Inter Press ServiceGlobal – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 21 Jul 2018 00:49:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Balancing Trade Warshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/balancing-trade-wars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=balancing-trade-wars http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/balancing-trade-wars/#respond Fri, 20 Jul 2018 13:53:52 +0000 Sunita Narain http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156804 Sunita Narain* is Director-General of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) & Editor of Down to Earth magazine

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

By Sunita Narain
NEW DELHI, Jul 20 2018 (IPS)

A global trade war has broken out. The United States fired the first salvo and there has been retaliation by the European Union, Canada, China and even India. Tariffs on certain imported goods have been increased in a tit-for-tat reaction.

Sunita Narain

Analysts see it as a limited war in the understanding that Donald Trump is all for “free-trade”. But this view denies the fact that a tectonic shift is taking place in the world. It is a war for ascendency to global leadership; a contest between the US and China.

China is heaving its might on the world. President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative is an open call for its global influence. In July 2017, China launched the ambitious plan to invest in the technology of the future—artificial intelligence.

There are dark (unconfirmed) whispers about how it is going about acquiring many new-age technologies by rolling over western companies operating in vast markets.

The last century belonged to the US and Europe with Russia as the communist outlier. China became mighty all because of the emergence of the free trade regime in the world. Just some 35-odd years ago, it was behind the iron curtain.

But then the World Trade Organization (WTO) was born in January 1995. China’s trade boomed. It took over the world’s manufacturing jobs. India, too, found its place by servicing outsourced businesses like telemarketing. “Shanghaied” and “Bangalored” entered the lexicon—as jobs (and pollution) moved continents.

This way, globalisation fulfilled its purpose to usher in a new era of world prosperity. Or so, we thought.

Instead, globalisation has made the world more complicated and convoluted. In early 1990s, when the discussions on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) were at its peak, there was a clear North-South divide.

The then-developed world pushed for opening up of trade. It wanted markets and protection through rules on “fair” trade and intellectual property. The then developing world was worried what the free trade regime would do to its nascent and weak industrial economies.

More importantly, there were fears of what these new open trade rules would do to its farmers, who would have to compete with the disproportionately subsidised farmers of the developed world.

In 1999 tensions flared up at the WTO ministerial meet in Seattle. By this time, reality of globalisation had dawned and so it was citizens of the rich world who protested for labour rights, worried about outsourcing of their jobs and environmental abuses.

But these violent protests were crushed. The next decade was lost in the financial crisis. The new winners told the old losers that “all was well”.

Today Trump has joined the ranks of the Leftist Seattle protesters, while India and China are the new defenders of free trade. The latter in fact want more, much more of it.

But again, is it so straightforward? All these arrangements are built on the refusal to acknowledge the crisis of employment. The first phase of globalisation led to some displacement of labour and this is what Trump is griping about.

But the fact is that this phase of globalisation has only meant war between the old elite (middle-classes in the world of trade and consumerism) and the new elite. It has not been long enough or deep enough to destroy the foundations of the livelihoods of the vast majority of the poor engaged in farming. But it is getting there.

But this is where the real impact of globalisation will be felt. Global agricultural trade remains distorted and deeply contentious. The trade agreements targeted basics like procurement of foodgrains by governments to withstand scarcity and the offer of minimum support price to farmers.

Right now, the Indian government is making the right noises that it will stand by its farmers. But we will not be able to balance this highly imbalanced trade regime if we don’t recognise that employment is the real crisis.

It is time that this round of trade war should be on the need for livelihood opportunities. Global trade talks must discuss employment not just industry. It must value labour and not goods.

This is what is at the core of the insecurity in the world. It is not about trade or finance. It is about the biggest losers: us, the people and the planet.

The link to the original article follows:
https://www.downtoearth.org.in/

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Excerpt:

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

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How Prison Conditions Fuel the Tuberculosis Epidemichttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/prison-conditions-fuel-tuberculosis-epidemic/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=prison-conditions-fuel-tuberculosis-epidemic http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/prison-conditions-fuel-tuberculosis-epidemic/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 16:01:57 +0000 David Bryden http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156787 David Bryden is the TB advocacy officer at RESULTS. He coordinates US advocacy, and co-chairs the TB Roundtable

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Inmates at the National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Credit: David Bryden

By David Bryden
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 19 2018 (IPS)

Dozens of grown men peered from behind the barred doorway of a crammed window-less prison cell, eyes pleading desperately from sweaty faces.

Their physical discomfort was so palpable, I could almost feel it. Because of my work, I also knew of at least one serious unseen risk facing them – that of contracting tuberculosis in the cramped, poorly ventilated space.

Touring the largest prison in Port-au-Prince was part of a research visit I made there in 2106. Two years later, the image of those men still haunts my memories—more so now that the first ever United Nations High-Level Meeting (UNHLM) on Tuberculosis (TB) approaches in September and the global spotlight gets set to turn on this neglected disease and conditions that continue to influence its spread.

At the upcoming 22nd International AIDS Conference, in Amsterdam July 23 – 27, civil society organizations will seek to put the spotlight on vulnerable populations and deepen collaboration to ensure a united position on key issues such as the link between HIV/AIDS and TB and the need for an integrated approach to diagnosis and treatment.

A special session, Friday, July 27, titled “Seizing the moment for TB: Current challenges in TB care and in TB and HIV integration,” will feature Eric Goosby, the United Nation’s Secretary General’s Special Envoy on TB; Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health; and Carol Nawina Kachenga, of the Zambian-based group CITAMplus. Former US President Bill Clinton will give the special sessions opening keynote.

The scale of the prison problem is particularly staggering. In 2016, The Lancet published a study by Kate Dolan and her colleagues at the University of New South Wales explaining that of the total global incarcerated population of 10.2 million, 2.8 percent or 286,000 have active TB.

A further 3.8 percent or 389, 000 also have HIV. The Stop TB Partnership estimates that, the risk of TB in prison on average, is 23 times higher than in the general population.

The high rate of HIV in prisons is exacerbated by a lack of prevention options as well as sexual violence. However, even prisoners living with HIV who can overcome barriers to treatment, face a much greater risk of TB.

Data from sub-Saharan Africa show a prevalence of HIV infection among prisoners from 2.3 percent to 34.9 percent and of TB, from 0.4 to 16.3 percent.

Overcrowding seems to be the single biggest root cause of the prison TB epidemic. Dolan et al lay the blame on the practice of mass incarceration of people who inject drugs. They urge decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and access to opioid agonist therapy.

Another driver of overcrowding is the use of pre-trial detention and the slow process of adjudication. Slow judicial processes have been blamed for the massive overcrowding in jails in the Philippines, a country with a high level of TB, including drug resistant TB.

In Port-au-Prince, the National Penitentiary was built for 800 prisoners, but now houses 4600; the rate of tuberculosis is 17 times that of the general population of the country. There is no prison hospital in which patient can be appropriately isolated and treated.

The prisoners are poorly fed, with only one or two meals a day and little or no protein, making tuberculosis – caused by an airborne bacterium- even more likely. The state of the world’s prisons ensures they are “factories” for TB transmission, including drug resistant TB—now the single biggest infectious disease killer in the world. Tackling prison conditions, therefore, is essential to ending the disease.

Some countries are directly addressing the issue. Mongolia, for instance, reported a two-thirds reduction from 2001 to 2010 of TB among prisoners through active TB case finding and upgrading health services and living conditions. Reducing prison populations and improved nutrition was important to this success.

In a project in Zambia, supported by TB REACH, peer educators have been trained from among the prison population to support TB screening as well as HIV counseling. This approach was found to be highly effective and sustainable, since the peer educators knew the prison culture and were enthusiastic and committed.

Experts on TB also point to the need for screening and treatment, not only for active TB, but also for latent TB infection, which is very widely prevalent among prisoners, to support better TB prevention. TB preventive therapy, a course of antibiotics, has been proven highly effective but is still not widely used in high burden countries.

At the penitentiary in Port-au-Prince, I saw the dedicated work of an NGO, Health Through Walls, to provide TB and HIV services, despite adverse conditions. With USAID and Global Fund support, they are providing HIV and TB diagnoses, including using the latest methods, as well as treatment and nutritional supplementation, in eleven prisons in Haiti. With a tiny budget, they are saving many lives.

During a civil society hearing on TB held earlier this year at the United Nations, Assembly in preparation for the UNHLM, Donald Tobaiwa, from Jointed Hands Welfare Organization, Zimbabwe, called for urgent action to address TB in prisons, as well as in the mining industry.

“What are countries doing about this?” he asked. “The question, he said, was not what it costs to find people with TB, but what it will cost us if we fail to find them.”

Advocates gathering at the UNHLM plan to make this their rallying cry to heads of state. With a strong commitment to finding TB cases, including those hiding in plain sight in prison populations, and support from member states for an independent and regular progress assessment, the meeting cane be a turning point in the drive to end this disease.

The post How Prison Conditions Fuel the Tuberculosis Epidemic appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

David Bryden is the TB advocacy officer at RESULTS. He coordinates US advocacy, and co-chairs the TB Roundtable

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India Fast Becoming a Pillar of Global Growth & Stabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/india-fast-becoming-pillar-global-growth-stability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=india-fast-becoming-pillar-global-growth-stability http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/india-fast-becoming-pillar-global-growth-stability/#respond Thu, 19 Jul 2018 07:54:04 +0000 Hardeep S. Puri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156782 Hardeep S. Puri, India’s Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs, in his address to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

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Hardeep S. Puri, India’s Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs, in his address to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

By Hardeep S. Puri
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 19 2018 (IPS)

It is with great pleasure and pride that I interact with you this afternoon as India’s Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, to share some thoughts on India’s extremely ambitious, and arguably the world’s largest planned urbanization programme under the leadership of our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Hardeep S. Puri

In 1947, when we became an independent country, 17% of our population lived in urban areas. This 17% was on a population base of 350 million or so. At present, over 30% of our population, on a base of 1.2 billion, lives in urban centres.

By 2030, when we complete work of the 2030 Development Agenda, nearly 600 million Indians, or 40% of our population, will reside in urban spaces. To lay further emphasis on India’s urban prospects – from now till 2030, India has to build 700 to 900 million square meters of urban space every year.

In other words, India will have to build a new Chicago every year from now till 2030 to meet its urban demand. More importantly, the new urban infrastructure India builds for 2030, 70% of which still needs to be constructed, will have to be green and resilient.

India has been in the vanguard of the sustainable development agenda even prior to 2015. By promoting cooperative federalism, ensuring integrated planning through convergence, and focusing on an outcome-based approach compared to a project-based approach, we have embarked upon the most ambitious and comprehensive programme of planned urbanisation ever undertaken in the world.

With these principles as the backbone, India is implementing some of the world’s largest and most ambitious national schemes for social inclusion, economic growth, and environmental sustainability, through silo-breaking approaches.

In the words of Prime Minister Modi at the UN summit for post-2015 development agenda, “Just as our vision behind Agenda 2030 is lofty, our goals are comprehensive. It gives priority to the problems that have endured through the past decades. And, it reflects our evolving understanding of the social, economic and environmental linkages that define our lives”.

India has consistently achieved a growth rate of over 7% year on year through bold economic reforms, and has strong prospects for an even higher growth rate in the near future. Given our size and scale, India is fast becoming a pillar of global growth and stability.

SDG 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

As President of the Governing Council of UN-Habitat, it gives me great pleasure to note international efforts towards inclusive, resilient, and sustainable human settlements and SDG 11 have been greatly strengthened in the last few years by the New Urban Agenda signed at Habitat III, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Quito Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements.

Today, more than 90% of the global urban growth is occurring in the developing world. India, China, and Nigeria together will account for 35 % of the growth in the world’s urban population between 2018 and 2050. It would not be an overstatement to say that India’s urban agenda will constitute one of the defining projects of the 21st century.

Urban areas in India face multi-pronged challenges. We remain confronted by a complex ecosystem of urban challenges through and in ensuring housing for all, technology based solutions to enhance service delivery, better mobility and greener transport, smart governance, and in doing more with less.

Mahatma Gandhi had famously said, “Freedom from insanitary practices is even more important than political freedom”.

As a tribute to the father of the nation, India launched the largest sanitation and hygiene program in the world – the Swachh Bharat Mission, with the objective of make India open defecation free and achieve scientific waste management by October 2nd 2019, the 150th birth anniversary of the Mahatma, well ahead of the deadline for SDG 6.

The Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and the National Rural Drinking Water Program (NRDWP) seek to provide urban and rural areas with universal drinking water supply and sewage treatment respectively. Both these missions have been making steady progress and are on track to achieve their goals.

The Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or the Prime Minister’s scheme on Affordable Housing for All is the world’s largest housing programme for the poor. The government aims to build 11 million affordable homes for urban Indians by the year 2022.

We have already sanctioned over 5 million and are confident of meeting the targets by middle of 2019. Giving a fillip to gender empowerment, the title of each home under the Mission is under the lady of the house, or co-jointly.

The mission also encompasses a Technology Sub-Mission to facilitate adoption of green, disaster resistant building materials and construction techniques for ensuring faster and cost- effective construction.

This not only addresses SDG 11 directly but also aims to effectuate, SDG 1 by ending spatial poverty of homeless people; SDG 3 by giving access to all-weather protected living environment; SDG 7 through increased usage of sustainable, affordable construction practices; and SDG 10 by reducing inequalities of access to basic minimum standard of living.

India is in the process of creating 100 Smart Cities to strengthen urban infrastructure by applying smart solutions and giving a decent quality of life to citizens. Improving the urban governance reforms through creation of Integrated Command and Control Centre has made city management efficient and effective resulting in savings of city revenues.

This has made a significant impact on India’s promise to create inclusive and sustainable cities under the SDG 11 by building institutional capabilities through efficient administrative processes and strengthening grassroots democracy.

Smart Cities Mission also focuses on SDG 12 by reducing the pressure on resources through promotion of sustainable consumption and production pattern which again is promoted by sustainable practices being adopted by cities in reducing the carbon footprint, leveraging vertical expansion and reducing the overall burden on infrastructural resources by switching to cleaner substitutes.

India has ensured that all its international commitments are mirrored in the national development goals. With India striving to meet its national socio-economic development targets, achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 169 targets linked to them will be a major success story of the millennium affecting more than a billion persons all at once.

