Inter Press Service » Latin America & the Caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net Turning the World Downside Up Mon, 29 Jun 2015 21:41:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.5 Black Women in the Americas Launch Decade of Strugglehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/black-women-in-the-americas-launch-decade-of-struggle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=black-women-in-the-americas-launch-decade-of-struggle http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/black-women-in-the-americas-launch-decade-of-struggle/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 21:03:04 +0000 Jose Adan Silva http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141353 Delegates to the first Summit of Women Leaders of African Descent of the Americas taking part in one of the working groups organised during the three-day gathering held Jun. 26-28 in Managua, Nicaragua. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

Delegates to the first Summit of Women Leaders of African Descent of the Americas taking part in one of the working groups organised during the three-day gathering held Jun. 26-28 in Managua, Nicaragua. Credit: José Adán Silva/IPS

By José Adán Silva
MANAGUA, Jun 29 2015 (IPS)

They say they are tired of waiting for justice after centuries of neglect and contempt due to the color of their skin. Black women leaders from 22 countries of the Americas have decided to create a political platform that set a 10-year target for empowering women of African descent and overcoming discrimination.

“We’re going to fight with all of our strength to break the chains of racism and racially-motivated violence,” Shary García from Colombia told IPS at the end of the first Summit of Women Leaders of African Descent of the Americas, which drew 270 delegates to Managua Jun. 26-28.

García said the three days of debates in the Nicaraguan capital gave rise to the Political Declaration of Managua, whose 17 demands and central themes are aimed at eradicating discrimination based on a combination of racial and gender reasons in the Americas.

“It wasn’t easy to sum up in 17 ideas the complaints and demands of 270 women and their families, who have experienced discrimination, violence and the denial of their rights all their lives. But each and every one of us who came here knows that this is how the beginning of the end of discrimination starts.”

Altagracia Balcácer from the Dominican Republic told IPS that the 17 main themes are cross-cut by concepts like fighting racism, demanding a decent life and anti-poverty policies, demanding the right to make decisions about the future, and freedom of choice regarding sexual and reproductive rights.

“The demands include halting violence towards black women, giving the population of African descent visibility in the national statistics and census, protecting black children and adolescents, and offering opportunities to youngsters in this population group,” she said.

Other concerns, she said, are “protecting the environment, expanding access to natural and economic resources, and guaranteeing food security and sovereignty.”

In addition, the delegates called for “protection and decent treatment of immigrants, salvaging and acknowledging our cultural heritage, respect from the media, the non-stigmatisation of black people, expanding access to justice and guaranteeing safety for women and their communities.”

The Jun. 26 opening of the first Summit of Women Leaders of African Descent of the Americas Américas, when ended two days later in Managua with a declaration outlining the next decade of struggle for their rights. Credit: Courtesy of RMAAD

The Jun. 26 opening of the first Summit of Women Leaders of African Descent of the Americas Américas, when ended two days later in Managua with a declaration outlining the next decade of struggle for their rights. Credit: Courtesy of RMAAD

Dorotea Wilson, general coordinator of the Network of Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women (RMAAD), told IPS that the document does not demand the recognition of rights, but the enforcement of all treaties, laws and international conventions referring to black women that have been signed since the 2001 World Conference against Racism held in Durban, South Africa.

The Political Declaration of Managua “is not an expression of good intentions; it is an official document demanding the implementation of public policies in all countries of the Americas…to start once and for all to recognise and give their rightful place to the black populations on the continent,” said Wilson, from Nicaragua.

“With this platform, our aim is to move towards compliance with all of our rights in the context of the U.N. International Decade for People of African Descent,” added the head of the Managua-based RMAAD, which is active in 24 countries.

In January the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2015-2024 as the International Decade for People of African Descent, to promote respect for their rights and freedoms and greater knowledge of and respect for their diverse heritage and cultures.

According to the U.N., some 200 million people in the Americas identify themselves as being of African descent.

Wilson explained that over the next decade, black women in Latin America will document, with clear, reliable indicators, the real situation of people of African descent. They also hope to see poverty levels drop.

“We say ‘reliable’ because we don’t exist in the existing statistics, we’re invisible,” said Wilson. “Another of the summit’s achievements is that in each country in the Americas we will set up an observatory to follow up on the demands set forth here.”

To that end, they have technical and institutional support from U.N. agencies, European donor countries, non-governmental organisations, and defenders of human rights and gender rights.

They will also try to get their list of demands accepted by the Organisation of American States (OAS).

Dorotea Wilson of Nicaragua, the head of the Network of Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women, during a working session in the summit held in Managua. Credit: Courtesy of RMAAD

Dorotea Wilson of Nicaragua, the head of the Network of Afro-Latin American, Afro-Caribbean and Diaspora Women, during a working session in the summit held in Managua. Credit: Courtesy of RMAAD

The idea, said Wilson, is to press countries to design public policies targeting women and people of African descent, and to create follow-up mechanisms to make it possible to gauge the progress made by the time the next summit is held five years from now.

The head of RMAAD said the women who took part in the summit made it clear that there is a perception that police brutality and violence in general against black people are on the rise, especially in the United States and Brazil, two of the countries that were represented in the summit.

“Hate crimes in the United States make the international headlines,” Wilson said. “But because the population of African descent is invisible in Latin America, racially-motivated killings in the region do not come to public attention.”

As a panelist in the forum on human rights, Nilza Iriaci said that “in my country, Brazil, hate crimes happen every day, but there is no sense of scandal.” Brazil is the Latin American country with the largest black population.

A 2010 study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), “Afrodescendant Population of Latin America”, which was updated two years later, found that despite the creation of new legal frameworks and institutions to protect the rights of people of African descent in the region, most of the black population lived in poverty and suffered from discrimination.

Vicenta Camusso, a representative of black women in Uruguay, said things had not changed since the study was carried out. “It’s the same as always – our rights and the poverty we suffer have not improved one bit,” she told IPS.

She said that although every country in the region has legal frameworks protecting the rights of women and blacks, no specific budget funds are allotted.

“Partly because of this, most black women continue to live in inferior living conditions compared to women of other races, and young black people experience the same exclusion and violence as the older generations did,” she said.

“Since Durban, little to nothing has changed for women of African descent in the Americas,” 7she complained. “More than 80 percent of black people in the region live in a state of poverty and social inequality, with few opportunities for improvement, because of ethnic-racial reasons.”

Camusso pointed out that the 2001 global conference emerged from official efforts by the international community to design actions aimed at fighting racism, racial discrimination, ethnic conflicts, and associated violence.

In the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the international community, U.N. agencies, development aid institutions, private organisations and society in general pledged “to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: The ACP at 40 – Repositioning as a Global Playerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-the-acp-at-40-repositioning-as-a-global-player/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-acp-at-40-repositioning-as-a-global-player http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-the-acp-at-40-repositioning-as-a-global-player/#comments Sun, 28 Jun 2015 16:25:36 +0000 Patrick I. Gomes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141340 ACP Secretary-General Patrick I. Gomes, who sees the group’s role as “a global player defending, protecting and promoting an inclusive struggle against poverty and for sustainable development in a world enmeshed in inequality”. Photo credit: ACP Press

ACP Secretary-General Patrick I. Gomes, who sees the group’s role as “a global player defending, protecting and promoting an inclusive struggle against poverty and for sustainable development in a world enmeshed in inequality”. Photo credit: ACP Press

By Patrick I. Gomes
BRUSSELS, Jun 28 2015 (IPS)

In his memoirs, Glimpses of a Global Life, Sir Shridath Ramphal, then-Foreign Minister of the Republic of Guyana, who played a leading role in the evolution of the Lomé negotiations that lead to the birth of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, pointed to the significant lessons of that engagement of developed and developing countries some 40 years ago and had this to say:

“As regards the Lomé negotiations, the process of unification – for such it was – added a new dimension to the Third World’s quest for economic justice through international action. Its significance, however, derives not merely from the terms of the negotiated relationship between the 46 ACP states and the EEC, but from the methodology of unified bargaining which the negotiations pioneered.

