Inter Press ServiceGlobal – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 19 May 2018 21:14:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Will Climate Change Cause More Migrants than Wars?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/will-climate-change-cause-migrants-wars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-climate-change-cause-migrants-wars http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/will-climate-change-cause-migrants-wars/#respond Thu, 17 May 2018 23:00:27 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155814 Climate change is one of the main drivers of migration and will be increasingly so. It will even have a more significant role in the displacement of people than armed conflicts, which today cause major refugee crises. This was the warning sounded by Ovais Sarmad, the Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention […]

The post Will Climate Change Cause More Migrants than Wars? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
The post Will Climate Change Cause More Migrants than Wars? appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/will-climate-change-cause-migrants-wars/feed/ 0
White House Should State Opposition to Saudi Threat to Acquire Nuclear Weaponshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/white-house-state-opposition-saudi-threat-acquire-nuclear-weapons/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=white-house-state-opposition-saudi-threat-acquire-nuclear-weapons http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/white-house-state-opposition-saudi-threat-acquire-nuclear-weapons/#comments Wed, 16 May 2018 08:55:17 +0000 Daryl Kimball and Thomas Countryman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155786 Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association & Thomas Countryman is Board of Directors, Chairman, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation

The post White House Should State Opposition to Saudi Threat to Acquire Nuclear Weapons appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Japanese A-bomb survivors and ICAN demonstrate before the UN vote in October 2016. Credit: Peace Boat

By Daryl G. Kimball and Thomas Countryman
WASHINGTON DC, May 16 2018 (IPS)

We are deeply disappointed by the counterproductive response from the Trump administration to the statements from senior Saudi officials threatening to pursue nuclear weapons in violation of their nonproliferation commitments.

We call on the White House to immediately reiterate the longstanding, bipartisan policy of the United States that it will actively work against the spread of nuclear weapons to any country, friend or foe.

President Donald Trump’s reckless decision to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which has blocked Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons and put in place a robust monitoring system to detect and deter cheating, has not only opened the door to an expansion of Iran’s capability to produce bomb-grade nuclear material, but it has increased the risk of a wider nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which is already home to one nuclear-armed state.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel Al-Jubeir told CNN May 9, that his country, which, like Iran, is a party to the 1968 nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), stands ready to build nuclear weapons if Iran restarts its nuclear program.

Al-Jubeir also praised Trump’s decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and seek to reimpose sanctions on firms and business engaging in legitimate commerce with Iran.

Asked what his country will do if Iran restarts its nuclear program, he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that “we will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability, we will do everything we can to do the same.”

Asked to clarify whether that means the kingdom will work to acquire its own nuclear capability, al-Jubeir replied, “That’s what we mean.”

This follows similar comments by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a March 15 interview with CBS News that Saudi Arabia will quickly follow suit if Iran acquires nuclear weapons.

When asked May 9 whether Saudi Arabia would “have the administration’s support in the event that that occurred,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said:

“Right now, I don’t know that we have a specific policy announcement on that front, but I can tell you that we are very committed to making sure that Iran does not have nuclear weapons,” she stated.

The administration’s nonresponse to Prince Salman’s threat in March and Sanders’ weak response May 9 amounts to an irresponsible invitation for mischief.

They imply that Trump administration would look the other way if Saudi Arabia breaks its NPT commitments to pursue nuclear weapons.

It is bad enough that the Trump administration, by violating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has threatened the NPT regime by opening the door for Iran to expand its nuclear capacity.

President Trump and his advisors must not compound that error by swallowing their tongues when another NPT member state in the region threatens to pursue the bomb.

We call on the White House to immediately clarify that it is the longstanding policy of the United States, as an original party to the NPT:

…not to in any way to assist, encourage, or induce any non-nuclear-weapon State to manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons …” and “… to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament ….”

We also call on the U.S. Congress to reject any proposed agreement with Saudi Arabia that permits U.S. nuclear cooperation if Saudi Arabia seeks to or acquires sensitive uranium enrichment or plutonium separation technology which can be used to produce nuclear weapons.

The post White House Should State Opposition to Saudi Threat to Acquire Nuclear Weapons appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Daryl G. Kimball is Executive Director, Arms Control Association & Thomas Countryman is Board of Directors, Chairman, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Nonproliferation

The post White House Should State Opposition to Saudi Threat to Acquire Nuclear Weapons appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/white-house-state-opposition-saudi-threat-acquire-nuclear-weapons/feed/ 1
Climate Finance: The Paris Agreement’s “Lifeblood”http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood/#respond Tue, 15 May 2018 18:22:15 +0000 Friday Phiri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155775 As negotiators concluded ten days of climate talks in Bonn last week, climate finance was underlined as a key element without which the Paris Agreement’s operational guidelines would be meaningless. The talks, held from April 30 to May 10, were aimed at finalising the PA’s implementation guidelines to be adopted at the annual climate conference […]

The post Climate Finance: The Paris Agreement’s “Lifeblood” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

UN Climate chief Patricia Espinosa making a point during a media roundtable. Credit: Friday Phiri

By Friday Phiri
BONN, May 15 2018 (IPS)

As negotiators concluded ten days of climate talks in Bonn last week, climate finance was underlined as a key element without which the Paris Agreement’s operational guidelines would be meaningless.

The talks, held from April 30 to May 10, were aimed at finalising the PA’s implementation guidelines to be adopted at the annual climate conference to be held in Katowice, Poland in December.

The guidelines are essential for determining whether total world emissions are declining fast enough to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, which include boosting adaptation and limiting the global temperature increase to well below 2°C, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5°C.

Climate finance dialoge

However, the catch is that all this requires financing to achieve. For instance, the conditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) from developing countries in implementing the Paris Agreement are pegged at the cost of 4.3 trillion dollars to be achieved.

“Finance is a very critical component for us,” said Ephraim Mwepya Shitima, Zambian Delegation leader and UNFCCC focal point person. “Agriculture, general adaptation and the APA agenda for implementation modalities form the core issues we are following keenly but we believe all these are meaningless without finance.”

It has always been the cry of developing countries to receive support through predictable and sustainable finance for it is the lifeblood of implementation of mitigation and/or adaptation activities. And Least Developed Countries (LDC) Chair Gebru Jember Endalew agrees with Zambia’s Shitima on the importance of finance.

“Finance is key to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the face of climate change, poor and vulnerable countries are forced to address loss and damage and adapt to a changing climate, all while striving to lift their people out of poverty without repeating the mistakes of an economy built on fossil fuels. This is not possible without predictable and sustainable support,” he said.

The civil society movement was particularly unhappy with the lukewarm finance dialogue outcome. “The radio silence on money has sown fears among poor countries that their wealthier counterparts are not serious about honouring their promises,” said Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead, Christian Aid.

He said funding is not just a bargaining chip, but an essential tool for delivering the national plans that make up the Paris Agreement. And adding his voice to the debate, Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Justice Allaince (PACJA) expressed dismay at the lack of concrete commitments from developed country parties.

“We are dismayed with the shifting of goal posts by our partners who intend to delay the realization of actual financing of full costs of adaptation in Africa,” said Mwenda.

Civil society campaigners protest big polluters at the negotiating table in Bonn. Credit: Friday Phiri

Civil society campaigners protest big polluters at the negotiating table in Bonn. Credit: Friday Phiri

But for Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the final analysis of the talks revealed a more hopeful outlook.

“I am satisfied that some progress was made here in Bonn,” said Espinosa at the close of the ten-day talks. “But many voices are underlining the urgency of advancing more rapidly on finalizing the operational guidelines. The package being negotiated is highly technical and complex. We need to put it in place so that the world can monitor progress on climate action.”

According to Espinosa, the presiding officers of the three working bodies coordinated discussions on a wide range of items under the Paris Agreement Work Programme, and delegations tasked them to publish a “reflection note” to help governments prepare for the next round of talks.

She said the preparatory talks would continue at a supplementary meeting in Bangkok from September 3-8, at which the reflection note and the views and inputs by governments captured in various texts in Bonn would be considered.

The Bangkok meeting would then forward texts and draft decisions for adoption to the annual session of the Conference of the Parties (COP24) in Poland.

“We have made progress here in Bonn, but we need now to accelerate the negotiations. Continuing intersessional streamlining of the text-based output from Bonn will greatly assist all governments, who will meet in Bangkok to work towards clear options for the final set of implementation guidelines,” she explained.

The Talanoa Dialogue

In parallel to the formal negotiations, the Bonn meeting hosted the long-awaited Fiji-led Talanoa Dialogue.

Following the tradition in the Pacific region, the goal of a ‘talanoa’ is to share stories to find solutions for the common good. In this spirit, the dialogue witnessed some 250 participants share their stories, providing fresh ideas and renewed determination to raise ambition.

“Now is the time for action,” said Frank Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23. “Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make. We must complete the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement on time. And we must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our climate action plans.”

The dialogue wrote history when countries and non-Party stakeholders including cities, businesses, investors and regions engaged in interactive story-telling for the first time.

“The Talanoa Dialogue has provided a broad and real picture of where we are and has set a new standard of conversation,” said the President-designate of COP24, Michał Kurtyka of Poland. “Now it is time to move from this preparatory phase of the dialogue to prepare for its political phase, which will take place at COP24,” he added.

All input received to date and up to October 29, 2018 will feed into the Talanoa Dialogue’s second, more political phase at COP24.

The Koronovia work Programme on Agriculture  

Farmers are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts such as prolonged droughts and shifting rainfall patterns, and agriculture is an important source of emissions.

Despite this importance however, agriculture had been missing and was only discussed as an appendage at the UN climate negotiating table, until November 2017 when it was included as a work programme.

Recognising the urgency of addressing this sector, the Bonn conference made a significant advance on the “Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture” by adopting a roadmap for the next two-and-a-half years.

“From our perspective as Zambia, our interest is in line with the expectations of the African group which is seeking to protect our smallholders who are the majority producers from the negative impacts of climate change,” said Morton Mwanza, Zambia’s Ministry of Agriculture focal point person on Climate Smart Agriculture.

And according to the outcome at the Bonn talks, the roadmap responds to the world’s farming community of more than 1 billion people and to the 800 million people who live in food-insecure circumstances, mainly in developing countries. It addresses a range of issues including the socio-economic and food-security dimensions of climate change, assessments of adaptation in agriculture, co-benefits and resilience, and livestock management.

Nevertheless, key to this roadmap is undoubtedly means of implementation—finance and technology. Developed countries pledged, since 2009, to deliver to developing countries 100 billion dollars per year by 2020 for climate action.

However, the withdrawal of 2 billion dollars’ worth of support by the Trump administration because of its decision to leave the Paris Agreement, leaves the climate finance debate unsettled, and a major sticking point in the talks.

Big polluters influence

And some campaigners now accuse some fossil fuel lobbyists allegedly sitting on the negotiating table to be behind delayed climate action.

According to a study, titled “Revolving doors and the fossil fuel industry,” carried out in 13 European countries, failure to deal with conflict of interest by the EU is due to cosy relationships built up with the fossil fuel sector over the years. It calls for the adoption of a strong conflict of interest policy that would avoid the disproportionate influence of the fossil fuel industry on the international climate change negotiations.

“There is a revolving door between politics and the fossil fuel lobby all across Europe,” said Max Andersson, Member of the European Parliament, at the Bonn Climate Talks. “It’s not just a handful of cases—it is systematic. The fossil fuel industry has an enormous economic interest in delaying climate action and the revolving door between politics and the fossil fuel lobby is a serious cause for alarm.”

According to Andersson, to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and keep global warming to as close as 1.5 degrees as possible, there is need to clamp down on conflicts of interest to stop coal, gas and oil from leaving “their dirty fingerprints over our climate policy.”

Interestingly, there was good news for the ‘big polluters out’ campaigners at the close of the talks. “No amount of obstruction from the US and its big polluter allies will ultimately prevent this movement from advancing,” Jesse Bragg of Corporate Accountability told IPS. “Global South leaders prevailed in securing a clear path forward for the conflict of interest movement, ensuring the issue will be front and center next year.”

And so, it seems, climate finance holds all the cards. Until it is sorted, the implementation of the Paris Agreement in two years’ time hangs in the balance.

 

The post Climate Finance: The Paris Agreement’s “Lifeblood” appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/climate-finance-paris-agreements-lifeblood/feed/ 0
Gaza: Avoiding a Greater Blood Bathhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/gaza-avoiding-greater-blood-bath/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gaza-avoiding-greater-blood-bath http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/gaza-avoiding-greater-blood-bath/#respond Mon, 14 May 2018 09:07:19 +0000 Jason Cone http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155755 Jason Cone is the executive director of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières in the United States.

The post Gaza: Avoiding a Greater Blood Bath appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

An MSF nurse in Gaza cares for a patient who was shot in the arm. Credit: Laurie Bonnaud/MSF

By Jason Cone
NEW YORK/GAZA, May 14 2018 (IPS)

The exit wounds are fist-size. Bone is pulverized into dust. This is the reality for half of the injured patients received in my organization’s clinics since the launch of the Great Return March in Gaza.