India’s national development goals and its “Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas” or “development with all, and for all,” policy initiatives for inclusive development converge well with the SDGs, and India will play a leading role in determining the success of the SDGs, globally.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi noted, “The sustainable development of one-sixth of humanity will be of great consequence to the world and our beautiful planet.” India stands truly committed to achieving an equitable and sustainable future for all its citizens, and in working with the global community to achieve the SDGs together.

The post India Fast Becoming a Pillar of Global Growth & Stability appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Hardeep S. Puri, India’s Minister of State for Housing & Urban Affairs, in his address to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development

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The Industrialization of Cybercrimehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/the-industrialization-of-cybercrime/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-industrialization-of-cybercrime http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/the-industrialization-of-cybercrime/#respond Wed, 18 Jul 2018 12:17:16 +0000 Tamas Gaidosch http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156762 Tamas Gaidosch, a senior financial sector expert in the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, is a cybersecurity professional with more than 20 years’ experience, including probing banking systems to find cyber weaknesses. He formerly led the Information Technology Supervision Department at the Central Bank of Hungary.

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Tamas Gaidosch, a senior financial sector expert in the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, is a cybersecurity professional with more than 20 years’ experience, including probing banking systems to find cyber weaknesses. He formerly led the Information Technology Supervision Department at the Central Bank of Hungary.

By Tamas Gaidosch
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 18 2018 (IPS)

Cybercrime is now a mature industry operating on principles much like those of legitimate businesses in pursuit of profit. Combating the proliferation of cybercrime means disrupting a business model that employs easy-to-use tools to generate high profits with low risk.

Long gone are the legendary lone-wolf hackers of the late 1980s, when showing off level 99 computer wizard skills was the main reason to get into other people’s computers.

The shift to profit making, starting in the 1990s, has gradually taken over the hacking scene to create today’s cybercrime industry, with all the attributes of normal businesses, including markets, exchanges, specialist operators, outsourcing service providers, integrated supply chains, and so on.

Several nation-states have used the same technology to develop highly effective cyber weaponry for intelligence gathering, industrial espionage, and disrupting adversaries’ vulnerable infrastructures.

Cybercrime has proliferated even though the supply of highly skilled specialists has not kept pace with the increasing technical sophistication needed to pull off profitable hacks with impunity. Advanced tooling and automation have filled the gap.

Hacking tools have evolved spectacularly over the past two decades. In the 1990s, so-called penetration testing to find vulnerabilities in a computer system was all the rage in the profession.

Most tools available at that time were simple, often custom built, and using them required considerable knowledge in programming, networking protocols, operating system internals, and various other deeply technical subjects. As a result, only a few professionals could find exploitable weaknesses and take advantage of them.

As tools got better and easier to use, less skilled, but motivated, young people—mockingly called “script kiddies”—started to use them with relative success. Today, to launch a phishing operation—that is, the fraudulent practice of sending email that appears to be from a reputable sender to trick people into revealing confidential information—requires only a basic understanding of the concepts, willingness, and some cash. Hacking has become easy to do (see chart).

Cyber risk is notoriously difficult to quantify. Loss data are scarce and unreliable, in part because there is little incentive to report cyber losses, especially if the incident does not make headlines or there is no cyber insurance coverage. The rapidly evolving nature of the threats makes historical data less relevant in predicting future losses.

Scenario-based modeling, working out the costs of a well-defined incident affecting certain economies, produces estimates in the tens or hundreds of billions of dollars. Lloyd’s of London estimates losses of $53.05 billion for a cloud service outage lasting 2½ to 3 days affecting the advanced economies.

An IMF modeling exercise put the base-case average aggregated annual loss at $97 billion, with the worst-case scenario in the range of $250 billion.

Crime in the physical world—with the intent of making money—is generally motivated simply by profit potentially much higher than for legal business, which criminals view as compensation for the high risk.

In the world of cybercrime, similar or even higher profits are possible with much less risk: less chance of being caught and successfully prosecuted and almost no risk of being shot at. Phishing profitability is estimated in the high hundreds or even over a thousand percentage points.

We can only speculate on the profits made possible by intellectual property theft carried out by the most sophisticated cyber threat actors. The basics, however, are similar: effective tooling and an exceptional risk/reward ratio make a compelling case and ultimately explain the sharp increase in and industrialization of cybercrime.

Cybercrime gives rise to systemic risk in several industries. While different industries are affected differently, the most exposed is probably the financial sector. A relatively new threat is posed by destruction-motivated attackers.

When seeking to destabilize the financial system, they look at the most promising targets. Financial market infrastructure is the most vulnerable because of its pivotal role in global financial markets.

Given the financial sector’s dependence on a relatively small set of technical systems, knock-on effects from defaults or delays due to successful attacks can be widespread, with potentially systemic effects.

And given the inherent interconnection of financial sector participants, a successful disruption to the payment, clearing, or settlement systems—or stealing confidential information—would result in widespread spillovers and threaten financial stability.

Fortunately, to date, we have not experienced a cyberattack with systemic consequences. However, policymakers and financial regulators are increasingly wary, given recent incidents that took out ATM networks and attacks against online banking systems, central banks, and payment systems.

The financial sector has been dependent on information technology for decades and has a history of maintaining strong IT control environments mandated by regulation. While the financial sector may be most at risk of cyberattack, such attacks also carry a higher risk for cyber criminals, in part because of greater attention from law enforcement (just like old-fashioned bank robberies).

The financial sector also does a better job of supporting law enforcement—for example, by keeping extensive records that are valuable in forensic investigations. Deeper budgets can often lead to effective cybersecurity solutions. (A recent notable exception is Equifax, whose hack was arguably a consequence of a cyber regulatory regime that was not proportional to its risk.)

The situation is different in health care. Except in the wealthiest nations, the health care sector typically does not have the resources necessary for effective cyber defense. This is evident, for example, in ransomware attacks this year that targeted computer systems at the electronic health record company Allscripts and two regional hospitals in the United States.

Although also heavily regulated and under strict data protection rules, health care has not relied nearly as much on IT as the financial sector has, and consequently has not developed a similar culture of strict IT controls. This too makes the health care sector more susceptible to cyber breaches.

What is most worrisome about this weakness is that, unlike in the financial sector, lives can be lost if, for example, attackers hit computerized life-support systems.

Utilities, especially the power and communication grids, are often cited as the next sectors where large-scale cyberattacks can have severe consequences. In this case, however, the main concern is disruption or infiltration of systems by rival states, either directly or through proxy organizations.

As famously exemplified by the massive 2007 attack against Estonia’s Internet infrastructure—which took down online financial services, media, and government agencies—the more advanced and Internet-based an economy, the more devastating cyberattacks can be. Estonia is among the most digitalized societies in the world.

If critical infrastructure—say, a power grid—or telecommunication and transportation networks are affected, or an attack prevents governments from collecting taxes or providing critical services, major disruptions with systemic economic implications could ensue and potentially pose a public health or security hazard.

In such instances, the aggregate risk to the global economy could exceed the sum of individuals’ risks, because of the global nature of IT networks and platforms, the national nature of response structures, ineffective international cooperation, or even the presence of nation-states among the attackers.

International cooperation in combating and prosecuting cybercrime lags well behind the global nature of the threat. The best way to tackle cybercrime is to attack its business model, which relies on the exceptional risk/reward ratio associated with ineffective prosecution. In this context, the business risk of cybercrime must be raised significantly, but this is possible only with better international cooperation.

Cybercrime operations can span several jurisdictions, which makes them harder to take down and prosecute. Some jurisdictions are slow, ineffective, or simply uncooperative in tackling cybercrime. Stronger cooperation would make tracking down suspects and charging them faster and more effective.

In the financial sector, regulators have developed specific assessment standards, set enforceable expectations and benchmarks, and encouraged information sharing and collaboration among firms and regulators. Bank regulators conduct IT examinations that factor cybersecurity preparedness into stress testing, resolution planning, and safety and soundness supervision.

Some require simulated cyberattacks designed specifically for each firm, drawing on government and private sector intelligence and expertise, to determine resilience against an attack. Companies have also increased investment in cybersecurity and are incorporating cybersecurity preparedness into risk management. In addition, some have sought to transfer some risk via cyber insurance.

The current cybersecurity landscape remains disparate and decentralized, with risks handled mainly as local idiosyncratic problems. There are some cooperation mechanisms, and governments and regulators are stepping up their efforts, but the choice of cybersecurity is largely determined by corporate need—“each to its own.”

This must change to bring about generally enhanced cyber risk resilience. Strong preventive measures are needed both at the regulatory and technology levels and across industries.

Among the most important of these is adherence to minimum cybersecurity standards, enforced in a coordinated way by regulators. Stepped-up cybersecurity awareness training will help defend against the basic technical weaknesses and user errors that are the source of most breaches.

Cyberattacks and cybersecurity breaches seem inevitable, so we also need to focus on how fast we detect breaches, how effectively we respond, and how soon we get operations back on track.

The link to the original article follows: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/global-cybercrime-industry-and-financial-sector/gaidosch.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

The post The Industrialization of Cybercrime appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Tamas Gaidosch, a senior financial sector expert in the IMF’s Monetary and Capital Markets Department, is a cybersecurity professional with more than 20 years’ experience, including probing banking systems to find cyber weaknesses. He formerly led the Information Technology Supervision Department at the Central Bank of Hungary.

The post The Industrialization of Cybercrime appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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New York, With 8.5 Million People, Among Cities Heading for a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 12:11:39 +0000 Maimunah Mohd Sharif and Achim Steiner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156736 Maimunah Mohd Sharif is Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

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Maimunah Mohd Sharif is Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

By Maimunah Mohd Sharif and Achim Steiner
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

New York has long been considered a pioneer – in fashion, art, music, and food, just to name a few. Now this city of 8.5 million is leading a shift in how we tackle today’s toughest global challenges like climate change, education, inequality, and poverty.

UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

These issues are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, an agenda agreed by all nations in 2015 that chart a path for people, prosperity, and the planet. This July, New York is joining countries at the United Nations to report on its progress and to share experiences, becoming the first city to do so.

It makes good sense for New York and other cities to spearhead progress on these global goals – including the need for decent housing, public transport, green spaces and clean air.

More than half of the world’s 7 billion people currently live in cities, and by 2050 that number will be closer to 70%. By 2030, there will be over 700 cities with more than a million inhabitants.

Urban growth is happening fastest in developing countries, which often struggle to meet the demand for quality municipal services and have little experience in planning. Rapid growth can also push up the prices of housing and energy, and can increase pollution, threatening the health and well-being of millions.

Cities are also financial powerhouses, generating 82% of global GDP, yet they also account for 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions, use 80% of the world’s energy, and generate over 1 billion tonnes of waste per year.

Inequality within cities on issues like income, health, and education are also a big challenge.

Cities are a fulcrum for sustainable development worldwide and crucible for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Unleashing the power of cities to help solve global challenges means linking local plans to national plans, and also to global agendas.

Cities are already showing how to lead by example on one of our most pressing global challenges: climate change.

The global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is an alliance of cities and local governments working to combat climate change and move to a low-emission and resilient society. This group has commitments from over 9,000 cities and local governments from 6 continents and 127 countries.

The Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this September is another example of how cities, as well as states, regions, companies and citizens, are coming together to show how every group can do something and accelerate action.

Which brings us back to New York.

Cities are on the frontlines of nearly every global challenge we currently face, and they need to be at the center of our strategy to solve them. The urban development of yesterday will not suffice.

By using the Sustainable Development Goals as their guide, New York is showing how cities can adapt their plans to mirror development plans, allowing them to grow in the most sustainable way possible while creating policies for the things people living in cities need.

Things like jobs, affordable housing, good education, quality health care, clean air and good waste management, just to name a few. Getting cities right can provide opportunities to address poverty, migration, employment and pollution.

We invite all cities to join New York and help lead the way in planning for a shared and sustainable future that benefits all people of the world.

On 17 July 2018, the UN will host an event at the High-level Political Forum: ‘The SDGs in Action – Working together for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements. The event will focus on how cities and human settlement are accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and contributing to a transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.

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Excerpt:

Maimunah Mohd Sharif is Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

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Africa Could be Next Frontier for Cryptocurrencyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/africa-next-frontier-cryptocurrency/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-next-frontier-cryptocurrency http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/africa-next-frontier-cryptocurrency/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 14:55:49 +0000 Pavithra Rao http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156721 Pavithra Rao, Africa Renewal*

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Interest in cryptocurrency, a form of digital currency, is growing steadily in Africa. Some economists say it is a disruptive innovation that will blossom on the continent.

By Pavithra Rao
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

Cryptocurrency is not bound by geography because it is internet based; its transactions are stored in a database called blockchain, which is a group of connected computers that record transactions in a ledger in real time.

The difference between cryptocurrency and, say, Visa or Mastercard, is that a cryptocurrency is not now regulated by government and doesn’t need middlemen, and transactions rely on the internet, which means they can happen anywhere in the world.

The big cryptocurrency global brands include Bitcoin, Litecoin, XRP, Dash, Lisk and Monero, but Bitcoin leads the pack in Africa. Created in 2009 by a person or people with the alias Satoshi Nakamoto, investors hope Bitcoin becomes the new mode of financial transaction in the digital age.

“Africa is rarely mentioned among the largest markets for cryptocurrency, but it may be set to steal a march over other markets,” says Rakesh Sharma, a business and technology journalist.

Sharma says that citizens of countries battling high inflation are likely to opt for cryptocurrency, because “with their paradigm of decentralization, cryptocurrencies offer an alternative to disastrous central bank policies.”

Stealing a march

South Sudan’s inflation rate was 102% between September 2016 and September 2017, according to the World Bank. Other countries with double-digit inflation rates include Egypt, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is no surprise that some of these countries are among the main Bitcoin economies in Africa.

The main Bitcoin countries are Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Zimbabwe, according to gobitcoin.io, a website dedicated to Bitcoin news in Africa. The BBC adds that cryptocurrency is gaining ground in Uganda.

When Zimbabwe’s inflation skyrocketed in 2015, forcing authorities to print $100 trillion notes (each worth just $40), some Zimbabweans turned to Bitcoin.

Zimbabweans and citizens of other African countries transact in Bitcoin “as opposed to their local currencies, which are plagued with hyperinflation,” comments Emmanuel Tokunbo Darko, vice president of marketing for ICOWatchlist.com, a platform that hosts cryptocurrency tokens.

