse impact on developing economies, with lower commodity prices and falling export earnings affecting their economic and social development.. Many economies face the havoc of volatility in the inflow and outflow of funds, due to absence of controls over speculative capital, and fluctuations in their currency levels due to the lack of a global mechanism to stabilise currencies.

Several countries are facing or are on the brink of another external debt crisis. There is for them an absence of an international sovereign debt restructuring mechanism, and countries that undertake their own debt workout may well become victims of vulture funds.

All these problems make it difficult for developing countries to maintain their development momentum, and constitute obstacles to realising the right to development.

Second is the challenge of formulating and implementing appropriate development strategies. This includes getting policies right in boosting agricultural production, farmers’ incomes and food security; and climbing the ladder from labour intensive to higher technology industries and overcoming the middle-income trap. There is also the imperative to provide social services such as healthcare, education, water supply, lighting and transport, and developing financial and commercial services.

For many countries, development policy-making has been made more difficult due to premature liberalisation resulting from loan conditionality and trade and investment agreements which severely constrain their policy space. Policies used by other countries when they were developing may no longer be available due to conditionality or international agreements.

Recently, there has been a crisis of legitimacy over investment agreements that contain the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, which enable foreign investors to take cases against host governments, taking advantage of imbalanced provisions and shortcomings in the arbitration system. The cases taken up not only cost countries a lot in monetary compensation payments but also put a chill on the formulation of policies and regulations. A review of these conditionalities and trade and investmemt agreements, taking account of their effects on the right to development, would be useful.

Thirdly, climate change has become an existential problem for the human race. It is an outstanding example of environmental constraints to development and the right to development.

In 2014 the Assestment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that the world has to limit its release of Greenhouse Gases to only release another 1,000 billion tonnes if there is to be a reasonable chance of avoiding global warming of 2 degree Celsius, and anything above that level would cause a devastating disaster. Global emissions are running at 50 billion tonnes a year. Within two decades the atmospheric space would be filled up. Therefore there is an imperative to cut global emissions as sharply and quickly as possible.

The Paris Agreement of December 2015 was a success in multilateral deal making. But it is not environmentally ambitious enough, nor did it generate any confidence that the commitment for transfers of finance and technology to developing countries will be met. There is a danger of that the burdens of adjustment will be passed on to the developing and poor countries. How to equitably share the costs of urgent environmental action which should also be economically feasible is the major climate change challenge that will impact seriously on the right to development.

Fourthly is another existential problem — the crisis of anti-microbial resistance and the dangers of a post-antibiotic age. Many diseases are becoming increasingly difficult to treat because bacteria have become more and more resistant to anti-microbials. Some strains of bacteria are now resistant to multiple antibiotics and a few have become pan resistant – resistant to all antibiotics. The WHO Director General has warned that every anitibiotic ever developed is at risk of becoming useless. She added that: “A post-antibiotic era means in effect an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”

Actions are needed to reduce the over-use and wrong use of antibiotics including control over unethical marketing of drugs, control of the use of antibiotics in livestock, to educate the public and discover new antibiotics. The World Health Assembly (WHA) in 2015 adopted a global plan of action to address anti-microbial resistance but the challenge is in the implementation. Developing countries require funds to enforce the measures as well as technology such as microscopes and diagnostic tools; they also need to have access to existing and new antibiotics at affordable prices; and people worldwide need to be protected from anti-microbial resistance if life expectancy is to be maintained.

Finally there are major challenges in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs include very ambitious and idealistic goals and targets, but there are obstacles to fulfilling them.

For example, Goal 3 is “to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” One of the targets is to achieve universal health coverage, that no one should be denied treatment because they cannot afford it. But this will remain an unfulfilled noble aim unless governments address the controversial issue of how to finance public health measures..

The problem is compounded when medicines are priced beyond the reach of the poor and the middle class. The treatment for HIV AIDS became more widespread and affordable only when generics were made available at cheaper prices, for example $60 a patient a year today, compared to the prices of original drugs of $10,000, and millions of lives have been saved.

Some of the new medicines, for example for Hepatitis C and cancers, are unaffordable even in rich countries and thus not provided through their national health service. They will certainly be out of the reach of patients in developing countries unless generic versions are made available through the use of flexibilities in the global patent regime, such as the non-granting of patents and compulsory licenses.

The interconnecting issues of patents, over pricing of original drugs, and the need to make generic drugs more available, are relevant to the implementation of SDGs, universal health coverage, and the realisation of the right to health and the right to development.

The examples above of pressing global problems show there is a long way to go before we make progress on social and economic development, while protecting the environment. The principles and instruments associated with the Right to Development can shine a bright light on the way forward. The Declaration adopted 30 years ago continues to have great relevance, if only we make full use of it.

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Mexico City’s Expansion Creates Tension between Residents and Authoritieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/mexico-citys-expansion-creates-tension-between-residents-and-authorities/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexico-citys-expansion-creates-tension-between-residents-and-authorities http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/mexico-citys-expansion-creates-tension-between-residents-and-authorities/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 16:09:22 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147070 Construction work on the Chapultepec Intermodal Transfer Station, with the castle in the famous Chapultepec forest in the background. The recurrent complaint of Mexico City residents affected by public works in this city is the lack of consultation, transparency and information. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Construction work on the Chapultepec Intermodal Transfer Station, with the castle in the famous Chapultepec forest in the background. The recurrent complaint of Mexico City residents affected by public works in this city is the lack of consultation, transparency and information. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

People living in neighborhoods affected by the expansion of urban construction suffer a “double displacement”, with changes in their habitat and the driving up of prices in the area, in a process in which “we are not taken into account,” said Natalia Lara, a member of an assembly of local residents in the south of Mexico City.