Over the past month, the number of people treated in Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) clinics in Gaza is more than were treated in all of 2014, when Israel’s Operation Protective Edge was launched in the Gaza Strip.

MSF clinics admitted almost 781 trauma victims between March 30 and May 10—more than one-third of the 1,916 trauma casualties recorded by Gaza’s health ministry. The situation may worsen with the planned move of the US embassy to Jerusalem on May 14 and the approach of May 15, the anniversary of Israel’s founding, regarded by Palestinians as the “Nakba,” or catastrophe.

Medical facilities, including our clinics, are completely overwhelmed and will soon be unable to manage additional wounded. The health system, strained by the ongoing blockade of Gaza, is on the verge of collapse.

Even though there is not a war in Gaza, the injuries sustained by our patients are terribly similar to what we see in conflict zones. We estimate that more than 39 percent of our 554 current trauma patients will require long-term rehabilitation, lasting at least until the end of the year. While the majority of our patients are young men around 20 years old, we have treated 98 children and adolescents under 18.

Ninety-one percent of our trauma patients were shot in the legs, many at close range. Several will be handicapped for life, putting tremendous pressure on the already beleaguered health system, impoverished families, and the whole society.

The ongoing Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip and recent US funding cuts to the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, exacerbate the dire situation.

Gaza hospitals have emptied inpatient wards to make space for the influx of wounded. Patients with chronic health issues were already struggling from the lack of chemotherapy drugs, kidney dialysis, and diabetes management. Now they have been displaced, and either do not have access to health care or will be forced to turn to expensive private clinics.

Most of our wounded patients say they have nothing to lose, no hope, no jobs, nothing. They tell our staff that they just want to go back and die at protest sites. Some are returning to the demonstrations with casts, on crutches, or with external fixators holding together shattered bones.

The severity of the injuries demonstrates that Israeli forces are resorting to disproportionate force to incapacitate the protesters. The result is unnecessary damage and suffering.

Additionally, the Israeli government doesn’t regularly facilitate access to health care outside of Gaza, which is needed due to the complexity and severity of injuries. According to the World Health Organization, since March 30, of the 27 patients who have applied to be treated outside of Gaza, only 9 have been approved. Failure to transfer these patients will increase pressure on the public health system, and increase the risk of otherwise preventable infection-related amputations.

Lastly, Israel and Egypt need to ease the 10-year blockade of Gaza, which contributes to the ongoing despair and drives people to the fence to protest. Egypt must also open its border with Gaza and permit the flow of humanitarian aid. Israel also must ensure adequate supplies of electricity to the Strip.

Hamas leaders in Gaza must cease encouraging any kind of violence and glorifying “martyrdom.” The Palestinian Authority must also enact an emergency response plan, ensure payment of salaries to health-care personnel, replenish medical and electricity supplies for hospitals, stop restrictive measures against the population, and immediately add inpatient capacity to deal with the surge of wounded expected in the days ahead. The divide between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is more painful today for the population than ever.

But the Israeli government and Palestinian leaders are not the only ones responsible for recent events. The Trump Administration’s decisions to recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital, to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and to enact an 83 percent funding cut to UNRWA, have thrown gas on the fire.

Since the US embassy move was announced in December, MSF clinics have seen a massive increase in trauma cases, from just a few per week to more than 20 cases weekly even before the current protests. Today, we are seeing more than 20 cases per day. This is on top of the normal workload, including burn victims from accidents linked to the use of unsafe fuels for home heating and cooking, due to the blockade-related shortages in Gaza.

Electricity and water shortages, along with an ongoing dispute between Hamas and the Palestinian authority, have led hospitals to freeze elective surgeries. The UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) estimates that 36 percent of essential medicines and 32 percent of medical supplies are missing as a result of the blockade and lack of funds.

The US government must use its diplomatic influence to ensure a more proportionate use of force by the Israeli government, and make it a priority to restrict the use of live ammunition.

The collapse of all public services heightens the risk of complete disaster in Gaza. Egypt and Jordan should also be prepared to facilitate medical evacuations of patients for long-term care that will likely be unavailable in Gaza. Referrals to the West Bank may also be needed, and these should all be facilitated on the basis of medical need—not political considerations.

While there is plenty of blame to share over the latest violence in Gaza, the focus should be on mitigating human suffering now and preventing wider harm. As the toll of dead and wounded mounts, an entirely avoidable—potentially even deadlier—blood bath may be just days away.

This op-ed can be found online here.

The post Gaza: Avoiding a Greater Blood Bath appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jason Cone is the executive director of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières in the United States.

The post Gaza: Avoiding a Greater Blood Bath appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/gaza-avoiding-greater-blood-bath/feed/ 0
Sustainable Food Systems; Why We do Not Need New Recipeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/#comments Mon, 14 May 2018 05:14:37 +0000 Doaa Abdel-Motaal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155751 Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs […]

The post Sustainable Food Systems; Why We do Not Need New Recipes appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Doaa Abdel-Motaal
ROME, May 14 2018 (IPS)

Many believe that the food and agricultural sector is different to all other economic sectors, that it is unique, and that it requires special economic models to thrive. After all, we expect the global food and agricultural system to respond to many different goals. It needs to deliver abundant, safe, and nutritious food. It needs to create employment in rural areas while protecting forests and wildlife, improving landscapes, and preventing climate change through lower food production emissions. Well-functioning food systems are also considered essential for social stability and conflict prevention. In fact many politicians today go as far as to argue that food systems need to thrive so as to stem rural-to-urban migration and the cross-border flow of desperate people fleeing food insecure nations.

Doaa Abdel-Motaal

This sounds like a tall order, sufficient to make of food and agriculture an economic sector apart. Add to this mix that some want the agricultural sector to deliver energy in the form biomass and biofuels, and not just food, and you seem to have an almost impossible set of goals.

But let us take a minute to work through all of this. Is there any economic sector of which we do not expect abundance, safety, employment generation and environmental protection? Do we not expect, for example, when our cars are manufactured that there be a sufficient number of them to meet demand, that they be safe and generate employment, and that they not pollute either during their production or use? Do we not expect when cars or other manufactured products are produced, that our economies grow while delivering greater peace and security in the process?

The food and agricultural sector requires exactly what all other economic sectors do. Beyond government intervention to impose food safety and environmental regulations, governments need to invest in the infrastructure that is necessary for absolutely any economic sector to thrive. This infrastructure includes physical infrastructure such as roads and highways, but above all legal infrastructure too. By this I mean the rule of law, in the form of a functioning court system to which investors can have quick and easy recourse, and open trade and investment policies. This legal infrastructure is what allows non-governmental actors like the private sector to throw their hat into the ring.

But there is something about food that makes any discussion of it emotional. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 815 million people are chronically undernourished. This figure is as unacceptable as it is alarming, and is certainly cause for immediate action. However, what this number does not call for is a misdiagnosis.

An emotional response to what is a troubling reality is the last thing we need. Doubling down on government intervention to pick winners and losers in the food sector, or to create an ‘industrial policy’ for agriculture, would be a mistake. It would prevent market signals from functioning properly. In fact, the answer to current food insecurity is to double down on economic growth, pursuing it even more aggressively.

Clearly some social protection is needed as this transition occurs. While people do not die of a lack of cars, they do die of a lack of food. But social protection must be managed carefully. The safety nets must be targeted to those in need, must not create complacency and slow the pace of economic reform, and, above all, food aid must not grow into an industry of its own, with the associated vested interests that would make it impossible to dismantle.

I have worked on international trade issues for decades where I have watched some of the world’s most developed nations refuse to reduce their agricultural subsidies and escalating tariffs that inflict daily harm on the developing world’s agricultural sector. A beggar thy neighbour approach. In the same arena, I have watched many developing countries refuse to open their markets to imported food, making food more expensive for the poorest segments of their population. These are all examples of the unfortunate application of an industrial policy to food.

I have also worked extensively in the area of food aid. While I have seen this aid come to the rescue of millions of people in dire need, I have also seen it create dependence and delay desperately needed economic reforms. I now work on polar issues, where I am watching scientists in Antarctica harvest their first crop of vegetables grown without earth, daylight or pesticides as part of a project designed to cultivate fresh food where we would have previously thought impossible.

My message is this, let us apply simple economics to food and agriculture and not invent new industrial policy recipes for this sector every day. Let us also keep a watchful eye on where technology can take us. Research and development may well take this sector towards a very different future.

*Doaa Abdel-Motaal is former Executive Director of the Rockefeller Foundation Economic Council on Planetary Health, former Chief of Staff of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and former Deputy Chief of Staff of the World Trade Organization. She is the author of “Antarctica, the Battle for the Seventh Continent.”

The post Sustainable Food Systems; Why We do Not Need New Recipes appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/sustainable-food-systems-not-need-new-recipes/feed/ 1
To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=children-not-importance-finding-balance http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/#comments Fri, 11 May 2018 18:48:35 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155735 While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it. Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman. At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be […]

The post To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balance appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Credit: Bigstock

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

While the world’s population has changed dramatically over the last 50 years, little is still understood about fertility transition and the reasons behind it.

Over the last half a century, the global fertility rate has halved, reaching a level of 2.5 births per woman.

At the same time, the UN estimates that there will be 11 billion people in the world by 2100.

Given such trends, more needs to be understood about the factors that influence fertility rates, but not enough is known about it, Secretary-General of the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) Dr. Osamu Kusumoto told IPS.

“In general, fertility transition is not properly examined yet. Demographers usually analyze statistics over the cause of statistics,” he said.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

While some believe that the shift was a response to declining mortality rates, others have looked to culture and socioeconomic factors as driving fertility transition.

“Value determines the behavior,” Dr. Kusumoto told IPS, pointing to Mongolia as an example.

In the 1950s, Mongolia accelerated its social development with help from the Soviet Union.

Following socialist economic models, significant progress was also made in education and health and pro-natalist policies were implemented, leading to an unprecedented rise in fertility rates.

Between the late 1950s to the 1980s alone, Mongolia’s population doubled from 780,000 to 2 million.

But what exactly is fertility transition?

The phenomenon refers to the shift from high fertility to low fertility which first began in North America and Western Europe in the nineteenth century. A similar process was then seen across developing countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa.


However, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Mongolia’s birth rates plummeted—a rare occurrence for a country in poverty and seemingly a response to the country’s poor socioeconomic conditions.

Many researchers including Dr. Kusumoto also believe the Central Asian nation’s transition to democracy and a market economy have also influenced fertility rates.

For instance, with more freedoms and improved access to education, women have become more empowered.

Unlike many developing countries, Mongolian women are better educated than men, comprising 62 percent of higher education graduates in 2015. They also have lower rates of unemployment than their male counterparts.

While Mongolians postponed childbearing during the chaos of the 1990s, the rise in female education has led to delays in marriage along with delays in having children.

With the globally adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), future demographic trends may be affected around the world.

The SDGs include specific targets on mortality, health, and education, and researchers believe that its implementation can help reduce population growth.

However, in order to achieve the SDGs, fertility research is needed.

“To achieve the SDGs, an understanding of fertility transition is essential. Proper social policies on fertility to mitigate rapid changes have to be considered,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

“Proper fertility is essential, high fertility and extremely low fertility may harm the society,” he added.

Though they are one of the most prosperous nations in Asia, Japan has seen its fertility rate decline to unsustainable levels and has sparked concerns over the social and economic impact of extremely low fertility.

Today, Japan’s birth rate is 1.44 children per woman which has caused the population to decline by one million in the past five years alone.

The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that if such trends continue, Japan’s population is expected to decrease from 126 million today to 88 million in 2065 and 51 million by 2115.

With fewer children and young adults, a vicious cycle is set in motion: spending decreases which weakens the economy, which discourages families from having children, which then weakens the economy further.

At the same time, with a higher life expectancy and a larger ageing population, there are less revenues and higher expenditures for the government, less funds for pensions and social security, and an even weaker economy.

“In Japan, to have children is not rational choice for young individuals because we have social security to support old age…without the younger generation, this system will not be able to maintain…in the future social security that is the supportive condition for their rational choice will be missing,” Dr. Kusumoto said.

At the other end of the scale, African countries such as Nigeria are experiencing the fastest population increases.

By 2050, Nigeria will become the world’s third largest country by population.

The UN predicts that one-third of all people—almost 4 billion—will be African by 2100.

This could hamper efforts to achieve key SDGs such as ending poverty and ensuring peace and prosperity.

“From this point of view, the fertility issue is an equally essential requirement for achieving SDGs,” Dr. Kusumoto reiterated.

The post To Have Children or Not: The Importance of Finding a Balance appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/children-not-importance-finding-balance/feed/ 4
20 Water-Stressed Countries Have Most Solar & Wind Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential/#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 15:33:54 +0000 Tianyi Luo http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155728 Tianyi Luo is a senior manager with the Aqueduct Project at the Global Water Program at World Resources Institute.