There will be 725 million mobile phone subscribers in Africa by 2020, according to the GSM Association, which represents the interests of mobile operators globally. That means more Africans will have the tools to plug into the cryptocurrency ecosystem, says Sharma.

“I check my Bitcoin every day [on my mobile phone] and any chance I can get. Any minute, any hour, anytime, as often as I can,” Peace Akware, a Ugandan millennial, told the BBC.

Bitcoin spreads
That African governments are not now regulating cryptocurrency may be a factor spurring its growth on the continent; however, there is no guarantee that governments will not change their current mindset.

Rather than simply not wanting to, governments may be powerless to regulate cryptocurrency, the Nigerian central bank indicated recently. Currently tackling the country’s 12% inflation rate, the Nigerian apex bank announced that it could not control or regulate Bitcoin, “just the same way no one is going to control or regulate the internet. We don’t own it.”

Fearing a collapse of the banking industry or arbitrary appropriation of money by the government, Africans without access to banks and who live in politically unstable countries could be attracted to cryptocurrency. “Bitcoin transactions help to eliminate the procedural bottlenecks that plague traditional banking and financial services,” Darko explains.

Some 15 cryptocurrency-related operations began in Africa in the past year alone, reports Sharma. But South Africa–based Luno Exchange, established in 2013 and now boasting 1.5 million customers in over 40 countries worldwide, is the first to be based in Africa.

Others, particularly cryptocurrency-based remittance services, are popping up in various countries. These services include Abra, which operates in Malawi and Morocco, GeoPay in South Africa, BitMari in Zimbabwe and London-based Kobocoin, which was launched by Nigerian entrepreneur Felix Onyemechi Ugoji.

The Plaas Application is a mobile app that enables farmers to manage their stock on the blockchain.

Launched in 2013, Kenya’s BitPesa facilitates virtual remittances transfers to both African and international locations, to and from individuals’ mobile wallets, where cryptocurrency is stored. LocalBitcoins.com in Kenya reported trading volumes in excess of $1.8 million as of December 2017, underlining the lucrativeness of the business.

“I started mining Bitcoin [in Nairobi, Kenya] in September 2017 and, so far, this is the best business I have ever tried,” Gladys Laboi told Africa Renewal, adding: “Under six months, I earned $800 after investing in $700.”

Not to be left out, some governments are moving into the virtual currency terrain. Tunisia’s eDinar is a government-issued digital currency. Senegal is in the process of creating eCFA, which, if successful, could be emulated by other Francophone countries in Africa.

There will be government-issued cryptocurrencies in Africa in the near future, predicts Shireen Ramjoo, ceo of Liquid Crypto-Money, a South Africa-based cryptocurrency consulting firm.

Industry experts believe that cryptocurrency will be around for years. That Bitcoin users can send money to just about anywhere there is an internet connection for relatively small fees and with no third-party interference is an advantage that standard government-issued currencies cannot offer.

“Every single computer device on the surface of the planet with an internet connection can access information on the blockchain and make ‘transactional’ inputs onto it. The information cannot be distorted, deleted, modified or destroyed, and [the] computer device has the same information as everybody,” says Darko.

Another recommendation is that transactions are anonymous, and users’ information is private and safe; there is little possibility of identity theft, which is common with other forms of digital payment.

As of December 2017, the global demand for cryptocurrency had increased to the extent that a Bitcoin sold for $20,000. Its value had been $1,000 one year prior.

Ponzi scheme
Nevertheless, some industry watchers refer to cryptocurrency as a risky and temperamental scheme, citing the crash to $8,700 in the value of Bitcoin last February, from a high of $20,000 in December 2017.

Without regulations, cryptocurrency is a double-edged sword; there may be gains from time to time, but any precipitous crash in price could leave investors with no escape route. Manasseh Egedegbe, an investment manager based in Nigeria, says that Bitcoin’s frenzied price surge seems like the dot-com bubble at the turn of the millennium.

There is also the fact that cryptocurrency can be used by criminals to funnel funds. In 2011 Bitcoin was a currency of choice for drug peddlers, according to the US Justice Department, which seized almost $48 million worth of illegal contrabands that year, and discovered that the criminals involved had made transactions totaling 150,000 Bitcoins (approximately $130 million.

Countries such as Bangladesh, Ecuador and Kyrgyzstan believe the risks outweigh the gains and have banned Bitcoin as well as initial coin offerings or ICOs, which are used by start-ups to evade the demand for capital by banks and other financing institutions.

Quartz Africa, an online business news publication, reported last December that a similar scheme, Mavrodi Mundial Moneybox (MMM), once had over two million users in Nigeria, while also operating in Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

There are reports that South Africa’s central bank is actively studying cryptocurrency and may institute guidelines to foster innovation. Those guidelines could be a slippery slope to regulation. The Sunday Times of South Africa reported in March that 27,500 individuals, including South Africans, lost more than $50 million when they were duped into transferring their Bitcoins into an online wallet. The publication called it “one of the biggest scams to hit South Africa.”

At 22% (the world average is 48%), Africa has the lowest rate of Internet usage of any region, according to a 2017 report by the International Communications Union, which may undercut optimistic projections of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology on the continent. Also, poor power supply in many countries continues to impede the internet access on which cryptocurrency largely depends.

Despite some analysts likening Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to a Ponzi scheme, many Africans are taking the risk to invest in them.

Other experts, such as Darko, believe Africa should warmly embrace the innovation. “Truth be told, Africa needs blockchain technology and its resultant cryptocurrencies more than any part of the world,” he says

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information. The link to the original article follows: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/april-2018-july-2018/africa-could-be-next-frontier-cryptocurrency

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Excerpt:

Pavithra Rao, Africa Renewal*

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Will Trump’s Trade War Make America Great Again?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/will-trumps-trade-war-make-america-great/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-trumps-trade-war-make-america-great http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/will-trumps-trade-war-make-america-great/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 14:26:11 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156713 The United States has had the world’s largest trade deficit for almost half a century. In 2017, the US trade deficit in goods and services was $566 billion; without services, the merchandise account deficit was $810 billion. The largest US trade deficit is with China, amounting to $375 billion, rising dramatically from an average of […]

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By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY & KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

The United States has had the world’s largest trade deficit for almost half a century. In 2017, the US trade deficit in goods and services was $566 billion; without services, the merchandise account deficit was $810 billion.

The largest US trade deficit is with China, amounting to $375 billion, rising dramatically from an average of $34 billion in the 1990s. In 2017, its trade deficit with Japan was $69 billion, and with Germany, $65 billion. The US also has trade deficits with both its NAFTA partners, including $71 billion with Mexico.

President Trump wants to reduce these deficits with protectionist measures. In March 2018, he imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminium, a month after imposing tariffs and quotas on imported solar panels and washing machines. On 10 July, the US listed Chinese imports worth $200 billion annually that will face 10% tariffs, probably from September, following 25% tariffs on $34 billion of such imports from 7 July.

 

Do US trade deficits reflect weakness?

The usual explanation for bilateral trade deficits is price differentials. However, the US accuses such countries of ‘unfair’ trade practices, such as currency manipulation, wage suppression and government subsidies to boost exports, besides blocking US imports.

Trump views most trade deals such as NAFTA as unfair. His team insists that renegotiating trade deals, ‘buying American’, a strong dollar and confronting China will shrink US trade deficits.

Anis Chowdhury

But the country’s overall trade deficit, offset by capital inflows, is related to the gap between its savings and investments. The US spends more than it produces, thus importing foreign goods and services. Cheap credit fuels debt-financed consumption, increasing the trade deficit.

Total US household debt rose to $13.2 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, the 15th consecutive quarter of growth in the mortgage, student, auto and credit card loan categories. American consumer debt was more than double GDP in 2017.

US government budget deficits have also been growing. From 67.7% of GDP in 2008, US government debt rose to 105.4% in 2017. The federal budget deficit was $665 billion in FY2017, rising 14% from $585 billion in FY2016.

The US budget deficit was 3.5% of GDP in 2017. According to the US Congressional Budget Office, it will surpass $1 trillion by 2020, two years sooner than previously projected, due to Trump tax cuts and spending increases.

The growing US economy may also increase the trade deficit, as consumers spend more on imported goods and services. The stronger dollar has made foreign products cheaper for American consumers while making US exports more expensive for foreigners.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

These underlying economic forces have become more important than policies in raising the overall trade deficit, while bilateral deficits reflect specific commercial relations with particular countries. Thus, disrupting bilateral trade relations may only shift the trade deficit to others.

 

Have the cake and eat it?

So, why does the US have a structural trade deficit? As the de facto international ‘reserve currency’ after the Second World War, the US has provided the rest of the world with liquidity. Its perceived military strength means it is seen as a safe place to keep financial assets. Of about $10 trillion in global reserves in 2016, for example, around three fifths were held in US dollars.

US supply of international liquidity by issuing the global reserve currency offers several economic advantages. It also earns seigniorage from issuing the main currency used around the world, due to the difference between the face value of a currency note and the cost of issuing it.

With growing foreign demand for dollars, the US can run deficits almost indefinitely by creating more debt or selling assets. Demand for dollar-denominated assets, e.g., US Treasury bonds, raises their prices, lowering interest rates, to finance both consumption and investment.

While foreign investors buy low-yielding, short-term US assets, Americans can invest abroad in higher-yielding, long-term assets. The US usually reaps higher returns on such investments than it pays for debt, labelled America’s ‘exorbitant privilege’.

Thus, for the US to enjoy the ‘exorbitant privilege’ of the dollar’s role as the major reserve currency, it must run a chronic trade deficit. Therefore, giving up the dollar’s global reserve currency status will have major implications for the US economy, finances and living standards.

 

Can the US win Trump’s trade war?

Barry Eichengreen noted that countries in military alliances with reserve-currency issuing countries hold about 30% more of the partner’s currency in their foreign-exchange reserves than countries not in such alliances. Instead, Trump has prioritized reducing trade deficits to strengthen the US dollar and dominance while disrupting some old political alliances.

As the US retreats from the global diplomatic stage, use of other reserve currencies, including China’s renminbi, has been growing, especially in Europe and Africa. Thus, ironically, as Trump wages trade wars on both foes and friends, China will probably gain, both geopolitically and economically.

The resulting global economic shift will not only hurt the US dollar and economy through the exchange rate and borrowing costs, but also its geopolitical dominance.


Anis Chowdhury
, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Blue Economy Movement Gains Traction in Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/blue-economy-movement-gains-traction-africa/#respond Mon, 16 Jul 2018 10:42:42 +0000 Miriam Gathigah http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156707 An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger. Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need […]

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A coastal city, Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, is an area where people have relied on the ocean for food and employment for as long as they have lived there. An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

By Miriam Gathigah
NAIROBI, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

An increasing number of African countries are now embracing the blue economy for its potential to deliver solutions to their most pressing development needs–particularly extreme poverty and hunger.

Countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Mauritius, Comoros, Madagascar and the Seychelles–which has already established the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy–are recognising the need to diversify their economies.

“The African Union has also adopted the blue economy, which is about exploiting resources such as oceans, lakes and rivers, into its 2063 development agenda for socio-economic transformation,” Danson Mwangangi, an independent economic researcher and analyst, tells IPS.

He says that for agrarian economies like Kenya, “agriculture alone will not be sufficient to drive the economy since the sector is facing many challenges, including shrinking farmlands, pest infestations and unpredictable weather changes.”The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it. -- Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya

In Kenya, for instance, World Bank statistics show that in 2017 alone maize production dropped 20 to 30 percent due to insufficient rains and army worm infestation. The country has an annual maize shortfall of eight million bags per year.
Against this backdrop, experts are urging African countries to diversify and look beyond land-based resources by exploring the blue economy as it presents immense untapped potential.

The World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in their 2018 policy brief make a strong case in favour of the blue economy.
Mwangangi says that it can significantly enable Africa to improve its volumes of global trade, achieve food security and meet its energy demands.

Ocean renewable energy has the potential to meet up to 400 percent of the current global energy demand, according to the International Energy Agency.

“Seventy percent of African countries are either coastal or islands, we need to harness such valuable coastlines,” says Caesar Bita, head of underwater archaeology at the National Museums of Kenya.
He tells IPS that the blue world can significantly transform the lives of communities that live closest to those bodies of water since they lead very precarious lives.

According to John Omingo, head of commercial shipping at the Kenya Maritime Authority, very little has been done in the way of harnessing these vast water-based resources for economic gain.
“Africa’s coastline is about 31,000 kilometres long and yet trade among African countries accounts for 11 percent of the total trade volume, which is the lowest compared to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Europe and America,” he expounds.

Bita tells IPS that while Africa is the largest island on earth as it has the Atlantic Ocean on the west; the Indian Ocean on the east; the Antarctic ocean on the south, and the Mediterranean and Red Sea on the north, “there is very little shipping that is going on in Africa. African-owned ships account for less than 1.2 percent of the world’s shipping.”

Ahead of the upcoming Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, that will be co-host by Kenya and Canada this November, in Nairobi, economic experts are optimistic that the blue economy movement is gaining traction.
The high-level conference is expected to advance a global agenda on sustainable exploitation of oceans, seas, rivers and lakes.

One of Freetown’s larger fishing harbours is Goderich Beach, less than 30 minute’s drive from the city’s downtown core. There, a single motorised boat can bring in as much as 300 dollars worth of fish in a single day. Credit: Travis Lupick/IPS

“Holding the conference in Africa with Canada as a co-host is also very strategic and shows that the continent is coming into this agenda as an important partner. Some of the most important gateways for international trade are actually in Africa,” says Bita.
Mwangangi says that African countries will need to assess their own individual capacities and interpret the blue economy in the manner that makes most economic sense to them.

“The concept is not a one-size-fits-all. Each country will need to evaluate what water-based natural resources are at their disposal,” he says. “On the Indian Ocean side of the continent where we have South Africa and Mauritius, countries tend to embrace an industrial approach,” he adds.

Research shows that South Africa’s Operation Phakisa, a national development plan, also places a focus on the blue economy as it is expected to create one million new jobs by 2030 and add approximately USD13 billion into the country’s economy.

Experts also point to Mauritius which is among the smallest countries in the world but has territorial waters the size of South Africa, making the small nation one the strongest blue economies in Africa. It ranked as Africa’s wealthiest nation based on its per capita income in 2015. Bita adds that Mozambique, which lies alongside the Indian Ocean, is characterised by the highest species of diverse and abundant natural resources.