Never before had so large a segment of the developing world negotiated with so powerful a grouping of developed countries so comprehensive and so innovative a regime of economic relations. It was a new, and salutary, experience for Europe; it was a new, and reassuring, experience for the ACP States.

“Forty years later, that lesson remains retains its validity. Unity of purpose and action remains the touchstone of ACP’s meaning and success.”

With a conscious appreciation of that founding unity of purpose and action, the ACP Group convened a high-level symposium at its headquarters in Brussels on Jun. 6. The event marked the milestone of four decades of trade and economic cooperation, vigorous and contentious political engagements and a range of development finance programmes – all aimed at the eradication of poverty from the lives of the millions of people in its 79 member states.“The ACP will craft its future path to continue the struggle against power, inequality and injustice, the core purpose for which it was established in 1975”

In 1975, it was 46 developing countries that met in the capital city of Guyana, to sign the Georgetown Agreement and give birth to the ACP Group. They had recently embarked on their post-colonial path of independence following successful negotiations of non-reciprocal trade arrangements with the then nine-member European Economic Community (EEC) in February.

Known as the Lomé Agreement, after the capital of Togo where it was signed, this legally-binding, international agreement had a life-span of 25 years to 2000. Essentially, it comprised three pillars of trade and economic cooperation, development assistance – mainly through grants from the European Development Fund (EDF) – and political dialogue on issues such as human rights and democratic governance.

During that period, the preferential trade and aid pact undoubtedly gave an impetus to various aspects of economic and social development in the ACP Group. Substantial revenue was received from preferential access to the European market for exports of clothing, banana, sugar, cocoa, beef, fruit and vegetables, for example, and with the accompanying aid programmes.

The benefits were seen in the economies of Mauritius, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Namibia, Guyana and Fiji, to name a few. Member states of the ACP Group, less-developed countries (LDCs), landlocked states and small island developing states (SIDS), had access to returns from trade for improved social services and in this sense, the first decades of Lomé were certainly gains for development in sub-Saharan Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific.

But these gains entrenched an aid-dependency of commodity export economies with minimal structural transformation through value-added manufacturing and related service sectors in ACP countries.

The fierce trade-liberalising world of the late 1990s, rising indebtedness due to enormous increase in the cost of energy and pressure from the challenge of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to the European Union’s discriminatory practice of preferential trade and aid to this exclusive set of developing countries meant that post-Lomé ACP-EU trade relations had to be WTO-compatible.

Finding compatibility for “substantially all trade” between the economies of the ACP’s 79 members – grouped in six regions of Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific – and Europe, and ensuring that development criteria take precedence over tariff reductions and WTO rules have proven contentious in this long-standing partnership.

With this overhang of tensions in its troubled access to its principal market, the ACP faces the conclusion of the 20-year Agreement signed in Cotonou, the Republic of Benin, in 2020.

A soul-searching and vigorous process to be repositioned as a global player defending, protecting and promoting an inclusive struggle against poverty and for sustainable development in a world enmeshed in inequality is the singular task on which the ACP now concentrates.

Such a task has entailed a series of actions that are informed by the report of the Ambassadorial Working Group on Future Perspectives for the ACP Group of States that was approved by the Council of Ministers in December 2014.

The main thrust of the transformation and repositioning of the ACP is captured in the strategic policy domains identified in the report.

These are in five thematic areas that address:

a) Rule of Law & Good Governance;

b) Global Justice & Human Security;

c) Building Sustainable, Resilient & Creative Economies; and

d) Intra-ACP Trade, Industrialisation and Regional Integration;

e) Financing for Development.

In each of these, and in ways that are mutually reinforcing, very specific programmed activities of an annual action plan are being prepared and will be executed.

For example, the annual plan will address the thematic area of “sustainable, resilient and creative economies” through the mechanism of an ACP Forum on SIDS with financial resources, mainly from the intra-ACP allocation of the EDF and the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO), one of the partner agencies of the UN system with which the ACP Group works very closely.

Conceptualised so as to address systemic and structural factors affecting sustainable development, the ACP emphasises South-South and triangular cooperation as a major modality for implementation of its role as catalyst and advocate.

The current stage of rethinking and refocusing provides an opportunity for 40 years of development through trade by which the ACP Group and the European Union could recast the world’s most unique and enduring North-South treaty of developed and developing countries to effectively participate in a global partnership where no one is left behind.

The ACP has social and organisational capital accumulated from a rich experience on trade negotiations with the world’s largest bloc of Europe and its 500 million inhabitants.

Undoubtedly marked by contentious issues on trade provisions to satisfy the WTO’s non-discriminatory behaviour among its member States, ACP-EU relations reveal the persistent battle of poor versus rich with a view to finding common ground on issues of mutual interest.

The 40th anniversary celebration by the ACP Group at a High-Level Inter-regional Symposium on Jun. 4 and 5 witnessed reflections on achievements and failures, as well as limitations in the performance of the ACP Group, in itself as a group and among its member states, as well as in its partnership with the European Union and the wider global arena.

The theme of the symposium covered the initial Georgetown Agreement and the ambitious objectives that were set in 1975. The high point was the keynote address by H.E. Sam Kutesa, President of the UN General Assembly.

Interestingly, discussions revealed how relevant and timely they remain and of special note was the “promotion of a fairer and more equitable new world order”.

This retrospective conversation has been recognised as fundamental for how, and in what direction, the ACP will craft its future path to continue the struggle against power, inequality and injustice, the core purpose for which it was established in 1975.

Edited by Phil Harris    

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service. 

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Fracking Expands Under the Radar on Mexican Landshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/fracking-expands-under-the-radar-on-mexican-lands/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=fracking-expands-under-the-radar-on-mexican-lands http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/fracking-expands-under-the-radar-on-mexican-lands/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 07:31:38 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141313 A Pemex gas distribution terminal. Shale gas will account for an estimated 45 percent of Mexico’s natural gas output by 2026. Credit: Pemex

A Pemex gas distribution terminal. Shale gas will account for an estimated 45 percent of Mexico’s natural gas output by 2026. Credit: Pemex

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 26 2015 (IPS)

“People don’t know what ‘fracking’ is and there is little concern about the issue because it’s not visible yet,” said Gabino Vicente, a delegate of one of the municipalities in southern Mexico where exploration for unconventional gas is forging ahead.

Vicente is a local representative of the community of Santa Úrsula in the municipality of San Juan Bautista Tuxtepec, some 450 km south of Mexico City in the state of Oaxaca, where – he told IPS – “fracking is sort of a hidden issue; there’s a great lack of information about it.”