Lara, who is pursuing a master’s degree in public policies at the Latin American School of Social Sciences (Flacso), told IPS that in her neighborhood people are outraged because of the irrational way the construction has been carried out there.

The member of the assembly of local residents of Santa Úrsula Coapa, a lower middle-class neighborhood, complains that urban decision-makers build more houses and buildings but “don’t think about how to provide services. They make arbitrary land-use changes.”

Lara lives near the Mexico City asphalt plant owned by the city’s Ministry of Public Works, which has been operating since 1956 and has become asource of conflict between the residents of the southern neighbourhoods and the administration of leftist Mayor Miguel Mancera of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, which has governed the capital since 1997.“There is clearly a lack of planning and vision, the strategy of only carrying out projects with a strictly economic focus is affecting us.There is no interest in building spaces that help improve community life. We are becoming more isolated, people don’t take their kids to play in parks anymore, but go to shopping centers instead, the fabric of the community breaks down. These are serious problems.” -- Elias García

In mid-2014, Mancera’s government announced its intention to donate the asphalt plant’s land to Mexico City’s Investment Promotion Agency, which would build the Coyoacán Economic and Social Development Area there.

In response, local residents organised and formed, in September of that year, the Coordination of Assemblies of Pedregales, which brings together residents of five neighborhoods in the Coyoacánborough, one of the 16 boroughs into which Mexico City is divided.

But the transfer of ownership of the land took place in December 2014, to create a development area including the construction of an industrial park and residential and office tower blocks.

To appease local residents, Mancera proposed modifying the initial plan and turning the area into an ecological park, despite the fact that the soil is polluted and will take many years to recover.

Last May, the mayor announced the final closure of the asphalt plant and its reconversion into an environmental site, although the decree for the donation to the city investment promotion agency was never revoked, and there is no reconversion plan.

This conflict shows the struggles for the city, for how the public space is defined and used, one of the central topics to be addressed at the Oct. 17-20 third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) in Quito, Ecuador.

In the upcoming summit organised by U.N.-Habitat, member states will assume commitments with regard to the right to the city, how to finance the New Urban Agenda that will result from Quito, and sustainable urban development, among other issues.

Cities like the Mexican capital, home to 21 million people, are plagued with similar problems.

Elías García, president of the non-governmental Ecoactivistas, knows this well, having worked for three decades as an environmental activist in the borough of Iztacalco, in the east of the capital.

“There is clearly a lack of planning and vision, the strategy of only carrying out projects with a strictly economic focus is affecting us.There is no interest in building spaces that help improve community life. We are becoming more isolated, people don’t take their kids to play in parks anymore, but go to shopping centers instead, the fabric of the community breaks down. These are serious problems,” he told IPS.

The activist and other local residents have witnessed how in Iztacalco a concert hall, a race track for F1 international motor races, and more recently, a baseball stadium were built one after another.

In the process, some 3,000 trees were cut down and many green spaces and local sports fields disappeared.

The last measure taken was Macera’s 2015 decision to revoke the declaration of the Magdalena Mixhuca sports complex’s environmental value, which had protected the facilities for nine year, in order to build a baseball stadium in its place. Local residents filed an appeal for legal protection, but lost the suit last June.

Luisa Rodríguez, a researcher at the public Doctor José María Luís Mora Research Institute’s Interdisciplinary Center for Metropolitan Studies, told IPS that where people live determines their enjoyment of rights, such as to the city, a clean environment and housing.

“The exercise of citizenship is connected to the idea of the city. When a severely fragmented city is built, based on a model that only benefits the few, participation in social institutions like education and healthcare is only partial. Geographical location determines the exercise of those rights,” she said.

There are a number of open conflicts between organised local communities and the government of Mexico City. One high-profile flashpoint flared up in 2015 when the city government intended to build the Chapultepec Cultural Corridor in the west of the city, next to the woods of the same name, the biggest “green lung” that remains in this polluted megalopolis.

In a public consultation last December, the residents of the Cuauhtémoc borough, where Chapultepec is located, voted against the public-private project, which intended to build an elevated promenade for pedestrians, lined with shops, gardens and trees, above the traffic down below.

Instead, the city government is building an Intermodal Transfer Station (known as CETRAMs) at a cost of 300 million dollars, whose first stage is to be completed in 2018. Besides the transport hub, it will include a 50-floor hotel and a shopping center.

The Economic and Social Development Zones (ZODES), which originally were to be built in five areas in the capital, have apparently failed to improve the quality of urban life.

“In spite of the benefits these micro-cities are supposed to offer, the negative aspects of evicting the people currently living in these areas have not been assessed, and they run counter to the concepts of sustainability and strategic management that the government claims to support,” wrote city planner Daniela Jay in the specialised journal “Arquine”.

The last draft of the final declaration of Habitat III, agreed upon in July, makes no reference to the process of building a city based on inclusion and the active participation of citizens, although it does refer to exercising the right to the city and the importance of such participation.

Activists see both positives and negatives in the approach taken by Habitat III. The conference “will reinforce urban laws that focus on building cities, displacing the perspective of native people and local communities. There is no trend towards inclusion,” said Lara.

Activist García demanded that the local people be heard. “They have to listen to the people who are committed to protecting the environment,” he said.

According to Rodríguez, Habitat III offers an opportunity to address urban emergencies. “There are high expectations for governments to start focusing on building cities thinking about the inhabitants instead of the buildings,” she told IPS.

But with or without the conference, the battles for the city in urban centres like Mexico’s capital will continue.