Kenya is among African countries that are developing strategies to mainstream the blue economy within its national economic blueprint. Bita says that this East African nation’s blue economy includes maritime transport and logistics services, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism as well as the extractive industries such as the offshore mining of gas and oil, titanium and niobium.

Nonetheless, environment experts, including Bita, have expressed concerns that ongoing talks on the blue economy have largely revolved around full exploitation, in order for countries to develop rapidly in the next 10 years, and little on sustainability.

“This is a problem since there is evidence to show that oceans resources are limited. For instance, explorers have presented evidence to show that at least 90 percent of the largest predatory fishes have disappeared from the world’s oceans,” he cautions.

The blue world will only be a win for Africa if there are strategies in place to exploit and protect it, he adds.

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Japan: the Land of the Rising Robotshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/japan-land-rising-robots/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=japan-land-rising-robots http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/japan-land-rising-robots/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 12:39:31 +0000 Todd Schneider - Gee Hee Hong and Anh Van Le http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156697 Todd Schneider is deputy division chief, Gee Hee Hong is an economist, and Anh Van Le is a research assistant, in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

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Todd Schneider is deputy division chief, Gee Hee Hong is an economist, and Anh Van Le is a research assistant, in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

By Todd Schneider, Gee Hee Hong and Anh Van Le
WASHNGTON DC, Jul 13 2018 (IPS)

While automation will eliminate very few occupations entirely in the coming decades, it is likely to have an impact on portions of almost all jobs to some degree—depending on the type of work and the tasks involved.

Set to move beyond routine and repetitive manufacturing activities, automation has the potential to appear in a much broader range of activities than seen until now, and to redefine human labor and work style in services and other sectors.

In Japan, the rapid decline in the labor force and the limited influx of immigrants create a powerful incentive for automation, which makes the country a particularly useful laboratory for the study of the future landscape of work.

Japan’s estimated population fell by a record-breaking 264,000 people in 2017. Currently, deaths outnumber births by an average of 1,000 people a day. The Tohoku region in northern Japan, for example, now has fewer inhabitants than it did in 1950.

Japan’s birth rate has long been significantly below the 2.1 births a woman needed to sustain growth—it currently stands at about 1.4 births a woman—and unlike for many other advanced economies, immigration is not sufficient to fill the gap.

Nearly a third of Japanese citizens were older than 65 in 2015—research from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research suggests that number will rise to nearly 40 percent by 2050.

The Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs released an estimate for Japan that showed the country’s population will dip below 100 million shortly after the middle of the 21st century. By the century’s end, Japan stands to lose 34 percent of its current population.

Japan’s domestic labor force (those ages 15–64) is projected to decline even faster than the overall population, dropping by some 24 million between now and 2050. With immigration unlikely to rise enough to compensate for this dramatic decline anytime soon, Japan faces dim prospects for productivity, potential output, and income growth (see Chart 1).

Japan is no stranger to coping with limited resources—including labor—and has historically been a leader in technological development. Automation and robotics, either to replace or enhance human labor, are familiar concepts in Japanese society. Japanese companies have traditionally been at the forefront in robotic technology.

Firms such as FANUC, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Sony, and the Yaskawa Electric Corporation led the way in robotic development during Japan’s economic rise. Automation and the integration of robotic technology into industrial production have also been an integral part of Japan’s postwar economic success.

Kawasaki Robotics started commercial production of industrial robots over 40 years ago. About 700,000 industrial robots were used worldwide in 1995, 500,000 of them in Japan.

Japan is still a leader in robot production and industrial use. The country exported some $1.6 billion worth of industrial robots in 2016—more than the next five biggest exporters (Germany, France, Italy, United States, South Korea) combined.

Japan is also one of the most robot-integrated economies in the world in terms of “robot density”—measured as the number of robots relative to humans in manufacturing and industry. Japan led the world in this measure until 2009, when Korea’s use of industrial robots surged and Japan’s industrial production increasingly moved abroad (see Chart 2).

The success of the first marriage of Japan’s labor force with robotics—the automation of key sectors such as the automotive and electronics industries in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s—augurs well for the next wave of technology and artificial intelligence and for an impact on employment and wages beyond manufacturing.

First, the gap in productivity growth between the manufacturing and services sectors in Japan is extremely wide. While there are many causes, the largest gains in industrial productivity have been closely correlated with increased use of information and communication technology and automation.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the most productive manufacturing sectors in Japan—automotive and electronics—are the ones whose production processes are heavily reliant on automation.

By contrast, the services sector, which accounts for 75 percent of GDP, has seen little annual productivity growth—only about half that of the United States. Labor productivity has roughly tripled since 1970 in manufacturing, but improved by only about 25 percent in the nonmanufacturing sector.

The coming wave of automation technology and artificial intelligence promises new possibilities for replacing or augmenting labor in the nonmanufacturing sector (for example, in transportation, communications, retail services, storage, and others).

According to several government reports (including the Bank of Japan’s Regional Economic Report and the annual survey on planned capital spending by the Development Bank of Japan), even small and medium-sized firms are embracing new technology to compensate for scarce labor and stay competitive.

For example, Family Mart, a Japanese retail convenience store chain, is accelerating implementation of self-checkout registers, while the restaurant group Colowide and many other restaurant operators have installed touch-screen order terminals to streamline operations and reduce the need for staff.

Other examples abound in health care, financial, transportation, and other services—including robot chefs and hotel staff.

Second, empirical evidence suggests that—contrary to fears for the worst—automation and increased use of robotics have had an overall positive impact on domestic employment and income growth.

IMF staff calculations—based on an approach pioneered by Acemoglu and Restrepo (2017) using prefectural level data from Japan—found increased robot density in manufacturing to be associated not only with greater productivity, but also with local gains in employment and wages.

Notably, these findings—which exclude crisis periods—are the opposite of results of a similar exercise based on US data. It appears that Japan’s experience may differ significantly from that of other advanced economies.

Japan’s progress in automation, use of robots, and integration of artificial intelligence with daily living is likely to move at a faster pace than in many other advanced economies for several reasons:

Shrinking population and the more rapidly shrinking workforce
: As noted above, the constraint on productivity implied by a secular decline in the labor force will effectively push many industries to invest in new technology—as appears evident in Japan now, including among small and medium-sized enterprises, which have a more difficult time attracting and retaining labor. Japan is not alone in this demographic trend, but is well ahead of other advanced economies.

Aging population: The aging of Japan’s population— the so-called baby boom generation will reach 75 in just a few years—is creating substantial labor needs in health and eldercare that cannot be met by “natural” workforce entrants (that is, natives). As a result, the proliferation of robots will extend well beyond Japanese factories to include schools, hospitals, nursing homes, airports, train stations, and even temples.

Declining quality
of services: Surveys support the view that both the volume and quality of services in Japan are in decline. Recent work by the research arm of Japan’s Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (Morikawa 2018) shows that the quality of services is eroding as a result of labor shortages.

Most critically affected are parcel delivery services, hospitals, restaurants, elementary and high schools, convenience stores, and government services.

These same factors may explain why—in model- based simulations—Japan could experience higher and more immediate gains from the continued advance of robotics and artificial intelligence in the economy.

Looking at data across the Group of 20 industrialized countries, a simulation prepared by the IMF staff points to the risk of declining labor shares, income polarization, and rising inequality. This assumes substantial transition costs (unemployment, lower wages) as increasing automation substitutes for and displaces existing human labor.

However, applying this same approach only to Japan yields some very different results. Specifically, with a shrinking labor force, even fully substitutable automation could boost wages and economic growth.

In other words, with labor literally disappearing and dim prospects for relief through higher immigration, automation and robotics can fill the labor gap and result in higher output and greater income rather than replacement of the human workforce.

These positive results notwithstanding, Japan is not immune from societal and welfare risks linked to increased automation. Polarization of the labor force, in which a relatively small proportion of workers have the training and education needed to fully leverage productivity from robotics, is always a social risk.

Research suggests that the female labor force, which has swelled in the past five years, is particularly vulnerable to displacement, given the heavy concentration of women in nonregular jobs (that is, temporary, part-time, or other positions outside the mainstream of Japan’s lifetime employment system), whose tasks are more susceptible to automation (Hamaguchi and Kondo 2017).

There is no crystal ball that can accurately predict how fast and how far robotics and artificial intelligence will advance in the next few decades. Nor is there perfect foresight with regard to how these technologies will be adapted to substitute for human labor— particularly in sectors outside of manufacturing.

Aside from the nontrivial technological challenges, there are a range of hurdles related to supporting infrastructure— including the legal framework for the use of such technologies alongside the general population— that will need to be worked out. Key issues could include consumer protection, data protection, intellectual property, and commercial contracting.

But the wave of change is clearly coming and will affect virtually all professions in one way or another. Japan is a relatively unique case. Given the population and labor force dynamics, the net benefits from increased automation have been high and could be even higher, and such technology may offer a partial solution to the challenge of supporting long-term productivity and economic growth.

Japan’s experience could hold valuable lessons for such countries as China and Korea, which will face similar demographic trends in the future, and for Europe’s advanced economies.

For policymakers, the first hurdle is to accept that change is coming. The steam engine was likely just as disconcerting, but it came nonetheless—putting an end to some jobs but generating many new ones as well.

Artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation have the potential to make just as big a change, and the second hurdle may be to find ways to help the public prepare for and leverage this transformation to make lives better and incomes higher.

Strong and effective social safety nets will be crucial, since disruption of some traditional labor and social contracts seems inevitable. But education and skills development will also be necessary to enable more people to take advantage of jobs in a high-tech world.

And in Japan’s case, this also means a stronger effort to bring greater equality into the labor force—between men and women, between regular and nonregular employees, and even across regions—so that the benefits and risks of automation can be more equally shared.

The link to the original article: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/japan-labor-force-artificial-intelligence-and-robots/schneider.htm

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Excerpt:

Todd Schneider is deputy division chief, Gee Hee Hong is an economist, and Anh Van Le is a research assistant, in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department.

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Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Timehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/raising-profile-largest-environmental-issue-time/#respond Fri, 13 Jul 2018 10:54:03 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156690 IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

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Soil degradation, climate change, heavy tropical monsoonal rain and pests are some of the challenges the young farmers face. Soil degradation will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability. Credit: IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2018 (IPS)

Land degradation caused by human activities is occurring at an alarming rate across the world, and the cost will be steep if no action is taken.

In recent years, environmental groups have been sounding the alarm on land degradation while stories of the human impact on the environment have inundated twitter feeds and development news—and with good reason.

This year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) produced the world’s first comprehensive, evidence-based assessment highlighting the dangers and far-reaching impacts of land degradation.

The United Nations-backed study found that land degradation has reached “critical” levels across the world as 75 percent of land is already degraded and projections show that such degradation will increase to over 90 percent by 2050.

Since then, more reports have poured in highlighting concerns over the issue.

Most recently, the Joint Research Centre at the European Commission created a “World Atlas of Desertification” and found that an area half the size of the European Union is degraded every year by farming, city expansion, and deforestation.

Before that, the U.N Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) reported that the global economy will lose a staggering USD23 trillion by 2050 because of land degradation.

Not only will it affect economies, but the phenomenon will impact two-thirds of humanity who will be food-insecure while societies are left with a heightened risk of instability.

IPS spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of IPBES’ assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

Q: How is land degradation caused, and what are the dangers? 

Land degradation is kind of at the overlap of many contemporary concerns. For instance, a very long proportion of the current drivers of climate change come out of things that are related to land degradation.

About one-third of current climate change relates to processes of land degradation—either deforestation or decrease in soil carbon for agriculture and other similar processes.

Climate change has a reverse effect on land degradation—as the climate changes, the ecosystems that were in a particular place can no longer exist there. In the transition period while ecosystems try to sort everything out, those ecosystems lose their ability to supply the things on which we come to rely.

The current major driver of biodiversity loss is the loss of habitat, and loss of habitat is directly related to land degradation.

From the human side, these direct impacts come through the supply of food.

The result of a lot of this is that for people who depend on ecosystems for their livelihoods, their livelihoods are undermined. So those people are either worse off or are forced to move off the land and into other people’s territories and that leads to problems of conflict.

Q: What were some of the more concerning or surprising findings in the IPBES assessment?

This is quite likely the single environmental issue within the world today that affects the largest number of people.

There are many environmental issues that are going to have a big effect as the century unfolds—things like climate change and biodiversity loss— and there are many environmental issues that affect limited populations, like air pollution.

But when you look over the entire world, about two people out of every five are directly materially impacted by land degradation.

Q: What are some of the challenges around acting on land degradation? And what action(s) should governments take to overcome such challenges? 

The biggest single constraining factor is the fragmentation of land issues across many authorities … This is costing us, in terms of lost production and risks, billions and billions of dollars. But it’s not obvious to anyone because no one sees the full picture.

I think you need to attack the problem of integration between authorities at multiple levels.

First, the kind of management we do on the land physically has to move to what we call landscape-scale management. In other words, you don’t look at all the little bits individually, you actually look across the landscape and then you fit the bits into it.

When you get a level up, which is national management, it’s probably better that we do this by arranging for more than communication but coordination between the various agencies which have partial responsibility.

We also need coordination at the international level because although land degradation has its primary impact on the local level, many of the drivers of the causes of it have international manifestations.

So you can’t solve it purely at the local level—you have to have a national level which sets in place the right policies, and you need an international level to ensure, for instance, that global trade does not take place in such a way that it drives land degradation.

Q: Is it a matter of achieving land degradation neutrality or do people need to make a shift in lifestyle?

Those two things are not mutually exclusive.

We do need to achieve land degradation neutrality, which is basically equivalent to saying that you are halting the decline. The only way to achieve that in the long term is to alter many of our lifestyle impacts because it is those that are ultimately driving the increasing degradation of the land.

Land degradation neutrality is the strategy we would take but it has to be underpinned by these bigger scale changes in the demands that we put on ecosystems.

Q: What is your message to the international community to act on this issue? 

I am concerned that not enough is being done.

There’s a distribution of responsibility—you can’t solve this all at the international level nor all at the local level. It requires really strong action at all of those levels.

If you think of the Rio Conventions—the three conventions including the Climate Change Convention, the Biodiversity Convention, and the one related to land degradation, which was specifically around dry land degradation—the climate convention has moved forward with some ground breaking international collaborative agreements. Biodiversity is sort of moving forward but perhaps not as fast, and the convention on desertification hasn’t gone anywhere at all. The question is why?