Tuxtepec, population 155,000, and another Oaxaca municipality, Loma Bonita, form part of the project Papaloapan B with seven municipalities in the neighbouring state of Veracruz. The shale gas and oil exploration project was launched by Mexico’s state oil company, Pemex, in 2011.

Papaloapan B, backed by the governmental National Hydrocarbons Commission (CNH), covers 12,805 square kilometres and is seeking to tap into shale gas reserves estimated at between 166 and 379 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

The project will involve 24 geological studies and the exploratory drilling of 120 wells, for a total investment of 680 million dollars.

But people in Tuxtepec have not been informed about the project. “We don’t know a thing about it,” said Vicente, whose rural community has a population of 1,000. “Normally, companies do not provide information to the local communities; they arrange things in secret or with some owners of land by means of deceit, taking advantage of the lack of money in the area.”

Shale, a common type of sedimentary rock made up largely of compacted silt and clay, is an unconventional source of natural gas. The gas trapped in shale formations is recovered by hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Fracking involves the massive pumping of water, chemicals and sand at high pressure into the well, a technique that opens and extends fractures in the shale rock deep below the surface, to release the natural gas on a massive scale.

The process generates large amounts of waste liquids containing dissolved chemicals and other pollutants that require treatment before disposal, environmental organisations like Greenpeace warn.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) puts Mexico in sixth place in the world for technically recoverable shale gas, behind China, Argentina, Algeria, the United States and Canada, based on the analysis of 137 deposits in 42 countries. And Mexico is in eighth position for technically recoverable shale oil reserves.

A map of the areas of current or future fracking activity in Mexico, which local communities say they have no information about. Credit: Courtesy of Cartocrítica

A map of the areas of current or future fracking activity in Mexico, which local communities say they have no information about. Credit: Courtesy of Cartocrítica

Fracking is quietly expanding in Mexico, unregulated and shrouded in opacity, according to the non-governmental Cartocrítica, which says at least 924 wells have been drilled in six of the country’s 32 states – including 349 in Veracruz.

But in 2010 the study “Proyecto Aceite (petróleo) Terciario del Golfo. Primera revisión y recomendaciones” by Mexico’s energy ministry and the CNH put the number of wells drilled using the fracking technique at 1,323 in Veracruz and the neighbouring state of Puebla alone.

In the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, where 100 wells have been drilled, Ruth Roux, director of the Social Research Centre of the public Autonomous University of Tamaulipas, found that farmers who have leased out land for fracking knew nothing about the technique or its effects.

“The first difficulty is that there is no information about where there are wells,” Roux told IPS. “Farmers are upset because they were not informed about what would happen to their land; they’re starting to see things changing around them, and they don’t know what shale gas or fracking are.”

While producing the study “Diagnosis and analysis of the social impact of the exploration and exploitation of shale gas/oil related to culture, legality, public services, and the participation of social actors in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas”, Roux and her team interviewed five sorghum farmers and two local representatives from four municipalities in Tamaulipas.

The researcher said the preliminary findings reflected that locals felt a sense of abandonment, lack of respect, lack of information, and uncertainty. There are 443 homes near the 42 wells drilled in the four municipalities.

The industry sees the development of shale gas as strategically necessary to keep up production levels, which in April stood at 6.2 billion cubic feet per day.

But according to Pemex figures from January 2014, proven reserves of conventional gas amounted to just over 16 trillion cubic feet, while shale gas reserves are projected to be 141 trillion cubic feet.

By 2026, according to Pemex projections, the country will be producing 11 billion cubic feet of gas, 45 percent of which would come from unconventional deposits.

The company has identified five basins rich in shale gas in 11 states.

For the second half of the year, the CNH is preparing the tender for unconventional fossil fuel exploitation, as part of the implementation of the energy reform whose legal framework was enacted in August 2014, opening up electricity generation and sales, as well as oil and gas extraction, refining, distribution and retailing, to participation by the domestic and foreign private sectors.

The historic energy industry reform of December 2013 includes nine new laws and the amendment of another 12.

The new law on fossil fuels leaves landowners no option but to reach agreement with PEMEX or the private licensed operators over the occupation of their land, or accept a court ruling if no agreement is reached.

Vicente said the law makes it difficult for communities to refuse. “We are worried that fracking will affect the water supply, because of the quantity of water required and the contamination by the chemical products used. When we finally realise what the project entails, it’ll be a little too late,” he said.

Local residents of Tuxtepec, who depend for a living on the production of sugar cane, rubber and corn, as well as livestock, fishing and trade, know what it is to fight energy industry projects. In 2011 they managed to halt a private company’s construction of the small Cerro de Oro hydroelectric dam that would have generated 14.5 MW.

The formula: community organisation. “We’re organising again,” the local representative said. “What has happened in other states can be reproduced here.”

Papaloapan B forms part of the Veracruz Basin Integral Project, which would exploit the shale gas reserves in 51 municipalities in the state of Veracruz.

Pemex has already drilled a few wells on the outer edges of Tuxtepec. But there is no data available.

Farmers in Tamaulipas, meanwhile, “complain that their land fills up with water” after fracking operations, and that “the land isn’t producing like before,” said Roux, who added that exploration for shale gas is “a source of conflict…that generates violence.”

The expert and her team of researchers have extended their study to the northern states of Nuevo León and Coahuila, where 182 and 47 wells have been drilled, respectively.

Each well requires nine to 29 million litres of water. And fracking uses 750 different chemicals, a number of which are harmful to health and the environment, according to environmental and academic organisations in the United States.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Costa Rican Women Try to Pull Legal Therapeutic Abortion Out of Limbohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/costa-rican-women-try-to-pull-legal-therapeutic-abortion-out-of-limbo/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=costa-rican-women-try-to-pull-legal-therapeutic-abortion-out-of-limbo http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/costa-rican-women-try-to-pull-legal-therapeutic-abortion-out-of-limbo/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 17:21:01 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141285 In public hospitals in Costa Rica, like the Rafael Ángel Calderón hospital in San José, there is no protocol regulating legal therapeutic abortion, for doctors to follow. As a result, physicians restrict the practice to a minimum, leaving women without their right to terminate a pregnancy when their health is at risk. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

In public hospitals in Costa Rica, like the Rafael Ángel Calderón hospital in San José, there is no protocol regulating legal therapeutic abortion, for doctors to follow. As a result, physicians restrict the practice to a minimum, leaving women without their right to terminate a pregnancy when their health is at risk. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Jun 24 2015 (IPS)

The lack of clear regulations and guidelines on therapeutic abortion in Costa Rica means women depend on the interpretation of doctors with regard to the circumstances under which the procedure can be legally practiced.

Article 121 of Costa Rica’s penal code stipulates that abortion is only legal when the mother’s health or life is at risk. But in practice the public health authorities only recognise risk to the mother’s life as legal grounds for terminating a pregnancy.

“The problem is that there are many women who meet the conditions laid out in this article – they ask for a therapeutic abortion and it is denied them on the argument that their life is not at risk,” Larissa Arroyo, a lawyer who belongs to the Collective for the Right to Decide, an organisation that defends women’s sexual and reproductive rights, told IPS.

“The problem isn’t the law, but the interpretation of the law,” said Arroyo.

She and other activists are pressing for Costa Rica to accept the World Health Organisation’s definition of health, which refers to physical, mental and social well-being, in connection with this issue.

Many doctors in public hospitals, unclear as to what to do when a pregnant woman requests an abortion, refuse to carry out the procedure regardless of the circumstances.