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The Lost Kids at Rome’s Termini Station: Child Migrants Exploitedhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-lost-kids-at-romes-termini-station-child-migrants-exploited/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-lost-kids-at-romes-termini-station-child-migrants-exploited http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/the-lost-kids-at-romes-termini-station-child-migrants-exploited/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 13:42:21 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr and Rose Delaney2 http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147068 Young migrants spend their days at Rome's Termini's station. Credit: Rose Delaney/IPS

Young migrants spend their days at Rome's Termini's station. Credit: Rose Delaney/IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr and Rose Delaney
ROME, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

Rome ….. Termini station, 2:00 pm on a Tuesday afternoon. Five young boys are standing next to the escalators, constantly shifting, dispersing, meeting up again. They are laughing, typing on their phones, chatting, smoking. They seem like average teenagers with fancy hairstyles and smart clothes. But every once in a while, they nervously glance over to the security personnel circling Termini station. Or carefully examine older men walking by.

Some of these kids are Egyptian, and landed in Italy by boat. “They let in minors”, Ahmed says. He came when he was 14 years old, on his own. His family remained in Egypt. Today he is 18 years old, and he is the oldest in the group.

A man with grey hair and a baseball cap appears, talks to Ahmed, and moves away. Ahmed whispers to another boy in the group, 17-year old Hasani whose dark hair and sparkling blue eyes make him the most attractive in the group. Later, when we approach him by asking for a cigarette, he assures us that he would not only offer us a cigarette, but buy us a whole pack of them, if only he had the money.

We watch Hasani going down the escalators, the man in the baseball cap follows at a 20 meter distance. They make their way through crowds of tourists, pass by coffee bars and shops, always maintaining the 20 meter distance, never looking back. They merge with the stream of people rushing down towards the metro station, then take a quick turn, and Hasani disappears into what at first glance resembles a maintenance room. The man in the baseball cap follows. It turns out to be a public toilet, hidden away in one of Termini’s many underground corridors, out of sight from the people waiting for their trains, and from the eyes of the security guards. “Even when we place these kids in foster centres, nobody checks whether they are going to school. We believe that there is a connection between those who traffic the children to Italy and
those who employ them”

Five minutes later, both of them reappear, open the door and hastily take off in different directions. Hasani goes back to join Ahmed next to the escalators. And they continue to chat, laugh, smoke, type on their phones, as if nothing had happened.

Migrant minors who enter Italy are supposed to be taken in by “Case Famiglie”, foster homes sponsored by the Italian government. There, they would receive meals and a place to sleep, education and integration programmes made available to them. The foster homes receive money from the state to provide the migrant minors with these basic services, and most importantly, to keep them safe.

Yet, many of them end up in conditions of forced labour. They work in warehouses, as porters in markets, at petrol stations – or they prostitute themselves at Termini station.

“Even when we place these kids in foster centres, nobody checks whether they are going to school. We believe that there is a connection between those who traffic the children to Italy and those who employ them”, Mariella Chiaramonte, chief of the police station in Tivoli, near Rome, said in an interview with The Guardian.

Upon their arrival in Italy, the children often find themselves indebted to the people who trafficked them here. Because they are being threatened that harm will be inflicted on their families back home if they do not repay the money for their trip, often they become vulnerable targets for sex work recruiters and drug dealers. For the migrant children, however, this type of clandestine work becomes a quick way to make larger amounts of money in order to repay their debt.

Ahmed and Hasani spend the entire day at the train station. As soon as he turned 18, Ahmed explains, he left the foster home. Now, he shares a small apartment with other migrants from Egypt. How can he afford to pay the rent? “I work at a car wash”, he says. But not convinced by his own words, he breaks into a bout of nervous laughter. He cannot look at us. They are only here to meet friends, he explains, to “hang out”.

There is a sudden downpour outside. Bangladeshi street hawkers appear at the station’s entrance, trying to sell umbrellas. As one of them approaches us, he tells us that we should not get involved with the Egyptian boys. “They steal from people waiting for their train and they sell drugs”, he says, and when asked if he knows what other business the boys have here, his expression turns cold. “We never mix with them. They are dangerous.”

The man in the baseball cap reappears, keeping his distance but staring at us while we talk with the boys. He does not seem to be a customer anymore. He appears to be supervising the boys, keeping them in line. He is nervous about them having established contact with people from the “outside”. We realize we have overstayed our welcome and it is time to leave.

Following the “Drug Dealing and Prostitution of Minors” report produced by Mediaset in March 2016, the authors who write on migrant issues spent time in Rome’s Termini station observing the lives of migrant children.

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Population Growth Extremes: Doublers and Declinershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/population-growth-extremes-doublers-and-decliners/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=population-growth-extremes-doublers-and-decliners http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/population-growth-extremes-doublers-and-decliners/#comments Fri, 23 Sep 2016 11:06:28 +0000 Joseph Chamie http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147058 City view of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Asia-Pacific region is urbanizing rapidly. Credit: UN Photo/Kibae Park

City view of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The Asia-Pacific region is urbanizing rapidly. Credit: UN Photo/Kibae Park

By Joseph Chamie
NEW YORK, Sep 23 2016 (IPS)

While the world’s population of 7.4 billion is growing at 1.1 percent per year – about half the peak level of the late 1960s – enormous differences in demographic growth among countries are increasingly evident and of mounting concern to countries and the international community.

Few of the decliners are prepared to accept large-scale immigration, particularly from doubler countries, to address labor force shortages and population aging concerns.
At one extreme are the doublers: 29 countries whose populations are expected to at least double by the middle of the 21st century. At the other extreme in striking contrast are the decliners: 38 countries whose populations are expected to be smaller by the middle of the 21st century.

The doublers are all located in sub-Saharan Africa except for Iraq and the State of Palestine. The largest countries among the doublers are Nigeria (187 million), followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (80 million) and Tanzania (55 million).

Today the doublers together account for 10 percent of the world’s population. By 2050, however, due to the doublers’ rapid rates of demographic growth that proportion is expected to increase to 18 percent of the world’s projected population of nearly 10 billion people.