Partly, because up until now, this has not been seen as a critically important issue. [It is an] ‘it affects far away people; it doesn’t affect us’ kind of issue.

What we point out is that both the causes and the consequences ultimately end up being international so it does affect everyone.

It’s a key driver of both the biodiversity loss and climate change, and that’s one of the reasons we have to raise its profile and address it sooner rather than later.

Other ambitions like many of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be possible unless we sort this one out too.

The post Q&A: Raising the Profile on the Largest Environmental Issue of Our Time appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

IPS correspondent Tharanga Yakupitiyage spoke to Robert Scholes, ecologist and co-chair of Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) assessment, about land degradation and efforts needed to halt and reverse the catastrophe.

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Forests and Marine Resources Continue to Shrinkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/forests-marine-resources-continue-shrink/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forests-marine-resources-continue-shrink http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/forests-marine-resources-continue-shrink/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 20:28:56 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156681 Deforestation and unsustainable farming are depriving the planet of forests, while destructive practices in fishing are limiting the chance to sustainably manage our oceans. According to United Nations estimates, the world’s population is projected to increase from 7.6 billion today to close to 10 billion people by 2050. The global demand for food is estimated […]

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About 80 percent of Guyana’s forests, some 15 million hectares, have remained untouched over time. Time is running as the total area of the world’s forests shrink by the day. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Maged Srour
ROME, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

Deforestation and unsustainable farming are depriving the planet of forests, while destructive practices in fishing are limiting the chance to sustainably manage our oceans.

According to United Nations estimates, the world’s population is projected to increase from 7.6 billion today to close to 10 billion people by 2050. The global demand for food is estimated to grow by 50 percent,  placing productive land and seas under huge pressure.

It ultimately means that the way we manage our forests and oceans now is crucial in addressing our future needs, warn two biennial reports released this July by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.

The two reports titled The State of the World’s Forests(SOFO) and on The State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), aim to highlight key facts over the state of our planet’s forests and waters and shed light on the need to address forestry, fisheries and aquaculture issues.

Time is running out for the world’s forests

“Time is running out for the world’s forests, whose total area is shrinking by the day,” says the SOFO report. In addition, deforestation is a leading cause of climate change as forests’ ability to sequester carbon decreases as they are lost.

The report warns that by halting deforestation, restoring degraded forests, and managing forests sustainably, damaging consequences for the planet and its dwellers can be avoided. The international community needs to promote an all-inclusive approach that fosters the benefits of forests and trees, engaging all stakeholders.

The SOFO report highlights that forests and trees are vital both to people and the planet, as they bolster livelihoods, provide clean air and water, conserve biodiversity and respond to climate change. It also refers to the greening of urban areas too.

“Making cities greener is critical to ensure the sustainable future of cities health and wellbeing of city dwellers,” Simone Borelli, agroforestry and urban/peri-urban forestry officer at FAO, told IPS. “Adding vegetation in urban areas has been shown to reduce urban temperatures and is regularly cited as a key mechanism for the Urban Heat Island Effect.”

Making cities greener is critical to ensure the sustainable future of cities health and wellbeing of city dwellers. Pictured here is Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital city. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

“Measures such as shading and judicious use of vegetation are of special importance in hot-arid regions, where intense solar radiation and high air temperatures may have detrimental impacts on even the most basic human activities,” he said.

Borelli said that research in Dubai has shown that trees in urban areas “can reduce temperatures by up to 8°Celsius” and similar studies conducted in Amman have shown that trees “can reduce the cooling load of building by up to 35 percent.”

Furthermore, “by absorbing excess water and increasing soil infiltration and stability, urban and peri-urban trees can mitigate the occurrence and impact of flooding events.”

These issues will also be discussed in November during the first World Forum on Urban Forests, which will take place in Mantova, Italy, to discuss possible long-term collaboration on the development of urban forestry strategies.

The importance of sustaining fisheries

Meanwhile, 60 million people are engaged in the primary sector of fisheries and aquaculture, according to the SOFIA report.

“Including those engaged in the fisheries and aquaculture value chain, their families and dependents, we estimate that 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population relies on the sector for their livelihood. This demonstrates how important it is to sustain fisheries,” Manuel Barange, director of the fisheries and aquaculture policy and resources division at FAO, told IPS.

The 2018 edition of the SOFIA report is an updated analysis illustrating the major trends in global capture fisheries and aquaculture. It also highlights emerging issues, such as the increase in fish consumption (which has doubled due to population growth since 1961) and climate change, that “will affect humanity’s ability to sustainably manage global aquatic resources in the future.” 

The SOFIA report includes future projections of fish production, aquaculture production, prices and food fish supply. 

Fishermen carry their boat in from the sea in Doring Bay, 350km North of Cape Town. Credit: Patrick Burnett/IPS

The report highlights that too many people around the world rely on fish for their livelihoods and survival and therefore it is important to enact sustainable fishing and tackle worst practices such as the enormous food waste that occurs in the fish sector.

“While the sustainability of fisheries is improving in developed countries, this is not the case in developing countries,” said Barange. “Unless we change this trend, we will challenge the food and nutrition security of places where fish is needed most.”

One example of an unsustainable fishing practice is dynamite fishing. The practice, which is illegal, involves the use of explosives to kill fish. This, however, harms the ecosystem and has contributed to the destruction, for example, of Southeast Asian coral reefs for the past 20 years.

Another key aspect to address, according to the report, is that of illegal, unreported and unregulated or IUU fishing. IUU fishing often occurs, undermining national, regional and global efforts to manage fisheries sustainably. “[IUU fishing] is threatening the sustainability of fisheries. Implementing the Port States Measures Agreement, which came into force in 2016, is crucial to make IUU history,” said Barange.

“Countries need to do more than recognise the risk of IUU fishing – they must act decisively, and act now.”

IUU fleets have largely targeted valuable species such as the ‘Antarctic krill’ (Euphasia superba) and the ‘Patagonian toothfish’ (Dissostichus eleginoides). However, through management measures implemented by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the situation is slowly improving.

Moving forward to the 2030 agenda

Food and agriculture are key to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and, as the two reports note, “many of the SDGs are directly relevant to fisheries and aquaculture as well as to forestries.”

The SOFO report suggests that the contributions of forests and trees to SDGs might be “complex and context-specific”, and “more work is needed to understand some of the relationships that underlie these contributions.”

SDGs are directly linked to fisheries and aquaculture, too, as the SOFIA report highlights the critical importance of these activities for the food, nutrition and employment of millions of people, many of whom struggle to maintain reasonable livelihoods.

Forest, seas, lakes and waterways are crucial environments for our healthy lives and, for millions of people, for their subsistence and survival. Underestimating the importance of preserving them and regulating their management in a more sustainable way, would be an enormous mistake.

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Mission Accomplished: 15 Years of Peacekeeping Success in Liberiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:53:50 +0000 Kingsley Ighobor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156673 Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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Liberians wave goodbye to departing Ukrainian peacekeepers. Credit: UN Photo/Gonzalez Farran

By Kingsley Ighobor
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

On a bright, sunny day in January this year, Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf turned over power to George Weah, a decorated soccer star, following peaceful and successful elections. This marked Liberia’s first democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years.

In his inaugural address, President Weah was quick to advise his compatriots to “not allow political loyalties to prevent us from collaborating in national interest.” He vowed to tackle inequality because “the absence of equality and unity led us down the path of destroying our own country.”

Weah was referring to the Liberian civil war from 1989 to 2003, which left the country in tatters politically and economically. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) was deployed in 2003 to help restore peace and security in the country.

After nearly 15 years in Liberia, the UN peacekeeping mission ended last March, having disarmed more than 100,000 combatants, secured about 21,000 weapons, enabled about one million refugees and displaced persons to return home and assisted in the holding of three peaceful presidential and legislative elections.

The UN’s secretary-general António Guterres in a statement issued in early April expressed his “respect to the memory of 202 peacekeepers who lost their lives” in Liberia.

“Peace is here to stay and our democracy is maturing. Now we need jobs,” Marwolo Kpadeh, head of the Liberian Youth Network, a leading youth organization, told Africa Renewal.

After the peaceful handover of power, Kpadeh is correct when he says that Liberia’s key challenge is now mostly economic. “Limited employment continues to undermine the welfare of Liberians in both urban and rural areas,” notes the World Bank.

UN’s engagement continues

While President Weah must deal with economic issues, the withdrawal of UNMIL peacekeepers will test the government’s readiness to perform public safety and security duties, writes FrontPageAfrica, a Liberian newspaper.

The UN has allayed concerns, promising to remain engaged even in the absence of a peacekeeping force.

The UN family will remain in the country “with a view to ensuring that the hard-won peace can be sustained and the country and its people will continue to progress and thrive,” Guterres added, in his statement.

The UN Country Team, including its agencies, funds and programmes, such as the UN Development Programme, UNICEF and the World Food Programme, will remain in the country.

A “strengthened Resident Coordinator” will lead the team and help the government achieve targets set in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Amina Mohammed, the UN’s deputy-secretary-general, said in March.

Mohammed, who visited Liberia in late March as the final batch of peacekeepers prepared to leave, praised UNMIL for being “at the forefront of establishing the key foundations for peace in Liberia.”

The UN’s promise of continuing engagement should be welcome news to Liberians, who have been dealing with the ubiquitous peacekeepers over the past 14 years.

How it began

The Liberian civil war began in 1989 when Charles Taylor started a military campaign to overthrow President Samuel Doe.

By 2003, with more than 205,000 people killed, the UN Security Council authorized the establishment of a peacekeeping force consisting of up to 15,000 military personnel and over 1,000 police officers, among others.

UNMIL began operations in October 2003, when about 3,500 troops of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), who had arrived in Liberia a few months prior, were rehatted as UN peacekeepers. Guterres said that ECOMOG troops laid the foundation ahead of UN peacekeepers’ deployment.

The Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed by President Taylor and leaders of all warring factions and political parties on August 18, 2003 in Accra, Ghana, provided the political cover for UNMIL’s deployment throughout the country.

UNMIL’s first force commander, now-retired Lieutenant General Daniel Opande, described the situation of the country at the time of deployment: “Nothing functioned, the government had collapsed, no security arrangement, the entire country was in turmoil. People were moving from place to place, looking for safety or for food. It was very bad.”

“When I arrived in Liberia, a thick cloud of uncertainty and insecurity hung over the country,” corroborates Patrick Coker, who joined UNMIL as a senior public information officer in October 2003. “There was no electricity, no water, fighters carried weapons around, thousands of internally displaced persons, hopelessness, poverty, anguish—we were on edge.”

UNMIL and its partners, including an interim government headed by Gyude Bryant, attempted but failed to begin disarmament on December 7, 2003. General Opande attributed the botched attempt to UNMIL’s ill-preparedness. There was a misunderstanding over money to be paid the fighters, and when they began firing in the air, the process ended abruptly.

Successful disarmament

Fighters of the rebel faction Liberians United for Reconstruction and Democracy (LURD) tested UNMIL’s resolve on Christmas Day of 2003 when they prevented the peacekeepers from deploying in Tubmanburg, northwest of Monrovia. Two days later, General Opande led heavy reinforcements of troops and weapons back to Tubmanburg. This time the fighters capitulated, even danced—and, bizarrely, set fire to their checkpoint.

“The Liberian people are tired of war. We too are tired,” said LURD’s deputy chief of staff, “General” Oforie Diah.

The mission had learned a lesson and so, when disarmament restarted in April 2004 after a robust communications campaign to educate combatants on the process, there were no serious hitches.

Coker recalls that “dealing with the ex-combatants, who had been in the bushes for more than a decade, was no easy task.” At the slightest provocation, such as a delay in payment of disarmament allowance, they rioted and threatened to torpedo the peace process. During such moments, UNMIL and partners often relied on Liberian women to bring the former fighters under control.

“If there is a group in Liberia that I, Opande, can give the biggest congratulations for bringing peace, it is the women,” says Lieutenant General Opande.

After a successful disarmament, demobilization, rehabilitation and reintegration process and peaceful elections, the mission’s attention shifted to providing security for the country, helping to midwife a new army and police force and extending civil authority throughout the country. As well, UNMIL provided technical and logistical support to various government departments.

Renewed hope

Former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf inherited an economy ruined by war; however, she mobilized foreign and domestic resources to kick-start development, including in the energy and transportation sectors.

In 2010, Liberia secured nearly $5 billion in debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, African Development Bank and other creditors. That was 90% of the country’s total foreign debt and 15% of its GDP.

As the economy was taking off, the Ebola epidemic hit in late 2014 and caused a negative 1.6% growth rate by 2016. The World Bank now forecasts modest but sustained positive growth after a 2.6% rise last year.

Fourteen years of war, bad leadership and the Ebola epidemic might have derailed Liberia’s socioeconomic development, but Weah’s inauguration—as much as Sirleaf’s 12 years in power—appears to be rekindling hope in the country’s future.

President Weah needs to build on Sirleaf’s successes, writes Benjamin Spatz in the New York Times. “She brought Liberia back from the dead. Now it’s his turn to nurture the country’s fledgling institutions by taking on its coercive, corrupt political culture.”

In sum: “Liberia is an important example of what sustainable peace means in practise,” reflected Mohammed, speaking for the UN.

Kpadeh’s hope of a better country depends on sustained peace. “Development is never possible without peace,” he said. “We should all be proud of UNMIL’s achievement.”

*Africa Renewal is published by the UN’s Department of Public Information.
The link to the original article: https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/april-2018-july-2018/mission-accomplished-15-years-peacekeeping-success-liberia

The post Mission Accomplished: 15 Years of Peacekeeping Success in Liberia appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Kingsley Ighobor, Africa Renewal*

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A UN Parliament Gains Support in an Age of Divisive Political Leadershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/un-parliament-gains-support-age-divisive-political-leaders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-parliament-gains-support-age-divisive-political-leaders http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/un-parliament-gains-support-age-divisive-political-leaders/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 14:20:53 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156670 A long standing proposal for the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) is slowly gathering momentum. The 751-member European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg has called on the European Union (EU) to extend its support for the establishment of the proposed new body — specifically with a resolution before the upcoming 73rd session of the […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

A long standing proposal for the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) is slowly gathering momentum.

The 751-member European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg has called on the European Union (EU) to extend its support for the establishment of the proposed new body — specifically with a resolution before the upcoming 73rd session of the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA), which begins in mid-September.