Illegal abortion in Costa Rica is punishable by three years in prison, or more if aggravating factors are found.

“It’s complicated because in the interactions we have had with doctors, they tell us: ‘Look, I would do it, but I’m not allowed to’,” said Arroyo.

Others say they have a conscientious objection to abortion, in this heavily Catholic country.

In Costa Rica, abortion is illegal in all other situations normally considered “therapeutic”, such as rape, incest, or congenital malformation of the fetus.

Activists stress the toll on women’s emotional health if they are forced to bear a child under such circumstances.

“Many women don’t ask for an abortion because they think it’s illegal,” Arroyo said. “If both women and doctors believe that, there’s no one to stick up for their rights.”

This creates critical situations for women like Ana and Aurora, two Costa Rican women who were carrying fetuses that would not survive, but which doctors did not allow them to abort.

In late 2006, a medical exam when Ana was six weeks pregnant showed that the fetus suffered from encephalocele, a malformation of the brain and skull incompatible with life outside the womb.

Ana, 26 years old at the time, requested a therapeutic abortion, arguing that carrying to term a fetus that could not survive was causing her psychological problems like depression. But the medical authorities and the Supreme Court did not authorise an abortion. In the end, her daughter was born dead after seven hours of labour.

The Collective for the Right to Decide and the Washington-based Center for Reproductive Rights brought Ana’s case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), as well as that of Aurora, who was also denied the right to a therapeutic abortion.

Her case is similar to Ana’s. In 2012, it was discovered that her fetus had an abdominal wall defect, a kind of birth defect that allows the stomach, intestines, or other organs to protrude through an opening that forms on the abdomen. Her son, whose legs had never developed, and who had severe scoliosis, died shortly after birth.

In 2011, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern that “women do not have access to legal abortion because of the lack of clear medical guidelines outlining when and how a legal abortion can be conducted.”

It urged the Costa Rican state to draw up clear medical guidelines, to “widely disseminate them among health professionals and the public at large,” and to consider reviewing other circumstances under which abortion could be permitted, such as rape or incest.

The international pressure has grown. Costa Rican Judge Elizabeth Odio, recently named to the San José-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights, said in a Jun. 20 interview with the local newspaper La Nación that “it is obvious that therapeutic abortion, which already exists in our legislation, should be enforced.”

“There are doctors who believe therapeutic abortion is a crime, and they put women’s lives at risk,” said Odio.

In March, Health Minister Fernando Llorca acknowledged that “there is now a debate on the need for developing regulations on therapeutic abortion – a debate that was necessary.”

Activists are calling for a protocol to regulate legal abortion, established by the social security system, CCSS, which administers the public health system and health services, including hospitals. But progress towards a protocol has stalled since 2009.

“For several years we have been working on a protocol with the Collective and the CCSS,” said Ligia Picado, with the Costa Rican Demographic Association (ADC). “But once it was completed, the CCSS authorities referred it to another department, and the personal opinions of functionaries, more emotional than legal, were brought to bear.”

The activist, a member of one of the civil society organisations most heavily involved in defending sexual and reproductive rights, told IPS that “the problem is that there is no protocol or guidelines that health personnel can rely on to support the implementation of women’s rights.”

Picado said the need for the protocol is especially urgent for women whose physical or emotional health is affected by an unwanted pregnancy and who can’t afford to travel abroad for an abortion, or to have a safe, illegal abortion at a clandestine clinic in this country.

Statistics on abortions in this Central American country of 4.7 million people are virtually non-existent. According to 2007 estimates by ADC, 27,000 clandestine abortions are practiced annually. But there are no figures on abortions carried out legally in public or private health centres.

Groups of legislators have begun to press the CCSS to approve the protocol, and on Jun. 17 the legislature’s human rights commission sent a letter to the president of the CCSS.

“We hope the CCSS authorities will realise the need to issue the guidelines so that doctors are not allowed to claim objections of conscience and will be obligated to live up to Costa Rica’s laws and regulations,” opposition lawmaker Patricia Mora, one of the authors of the letter, told IPS.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Grenada Rebuilds Barrier Reefshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/grenada-rebuilds-barrier-reefs/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=grenada-rebuilds-barrier-reefs http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/grenada-rebuilds-barrier-reefs/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 16:46:16 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141280 Globally, 75 percent of coral reefs are under threat from overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and acidification of the seas due to climate change. Credit: Bigstock

Globally, 75 percent of coral reefs are under threat from overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and acidification of the seas due to climate change. Credit: Bigstock

By Desmond Brown
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts, Jun 24 2015 (IPS)

The Eastern Caribbean nation of Grenada is following the example of its bigger neighbours Belize and Jamaica in taking action to restore coral reefs, which serve as frontline barriers against storm waves.

Coral reefs also play an extremely important role in the Caribbean tourism economy, as well as in food production and food security, but they have been adversely affected by rising sea temperatures and pollution.“We will actually create coral nurseries where we will harvest live coral from some of the healthy colonies around the island." -- Kerricia Hobson

An assessment of the vulnerability of Grenada, conducted between September and October 2014, identified several areas that are particularly vulnerable that did not already have interventions. Two such areas were Grand Anse on mainland Grenada and the Windward community on the sister island Carriacou.

“What we will be doing through this project is actually establishing coral nurseries and this is the first time it will be done in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS),” Kerricia Hobson, Project Manager in the Environment Division in Grenada’s Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, told IPS.

“We will actually create coral nurseries where we will harvest live coral from some of the healthy colonies around the island. We will propagate them in the nursery and when they are sufficiently mature, we will plant them on existing reef structures.”

The reef restoration is being done jointly by the Government of Grenada and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) under the Coastal Eco-system Based Adaptation in Small Island Developing States (Coastal EBA Project).

Hobson spoke with IPS on the sidelines of a communication symposium to demystify the complexities of communicating on climate change and its related issues.

The June 18-19 symposium was held here under the OECS Rally the Region to Action on Climate Change (RRACC project), which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Hobson noted that Grenada and its Caribbean neighbours get a lot of economic benefits from their coastal ecosystems, particularly through tourism and fisheries; and they also provide protection to the coastlines.

But she said a number of factors have led to the destruction of coral reefs.

“A lot of them are climate-related but some of them are the result of human activities. In the Caribbean we have a history of not recognising the importance of some of these structures,” she said.

“Like mangroves, with coral reefs some of the destruction is actually due to things like pollution which comes from land run-off. For example our agricultural sector, there is a tradition of farming close to water sources because it’s easier to get the water for your plants and your animals but it also means that when it rains all of the excess fertilizers and the faeces from your animals wash into the river and because we live on an island, five minutes after it rains these things end up on the reef.

“So what you end up having is a reef that is dominated by algae which overgrow the reefs,” Hobson explained.

Kerricia Hobson says Grenada is launching a coral reef restoration project, the first in the Eastern Caribbean. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Kerricia Hobson says Grenada is launching a coral reef restoration project, the first in the Eastern Caribbean. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

The findings of a three-year study by 90 international experts, released in 2014, said restoring parrotfish populations and improving other management strategies, such as protection from overfishing and excessive coastal pollution, can help reefs recover and even make them more resilient to future climate change impacts.

In Belize, live coral cover on shallow patch reefs has decreased from 80 percent in 1971 to 20 percent in 1996, with a further decline from the 20 percent in 1996 to 13 percent in 1999.

