Inter Press ServiceGlobal – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 22 Jul 2017 20:24:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Prepare Now for the Next Financial Crisishttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/prepare-now-next-financial-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prepare-now-next-financial-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/prepare-now-next-financial-crisis/#respond Sat, 22 Jul 2017 20:24:08 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151403 Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva.

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The developing countries went through the 2008 financial crisis without much harm, because of certain conditions, which no longer exist. Credit: Bigstock

The developing countries went through the 2008 financial crisis without much harm, because of certain conditions, which no longer exist. Credit: Bigstock

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Malaysia, Jul 22 2017 (IPS)

The Asian financial crisis started 20 years ago and the global financial crisis and recession 9 years back. When a new global financial crisis strikes, the developing countries will be more damaged than in the last crisis as they have become less resilient and more vulnerable.  They thus need to prepare from being overwhelmed.

A debate is taking place as to whether the time is now ripe for a new crisis.  Most economists and commentators think not, as an economic recovery, admittedly weak, appears to be taking place in developed economies.

On the surface, the present situation seems quite good.  The US stock market continues to hit new highs, and the head of the Federal Reserve recently testified the US economy is robust and job growth is good.

There has been a rebound of foreign capital flows to emerging economies in the first half of 2017, after two years of outflows.

The G20 leaders focused on climate change, trade and disagreements with the United States in their Hamburg summit, and seemed complacent about the world’s economic condition; they didn’t worry about any looming crisis.

But below the surface calm, the waters are boiling and churning.  As Shakespeare wrote in his play Hamlet:  “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

Whether the deep-seated problems boil over shortly into full-blown crisis, or continue to fester for some time more, is hard to predict.  But the world economy is in trouble.

Amidst a weak global economy recovery, many serious risks remain, wrote  Martin Wolf, the Financial Times’ chief economics commentator, on 5 July.

“The possibly greatest danger is a collapse in global cooperation, perhaps even an outbreak of conflict,” he said.  “That would destroy the stability of the world economy on which all depend…

“We in the high-income countries allowed the financial system to destabilise our economies.  We then refused to use fiscal and monetary stimulus strongly enough to emerge swiftly from the post-crisis economic malaise.

When a new global financial crisis strikes, the developing countries will be more damaged than in the last crisis as they have become less resilient and more vulnerable. They thus need to prepare from being overwhelmed, says Martin Khor

Martin Khor

“We failed to respond to the divergences in economic fortunes of the successful and less successful.  These were huge mistakes.  Now, as economies recover, we face new challenges: to avoid blowing up the world economy, while ensuring widely shared and sustainable growth.  Alas, we seem likely to fail this set of challenges.”

The Star (Malaysia) on 12 July reported that the possibility of the US Federal Reserve raising interest rates and reducing its balance sheet of US$4.5 trillion is causing regional stock markets and currencies to fall and funds to flow out of the region.

Is this another blip that will be corrected soon, or the start of a turn of the boom-bust cycle in capital flows to and from emerging markets?

A comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the global economic situation and how it affects developing countries is given in a recent paper by the South Centre’s chief economist Yilmaz Akyuz, assisted by Vicente Yu.

The US and Europe have wrongly managed the aftermath of the 2008 crisis by policies that will have very adverse effects on most developing countries, according to the paper, “The financial crisis and the global South:  impact and prospects.”   (South Centre Research Paper 76;)

The developing countries went through the 2008 crisis without much harm, because of certain conditions, which no longer exist.

Meanwhile, these countries have recently built  up new and dangerous vulnerabilities which expose them to serious damage when the next crisis strikes.

It is thus imperative that the developing countries review their precarious situation and act to protect their economies to the extent possible to reduce the effects of the new turmoil.

It is thus imperative that the developing countries review their precarious situation and act to protect their economies to the extent possible to reduce the effects of the new turmoil.
Akyuz says the post-2018 crisis has moved in a third wave to several emerging economies after having swept from the US to Europe. A central reason is the wrong crisis response policies of the US and Europe.

“There are two major shortcomings:  the reluctance to remove the debt overhang through orderly restructuring, and fiscal orthodoxy,” adds Akyuz.

“These resulted in excessive reliance on monetary policy, with central banks going into uncharted waters including zero and negative interest rates and rapid liquidity expansion through large bond acquisitions.

“These policies not only failed to secure a rapid recovery but also aggravated the global demand gap by widening inequality and global financial fragility by producing a massive build-up of debt and speculative bubbles.  They have also generated strong deflationary and destabilising spillovers for developing economies.”

When a new crisis comes, developing countries will be harder hit than in 2008.  Their resilience to external shocks is now weak, due to three factors.

First, many developing economies deepened their integration into the international financial system, resulting in new vulnerabilities and high exposure to external shocks.

Their corporations built up massive debt since the crisis, reaching US$25 trillion (95% of their GDP);  and dollar-denominated debt securities issued by emerging economies jumped from $500 billion in 2008  to $1.25 trillion in 2016, carrying interest rate and currency risks.

Moreover, foreign presence in local financial markets reached unprecedented levels, increasing their susceptibility to global financial boom-bust cycles.

Second, the current account balance and net foreign asset positions of many developing countries have significantly deteriorated since the crisis.  In most countries, foreign reserves built up recently came from capital inflows rather than trade surpluses.  They are inadequate to meet large and sustained capital outflows.

Third, the countries now have limited economic policy options to respond to adverse developments from abroad.  Their “fiscal space” for counter-cyclical policy response to deflationary shocks is much more limited than in 2009;  they have significantly lost monetary policy autonomy and lost control over interest  rates due to their deepened global financial integration; and flexibile exchange rate regimes are no panacea in the face of financial shocks.

“Most developing economies are in a tenuous position similar to the 1970s and 1980s when the booms in capital flows and commodity prices ended with a debt crisis as a result of a sharp turnaround in US monetary policy, costing them a decade in development,”  warns Akyuz.

It would be hard for some of them to avoid international liquidity or even debt crises and loss of growth in the event of severe financial and trade shocks.

Unfortunately, the South has not been effective in reflecting on these problems nor in taking collective action.

Global reforms are required to prevent the major countries from transmitting the effects of their wrong policies to developing countries; and global mechanisms are needed to prevent and manage financial crises.

There have been many proposals for reform in the past but hardly any action taken due to opposition from developed countries.

“Now the stakes are too high for developing countries to leave the organisation of the global economy to one or two major economic powers and the multilateral institutions they control,” concludes Akyuz.

If his wide-ranging analysis is correct, then the crisis that started in 2008 will enter more dangerous territory due to new factors fanning the flames.

The underlying  causes are known, but what is yet unknown is the specific event that will trigger and ignite a new phase of the crisis, and when that will happen.

When the new crisis takes place, developing countries will in a less fortunate position to ride through it compared to 2008, so there is ever less reason for complacency.

Each country should analyse its own strong and weak spots, its vulnerabilities to external shocks, and prepare actions now to mitigate the crisis in advance, rather than wait for it to happen and overwhelm its economy.

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Lawmakers in Europe Want the UN to Debate a Parliamentary Assembly. When Will Governments Follow?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/lawmakers-europe-want-un-debate-parliamentary-assembly-will-governments-follow/#respond Thu, 20 Jul 2017 16:35:06 +0000 Andreas Bummel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151380 Andreas Bummel is Director of Democracy Without Borders and Coordinator of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

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Andreas Bummel is Director of Democracy Without Borders and Coordinator of the Campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly

By Andreas Bummel
BERLIN, Jul 20 2017 (IPS)

Earlier this month, the European Parliament adopted its annual recommendations on the European Union’s policy at the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly that begins in September.

Cedit: UN Photo

The document pointed out that the EU “should play a proactive part in building a United Nations that can contribute effectively to global solutions, peace and security, human rights, development, democracy and a rule-of-law-based international order.”

Among other things, the European Parliament called on EU governments to foster a debate “on the topic of establishing a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly with a view to increasing the democratic profile and internal democratic process of the organisation and to allow world civil society to be directly associated in the decision-making process.”

For more than twenty years the European Parliament has been pushing for a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA). Six years ago it called on EU governments to promote its establishment.

The Council’s working group on the UN had a brief internal discussion at the time and concluded that the creation of a UNPA would imply a modification of the UN’s Charter which was considered unrealistic. It was also said that it would be a paradox for the UN to establish a UNPA since there are member states that do not have a democratically elected parliament. Finally, the point was made that a UNPA would entail high costs that the UN and governments would be unable to bear.

The Council did not engage with the parliament or anyone else pertaining these and other arguments. Its consideration of the issue was superficial. Ironically, it is easier for the UN to create a UNPA than to add just one single seat to the UN Security Council. Other than the Council seemed to believe, while the latter indeed requires an amendment of the Charter, the former clearly does not.

A UNPA can be created according to Article 22 which allows the General Assembly to establish subsidiary bodies as it deems necessary to fulfill its work. A UNPA could be seen as part of the assembly’s “revitalization”, a topic that has been pursued for long but did not yield much results so far.

Each year, Freedom House in Washington D.C. publishes its assessment of democracy in the world and today nearly two thirds of UN member states are considered to be “electoral democracies”. The foundation warns, however, that democracy is increasingly under threat by populist and nationalistic forces as well as authoritarian powers.

Proponents of a UNPA keep pointing out that giving parliamentarians a voice at the UN would help strengthening democracy especially in countries where it is still weak and under pressure. Opposition politicians certainly would benefit from a seat in a UNPA and the international exposure that would go along with it.

After all, it has been a key argument that if the UN’s promotion of democracy is to be credible, the world organization itself needs to democratize as well. The establishment of a UNPA could also be understood as a response to Sustainable Development Goal 16. SDG 16 targets include the development of “effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels” and ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels.” Why should the UN, of all things, be excluded from this?

A UN parliamentary body could be a useful complement to the High-Level Political Forum on sustainable development in order to review the implementation of the SDGs.

At the beginning, a UNPA need not be a monumental investment. It depends on the specifics. So far, neither the Council of the EU or anyone else has come up with a thorough calculation. How can you argue that the costs would be too high if you never calculated them in the first place?

Under US President Donald Trump multilateralism and UN funding are under threat. This should be a wake-up call. To a large degree, a UNPA would be educational. It would bring the UN closer to lawmakers in the capitals and could help strengthen budgetary support of UN member states. In the long run, strengthening the UN’s democratic profile could turn out to be a good investment.

When she was an Italian deputy, the EU’s High Representative on Foreign Affairs, Federica Mogherini, endorsed a UNPA and last year she confirmed that she still believes that it “could be a very useful tool.”

For a long time, EU governments have been ignoring the European Parliament’s endorsement of a UNPA. Will it be different this time?

Although a debate on this topic is not unrealistic, it is premature to expect that there will be a formal push in the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly. Most UN member states, including those from the EU, never looked into the concept of a UNPA in a serious way and will have to do their homework first.

Support like it was expressed by Malta’s foreign minister George Vella, who was succeeded last month, or by the cabinet of Italy’s foreign minister Paolo Gentiloni, who is now Italy’s Prime Minister, was the exception.

In May an informal meeting in New York hosted by the Canadian UN mission in collaboration with the international Campaign for a UNPA brought together representatives of 12 governments for a briefing on the proposal. This was a sign of growing interest.

More such informal meetings seem to be the most likely way forward for the time being. In the process, several EU governments – and other UN member states – may declare their support in one way or another which eventually could bring it on the EU’s and the UN’s agenda.

In particular, it will be interesting to see what position the new French government under President Emmanuel Macron will take.

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WHO Urges Govt’s to Raise Taxes on Tobaccohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/urges-govts-raise-taxes-tobacco/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 21:27:30 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151369 Seven million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation today. Stressing the urgent need to curb deaths from smoking, Dr. Vinayak Prasad, the head of WHO’s tobacco control programme, told IPS that “countries have to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies at the best-level.” […]

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Credit: IPS

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

Seven million people die each year from tobacco-related deaths, according to a new report published by the World Health Organisation today.

Stressing the urgent need to curb deaths from smoking, Dr. Vinayak Prasad, the head of WHO’s tobacco control programme, told IPS that “countries have to monitor tobacco use and prevention policies at the best-level.”

He mentioned the adoption of core policies, called MPOWER, to monitor and protect people from tobacco smoke. At the highest level of implementation of these policies, countries will have eliminated tobacco-related deaths.

“The focus of the report is to monitor effective implementation of policies. The trend is good, but there’s room for vast improvement. Many countries are helping people to quit by putting out larger warning labels, but there’s no stringent action by measures of raising tax, for example,” said Dr. Prasad.

Still, there is good news—almost 71 countries have two or more of MPOWER policies in place, protecting a total of 3.2 billion people worldwide. In 2007, only 42 countries had some policy in place.

Every country, of course, follows a mix of different measures.

In terms of the newer countries on board, Afghanistan and Cambodia have adopted smoke-free laws in indoor public places and workplaces. Other countries have expanded existing measures—Nepal and Bangladesh passed laws at the national level for larger warning labels clearly demonstrating the harmful effects of smoking.

Still others, like Austria and Malta, have adopted the surest but politically most charged approach to combat the epidemic—raising taxes.