The post 20 Water-Stressed Countries Have Most Solar & Wind Potential appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Tianyi Luo is a senior manager with the Aqueduct Project at the Global Water Program at World Resources Institute.

By Tianyi Luo
WASHINGTON DC, May 11 2018 (IPS)

Most power generation consumes water, whether to cool steam in thermoelectric plants or power turbines for hydropower. And the global demand for both water and electricity will continue to increase substantially in the coming decades.

Although growth is generally a good thing for the economy, it challenges nations—particularly ones that are water-stressed—to better manage their limited water resources and invest in the right energy systems.

Power generation from solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind is clean and requires zero or little water use. These renewable forms of energy can help countries meet their increased demand for electricity without adding carbon emissions or consuming water.

This could be particularly beneficial in countries where growing populations, farms and industries are already competing for scant water supplies. For example, a recent WRI analysis shows that India could reduce its water consumption intensity by more than 25 percent just by achieving its renewable energy targets.

Leveraging WRI’s Resource Watch, a new global data platform, we overlaid map-based data sets to identify countries that are water-stressed and have high solar and wind energy potential. These countries are places where solar PV and wind technologies are more likely to be financially attractive and provide water savings that would benefit the public greatly.

Water Stress and Solar Energy Potential

The top 20 water-stressed countries with the most average solar energy potential are in the Middle East and North African region; the rest are from Asia and Pacific, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The list includes countries at all economic stages: three are developed (Australia, Israel and Saudi Arabia), four are some of the least developed (Afghanistan, Eritrea, Timor-Leste and Yemen), and the rest are from emerging or developing markets.

Yemen has the highest average solar energy potential in terms of global horizontal irradiance (GHI), a proxy of the strength and concentration of solar energy hitting a PV panel. It’s also one of the world’s most water-stressed and least developed countries.

The World Bank just invested $50 million in solar PV projects to restore electricity to more than one million Yemenis. However, with the ongoing civil war in the country, renewables development could still be challenging.

Eritrea and Saudi Arabia have the second- and third-highest average solar energy potential, but very different economic power. It is more challenging for countries with constrained financial resources to adopt renewable technologies at a large scale.

However, as the cost for solar and wind energy continues to decline, these options are becoming more attractive. Even oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia are investing heavily in solar energy for domestic consumption, with a target of 9.5 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind by 2023.

Water Stress and Wind Energy Potential

Of the 20 water-stressed countries with the most wind energy potential, eight are from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), six from Europe, and the rest from Asia Pacific and North America. Eight of the countries are developed, 11 are from emerging and developing markets, and one is among the world’s least developed.

Andorra has the highest wind energy potential, followed by Belgium and Kazakhstan. However, for wind to be attractive in Andorra, the costs would need to be cheaper than its current electricity imports from Spain.

Seven water-stressed countries (Algeria, Bahrain, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Qatar and Yemen) in the MENA region have high average energy potentials for both solar and wind, as well as Australia. Some of these countries have plans to harness solar and wind energy, but many do not, and many goals fall short of their potential. Also, because of their oil wealth, some of these countries rely on desalination for water supply and might not have a water scarcity problem for now.

A full list of all countries with high water stress and their average wind energy potentials can be found at the bottom of this post.

Note: For countries that span large areas, there could be spatial mismatch between water stress and renewable potential and electricity demands, which is not accounted for in this analysis. Additionally, more comprehensive analysis would require looking at local governance, regulations, availability and cost of competing energy resources and economics. While local contexts may differ, these aggregate averages show which countries have the most to gain from renewables’ water savings overall. More granular data could be found and visualized on Resource Watch.

The post 20 Water-Stressed Countries Have Most Solar & Wind Potential appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Tianyi Luo is a senior manager with the Aqueduct Project at the Global Water Program at World Resources Institute.

The post 20 Water-Stressed Countries Have Most Solar & Wind Potential appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/20-water-stressed-countries-solar-wind-potential/feed/ 0
Trump’s Dangerous Abrogation of the Iran Dealhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/trumps-dangerous-abrogation-iran-deal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-dangerous-abrogation-iran-deal http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/trumps-dangerous-abrogation-iran-deal/#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 11:24:05 +0000 Stephen Zunes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155724 Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

The post Trump’s Dangerous Abrogation of the Iran Deal appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

By Stephen Zunes
SAN FRANCISCO, May 11 2018 (IPS)

The Trump Administration’s decision to pull the United States out of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the United States—strikes a dangerous blow against arms control and international security and even more firmly establishes the United States as a rogue nation.

The meeting for a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program in 2015. Attendees included John Kerry of the United States, Philip Hammond of the United Kingdom, Sergey Lavrov of Russia, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany, Laurent Fabius of France, Wang Yi of China, Federica Mogherini of the European Union and Javad Zarif of Iran.

This is a victory for Iranian hardliners, who opposed the agreement. They argued against destroying billions of dollars’ worth of nuclear facilities and material in return for the lifting of debilitating sanctions, because the United States could not be trusted to lift the sanctions as promised. That, in the end, is exactly what happened.

Now Trump’s decision will make it virtually impossible for North Korea or any other country to trust the United States to keep its commitments and thereby sabotage future arms control negotiations.

The Iran pact is supported by virtually every country in the world. The vast majority of those in the U.S. national security establishment, current and retired, have supported it, as have the vast majority of nuclear scientists and policy experts. Even within Israel, there is strong support among intelligence and defense officials.

Trump argued that the agreement did nothing to curb Iran’s intervention in Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. But that was never its intention. Other such agreements seek to limit countries’ nuclear ambitions, not their broader geopolitical ambitions.

And Trump’s accusations of Iranian cheating are groundless. Indeed, his own CIA director and Director of National Intelligence have both acknowledged in recent weeks that Iran is in full compliance with the agreement, as has the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Accusations of Iranian cheating by the rightwing Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week referred back to Iran’s long-acknowledged cover-up of a nascent weapons program more than fifteen years ago. This is in no way a new revelation, or relevant to the current agreement.

Similarly, Trump’s insistence that that the agreement is somehow advantageous to Iran and would allow it to develop nuclear weapons is completely ludicrous.

The agreement reduced Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile by 98 percent and restricts the level of enrichment to 3.67 percent. Given that an enrichment level of 90 percent is needed to build a nuclear bomb, this makes it impossible for Iran’s uranium to be weaponized.

Under the deal, Iran also reduced its number of centrifuges to a little over 5,000, far below the number that would be needed to enrich uranium to anything close to that level. It prevented the commissioning of the Arak reactor, capable of producing plutonium, and restricts research and development activities in other facilities.

And it cut off all of Iran’s other potential pathways to obtaining a nuclear weapon.

In short, the pact makes it physically impossible for Iran to build a single atomic bomb.

In addition, the agreement imposes the one of the most rigorous inspection regimes in history. International inspectors monitor Iran’s nuclear program at every stage: uranium mining and milling, conversion, enrichment, fuel manufacturing, nuclear reactors, and spent fuel, as well as any site—military or civilian—they consider suspicious.

And if Iran were to violate any aspect of this agreement, sanctions would automatically snap back into place.

Historically, most agreements on nuclear weapons have required some sort of reciprocity. But none of Iran’s nuclear-armed neighbors—Israel, Pakistan or Israel—are required to eliminate or reduce their weapons or open their nuclear facilities to inspections, even though all three are currently violating U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding their nuclear programs.

And none of the other nuclear powers, including the United States, are required to reduce their arsenals, either. So, it is indeed, as Trump said, a “one-sided deal”—against Iran.

Trump and his Republican backers have long opposed efforts to ease tensions between the United States and Iran—especially any effort that might undermine excuses for going to war against that oil-rich nation. Iran, shackled by the 2015 agreement, is no threat to the United States.

Iran’s support for extremist groups, its human rights violations, its backing of repressive allies, and its other violations of international norms—while certainly wrong—are no worse than those committed by key U.S. regional allies.

The “threat” from Iran is that it is a regional power that has dared to challenge the United States’ hegemonic ambitions in the greater Middle East. For advocates of “full spectrum dominance,” as first articulated by the administration of George W. Bush in 2002, any such efforts to undermine U.S. hegemony are simply unacceptable.

Now Trump is free to undercut the Iranian economy by resuming comprehensive U.S. sanctions and forcing companies in other countries to avoid doing business with Iran by threatening to deny them trade and investment opportunities with the United States.

Trump’s strategy appears to encourage the Iranians to resume their nuclear program in order to provoke a crisis that would give the United States an excuse to go to war.

Credit www.thoughtcatalog.com

The post Trump’s Dangerous Abrogation of the Iran Deal appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics and coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of San Francisco.

The post Trump’s Dangerous Abrogation of the Iran Deal appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/trumps-dangerous-abrogation-iran-deal/feed/ 0
Recipe to Save 700,000 Young Children a Year: Clean Water & Decent Toiletshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets/#respond Thu, 10 May 2018 13:33:08 +0000 Savio Carvalho http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155713 Savio Carvalho is Global Campaigns Director, WaterAid

The post Recipe to Save 700,000 Young Children a Year: Clean Water & Decent Toilets appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Six-year-old Mamisoa gathers water at one of the three new fountains in his village in Mangasoavina commune, Madagascar. "I am happy as it is so easy to get water from the tap." Credit: WaterAid/ Ernest Randriarimalala

By Savio Carvalho
LONDON, May 10 2018 (IPS)

They are the foundations of a happy, healthy childhood: good nutrition, health care which includes immunisations and preventative care as well as treatment for illness, a good education.

How many among us would even think to list clean water to drink, a safe place to go to the toilet and the ability to keep hands, bodies and surroundings clean with soap and water?

Yet far too many children are deprived of these, affecting their health, education and life chances. Some 480,000 children under five die each year of diarrhoea, more than half of these directly linked to poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

And 880,000 children under five die each year of pneumonia – which also has links to dirty water, poor sanitation and poor hygiene.

The solutions are familiar, and close to home. New research by WaterAid and PATH’s Defeat DD initiative has found that combining clean water, decent household toilets and good hygiene with routine childhood vaccinations and nutrition support could potentially save the lives of nearly 700,000 young children and prevent billions of harmful bouts of diarrhoeal illness and pneumonia in under-fives each year.

Produced by WaterAid and PATH’s Defeat Diarrheal Disease (Defeat DD) Initiative, this new analysis is published in the report Coordinate, Integrate, Invest: how joint child health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions can deliver for your country’s future.

Our modelling shows that if every child in the world had access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene including handwashing with soap, along with routine rotavirus immunisation and other nutritional interventions such as zinc supplementation and breastfeeding, we could cut the rate of deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea by half, and reduce incidences of diarrhoea and pneumonia by two-thirds.

That is millions of episodes of illness. Imagine what that would mean for these young children, their parents, and the impact on the health care system.

Esther breastfeeding her youngest daughter, Tendry, inside her house in Amberomena village. Belavabary commune, Madagascar. She said: “My kids get diarrhoea often and during the rainy season, there is a case almost every day. I know that some of our sicknesses are caused by the dirty water we drink. “We try to avoid going to the doctor because we don’t have money to pay them. When we really need to go to the doctor then we have to sell our crops if we still have some, if not then we have to borrow money from our neighbours and pay them back later.” Credit: WaterAid/ PATH/ Ernest Randriarimalala

Specifically, ensuring 100% coverage with water, sanitation and hygiene, rotavirus vaccination and nutritional interventions such as breastfeeding promotion and zinc supplements could potentially reduce illness by nearly two thirds (63%) and almost halve the number of child deaths (49%) from diarrhoea and pneumonia.

None of this requires new technology or invention. It requires coordination, the integration of programmes for health and nutrition and for clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and investment to make it happen.

It’s not just a matter of health – it’s also a matter of wealth. For every US$1 invested in water and sanitation globally, there is a US$4.3 return in the form of reduced healthcare costs.

Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that have not tackled child stunting are facing punishing economic losses of up to 9-10% of GDP per capita, due to the potential lost in children who are stunted. Combining actions on health, nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene could help to create a more productive workforce and economic growth, lifting countries out of poverty.

72-year Heng with her granddaughter, 2-year-old Chinh, who is often sick, at their home in Cambodia. “My granddaughter drank a lot of water, and became sick with diarrhoea and fever.” The family almost never use soap for handwashing. “I don’t have money for soap.” Credit: WaterAid/PATH/Philong Sovan

The report also highlights examples of where countries are making good progress with integrating health, nutrition, water and sanitation efforts. In Madagascar, for example, the government is using this kind of coordination to tackle high rates of malnutrition.

In Nepal, promoting good hygiene during health clinic visits for rotavirus vaccinations is improving parents’ knowledge and actions around food safety, handwashing and safe disposal of children’s faeces, while also improving immunisation coverage and helping to reach those families hardest to reach because of remote locations and poverty.

If children are to grow and thrive, they need clean water, good sanitation and good hygiene alongside good healthcare, vaccinations and good nutrition. Each year, nearly 300,000 young children die of diarrhoea directly linked to dirty water, poor toilets and poor hygiene, and the greatest tragedy of all is that we know how to address this.