In 1980, Hurricane Allen – the worst storm to hit Jamaica in the past 100 years – smashed the reefs, decimating the ecosystem.

Globally, 75 percent of coral reefs are under threat from overfishing, habitat destruction, pollution and acidification of the seas due to climate change.

The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its fifth assessment report on climate change impacts and adaptation, said that damage to coral reefs has implications for several key regional services.

It said coral reefs account for 10 to 12 percent of the fish caught in tropical countries, and 20 to 25 percent of the fish caught by developing nations.

Coral reefs contribute to protecting the shoreline from the destructive action of storm surges and cyclones, sheltering the only habitable land for several island nations, habitats suitable for the establishment and maintenance of mangroves and wetlands, as well as areas for recreational activities. The report noted that this role is threatened by future sea level rise, the decrease in coral cover, reduced rates of calcification, and higher rates of dissolution and bioerosion due to ocean warming and acidification.

In the tourism sector, the IPCC said more than 100 countries benefit from the recreational value provided by their coral reefs.

With the advent of climate change, Caribbean countries have been told they have to start acting now, since their future viability is based on their present responsibility.

Dr. Dale Rankine, a researcher at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) in Barbados, said there are certain things countries have to start doing now, if they have not already started.

“One is mitigation, which is really to limit the amount of greenhouse gases. We have to lobby all the major emitters because collectively all of the small island states really emit very little. We have to pursue a green economy,” Rankine told IPS.

“Adaptation is also a major thing. For adaptation, we have to weigh the cost of action versus inaction right across the different sectors.

“Climate change is not an add-on. Some of the very things that are being advocated for climate change adaptation are the same things that we want to do for sustainable development. So it is not an add-on, it is really something that we can pursue whilst doing the same things but in a more sustainable manner,” he added.

Rankine also suggested that countries start embedding climate change considerations in all of their development planning and look at diversification in the agricultural sector “because some of the crops are just not going to survive in the future”.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Young People Lend a Hand to Trinidad’s Ailing Watershedshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/young-people-lend-a-hand-to-trinidads-ailing-watersheds/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=young-people-lend-a-hand-to-trinidads-ailing-watersheds http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/young-people-lend-a-hand-to-trinidads-ailing-watersheds/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 18:00:52 +0000 Jewel Fraser http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141258 Feast or famine: Just three years ago, flooding in Trinidad's capital of Port of Spain left residents little choice but to wade through the deluge. But lately drought has become a problem in the dry season. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS

Feast or famine: Just three years ago, flooding in Trinidad's capital of Port of Spain left residents little choice but to wade through the deluge. But lately drought has become a problem in the dry season. Credit: Peter Richards/IPS

By Jewel Fraser
PORT OF SPAIN, Jun 23 2015 (IPS)

Starting in 1999, the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) of Trinidad and Tobago began a 10-year effort to map the country’s water quality. They started to notice a worrying trend.

The watersheds in the western region of Trinidad had progressed from being of moderate quality in some places to being outright bad. By 2010, a survey of the country showed more than 20 per cent of the watersheds were in serious trouble.“By adopting these ecological measures to protect our river water supplies, we can reduce the need for more energy intensive and more costly measures of obtaining water such as desalination.” -- Dr. Natalie Boodram

“We have raised the alarm bell,” said senior hydrologist David Samm. ”WASA is concerned.”

WASA received a lot of bad press during the recently concluded dry season. Residents whose communities were roiled with protests almost weekly over lack of access to potable water vehemently criticised the agency while waving placards and publicly burning tyres.

WASA is the designated body responsible for all of Trinidad and Tobago’s water sources and supply.

But factors beyond its control, like climate change and climate variability, are significant contributors to the crisis.

“During the dry season we would have longer droughts so we will not have as much water for groundwater recharge,” explained Samm, adding, “there is more intense rainfall for a given time period and because of continued development we have more flooding problems during the rainy season.”

That has resulted in more surface runoff “and that water is being flushed through the watercourses and out to sea. Therefore, we have less recharge of our groundwater systems,” he explained.

He told IPS that 60 per cent of Trinidad and Tobago’s potable water comes from surface water sources.

There has also been major housing construction along the east-west corridor of Trinidad, he pointed out. “With climate change and the increase in impervious cover (due to urbanisation) the recharge of our groundwater system will be reduced,” Samm said. As well, “with urban growth, you see garbage in the rivers – refrigerators.”

The authority decided it needed to act to protect the health of the watersheds on which its water supply depends. It introduced the Adopt-A-River programme in the summer of 2013. Since its rollout, several of the country’s rivers have been adopted, including six of the most important, and there are 175 citizens working with the Adopt-A-River programme.

Though river adoption programmes are known in several states in the U.S., the programme in Trinidad and Tobago is among the first for the Caribbean.

WASA’s decision to focus on preserving ecosystems was a forward-looking approach to the issue of sustainably ensuring access to potable water for all, as evident from observations made in the Executive Summary of the United Nations World Water Development Report 2015. Commenting on the water situation worldwide the report states the following:

“Most economic models do not value the essential services provided by freshwater ecosystems, often leading to unsustainable use of water resources and ecosystem degradation. Pollution from untreated residential and industrial wastewater and agricultural run-off also weakens the capacity of ecosystems to provide water-related services.

“Ecosystems across the world, particularly wetlands, are in decline. Ecosystem services remain under-valued, under-recognized and under-utilized within most current economic and resource management approaches. A more holistic focus on ecosystems for water and development that maintains a beneficial mix between built and natural infrastructure can ensure that benefits are maximized.”

In keeping with the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals’ focus on reducing poverty and environmental degradation by helping communities to help themselves, the UNDP provided funds for one of Trinidad and Tobago’s Adopt-A-River participants

Through its Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme (SGP), the UNDP provides funds and technical support to civil society organisations working on “projects that conserve and restore the environment while enhancing people’s well-being and livelihoods at the community level.”

The Social Justice Foundation, which works in underdeveloped areas of Central and South Trinidad, received funding of just under 50,000 dollars from the SGP, which it matched with 65,000 dollars of its own money to sponsor an Adopt-A-River programme involving at-risk and disadvantaged youths in the communities of Siparia and Carlsen Field.

The programme ran for nine months from September 2014 to June 2015, during which time young people have been trained as eco-leaders and taught skills in water testing to monitor the health of the rivers in their communities, using La Motte test kits, as well as video production to record the work done.

They learned how to test for temperature, pH, alkalinity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, phosphate and nitrate and to record the changes in these parameters over the nine months of the project.

Mark Rampersad, administrative manager at the Social Justice Foundation, told IPS that WASA’s Adopt-a-River unit “further refined the project’s scope and depth as well as facilitating the various seminars and workshops, which featured environmental awareness.”

The Caparo River in Central Trinidad and Coora River in South Trinidad were the two rivers adopted by the Social Justice Foundation for their Adopt-A-River initiative.

Though the programme has enjoyed some favourable response from communities and schools, corporate support for the programme has not been as great as the Adopt-A-River unit would have liked. However, Samm said, the unit has been successful in its Green Fund application and will be furthering its community outreach with the funds awarded.

Preserving the health of the rivers was also based on financial considerations, said Raj Gosine, WASA’s head of Water Resources. “It is very expensive to treat poor water quality, so WASA’s motive was also financial.”