The UN General Assembly. Credit: UN photo

The EP has also called for an equally ambitious “UN Reform Summit” in 2020 — a meeting of world leaders–to boost another long-pending proposal for the restructuring of the United Nations, including significant changes in the composition and functioning of the 15-member UN Security Council (UNSC).

The proposed reform of the UNSC has been under negotiations for over 20 years now — with no tangible success.

A resolution adopted in Strasbourg last week states that a “United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) within the United Nations system” should serve “to increase the democratic character, the democratic accountability and the transparency of global governance and to allow for better citizen participation in the activities of the UN.”

Andreas Bummel, executive director of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Democracy without Borders, welcomed the resolution of the EU Parliament as an “important initiative”.

“Multilateralism and democracy are under attack worldwide. A democratization and strengthening of the UN must be part of the countermeasures,” he said.

Asked if the proposed parliament will conflict with the UNGA, he told IPS: “No. The UNPA is conceived of as an additional and complementary body. In fact, we propose that it should be set up by the UNGA as part of the UNGA’s revitalization according to Article 22 of the UN Charter.”

Bummel also said the international campaign for a UN Parliamentary Assembly, which is being coordinated by his NGO, is supported by over 1,500 members of parliament from more than 100 countries as well as numerous scientists, former UN officials and personalities.

Explaining further, he said: “Please note that the European Parliament’s support is not the same as such of the EU” (which comprises 28 member states representing over 510 million people in Europe).

The European Parliament calls on the EU’s governments to support. In previous years, he said, Malta and Italy showed an interest and more recently Ireland.

Outside Europe, the Pan-African Parliament and the Latin-American Parliament have endorsed the proposal, Bummel added.

The proposal is also being backed by several international NGOs.

Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programme Officer at the Johannesburg-based CIVICUS, a global alliance of civil society organizations, told IPS: “We support the call for a UN Parliamentary Assembly. We had argued in our 2014 State of Civil Society Report on ‘reimagining global governance’ that there’s a currently a double democratic deficit that manifests itself at the international level”.

In many parts of the world, he warned, “inclusive democracy is being subverted at the national level by authoritarian regimes and divisive political leaders”.

He pointed out that these very entities then get to make decisions on behalf of their people at the UN where already people’s access and ability to input in decision making is limited.

In any case, a UN Parliamentary Assembly will be an opportunity for people to directly interface with international decision making which increasingly impacts their lives at the local level, he added.

Jens Martens, executive director of the Global Policy Forum based in Bonn/New York, told IPS that in times of rising nationalism and authoritarianism, all efforts to strengthen the UN and democratic multilateralism are highly welcome.

The proposed UN Parliamentary Assembly can be an important element within a UN reform package if it complements the necessary strengthening of civil society participation in the UN.

However, he noted, this kind of governance reforms remain symbolic window dressing as long as the UN does not receive the necessary financial resources to fulfil its mandate and is strengthened in key areas of global policy, including tax cooperation and the regulation of transnational corporations.

Martens said Global Policy Forum supports the call for a “2020 UN Reform Summit”. The 75th anniversary of the UN provides a new opportunity for strengthening and renewal of the institutional framework for sustainable development in the UN.

Meanwhile, a recently-published book by Jo Leinen MEP and Bummel titled “A World Parliament: Governance and Democracy in the 21st Century” features the history, relevance and implementation of the world parliament proposal arguing that a UNPA would be the first step.

The European Parliament and its members have been vocal about their strong support for the proposal.

Jo Leinen MEP (Germany), was quoted as saying, : “The UN urgently needs more openness and a stronger democratic foundation. The European Parliament therefore calls for the establishment of a Parliamentary Assembly within the United Nations system. The European Union and its Member States should now play an active role in the implementation of this innovation.”

According to Eugen Freund MEP (Austria): “The reform of the United Nations has accompanied me for much of my life. I first encountered it when I was at the UN in New York in 1978, forty years ago. Unfortunately, not much has changed since. The General assembly has more members now, but it is still a body of unelected diplomats.”

Therefore, he argued, the idea of eventually complementing them with elected parliamentarians is a very appealing one.

“They would certainly be closer to the populace and thus would have to regularly answer their constituency. Whether that would also streamline the decision making processes remains to be seen.”

Daniel Jositsch MP (Switzerland) said: “The escalating crisis in international cooperation shows that new ways must be found to combat global problems. It is therefore very positive that the European Parliament is calling on the European states to speak out in favour of the creation of a UN Parliament. It is important that they will not simply pay lip service to this goal, but that concrete implementation measures are being taken.”

There has also been support from outside Europe.

Ivone Soares MP (Mozambique and member of the Pan-African Parliament) said: “With resolutions passed by the European Parliament, the Pan-African Parliament and the Latin-American Parliament, the time has come for progressive governments in these three major world regions to consider the creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly.”

And, according to Fernando Iglesias MP (Argentina), “From the many initiatives in favor of a more peaceful, fair and democratic world the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly is the decisive one. The recent support given by the European Parliament to this proposal shows that the members of the most important supranational parliamentary body are ready to work for its creation.”

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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A Gender-Specific Approach To Counter-Terrorismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/gender-specific-approach-counter-terrorism/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 08:55:22 +0000 Carmen Arroyo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156663 Understanding the different way that terrorists target women and how to prevent their recruitment could play a significant role in counter-terrorism efforts, and is gaining increased recognition among the international community. “Any prevention programme should be fully mindful about its gender implications, and should be tailored toward understanding men and women’s grievances being exploited by […]

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Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb took credit for bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Algiers in December 2007, an act that claimed the lives of 17 U.N. personnel. The international community is increasingly recognising the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the global counter-terrorism efforts. Credit: UN Photo / Evan Schneider

By Carmen Arroyo
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

Understanding the different way that terrorists target women and how to prevent their recruitment could play a significant role in counter-terrorism efforts, and is gaining increased recognition among the international community.

“Any prevention programme should be fully mindful about its gender implications, and should be tailored toward understanding men and women’s grievances being exploited by recruiters,” Mattias Sundholm, communications adviser to the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, told IPS.

Hundreds of members of civil society and representatives of member states met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York at the end of June for the first High-Level Conference on Counter-Terrorism. During the two-day conference, the role of gender in counter-terrorism strategies was discussed in length. 

A senior European Union official shared with IPS that “the international community is increasingly recognising the importance of integrating a gender perspective into the global counter-terrorism efforts.”

“Gender inequality and corruption, combined with the lack of information, no access to education and lack of understanding of what’s happening on the battlefield seem to play a role in the recruitment of women fighters,” the official said.

Despite the military setback of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in many Middle Eastern countries, countering its influence in the media and public opinion, along with Al-Qaeda’s power and Boko Haram’s attacks, remains a top priority for the U.N.

Last year, the General Assembly decided to implement the U.N. Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and created the Office of Counter-Terrorism, while the establishment of a Global Network of Counter-terrorism coordinators was discussed. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Strengthening international cooperation to combat the evolving threat of terrorism,” with the goal of creating partnerships and finding practical solutions.

Different approaches to recruiting men and women

The way terrorists target men and women is different as they promise them particular rewards they find appealing.

“Extremist armed groups shrewdly exploit gender just as they exploit any other potential recruitment tool. For women, they may dangle the promise of adventure, travel, romance, commitment to a cause, and the possibility of being part of an extended family yet far from the yoke of immediate relatives. For men, the pitches are often more macho, complete with the promise of glory and multiple wives,” Letta Tayler, senior researcher on terrorism at Human Right’s Watch (HRW), told IPS.

Megan Manion, policy analyst with U.N. Women, explained men are often recruited as fighters with a promise that fighters get wives as a reward.  “Extremist groups also offer a salary for services of the fighters.”

But on the other hand, Manion explained, women are promised different things.

“Women join extremist groups together with or to follow their husbands or boyfriends. Women also join violent extremist groups to get the opportunities they will not have in their own communities due to inequalities,” she said.

If terrorism strategies include gender-specific narratives, so should prevention plans.

“Women have a particularly influential role in families and can play an important role in preventing young people from radicalising,” the senior EU official said.

Thus, prevention strategies must raise to the level of terrorist strategies in terms of their nuances. “When extremist groups understand gender inequalities and the impact and power they hold, but we, those who are preventing violent extremism do not, there is a significant issue around identifying and responding to human rights violations, as well as serious security implications and risks,” Manion said.

When asked how prevention strategies should then be framed to be effective, Tayler firmly responded that any successful prevention strategy had to provide the same sense of belonging and thrill that groups like ISIL offered.

“That can only work if states stop marginalising communities and individuals who are vulnerable to recruitment,” Tayler said.

One of the ways to implement gender-specific strategies could be through the strengthening the role of women in law enforcement and policing both in terms of numbers but also on all hierarchical levels, the EU source said.

He argued in favour of reaching out to all communities, especially the de-radicalised ones.

“There is an important role for women religious leaders and local interfaith dialogue to build an environment which is less conducive to violent extremism,” he said.

Some civil organisations, such as the non-profit International Centre for Religion and Diplomacy, are already including religious actors in their counter-terrorism strategies.

Moreover, Sundholm, from the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, added that youth, and in particular girls, “should also be empowered to lead and participate in the design and implementation of prevention programmes.”

Tayler explained that at HRW gender was taken into account when the issue required it. For example, ISIL rapes or the sexual enslavement of Yezidi women require the counter-terrorism strategy to be very gender-specific. Another case would be Nigeria, where “women who managed to escape Boko Haram are reportedly being raped by Nigerian security forces who claim to be their rescuers.” 

What should member states do?

Most experts and policy makers say that counter-terrorism should be the responsibility of U.N. member states, as they control borders and pass laws, which can either give privilege to or marginalise groups. Member states should also take the lead in including a gender perspective into their policies.

“Gender-mainstreaming should be integrated in the work and programmes of both Member States and the U.N.,” the EU source said.

Manion believes that member states hold the key to prevention.

“Repressive laws and lack of security, rule of law or good governance are powerful drivers for radicalisation for women and men,

“They must make sure that the laws they pass to respond to terrorist threats do not impose unreasonable burdens on women, including women civil society organisations who are often working on the front lines to identify and prevent radicalisation and re-integrate returnees,” she added.

However, Tayler warned that while gender should be a critical focus of counter-terrorism efforts, “neither the U.N. nor national governments should assume that being gender-sensitive is a panacea.”

“Ticking off the “gender” box alone is not an effective counterterrorism strategy. Authorities need to address the myriad root causes of terrorism,” she said.   

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Youth Skills: Have We Addressed the Need?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/youth-skills-addressed-need/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youth-skills-addressed-need http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/youth-skills-addressed-need/#respond Wed, 11 Jul 2018 10:59:47 +0000 Dr. Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156644 Dr. Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
to the United Nations.

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Working youth, otherwise without educational opportunities and from a wide range of ages, attend classes at a Social Support Center in Marka, east of Amman, Jordan. Credit: ILO/Jared J. Kohler

By Dr. Palitha Kohona
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

The World Youth Skills Day is being celebrated around the world on 15 July. This day was established on 18 December 2014 by General Assembly resolution A/RES/69/145 which was initiated by Sri Lanka. Following a lengthy consultation process, at the UN and outside, during which some delegations, including some Europeans expressed reservations, the resolution was eventually adopted unanimously. It received solid support from youth delegations from around the world.

World Youth Skills Day resolution was a landmark UN initiative and had its origins in a visionary statement made by President Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka at the 2013 UNGA. The idea was subsequently championed by the Sri Lankan Minister for Youth Affairs, Dulles Alahapperuma. The Sri Lankan delegation, at the time, worked the corridors tirelessly until the scales were tipped and the adoption of the resolution became certain.

Resolution A/RES/69/145 built upon the World Programme of Action for Youth of 2007, International Youth Day in 1999 and the Colombo Declaration on Youth of 2014, which, for the first time, was adopted with the concurrence of both youth and official delegations. The Colombo Declaration on Youth required youth needs to be mainstreamed in policy making.

With an increasing number of unemployed youth worldwide, the majority of whom are in developing countries, the United Nations was activated to take action to help young people to achieve their intrinsic potential.

The World Youth Skills Day 2018, as did all youth skills days before, aims to encourage the acquisition of marketable skills and training by the young. By acquiring core professional and lifestyle skills, young people will be able to contribute to the development and growth of their own communities.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has identified marketable skills and jobs for youth as a priority. The World Youth Skills Day embodies the values of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with special emphasis on:

SDG 4: Quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities,
SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.an you get involved?

The youth component of the global population is increasing and a new problem of critical magnitude is slowly creeping upon policy makers, especially in developing countries. Many developing countries, consistent with their commitments under the Millennium Development Goals, some with great difficulty, have provided basic literacy and health care to their populations.

Many youth now survive in to old age. But providing meaningful employment to these millions who possess basic literacy has not been successfully addressed. The key challenge today is the paucity of marketable skills among youth. An educated and skilled workforce is also a key factor in attracting investments.

While the situation for all youth remains a challenge, the unfortunate tendency for young women in many developing countries to fall behind even further compared with their male counterparts due to the lack of employable skills and social attitudes has been highlighted frequently. Equipping young women also with employable skills will enhance the economic potential of a country dramatically.

The modern skill sets required to operate in a high tech environment, including in the areas of management, environment conservation, ICT, banking, transport, aviation, etc, are simply not being provided in quantity. The result is a burgeoning, restless and disenchanted generation that could cause social and more serious problems, instead of being an economic asset.

The world today is home to the largest generation of youth in history. 90% of young people live in developing countries. Unemployment affects more than 73 million young people around the world, with the jobless rate exceeding 50 per cent in some developing countries.

Even some developed countries, especially in the south of Europe, have not been able to avoid the youth unemployment crisis. Many are still to recover from the financial crisis and youth have been its major victims.

The world will need to add 600 million new jobs by 2026 to accommodate the flood tide of youth entering the job market. The former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said: “Empowering young people through skills development strengthens their capacity to help address the many challenges facing society….”.

These multiple challenges include, inter alia, alleviating poverty, eliminating injustice, conserving the environment and controlling violent conflict.

In order to focus attention on youth issues, the outgoing UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, established the Office of the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth and appointed Ahmad Alhendawi of Jordan as his first Envoy on Youth.

Today, Jayathma Wickremanayaka from Sri Lanka is the SG’s Youth Envoy. She cut her teeth in global youth affairs during the Youth Summit held in Sri Lanka in 2014.