“The important issue is to support the benefit of raising taxes—it’ll bring down both demand and generate resources. In Philippines—which raised taxes in 2012—two things happened. The country generated extra revenue by as much as 5 billion dollars, and the use of tobacco declined. More governments have to understand this,” said Dr. Prasad.

The importance of raising taxes so that governments are able to spend that extra money on healthcare is a crucial and proven linkage, but has faltered after enormous pressure from powerful tobacco lobbyists to maintain the status quo.

“The countries which have shown progress are moving in the right direction. There needs to be greater political will because we have the evidence and the knowledge to back it up. We need to understand that the tobacco industry is not our friend,” Dr. Prasad explained.

Similarly, adoption of other effective measures like a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising and promotion also ranks low among countries. Mainly low and middle income countries, like Afghanistan and Senegal, among five others, have implemented the policy.

Combating a tobacco epidemic does not rest on curbing sale of cigarettes alone. Tobacco can be consumed in several other ways, such as its widespread consumption as khaini and bidis in India.

“Of the 300 million smokers in India, 72 million smoke bidis. The majority of the population consume khaini,” explained Dr. Prasad on the multifaceted tasks of fighting the tobacco industry.

The report was launched on the sidelines of the UN high-level political forum on sustainable development. Controlling tobacco is a key part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs).

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In the New World Order, Asia Is Rising, Says Pakistan’s UN Envoyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/new-world-order-asia-rising-says-pakistans-un-envoy/#respond Wed, 19 Jul 2017 18:44:56 +0000 Barbara Crossette http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151363 When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United […]

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Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN, presiding over a General Assembly session, May 5, 2017. In an interview, Lodhi said the UN imbued nations with a “spirit of cooperation.” Credit: UN/Photo

By Barbara Crossette
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2017 (IPS)

When Maleeha Lodhi arrived at the United Nations in 2015 as Pakistan’s ambassador, she brought with her a broad background in academia, journalism and diplomacy: a Ph.D. in political science from the London School of Economics, where she later taught political sociology; the first woman to edit major newspapers in Pakistan; ambassador to the United States twice and once as Pakistan’s high commissioner in London.

In a sense, that background is all coming together at the UN.

While Lodhi’s diplomatic priority must be putting Pakistan’s interests first, she said in an interview in her office at the Pakistani UN mission on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, she also finds time to focus on global perspectives, which makes the UN a great assignment.

From her base in New York, Lodhi stays actively involved in a number of international think tanks, including the Institute of Strategic Studies and the Middle East Center at the LSE, both in London. She is also a member of the UN Disarmament Commission and the global agenda council of the World Economic Forum.

In the interview, Lodhi ranged over Pakistan’s reputation in the UN arena, the increasing role of China in development across Asia, the rise of Islamophobia and the sad state of Western responses to an unprecedented world refugee crisis.

Although Pakistan’s national priorities remain predominant — Lodhi mentioned counterterrorism, sustainable economic development, relations with India and the decades-long impasse over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir — the UN has another 192 nations with their own interests. The rapid, spontaneous evolution of a new world order means every nation needs friends to meet the challenges.

“When you come to the UN, you see the priorities of other nations, and the dynamics at play, and the crises that are occurring,” she said. “The best thing about [the UN] is that it encourages a spirit of cooperation, and I think that’s extremely essential in the challenging times that we live in. The United Nations is about negotiating as part of a bloc of countries. No country here negotiates on its own for obvious reasons, because you need the support of other countries.”

The UN displays global changes in sharp relief, Lodhi suggested, and the West must recognize that these developments beg for a rethinking of old assumptions about international power structures.

“At a time when we see the rise of Asia — and this being described as Asia’s century — the West needs to go back to the drawing board and revisit the very notion of an international community,” she said.

Maleeha Lodhi was born into a well-to-do family in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, and the center of the country’s cultural traditions and base for its most prominent human-rights activists and groups. That includes the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a nongovernmental group.

She has credited her career partly to her parents’ emphasis on education. But her personality came into play early. She is known to be tough but gracious, meticulous in her scholarship while outspoken in promoting Pakistan. An Indian commentator suggested that Lodhi may have been sent to the UN to keep India from getting a permanent Security Council seat, though the Council is a long way from reform and expansion.

Decades ago, Lodhi became a good friend and adviser to Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan’s first female prime minister, who first appointed her ambassador to the United States in 1993-1996. She served as ambassador to the US again, from 1999 to 2002, under the military government of President Pervez Musharraf.

Her years in Washington, and later in fellowships at Harvard and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, would have demonstrated to anyone that Pakistan had serious critics across the US government and research organizations.

Under Abdul Qadeer Khan, who headed Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, Pakistan was found to have shared the technology he acquired while studying and working in Europe (or help given to him by China) with North Korea, Libya and Iran. He was arrested in Pakistan in 2004 for his black-market operations but pardoned almost immediately by General Musharraf and placed under house arrest until 2009.

Asked if Pakistan’s however-notorious past relations with North Korea and China, which is the country’s biggest development aid donor, had led to any outside requests for Pakistani information on the North Korean nuclear program or suggestions that Pakistani experts might be tapped to give advice with China on the current nuclear crisis with the Kim Jong Un regime, Lodhi said no.

Pakistan is often portrayed as an oppressive Islamic society, harsh on women and minorities, a record that is increasingly shared by neighboring India. The Pakistani government and intelligence services have also been accused of having created the Taliban, though little is said or remembered of Islamabad’s earlier hosting — with full US support — of the disparate armies of the Afghan mujahedeen, who took power after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The remnants of these warlord-led militias in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance continue to create political havoc in Kabul.

The attitude toward Pakistan is much more positive at the UN, Lodhi said.

“Contrary to the impression given by the negative media [particularly in the US], at the United Nations you’ll find the total antithesis. If you look at Pakistan’s position within this international community, it is one of enormous respect,” she said. She noted that the country has played a key role at the UN “on all three pillars: peace and security, human rights/humanitarian action and development.”

“We have consistently remained among the top three troop contributors to UN peacekeeping,” she said. “This has been the case since 1960 onwards.” Lodhi added that much of the current deployment of Pakistani soldiers is in Africa, “where they are needed most.”

On the humanitarian front, Lodhi points to Pakistan’s record on refugee assistance.

“We’ve always pointed out that the Western countries need to show a bigger heart,” she said. “They have a big wallet, but they need to match that wallet with a bigger heart. We didn’t have much of a wallet in Pakistan, but we continue to host over two million Afghan refugees. At the peak, we had more than three million. We continue to do that, and we’ve done that for 35 years.”

Pakistan, the world’s second-most-populous Muslim majority nation after Indonesia, plays a key role in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, and its voting bloc at the UN, Lodhi said. Among the concerns of Muslims, she said, are the unfulfilled resolutions on Kashmir, still a disputed territory between Pakistan and India; and on Palestine.

“There’s such a similarity between the cases of Palestine and Kashmir, both involving Muslim nations, both involving big power politics that stood in the way and continue to stand in the way of implementation of those resolutions.”

As a Muslim, Lodhi sees Islamophobia and xenophobia as “new forms of racial discrimination,” she said. “This is the contemporary expression of effort to discriminate against people of a certain faith who also happen to be people of a certain color. Here, also, Pakistan has been active at the United Nations, raising the issue.”

China looms large in the ambassador’s perception of the most significant global changes happening on the horizon, starting with the shifting relationship between Islamabad and Beijing.

“Traditionally, it was a defense and strategic dimension that was dominant in the relationship,” Lodhi said. “Now that relationship has morphed into a much more wide-based relationship. The defense-strategic relationship is there, but in addition, there is a very strong — I would say, much stronger — economic and investment orientation because Pakistan is the pivot of China’s One Belt, One Road. We hope to be the beneficiary in a mutually advantageous way.”

The Chinese initiative was announced in 2013 by President Xi Jinping. It is a breathtakingly ambitious program involving road, rail and sea links connecting traders and investors across Central Asia, parts of South and Southeast Asia, two seas — the South China Sea and Indian Ocean –and, ultimately, Europe.

The Chinese, who never think small or pay a lot of attention to critics, have wowed Pakistan, a longtime ally that sees itself as part of “the biggest economic initiative of the 21st century by any nation,” Lodhi said. “People still invoke the Marshall Plan as having in a way created a new paradigm and shifted a whole set of circumstances at that time. But this is gigantic by comparison. It’s not about aid and assistance. It’s about investment. It’s about trade. It’s about energy cooperation.

This has the potential of transforming all of Asia — certainly the 60 countries that are participating, thrusting them into a new era of prosperity and mutual cooperation.”

(*Brought to IPS readers courtesy of PassBlue, online independent coverage of the UN, a project of the Ralph Bunche Institute, City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center)

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Halting Sexual Exploitation of Children in Tourism, Mission Impossiblehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/halting-sexual-exploitation-children-tourism-mission-impossible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=halting-sexual-exploitation-children-tourism-mission-impossible http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/halting-sexual-exploitation-children-tourism-mission-impossible/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 14:44:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151347 While the business sector jumps for joy as the number of tourists grew in 2016 for the seventh consecutive year to reach 1.2 billion, and as the first four months of 2017 have registered 6 per cent increase, the sheer speed, abetted by technology, of an atrocious crime—the sexual exploitation of children in tourism, has, […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 18 2017 (IPS)

While the business sector jumps for joy as the number of tourists grew in 2016 for the seventh consecutive year to reach 1.2 billion, and as the first four months of 2017 have registered 6 per cent increase, the sheer speed, abetted by technology, of an atrocious crime—the sexual exploitation of children in tourism, has, to date, out-paced all attempts to put an end to it.

In fact, failure of collective action and a chronic lack of robust data constitute the main challenges to eliminate this crime, underlines the Global Study “Offenders on the Move,” which is the largest pool of information on the issue to date.


Source: International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017

In spite of such widely recognised failure, further attempts gave lastly been deployed to halt this crime–a group of specialised experts on July 17 gathered in Madrid at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) headquarters, to discuss measures the fight against child sexual exploitation in the tourism sector. “Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism has a child’s face. No country is untouched by this phenomenon and no child is immune.”

“We cannot build the responsible and sustainable tourism sector that we seek without protecting the most vulnerable in our societies. To do so we need effective tools and a global commitment,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

“Article 2 of UNWTO’s Global Code of Ethics for Tourism underlines that the exploitation of human beings in any form, especially when applied to children, conflicts with the fundamental aims of tourism and is the negation of tourism”, Taleb Rifai recalled.

The world organisation is progressing with transforming the Code into a legally binding international treaty, the UNWTO Draft Framework Convention on Tourism Ethics, which we hope will be approved by our General Assembly next September, he added.

The Madrid meeting initiative has been coordinated by the Bangkok-based End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT), a network of 95 civil society organisations in 86 countries with one common mission: to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children, with the support of the government of The Netherlands.

UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai

‘Sexual Exploitation in Tourism Has a Child Face’

The fight against Child Exploitation in tourism is one of the priorities of UNWTO who has been leading since 20 years the World Tourism Network on Child Protection, formerly the Task Force for the Protection of Children in Tourism.

Najat Maalla M’jid, Chair of this Task force, which guided the development of the Global Study, set the scene for Madrid the meeting by stridently declaring, “Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism has a child’s face. No country is untouched by this phenomenon and no child is immune.”

In this International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, let us place children’s right to protection from violence and exploitation at the heart of our actions, she added.

For his part, the Special Rapporteur on child trafficking and sexual exploitation, Maud de Boer Buquicchio called for “child protection to be placed at the core of tourism development strategies.”

The rise of the Internet and informal operators as well as greater access to international travel have expanded ‘demand’ and heightened the dangers for children. At the same time, grinding poverty and lack of education – combined with the continued neglect of child protection systems – have fuelled the ‘supply’ of children.

INTERPOL at Work

One of the initiatives conducted globally has been represented by the tools implemented by INTERPOL aimed at reducing the possibilities for known sex offenders travelling unnoticed internationally.

Peter van Dalen, from Interpol’s Organized & Emerging Crime Directorate, said, “Anonymity protects traveling sex offenders, and INTERPOL is working with countries to deprive known sex offenders’ of their anonymity, through mechanisms such as an international warning system sharing information across borders about convicted sex offenders, as well as an international vetting system for job applicants applying to working with children.

Credit: UNWTO

A unique feature of this process has been the strong engagement with the private sector, motivated by the need to ‘get ahead’ of practices that can seriously affect their reputation and their bottom line, according to UNWTO.

“The recently reported examples from the US involving flight attendants intervening when they noticed unusual situations involving children travelling with adults underscore the fact that no country is immune to the issue – and furthermore, that investments by the travel and tourism industry in training staff and access to reporting systems can pay dividends.”

The challenge remains to expand coordinated action to implement the recommendations of Global Study.

Poor Countries Encouraged to Promote Tourism

Meanwhile, world bodies have been lastly encouraging developing countries, in particular in Africa and the poorest nations worldwide, to promote tourism as a powerful economic engine.

Just four days ahead of the Madrid expert meeting on sexual exploitation of children in tourism, the UNWTO reported that tourism “can make a strong contribution to the economies of Least Developed Countries where the sector is a major exporter concludes the report Tourism for Sustainable Development in Least Developed Countries (LDCs).’