“The key thing is to stress that we can all make a positive contribution,” Gosine added.

Along with water quality monitoring and public education, WASA’s Adopt-A-River programme includes reforestation and forest rehabilitation, as well as clean-up exercises.

Global Water Partnership-Caribbean’s Programme Manager Dr. Natalie Boodram told IPS, “Programmes like Adopt-A-River which encourage reforestation of watershed and riparian zones (i.e., areas along the bank of a river or watercourse) help protect water supplies by encouraging water infiltration as opposed to surface runoff.

“By adopting these ecological measures to protect our river water supplies, we can reduce the need for more energy intensive and more costly measures of obtaining water such as desalination.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Studying and Working Poses New Challenges for Argentina’s Youthhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/studying-and-working-poses-new-challenges-for-argentinas-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=studying-and-working-poses-new-challenges-for-argentinas-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/studying-and-working-poses-new-challenges-for-argentinas-youth/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 17:52:43 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141259 A boy helps his mother, Graciela Ardiles, do chores on their small farm in Arraga in the northern Argentine province of Santiago del Estero. Thanks to a rural development programme that has boosted the family’s income, she says her children will be able to continue studying, and even go on to university, unlike her parents. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

A boy helps his mother, Graciela Ardiles, do chores on their small farm in Arraga in the northern Argentine province of Santiago del Estero. Thanks to a rural development programme that has boosted the family’s income, she says her children will be able to continue studying, and even go on to university, unlike her parents. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 23 2015 (IPS)

Until not too long ago, youngsters in Argentina faced a choice: whether to study or drop out and go to work. But now most children and adolescents in Argentina who work also continue to study – a change that poses new challenges for combating school dropout, repetition and truancy, as well as the circle of poverty.

The change is revealing, according to Néstor López at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s International Institute for Education Planning (IIEP UNESCO), which together with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) produced the report “Trabajo infantil y trayectorias escolares protegidas en Argentina” on child labour and education, launched this month, which discusses the new situation.

“When you analysed what was happening with teenagers 20 years ago, you saw two different situations,” López said in an interview with IPS. “There were adolescents in school and adolescents who worked.”

“But what you see now is that school enrollment rates have gone up significantly, which has meant to some extent a reduction in their rates of participation in the labour market, but has also meant an increase in the proportion of adolescents who both study and work,” he said.

In 2013, practically all children in Argentina between the ages of five and 14 and 84 percent of adolescents between 15 and 17 were in school, the study says.

Gustavo Ponce, an ILO expert in prevention and eradication of child labour, said measures like the 2006 National Education Law, which made education obligatory until the last year of secondary school (17 or 18 years of age), contributed to the new trend of adolescents working and studying at the same time.

“Progress has also been made in terms of legislation and regulations, with a law that raised the minimum working age to 16, which included the question of protection of adolescent workers aged 16 and 17,” Ponce told IPS.

He was referring to a law that protects young people from heavy or dangerous work, or work that makes it impossible for them to attend school or endangers their health.

He was also referring to the 2013 reform of the penal code, which made child labour a crime.

In their report, the ILO and UNESCO mentioned these measures as well as others, such as the Universal Child Allowance cash transfer programme, which have helped discourage child labour by boosting the incomes of poor families.

“Yes, you could say there has been a policy to eradicate child labour,” said Ponce.

López said that what is needed now is to continue improving school enrollment and attendance among adolescents. According to the new study, of the children between the ages of five and 13 who both work and attend school, approximately one-third repeat the year, compared to 13 percent of children who do not work.

With regard to truancy, the report cites statistics from a Labour Ministry survey of activities among children and adolescents, pointing out that 20 percent of those who both work and study frequently miss school, compared to 10 percent of those who only attend school.

And in the case of adolescents who work, 26 percent do not go to school, and 43 percent of those who do attend school are held back. Among those who only study, 27 percent repeat the year.

“It’s better than if they were just working,” said López. “It’s good for kids who are working to also be studying, preparing for their future. You could say it’s a positive thing if the kids who have to work can also go to school.”

Overall, though, “it’s negative because what the statistics, studies and common sense show is that these kids have a lower quality educational experience, because they don’t have time to do their homework, they don’t have time to study, they go to school tired, they miss school more, and they get less out of the educational experience for different reasons,” he added.

According to the Labour Ministry, child labour was reduced 66 percent from 2004 to 2012 – from 450,000 children working in 2004 to 180,000 in 2012.

But another concern are less visible forms of child labour, such as unpaid housework and caregiving, which especially affect girls and young women, including caring for younger siblings, cleaning the house, fixing meals, and taking care of small barnyard animals.

“Educational level is one of the main mechanisms used by the labour market to select workers. Access or lack of access to formal education is one of the aspects most heavily associated with the process of intergenerational accumulation of social disadvantage,” says the report.

Among the measures to encourage school attendance, the ILO proposes improving the network of free public services that support caregivers, including childcare centres, preschools, and double shifts in schools. In Argentina, schoolchildren attend either the morning or the afternoon shift. But full-day schools are becoming more common in low-income areas, enabling mothers to work.

The ILO also proposes campaigns to combat certain beliefs or customs, especially in rural areas.

“When we interview parents, for example, it’s clear that they think it’s normal to feed and milk the livestock before going to school, as if it were a way to help out at home and a positive learning experience rather than work that children do at home,” the report says.

The trade unions, meanwhile, say the concept of eradicating child labour should also be included in the educational curriculum.

Hernán Rugirello, with the Confederación General del Trabajo central trade union’s social research centre, told IPS about an initiative carried out by the union in Mar del Plata, a city 400 km south of Buenos Aires. With the help of the teachers’ union, the issues surrounding child labour have begun to be taught in schools there.

“It’s important to put this problem on the agenda, so that young people will also start understanding it and will become agents of transmission of knowledge, bringing the issues home with them,” he said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Amazon Dam also Brings Health Infrastructure for Local Populationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/amazon-dam-also-brings-health-infrastructure-for-local-population/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=amazon-dam-also-brings-health-infrastructure-for-local-population http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/amazon-dam-also-brings-health-infrastructure-for-local-population/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 20:16:40 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141223 The new General Hospital in Altamira, which has not yet opened, will be the most modern facility of its kind in this city in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, receiving the most serious cases from the 11 municipalities affected by the construction of the giant Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The new General Hospital in Altamira, which has not yet opened, will be the most modern facility of its kind in this city in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, receiving the most serious cases from the 11 municipalities affected by the construction of the giant Belo Monte hydroelectric dam. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ALTAMIRA, Brazil, Jun 19 2015 (IPS)

Extensive public health infrastructure and the eradication of malaria will be the most important legacy of the construction of the Belo Monte hydropower dam in Brazil’s Amazon jungle for the population affected by the megaproject.

In the six municipalities in the area of the dam, where an action plan to curb malaria has been implemented, the number of cases plunged nearly 96 percent between 2011 and 2015: from 3,298 in the period January to March 2011, just before construction began, to 141 in the same period this year.

Two municipalities have had no cases this year as of May, said Dr. José Ladislau, health manager for Norte Energía, the consortium of private companies and public enterprises that won the concession to build and run Belo Monte for 35 years.

“For the past two years no one has fallen ill with malaria in Brasil Novo – that’s the best news,” said Noedson Carvalho, health secretary of that municipality which is located 45 km from the Xingú river, where the giant hydroelectric dam with a capacity to generate 11,233 MW is being built.