Among the doublers the country with the most rapid increase is Niger, whose population of 21 million is expected to double by the year 2034 and to experience a 250 percent increase by mid-century, more than tripling its population to 72 million. Other countries with substantial increases of 150 percent or more are Zambia, Angola, Uganda and Mali (Figure 1).

Source: United Nations Population Division

Source: United Nations Population Division

The largest doubler population, Nigeria, is expected to increase by 112 percent, reaching just under 400 million by 2050 and thereby displacing the United States as the world’s third largest country after India and China. Another sizeable population increase is the Democratic Republic of the Congo whose population of 80 million is projected to increase by 145 percent, or an additional 116 million people, bringing its total midcentury population to nearly 200 million.

While not a single country’s population at the close of the 20th century was smaller than in 1950, this demographic trend is not expected to continue over the next several decades. The decliners, a group of 38 countries both developed and developing, are expected to experience population decline by the middle of the 21st century. Together the decliner’s proportion of the world’s population is projected to fall from close to 30 percent today to nearly 20 percent by the year 2050.

The top ten countries with the projected population declines of no less than 15 percent are all located in Eastern Europe (Figure 2). The country with the most rapid decline among the decliners is Bulgaria (27 percent), followed by Romania (22 percent), Ukraine (21 percent) and Moldova (20 percent).

Source: United Nations Population Division

Source: United Nations Population Division

The largest decliner population, China, is expected to decrease by more than 2 percent by 2050, with the Chinese population peaking in less than a decade. Other large populations projected to experience demographic declines by midcentury are Japan (15 percent), Russia (10 percent), Germany (8 percent) and Italy (5 percent). Moreover, some of the decliners have already experienced population decline for a number of years in the recent past, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.

The population projections for the decliners assume some immigration in the future. For some decliner countries, such as Italy, Japan, Germany, Hungary, Spain and Russia, immigration lessens the expected declines in their future populations. For example, while Italy’s population with assumed immigration is projected to decline by 5 percent by mid-century, without immigration Italy’s projected population would fall to 13 percent.

Noteworthy differences exist in both mortality and migration levels between doublers and decliners. Doubler countries have markedly higher mortality rates than decliners. In addition, doublers are generally migrant-sending countries, while many of the decliners are migrant-receiving countries.

The sizeable differences in rates of future population growth, however, are primarily due to the level of fertility. The median fertility rate among the 29 doubler countries is 5.3 births per woman, ranging from a low of 4.4 in Kenya to a high of 7.6 in Niger. In contrast, fertility levels among the 38 decliner countries all fall below the replacement level of about two children, with the median fertility rate being 1.5 births per woman. Countries that are approximately a half child below the replacement level include China, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Russia and Spain.

The comparatively high and low population growth rates pose formidable, but differing challenges for doubler and decliner countries. Doublers face serious development challenges in meeting the basic needs of their rapidly growing and very young populations. The median ages of the doubler countries are all below 20 years, with the youngest being Niger (15 years), Uganda (16), Chad (16), Angola (16), Mali (16) and Somali (16).

Many doubler countries, such as Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Niger and Uganda, are now facing food shortages. Providing sufficient foods for their rapidly growing populations is expected to be considerably more difficult in the years ahead.

Other key areas that pose serious challenges are housing, education, health care, employment, personal security and governance, especially as nearly half of the doubler countries are among high alert failing or fragile states. Given the onerous living conditions for most of the populations in doubler countries, growing numbers of young adults are turning to both legal and illegal migration to wealthier developed countries, many of which are also decliner countries.

Among their attempts to address their high rates of population growth, doubler governments have established programs for reproductive health services to assist families to have the number of children they desire, which is generally fewer than current levels. With widespread education, especially for girls, and improved employment opportunities, the doubler governments are aiming to reduce their high fertility levels and accelerate their demographic transitions to low death and birth rates.

While decliners have by and large met the basic needs of their populations, they are confronting increasingly the pervasive consequences of population decline and aging. Contractions in the size of their labor forces coupled with increases in the proportion elderly are exerting stresses and strains on the economies and budgets of decliner countries.

Many of the decliners have already passed through the historic reversal, or the demographic point where the number of elderly aged 65 and older exceeds the number of children below age 15 years. The median ages for half of the decliners are above 40 years, with the oldest being Japan, Germany and Italy at 46 years.

With the proportion of elderly increasing and more of them living longer, often many years beyond retirement, governments of the decliner countries are particularly concerned about escalating costs for social security, pensions, health and care giving. Options to address those fiscal issues include raising official retirement ages, increasing taxes, redirecting government revenues and reducing benefits.

Few of the decliners are prepared to accept large-scale immigration, particularly from doubler countries, to address labor force shortages and population aging concerns. As is being increasingly reported, some decliners are erecting barriers, fences and walls to deter unauthorized immigration, while others remain resolutely averse to a sizeable foreign population taking hold within their borders.

Many decliner countries, including China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and Spain, are attempting to alter their projected demographic futures by raising their low fertility levels in hopes of mitigating population decline and perhaps even achieving near population stabilization. Moving to replacement level fertility by encouraging women to have additional children, however, has proved to be difficult and generally not successful.

It is often said that opposites attract. Perhaps in romance, friendships and the movies, people are attracted to those who are viewed different from them. That appears not to be the case for doubler and decliner countries, at least for the present. However, as has been repeatedly demonstrated throughout world demographic history, rapidly growing populations are not easily confined to within borders, eventually traversing deserts, mountains, rivers and seas and spreading out across continents.