Launched on 13 July on the occasion of the Aid for Trade Review held in Geneva, the report has been produced by UNWTO, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF).

Tourism represents 7 per cent of all international trade and is of increasing relevance to the trade community, according to the report. It is part of services trade, accounting for 30 per cent of the world’s trade in services. This is particularly true for the LDCs, where it represents 7 per cent of total exports of goods and services, a figure that stands at 10 per cent for non-oil LDC exporters.

In view of the above, and as shown in the report, tourism has been recognised as a key sector for trade-related technical assistance in LDCs. Forty-five out of 48 Diagnostic Trade Integration Studies analysed for the report feature tourism as a key sector for development, according to the study.

“Yet, despite tourism’s value in the trade agenda, it is often difficult to direct trade-related technical assistance towards the sector because tourism and trade tend to fall under different line ministries. Successful interventions in tourism require strong collaboration across government agencies as well as across different actors at the regional or local level.”

The report aims to increase the commitment and investment in coordination and raise tourism’s prominence in trade-related technical assistance as to ensure the sector delivers on its powerful capacity to create jobs and incomes where they are most needed and for those who are most vulnerable – including youth and women.

The report has been launched to coincide with the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development 2017.

In the context of the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the International Year aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute to all the 17 SDGs.

Goal 17 sets as one of the targets a “significant increase of exports of developing countries, in particular with a view to doubling the least developed countries’ share of global exports by 2020”, to which tourism as service export can contribute.

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Don’t Move Resources from Development to Security, Warns UN Chiefhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/dont-move-resources-development-security-warns-un-chief/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dont-move-resources-development-security-warns-un-chief http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/dont-move-resources-development-security-warns-un-chief/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 21:02:39 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151339 António Guterres, UN Secretary-General at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

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António Guterres, UN Secretary-General at the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Twenty years ago, when I was starting my functions as Prime Minister of Portugal, the world was surfing a wave of optimism. The Cold War had ended, technological prosperity was in full swing, the internet was spreading and there was the idea that globalisation would not only increase global wealth, but that it would trickle down and would benefit everybody in our planet.

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General. Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Twenty years afterwards, I would say that the picture is mixed. It’s true that globalisation, technological progress have dramatically increased global trade, global wealth, it is true that the number of absolute poor has been reduced and that living conditions have improved all over the world but it is also true that globalisation and technological progress together have been factors of increase of inequality. Eight persons in the world have as much wealth as half of the world population.

At the same time, it is clear that people were left behind in the rust belts of this world, and youth unemployment became a severe problem in different regions of our planet not only undermining the future of those young people but also being an obstacle to the development of their countries and in some situations being a part of the global threat created by the fact that without hope they can easily be recruited by extremist organisations and we see that impact in global terrorism today.

Now it is true that that has generated a loss of confidence, loss of trust between peoples and government or political establishments, between people and international organisations like the UN, and between people and the idea of globalisation in itself, of global governance, and of multilateral institutions.

I think it is important to recognise that there is a paradox because problems are more and more global, challenges are more and more global, there is no way any country can solve them by itself, and so we need global answers and we need multilateral governance forms, and we need to be able to overcome this deficit of trust, and that in my opinion is the enormous potential of the Agenda 2030; because the Agenda 2030 is an agenda aiming at a fair globalisation, it’s an agenda aiming at not leaving anyone behind, eradicating poverty and creating conditions for people to trust again in not only political systems but also in multilateral forms of governance and in international organisations like the UN.

At the same time, it’s clear that when one looks at today’s economy, the global economies are improving, probably more slowly than we would like, but the areas of fragility are also increasing – political fragility, institutional fragility, but also development fragility, and societal fragility; and fragilities to a large extent are responsible for many of the conflicts today and for the spreading of those conflicts and the linking of those conflicts to the global threat of global terrorism.

And this is why it is true that the agendas of sustainable development and the agendas of preventing [conflict] and sustaining peace need to be linked. But here there is a caveat – that link should not be a pretext to move resources from development to security.

On the contrary, that should make us understand the centrality of development in what we do and the need to make sure that with that centrality of development we are able to fully recognise that sustainable and inclusive development is in itself a major factor of prevention of conflict as it is a major factor for the prevention of natural disasters and other aspects in which the resilience of societies is so important today.

And indeed if one looks at the global megatrends – population growth, climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, chaotic urbanization in certain parts of the world – it is also true that all these megatrends are interacting with each other, are stressing each other. And we have to recognise that climate change became the main accelerator of all other factors.

This is also the moment to clearly say that the link to the Agenda 2030 of sustainable development, there must be a very strong reaffirmation of our commitment to the Paris Agreement and to its implementation with an enhanced ambition because the Paris Agreement by itself is not enough for the objectives that the world needs in relation to global warming. And this is something that I believe is very important not only because of its absolute need for mankind and the future of the planet but because it is also the right and smart thing to do.

We are seeing that the green economy is becoming more and more the economy of the future, that green business is good business and those that will not bet on green economy, on green technologies, will inevitably lose or not gain economic leadership in the years to come.

At the same time it is very important that we recognise that we need not only to be able to respond to the problems of those that are living in societies and that are under government responsibility but that human rights are also the rights of the people on the move, refugees and migrants, and so leaving no one behind will also have to inspire us to find the ways to look into migration with a different perspective, not with a perspective of rejection but understanding that is also an important component in solving global problems and that we need to find more legal avenues of migration and more ways to respect the human rights of migrants to make sure that they are not left behind in today’s world.

We know that the global megatrends are also making more and more people move in our world to prevent unnecessary movements, and to make sure that those movements that take place, take place in a regular way is another very important objective of not leaving anyone behind.

And then there is a central question of funding. And I think it is important to reaffirm today very clearly that developed countries need to abide by their commitments in relation to official development aid, but that at the same time that this is not enough to fund the implementation of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

We need to create conditions to help States be able to mobilise more their own resources and that has to do, on one hand, with tax reforms within states but also on mobilising the international community to fight together tax evasion, money laundering, and illicit flows of capital that are today making that more money is coming out of developing countries that the money that goes in through official development assistance.

And at the same time we need to make sure that the international financial institutions are able to leverage resources and to multiply their capacity to fund the implementation of the SDGs and also that we help countries to be able to access global markets, financial markets, and to be able to attract private investment without which it would be absolutely impossible to achieve these goals. And let’s also not only think about the problems of today, but also the problems of tomorrow.

We are facing a fourth industrial revolution, that will have a dramatic] impact in labour markets. And this will be a problem for many developing countries that today rely on cheap manpower as their competitive advantage; and cheap manpower will probably see many jobs destroyed in the near future with robotisation, and other forms of automation.

And at the same time a problem for many developed countries – look at the possibility that one day in a country like the US no more drivers might be necessary, no more drivers for cars, for trucks, and that is probably a very important source of employment in all societies in the world.

We need to be able to anticipate these trends, we need to be able to work together countries, international organisations, not to be reacting, but to be foreseeing what is coming and investing in education, in training, in new skills, in the adaptations of the labour markets to be able to cope with the challenges of the future. And for all that we also need to be able to reform, reform at country level, reform at the UN level and other organisations level.

Countries will look in different ways depending on different situations, on a country by country basis, into their governance mechanisms, into the way they are able to guarantee the participation of citizens, of businesses and of the civil society in development objectives. In the ways they are able to fight corruption, or to guarantee not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights.

And as in the UN we need to be able to understand that even if the UN development system has produced many important contributions namely in the context of the implementation of the [SDGs], we are not fully ready for the new challenges of the present agenda 2030. That is why I presented to ECOSOC a first report on the reform of the UN development system. I will not be repeating here the 38 measures that are included in this first report but just say that there are a few central areas of concern.

First, the idea that we need to have at country level empowered resident coordinators and more effective country teams, more coordinated and more able to deliver support to the governments according to the government strategies – because governments and countries are the leaders of the implementation of the agenda – and to be more accountable to those governments at country level.

At the same time, to have this level of coordination, transparency, accountability at global level, being in this case accountable to ECOSOC and to the General Assembly of the UN and to consider that gender parity in the UN must also be an instrument in order to support gender mainstreaming, in the application of all policies that relate to the Agenda 2030 and to its objectives from the eradication of poverty to all the different areas, in the different sectors in which we need to be effective.

And finally that funding needs to be in line with the objectives of coherence and the objectives of accountability that I have mentioned and that is why we have the idea to propose a funding compact to guarantee exactly that coherence instead of the dispersion of funding in line that are not taking into account the objectives that in each country, each government is able to put in place to achieve the sustainable development goals.

And I think that looking at this Assembly, one can only be enthusiastic about the fact that there is a very strong commitment not only to the implementation of the agenda but a very strong affirmation of support to multilateral governance as the way to lead the 2030 Agenda respecting the leadership of member states but recognising that only working together we can rebuild the trust that is needed and we can make the Agenda 2030 that factor that brings the fair globalisation the world needs in the present times.

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Not Just Numbers: Migrants Tell Their Storieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/not-just-numbers-migrants-tell-stories/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 09:52:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151317 Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures. […]

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By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 17 2017 (IPS)

Every single day, print and online media and TV broadcasters show images and footage of migrants and refugees adrift, salvage teams rescuing their corpses–alive or dead, from fragile boats that are often deliberately sunk by human traffickers near the coasts of a given country. Their dramas are counted –and told– quasi exclusively in cold figures.

Every now and then a reporter talks to a couple of them or interviews some of the tens of humanitarian organisations and groups, mostly to get information about their life conditions in the numerous so called “reception centres” that are often considered rather as “detention centres” installed on both shores of the Mediterranean sea.

How to participate in IOM “i am a migrant” campaign


Answer a few questions:
- Country of origin/ current country/occupation,
- At what age did you leave your country and why (and where did you go to)?
- What was your first impression?
- What do you miss from your country?
- What do you think you bring to the country you're living in?
- What do you want to do/what do you actually do for your country of origin? (Example) What's your greatest challenge right now?
- Do you have a piece of advice you'd like to give to the people back in your country?
- And to those living in your host country?
- Where is home for you?
- Share a high-resolution picture of yourself

SOURCE: IOM

It is a fact that their numbers are shocking: 101,417 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 9 July, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported. Of this total, 2,353 died.

Beyond the figures, migrants and refugees live inhumane drama, are victims of rights abuse, discrimination, xenophobia and hatred–often encouraged by some politicians. Let alone that tragic realty that they fall easy pry to human traffickers who handle them as mere merchandise. See: African Migrants Bought and Sold Openly in ‘Slave Markets’ in Libya..

On top of that, another UN organisation—the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that the Central Mediterranean from North Africa to Europe is among the world’s deadliest and most dangerous migrant routes for children and women.

“The route is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life,” it reports. See: A Grisly Tale of Children Falling Easy Prey to Ruthless Smugglers.

On this, Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director and Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe, said that this route “is mostly controlled by smugglers, traffickers and other people seeking to prey upon desperate children and women who are simply seeking refuge or a better life.”

Moreover, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has estimated that 7 of 10 victims of human traffickers are women and children.

True that statistics help evaluate the magnitude of such an inhumane drama. But, is this enough?

1,200 Migrants Tell Their Dreams and Realities

2,716 kms from home. “I’ll probably go back to Senegal to use what I have learnt here (Niger) to contribute to my country’s development and to Africa as a whole” – Fatou. Read her story. Credit: IOM/Amanda Nero

In a singular initiative, IOM launched “i am a migrant” – a platform to promote diversity and inclusion of migrants in society.

3,385 kms from home. “Before, they used to ask how I came here. Now they ask migrants why they came” – Jasmine. Occupation: Law-maker. Current Country: Republic of Korea. Country of Origin: Philippines. Read her story. Credit: IOM

It’s specifically designed to support volunteer groups, local authorities, companies, associations, groups, indeed, anyone of goodwill who is concerned about the hostile public discourse against migrants, says IOM.

i am a migrant” allows the voices of individuals to shine through and provides an honest insight into the triumphs and tribulations of migrants of all backgrounds and at all phases of their migratory journeys.”

“While we aim to promote positive perceptions of migrants we do not shy away from presenting life as it is experienced. We seek to combat xenophobia and discrimination at a time when so many are exposed to negative narratives about migration – whether on our social media feeds or on the airwaves.”

The IOM campaign uses the testimonials of migrants to connect people with the human stories of migration. Thus far, it has seen 1,200 profiles published. The anecdotes and memories shared on the platform help us understand what words such as “integration”, “multiculturalism” and “diversity” truly mean.

Through stories collected by IOM teams around the world, “diversity finally finds a human face.” While inviting migrants to share their stories with its teams, IOM informs that “i am a migrant” is part of the UN TOGETHER initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone who has left home in search of a better life.

Read their stories here.

From the Ashes of World War II

IOM is among the world’s most experienced international agencies dealing with migrants. No wonder– it rose from the ashes of World War Two over 65 years ago.

“In the battle-scarred continent of Europe, no government alone could help survivors who wanted no more than an opportunity to resume their lives in freedom and with dignity. The first incarnation of IOM was created to resettle refugees during this post-war period,” it reminds.