Malaria, which is endemic in the Amazon, is a major factor in rural poverty, Ladislau told IPS. And the Xingú river basin used to have one of the highest malaria rates in the country.

The number of cases has plummeted throughout most of the northern state of Pará, where the lower and middle stretches of the Xingú river run, thanks to mass distribution of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and early diagnosis and treatment.

The results in the vicinity of Belo Monte, where the rural population is highly vulnerable to malaria, were obtained through an 11-million-dollar offensive by Norte Energía which included the construction of laboratories and the purchase of vehicles and long-lasting mosquito nets.

“Belo Monte has given Brasil Novo what it would not have obtained on its own in centuries,” Carvalho told IPS. He mentioned the 42-bed hospital and five basic health units, which now form part of the municipal public health system.

The hospital was already there, but it was private. And due to financial problems, it had shut its doors in April 2014, leaving the 22,000 people of Brasil Novo without a hospital, just when demand was rising due to the influx of workers from other parts of the country, drawn by the Belo Monte construction project.

Sewage runs down one of the main streets of Altamira, even though there is a sewer system. Poor sanitation leaves the city’s children at risk of diarrhea, which is the cause of many admissions to the hospitals in this Amazon rainforest city near the Belo Monte hydropower dam. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Sewage runs down one of the main streets of Altamira, even though there is a sewer system. Poor sanitation leaves the city’s children at risk of diarrhea, which is the cause of many admissions to the hospitals in this Amazon rainforest city near the Belo Monte hydropower dam. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“There are 30 births a month here, on average; it was a terrible situation to have no hospital in the city,” the municipal health secretary said.

Basic health clinics were also upgraded or installed in the town. But the most serious cases will be sent to Altamira, the biggest city in the area, with a population of 140,000 according to unofficial estimates.

The Brasil Novo municipal government negotiated the purchase and renovation of the hospital, with funds from Norte Energía, through the Regional Sustainable Development Plan (PDRS). It will now be a public hospital catering to the entire population free of charge.

The PDRS, funded by the company, is focused on implementing public policies and local projects.

It comes on top of the Basic Environmental Project (PBA), a set of 117 initiatives and actions to be carried out by the consortium building the Belo Monte dam, as compensation for 11 municipalities affected by the hydropower plant.

The total investment in these projects is 1.2 billion dollars – the biggest contribution to local development by a megaproject in Brazil. The investment, a condition for obtaining the necessary environmental permits, represents 14 percent of the Belo Monte construction project’s total budget.

Three new and three renovated hospitals are the main health infrastructure provided to the 11 municipalities in question.

The biggest one, the Altamira General Hospital, with 104 beds, including 10 in intensive care, is ready to open. It inherited equipment and staff from an old municipal hospital that had 98 beds and will be turned into a maternity and infant care centre.

A new basic health unit in the São Joaquim neighbourhood, where families displaced from areas to be flooded by the Belo Monte dam have recently been resettled. The consortium building the hydropower complex on the Xingú river in the Brazilian Amazon has built 30 of these units in the five municipalities that have been felt the greatest impact from the megaproject. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A new basic health unit in the São Joaquim neighbourhood, where families displaced from areas to be flooded by the Belo Monte dam have recently been resettled. The consortium building the hydropower complex on the Xingú river in the Brazilian Amazon has built 30 of these units in the five municipalities that have been felt the greatest impact from the megaproject. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The new hospital has fully automated and centralised modern communication, lighting, air conditioning and piped water systems, and extremely strict hygiene with regard to uniforms, staff, waste disposal and sanitation, said Norte Energía’s health manager, Dr. Ladislau.

There has been criticism that the investment did not sufficiently increase hospital capacity, because the number of beds was limited by the size of the existing hospitals that were remodeled or expanded.

But Ladislau said it made no sense to create too big a system, with high maintenance and operating costs that poor municipalities would find it hard to face.

“The idea is to build a strong health network in this region of 11 municipalities…with a focus on primary health care,” and to that end Norte Energía built 30 basic health units, distributed in five municipalities, with seven in Altamira alone, he said.

“With the new health centres, improved sanitation and other preventive measures, the pressure on hospital beds will be reduced,” he said. Some 1,500 children under five are admitted to the Altamira Municipal Hospital annually, most of them for diarrhea – a problem that is avoidable with good sanitation, he pointed out.

The resettlement of families from houses on stilts on lakes and other areas to be flooded by the Belo Monte dam in new neighbourhoods built on high ground will significantly reduce the incidence of diarrhea, he said.

The basic health units installed in those neighbourhoods offer healthcare, dental care, home visits, health promotion and disease prevention, and a system of statistics to put together community health profiles making it possible to plan purchases of medicines, syringes and other supplies, said Ladislau.

The infrastructure provided by Norte Energía will depend on the municipal administration and staff which will provide services, including maintenance.

Brasil Novo is an impoverished municipality that will receive very little in the way of royalties from Belo Monte, and will find it hard to keep the hospital running, the local health secretary Carvalho admitted.

But there will be no shortage of doctors thanks to the central government’s More Doctors programme, which hired thousands of Cuban physicians willing to work in Brazil’s hinterland, and which is also managing to get Brazilian doctors to participate, he said.

But a hospital needs surgeons and other specialists who are more difficult to draw to towns in the Amazon.

There is a risk that hospitals with 32 to 42 beds in Brasil Novo and two other municipalities will be underused, because the local populations range from 15,000 to 25,000 people, and the most serious or complex cases will be referred to the bigger and better equipped hospitals in Altamira.

One illustration of the difficulty in attracting qualified personnel was the attempt to open a medical school on the Altamira campus of the Federal University of Pará, which failed due to the dearth of professors with a doctorate degree.

Local residents also criticise the company for delays in the health projects, which were supposed to get underway earlier in order to meet the increased demand caused by the influx of workers from other regions.

The delays were aggravated by the temporary closure of the health services to build new installations. That happened, for example, in the case of the General Hospital, a large facility that used to be a modest primary health clinic in a poor neighbourhood in Altamira.

“What was already precarious is now even worse,” said Marcelo Salazar, head of the non-governmental Socioenvironmental Institute in Altamira.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: The University for Peace, Chronicle of a Death Foretoldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-the-university-for-peace-chronicle-of-a-death-foretold/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-the-university-for-peace-chronicle-of-a-death-foretold http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/opinion-the-university-for-peace-chronicle-of-a-death-foretold/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 17:52:33 +0000 Oliver Rizzi Carlson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141205

Oliver Rizzi Carlson holds an MA in Peace Education from the UN-mandated University for Peace and is Editor of the Global Campaign for Peace Education Newsletter. He facilitates learning spaces with youth on the culture of peace and infrastructures for peace, and is Representative at the U.N. for the United Network of Young Peacebuilders.

By Oliver Rizzi Carlson
EL RODEO DE MORA, Costa Rica, Jun 18 2015 (IPS)

You’ve probably never heard of it. When, in 2007, I tentatively searched the web for “peace education” and Google told me that a U.N.-mandated University in Costa Rica was offering a master’s degree in precisely that, I was dumbfounded. As soon as I set foot on campus, I fell in love with UPEACE.