This study adds to the evidence that the lives of hundreds of thousands of young children could be saved each year if these pillars of development were combined with other health interventions.

WaterAid and Defeat DD are calling on governments and donors to align child health and water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, policies and financing to address this unnecessary health crisis more effectively and more efficiently. These investments create a positive cycle that builds human capital, strengthens economies, reduces future healthcare costs and contributes to national development.

This July the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 – to deliver water and sanitation to everyone, everywhere by 2030 – comes under review in New York. We are calling on decision-makers to make water, sanitation and hygiene a priority, because they are essential to child health, nutrition and the success of the next generation.

The post Recipe to Save 700,000 Young Children a Year: Clean Water & Decent Toilets appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Savio Carvalho is Global Campaigns Director, WaterAid

The post Recipe to Save 700,000 Young Children a Year: Clean Water & Decent Toilets appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/recipe-save-700000-young-children-year-clean-water-decent-toilets/feed/ 0
The UN and #MeToo: The Saga of Abuse Must End, Once and for Allhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end/#respond Thu, 10 May 2018 13:09:56 +0000 Loraine Rickard-Martin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155707 Loraine Rickard-Martin, PassBlue*

The post The UN and #MeToo: The Saga of Abuse Must End, Once and for All appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Secretary-General António Guterres and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, at an event for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Nov. 22, 2017. The author, a veteran of the UN, argues that new steps by the institution to confront sexual harassment systemwide requires a new mind-set as well. Credit: ESKINDER DEBEBE/UN PHOTO

By Loraine Rickard-Martin
NEW YORK, May 10 2018 (IPS)

For many years now, media attention on sexual abuse and exploitation by United Nations peacekeepers cornered the UN and pushed it toward reform. Now, the #MeToo movement has put the organization — and many other major institutions across the world — on red alert.

But UN insiders and supporters are wondering if the leadership’s rush to action in the last few months augurs real change or is mere window dressing after decades of neglecting the problem. Some people see an opportunity for the UN to recognize that its separation of sexual harassment from sexual abuse and exploitation (SEA) allows perpetrators to get away with impunity.

Many people also hope that the welcome action spurred by #MeToo will translate into addressing other forms of harassment and abuse of authority. I am doubtful, having in my 37-year career encountered a deepening UN culture of silence and fear and tendency to protect powerful men and complicit women, at any cost.

Last December, spurred by the #MeToo movement, Secretary-General António Guterres created a task force on sexual harassment, headed by Jan Beagle, the UN’s head of management. PassBlue reported at the time on a range of detailed accusations from women working in the UN and foreign missions to the UN, who had experienced sexual harassment. Other media also soon reported on such trouble within the UN.

In February 2018, the UN set up a 24-hour sexual harassment helpline; zero tolerance was reinforced in speeches. In April, the UN announced its first executive coordinator and spokesperson on addressing sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination in and outside the institution, Purna Sen.

Will these appointments and the task force mean genuine change in how the UN addresses sexual harassment and abuse?

The problem has existed for a long time. More than 25 years ago at the UN, an employee named Catherine Claxton made charges of sexual harassment and denial of promotion against Luis Maria Gomez, who, when he became her boss, prompted Claxton to finally file a formal complaint against him. Claxton won her case but waited years to receive a cash payment and a gag order yet no promotion; all of this happened only after The New York Times published an article about her case. Gomez parachuted briefly from one UN office into another before retreating into retirement.

The most current and public case of sexual harassment has zeroed in on Unaids, the UN entity tasked with preventing and ending AIDS worldwide. The case involves a complaint from a staff member, Martina Brostrom, against a top Unaids official, Luiz Loures, who was exonerated from the allegations and quietly retired. According to The Guardian, one of the most senior women in Unaids, Miriam Maluwa, who acted as a key witness for the accuser, has been placed on administrative leave.

The case was recently reopened — most likely because of media publicity, significantly when The Lancet published a scathing article on how the accusations were handled and dismissed.

Based on indications in his most recent report on SEA showing fewer cases being reported in certain UN sectors, like peacekeeping, Guterres acknowledged the likelihood of the underreporting of such cases and that most of those that have been submitted involve civilian staff and not peacekeepers. (Jane Holl Lute, the UN envoy on ending SEA, spoke to the media in March 2018 about the report in the video below.)

Which raises the question as to why the UN separates sexual harassment (unwelcome sexual behavior between or among UN staff) from sexual exploitation and abuse (sexual violation of non-UN staff, or SEA) as categories of misconduct. It’s an artificial divide, given that perpetrators criss-cross the lines and seem to have no trouble getting recycled in the UN system, becoming repeat offenders.

More steps have been taken by the UN this month to deal with the allegations: on May 4, it announced plans to develop a screening tool for “confirmed perpetrators of sexual harassment” to prevent them from moving around the UN system. As an example, a high-level Unicef official recently resigned because of inappropriate conduct against women in his previous job at Save the Children UK.

Recycling UN personnel accused of sexual wrongdoing — either through a transfer to another job or another mission or eased into retirement with full benefits — has long been a UN practice. Yet there is no hint of how the screening tool will prevent recycling, since, as Beagle said in announcing it, “sexual misconduct was going unreported in a culture of silence and impunity at U.N. offices worldwide.”

After all, a lack of accountability and responsible reactions to sexual harassment and abuse have much to do with the mutual protection of the “old boys’ club,” including complicit women. The culture also has to do with the fear of displeasing the UN’s 193 member states, who fiercely protect their national staff in the UN system, enabled by a tenuous adherence to Article 100 of the UN Charter, which prohibits personnel of the Secretariat from seeking or receiving instructions from any government.

Some countries, more than others, lobby hard for recruitment, promotion and protection of their nationals, and the UN leadership too often falls in line.

I encountered recycled cases 10 years ago, having witnessed UN personnel performing sensitive work for the institution while sexually harassing their colleagues, openly hiring sex workers and conducting sexual relationships with national staff in the field, some of the latter employed in offices of their national governments.

Indeed, in my career at the UN, I’ve observed little improvement with the problem of sexual abuse and harassment since 1977, when a female colleague and friend on a UN peacemaking mission was drugged and sexually assaulted but too afraid to report it. On the same mission, a UN peacekeeper from a Western country bought — yes, bought — a 16-year-old girl from her impoverished family and took her to live in his officers’ quarters in the UN camp.

In the 1980s, an internationally respected UN colleague casually remarked: “There’s nothing wrong with having sex with 15-year-old girls [in country X]. They want it. They chase after you. It’s normal in the culture.”

Women and men who suffer various kinds of harassment and abuse of authority in the UN system every day are hoping that the attention from #MeToo will trickle down to other types of abuse in management decisions, such as staff selection, promotion, assignments and renewal of contracts.

Many of us have long noted that the problem of various forms of harassment and abuse in the UN has worsened as successive administrations of leadership started to move toward a corporate culture, which has chipped away at staff rights and job security. This shift, pushed by powerful member states, accelerated in the 1990s. The UN internal system of justice was overhauled according to a General Assembly directive in 2009, and though improvements have been made, such as whistleblower protection, many deficiencies remain.

Recent UN cases that surfaced in the media, for example, have specifically uncovered retaliation against whistleblowers, like the much-reported story of Anders Kompass (formerly with the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights, or OHCHR), who was suspended for revealing a high-level cover-up of the rape of children in the Central African Republic.

Other examples include Peter Gallo, a former UN internal investigator who contended that he suffered retaliation after bringing a complaint of misconduct against officials of the UN’s internal investigative body; and Emma Reilly, another staff member with OHCHR, who alleged that she faced retaliation for trying to get the office to end the practice of providing to governments the names of dissidents scheduled to participate in sessions of the Human Rights Council.

Jan Beagle, the director of UN management and recently named to head the UN’s new task force on sexual harassment in the institution, pictured in 2015. Credit: KIM HAUGHTON/UN PHOTO

Guterres’s willingness to be honest and aggressive, at least on the SEA and harassment front, including emphasizing mandatory training and strengthening whistleblower protection, appears to be sincere. But he must ensure that those entrusted by him to carry out his directives are committed to doing just that, from start to finish. Yet what are we to make of the fact that Jan Beagle, now handling the UN task force on sexual harassment accusations, was recently a top executive at Unaids?

A letter dated Feb. 5, 2018 and addressed to Guterres by AIDS-Free World, an American nonprofit watchdog group, notes that Beagle “was Deputy Executive Director for Human Resources and Management at UNAIDS while the very case at hand was being mangled: nary a word of intervention.”

Furthermore, The Guardian reported on May 8 that when Beagle was tapped by Guterres for the top UN management job, she was being investigated for a claim of harassment in Unaids but later cleared. The staff member who made the claim, Sima Newell, said that the investigation was improperly handled by Unaids.

One way that Guterres aims to transform the UN culture is to put more power in the hands of women. His plan has merit, but achieving gender parity must not be used as a distraction from the hard job of ending the prevailing mind-set of impunity. It’s unlikely that such an ingrained bias will be easy to dislodge.

Some people have charged that self-protection, rather than protection of victims, lies at the heart of many recent UN steps to eliminate abuse. An internal memo addressed to his team by Ben Swanson, the UN’s top investigator (from the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services), the day before the UN’s harassment helpline was launched, “suggests that the organization was acting defensively,” said one media report.

The #MeToo movement has offered the UN a welcome opportunity to reverse decades of neglect in how it responds to sexual harassment and other sexual misconduct. No amount of high-profile appointments and other initiatives, however, will result in improvements without a radical change in the UN environment of silence, fear, cover-up and protection of powerful men and complicit women.

The UN’s efforts must extend to addressing all forms of harassment and abuse of authority. Many insiders, observers and supporters know that the UN can, and must, do better.

*PassBlue is an independent, women-led digital publication offering in-depth journalism on the US-UN relationship as well as women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping and other urgent global matters, reported from our base in the UN press corps. Founded in 2011, PassBlue is a project of the New School’s Graduate Program in International Affairs in New York and not tied financially or otherwise to the UN; previously, it was housed at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. PassBlue is a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News.

The post The UN and #MeToo: The Saga of Abuse Must End, Once and for All appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Loraine Rickard-Martin, PassBlue*

The post The UN and #MeToo: The Saga of Abuse Must End, Once and for All appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/un-metoo-saga-abuse-must-end/feed/ 0
Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:04:47 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155665 “My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies […]

The post Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

“My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies while enabling economic and regional cooperation among countries in the Belt and Road route during the 51st annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that concluded over the weekend.The initiative covers more than 65 countries -- or more than 60% of the world's population -- that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years.

The forum took cues from Rijsberman’s story of living in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, one of the poorest countries that in 50 years became an example for many developing countries to demonstrate the importance of economic growth while being mindful of air quality and the overall livability of the environment.

The “Green Growth and Regional Cooperation” forum was a side event hosted by GGGI with an expert panel that discussed China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and, with many references to “green growth,” “green policies” and “green investments,” looked at putting in place policies to accelerate green investments and green technology while exploring ways to create opportunities that address poverty across countries.

“Climate change is already exacting its toll, particularly in the Asian region, so rapidly that technological and economic growth (that may have worsened issues like air quality) should also be our most immediate driver of action to do something,” said Rijsberman.

He said there is a need for countries to have “green growth,” a new development approach that delivers environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth that is low-carbon and climate resilient; prevents or remediates pollution; maintains healthy and productive ecosystems and creates green jobs, reduce poverty and enhance social inclusion.

Rijsberman said the GGGI will join the Green Belt and Road Coalition and currently cooperates with the China Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the ASEAN Center for Environmental Cooperation on regional cooperation and integration that facilitates sustainable urban development and supports high-level policies and impactful knowledge sharing on the adoption of sustainable growth in the Belt and Road countries.

Prof. Dongmei Guo, China state council expert of the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center, said the BRI brings together two regional trade corridors: the Silk Road Economic Belt that will link China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea though Central Asia and West Asia with three routes:  China-Central Asia-Russia-Europe through the Baltic Sea; China-Central Asia-West Asia-Persian Gulf through the Mediterranean Sea and China- Southeast Asia-South Asia through the Indian Ocean; and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that stretches from the South Pacific Sea to Europe with two roads — Coastal China-South China Sea-Indian Ocean-Europe and Coastal China-South China Sea and South Pacific.

The initiative covers more than 65 countries — or more than 60% of the world’s population — that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years. Initiated in 2013, the BRI aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation, including policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation.

“The BRI provides great opportunities for promoting green transformation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030,” said Guo, mentioning environmental-related SGDs 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 as the same targets envisioned in the initiative.  “The global sustainable development process has entered a new stage through the BRI and it must be green.”

Goals 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 enjoin countries to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation and sustainable consumption and production patterns, to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development and to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Guo said among some of the concerns in the countries along the route are water shortages, water pollution, agricultural pollution, tailings, industrial wastes, and nuclear waste for Central Asia, biodiversity loss, water pollution and urbanization-led pollution in South Asia, and biodiversity, forest fire and haze brought by conventional pollution in Southeast Asia.