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Rural Growth in Colombia: Yara Steps In to Increase Productivityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/rural-growth-in-colombia-yara-steps-in-to-increase-productivity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=rural-growth-in-colombia-yara-steps-in-to-increase-productivity http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/rural-growth-in-colombia-yara-steps-in-to-increase-productivity/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2016 13:50:18 +0000 Dominique Von Rohr http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147055 The rural community in Colombia is struggling to keep up with food production. Credit: Gerald Bermúdez/IPS

The rural community in Colombia is struggling to keep up with food production. Credit: Gerald Bermúdez/IPS

By Dominique Von Rohr
ROME, Sep 22 2016 (IPS)

Following the recent peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC in Cartagena which concludes a 52-year armed conflict, the country is now geared toward improving productivity in its agricultural sector. Yara International, a leader in crop nutrition and farmer support, has taken the timely step of supporting the government’s efforts on this issue.

Colombia, which relies on agriculture as the most important segment of its economy, still battles with an endemic problem of poor productivity. Due to the rugged Andean terrain covering Colombia, as well as the lack of irrigation, only roughly five per cent of the country’s land area is cultivated. The government is taking an increasing part in controlling, organizing and encouraging agriculture by giving financial support and social assistance for better housing to farmers, as well as providing them with technical help. However, foreign aid is always welcome.

The timely intervention of Yara International is contributing to enable Colombia in producing more and better food on existing agricultural land. Having invested in Colombia for years and providing funds of USD 425 million in 2014, Yara International has become the largest investor in the South American country, supporting rural development, growing productivity and prosperity in Colombia’s countryside.

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Community Conversations in Ethiopia Prevents Exploitative Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/community-conversations-in-ethiopia-prevents-exploitative-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=community-conversations-in-ethiopia-prevents-exploitative-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/community-conversations-in-ethiopia-prevents-exploitative-migration/#comments Thu, 22 Sep 2016 13:30:44 +0000 UN Women http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147048 Lack of economic resources and opportunities are driving Ethiopia’s young women to migrate, often through illegal brokers, as domestic workers in the Gulf countries. They face risks of exploitation, trafficking, poor working conditions and sexual harassment in the destination countries. A programme by UN Women and ILO has initiated ‘Community Conversations’ to ensure safe migration, and raise awareness about the Domestic Workers Convention.]]>

Lack of economic resources and opportunities are driving Ethiopia’s young women to migrate, often through illegal brokers, as domestic workers in the Gulf countries. They face risks of exploitation, trafficking, poor working conditions and sexual harassment in the destination countries. A programme by UN Women and ILO has initiated ‘Community Conversations’ to ensure safe migration, and raise awareness about the Domestic Workers Convention.

By UN Women
Sep 22 2016 (IPS)

Five years ago, when Meliya Gumi’s two daughters, Gifty* and Chaltu,* aged 16 and 18, migrated to Dubai and Qatar respectively, as domestic workers, everyone thought they were moving towards a better future. As a widowed mother of eight with little resources, living in the village of Haro Kunta in the Oromia region of Ethiopia, Gumi had a difficult time making ends meet.

Meliya Gumi (front left) contributes ideas on how to prevent irregular migration at one of the Community Conversation sessions in her village. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Meliya Gumi (front left) contributes ideas on how to prevent irregular migration at one of the Community Conversation sessions in her village. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Gumi’s daughters made it to their destination countries through illegal brokers, but found themselves trapped in poor working conditions with no benefits or protection. They send some money to Gumi every now and then, which supplements her meagre income.

“My wish is to see my daughters come back home safe and I would never want them to leave again, as long as they have some income to survive on,” says Gumi, who is now one of the 22 active participants of the “Community Conversations” initiative in her village, supported by UN Women and International Labour Organization (ILO). The Community Conversations aim to prevent “irregular migration”—exploitative or illegal migration, including smuggling and trafficking of workers, mainly to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries [1]—by providing information and making the community aware of the risks. The initiative also raises awareness about the ILO Convention 189, namely the Domestic Workers Convention, which went into force globally in 2013 and has 22 ratifications to date. Ethiopia has yet to ratify the Convention and raising awareness about protecting the rights of migrant domestic workers is a critical step forward.

Among the nine administrative regional states in Ethiopia, the Oromia region, where Gumi’s village is located, is most prone to migration and a popular source for illegal brokers. Some 161,490 domestic workers from this region have migrated overseas between 2009 and 2014, of which an estimated 155,860—96 per cent—were women [2].

“One of the key interventions of the Project is to also address safe migration for women,” says UN Women Deputy Representative in Ethiopia, Funmi Balogun. “UN Women recognizes the rights of women to safe migration to seek better opportunities and to improve their livelihoods. To enable this, the project strengthens the capacities of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and its affiliates to provide gender-sensitive information as part of pre-departure training for potential migrant women domestic workers, so that they understand their rights, know how to access support and how to save and protect their earnings. This training and support were designed to assist potential female migrants understand their rights, whether in Ethiopia or in their receiving countries, know where support systems for them are located and strengthen their ability to effectively save and protect their earnings. The institutions were also supported to understand the rights of migrant workers as stated in ILO Convention 189, and to institutionalize processes and systems for reintegrating returnee women migrant workers into their communities.”

Coordinated by trained facilitators, the Community Conversations take place twice a month and engage men and women of different age groups, returnee migrant workers, families of migrant workers and prospective migrants, religious leaders and community influencers. The initiative is active in three regions of Ethiopia—Amhara, Oromia and Tigray—and in the Addis Ababa city administration since 2015, and have been successful in changing attitudes and practices of the communities regarding irregular migration. For example, in the Adaba district alone, within four months of implementation, the conversations led to significant reduction of irregular migration. The Government of Ethiopia is now institutionalizing the practice of Community Conversations at the village level throughout the country.