The agency’s history tracks the man-made and natural disasters of the past over 65 years – Hungary 1956; Czechoslovakia 1968; Chile 1973; the Viet Nam boat people 1975; Kuwait 1990, Kosovo and Timor 1999; the 2003 invasion of Iraq; the 2004 Asian tsunami, the 2005 Pakistan earthquake and Haiti’s 2010 earthquake.

Now under the United Nations umbrella as part of its system since 2016, IOM quickly grew from a focus on migrant and refugee resettlement to become the world’s leading inter-governmental organisation dedicated to the well-being, safety and engagement of migrants.

Over the years, IOM has grown into 166 member states. Its global presence has expanded to over 400 field locations. With over 90 per cent of its staff deployed in the field, it has become a lead responder to the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.

Shall these facts –and the stories migrants tell—help awaken the consciousness of those European politicians who ignore the fact that their peoples were once migrants and refugees as a consequences of wars their predecessors provoked? And that the migration agency was born for them?

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The Arab Youth Bulge and the Parliamentarianshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/arab-youth-bulge-parliamentarians/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 16:26:37 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151300 More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women. These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and […]

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The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students from Al-Amal Preparatory School for Girls in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, participate in psychosocial support activities. Credit: © 2016 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Sarraj

By IPS World Desk
ROME/AMMAN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than ever before, the Arab region now registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges such as extremely high unemployment rates –more than half of all regional jobless population–, and inadequate education and health provision, in particular among young women.

These challenges come amidst increasing population pressures, advancing drought and desertification, and alarming growing water scarcity, all worsening as a consequence of climate change.

One of the main consequences is an increasing social unrest like the one that led to so the so-called Arab Spring in 2011. Let alone massive migration–now it is estimated that 25 to 35 per cent of Arab youth appear to be determined to migrate. (See: What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?).

What to Do?

More than 100 Arab and Asian legislators are set to focus on these and other related challenges in Amman, Jordan, during the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development (18-20 July 2017).

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), which is the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), participants have been selected based on their needs for capacity enhancement and priority policy interventions where knowledge-sharing can be most effective.

According to APDA, over the past decades, while the Arab region has shown remarkable socio-economic improvement including education and health, it has faced profound changes and challenges. Among them is the “youth bulge,” which describes the increasing proportion of youth in relative to other age groups.

The Arab region registers an unprecedented youth population growth while facing huge challenges, such as high unemployment and inadequate education

Students at the Jalazone Basic School watch a performance by ‘Clowns 4 Care’. Credit: © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Riham Jafary

Such increase, together with overall Arab population pressures, has resulted in an unprecedented youth population growth in the region’s history, it adds.

One of the most challenging issues facing young Arabs are the high-unemployment rates. “The region has one of the highest regional youth unemployment rate seen anywhere in the world,” it warns, adding that in 2009, more than 20 per cent of Arab youth were unable to find a job, which constituted more than half of the total unemployment.

Such high youth unemployment, combined with a demographic youth bulge, provoked the Arab Spring, a civil uprising mainly by Arab youths, and regional instability, according to APDA.

Moreover, despite overall progress in the health sector in many Arab countries over the past years, Arab youth still suffer from inadequate health provision and poor access to health facilities, lack of access to health information and services, especially for reproductive health.

“This is especially true for young women, youth in rural areas, and youth with disabilities and putting many in a vulnerable situation. “

The Youth Bulge

Organised under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs”, the Amman meeting aims at enhancing the roles of parliamentarians in enacting legislation to formulate policies and mobilize budget that takes population issues into account is a driver to promote socio-economic development.

In fact, legislators have a significant part to play in linking demographic dimensions with sustainable development and turning them into advantages to produce socio-economic outcomes.

“For instance, the youth bulge presents not only development challenges but also opportunities, if appropriate policies are adopted to invest in the youth and reap the full potential of them. “

The Amman event will be followed by one in India on mid-September, and another one in the Republic of Korea towards the end of October 2017.

The Asian Population and Development Association has supported activities of parliamentarians tackling population and development issues for 35 years.

This time, in close consultation with Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development and its Secretariat in Amman, Jordan, the event is intended to highlight and call attention of Asian and Arab parliamentarians to population perspectives in the 2030 Agenda.

As well, it will focus on parliamentarians’ important roles and tasks in addressing population issues aligned with the new goals and targets, and related policies and programmes that advance social inclusion and population stability in the region.

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Reforming the International Financial Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/reforming-international-financial-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reforming-international-financial-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/reforming-international-financial-system/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 15:27:43 +0000 Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151294 Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor and United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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The 1997-1998 East Asian crises provided major lessons for international financial reform. Two decades later, we appear not to have done much about them

In Southeast Asia, existing mechanisms and institutions for preventing financial crises remain grossly inadequate. Credit: Sandra Siagian/IPS

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

When we fail to act on lessons from a crisis, we risk exposing ourselves to another one. The 1997-1998 East Asian crises provided major lessons for international financial reform. Two decades later, we appear not to have done much about them. The way the West first responded to the 2008 global financial crisis should have reminded us to do more. But besides accumulating more reserves, Southeast Asia has not done much else.

Crisis prevention and management
First, existing mechanisms and institutions for preventing financial crises remain grossly inadequate. Financial liberalization continues despite the crises engendered. Too little has been done by national authorities and foreign advisers to check short-term capital flows while unwarranted reliance has been put on international adherence to codes and standards. There is also little in place to address the typically exaggerated effects of movements among major international currencies.

Second, existing mechanisms and institutions for financial crisis management are grossly inadequate. The greater likelihood, frequency and severity of currency and financial crises in emerging market economies in recent times — with devastating consequences for the real economy and innocent bystanders — makes speedy crisis resolution imperative.

Economic liberalization has also compromised macro-financial instruments available to governments for crisis management and recovery. Instead, governments have little choice but to react pro-cyclically, which tends to exacerbate economic downturns. Governments thus fail to act counter-cyclically to avoid and overcome crises, which have been more devastating in developing countries.

There is a need to increase emergency financing during crises and to establish adequate new procedures for timely and orderly debt standstills and work-outs. While IMF financing facilities were significantly augmented in 2009, little else has changed.

Only governance reform of international financial institutions can ensure more equitable participation and decision-making by developing countries. The concentration of power in some apex institutions can be reduced by delegating authority to others, and by encouraging decentralization, devolution, complementarity and competition with other international financial institutions, including regional ones.
International financial institutions, including regional institutions, should be able to provide adequate counter-cyclical financing, including for ‘social protection’. Instead of current arrangements which mainly benefit foreign creditors, new procedures and mechanisms can help ensure that they too share responsibility for the consequences of their lending practices.

Developmental reforms
Third, international financial reform needs to go beyond crisis prevention and resolution to improve provision of development finance, especially to small and poor countries that face limited and costly access to funding their development priorities. For years now, the World Bank and other multilateral development banks have abandoned or cut industrial financing.

Fourth, powerful vested interests block urgently needed international institutional reforms. Only governance reform of international financial institutions can ensure more equitable participation and decision-making by developing countries. The concentration of power in some apex institutions can be reduced by delegating authority to others, and by encouraging decentralization, devolution, complementarity and competition with other international financial institutions, including regional ones.

Fifth, reforms should restore and ensure greater national economic authority and autonomy, which have been greatly undermined by national level deregulation as well as international liberalization and new regulation. These can enable more effective, especially expansionary and counter-cyclical macroeconomic management, as well as adequate development and inclusive finance facilities.

One size clearly cannot fit all. Policy ownership will ensure greater legitimacy, and should include capital account regulation and choice of exchange rate regime. As likely international financial reforms are unlikely to adequately provide what most developing countries need, national policy independence in regulatory and interventionist functions must be assured.

Regional cooperation
Finally, appreciation is growing of the desirability of regional monetary cooperation in the face of growing international financial challenges. The Japanese proposal for an Asian monetary facility soon after the outbreak of the 1997 crises could have helped check and manage the crises, but US opposition blocked it. With its opposition to more pro-active global initiatives, alternative regional arrangements cannot also be blocked.

Such regional arrangements also offer an intermediate alternative between national and global levels of action and intervention, besides reducing the monopoly power of global authorities. To be effective, regional arrangements must be flexible, but also credible and capable of both crisis prevention and management.

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2 Billion People Don’t Have Access To Clean Water, Opens up Fissures of Inequalityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/2-billion-people-dont-access-clean-water-opens-fissures-inequality/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:52:35 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151290 More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for […]

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More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

On 9 February 2016 in central Ethiopia, children and women from a semi-pastoralist community wait their turn to fill jerrycans with clean water at a water point in Haro Huba Kebele in Fantale Woreda, in East Shoa Zone, Oromia Region. Credit: © UNICEF/UN011590/Ayene

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for drinking.

“Clean water and sanitation is central to other outcomes, for example, nutrition among children. While many countries like India have made it a top priority, many others haven’t been able to emphasise the issue yet,” Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF, told IPS.

As many as 400 million people still rely on distant water sources—travelling to and fro from their homes to pick it up. Some 159 million people, according to the report, rely on untreated water from lakes and streams. This puts lives, especially of young children, at great risk.

“Every day, 800 children under the age of five die from waterborne diseases like diarrhoea. In fact, diarrhoea is the second biggest cause of death in the world.” Wijesekera added.

A lack of access to clean drinking water is also bad news for hygiene and sanitary levels. In many countries, open defecation due to the lack of in-house toilets poses a significant challenge.

“The sheer indignity of openly defecating, especially among young girls, takes a toll on other aspects of their lives—such as their poor attendance in school where there aren’t toilets,” Wijesekera explained.

This is especially true in rural areas. While the global drop in open defecation from 20 to 12 percent between 2000 and 2015 is a welcome fact, the rate of decline, at just .7 percent every year, puts pressure on governments to do more. To eliminate open defecation by 2030, for example, the rate of decline has to double.

Still, some countries like Ethiopia have combatted the issue of open defecation successfully.

“In Ethiopia, the percentage has dropped from 80 to 27 percent between 2000 and 2015. Critical building blocks like stronger policies at the government levels and dutiful allocation of funds can go a long way,” Wijesekera said.

These issues—from access to safe drinking water to sanitation supplies—mostly affect the poorest families. For example, Angola, which has performed better than other sub-Saharan African countries and achieved overall basic access to water for its citizens, still shows a gap of 40 percent between people who live in urban and rural areas.

Similarly, Panama’s capital city has achieved universal access to clean drinking water, but other sub regions in the country remain marginalized.

Meanwhile, the report has drawn criticism from other NGOs for being incomplete.

“The report is a good starting point but the current data only reflects 35 percent of the global population across 92 countries. Big countries like China and India have been left out,” Al-Hassan Adam, the international coordinator at End Water Poverty, a coalition organisation that campaigns for water rights and sanitation, told IPS.

“Bigger industries have to do more to protect water resources. In countries like Mexico, water is still contaminated. In other poorer countries, infrastructure to ensure safely managed water is missing in the first place,” he added.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN strongly focus on reducing inequality between and within countries, and commit member states to “leave no one behind.”

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We Have to Reclaim the Public Policy Space for SDGshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/reclaim-public-policy-space-sdgs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=reclaim-public-policy-space-sdgs http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/reclaim-public-policy-space-sdgs/#respond Thu, 13 Jul 2017 14:28:36 +0000 Jens Martens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151286 Jens Martens is Executive Director of Global Policy Forum and coordinates the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

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New report states that various forms of privatization and corporate capture have become obstacles to implement the 2030 Agenda and its SDGs

Open drains in Ankorondrano-Andranomahery, Madagascar. Credit: Lova Rabary-Rakotondravony/IPS

By Jens Martens
BONN, Jul 13 2017 (IPS)

At the High-Level Political Forum which currently takes place at the United Nations in New York several events, for instance a SDG Business Forum, are devoted to the critical role of business and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

New report states that various forms of privatization and corporate capture have become obstacles to implement the 2030 Agenda and its SDGsBut many civil society organizations and trade unions warn in their joint report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2017 that the various forms of privatization and corporate capture have become obstacles to implement the 2030 Agenda and its goals.

Weakening the State: A vicious circle

The trend towards partnerships with the private sector is based on a number of assumptions, not least the belief that global problems are too big and the public sector is too weak to solve them alone.

But why is it apparently a matter of fact that the public sector is too weak to meet the challenges of the 2030 Agenda? Why are public coffers empty?

In fact, the lack of capacity and financial resources is not an inevitable phenomenon but has been caused by deliberate political decisions. To give just one example, over the past three decades corporate income tax rates have declined in both countries of the global North and South by 15 to 20 percent. Hundreds of billions of US dollars are lost every year through corporate tax incentives and various forms of tax avoidance.

Through their business-friendly fiscal policies and the lack of effective global tax cooperation, governments have weakened their revenue base substantially. This has been driven not least by corporate lobbying.

A recent analysis by Oxfam America estimates that between 2009 and 2015, the USA’s 50 largest companies spent approximately US$ 2.5 billion on lobbying, with approximately US$ 352 million lobbying on tax issues. In the same period, they received over US$ 423 billion in tax breaks.

What we see is a vicious circle of weakening the State: the combination of neoliberal ideology, corporate lobbying, business-friendly fiscal policies, tax avoidance and tax evasion has led to the massive weakening of the public sector and its ability to provide essential goods and services.