Winston Chow, GGGI country representative for China, said the program is still in its initial phase but is seeing an estimated investment of 500 billion dollars through 2030 that will be invested in the developing world along the BRI route, with 300 billion of that being carbon-related.

“What that means is that we have to consider the impacts of these economies in the long term and a major opportunity to decarbonize, which is a big step as we enhance global development,” he said. “We have to look at 2030 development goals and align our efforts at helping member countries contribute as they implement development projects.”

Organized under five guiding tasks of policy coordination, unimpeded trade, facilities connectivity financial integration, and people-to-people bond, Chow said the BRI aims to utilize Chinese government policy, financing and technology in enhancing strong projects in the developing world. The GGGI will facilitate the work with member states on how to deploy green projects and we have talked to a number of country governments such as those in Mongolia, Jordan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Vietnam and the Philippines.”

He cited the strong collaboration with Mongolia after its policy makers were introduced to energy efficiency with air quality restrictions and environmental impact reductions through the introduction of the electric vehicles tariff in the capital Ulaanbaatar that successfully reduced bad air from 2016 to 2017.

Jordan, Indonesia and Ethiopia are also underway in their ecological restoration and water treatment practices. Transformative projects among Chinese technologies in solar energy use, e-transportation and e-mobility technology, land restoration, water and solid waste treatment and solar, wind and energy building efficiency projects will also be shared as well with participating countries.

But with BRI being recently introduced, Chow mentioned a few challenges in financing schemes such as gaps between what China wants to invest in and what developing countries are ready to do but have financial needs that are complex to underwrite. For instance, he said “the debate is still out on countries that have electricity grids not quite ready for global energy integration that may not necessarily yield benefits financially or socially.”

The gap is also shown in Chinese investments in green projects that can be worth 100 million dollars but some countries can only do projects in the 20 or 30 million range. He cited BRI large scale projects such as airports in Cambodia or Vietnam’s hydropower plants and dams.

In his press conference prior to the GGGI side event, ADB President Takehiko Nakao lauded China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a key program to connect countries and regions and to broaden integration and cooperation across Asia, and that the ADB will participate in this initiative when needed. He enjoined countries along the route to be careful not to take out excessive loans when they get involved in the initiative to finance their projects and to look closely at the benefits the projects can give to their citizens.

“If countries borrow too much for certain projects without seriously looking at the feasibility, it might bring more trouble in repayment,” he said, stressing the need to “look at debt sustainability issues very seriously.”

Ayumi Konishi, special senior adviser to the president of ADB, told the side event “the ADB intends to cooperate with BRI because of its strong preference for green projects such as renewable energy or sustaining transport projects.”

Since the BRI initiative was announced in September 2013 advocating for improved connectivity for shared prosperity and after China signed an agreement with six multilateral development banks, he said the ADB is in agreement as “we share the same vision; we need the entire portfolio of cooperation projects to make them greener and make them less vulnerable to potential bad impacts of climate change.”

Rijsberman, GGGI’s director-general, said the GGGI, a treaty-based international organization headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, is seeing good examples of green efforts such as the Pacific greening in Vanuatu, the eco-towns in the Philippines, the business models in Indonesia that prevent fires and rehabilitate forests, the efforts in Rwanda to eradicate plastics and the biodiversity protection efforts in the Greater Mekong area.

“Efforts go beyond protecting environment but more on promoting it,” he said, stressing that such initiatives are all anchored on landmark agreements such as the UN SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

The 2018 ADB Annual Meeting, themed “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development,” was held on May 3-6 2018 in Manila, its headquarters. It gathered more than 4,000 delegates and brought together experts of different disciplines who discussed framing global economic shifts, re-examined governance structures, explored governments and development institutions’ adapting new opportunities while addressing challenges presented by an increasingly digital future.

The ADB estimates Asia’s infrastructure needs could reach 22.6 trillion dollars through 2030, or 1.5 trillion annually. If climate change adaptation measures are adopted, the cost would rise to over 26 trillion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled 32.2 billion dollars, including 11.9 billion in co-financing.

The post Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/feed/ 0
The Role of Voting in Reviving Democratic Practicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/role-voting-reviving-democratic-practice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=role-voting-reviving-democratic-practice http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/role-voting-reviving-democratic-practice/#comments Mon, 07 May 2018 14:54:26 +0000 Patrick Keuleers http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155646 Patrick Keuleers is Director, Governance and Peace Building, UNDP

The post The Role of Voting in Reviving Democratic Practice appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Electoral Support Project, UNDP Nepal. Credit: Kundan Das Shrestha/UNDP Nepal

By Patrick Keuleers
UNITED NATIONS, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Since the beginning of the year the world has witnessed 24 national elections in which nearly 100 million people cast their votes. All together in 2018, there will be a total of 68 planned electoral processes in 45 countries ranging from presidential and legislative to local elections. Elections remain one of the key democratic processes through which people express their opinion on the way their country and communities are managed.

But do elections today really represent “the voice” of the people?

From the end of the Cold War until about 2006 the levels of freedom and democracy increased around the world. Since then indices on the quality of democracy have declined year after year. Today, both crisis affected countries and established democracies witness a decline in trust in their democratic institutions and in elected officials in particular; the lack of confidence is especially low among younger generations.

Both established democracies and autocratic regimes suffer from dangerous syndromes of negligence, confidence and disengagement: people assume the system is anchored and that the electoral process will not bring much change to their lives, whether they vote or not.

The electoral ballot, long considered the symbol of liberal democracy, has lost its throne among the democratic institutions, even if, ironically, many authoritarian leaders have come to power via established electoral processes. As a result, voter turnout in most established democracies has been decreasing since the 1980s.

The declining “voting population” demands a reflection on the principle of democratic participation: should voting, as an expression of democratic participation, be voluntary or mandatory? What do the data tell us?
Voter turnout tends to be high (up to 95%) in countries that have mandatory voting (e.g. Belgium, Australia, Singapore, Luxemburg, and Turkey) and it may be lower in countries where voting is voluntary (e.g. the United States or Morocco).

The verdict is however mixed as high voter turnout is also witnessed in polities where voting is not mandatory (e.g. Malta, Sweden, Iceland, New Zealand, Denmark and Germany). It can also be high at the national level while low in some municipalities.

New Zealand for example had a national voter turnout of 77 % in the 2014 elections while voter turnout for the 2016 local elections in the City of Auckland was only 36%.

Those who oppose mandatory voting argue that it violates the right and freedom of the individual to decide whether to participate in a political process or not. Some also think that imposing ill-informed and un-interested citizens to vote is irresponsible.

Those in favor of mandatory voting consider the act of voting a civic obligation that is inherent to the notion of citizenship; paying taxes is mandatory, why should voting not be?

Non-mandatory voting tends to benefit those who have the power and the finances to mobilise larger groups of voters around their ideas. Mandatory voting would increase the representation of disadvantaged groups.

And research also shows that people living in countries where voting is compulsory are politically better informed, either because voters choose to inform themselves or because of comprehensive voter education programmes..

Discussions on the right to democratic participation also raise questions on the voting age. In 2016 the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) issued a report “Rejuvenating democracy, giving voice to youth” that outlines how parliaments and parliamentarians could help rejuvenate democracy.

Lowering the voting age would increase the degree of political participation of young people, and indeed 16 year-olds may already vote in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and in the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. But lowering the voting age alone is not enough, young people don’t want passive voting rights, they demand active political participation.

The average age of parliamentarians, globally, is 53 and only 1.9 per cent of them are under 30 years of age. And in one third of all countries, eligibility to be elected to the national parliament starts only at 25 years of age.

Hence what is needed is a policy of alignment: lowering the voting age while creating opportunities for young people’s representation in political institutions and active involvement in the political process through activisms and advocacy, political party involvement, and election observation.

Technology can also promote participation. But despite the fact that technology is already used at many stages of the electoral process – for voter information, election observation and voter registration – internet voting is still in its infant stages and only used in one country -Estonia.

Having solid control systems to avoid potential digital voter fraud remains a challenge. Importantly also, internet voting will require governments to ensure that those on the deprived side of the digital divide do not get their voting rights stripped because they can’t access the technology that is fundamental to the exercise of these rights.

Hence, until internet voting gains confidence and its integrity is guaranteed, the focus should be on increasing accessibility in time and space.

To conclude, it is time for democratic participation to become a public good again, available to all citizens and respected for its intrinsic worth. For that to happen:

• Politics needs to place the human being back at the centre of the political debate, instead of public and private interests.
• Lowering the voting and eligibility age has to be part of the global youth agenda. It would increase youth political participation and leadership so that young people can effectively exercise their right to contribute to decisions that affect their future.
• The right to vote needs to become again a key principle of democratic participation. Socialisation efforts to promote voting as a civic obligation is one way to achieve that.
• Making voting easier and more accessible can stimulate voter turnout such as by organising elections on a non-working day, extending voting hours, allowing voting on multiple days, voting via mail, ensuring proximity of polling stations and developing the digital means and security protocols to promote on-line voting.

Despite the complexity of the issue, voting remains the most powerful expression of the voice of the people as the custodians of a democratic society. It remains therefore a topic of heated debates and controversies.

The modalities of how people will vote are likely to change dramatically, allowing for a larger group of people to express their opinion, both during elections and after the ballots.

With the right technologies and appropriate education and socialisation, voting may well become the powerful antidote against the current deterioration of politics. Voting does matter and should therefore be considered both a right and a civic obligation.

The post The Role of Voting in Reviving Democratic Practice appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Patrick Keuleers is Director, Governance and Peace Building, UNDP

The post The Role of Voting in Reviving Democratic Practice appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/role-voting-reviving-democratic-practice/feed/ 1
Despite Setbacks, Africa Viewed as Continent of Hope, Promise & Vast Potentialhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/#respond Mon, 07 May 2018 11:29:02 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155650 Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges. And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.” Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent. Far […]

The post Despite Setbacks, Africa Viewed as Continent of Hope, Promise & Vast Potential appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
By Thalif Deen
STOCKHOLM, May 7 2018 (IPS)

Africa has long been one of the world’s most beleaguered continents – singled out mostly for its conflicts, political and economic instability, rising poverty and hunger, inequalities and its environmental challenges.

And in international circles, it is described as “Afro-pessimism.”

Still, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has a more positive perspective of the long-suffering continent.

Far too often, he said, the world views Africa through a prism of problems. “But when I look to Africa”, he predicted last month, “I see a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.”

According to UN projections, Africa is expected to account for more than half the world’s population growth over the next 35 years. More than 30 per cent of Africa’s population is between the age of 10 and 24, and will remain so for at least the next 20 years.

“With the right investments, these trends could be the region’s greatest asset,” said former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

NAI Director Iina Soiri. Credit: NAI

With 55 years of study and research, the Nordic Africa Institute (NAI), based in Sweden, has an equally positive view of Africa.

In an interview with IPS, NAI Director Iina Soiri and NAI head of research and governance specialist Victor Adetula, provided an assessment on the current situation in Africa.

Adetula told IPS the UN Secretary-General was right when he expressed the view that Africa has a vast potential for success.

“We are happy that world leaders are beginning to appreciate Africa in positive terms. We at the Nordic Africa Institute have always pointed out that there is hope for Africa despite all the challenges. Our knowledge production processes and outcomes, as well as other forms of intellectual engagement on the continent, run against the Afro-pessimism that is chanted in some quarters. For us, our knowledge of Africa makes us to have hope for Africa.”

Soiri pointed out that diversification of Africa’s image and promotion of the notion that Africa is “so much of everything” rather than just reduced to one image, this is our mission at NAI.”

Excerpts from the interview:

IPS: Do you think that most African countries would succeed in achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including hunger and poverty alleviation, by the 2030 deadline? What would be the reasons if they falter in their goals?

NAI Head of Research Victor Adetula. Credit: African Peace Building Network

Adetula: First, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are not exclusively for Africa. Admittedly, the risks are far more for African countries due to a number of challenges. It is interesting however that the lessons of MDGs are being addressed in the SDGs, and there is hope there would be significant improvement in the performance of the African countries, particularly those that have made concerted efforts to synchronise the SDGs goals with their national development plans.

Soiri: The SDGs are global goals that oblige the whole global community. I would also like to point out that Africa on the continental level has its own Vision 2063, as well as national SDG plans. It is important that all countries are given support to enable implementation of the SDGs using their own strengths and analysis.

IPS: What is the biggest single political problem facing African nations? Lack of good governance or lack of financing for development?

Adetula: It is not so much a good idea to reduce the challenge of African countries to two issues, or to label them as political, economic, social etc. based on the historical experiences of other regions. However, it suffices to point out that the challenges in Africa have their causes in both the internal systems in the various African countries that are not supporting good governance, and the international environment which has become increasingly unfavourable to Africa.