Kebede Tolcha (left), Adaba district’s Labor and Social Affairs Office Head, explains on results of the Community Conversations while the village chairman, Amano Aliya (right) goes through the documented agendas discussed by the participants. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Kebede Tolcha (left), Adaba district’s Labor and Social Affairs Office Head, explains on results of the Community Conversations while the village chairman, Amano Aliya (right) goes through the documented agendas discussed by the participants. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Kebede Tolcha, Adaba district’s Head of the Labour and Social Affairs Office, notes that the initiative is not only helping the villagers in making informed decisions about migration, it is also empowering them to identify the root causes of migration and take their ideas for solutions to policy makers. “In past four months, we have prevented 19 individuals—13 women and 6 men— from taking up irregular migration, and enabled 31 school drop outs who were preparing to migrate illegally, to get back to school in this community,” he added.

As Gumi shares the experiences of her daughters as a cautionary tale for others, she stresses, “If enough resources, including land and employment, is provided to the younger ones, there will be no need for them to migrate.” As a result of the discussions and with the support from the government, some parents have started investing in their children’s education and income generating activities, rather than financing irregular migration.

Ashewal Kemal, 17, changed her mind about migrating as a domestic worker using unsafe means as a result of the Community Conversation initiative in the Oromia district. She went back to school, completed 10th grade and now works as an Office Assistant in her village administration. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

Ashewal Kemal, 17, changed her mind about migrating as a domestic worker using unsafe means as a result of the Community Conversation initiative in the Oromia district. She went back to school, completed 10th grade and now works as an Office Assistant in her village administration. Photo: UN Women/Fikerte Abebe

The Community Conversations in Adaba District are part of a joint project, ‘Development of a Tripartite Framework for the Support and Protection of Ethiopian and Somali Women Domestic Migrant Workers to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) States, Lebanon and Sudan’ by ILO and UN Women and funded by the European Union. Over 140,000 women and 85,000 men have participated in the Community Conversation initiative as part of the project.

* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals

Notes
[1] The GCC states include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
[2] UN Women (2015). Unpublished study on the Nature, Trend and Magnitude of Migration of Female Migrant Domestic Workers (MDWs) from Ethiopia to GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) States, Lebanon and Sudan. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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UN Refugee Summits Fall Short for Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 18:46:49 +0000 Phoebe Braithwaite http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147038 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/un-refugee-summits-fall-short-for-children/feed/ 0 Yazidi Survivor of ISIL Appointed UN Goodwill Ambassadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/yazidi-survivor-of-isil-appointed-un-goodwill-ambassador/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 15:31:35 +0000 Lindah Mogeni http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147033 Nadia Murad with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

Nadia Murad with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe.

By Lindah Mogeni
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 21 2016 (IPS)

Yazidi Nadia Murad – who survived being kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by ISIL – was honoured by the UN on Friday September 16 for her work to help human trafficking survivors.

At a ceremony held ahead of the International Day of Peace Murad was appointed as the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking. She is the first survivor of human trafficking to hold the position.

In early August 2014 Murad’s home town of Kocho in Northern Iraq was attacked by ISIL – also known as ISIS or Daesh.

Murad, who belongs to the Yazidi minority religion, described ISIL’s impact as “a nightmare that has struck our society.”

ISIL executed men and older women from the village in the attack, including Murad’s mother and six of her brothers.

Murad and other women and children were captured as “war-booty” and trade merchandise.

ISIL’s attacks on the Yazidis have been described as attempted genocide, since ISIL aims to kill all Yazidis which it describes as infidels.

“The sole aim of ISIL was to destroy Yazidi identity through forced rape, the recruitment of children and the destruction of our temples,” -- Nadia Murad.

Murad later escaped in November 2014 when her captor left the door unlocked and a neighboring family smuggled her to a refugee camp, Duhot, in northern Iraq before she sought and was granted asylum in Germany.

Murad’s advocacy against ISIL’s trafficking of Yazidis later led her to testify before the UN Security Council in December 2015.

“The sole aim of ISIL was to destroy Yazidi identity through forced rape, the recruitment of children and the destruction of our temples,” Murad said, describing the Islamic State’s action as an orchestrated “collective genocide against Yazidi identity” and religion.

She called for the case of genocide against the Yazidis to be brought before the International Criminal Court and for an international budget to compensate Yazidi victims to be established.

Murad also expressed her wish to witness the liberation of occupied Yazidi territory and urged states to open their societies to Yazidi refugees.

According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on ISIL’s June report, some 3200 women and children are currently enslaved by ISIL.

Murad would “bring much needed attention to international efforts to end human trafficking and help keep it on the Security Council’s agenda,” US Ambassador to the Economic and Social Council Sarah Mendelson said.

The international response should be “commensurate with the scale of human trafficking” said Mendelson, noting that human trafficking generates an estimated 150 billion dollars in revenue annually with over 20 million victims.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon described Murad as a “fierce and tireless advocate for the Yazidi people and victims of human trafficking everywhere.”

Ban also described the crimes against Yazidis by ISIL as possible genocide.

“The crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq against the Yazidi may constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity and even genocide.”

He called for the immediate release of thousands of Yazidis being held in captivity.

Human rights barrister, Amal Clooney, who represents Murad, described ISIL’s violence towards the Yazidis as a “bureaucracy of evil on an industrial scale.”

ISIL have released a pamphlet entitled ‘Questions and Answers on Taking Captives and Slaves’ which describes acts such as beating female slaves, raping female slaves who have not reached puberty, buying or selling or gifting female slaves.

Clooney also expressed her disappointment in the UN’s failure to stop the ISIL’s attacks on the Yazidis.

“I am ashamed as a supporter of the United Nations that states are failing to prevent or even punish genocide because they find their own interests get in the way.”

“I am ashamed as a lawyer that there is no justice being done and barely a complaint being made about it.”

“I am ashamed as a woman that girls like Nadia can have their bodies sold and used as battlefields.”

“I am ashamed as a human being that we ignore their cries for help,” said Clooney.