These failures have been used by the proponents of privatization and PPPs to present the private sector as the better alternative and to demand its further strengthening. This in turn further weakened the public sector – and so on….

In parallel, the same corporate strategies and fiscal and regulatory policies that led to the weakening of the public sector enabled an unprecedented accumulation of individual wealth and increasing market concentration, often at the expense of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Concentrated power

According to various statistics of the largest national economies, transnational corporations, banks and asset management firms, among the 50 largest global economic entities are more private corporations than countries. The assets under management by the world’s largest asset management company BlackRock are US$ 5.12 trillion (end of 2016), thus higher than the GDP of Japan or Germany.

Large institutional investors such as pension funds and insurance companies are also the drivers of a new generation of PPPs in infrastructure, forcing governments to offer ‘bankable’ projects that meet the needs of these investors rather than the needs of the affected population.

Particularly alarming for the implementation of SDG 2 on food security and sustainable agriculture are the announced mega-mergers in the food and agriculture sector, especially the acquisition of Syngenta by China National Chemical Corporation (ChemChina), the merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont and the takeover of Monsanto by Bayer.

If all of these mergers are allowed, the new corporate giants will together control at least 60 percent of global commercial seed sales and 71 percent of global pesticide sales.

Devastating impacts

The Spotlight Report 2017 clearly shows, that privatization, PPPs and the rise of corporate power affect all areas and goals of the 2030 Agenda. One example is the mushrooming of private, fee-charging, profit-making schools in Africa and Asia.

Detrimental corporate influence occurs in the energy sector with the still dominant role of coal and fossil fuel industries, undermining effective measures against climate change and the transformation towards sustainable energy systems.

But why is it apparently a matter of fact that the public sector is too weak to meet the challenges of the 2030 Agenda? Why are public coffers empty?
Studies by scholars, CSOs and trade unions like Public Services International (PSI) have shown that the privatization of public infrastructure and services and various forms of PPPs involve disproportionate risks for the affected people and costs for the public sector. They can even exacerbate inequalities, decrease equitable access to essential services, and thus jeopardize the fulfilment of human rights, particularly the rights of women.

Counter-movements and breaking ranks

Responding to the experiences and testimonies from the ground about the devastating impacts of privatization and PPPs, counter-movements emerged in many parts of the world. Over the past 15 years there has been a significant rise in the number of communities that have taken privatized services back into public hands – a phenomenon called “remunicipalization”. Remunicipalization refers particularly to the return of water supply and sanitation services to public service delivery. Between March 2000 and March 2015 researchers documented 235 cases of water remunicipalization in 37 countries, affecting more than 100 million people.

Furthermore, some pioneering companies are already on the path towards – at least environmentally – sustainable development solutions, for instance in the area of renewable energies.

The private sector is in no way a monolithic bloc. Firms in the social and solidarity economy, social impact investors and small and medium-sized businesses are already making a positive difference, challenging the proponents of global techno-fix solutions and the dinosaurs of the fossil fuel lobby.

Even the firm opposition to international corporate regulation in the field of business and human rights by those pretending to represent business interests is showing cracks. A survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that 20 percent of business representatives who responded to the survey said that a binding international treaty would help them with their responsibilities to respect human rights.

What has to be done?

To be sure, the business sector certainly has an important role to play in the implementation process of the 2030 Agenda, as sustainable development will require large-scale changes in business practices.

However, acknowledging corporations’ role should not mean promoting the accumulation of wealth and economic power, giving them undue influence on policy-making and ignoring their responsibility in creating and exacerbating many of the problems that the 2030 Agenda is supposed to tackle.

Instead of further promoting the misleading discourse of ‘multi-stakeholderism’ and partnerships between inherently unequal partners a fundamental change of course is necessary. In order to achieve the SDGs and to turn the vision of the transformation of our world, as proclaimed in the title of the 2030 Agenda, into reality, we have to reclaim the public policy space.

Governments should strengthen public finance at all levels, fundamentally rethink their approach towards trade and investment liberalization, reconsider PPPs, create binding rules on business and human rights, take effective measures to dismantle corporate power and prevent the further existence of corporate ‘too big to fail’ entities.

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Nuclear Ban Approved, Now What?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/nuclear-ban-approved-now/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=nuclear-ban-approved-now http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/nuclear-ban-approved-now/#comments Wed, 12 Jul 2017 09:12:36 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151248 More than seven decades after the deployment of deadly atomic bombs in Japan, the UN has passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons around the world. Though it has sparked hope for a future without nuclear weapons, uncertainty in the success of the treaty still lingers. More than 122 countries, representing two-thirds of the 192-member […]

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After months of talks, more than 122 countries, representing two thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic nuclear ban

Credit: UN Photo/Pernaca Sudhakaran

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2017 (IPS)

More than seven decades after the deployment of deadly atomic bombs in Japan, the UN has passed a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons around the world. Though it has sparked hope for a future without nuclear weapons, uncertainty in the success of the treaty still lingers.

More than 122 countries, representing two-thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic treaty banning nuclear weapons after months of talks.

“We have managed to sow the first seeds of a world free of nuclear weapons…the world has been waiting for this legal norm for 70 years,” said Elayne Whyte Gomez, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica and the president of the UN conference which negotiated the treaty.

After months of talks, more than 122 countries, representing two thirds of the 192-member UN, adopted the historic nuclear ban

Elayne Whyte Gómez. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Nuclear Disarmament Program Manager for the civil society organization PAX Susi Snyder similarly highlighted the importance of the occasion to IPS, stating: “People have been working for decades on the issue, myself included, and to have a moment that you know, to the very tips of your toes, that history is being made? That’s a moment to feel all the feelings.”

There are approximately 15,000 nuclear warheads globally, more than 90 percent of which belong to the United States and Russia.

Unlike the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which allowed five countries to possess such arms, the new instrument is an explicit prohibition on the direct or indirect use, threat of use, possession, acquisition, and development of nuclear weapons.

It also for the first time includes obligations to provide assistance to victims of nuclear weapons testing and use as well as environmental remediation of areas contaminated a result of nuclear weapon activities.

“This normative treaty highlights the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons—it is a huge achievement especially for the Hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” Arms Control Association’s (ACA) Researcher Alicia Sanders-Zakre told IPS.

Reference to such consequences can be seen throughout the treaty, including the deep concern “about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons” and the persistent risk to humanity posed by the “continued existence of nuclear weapons.”

Though the awareness of nuclear weapons’ devastating humanitarian ramifications is certainly not new, both Snyder and Sanders-Zakre noted that states still legitimize nuclear weapons in their security approaches.

“Some states negotiating the treaty would say that by having a security doctrine of nuclear deterrence, nuclear weapons states legitimize nuclear weapons and distract from their humanitarian consequences…which are often not in the forefront of the security stage,” said Sanders-Zakre.

The new treaty aims to strip nuclear weapons of their prestige by making them unacceptable under international law.

Not Without a Fight

The world’s nine nuclear-armed states as well as the majority of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s (NATO) members boycotted the negotiations, except for the Netherlands which voted against the document.

Among the most vocal critics is the United States who, since the beginning of the talks, said that the process was not “realistic,” especially in the wake of rising tensions between the North American nation and North Korea.

“There is nothing I want more for my family than a world with no nuclear weapons, but we have to be realistic. Is there anyone who thinks that North Korea would ban nuclear weapons?” asked U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley.

In a joint statement, the U.S., United Kingdom, and France announced that they do not ever intend to sign, ratify, or become party to the treaty.

“A purported ban on nuclear weapons that does not address the security concerns that continue to make nuclear deterrence necessary cannot result in the elimination of a single nuclear weapon and will not enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and security,” they stated, reiterating their continued commitment to the NPT.

Snyder told IPS that it was not surprising that such nations did not participate due to a desire to retain the political power associated with nuclear weapons. However, she criticised the joint move as it may be in violation of the NPT.

Article 6 of the NPT, which the majority of member States have signed, states that each party must “pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

Snyder noted that negotiations were considered by the majority to be an “effective measure” in the pursuit of disarmament.

“While this prohibition is not the final effort to achieve and maintain a nuclear weapons free world, it is certainly a key element of a world without nuclear weapons. It was an absence that is embarrassing for the nuclear armed states, demonstrating their commitment to inhumane weapons over humanity,” she continued.

However, nuclear-armed nations would argue that they are not violating the NPT as they do not consider that the prohibition will result in the elimination of nuclear weapons and is thus not an “effective measure,” said Sanders-Zakre.

The treaty reflects a growing divide between nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states on visions of disarmament.

Between a Nuke and a Hard Place?

Additional frustrations have arisen concerning the treaty’s prohibition on the stationing, installation or deployment of nuclear weapons on territories as it puts many NATO members in nuclear sharing agreements in a sticky situation.

Five nations, including Germany and Turkey, currently host U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO’s nuclear sharing policy. In order for NATO members to join, they will have to reverse or withdraw from their obligations.

“One the one hand, the treaty seeks to be universal to include many members. But at the same time, it is a prohibition treaty and having a member of a prohibition treaty that has nuclear weapons on their soil would be contradictory,” Sanders-Zakre told IPS.

But can a nuclear ban treaty be successful without such nations?

Snyder and Sanders-Zakre say yes.

“The treaty sets a norm, and the nuclear armed states have a history of following norms even when they don’t sign up to the treaties behind them,” said Snyder, referencing the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) which, despite not being ratified by all nations and not entering into force, has set a norm in which nuclear testing is condemned.

“That norm will grow from this treaty as well, and will likely result in ongoing substantive condemnation of the activities of the nuclear armed states that are not disarmament,” Snyder continued.

Sanders-Zakre noted that there might be some obstacles in the way before the treaty’s entry into force, including potential lobbying by nuclear weapon states to dissuade others from ratifying the instrument or a general decrease in political momentum.

But, with or without the nuclear weapon states, the treaty will mark a significant normative step towards disarmament if all 122 states which negotiated the instrument sign and ratify.

“My hope is that this treaty will be the first step towards more productive disarmament dialogue, and that it will serve as a wake-up call to nuclear weapon states that have not seriously been pursuing disarmament negotiations for quite some time,” Sanders-Zakre said.

Snyder similarly described the historic occasion as the first step of many, stating: “This treaty will help towards the elimination of nuclear weapons—it’s not the last thing that will get them out of the world forever, but it helps by reaffirming the complete illegitimacy of such inhumane weapons and offers a pathway for elimination.”

The treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons will be open for signature by member states on 20 September, marking the beginning of the 72nd Session of the General Assembly. It will enter into legal force 90 days after it has been ratified by 50 countries.

Earlier this year, atomic scientists set the Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes before midnight, reflecting a fear that the world is closer to a nuclear disaster than it has been since 1953 after the U.S. and Soviet Union tested hydrogen bombs.

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standardshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/promoting-sustainable-population-growth-key-raising-human-rights-standards/#respond Tue, 11 Jul 2017 15:31:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151237
Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Promoting Sustainable Population Growth, Key to Raising Human Rights Standards

Two women and a baby in a village near the city of Makeni, in the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Jul 11 2017 (IPS)

The world population has witnessed a remarkable growth during the recent decades. In 1965, it stood at 3.3 billion people. In 2017 –52 years later– the global population reached a staggering 7.5 billion people corresponding to more than a doubling of the Earth’s residents over the last half-century.

Humans have been blessed with access to natural resources such as water, food and rare minerals that have been indispensable to the evolution and to the progress of humanity since time immemorial.

Nonetheless, the rapid increase of the world population is raising again Malthusian concerns. The Earth’s resources are finite and cannot sustain the current population growth rate in the long run; the Earth’s population is set to grow to 9.8 billion people by 2050. “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

This is tantamount to saying that world population during the post WWII century will increase 3 times as much since man’s appearance on our planet. A Native American saying reminds us that uncontrolled population growth and excessive use of resources can leave the world empty-handed:

“When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

The 2017 World Population Day is an important occasion to raise awareness on contemporary unsustainable consumption patterns.

According to the United Nations, this year’s World Population Day will coincide with the 2017 Family Planning Summit that will focus inter alia on family planning among the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable women.

Preventative family planning is a vehicle for promoting sustainable population growth and for enhancing the status of women.

The “Protection of the Family” resolution adopted on 22 June 2017 by the United Nations upholds international human rights standards on the right to life and the right to family life, and is a good starting-point to further promoting sustainable population growth through family planning.

Child marriage is considered as a major triggering factor worsening population pressure around the world. It is referred to as a major problem in numerous countries located in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America and even in Europe.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The charity “Girls not Brides“ estimates that 1 out of 3 girls in the developed world are married before the age of 18. It also estimates that approximately 700 million women alive today were married when they were children.

According to the World Bank and the International Centre for Research on Women, child marriage accelerates population growth as women marrying before the age of 18 are prone to having more children than women marrying at a later age.

Child marriage also discourages women from pursuing higher education as their prospects of completing education diminishes drastically. In many cases, girls marrying at an early age are left with no other option than to drop out of school. This impedes the prospects for achieving economic empowerment owing to the marginalization of girls and of women.