Soiri: Again, countries in Africa differ greatly when it comes to governance systems in place. We again need to go into national level and address specific challenges. But as regards to financing for development, that is a problem shared by many African countries, as well as the whole global community.

IPS: Has there been a failure on the part of Western nations to fulfil their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa?

Adetula: The ability of Western nations to meet up with their commitments on Official Development Assistance (ODA) to Africa cannot be the root cause of Africa’s development challenge. New knowledge has proved this assumption to be wrong that aid can produce autonomous development in Africa. Of course, we should admit that effective global partnership a way to go to promote global development. This needs to be influenced and driven by positive values of equality, fairness, and justice.

Soiri: At the moment, it is clear that financial commitments to match with the requirements of SDG agenda are still lacking drastically behind. Here, I would like to point out that instead of focusing only on ODA and other financial flows to Africa, more effort needs to be done curb illicit financial flows out of Africa and support domestic resource mobilisation. We need to rethink the whole structure of financing for development which has been dominated by ODA reported to OECD-DAC and open up the debate on all financial flows and transactions, to continue the so called Beyond Aid –debate.

IPS: Guterres recently warned that while poverty elimination is a shared priority across two agendas—the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 – there are “significant gaps that persist”, particularly with regard to industrialization, water, energy, infrastructure and the environment. Do you agree with this assessment?

Soiri: It is no news that huge gaps persist. What is most important is to facilitate knowledge and analysis capacity, strengthen countries’ own systems and capacity to own the development processes and allow national debate on the priorities. When a lot of things are missing, we need to first decide where we start to look for and for what – thus national consensus is essential how to go about national development plans.

And reach quick results to keep people satisfied and engaged. Global challenges in sustainable resource utilisation –water, energy, clean air, land, minerals – are huge and connected to sustainability of the whole planet.

And as there exist wide sentiments of grave inequality in how the resources have been used and overused until now, Africa needs to get more say when the future agreements on resource utilisation are made.

IPS: The UN says the majority of undernourished people in Africa live in conflict-affected countries, where hunger is almost twice as high when the crisis is protracted – advocating for stronger commitment by governments, the AU and the UN to promote peace, human rights and sustainable development? Any thoughts?

Adetula: The world is witnessing increase in violent conflicts and some new forms of violence, including those associated with globalisation processes. At the individual country level, good governance in terms of effective service delivery can help scale down the level of violence in Africa. Global governance and global partnership such as cooperation between the AU and the UN is a useful way to go.

Soiri: Many research has shown that there is a strong causality between conflicts and underdevelopment. Therefore most important is to solve the conflicts in order to create conducive environment for development efforts. But how conflicts are solved and peace agreements signed has a paramount importance for how the post-conflict development will succeed. Most important is to allow inclusive peace process which translates to inclusive long lasting state building.

IPS: What key role can the Nordic Africa Institute play in helping advance the political and economic transformation of Africa?

Soiri: During its 55 year of existence, the Nordic Africa Institute has been both the sign of and key for Nordic countries continued engagement in development of Africa. We embody our societies’ interest to continue investing in betterment of African peoples. Via our research and knowledge production and dissemination, we enlarge understanding of African key development challenges and their solutions and deepen decision-makers’ knowledge on best practices to contribute successfully for the development and conflict resolution.

We also build Africa’s own knowledge production capacity with our guest research programs, partnerships and joint research and conference activities, and translate and disseminate African aspirations and analysis for Nordic audiences. We are the only Africa research center in the whole world that surpasses national borders and bring together the whole Nordic region to study, analyse and develop Africa with a specific policy relevant mission – to contribute for the improvement of African people’s lives and educate our own citizens on importance on Africa.

Our library is the biggest resource hub for African social sciences literature in Northern Europe, and by using modern technology some of its resources can be accessed almost everywhere in the world, alleviating the chronic lack of academic and development related resources in the African continent.

The post Despite Setbacks, Africa Viewed as Continent of Hope, Promise & Vast Potential appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/despite-setbacks-africa-viewed-continent-hope-promise-vast-potential/feed/ 0
Time to Get Serious About Peace & Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/time-get-serious-peace-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=time-get-serious-peace-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/time-get-serious-peace-development/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 15:14:56 +0000 Jan Eliasson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155629 Jan Eliasson* is Chairman of the Governing Board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

The post Time to Get Serious About Peace & Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Jan Eliasson* is Chairman of the Governing Board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

By Jan Eliasson
STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 4 2018 (IPS)

Four months ago UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a “red alert”, noting that instead of progressing towards greater peace, the world had moved in reverse towards deepening conflicts and new dangers: “Global anxieties about nuclear weapons are the highest since the Cold War.

Jan Eliasson

Climate change is moving faster than we are. Inequalities are growing. We see horrific violations of human rights. Nationalism and xenophobia are on the rise.”

Levels of violent conflict have increased sharply since 2010, and conflicts have become increasingly protracted and internationalized, making them longer and deadlier. Due to violence, persecution, disaster, and instability 65.6 million people have been displaced from their homes, the highest level on record.

These figures are troubling and should elicit urgent action – but they also highlight the difficulties of working on truly “sustainable development”. We know that conflict sets back development by decades, and disproportionately and increasingly affects poor people; studies suggest that unless we dramatically change course, by 2030 fully 67 percent of the extreme poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

But we also know that the only way to prevent the violence of tomorrow is to work on development today or risk leaving more and more people behind.

And the challenges of today are compounding to complicate tomorrow. Demographic trends in Africa, including a decline in child mortality rates combined with relatively high fertility rates, result in a doubling of Africa’s population to 2.5 billion by 2050. While 10-12 million youth enter the workforce each year across Africa, only 3 million formal jobs are created annually.

According to a World Bank survey, 40% of those who join rebel groups do so because of a lack of economic opportunities. Further, it is generally not religious ideology but poverty and marginalization (lack of employment, healthcare, education, security and housing, as well as distrust and lack of respect for government, and its perceived lack of legitimacy) that motivate youth towards violent extremism.

Educating youth, creating employment opportunities, reducing poverty, reforming and improving government systems, rebuilding trust and the state-society relationship takes time. This is the reason that the Sustainable Development Goals, a universal set of 17 goals and 169 targets agreed to guide the agendas of the UN’s member states, are a generational endeavor with a 15-year window.

But because of the time it takes to plan and execute the real reform needed to make progress in achieving peaceful, just and inclusive societies, we cannot wait until 2029 to deliver. If achieved, the goals of the 2030 Development Agenda will transform our world: now is the time for us to direct financing and plan programming for delivery (and course correction) over the next decade.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we must somehow address the Secretary General’s Red Alert today and avoid twelve more years of red alerts to make sufficient progress in an increasingly complex world. But we must remember, despite the current alarming trends, the world has never been simple.

We have developed tools that enable us to understand how to manage our complex reality. We have accumulated and refined our knowledge about trends and drivers of conflict and peace, developed mechanisms for mediation and diplomacy, peacekeeping where necessary, and, increasingly, the tools to understand complex development environments in fragile and conflict-affected state.

We now know that development is critical to conflict prevention and sustaining peace, and this realization is increasingly reflected in the frameworks we apply to guide our efforts. The overarching framework of “sustaining peace” was introduced in April 2016 through twin resolutions of the UNGA and the Secretary-General, and redefines the approach of the UN, placing new emphasis on the long-term prevention of conflict and addressing its root causes.

The 2030 agenda and sustaining peace together underscore that sustainable and inclusive development, grounded in respect for all human rights, is the world’s best preventive tool against violent conflict and instability.

Thus, as noted recently by Secretary-General Guterres, “investing in sustained peace means investing in basic services, bringing humanitarian and development agencies together, building effective and accountable institutions, protecting human rights, promoting social cohesion and diversity and moving to sustainable energy.”

It isn’t just good practice to plan ahead and invest in development — it is also efficient and economical. Aside from saving and improving human lives, studies suggest that investing USD $2 billion in prevention can generate net savings of $33 billion per year from averted conflict.

Yet delivering peace, justice and inclusion are not as simple as infrastructure projects – in addition to technical expertise, they also require political acumen and flexibility necessary to navigate planning, reform and delivery.

That is why the upcoming Stockholm Forum on Peace and Development, 7-9 May in Stockholm, will convene leading experts, policy-makers, and civil society actors to discuss the core challenges and issues on “the politics of peace”. We want to know what are the real obstacles between us and achieving the SDGs — and how can these be overcome now to achieve our goals by 2030?

Events like the Stockholm Forum on Peace & Development are ways for serious people to take a moment to think today about how to achieve the peace of tomorrow. While humanitarian response, peacekeeping and diplomacy are important parts of our “firefighting” toolkit, we must also be thinking about how we get ahead of this world of perpetually responding to crisis, and of playing the long game of building resilience to shocks, preventing conflict and delivering on the development agenda.

The Forum will bring together a dynamic international group of thinkers and doers in peacebuilding and development to discuss how to so deliver at a time of great uncertainty, but also of opportunity which sees important initiatives to improve our collective response.

As just one example of an effort to better enable the UN to deliver on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and sustaining peace, the Secretary-General has launched an initiative to develop a more tailored, integrated and coherent UN development system that responds to national priorities.

A key element is to reinvigorate the UN’s system of Resident Coordinators, who play a critical role in coordinating the UN’s work on the ground. Independent, impartial and empowered Resident Coordinators will henceforth be the driving force behind the UN’s SDG response and conflict prevention in country, driving system-wide support and holding entities accountable.

It is time for us all to get serious about prevention and Sustaining Peace if we are to achieve the peace envisioned in the SDGs by 2030. Policymakers must focus efforts on prevention, committing additional resources and attention to the highest risk environments. Leaders need to be honest about the risks they face and the needs they have to avoid conflict.

Peace researchers need build the evidence base now to set a baseline of the “peace we have” and give us the tools to assess when we’re making progress by 2023 and 2027 on our way to achieving significantly more peace by 2030.

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously declared that “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”; if we want to bend the arc of history toward peace by 2030, we need to get serious now about sustainable development and prevention. The Stockholm Forum is one small part of the global effort to bend that arc.

*Jan Eliasson was Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations from July 2012 to December 2016 and Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs in 2006. He was also President of the 60th session of the UN General Assembly in 2005–06; the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur in 2007–08; the first UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, 1992–94; and participated, 1980–86, in the UN mission mediating in the Iran–Iraq War, which was headed by former Prime Minister Olof Palme of Sweden.

The post Time to Get Serious About Peace & Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Jan Eliasson* is Chairman of the Governing Board of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)

The post Time to Get Serious About Peace & Development appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/time-get-serious-peace-development/feed/ 0
Protecting the Health & Rights of People on the Movehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protecting-health-rights-people-move/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=protecting-health-rights-people-move http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protecting-health-rights-people-move/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 13:46:45 +0000 Dr. Natalia Kanem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155624 Dr. Natalia Kanem is a United Nations Under-Secretary-General & Executive Director of UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.

The post Protecting the Health & Rights of People on the Move appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Dr Natalia Kanem, Executive Director, UN Population Fund. Credit: UNFPA

By Dr. Natalia Kanem
UNITED NATIONS, May 4 2018 (IPS)

A staggering 258 million people migrated internationally in 2017.

While many of these migrants chose to leave their home countries in search of jobs, education, or to reunite with family, many others had no choice but to leave–to escape poverty, violence or a dearth of opportunities for a better life.

UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, recently interviewed young migrants in the gateway cities of Beirut, Cairo, Nairobi and Tunis, as part of a multi-city research project. They were drawn to those cities because of insecurity and unrest where they grew up.

And these young people were very honest with us: They faced serious risks and abuses during and after their moves, and things are much harder than they had expected. Even so, they almost universally say – they would do it all over again.

Regardless of what drives migration, benefits can accrue to both countries of origin and destination.

In 2016, migrant workers’ remittances to their home countries totalled more than $400 billion, four times the total amount of official development assistance that year. Remittances enable families in home countries to have better housing, education and health care.

Destination countries stand to gain from the science and technology skills of some migrants and from the unskilled labour of others. Migrants pay taxes, which fund host nations’ social security, health and education systems. Migrants have the potential to drive and sustain economic growth.

And because most international migrants are young when they move, continued migration can contribute to the workforce, to slowing population ageing and to postponing population decline in host countries.

There is ample scope for governments to enhance the benefits and dispel misperceptions or myths about costs of migration. Many of these misperceptions are grounded in racism and xenophobia, which must be tackled head-on.

The first United Nations Sustainable Development Goal is to eliminate poverty. Governments can make headway against poverty and spark economic growth by increasing and sustaining investments in the health, education and rights of young people, especially girls. The social and economic boon from these investments can be significant.

Poverty reduction coupled with successful and inclusive development can provide more individuals with the security, capacity and means to reach their fullest potential at home. Because development expands people’s horizons and aspirations, it provides the means for mobility. This is why, despite what many think, people from the poorest countries are significantly less likely to be found outside their countries of origin.

As people move, they face hazards along their journey. Women and girls are especially vulnerable to violence and discrimination. When migrants are separated from family and support networks, the chances of exploitation, violence and human trafficking become much higher.