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Migrant Workers in the Gulf Feel Pinch of Falling Oil Priceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/migrant-workers-in-the-gulf-feel-pinch-of-falling-oil-prices/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=migrant-workers-in-the-gulf-feel-pinch-of-falling-oil-prices http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/migrant-workers-in-the-gulf-feel-pinch-of-falling-oil-prices/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:54:18 +0000 Irfan Ahmed http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147011 Pakistani migrant workers on a construction site in Dubai. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

Pakistani migrant workers on a construction site in Dubai. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

By Irfan Ahmed
DUBAI, Sep 21 2016 (IPS)

In the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a number of medium and large-sized buses can be spotted transporting workers clad in company uniforms to distant worksites early in the morning. In the evening or, in certain cases, late at night, these workers are brought back to labour camps in the same buses.

At the camps, the migrant workers barely have time to rest before the next workday. They huddle inside small, dingy quarters and the number of occupants may rise up to eight per room. With their belongings stuffed into every corner, they hardly have space to move and are vulnerable to catch infections from each other. Their day starts too early as they have to cook their food to carry to the site and ends late due to long journeys amid frequent traffic jams.“The role of the state becomes important here as migrant workers in the Gulf are voiceless. Without the right to associate and demand rights, they are as helpless as one can think of.” -- Khalid Mahmood of the Lahore-based Labour Education Foundation

The workers at a typical camp hail from different countries, so the common practice is to allocate shared rooms according to their nationalities. At a typical labour camp there can be a Pakistani block, Indian block, Nepali block or Bangladeshi block.

Javed Iqbal, 29, lives in one such labour camp. He has come to Dubai from Pakistan through a middleman who sold a work visa to his family for Rs 300,000 (about 3,000 dollars). The family borrowed money from relatives to complete this transaction. Having not attended school beyond grade 4, Javed cannot read and write and couldn’t find a job in his home country. The same lack of education and any proper skill set makes him ineligible for regular recruitment abroad as well.

The only option he had was to come to Dubai on whatever salary he could get and gradually build his fortune there. But things did not work out well and he is stuck in a construction sector job that pays a paltry 240 dollars per month. He says it’s hard for him to cover his personal expenses, let alone send anything back home. Meanwhile, he is under immense pressure from his family to pay back the loan that bought his visa.

A labour camp in Dubai. Workers are allocated sleeping quarters based on nationality, and the number of occupants may be to six to eight per room. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

A labour camp in Dubai. Workers are allocated sleeping quarters based on nationality, and the number of occupants may be as high as eight per room. Credit: S. Irfan Ahmed/IPS

Javed is not the only one in this situation. There are thousands of Pakistanis like him who are told fairytales about career growth prospects in UAE but once there, nightmares await them. These workers are mostly unskilled and employed in the construction sector, which is not performing well in the oil-rich countries of the Gulf region. With oil prices down in the global market, the government is facing difficulty clearing payments of construction companies.

“I was inspired by the story of a village fellow who went to Dubai as a mason three decades ago. Now he owns two houses and several acres of land in the village,” Muhammad Iqbal, a migrant worker from Gujranwala district, told IPS. Everybody in the village wants to emulate him regardless of the situation that exists in the Gulf region, he adds.

Dependence on remittances

Pakistan relies heavily on remittances to build on its foreign reserves and they constitute around 6.9 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to a World Bank report. More than half of the remittances come from two countries – Saudi Arabia and Dubai. There are around 1.3 million Pakistani workers in the UAE and close to 4.3 million in Saudi Arabia.

In the last fiscal year, the country received remittances worth 19.9 billion dollars, but in July they dropped by 20 per cent as compared to the figure of the same month last year. There are speculations that layoffs and non-payment of salaries to migrant workers in this region are the cause of this drop in volume. Some fear there is more to come as a large number of Pakistani workers could face job losses due to the slump in the construction sector where they are mostly employed.

But Ashraf Mehmood Wathra, governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, argues it is a temporary phenomenon and things will improve as these countries are revising their economic policies to offset the impact of the crash in oil prices.

Skills matter

A major problem with Pakistani migrant labour in Gulf region is that it is not diversified and has remained confined to mostly one or two sectors. The Pakistani government has long ignored this aspect and left the shaping of international labour migration trends at the mercy of the private sector. Of late, following the layoffs of around 9,000 Pakistani workers by construction companies in Saudi Arabia, there is a realization that an overwhelming dependence on this sector will not be a safe bet in the future.

Zahid Mahmood, General Manager at Material Lab, a leading material testing company in Dubai, says Pakistani labourers are considered matchless for working in the construction sector. “They can survive in the worst possible working conditions and endure extreme heat,” he told IPS.

He said that Pashtuns from the northwestern part of the country are high in demand for this very reason. But this, he says, has a negative side as well because little has been done to capture share in other sectors. These workers may be employed for as low as 210 dollars per month, although masons, carpenters, fabricators, supervisors, welders and other skilled workers can earn more.

Zahid says there are very few Pakistanis in the services sector, which is dominated by Indians due to their skills and better educational status. There are very few Pakistani security guards or hospitality sector workers despite the existence of a heavy demand for these professions.

The country will have to devise a proper human resource development strategy to stay in the highly competitive and evolving labour market of the Gulf region, he adds. He is also worried about the low wages paid to Pakistani workers and says there should be official efforts to set a minimum benchmark, for example, 300 dollars per month.

Dilip Ratha, a World Bank economist who recently authored a Migration and Development brief, points out that the Gulf region construction boom funded by oil-based revenue is over and now there is less need for unskilled migrant labour. These economies are also trying to create space to employ their own nationals – something that will further shrink the job market for foreign nationals.

Government initiatives

Though there is a lot to be done, the government of Pakistan has announced certain initiatives that it claims will promote safe and decent employment for its migrant workers. These include production of trained, skilled and certified workforce with enhanced employability.