Lack of access to family planning also remains a major concern in many countries. The 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called upon member states of the United Nations (UN) to improve access to family planning services in an effort to resolve issues related to overpopulation.

The 1994 Cairo Declaration on Population & Development likewise called for constrained efforts to strengthen family planning particularly in the developed world. Nonetheless, the UNFPA estimates that approximately 225 million women “are not using safe and effective family planning methods.”

In order to address these challenges, I appeal to UN member States to implement concrete plans to address target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This target requires the world community to eliminate all forms of harmful practices including early and forced child marriage to advance the status of girls and women worldwide.

Addressing child marriage would further advance gender equality, increase access to education and improve the social status of girls and women. Child marriage is considered as a violation of human rights and must be eliminated in all its forms.

Enhancing family planning policies enables societies to cope with population pressures by bringing down the fertility rate to a sustainable level. This would improve the economic well-being of families and alleviate poverty and inequality. The economic burden on families would be reduced as there would be fewer mouths to feed.

However, countries should avoid implementing family planning policies reducing the fertility level below the 2.1 reproduction rate.

Addressing the depopulation of ageing advanced societies by fostering migration of population from high population growth developing countries is therefore key to optimizing growth potential and thus to move development forward.

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A Global Call for Journalists’ Safetyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/global-call-journalists-safety/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=global-call-journalists-safety http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/global-call-journalists-safety/#respond Sun, 09 Jul 2017 07:20:56 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151224 The UN system and its member states must develop policies to protect journalists and end impunity for crimes against them, said key stakeholders during a meeting. A multi stakeholder consultation held in Geneva brought together representatives from governments, civil society, media, and academia to discuss developments in the area of safety of journalists and the […]

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The UN system and its member states must develop policies for the safety of journalists and end impunity for crimes against them

Lusaka-based journalists march on the Great East Road campaigning for the attacks against journalists to stop. Credit: Kelvin Kachingwe/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 9 2017 (IPS)

The UN system and its member states must develop policies to protect journalists and end impunity for crimes against them, said key stakeholders during a meeting.

A multi stakeholder consultation held in Geneva brought together representatives from governments, civil society, media, and academia to discuss developments in the area of safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.

“Too many journalists are imprisoned for the wrong reasons. Too many journalists are forced to flee their countries. Women journalists face particular forms of harassment. Murder remains the most tragic form of censorship,” said UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) Director-General Irina Bokova to participants.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), some 1,246 journalists have been killed since 1992. The deadliest countries were those in conflict situations including Iraq, Syria, Philippines, and Somalia.

There were also almost 260 journalists in jail at the end of 2016, the most CPJ has ever documented. Turkey is the world’s leading jailer of journalists with over 145 imprisoned journalists, more than China, Egypt, and Iran combined.

As censorship tactics become more complex, new challenges have arisen for journalists, underscoring the need to protect journalists and end impunity.

“Online attacks now occur at a frequency and scale that we’ve never experienced before. We need new ways to protect journalists, to deal with what technology has enabled because computational propaganda means to stifle any challenge or dissent against power,” said CEO of Philippines newspaper Rappler Maria Ressa during the consultation.

In an effort to address these complex issues, stakeholders formulated numerous recommendations to reinforce and improve the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity adopted by the UN Chief Executives Board in 2012.

Among the main challenges highlighted by stakeholders was how to translate the UN Plan of Action into national policies and practices.

“We need to reboot our thinking of the UN Plan to bridge the gap between the progress made at the international level and the situation on the ground,” said Executive Director of International Media Support at the meeting organised by UNESCO and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Frank La Rue stressed the importance of governments to set up national mechanisms for the safety of journalists and the report on such policies to help end impunity for attacks against journalists.

Participants also emphasized the importance of UN leadership and the strengthening of the UN system to better address journalists’ safety, including enhancing inter-agency coordination and the mainstreaming of safety issues in agencies’ programming.

They also urged making better use of existing avenues and mechanisms in the UN system in order to improve monitoring and reporting on attacks against journalists, especially in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Within the internationally agreed agenda is goal 16 which calls for the creation of peaceful and inclusive societies with effective and accountable institutions and highlights the need to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms.

Journalist safety and ending impunity are therefore essential to achieve this goal.

The recommendations will be finalised into a non-binding outcome document to help inform stakeholder actions in the future.

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Climate Change-Poverty-Migration: The New, Inhuman ‘Bermuda Triangle’http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/climate-change-poverty-migration-new-inhuman-bermuda-triangle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-poverty-migration-new-inhuman-bermuda-triangle http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/climate-change-poverty-migration-new-inhuman-bermuda-triangle/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 16:06:31 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151201 World organisations, experts and scientists have been repeating it to satiety: climate change poses a major risk to the poorest rural populations in developing countries, dangerously threatening their lives and livelihoods and thus forcing them to migrate. Also that the billions of dollars that the major industrialised powers—those who are the main responsible for climate […]

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Climate change often leads to distress-driven migration, promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response

Unprecedented levels of population displacements in the Lake Chad Basin ‒Cameroon, Chad, the Niger and Nigeria. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jul 7 2017 (IPS)

World organisations, experts and scientists have been repeating it to satiety: climate change poses a major risk to the poorest rural populations in developing countries, dangerously threatening their lives and livelihoods and thus forcing them to migrate.

Also that the billions of dollars that the major industrialised powers—those who are the main responsible for climate change, spend on often illegal, inhumane measures aiming at impeding the arrival of migrants and refuges to their countries, could be devoted instead to preventing the root causes of massive human displacements.

One such a solution is to invest in sustainable agriculture. On this, the world’s leading body in the fields of food and agriculture has once again warned that climate change often leads to distress-driven migration, while stressing that promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response.“Since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters”

The “solution to this great challenge” lies in bolstering the economic activities that the vast majority of rural populations are already engaged in,” José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 6 July said.

The UN specialised agency’s chief cited figures showing that since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters –an average of 26 million a year– and suggesting the trend is likely to intensify in the immediate future as rural areas struggle to cope with warmer weather and more erratic rainfall.

For his part, William Lacy Swing, director-general of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), also on July 6 said “Although less visible than extreme events like a hurricane, slow-onset climate change events tend to have a much greater impact over time.”

Swing cited the drying up over 30 years of Lake Chad, now a food crisis hotspot. “Many migrants will come from rural areas, with a potentially major impact on agricultural production and food prices.”

Credit: IOM

FAO and IOM, chosen as co-chairs for 2018 of the Global Migration Group –an inter-agency group of 22 UN organisations– are collaborating on ways to tackle the root causes of migration, an increasingly pressing issue for the international community.

Drivers of Rural Migration

“Rural areas of developing countries, where often poor households have limited capacity to cope with and manage risks, are forecast to bear the brunt of higher average temperatures. Such vulnerabilities have been worsened by years of under-investment in rural areas.”

Using migration as an adaptation strategy can be positive –remittances can bolster food security and productive investment in places of origin– but can also perpetuate more vulnerability if not supported by adequate policies.

“We need to systematically integrate migration and climate change into national development and poverty reduction programmes, disaster risk reduction and crisis planning and develop agricultural policies and practices that enhance resilience in the face of climate-induced forced migration,” IOM’s Swing added.

Both Graziano da Silva and Swing made their statements during the FAO Conference in Rome (3-8 July 2017).

FAO and IOM called for explicit recognition of migration –both its causes and its potential– in national climate change and rural development policies.

Farming and Livestock Bear Over 80 Per Cent of Damage

Here the United Nations has again reminded that farming and livestock sectors typically bear more than 80 per cent of the damage and losses caused by drought, underscoring how agriculture stands to be a primary victim of climate change. Other impacts include soil degradation, water scarcity and depletion of natural resources.

 Climate change often leads to distress-driven migration, promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response

CRISIS IN SOUTH SUDAN. South Sudan is facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity, as 6 million people. Credit: FAO

Agricultural and rural development must be an integral part of solutions to weather and climate-related challenges, especially as they link with distress migration, Graziano da Silva said. Investment in resilient rural livelihoods, decent employment opportunities, especially for youth, and social protection schemes geared to protecting people from risks and shocks, is necessary, he added.

FAO also supports vulnerable member states in various ways, including with setting up early warning and early actions systems, dealing with water scarcity and introducing Climate-Smart Agriculture methods and Safe Access to Fuel and Energy initiatives designed to ease tensions between refugees and their host communities as well as reduce deforestation.

The South-South Triangular Cooperation

South-South Cooperation – partnerships in which developing countries exchange resources and expertise – is proving an inclusive and cost-effective tool to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Graziano da Silva said.

South-South and Triangular Cooperation offers the possibility of an approach that is not the traditional way followed by donors. It is more horizontal and it is based on the concept of solidarity,” he added at a side-event at the FAO Conference that took stock of the achievements of FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme and looked at ways to involve more countries and international organisations in similar partnerships.

Graziano da Silva praised China’s “pioneering role as the largest contributor in supporting the programme,” as well as its decision to establish the FAO-China South-South Cooperation Trust Fund with a total financial grant of 80 million dollars. “I am sure that the interest in South-South and Triangular Cooperation will continue to grow because the benefits are shared by both sides of this partnership.”

China has sent over 1,000 experts and technicians to 26 countries in Africa, Asia, the South Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, through FAO’s South-South Cooperation Programme. Results have included positive contributions to improve agricultural productivity and food security in developing countries.

FAO and China have promoted triangular cooperation with developed countries and other international organisations, to expand partnerships and promote global sharing of agricultural expertise and knowledge.

Through its South-South and Triangular Cooperation Programme, the UN specialised body is facilitating exchanges of experiences and know-how by supporting the placement of more than 2,000 experts to more than 80 countries around the world.

The Parliamentarians

Meanwhile, parliamentarians have a key role to play along with governments, civil society, private sector, international agencies and donors “to achieve a Zero Hunger generation in our lifetime”, on 6 July said Graziano da Silva at a meeting with lawmakers on the side-lines of the FAO Conference.

“You are the ones who are responsible for enacting laws and for approving budgets, among other roles,” he said asking them to increase funding in their national budgets for food security and nutrition.

He also noted that achieving Zero Hunger by 2030 is still possible despite the fact that the number of hungry people has started to grow again.

“But we have to move quickly from political commitment to concrete actions, especially at national and regional levels. As elected representatives, you possess a high level of political influence that is essential for a positive change in your countries.”

He also emphasised the role of legislators in improving nutrition and food safety and praised them for acknowledging “the need for specific constitutional and legislative provisions to ensure the enjoyment of this human right to adequate food”.

Legislators and the Middle East

The Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region, being one of the most impacted areas by climate change worsening the already dangerous water scarcity challenge, will this month receive special attention through the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development (Amman, 18-20 July 2017).

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA), which serves as the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), and the Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD) and its Secretariat in Amman, Jordan, the event will call attention of Asian and Arab parliamentarians to population perspectives in the 2030 Agenda.

It is expected the meeting will enhance the capacity of parliamentarians who are responsible for population and development and establish a dialogue between Arab and Asian parliamentarians so as to exchange good practices, ideas and policy interventions.

Meantime, the three Rome-based UN food and agriculture agencies are embarking on an unprecedented joint programme to work with vulnerable communities in three crisis-prone areas over five years to meet their immediate food needs and boost their resilience, while addressing the root causes of food insecurity.

A 38 million dollars initiative funded by Canada, will be rolled out in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger and Somalia by both FAO, the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

In short, there are more feasible, effective –and human– solutions than building walls and adopting expensive, often-inefficient “security” measures to halt the growing massive forced displacement of the poorest.

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G20’s Record Does Not Inspire Hopehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/g20s-record-not-inspire-hope/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g20s-record-not-inspire-hope http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/g20s-record-not-inspire-hope/#respond Fri, 07 Jul 2017 13:35:33 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151199 The G20 leaders meeting in Hamburg, Germany, on 7-8 July comes almost a decade after the grouping’s elevation to meeting at the heads of state/government level. Previously, the G20 had been an informal forum of finance ministers and central bank governors from advanced and emerging economies created in 1999 following the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis. […]

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By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 7 2017 (IPS)

The G20 leaders meeting in Hamburg, Germany, on 7-8 July comes almost a decade after the grouping’s elevation to meeting at the heads of state/government level. Previously, the G20 had been an informal forum of finance ministers and central bank governors from advanced and emerging economies created in 1999 following the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.

Expectations of the Hamburg G20 summit are now quite modest, and there is greater media and public interest in the bilateral meetings around the event. It is a sad reminder that needed reforms to improve the world economy and the welfare of its people are unlikely to come from the G20, and tragically, from any other quarter for some time to come.

Anis Chowdhury

The new grouping’s record in steering the global economy since the first summit in Washington, DC in November 2008 after the global financial crisis (GFC) was acknowledged by financial markets to have begun a couple of months before.

London Summit’s high point
At the following April 2009 London Summit, hosted by Gordon Brown, the G20 leaders demonstrated unprecedented solidarity in confronting the global meltdown with financial packages for the IMF, World Bank and others worth USD1.1 trillion. The London financial package included USD250 billion to help developing countries secure trade finance in the face of financial uncertainty.