Sexual and gender-based violence, already the most common human rights abuse, only increases with disruption and displacement. And far too much evidence shows that child, early and forced marriage increases as well.

Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health care is a major contributing factor to death, disease and disability among displaced women and girls of reproductive age.

We all have an interest—and obligation—to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights for all people—women and men, girls and boys. This must include migrant and mobile populations during their journeys and on arrival.

Governments, international development partners, civil society and individuals all have roles to play in eliminating negative drivers of migration and building more resilient societies. Fundamental to this are investments in education, health and employment opportunities for young people, especially adolescent girls, who are too often excluded from the benefits of development.

High quality data and information are also critical to help governments understand the motivations, and life circumstances, of migrants, and to locate those in need. UNFPA works to improve the collection and analysis of population data so that investments can be better directed to truly reach the furthest behind first.

Protecting the rights of migrants, especially women and girls, is essential. Human rights are universal and thus apply to everyone, whether they are in their home countries, a host country, or somewhere in between.

UNFPA remains committed to being at the forefront of efforts to protect the rights of migrants, and all people, and to ensure that they have access to the sexual and reproductive health services they need and can live in dignity and safety, free from violence and discrimination.

The post Protecting the Health & Rights of People on the Move appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Dr. Natalia Kanem is a United Nations Under-Secretary-General & Executive Director of UNFPA, the UN Population Fund.

The post Protecting the Health & Rights of People on the Move appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/protecting-health-rights-people-move/feed/ 0
FAO Releases Alarming Report on Soil Pollutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/#respond Fri, 04 May 2018 13:09:04 +0000 Maged Srour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155621 Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat.  FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A […]

The post FAO Releases Alarming Report on Soil Pollution appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
Soil pollution poses a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and to our health, says new report by FAO

Untreated urban waste is amongst those human activities that contaminate our soils. Credit: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

By Maged Srour
ROME, May 4 2018 (IPS)

Soil pollution is posing a serious threat to our environment, to our sources of food and ultimately to our health. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warns that there is still a lack of awareness about the scale and severity of this threat. 

FAO released a report titled “Soil Pollution: A Hidden Reality” at the start of a global symposium which has been taking place 2-4 May, 2018 at FAO headquarters, participated by experts and policymakers to discuss the threat of soil pollution in order to build an effective framework for a cohesive international response.

 

Background: What is soil pollution?

“Soil pollution refers to the presence of a chemical or substance out of place and/or present at a higher than normal concentration that has adverse effects on any non-targeted organism. Soil pollution often cannot be directly assessed or visually perceived, making it a hidden danger” states the FAO report. As a “hidden danger” right below our feet, soil pollution turns out to be underestimated affecting everyone – humans and animals.

The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans


The FAO report warns that this dangerous phenomenon should be of concern worldwide. Its consequences are not limited to the degrading of our soils: ultimately, it also poisons the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe. Soil pollution significantly reduces food security, not only by reducing crop yields due to toxic levels of contaminants, but also by causing crops produced from polluted soils unsafe for consumptions both for animals and humans.

The Global Symposium on Soil Pollution (GSOP18), aims to be a step to build a common platform to discuss the latest data on the status, trends and actions on soil pollution and its threatening consequences on human health, food safety and the environment.

The report prepared by FAO shows how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are deeply linked with the issue of addressing soil pollution. SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Wealth and Well-Being), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 15 (Life on Land) have all targets which have direct refernceto soil resources, particularly soil pollution and degradation in relation to food security.

Furthermore, the widespread consensus that was achieved on the Declaration on soil pollution during the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA-3, December 2017) is an obvious sign of global determination to tackle pollution and its causes, which mainly originate from human activities. Unsustainable farming practices, industrial activities and mining, untreated urban waste and other non-environmental friendly practices are amongst the main causes of soil pollution, highlights FAO’s report.

 

Facts and figures to note

The FAO report is an updated benchmark of scientific research on soil pollution and it can be a critical tool to identify and plug global information gaps and therefore advance a cohesive international response to soil pollution.

According to findings of the report, the current situation is of high concern. For example, the amount of chemicals produced by the European chemical industry in 2015 was 319 million tonnes. Of that, 117 million tonnes were deemed hazardous to the environment.

Global production of municipal solid waste was around 1.3 billion tonnes per year in 2012 and it is expected to rise to 2.2 billion tonnes annually by 2025. Some developing countries have notably increased their use of pesticides over the last decade. Rwanda and Ethiopia by over six times, Bangladesh by four times and Sudan by ten times.

The report also highlights that “the total number of contaminated sites is estimated at 80,000 across Australia; in China, the Chinese Environmental Protection Ministry, estimated that 16 per cent of all Chinese soils and 19 per cent of its agricultural soils are categorized as polluted”.

“In the European Economic Area and cooperating countries in the West Balkans” adding, “there are approximately 3 million potentially polluted sites”. While in the United States of America (USA) there are “more than 1,300 polluted or contaminated sites”. These facts are stunning and the international community needs to turn its urgent attention to preserve the state of our soils and to remediate polluted soils into concrete action.

The report also warns that studies which have been conducted, have largely been limited to developed economies because of the inadequacy of available information in developing countries and because of the differences in registering polluted sites across geographic regions.

This means that there are clearly massive information gaps regarding the nature and extent of soil pollution. Despite that, the limited information available, is enough for deep concern, the report adds.

 

A growing concern

“The more we learn, the more we know we need cleaner dirt,” said FAO’s Director of Communication, Enrique Yeves, confirming the urgency of the UN agency to address the issue of soil pollution as soon as possible.

Concern and awareness over soil pollution are increasing worldwide. The report highlights the positive increase in research conducted on soil pollution around the world and fortunately, determination is turning into action at international and national levels.

Soil pollution was at the centre of discussion during the Fifth Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Plenary Assembly (GSP, 2017) and not long ago, the UNE3 adopted a resolution calling for accelerated actions and collaboration to address and manage soil pollution. “This consensus” highlights FAO’s report, “achieved by more than 170 countries, is a clear sign of the global relevance of pollution and of the willingness of these countries to develop concrete solutions to address pollution problems”.

FAO’s World Soil Charter recommends that “national governments implement regulations on soil pollution and limit the accumulation of contaminants beyond established levels in order to guarantee human health and wellbeing. Governments are also urged to facilitate remediation of contaminated soils”.

“It is also essential to limit pollution from agricultural sources by the global implementation of sustainable soil management practices”. These recommendations need to be adequately addressed both at international and national levels, in line with the 2030 agenda.

The post FAO Releases Alarming Report on Soil Pollution appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/fao-releases-alarming-report-soil-pollution/feed/ 0
Steady Old Hand of Repression Seeks to Strangle New Media in East Africahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/steady-old-hand-repression-seeks-strangle-new-media-east-africa/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=steady-old-hand-repression-seeks-strangle-new-media-east-africa http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/steady-old-hand-repression-seeks-strangle-new-media-east-africa/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 13:48:28 +0000 Teldah Mawarire and Grant Clark http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155606 Teldah Mawarire is an Advocacy and Campaigns Officer with global civil society, CIVICUS. Grant Clark is the organisation’s Senior Media Advisor.

 

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The post Steady Old Hand of Repression Seeks to Strangle New Media in East Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

Teldah Mawarire is an Advocacy and Campaigns Officer with global civil society, CIVICUS. Grant Clark is the organisation’s Senior Media Advisor.
 
This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

By Teldah Mawarire and Grant Clark
JOHANNESBURG, May 3 2018 (IPS)

In African countries where journalists are targeted with killings and beatings while traditional news outlets have been muzzled by governments and other actors unhappy with criticism, bloggers and social media users have become the new independent media by providing much-needed coverage, commentary and analysis.

Credit: UNESCO

The new frontier for clampdowns on free expression is now social media. The same repressive tactics are being transferred from traditional media as we know it to private citizens who dare share information and news. In East Africa, some administrations, done with decimating independent traditional media, are now moving to crush dissent online in new ways — using economics as the weapon of choice.

In Tanzania, the government of President John Magufuli last month craftily enacted legislation requiring all online publishers, including bloggers and podcasters to pay around US$920 — unaffordable for most of the country’s bloggers — for the privilege of posting content online.

From May 5, just two days after World Press Freedom Day, all online publishers have to register with the authorities and fork out about US$480 for a three-year licence, as well as US$440 every year to operate a blog.

However, bloggers tend to make very little from blogs, posting mostly out of passion and earning little if not nothing from advertising, which is usually the revenue source for this media. So there is precious little to be made from online advertising, which is not a widely used form of advertising in Tanzania. So, the required fees make blogging a very expensive affair.

The Electronic and Postal Communications (Online) Regulations 2018, which came into effect in March, not only imposes the exorbitant fees to post content online but also requires anyone publishing online content to carry out extensive data reporting such as keeping a log of visitors to the platform, information on investors and staff, future plans, among other requirements.

Blogs are also usually solo operations, run with no staff or resources to keep up with these onerous obligations. The law also requires internet café’s to install surveillance cameras and to record and archive activities inside their premises.

The new law defines a blog as “a website containing a writer’s, or group of writer’s own, experiences, observations, opinions including current news … images, video clips and links to other websites”. This basically covers all forms of posts from the personal to public affairs matters and news items.

According to the new law, publishing content that “causes annoyance, threatens harm or evil, encourages or incites crime, or leads to public disorder”, can lead to the license being revoked, a fine of no less than 5million Shillings (about $2 000) or no less than 12 months’ imprisonment or both.

The interpretation of what is “annoying” or “evil” leaves the law wide open to abuse by those in power. For example is a fashion blog commentary on a politician an annoyance? Is questioning the use of public funds an annoyance?

The government’s Communication Ministry spokesman Innocent Mungy defended the law, telling Al Jazeera that it serves to “protect those who were being victims of slurs”. However, the deliberately vague and broad nature of the regulation, and the sweeping powers given to the Tanzanian Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to keep a register of bloggers, online forums, radio and television online and to take action against non-compliance of the regulations, including ordering the removal of content is a cause for raising red flags for freedom of expression in the country.

There is no doubt that this policy will deal a fatal blow to freedom of expression and an open internet in Tanzania as well as to diversity in the media space.

The new regulations attack fundamental human rights of Tanzanians in two main ways. First it excludes most from being able to express themselves online through the increasingly popular format, blogs. It also discourages internet use by instilling fear in users.

And for the precious few bloggers who might be able to afford the prohibitively expensive fees, the sweeping, ambiguous restrictions give authorities power to declare much of what they say as criminally offensive and liable to prosecution and criminal conviction.

While proponents of the law might also invoke the “curbing the spread of terrorism via social media” argument, it is clear these regulations are beyond threats of terror. Not only are the fees intended to prevent ordinary bloggers and journalists from posting editorial content online, but it severely restricts their freedom of expression as well as the public’s access to information at large.

In a country where the media historically holds strong ties to government interests, and where a sustained campaign of media repression has been underway for years – and intensified since the election of Magufuli in 2015 – blogging has given a voice to many Tanzanians who would not otherwise be heard and has given content to an audience that is searching for it.

The government has wasted no time exploiting the law’s vaguely-worded terms to put online users on notice. Hugely popular rapper, Diamond Platinumz (Nasseb Abdul), was arrested in mid-April for posting an Instagram picture of himself kissing a woman — considered a violation of the regulation’s ban on “indecency”.

The government held public consultations on the proposed policy last year but pushed it through without any changes despite objections from various stakeholders to aspects of the legislation. Three Tanzanian NGOs in March filed a complaint at the East Africa Court of Justice over the law, arguing it violates press freedom.

Ordinary users of blogs are also not spared. For, example, those who post content or comment on Facebook are subject to the same rules meaning even personal political opinions are at risk.

But Tanzania is not alone in this kind of crackdown. Uganda is also drafting its own plan of attack on freedom of speech online. From July this year, users of social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp will have to pay a daily tax of about USD0.05 to reduce what longtime President Yoweri Museveni calls “gossip”. Of Uganda’s 41 million people, more than half are mobile phone subscribers and 17 million use the internet. The policy is currently before parliament after approval by the cabinet.

In neighbouring Rwanda, a 2016 law makes it broadly illegal to cause “annoyance, inconvenience, or needless anxiety” with a digital device.

Worldwide, the CIVICUS Monitor, which tracks threats to civil society, has found that journalists are the biggest group on the receiving end of violations for their work. Citizen journalists, bloggers and general social media users need special attention if the right to access information and freedom of expression are to be protected.

Civil society and traditional media have a duty to diligently highlight these violations and stand in solidarity with those being persecuted and hindered from freely using new forms of media.

The post Steady Old Hand of Repression Seeks to Strangle New Media in East Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Teldah Mawarire is an Advocacy and Campaigns Officer with global civil society, CIVICUS. Grant Clark is the organisation’s Senior Media Advisor.