The youth of today will be directly confronted by two major challenges. They will be required to generate wealth through employment or entrepreneurship, not only to support themselves but also a rapidly ageing older generation. Employment for the young was not a major issue in developed countries in the past, but today it is. Without income generating employment, the youth demographic will be a burden on itself and a worry for the older generation.

Industrialisation, so clearly emphasised in the SDGs, will require the new generation to be adequately prepared, as the industrialisation process will rely mostly on high tech. Some developed countries, especially the Northern Europeans, have well tested programmes for enhancing the technical skills of youth. Youth are channelled into technical studies at an early age.

There are many lessons that could be learnt from the education and training methods of these countries, especially in the context of North South Cooperation. Some developing countries have also succeeded in harnessing the youth component of their populations for economically productive endeavours. Their experiences could be shared in the context of South-South Cooperation.

The private sector, if necessary in partnership with the state, can play a vital role in disseminating advanced skills to today’s youth.

The importance of youth participation and representation in institutional political processes and policy-making has been highlighted in recent discussions. Youth need to be able to influence policy making.

For far too long policy making for youth had little or no youth input. Sri Lanka was among the first to establish a youth parliament to provide training in political activity for youth.

In certain countries, where youth disenchantment is rife, especially for economic reasons, young people have often been coerced or otherwise channelled to joining extremist elements. But it is a mistake to suggest that economic circumstances alone are the major factor that drives youth in to extremism. The causes of youth extremism need to be addressed as a separate exercise.

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Excerpt:

Dr. Palitha Kohona is former Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka
to the United Nations.

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Family Planning Is A Human Righthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-human-right http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2018 07:32:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156639 It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world. For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is […]

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A basket of condoms passed around during International Women’s Day in Manila. Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 11 2018 (IPS)

It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world.

For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is a Human Right,” and aptly so.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights where family planning was, for the first time, understood to be a human right.“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children,” the Tehran Proclamation from the conference states.

The historic meeting also linked the right to the “dignity and worth of the human person.”

“Family planning is not only a matter of human rights; it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, and achieving sustainable development,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem.

However, in developing countries, more than 200 million women still lack safe and effective family planning methods largely due to the lack of information or services.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently found that clinical guidelines are followed in less than 50 percent of cases in poorer nations, resulting in “deficient” family planning.

In such circumstances and without access to contraception, women and girls often turn to dangerous methods such as ingesting or inserting vinegar, which can cause bodily damage.

UNFPA found that in one country, the stiff plastic wrapper of an ice popsicle is used as a replacement for condoms which could result in genital lacerations.

While such practices have generally decreased, countries like Yemen where conflict has restricted access to family planning are seeing more women using unsafe, traditional methods of contraception.

In other places such as the United States, family planning is deliberately under attack.

Just a year after implementing the global gag rule, which cuts off international family planning funds to any foreign nongovernmental organization who advocate or even give information about abortion, the Trump administration is now turning inwards and targeting its own.

Title X is a USD300 million government programme dedicated to helping the four million low-income women who wish to access birth control and other family planning services

However, new proposed regulations echo a sense of a “domestic gag rule” by restricting people’s access to family planning care. One such proposal forbids doctors from counselling patients with unplanned pregnancies about their reproductive options and instead advocates coercing pregnant patients towards having children regardless of their own wishes.

The scenario can already be seen playing out across the country.

Recently in California, the Supreme Court reversed a law that required crisis pregnancy centres, which often trick women into believing they provide family planning services, to provide full disclosure.

The Supreme Court found that it “imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”

“It’s clear the U.S. government is taking more and more swipes at a fundamental aspect of the right to health—the right to information,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” she continued.

Withholding such essential resources and information from women also heightens the risk of ill-health or even death for newborns.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, women with unintended pregnancies, which is often higher among the poor, often receive worse prenatal care and poor birth outcomes. When women are able to decide when to have children and space out their pregnancies, their children are less likely to be born prematurely or have low birth weights.

Already, a study found that U.S. babies are three times more likely to die compared to 19 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development largely due to high poverty rates and a weak social safety net.

Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S.

And now with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a history of undermining women’s reproductive freedom, we may even see worse including the dismantling of the historic Roe v. Wade case which legalised abortions.

If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and meeting all family planning needs, the international community should not forget its affirmation at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights.

“Investments in family planning today are investments in the health and well-being of women for generations to come,” Kanem concluded.

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“We Have to Redefine Policies for Sustainable Development”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/redefine-policies-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=redefine-policies-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/redefine-policies-sustainable-development/#respond Mon, 09 Jul 2018 09:48:05 +0000 Jens Martens http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156599 Jens Martens is Director of Global Policy Forum, and coordinates the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Conflict and Climate Change Challenge Sustainable Development. Credit: Sebastian Rich / UNICEF

By Jens Martens
BONN, Germany, Jul 9 2018 (IPS)

When UN Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda, they signaled with the title Transforming our World that it should trigger fundamental changes in politics and society.

But three years after its adoption, most governments have failed to turn the proclaimed transformational vision of the 2030 Agenda into real policies.

Even worse, the civil society report Spotlight on Sustainable Development 2018 shows that policies in a growing number of countries are moving in the opposite direction, seriously undermining the spirit and the goals of the 2030 Agenda.

Not a lack of resources

The problem is not a lack of global financial resources. On the contrary, in recent years we have experienced a massive growth and accumulation of individual and corporate wealth worldwide.

The policy choices that have enabled this unprecedented accumulation of wealth are the same fiscal and regulatory policies that led to the weakening of the public sector and produced extreme market concentration and socio-economic inequality.

The extreme concentration of wealth has not increased the resources that are available for sustainable development. As the World Inequality Report 2018 states, “Over the past decades, countries have become richer, but governments have become poor” due to a massive shift towards private capital.

But even where public money is available, all too often public funds are not allocated in line with the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs but spent for harmful or at least dubious purposes, be it environmentally harmful subsidies or excessive military expenditures.

The Un-Sustainable Development Goal

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global military expenditure rose again in 2017, after five years of relatively unchanged spending, to US$ 1.739 trillion. In contrast, net ODA by members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) was only US$ 146.6 billion in 2017, thus less than one tenth of global military spending.

“The world is over-armed while peace is under-funded,” states the Global Campaign on Military Spending. Particularly alarming has been the decision of the NATO member countries, to increase military spending to at least 2 percent of their national GDP.

Even just for the European NATO members, this decision would mean a minimum increase of 300 billion Euros per year, most likely at the expense of other parts of their national budgets. The 2 percent goal represents a kind of ‘Un-Sustainable Development Goal’ and is in sharp contradiction to the spirit of the 2030 Agenda.

Gaps and contradictions exist not only in fiscal policy and the provision of the financial means of implementation for the SDGs. The most striking examples are climate and energy policies.

Instead of tackling unsustainable production patterns and taking the ‘polluter pays principle’ seriously, action is postponed, placing hope on technical solutions, including research on geoengineering, i.e. dangerous large-scale technological manipulations of the Earth’s systems.

Need to address the ‘dark side of innovation’

Of course, major technological shifts are necessary to unleash the transformative potential of the SDGs and to turn towards less resource-intensive and more resilient economic and social development models.

But this must not mean an uncritical belief in salvation through technological innovations, whether with regard to climate change or to the potential of information and communications technologies.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently called on Member States to address the ‘dark side of innovation’. This includes the new challenges of cybersecurity threats, the intrusion into privacy by artificial intelligence, its impact on labour markets, and the use of military-related ‘cyber operations’ and ‘cyber attacks’.

The ‘dark side of innovation’ could also be the leitmotif characterizing the dominant fallacies about feeding the world through intensified industrial agriculture. While the prevailing industrial agriculture system has enabled increased yields, this has come at a great cost to the environment as well as to human health and animal welfare.

At the same time, it has done little to address the root causes of hunger or to deal with inherent vulnerabilities to climate change.

Alternatives to business as usual

But despite these gloomy perspectives, there is still room for change. Contradicting policies are not an extraordinary phenomenon. They simply reflect contradicting interests and power relations within and between societies – and these are in constant flux and can be changed.

Bold and comprehensive alternatives to business as usual exist in all areas of the 2030 Agenda, and it is up to progressive actors in governments, parliaments, civil society and the private sector to gain the hegemony in the societal discourse to be able to put them into practice. Some of the necessary political action and reforms can be summarized in the following four points:

1. Turning the commitment to policy coherence into practice.
To date, the mainstream approach to sustainable development has been one of tackling its three dimensions in their own zones, complemented by (occasional) coordination between them. This approach has not created a strong institutional basis for decision-making and policy change across the three pillars. There is a need for a whole-of-government approach towards sustainability. The implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs must not be hidden in the niche of environment and development policies but must be declared a top priority by heads of government.

2. Strengthening public finance at all levels. Widening public policy space requires, among other things, the necessary changes in fiscal policies. In other words, governments have to formulate Sustainable Development Budgets in order to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. This includes, for example, taxing the extraction and consumption of non-renewable resources, and adopting forms of progressive taxation that prioritize the rights and welfare of poor and low-income people.

Fiscal policy space can be further broadened by the elimination of corporate tax incentives, and the phasing out of harmful subsidies, particularly in the areas of industrial agriculture and fishing, fossil fuel and nuclear energy. Military spending should be reduced, and the resource savings reallocated, inter alia, for civil conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

3. Improving regulation for sustainability and human rights. Governments have too often weakened themselves by adopting policies of deregulation or ‘better regulation’ (which is in fact a euphemism for regulation in the interest of the corporate sector) and trusted in corporate voluntarism and self-regulation of ‘the markets’. With regard to the human rights responsibilities of companies there is still a need for a legally binding instrument.

The Human Rights Council took a milestone decision in establishing an intergovernmental working group to elaborate such an instrument (or ‘treaty’). Governments should take this ‘treaty process’ seriously and engage actively in it. The expected start of the negotiation process in October 2018 offers an historic opportunity for governments to demonstrate that they put human rights over the interests of big business.

4. Closing global governance gaps and strengthening the institutional framework for sustainable development. The effectiveness of the required policy reforms depends on the existence of strong, well-equipped public institutions at national and international levels. It is essential to reflect the overarching character of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs in the institutional arrangements of governments and parliaments. At the global level, the claim to make the UN system ‘fit for purpose’ requires reforms of existing institutions and the creation of new bodies in areas where governance gaps exist.

Governments decided in the 2030 Agenda that the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) under the auspices of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council should have the central role in overseeing follow-up and review, provide political leadership, and ensure that the Agenda remains relevant and ambitious.

However, compared to other policy arenas, such as the Security Council or the Human Rights Council, the HLPF has remained weak and with only one meeting of eight days a year absolutely unable to fulfil its mandate effectively.

The HLPF 2019 at the level of heads of State and government, the subsequent review of the HLPF, and the 75th anniversary of the UN 2020 provide new opportunities for strengthening and renewal of the institutional framework for sustainable development in the UN.

The post “We Have to Redefine Policies for Sustainable Development” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jens Martens is Director of Global Policy Forum, and coordinates the Reflection Group on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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United Nations Compact Must End Child Detentionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/#respond Sat, 07 Jul 2018 06:17:28 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156589 World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said. Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations. As images and […]

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People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2018 (IPS)

World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said.

Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations.

As images and stories of children trapped in detention centres in the United States continue to come out, Amnesty International (AI) has called on negotiation participants to end child detention. “Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the USA irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action.”

“The appalling scenes in the U.S. have illustrated why an international commitment to ending child migration detention is so desperately needed – these negotiations could not have come at a more crucial time,” said AI’s Senior Americas Advocate Perseo Quiroz.

“Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the U.S. irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action,” he added.

As a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and detained since May after crossing the country’s southern border.

Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S.

“At the U.N. next week there is a real opportunity for states to show they are serious about ending child migration detention for good by pushing for the strongest protections possible for all children, accompanied or otherwise,” Quiroz said.

The current draft of the GCM does mention the issue including a clause to “work to end the practice of child detention in the context of international migration” and to “use migration detention only as a last resort.”

However, AI believes the language is not strong enough as there is no circumstance in which migration-related detention of children is justified.

While U.S. president Donald Trump has signed an executive order reversing the family separation policy, he has replaced it with a policy of detaining entire families together.

This means that children, along with their parents, can be detained for a prolonged and indefinite period of time.

“Now is not the time to look away,” said Brian Root and Rachel Schmidt from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Family separation and detention policies are symptoms are a much larger global issue: how receiving countries treat migrants, who are often fleeing unstable and/or violent situations,” they added.

Recently, Oxfam found that children as young as 12 are physically abused, detained, and illegally returned to Italy by French border guards, contrary to French and European Union laws.

Over 4,000 child migrants have passed through the Italian border town of Ventimiglia between July 2017 and April 2018. The majority are fleeing persecution and conflict in countries such as Sudan, Eritrea, and Syria and are often trying to reach relatives or friends in other European countries.

Children have reported being detained overnight in French cells without food, water, or blankets and with no access to an official guardian.

In Australia, over 200 children are in asylum-seeker detention centres including on Nauru and are often detained for months, if not years.

“The Global Compact on Migration…offers some hope, but it will not work if many countries continue to see the issue purely in terms of border control,” HRW said.

“In addition, this compact will have little effect on an American president who seems to hold contempt for the idea of international cooperation,” they continued.

Last year, the U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Global Compact on Migration, just days before  a migration conference in Mexico, citing that the document undermines the country’s sovereignty.

Though the GCM itself is also not legally binding, AI said that it is politically binding and establishes a basis for future discussions on migration.

“Recent events have shone a spotlight on the brutal realities of detaining children simply because their parents are on the move, and we hope this will compel other governments to take concrete steps to protect all children from this cruel treatment,” Quiroz said.

Starting on Jul. 9, leaders of the 193 U.N. member states will meet in New York to agree on the final text of the GCM.

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Ocean Conservation Is an Untapped Strategy for Fighting Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/ocean-conservation-untapped-strategy-fighting-climate-change/#respond Fri, 06 Jul 2018 12:02:37 +0000 Eliza Northrop http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156578 Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

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Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

By Eliza Northrop
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 6 2018 (IPS)

The ocean contributes $1.5 trillion annually to the global economy and assures the livelihood of 10-12 percent of the world’s population. But there’s another reason to protect marine ecosystems—they’re crucial for curbing climate change.