These measures succeeded in turning the tide, with world economic growth recovering robustly from minus 2.1% in 2009 to plus 4.1% in 2010, exceeding the pre-crisis 2007 level of 3.8%. G20 boosters are inclined to claim that the London Summit pulled the global economy from the cusp of the first post-Second World War “great depression”.

However, there has been little evidence of how the funds may have saved the world economy. There has been modest trade growth since 2008 — after earlier sustained trade expansion — as most G20 member countries introduced essentially ‘protectionist’ trade measures despite their declared commitment to the contrary. The leaders also agreed to develop new financial regulations and improve financial supervision, but the patchwork which emerged has had limited and mixed consequences.

Toronto U turn
G20 leadership, evident at the April 2009 London summit, was abdicated with its U turn at the June 2010 Toronto summit while claiming success for its earlier collective efforts. The Canadian hosts trumpeted its own strong recovery from around -3% in 2009 to +3% in 2010 as the G20 exaggerated hints of recovery to pave the way for ‘fiscal consolidation’ instead.

Expectations of the Hamburg G20 summit are now quite modest, and there is greater media and public interest in the bilateral meetings around the event. It is a sad reminder that needed reforms to improve the world economy and the welfare of its people are unlikely to come from the G20, and tragically, from any other quarter for some time to come.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

Canada received strong support from Germany and Japan which also claimed strong recoveries. Further support came from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB) which invoked the ‘expansionary fiscal consolidation hypothesis’ to claim that urgent U turns would boost investor confidence to sustain economic recovery.

The U turn from Keynesian-style debt-financed fiscal stimulus measures deprived the modest recovery of the means for sustaining renewed expansion, thus ensuring the GFC’s ‘Great Recession’, which has dragged on in much of the North for almost a decade since, dragging down world and developing country growth in recent years.

Recession self-inflicted
Despite warnings from the United Nations and a few others against premature fiscal consolidation, G20 leaders at the Toronto Summit agreed to cut budget deficits in half by 2013, and to eliminate deficits altogether by 2016! The decision triggered a double dip recession in Japan and some Eurozone countries.

Canada and Germany, which pushed for rapid fiscal consolidation, have since experienced significantly slower growth averaging 1.8% and 1.2% respectively. The global economy thus began a prolonged period of anaemic growth averaging around 2.5% per annum.

Clearly, G20 economic growth continues to be modest. They are still unable to attain the 2010 growth rate, giving the lie to the ‘expansionary fiscal consolidation’ claim. The IMF has since acknowledged that its initial recommendation of rapid fiscal consolidation was based on “back of the envelope” calculations!

Research also shows that fiscal consolidation has exacerbated income inequality while fiscal consolidation basically began once financial sectors had been rescued from the consequences of their own greedy operations.

Ersatz substitute
Lack of accountability to the rest of the world has also meant that the G20 continues to undermine multilateralism. Inclusive multilateralism is now being threatened on many other fronts as well, not least by the Trumpian turn in the White House and the growing tendency for the Europeans to act as a bloc.

The G20’s broader membership has made negotiations and consultations more difficult than those involving the G7 grouping of major developed economies. But its greater inclusion and diversity has also ensured its superior record compared to the G7, which continues to decline in relevance.

As the Toronto U turn and its devastating legacy remind us, the G20’s finest moment after its London summit in 2009 was easily reversed through host country efforts although the US and China were acting quite differently in practice.

Expectations of the Hamburg G20 summit are now quite modest, and there is greater media and public interest in the bilateral meetings around the event. It is a sad reminder that needed reforms to improve the world economy and the welfare of its people are unlikely to come from the G20, and tragically, from any other quarter for some time to come.

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Death Toll Rises in the Mediterranean Sea as EU Turns Its Backhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/death-toll-rises-mediterranean-sea-eu-turns-back/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=death-toll-rises-mediterranean-sea-eu-turns-back http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/death-toll-rises-mediterranean-sea-eu-turns-back/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 21:05:51 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151194 The failure of European Union (EU) to buckle up safety for migrants and refugees reaching its shore has been condemned by Amnesty International in a report today. The most notorious instances in the seas of the Mediterranean plummeted with stricter actions from the EU in the wake of dooming deaths in 2015. The image of […]

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The failure of European Union to buckle up safety for migrants and refugees reaching its shore has been condemned by Amnesty International

A wide view of the Security Council meeting on the Situation in Libya. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 6 2017 (IPS)

The failure of European Union (EU) to buckle up safety for migrants and refugees reaching its shore has been condemned by Amnesty International in a report today.

The most notorious instances in the seas of the Mediterranean plummeted with stricter actions from the EU in the wake of dooming deaths in 2015. The image of a three year old Syrian boy, who was found dead off the shores of Turkey, shook the world to pay more attention to the plight of refugees fleeing war.

Two years on, efforts to ensure the safety of migrants and refugees have once again dropped off the radar of EU.

In the first half of the year alone, 2000 refugees died in the Mediterranean sea, three times the numbers from 2015.

Smugglers off the coast of Libya, for instance, often hurl refugees onto inflatable rubber boats that are inadequately equipped, or have insufficient fuel.

Migrants in large numbers arrive in Libya to ultimately make their way across the sea to Italy. This year alone, 73,000 refugees reached Italy.

The EU, disconcerted by its own fragmentation of agenda in the region, has largely neglected the safety of persons crossing the high seas. Instead, the European bloc has focussed on policies to disrupt smugglers and stall the departure of boats all together.

This strain of policy—strengthening Libyan coastguards and keeping boats at bay—to rein in the numbers from capsizing boats has largely failed.

This is why, ministers from the EU met today in Tallin to commit to better cooperation with NGOs to navigate the deadly waters of this route, a senior campaigner at Amnesty International, told IPS News.

The only way to ensure safety for migrants and refugees is offering safe and alternative routes as well as breaking up smuggling operations off the coast of Libya, a country already marred with instances of human rights abuse.

“European states have progressively turned their backs on a search and rescue strategy that was reducing mortality at sea in favour of one that has seen thousands drown and left desperate men, women and children trapped in Libya, exposed to horrific abuses,” said John Dalhuisen, director of Amnesty International in Europe.

The senior campaign manager, in an email to IPS news, called upon the international community’s help to end the strongmanship of Libyan coastguards, and for compliance with the Refugee Convention of 1951.

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“Long March to Justice”: Appointed Judge to Investigate Syrian War Crimeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/long-march-justice-appointed-judge-investigate-syrian-war-crimes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=long-march-justice-appointed-judge-investigate-syrian-war-crimes http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/long-march-justice-appointed-judge-investigate-syrian-war-crimes/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 13:01:55 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151185 A former French judge has been appointed as the head of an independent team tasked with investigating war crimes in Syria. Catherine Marchi-Uhel was appointed by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to lead a panel known as the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism which aims to gather, preserve, and analyze potential evidence of serious violations of international […]

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What remains of a street in Aleppo. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 6 2017 (IPS)

A former French judge has been appointed as the head of an independent team tasked with investigating war crimes in Syria.

Catherine Marchi-Uhel was appointed by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to lead a panel known as the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism which aims to gather, preserve, and analyze potential evidence of serious violations of international law committed in Syria since 2011 for use by courts or an international tribunal.

The legal team, established in Geneva, was created by the UN General Assembly in December 2015 after facing longstanding resistance from Russia which has used its veto power eight times in the Security Council to block investigations and action on the conflict.

Marchi-Uhel is the first head of the panel and has extensive experience in international criminal law, previously serving as an international judge with the UN mission in Kosovo and in Cambodian courts prosecuting leaders of the Khmer Rouge. She was the Head of Chambers at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and worked in various legal positions at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with UN peacekeeping missions.

Most recently, Marchi-Uhel has been serving as the ombudsperson for the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al-Qaeda.

Many applauded the move, including Human Rights Watch who noted that the team is “critical” for the “long march to justice,” stating: “For victims who have known nothing but suffering, despair, and abandonment, the creation of this team represents a small step in the difficult struggle for justice, redress and an end to impunity that has marked the bloody conflict.”

Though the exact figure is uncertain, estimates of casualties from the 7-year long war range from 320,000 to over 400,000.

A UN International Commission of Inquiry has comprehensively documented atrocities committed by all parties to the conflict, including systematic attacks on hospitals and schools.

One of the deadliest attacks in Syria came in October 2016 when a series of airstrikes hit a complex of schools in Haas, killing a total of 36 civilians, 21 of whom were children between the ages of 7 and 17. Another 114 people were injured in the attack including 61 children. Afraid of future attacks, the school was closed.

“A Syrian Air Force attack on a complex of schools in Haas (Idlib), amounting to war crimes, is a painful reminder that instead of serving as sanctuaries for children, schools are ruthlessly bombed and children’s lives senselessly robbed from them,” the commission stated.

Such attacks in Syria are estimated to account for half of global attacks on schools from 2011 to 2015.

Several countries have already begun their own investigations into war crimes in Syria including Sweden which prosecuted a former Syrian opposition fighter for war crimes in December 2016.

The International Mechanism headed by Marchi-Uhel is expected to further these efforts around the world.

However, the team, funded by voluntary contributions, has only received half of the $13 million that its work is estimated to cost in its first year with 26 contributing countries as of June.

Netherlands, Germany, Finland, Switzerland, and Qatar are among the group’s top donors.

Regardless, many are hopeful that the team can send an important message to parties of the conflict.

“Their work should help to ensure that the horrendous atrocities committed in Syria over the past six years cannot be swept away with a veto,” said Human Rights Watch.

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UN Needs a 21st Century Development Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/un-needs-21st-century-development-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-needs-21st-century-development-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/un-needs-21st-century-development-system/#respond Thu, 06 Jul 2017 05:57:53 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151181 Secretary-General António Guterres on his Vision for the Future

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Secretary-General António Guterres on his Vision for the Future

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 6 2017 (IPS)

Allow me first of all to express my deep gratitude to all the colleagues that have worked hard – in the Secretariat, in the Agencies, Funds and Programmes – to allow for this report to be ready on time. And to the leader of the team – the Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed – who has been not only the inspiration, but also the centre of management and strength to make things happen, and to make things happen with the required ambition and with the required detail.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

I also want to thank Member States for the very important possibility of interaction that were given to us allowing, even in this first report, to take as much as possible into account – the concerns, the aspirations, the desires of Member States, because this basically is a reform to serve Member States in the implementation of an agenda in which the leaders are the Member States themselves.

The 2030 Agenda is our boldest agenda for humanity, and requires equally bold changes
in the UN development system.

You tasked me with putting forward proposals that match the ambition needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This report is the first step of that response.

It is my offering for debate and discussion on what I am convinced is the most ambitious yet realistic roadmap for change.

It includes 38 concrete ideas and actions to usher in a new era of strengthened implementation founded on leadership, cohesion, accountability and results.

This effort is not about what individual entities do alone – it is about what we can and must do together to better support your efforts in implementing such a transformative agenda.

The UN development system has a proud history of delivering results. Across the decades, it has generated ideas and solutions that have changed the world for millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth.

In many countries, we have supported flagship national policies and the reinforcement of institutions, which have made a profound difference in people’s lives.

The system made significant contributions to supporting countries in their pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, the most successful global anti-poverty effort in history.

All of you were critical to producing the 2030 Agenda, the most ambitious anti-poverty, pro-planet agenda ever adopted by the UN. Yet we all know that the system is not functioning at its full potential.

We are held back by insufficient coordination and accountability on system-wide activities.
Yes, there may often be good reasons why things are the way the way they are.

But far too much of what we do is rooted in the past rather than linked to the future we want.

We need to change in order to secure the promise of sustainable development, human rights and peace for our grandchildren. And we have no time to lose.

The 2030 Agenda points the way and has to be given life as the defining agenda of our time, because it is the integrated platform to respond to the needs of people and governments.

The UN development system, therefore, must itself be far more integrated in our response … more aligned … and more able to work seamlessly across sectors and specializations – and to do so more effectively.

Our shared goal is a 21st century UN development system that is focussed more on people and less on process, more on results for the most poor and excluded and less on bureaucracy, more on integrated support to the 2030 Agenda and less on “business as usual”.

This means asking some deep and difficult questions about our structures, skillsets and the architecture for action.

This is our collective responsibility.

After all, sustainable development is pivotal to the lives of every person, everywhere.

It is a means to improve the lives of people, communities and societies without harming our planet; and a route to advancing the realization of economic, cultural, social and political rights for all as well as for enabling global peace and security.

It is our most powerful tool for prevention.

For all these reasons, I made a very conscious decision to be as explicit as possible in this first report in the interests of full transparency – to put ideas on the table in black and white for discussion and debate.

This report is also an integral component of a broader reform agenda to strengthen the United Nations to better meet today’s complex and interlinked challenges.

These actions include reforming the peace and security architecture – giving adequate priority to prevention and sustaining peace.

It includes management reform – to simplify procedures and decentralize decisions, with transparency, efficiency and accountability.

It includes clear strategies and actions to achieve gender parity, end sexual exploitation and abuse; and strengthen counter-terrorism structures.

But reform is not an end in itself. And, of course – we all know – reform is not easy.

We undertake reforms keenly aware of our obligation to live up to the values of the United Nations Charter in the 21st century.

Ultimately this is about ensuring we are positioned to better deliver for people.