Irfan Qaisar, chairman of the Technical Education & Vocational Training Authority (TEVTA) of the most populous Punjab province, told IPS that they have a developed a Labour Management Information System (LMIS) that maintains the latest information about local and foreign job markets. He says the focus of this government-run institution is on producing demand-based labour and doing away with the unplanned policies of the past.

TEVTA is training people for the hospitality industry, drivers with the help of national Motorway Police and security guards. “Recently, we have announced training of 50,000 security guards on modern lines and with the support country’s law enforcing authorities,” he said. “I am quite hopeful they will be high in demand in international markets once trained on these lines.”

Way forward

Government efforts notwithstanding, there are calls for active engagement between labour-sending and receiving countries to improve the lives of migrant workers. Expecting desired results without government-to-government level negotiations is asking for too much, especially in monarchies.

Khalid Mahmood, director of the Labour Education Foundation (LEF), a Lahore-based labour rights group, put it this way: “The role of the state becomes important here as migrant workers in Gulf are voiceless. Without the right to associate and demand rights, they are as helpless as one can think of.”

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Jobs Are Crucial for Peace, Stem Radicalization and Violent Extremism in Kenyahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/jobs-are-crucial-for-peace-stem-radicalization-and-violent-extremism-in-kenya/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jobs-are-crucial-for-peace-stem-radicalization-and-violent-extremism-in-kenya http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/09/jobs-are-crucial-for-peace-stem-radicalization-and-violent-extremism-in-kenya/#comments Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:22:30 +0000 Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=147013 Ambassador Amina Mohamed (@AMB_A_Mohammed) is the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Siddharth Chatterjee (@sidchat1) is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya. ]]> Under Vision 2030, the agriculture sector is to be made more innovative, commercially oriented and modern. Photo Credit: WikiMedia

Under Vision 2030, the agriculture sector is to be made more innovative, commercially oriented and modern. Photo Credit: WikiMedia

By Ambassador Amina Mohamed and Siddharth Chatterjee
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 21 2016 (IPS)

Today 21 September 2016 is the International Day of Peace.

Kenya has the largest number of jobless youth in East Africa, putting a strain on the economy’s growth and also threatening peace and security when hopeless youth gravitate towards violent extremist groups.

Today, youth form two-thirds of Kenya’s population, many of them unemployed, with the ratio of youth unemployment to overall adult unemployment standing at 46 percent, according to the 2009 Kenya Population and Housing Census. At the same time, there are eight dependents for every ten working Kenyans, meaning that the average worker will very often have little left to save or invest for growth.

While this youth bulge may seem like a disaster in the making, investing in the sectors with highest potential can turn it into a gateway to rapid economic growth and development as we have seen among Asian Tigers like Singapore, South Korea and Malaysia.

By all projections, agriculture presents this opportunity.

While the African Union has recognised agriculture as the driving force of social and economic transformation, the youth often feel that agriculture lacks the glamour, sophistication and allure of the professions they seek.

This is regrettable. Africa not only has the largest percentage of arable land in the globe, and untapped potential for irrigated agro-pastoralism on its vast arid and semi-arid lands, but it also has the highest ratio of young people with the necessary knowledge, innovative skills and physical strength.

Of particular interest are youth in hard to reach areas, such as the arid and semi-arid lands, who are increasingly disgruntled by dim prospects of good jobs and increasingly prone to the temptations of extremist groups. These groups sway them with blandishments and exploit their feelings of exclusion and hopelessness.

In northern Kenya, which has borne the brunt of extremism in the country, traditional livestock farming methods can be targeted for transformation into a quality-driven, export-targeting industry. This calls for investment in education, rural transport and electricity, and smart business and trade policies.

In these areas, formal education should provide young people with basic numeracy and literacy, managerial and business skills, and introduce them to agro-pastoralism. It has been shown that education is key to overcoming development challenges in rural areas, and that improved access to education also improves rural children’s food security.

The power of the internet also offers a great opportunity for attracting youth in far-flung areas to agriculture. Packaging and disseminating information on agri-business to the youth through social media platforms like blogs, websites, Twitter and Facebook has proven effective in Kenya. Much more can be achieved with increased access to the internet especially in the remote parts of the country.

There is a great potential pay-off for the continent: according to the World Bank, African agriculture and agribusiness could be worth $1 trillion by 2030. Clearly, this is the low hanging fruit that Kenya should aim to invest in to solve the myriad problems associated with youth unemployment.

Agro-pastoralism has great potential to improve livelihoods for youth and women and reduce food insecurity, create incomes and generally help youth to feel engaged and involved with the national development agenda. Those promoting entrepreneurship must therefore include agribusiness as a priority area of focus, particularly at the county level.

Acting on this, President Uhuru Kenyatta during this year’s African Green Revolution Forum held in Nairobi, announced that the government would invest US$200 million to enable 150,000 young agricultural entrepreneurs to gain access to markets, finance and insurance.

With their dynamism, enthusiasm and innovativeness, the youth are our greatest asset and a force for improving the productivity and growth of all sectors in Kenya.

To reap the dividends, Kenya’s priority focus needs to be on growth in sectors that can absorb them, particularly agriculture.

Policies must also ensure that women and girls, who do most of the actual work in farms across Africa, can achieve their potential. Lack of collateral and financial literacy often make them ineligible for financial assistance while cultural norms deny them land inheritance rights and, at times, restrict their movement and access to markets for their produce.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 aims to turn the country into an industrialized, middle-income country and provide a high quality life in a safe and secure environment to all its citizens by 2030.

It is only when the current large group of youth has been given education and skills demanded by the sectors of greatest potential that we will turn the youth bulge into a force for good and transform Kenya into a peaceful and prosperous nation.

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