 

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The post Steady Old Hand of Repression Seeks to Strangle New Media in East Africa appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/steady-old-hand-repression-seeks-strangle-new-media-east-africa/feed/ 0
A Free Press Is Indispensable for Good Governance and Transparent Societies Chair of the Geneva Centre for Human Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 07:40:02 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155573 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The post A Free Press Is Indispensable for Good Governance and Transparent Societies Chair of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, May 3 2018 (IPS)

On the occasion of the 2018 World Press Freedom Day commemorated on 3 May 2018, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, highlighted the importance of promoting freedom of the press to facilitate “good governance and transparent societies.”

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Dr. Al Qassim noted that media, often referred to as the fourth estate, plays a central role in promoting the plurality of opinions and ideas in open and tolerant societies. “A free press acts as a voice for the public and as a watchdog. It provides checks and balances and holds leaders accountable to the public. A free press is indispensable for facilitating good governance and transparent societies,” Dr. Al Qassim said.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman likewise cautioned against the rise of hate speech and online bigotry targeting religious communities. The “misconceived conflation between terrorism and Islam” – he noted – “has given rise to marginalization, bigotry and discrimination threatening the social harmony of multicultural societies worldwide. It has contributed to exacerbating animosities and artificial divisions between people.

“Media must play a more influential role in addressing prevailing misconceptions and misunderstandings that exist between people. Press freedom should not be used as a vector and catalyst for hate speech, bigotry and fear of the Other. The rise of hate speech and online bigotry – encompassing inflammatory and discriminatory smear campaigns singling out religious and ethnic groups – is a threat to press freedom and tests the boundaries of free speech.

“In the context where social media contributes to the dissemination of fake news without accountability, traditional media have an important role to play to promote awareness of false and inaccurate information. They may enlighten world public opinion by offering alternative narratives on contentious issues contributing to plurality of views and offering a voice to the voiceless,” Dr. Al Qassim asserted.

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre also noted that the lack of protective mechanisms for whistle-blowers challenges the concept of a free and open press. “The practice of silencing whistle-blowers constitutes a threat to press freedom and justice,” Dr. Al Qassim said.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman added that the return to the founding principles of press freedom – encompassing inter alia accountability, liability and transparency – is key to addressing the challenges to press freedom. Dr. Al Qassim said respect for press freedom and the safety of journalists are key pre-requisites to promote peace, justice and strong institutions as stipulated in SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Geneva Centre’s Chairman said:

“This year’s annual theme ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’ illustrates the importance of the interplay between access to information, freedom of expression and access to justice. Journalists have the right to work free from the threat of violence so they can carry out their important duties on behalf of the public. They must not be subjected to censorship, restrictive legislation, intimidation and violence.

“Societies that demonstrate respect for press freedom and the safety and freedom of journalists will make a valuable contribution to the fulfilment of the provisions set forth in SDG 16.”

The post A Free Press Is Indispensable for Good Governance and Transparent Societies Chair of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The post A Free Press Is Indispensable for Good Governance and Transparent Societies Chair of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-press-indispensable-good-governance-transparent-societies-chair-geneva-centre-human-rights/feed/ 0
African Governments Mark World Press Freedom Day with Crackdown Against Online Journalismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/african-governments-mark-world-press-freedom-day-crackdown-online-journalism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=african-governments-mark-world-press-freedom-day-crackdown-online-journalism http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/african-governments-mark-world-press-freedom-day-crackdown-online-journalism/#respond Thu, 03 May 2018 07:11:02 +0000 Muthoki Mumo and Jonathan Rozen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155590 Muthoki Mumo/Committee to Protect Journalists* East Africa Correspondent & Jonathan Rozen/CPJ Researcher

&nbsp

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The post African Governments Mark World Press Freedom Day with Crackdown Against Online Journalism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

By Muthoki Mumo and Jonathan Rozen
ACCRA, Ghana, May 3 2018 (IPS)

When Uganda in April ordered Internet service providers to shut down all news sites that had not been authorized by the communications regulator (pdf), it was the latest attempt by President Yoweri Museveni’s government to constrict the space for independent media.

The regulator said that only 14 online publishers had met the requirements to remain online, including a USD 20 fee and an interpol clearance certificate (pdf). If the directive is implemented in full, millions of websites would become inaccessible and Ugandans would be thrown into a virtual information blackout.

Uganda is not alone in its ambition to control online journalism.

Across Sub-Saharan Africa, governments are taking aggressive steps to control what their citizens do and say online, justifying their suppression as necessary for public order and morality or security.

Unless this repressive trend is stemmed, Africa’s young but robust and diverse online media will wither. As journalists today meet in Accra, Ghana, to mark World Press Freedom Day, openness of online journalism in Africa hangs in the balance.

In similar fashion to its northern neighbour, the government of Tanzanian president John Magufuli now requires bloggers to register, a privilege that could cost an initial USD 484 and another USD 440 annually. The government will also license those streaming content online, though at a reduced fee.

Tanzania’s steep registration fee is most certainly impossible for many people in a country where gross national income per capita is USD 900. Those who have not applied for registration by May 5 face, upon conviction, a fine of five million Tanzanian shillings (USD 2,200), a prison term of a minimum 12 months, or both.

Registration requirements pose a barrier to entry for those who want to have their voices heard online. Free expression has flourished on the Internet precisely because users are unencumbered by infrastructure, regulatory or financial demands that weigh so heavily on traditional media like newspapers, radio, or television.

Although CPJ advocates for transparency in media ownership, there is fear that governments are collecting this information with the intention of being better able to target critical reporters and outlets.

This intention was laid bare in Tanzania, where the March 2018 Electronic and Postal Communications (Online Content) regulations would effectively strip Internet users of anonymity that often protects whistleblowers and dissenters. Yet it’s not just registration that is stifling online journalism.

On January 1, 2018, Timothy Elombah, editor-in-chief of Elombah.com, was arrested with his brother, Daniel, at their home, and charged in Abuja under Sections 24 and 26 of Nigeria’s 2015 cybercrime act. Although Daniel was released, Timothy spent 25 days in detention.

During a meeting with the Committee to Protect Journalists in Abuja, Timothy said he believes they were arrested and charged in reprisal for their critical reporting on Nigeria’s government. A court hearing for their case is scheduled for today, May 3.

Nigeria’s cybercrime act and its vaguely worded offenses have been repeatedly used against journalists, according to CPJ research. For example, Section 24 (1-b) criminalizes “grossly offensive” messages sent using a computer and Section 26 (c) may find guilty anyone that “insults publicly through a computer system or network.” These offenses are punishable by imprisonment for up to three years and five years respectively, and/or a multi-million-Naira fine.

Ambiguously defined crimes can also be found in South Africa’s Film and Publications Amendment Bill. In March 2018, South Africa’s National Assembly approved amendments to the Films and Publications Act, also dubbed the Internet Censorship Bill, that would grant authorities wide powers to regulate online media content, including newspapers and social media.

While the government has argued it will protect children from explicit content and fight hate speech and revenge pornography, the South African Freelancers’ Association (SAFREA) has criticised the bill for its “vague definitions and impractical requirements” that would grant the state power to dictate what content can be posted online, crossing the “fine line between protection and censorship”.

South African intentions to control online media are not new. During a June 2017 meeting in Durban, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers expressed concern over South Africa’s cybercrime bill’s “vague language that affords opportunity for repressive implementation, as well as enhanced investigative and surveillance powers for security agents.” If passed into law, both these bills would imperil online journalism in South Africa.

During the Internet Freedom Forum held last month (April) in Abuja, Wakabi Wairagala, the executive director of Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), warned of copy-cat legislation, in which African governments adopt similar versions of the problematic regulations. The crafters of Nigeria’s cybercrime act did not sufficiently consider the negative ramifications for press freedom and free expression online. South Africa’s lawmakers may yet avoid this mistake.

Across Africa, governments have sought to close the internet as an open space for journalism. Ethiopia, Cameroon, Chad, DR Congo, Uganda and Somaliland have shut down Internet access, in whole or in part, to control public debate during elections or public demonstrations. Yet it is during these moments of political tension that citizens most need accurate information to make decisions.

This is not to say that the Internet does not pose governance challenges. Citizens and government have reason to be concerned about disinformation, hate speech, and incitement to violence. It is in this context that responsible journalism remains as important as ever.

But heavy-handed regulation or legislation that unduly curbs press freedom and free expression is not the appropriate response. Instead of silencing dissenting ideas, laws ought to protect the digital rights of citizens and nurture press freedom online.

For example, Nigeria’s National Assembly and Senate have passed the Digital Rights and Freedom Bill. If signed into law by the president, the law would guarantee (pdf) the rights of expression and information online, protect whistleblowers, and limit government censorship to specific, narrowly defined circumstances as mandated by a judge.

The proposed law in Nigeria shows that it is possible for African governments to write regulations and laws that work for, not against, journalists. But unfortunately this bill is the exception to a repressive norm.

(The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide. It defends the right of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal. www.cpj.org )

The post African Governments Mark World Press Freedom Day with Crackdown Against Online Journalism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Muthoki Mumo/Committee to Protect Journalists* East Africa Correspondent & Jonathan Rozen/CPJ Researcher

&nbsp

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The post African Governments Mark World Press Freedom Day with Crackdown Against Online Journalism appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/african-governments-mark-world-press-freedom-day-crackdown-online-journalism/feed/ 0
Free Media Under Threat Globallyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-media-threat-globally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=free-media-threat-globally http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-media-threat-globally/#comments Wed, 02 May 2018 16:35:27 +0000 Will Higginbotham http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155586 This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The post Free Media Under Threat Globally appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

By Will Higginbotham
UNITED NATIONS, May 2 2018 (IPS)

Buoyed on by the likes of United States’ President Donald Trump, a growing number of political leaders are encouraging hostility towards news media and journalists across the globe are finding it harder than ever to do their jobs.

This is among the main findings in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) annual World Press Freedom Index which examines 180 countries and their relationship with the media.

Mr. Trump signs the UN Secretary-General’s guest book. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

While launching the report, RSF’s Secretary General Christopher Deloire reflected on the erosion of one of free societies’ most treasured principles: a free press.

“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire,” Deloire said.

U.S. Ranking Drops

According to the report, the U.S. is partly responsible for the downward trend of the media’s image globally.

The report highlights the impact of Trump’s “Fake News” slogan- a reference used to discredit and deny news reports.

“Trump’s ‘fake news’ phenomenon has certainly had a global impact. Leaders of countries both democratic and authoritarian have taken advantage of this language to conflate any critical news coverage with false news coverage or misreporting,” RSF’s North America Director Margaux Ewen told IPS.

Trump’s method of dismissing media has been picked up by a growing number of world leaders, the report found.

“More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but instead as an adversary. Trump himself has called reporters ‘enemies of the people,” Ewen said.

“It’s sad that the U.S. – often seen as a shining beacon of press freedom and democracy is slipping, it’s no longer the gold standard,” she continued.

Unsurprisingly, this year’s report saw the United States drop to number to 45 in the index, down two spots from its 2017 rank.

Europe “Not Perfect”

Whilst European countries Sweden and Norway ranked the freest media environments in the world, the region as a whole had more nations drop down the list than any other.

European nations such as Malta, Slovenia, Czech Republic, and Serbia all fell considerably.

“With the rise of populist politics and strongmen leaders, Europe’s downward trend will likely continue,” the report stated.

In Europe, recent high profile journalist killings – the murder of Daphne Galizina in Malta and the Jan Kuciak in Slovakia – have been attributed to the region’s dip in rankings.

The report highlighted several cases where countries have slid in the ranks due to ‘strongmen’ leaders.

For example, Philippines dipped to 133 on the list largely due to its President, Rodrigo Duterte, who often justifies the killing of journalists.

Last year, four journalists where killed in the country for their work, earning it the reputation of the most dangerous country in Asia for journalists.

Turkey also fell in this year’s ranking to 157. Its president, Recap Tayyip Erdogan has long held the media in contempt.

The country now has more reporters in jail than anywhere else in the world.

Similarly, Eritrea came in at at the bottom of the ranking. The report noted that the media are subject to the whim of President Isaias Afeworki who has overseen a deterioration in human rights and global freedoms.

After questioning the government’s authoritarian tendencies, Swedish-Eritrea journalist Dawit Isaak was arrested in 2001. He has been detained for the past 17 years without ever being brought to a court.

The UN has since called on his release, and RSF recently submitted a report to the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights with concerns over the state of press freedom in the East African nation.

However, RSF found that press freedom in Africa has improved—though the variation from country to country is still considerable.

Whilst Ewen admitted that there was not many positives to draw from the report, she says a silver lining is the future appointment of United Nations special representative for journalists.

“That will mean that we can immediately coordinate international efforts for the press when a journalist is in danger. That’s something RSF has been leading for the past few years, along with more than 130 supporting NGOs and media outlets,” Ewen told IPS.

“That’s something we can look forward to,” she continued.

The post Free Media Under Threat Globally appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

The post Free Media Under Threat Globally appeared first on Inter Press Service.

]]>
http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/free-media-threat-globally/feed/ 5