2018: A Year for the Ocean and Climate Action

This year is shaping up to be a critical one for ocean action. The 53 member countries of the Commonwealth adopted the Commonwealth Blue Charter on Ocean Action earlier this year, a plan to protect coral reefs, restore mangroves and remove plastic pollution, among other actions.

A new United Nations assessment has found the world’s oceans to be in dire shape. Credit: Shek Graham/CC-BY-2.0

Ocean conservation was a centerpiece of the G7 meeting resulting in the ‘Charlevoix Blueprint for Healthy Oceans, Seas and Resilient Communities’ which commits the G7 to supporting better adaptation planning, emergency preparedness and recovery; support innovative financing for coastal resilience; and launch a joint G7 initiative to deploy Earth observation technologies and related applications to scale up capacities for integrated coastal zone management.

In addition, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the European Union agreed to tackle ocean plastic in the ‘Ocean Plastics Charter.’ Such action lays important groundwork for substantial negotiations for the first ever international treaty for conservation of the high seas to begin in September. The negotiations will last 2 years, culminating in 2020. The high seas cover nearly half the planet and are filled with marine life, from fish to plankton that are crucial to generating oxygen and regulating the global climate.

Approximately 40 percent of all CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels is absorbed by the ocean. The new treaty will be negotiated under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, joining other agreements that govern sea bed mining and highly migratory fish stocks. It has been dubbed the “Paris Agreement for the Ocean”, potentially enabling the creation of large marine protected areas in the high seas that have long been called for as crucial to curbing the decline of global fish stocks and other marine life.

Speaking of the Paris Agreement, this year is also a turning point for international climate action. The first stocktake of progress under the Paris Agreement on climate change, known as the Talanoa Dialogue, is currently underway, and is expected to highlight tangible opportunities for countries to further advance climate action. Countries are also expected to agree later this year on a rulebook for implementing the Paris Agreement.

The ocean and coastal ecosystems provide an untapped, nature-based climate solution that needs to be part of both conversations.

The Ocean as a Climate Solution

“Blue carbon” ecosystems such as mangroves, seagrass meadows and kelp forests are 10 times more effective at sequestering carbon dioxide on a per area basis per year than boreal, temperate, or tropical forests and about twice as effective at storing carbon in their soil and biomass. They also play a crucial role in protecting coastal infrastructure and communities from climate impacts, including extreme weather events.

• Mangroves are found in 123 countries and territories and are estimated to cover more than 150,000 square kilometres globally. Mangroves buffer coastal communities from wind and waves, acting as a frontline defense against storms and sea level rise.
• If the world halted just half of annual coastal wetlands loss, it would reduce emissions by 0.23 gigatonnes, Spain’s total annual emissions in 2013.
• Restoring coastal wetlands to their 1990 extent would increase annual carbon sequestration by 160 megatonnes a year, equivalent to offsetting the burning of 77.4 million tonnes of coal.

National Climate Commitments: An Opportunity to Advance Action on Climate and the Ocean

Commitments made by countries to advance climate action in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement are a vehicle to advance action on both agendas. Known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the ocean and coastal ecosystems are currently underrepresented in these commitments.

There are a number of policy options for incorporating blue carbon ecosystems into NDCs. These include:

• Creating or protecting blue carbon ecosystems (including through Marine Protected Areas). This includes establishing buffer zones to reduce impacts from adjacent land-use and allowing mangroves to migrate inland in response to sea level rise.
• Reforesting or rehabilitating degraded blue carbon ecosystems.
• Introducing incentives to create new or protect existing blue carbon ecosystems on privately owned land, including through access to carbon markets.
• Ensuring the mitigation potential of blue carbon ecosystems is included in national greenhouse gas inventories.

Recognizing the Blue Carbon Economy

Of course, curbing climate change isn’t the only reason to invest in ocean and coastal ecosystem protection. Coastal ecosystems can also but the resilience of coastal communities to natural hazards—including storms (mangroves absorb the energy of storm-driven waves and wind), flooding, erosion and fire. Wetlands provide nurseries for the many species of fish that support economies and improve food security. And marine protected areas can also protect biodiversity.

Fighting climate change is just yet another benefit the ocean provides us. It’s time to start recognizing its protection as a climate change solution.

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Excerpt:

Eliza Northrop is an Associate in the International Climate Action Initiative at World Resources Institute.

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New & Resurgent Infectious Diseases Can Have Far-reaching Economic Repercussionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-resurgent-infectious-diseases-can-far-reaching-economic-repercussions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-resurgent-infectious-diseases-can-far-reaching-economic-repercussions http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-resurgent-infectious-diseases-can-far-reaching-economic-repercussions/#respond Tue, 03 Jul 2018 10:55:13 +0000 David E. Bloom and JP Sevilla http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156522 DAVID E. BLOOM is the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, DANIEL CADARETTE is a research assistant, and JP SEVILLA is a research associate, all at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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DAVID E. BLOOM is the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, DANIEL CADARETTE is a research assistant, and JP SEVILLA is a research associate, all at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

By David E. Bloom, Daniel Cadarette and JP Sevilla
WASHINGTON DC, Jul 3 2018 (IPS)

Infectious diseases and associated mortality have abated, but they remain a significant threat throughout the world.

We continue to fight both old pathogens, such as the plague, that have troubled humanity for millennia and new pathogens, such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), that have mutated or spilled over from animal reservoirs.

Some infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria, are endemic to many areas, imposing substantial but steady burdens. Others, such as influenza, fluctuate in pervasiveness and intensity, wreaking havoc in developing and developed economies alike when an outbreak (a sharp increase in prevalence in a relatively limited area or population), an epidemic (a sharp increase covering a larger area or population), or a pandemic (an epidemic covering multiple countries or continents) occurs.

The health risks of outbreaks and epidemics—and the fear and panic that accompany them—map to various economic risks.

First, and perhaps most obviously, there are the costs to the health system, both public and private, of medical treatment of the infected and of outbreak control. A sizable outbreak can overwhelm the health system, limiting the capacity to deal with routine health issues and compounding the problem.

Beyond shocks to the health sector, epidemics force both the ill and their caretakers to miss work or be less effective at their jobs, driving down and disrupting productivity.

Fear of infection can result in social distancing or closed schools, enterprises, commercial establishments, transportation, and public services—all of which disrupt economic and other socially valuable activity.

Concern over the spread of even a relatively contained outbreak can lead to decreased trade. For example, a ban imposed by the European Union on exports of British beef lasted 10 years following identification of a mad cow disease outbreak in the United Kingdom, despite relatively low transmission to humans.

Travel and tourism to regions affected by outbreaks are also likely to decline. Some long-running epidemics, such as HIV and malaria, deter foreign direct investment as well.

The economic risks of epidemics are not trivial. Victoria Fan, Dean Jamison, and Lawrence Summers recently estimated the expected yearly cost of pandemic influenza at roughly $500 billion (0.6 percent of global income), including both lost income and the intrinsic cost of elevated mortality.

Even when the health impact of an outbreak is relatively limited, its economic consequences can quickly become magnified. Liberia, for example, saw GDP growth decline 8 percentage points from 2013 to 2014 during the recent Ebola outbreak in west Africa, even as the country’s overall death rate fell over the same period.

The consequences of outbreaks and epidemics are not distributed equally throughout the economy. Some sectors may even benefit financially, while others will suffer disproportionately.

Pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines, antibiotics, or other products needed for outbreak response are potential beneficiaries. Health and life insurance companies are likely to bear heavy costs, at least in the short term, as are livestock producers in the event of an outbreak linked to animals.

Vulnerable populations, particularly the poor, are likely to suffer disproportionately, as they may have less access to health care and lower savings to protect against financial catastrophe.

Economic policymakers are accustomed to managing various forms of risk, such as trade imbalances, exchange rate movements, and changes in market interest rates. There are also risks that are not strictly economic in origin.

Armed conflict represents one such example; natural disasters are another. We can think about the economic disruption caused by outbreaks and epidemics along these same lines. As with other forms of risk, the economic risk of health shocks can be managed with policies that reduce their likelihood and that position countries to respond swiftly when they do occur.

Several factors complicate the management of epidemic risk. Diseases can be transmitted rapidly, both within and across countries, which means that timely responses to initial outbreaks are essential. In addition to being exacerbated by globalization, epidemic potential is elevated by the twin phenomena of climate change and urbanization.

Climate change is expanding the habitats of various common disease vectors, such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can spread dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and yellow fever. Urbanization means more humans live in close quarters, amplifying the transmissibility of contagious disease.

In rapidly urbanizing areas, the growth of slums forces more people to live in conditions with substandard sanitation and poor access to clean water, compounding the problem.

Perhaps the greatest challenge is the formidable array of possible causes of epidemics, including pathogens that are currently unknown. In December 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of epidemic-potential disease priorities requiring urgent research and development (R&D) attention.

That list has since been updated twice, most recently in February 2018 (see table).

Beyond this list, diseases that are currently endemic in some areas but could spread without proper control represent another category of threat. Tuberculosis, malaria, and dengue are examples, as is HIV.

Pathogens resistant to antimicrobials are increasing in prevalence throughout the world, and widespread pan-drug-resistant superbugs could pose yet another hazard. Rapid transmission of resistant pathogens is unlikely to occur in the same way it may with pandemic threats, but the proliferation of superbugs is making the world an increasingly risky place.

Epidemic risk is complex, but policymakers have tools they can deploy in response. Some tools minimize the likelihood of outbreaks or limit their proliferation. Others attempt to minimize the health impact of outbreaks that cannot be prevented or immediately contained. Still others aim to minimize the economic impact.

Investing in improved sanitation, provisioning of clean water, and better urban infrastructure can reduce the frequency of human contact with pathogenic agents.

Building strong health systems and supporting proper nutrition will help ensure good baseline levels of health, making people less susceptible to infection. Of course, strengthening basic systems, services, and infrastructure becomes easier with economic growth and development; however, policies to protect spending in these areas even when budgets are constrained can help safeguard developing economies from major health shocks that could significantly impinge upon human capital and impede economic growth.

Investment in reliable disease surveillance in both human and animal populations is also critical. Within formal global surveillance systems, it may be beneficial to develop incentives for reporting suspected outbreaks, as countries may reasonably fear the effects of such reporting on trade, tourism, and other economic outcomes.

The SARS epidemic, for instance, might have been better contained if China had reported the initial outbreak to the WHO earlier.

Informal surveillance systems
, such as ProMED and HealthMap, which aggregate information from official surveillance reports, media reports, online discussions and summaries, and eyewitness observations, can also help national health systems and international responders get ahead of the epidemiological curve during the early stages of an outbreak.

Social media offers additional opportunities for early detection of shifts in infectious disease incidence.

Collaborations for monitoring epidemic readiness at the national level, such as the Global Health Security Agenda and the Joint External Evaluation Alliance, provide information national governments can use to bolster their planned outbreak responses.

Additional research into which pathogens are likely to spread and have a big impact would be worthwhile.

Countries should be ready to take initial measures to limit the spread of disease when an outbreak does occur. Historically, ships were quarantined in port during plague epidemics to prevent the spread of the disease to coastal cities. In the case of highly virulent and highly transmissible diseases, quarantines may still be necessary, although they can inspire concerns about human rights.

Likewise, it may be necessary to ration biomedical countermeasures if supplies are limited. Countries should decide in advance if they will prioritize first responders and other key personnel or favor vulnerable groups, such as children and the elderly; different strategies may be appropriate for different diseases.

Technological solutions can help minimize the burden of sizable outbreaks and epidemics. Better and less-costly treatments—including novel antibiotics and antivirals to counter resistant diseases—are sorely needed. New and improved vaccines are perhaps even more important.

There is a significant market failure when it comes to vaccines against individual low-probability pathogens that collectively are likely to cause epidemics. Given the low probability that any single vaccine of this type will be needed, high R&D costs, and delayed returns, pharmaceutical companies hesitate to invest in their development. The profit-seeking interest does not align well with the social interest of minimizing the risk posed by these diseases in the aggregate.

Farsighted international collaboration can overcome this market failure—for example, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is supported by the governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ethiopia, India, Japan, Germany, and Norway, as well as the European Commission and various nongovernmental funders.

Its goals include advancing candidate vaccines against specific low-probability, high-severity pathogens through proof of concept to enable rapid clinical testing and scale-up in the event of outbreaks of those pathogens.

It also aims to fund development of institutional and technical platforms to speed R&D in response to outbreaks for which there are no vaccines. Similar funding models could support the development of a universal influenza vaccine.

Of course, new vaccines will be less useful if governments do not ensure that at-risk populations have access to them. Assured access could also motivate developing economies to participate actively in the vaccine R&D process.

In 2007 Indonesia withheld samples of the H5N1 influenza virus from the WHO to protest the fact that companies in wealthy countries often use samples freely provided by developing economies to produce vaccines and other countermeasures without returning any profit or other special benefits to the donors.

Beyond funding R&D, international collaboration could boost epidemic preparedness by supporting centralized stockpiling of vaccines and drugs that can be deployed where they are most needed. Such collaboration has obvious advantages over a system in which each country stockpiles its own biomedical countermeasures.

While some countries are more likely to need these countermeasures than others, the global public good of living without fear of pandemics should motivate cooperation and cost sharing.

In addition, wealthy countries at relatively low risk of suffering massive health impacts from most epidemics could suffer disproportionately large economic losses—even from faraway epidemics—given the size of their economies and reliance on foreign trade.

If outbreaks do occur and impose a substantial health burden, there are tools to limit the risk of economic catastrophe. As with natural disasters, insurance can help distribute the economic burden across sectors of the economy and regions.

Prioritizing personnel such as health care workers, members of the military, and public safety employees for distribution of biomedical countermeasures during an outbreak can help protect critical economic resources.

We cannot predict which pathogen will spur the next major epidemic, where that epidemic will originate, or how dire the consequences will be. But as long as humans and infectious pathogens coexist, outbreaks and epidemics are certain to occur and to impose significant costs.

The upside is that we can take proactive steps to manage the risk of epidemics and mitigate their impact. Concerted action now at the local, national, and multinational levels can go a long way toward protecting our collective well-being in the future.

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/fandd/2018/06/economic-risks-and-impacts-of-epidemics/bloom.htm?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

Opinions expressed in articles and other materials are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect IMF policy.

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DAVID E. BLOOM is the Clarence James Gamble Professor of Economics and Demography, DANIEL CADARETTE is a research assistant, and JP SEVILLA is a research associate, all at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

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