Those who suffer most from poverty or exclusion, those who have been left behind and who have no access to development, to peace or to respect for their rights and dignity and who look to us with hope to help better their lives.

To meet the mandates of the Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review, we held extensive and inclusive consultations with Member States and the UN system.

We created an internal mechanism with DESA and the UN Development Group to work together, with transparency and accountability.

We initiated technical work and drew on previous studies on accountability, transparency, coordination and oversight of the UN development system.

We worked with external experts in the largest-such effort to gather and analyze data on system-wide functions and capacities across the UN.

The proposals reflect the leadership needed at the country level to help Member States achieve their goals, and the leadership needed at headquarters to meet the ambition of the 2030 Agenda on the ground.

Some require further consultations. Others can be set in motion immediately.

I will continue to engage with you in the coming months before I put forward a more detailed report in December as required.

Allow me to outline the eight guiding ideas:

First, the UN development system must accelerate its transition from the Millennium Development Goals to the 2030 Agenda. There are major gaps in the system’s current skillsets and mechanisms.

The system is still set up to perform on a narrower set of goals focused on certain sectors, rather than across the entire sustainable development agenda.

Of course, we must be humble. The UN cannot do everything, everywhere.

But we must be able to provide advice, pool expertise and help Governments implement the Sustainable Development Goals in their entirety. And we must help convene the partners they require to take actions to scale.

Better coordination, planning and accountability will provide the platform for UN Country Teams to transform overlaps into synergies and to help government identify partners to bridge gaps.

Second principle, we need a much stronger focus on financing for development.

Governments and people expect the UN to help deliver on Official Development Assistance and unlock doors to financing, expertise, know-how and technologies. And we must do so working with the international financial institutions, the private sector and all other partners.

The report envisions a role for Resident Coordinator offices as a country-level hub to support governments in broadening their own resource bases and for leveraging financing for development and mobilizing agency-specific expertise.

A strengthened DESA will work in collaboration with Regional Commissions and the UN development system to provide policy guidance and backing that Resident Coordinators and UN Country Teams need to help Governments leverage financing.

Third principle, we need a new generation of Country Teams that are tailored to the specific needs of each country.

Our country offices around the world have an average of 18 agencies.

The 2030 Agenda compels us to move to Country Teams that are more cohesive, flexible, leaner, and more efficient and focussed in their scope. We need teams that can respond to evolving national priorities in an integrated and holistic way.

This includes the imperative of addressing the humanitarian-development nexus and its links with building and sustaining peace in a way that does not lead to a diversion of funds or shift in focus from development to other objectives, while also preserving the autonomy of the humanitarian space. We have discussed this for years; it is now time for action.

The old way of working has been based on weak collective accountability. This approach has not, and will not lead, to transformative change to improve people’s lives.

We must make the most of the strengths of individual agencies with their strong mandates while trying to achieve greater coherence, unity and accountability – including at the top.
By December, we will put forward for your consideration specific criteria that could help determine the optimal UN configuration on a country-by-country basis.

Fourth principle, we must resolve the ambiguity in the role of Resident Coordinators.

Today, Resident Coordinators are expected to steer UN Country Team support at the national level, but with limited tools and no formal authority over other UN agencies and offices.

To lead this new generation of Country Teams, Resident Coordinators must be well-staffed and supported with sufficient resources, and have direct supervisory lines over all UN Country Teams on system-wide responsibilities.

The members will naturally preserve the reporting lines to their headquarters in the exercise of their respective mandates.

With greater authority must also come greater accountability. These are two sides of the same coin.

Our consultations and analysis point to the value of delinking the functions of Resident Coordinators from UNDP Resident Representatives while ensuring continued access to the substantive policy support, operational tools and joint financing they need.

The current “firewall” between these two functions cannot guarantee the level of impartiality needed for Resident Coordinators to generate confidence and lead effectively.

The reporting lines from the Resident Coordinators to the Secretary-General will need to be clarified and strengthened, alongside increased accountability to Member States for UN development system-wide results.

Let me be crystal clear: Sustainable development must be the DNA of Resident Coordinators.

Resident Coordinators should be able to steer and oversee the system’s substantive contribution to the 2030 Agenda, in line with national priorities and needs.

But Resident Coordinators must also be able to take a broader view and lead integrated analysis and planning processes which have significant implications for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

They must also support Governments in crisis prevention focused on building resilience and anticipating shocks that could undermine progress, whether they come from climate change, natural hazards or the risk of conflict.

The success of the 2030 Agenda requires that the Resident Coordinator function remains anchored in the operational system for development, firmly connected to the country level, and with UNDP as a key driver for development.

I will work with you to present more detailed proposals to improve the Resident Coordinator system by December 2017.

Fifth principle, for too long, reform efforts in the field have been hindered by the lack of similar efforts at headquarters.

To enable change on the ground, we need an accountability mechanism here at headquarters that is seen as impartial and neutral. And we need to do so without creating new bureaucracies or superstructures.

To address this long standing issue, I intend to assume my full responsibilities as Chief Executive of the United Nations, and reassert a leadership role in UN sustainable development efforts, in support of Member States and our staff on the ground.

I am asking the Deputy Secretary-General to oversee and provide strategic guidance to the UN Development Group, as well as leading a Steering Committee to foster coherence between humanitarian action and development work.

Decentralization is a key goal of all my reform efforts. Effective decentralization will require strengthening accountability in headquarters, but always with a focus on delivery on the ground.

Sixth principle, we need to foster a more cohesive UN policy voice at the regional level. We will launch a review of our regional representation and activities, to clarify the division of labour within the system and explore ways to reinforce the UN country-regional-global policy backbone.

Seventh principle, the accountability of the UN development system is a matter of priority.

Accountability is indeed an end in itself, because it fosters transparency, improves results and holds our institutions to agreed standards and commitments. It is also a critical incentive for collaboration and better reporting on system-wide impact.

My report outlines three specific areas for continued engagement with Member States: first, improving guidance and oversight over system-wide results, with the ECOSOC at the centre; second, more transparency around collective results, including through system-wide annual reporting and the establishment of a system-wide independent evaluation function; and third, more robust internal accountability to ensure that internal mechanisms such as the Chief Executives Board and the UN Development Group deliver on Member States mandates and internal agreements.

Eighth principle, and last, there is a critical need to address the unintended consequences of funding that have hampered our ability to deliver as one. Around 85% of funds are currently earmarked, around 90% of which to single-donor-single agency programmes.

A fragmented funding base is delivering a fragmented system undermining results in people’s lives.

I would like to explore with you the possibility of a “Funding Compact”, through which the system would commit to greater efficiency, value-for-money and reporting on system-wide results, against the prospect of more robust core funding support to individual agencies and improved joint funding practices.

The true test of reform will not be measured in words in New York or Geneva.

It will be measured through tangible results in the lives of the people we serve.

This report outlines areas where I believe ambitious but realistic changes can be implemented without creating unnecessary disruption on the ground.

It also reflects my previous experience as head of a major UN operational agency. My decade leading UNHCR gave me first-hand experience on the strengths of the system and challenges of interagency cooperation.

I saw the need to preserve an adequate level of autonomy to ensure flexible and efficient delivery, in line with the specific mandates that need to be implemented.

Yet in many field visits, I heard time and time again from colleagues and partners that we must do far better in working together as a system that delivers results for people.

We have entered a critical period for your concrete perspectives and ideas.

Many questions raised in this report will require answers and further consideration. We intend to seek these answers jointly with you. Repositioning the UN development system is indeed our shared responsibility.

Just as our founders looked well into the future when they shaped and adopted the UN Charter, we too have a collective responsibility to invest in the United Nations of tomorrow and the world if we want an agenda 2030 to be the success it deserves to be.

I am convinced that, together, we can take the bold steps that the new agenda requires and that humanity also deserves.

I now look forward to hearing your questions and suggestions, and I hope more suggestions and proposals than questions.

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Is Religion the New Colonial Frontier in International Development?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/religion-new-colonial-frontier-international-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=religion-new-colonial-frontier-international-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/religion-new-colonial-frontier-international-development/#respond Tue, 04 Jul 2017 06:30:40 +0000 Azza Karam http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151158 Azza Karam is Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

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Azza Karam is Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

By Azza Karam
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 4 2017 (IPS)

A decade ago, it was difficult to get Western policy makers in governments to be interested in the role of religious organizations in human development. The secular mind-set was such that religion was perceived, at best, as a private affair. At worst, religion was deemed the cause of harmful social practices, an obstacle to the “sacred” nature of universal human rights, and/or the root cause of terrorism. In short, religion belonged in the ‘basket of deplorables’.

Azza Karam, Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

Azza Karam, Senior Advisor, UNFPA and Coordinator, UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development

Yet, starting in the mid-1990s with then President of the World Bank, James Wolfenson, and celebrated in 2000 under then UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan when the Millenium Development Goals were agreed to, a number of religiously-inspired initiatives coalesced, all trying to move ‘religion’ to international development’s ‘basket of desirables’.

The arguments used to begin to generate positive interest in the role of religious NGOs in international multilateral fora were relatively straightforward. Today they are almost a cliche: religious institutions are the oldest social service providers known to human kind, and several basic health and educational institutions of today, are administered or influenced to some extent, by religious entities.

So if we are serious about strengthening health systems and universal access to healthcare, enhancing educational institutions, content and accessibility, protecting our environment, safeguarding the rights of marginlised and vulnerable populations, countering social exclusion and ensuring human dignity, then – the argument is – we have to work with those who influence minds, hearts, and continue to provide and manage significant amounts of social services in most countries. Facts and figures as to how many social services are provided by/through religious institutions continue to be provided and roundly disputed.

The number of initiatives within the secular multilaterals – like the UN – which focused on ‘religion and development’ began to slowly attract the attention (and the money) of some western donor governments such as Switzerland and Norway, both of whom were keen on mobilising religious support for women’s rights in particular. Some governments (such as the USA and the UK) dabbled in engaging with religious NGOs both at home in their own countries, and supporting some of them in their development and humanitarian work abroad.

Nevertheless, from a multilateral perspective, the larger tapestry of western donor support to efforts around religion, tended to be marginal – dipping toes in the water rather than taking a plunge.

With the increasing presence of al-Qaeda on the world stage in 2001, and the subsequent war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world witnessed the emerging gruesome hydras of religious extremism, at once fueling, and being fueled by, the phenomena of ultra nationalism, racism, xenophobia and misogyny. Some western governments spoke openly of engaging religious actors in counter-terrorism, but this narrative was fraught with political tensions.

It was only when migrants appeared to ‘flood’ European shores (albeit in numbers which are only a fraction of those ending up in developing countries), that there was a noticeable surge of keen interest by several western governments in ‘this religion thing’.

For the UN developmental entities who had invested significantly to generate the interest of their largest western donors in the relevance of religions to development, spurred by the learning from the MDGs and with a view to realizing Agenda 2030, there was a noticeable volte face which was taking place right under their noses.

Almost overnight, UN-steered initiatives to engage with religious actors and enhance partnerships around health, education, environment, women’s rights, humanitarian work, all of which had been painstakingly prepared and backed by years of research, consultations, networking and shared practice (as the work of the UN Interagency Task Force on Religion and Development testifies) became the object of desire by some governments.

Rather than seek to support the UN in continuing to engage with this work and the critical partnerships developed and labored over for years, however, the objective of these governments is to seek to directly manage the convening, networking and funding roles of faith-based entities, ostensibly with the same objectives of achieving the SDGs.

But there is a critical difference between the UN convening and working with faith-based organizations and religious leaders, and one or a handful of governments doing so. To survive, to thrive, and to protect human rights, the agenda of multilateral entities has to remain distinct from the national self-interest of any one government – or a handful thereof – no matter how powerful this government (or these governments), may be.

This applies to all issues, constituencies and types of partnerships outlined in SDG 17. But the argument here is even more powerful: that where religions are concerned, the need for unbiased and non-partisan engagement with religious actors, distinct from any one nation’s self-interest, is crucial.

If there is suspicion about the role of a non-western government in supporting religious actors in countries outside of its own, then why do we not also suspect western governments of involving themselves in supporting religious efforts in countries other than their own?

This question becomes especially pertinent when we begin to look at the religious composition of the western governments now keen on ‘supporting religion and development’ abroad – they are mostly Christian. And if we look at the governments viewed with much suspicion who have long been supporting religious engagement overseas (also for development and humanitarian purposes, one might add), they tend to be Muslim. A coincidence perhaps?

To avoid these kinds of questions, it would behoove all concerned parties interested in achieving the significant targets of the Sustainable Development Goals, and with a view to endorsing the United Nations’ mandate of safeguarding peace and security and protecting human rights, to support the efforts of the UN system in engaging the whole of civil society.

Rather than efforts driven by some governments, to work with select religious actors, in some countries, the challenge (which is fully achievable) is to strengthen the multi-faith and broad-based civic coalitions of legally registered, bona fide NGOs, working with and known to their governments and to the UN entities, at national, regional and global levels, to deliver for the world.

Otherwise, the danger is that such efforts will be misconstrued as the new colonial enterprise in international development, playing into rising religious tensions globally. History is replete with examples where mobilizing religious actors in other countries, no matter how well-intentioned, can create some rather unholy alliances.

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