Now that you know about it, 35 years from its creation, the University for Peace as we know it may disappear. The U.N., which picks unfit foster parents for the University’s Council, over the years has, through neglect and negligence, denied it its life-giving source: dialogue.Like an engineering school building crumbling under the weight of its own tectonic deficiencies, the University for Peace is dying of its own, festering conflicts.

Things have degenerated to the point that one Council member this year ended up stepping on students staging a peaceful sit-in – in order to avoid dialogue.

With the latest slash of principles, the University for Peace may well die a death by a thousand cuts.

The University was founded via the U.N. General Assembly in 1980, and 40-some States are signatories to the International Agreement establishing UPEACE. Its Mission is “to provide humanity with an institution of higher learning for peace … [to] promot[e] among all human beings the spirit of understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence … contribut[ing] to the great universal task of educating for peace … [for] the full development of the human person … through the interdisciplinary study of all matters relating to peace.”

The Charter further highlights its “autonomy and academic freedom” and “its profoundly humanistic purpose.”

These guiding precepts are visionary and exciting, and UPEACE is a uniquely important institution for the progress of peace. But the University’s governance structure is grossly inadequate to fulfill its grand Mission.

Like an engineering school building crumbling under the weight of its own tectonic deficiencies, the University for Peace is dying of its own, festering conflicts.

UPEACE has always had many problems, but they have continued only because of UPEACE’s inability to leverage its rich talent pool through dialogue.

This year, instead of finally addressing these long-standing issues meaningfully, Council members used them as a pretext to impose a radical curriculum change, delivered by fiat, and without justification, deepening the lack of dialogue that is eating away at the fabric of the University. What’s more, this deeply misguided curriculum would do away with UPEACE’s competitive advantage and set the University a couple of generations back in peace scholarship.

The issues that precipitated this situation are old. The lack of institutional accreditation, very short MA programmes, haphazard academic quality, aging campus facilities, high tuition fees, financial difficulties and the absence of an endowment fund have made UPEACE hardly competitive and unable to fulfill its Mission.

However, the reason these problems have not been tackled is mismanagement, bolstered by an absolute lack of transparency or accountability, inexistent job security, and the absence of continuity, institutional memory, alumni relations or a unifying alumni network.

This structural paralysis, in turn, is due to a tyrannical concentration of power in the hands of a few, the Rector and Council members, who generally have no personal experience with, ties to or interest in the University or the field of peace studies.

Ultimately, since UPEACE is unknown globally or even in Costa Rica, its obscurity has allowed its many problems to intensify.

At this point, we need a robust, public conversation.

Over the years, there has been no lack of people within the UPEACE Community who have tried to contribute their rich expertise and promote dialogue to address all of those issues, especially this year. However, the job insecurity and lack of continuity have not allowed people to speak up or have an impact, and UPEACE’s problems have only worsened.

The real, predominant issue is structural – the lack of a standing infrastructure for dialogue.

Through such an infrastructure, the amazing potential of the University could become apparent to its biggest critics.

This would require the Council to empower those who have the knowledge, experience, expertise and interest in UPEACE necessary to make it flourish, allowing UPEACE to become the inspirational example it can be. Instead, egos battle for power and UPEACE’s budding potential withers away because of a lack of proper attention to dialogue.

The tension between those attracted to UPEACE by its Mission and those involved with it because of its U.N. origin becomes apparent.

Some of us even wrote our MA theses on the need for an infrastructure for dialogue at UPEACE, and proposed Charter amendments as early as 2009, but those efforts, too, fell on deaf ears.

What has happened in the past academic year is perhaps the last straw in a continual process of neglect of the principle of dialogue that should instead be at the core of UPEACE as an organisation.

Consistent with each graduating class, last year’s students expressed their frustrations with UPEACE through a 63-page report and delivering scathingly honest speeches at graduation.

Special Representative of the UNSG Judy Cheng-Hopkins, Council member Graciana del Castillo and Max Bond of the United Nations University (UNU) unilaterally decided the UPEACE academic programme was to blame.

Admittedly without any background in academia or personal knowledge or experience of UPEACE, Cheng-Hopkins and del Castillo secretly put together a single MA programme to replace all existing MA programmes. They tried to impose this on faculty, shunning any dialogue and threatening to close down the University by depriving it of its U.N. affiliation.

The putative new and unsubstantiated curriculum was leaked to the alumni in July 2014. Numerous letters, online petitions and meetings followed, calling for an open dialogue and decision-making process on an equal footing with other members of the UPEACE Community.

In November 2014, Cheng-Hopkins, a former Assistant U.N. Secretary-General, came to campus unannounced and avoided answering any of the important questions posed by students who went to meet her. She remained so far removed from reality that when students decided to organise a peaceful sit-in to ask for dialogue, she literally stepped on them instead, even kicking one in the head as she forced her way through.

A video documents her two-day visit, and much more has happened since, all of which has been gathered on this website.

Calls for dialogue intensified. Even as the video was sent to all Council members, they continued to ignore our letters. Those mentioned above also failed to respond to a request for comment on the present article.

In January 2015, some Council members finally came to campus. They indulged us in our little game of “dialogue” and ignored, yet again, our comprehensive plan for University-wide dialogue on institutional as well as academic reform.

Instead, they eventually decreed an unclear and largely redundant set of committees to steer a process of input-giving that they had devised before the January meeting. Although the radical academic changes looming on the horizon would now be postponed until the 2016-2017 academic year, the “dialogue” would only focus on academic matters. The outcome of what has been a haphazard and disappointing process will be pitted against the initially secret curricular reform, with one of the two chosen at the Council meeting taking place June 18 and 19.

The only Council member who seems to have an understanding of the need for institutional reforms to sustain dialogue is Mercedes Peñas. Unsurprisingly, she is the only alumna on the Council – and she is not on it because of her alumna status, but because she happens to be the First Lady of Costa Rica. Not everyone is so fortunate.

Instead of politically appointed figures, the Council should have many more alumni, who know and care about this unique institution and can understand and devise ways of facilitating dialogue thanks to which all UPEACE Community members can engage in collective decision-making for the good of the institution.

Having too heavily relied on its U.N. origin in the past, UPEACE has now been given an ultimatum by its wardens. It will either have to give its last breath to the U.N., or it may have to lose that august logo and start the slow, gradual path of real work to academic redemption.

I think it’s a false choice; but I believe UPEACE would be much better off disowned and free rather than slave to a bureaucratic logic that is incompatible with the real, hard work of dialogue essential to innovation, peace, and education. After all, that is its Mission. If nothing changes in its structure, the University for Peace as we know it will be gone.

Given the importance of education for peace, this would be a unique loss to the field of peace studies and the development of the new and innovative approaches to peacebuilding we so desperately need.

To know more or get involved, please write to upeacers@gmail.com

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Industrial Fisheries Crowd out Artisanal Fisherpersons in South Americahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/industrial-fisheries-crowd-out-artisanal-fisherpersons-in-south-america/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=industrial-fisheries-crowd-out-artisanal-fisherpersons-in-south-america http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/industrial-fisheries-crowd-out-artisanal-fisherpersons-in-south-america/#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 20:00:55 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141184 Small-scale fishermen who belong to the National Council for the Defence of Artisanal Fishing (CONDEPP) protest in Santiago against the fisheries law, which they say has left 90 percent of artisanal fishers without fish. The white-haired man in the middle is the organisation’s leader, Gino Bavestrello. Credit: Claudio Riquelme/IPS

Small-scale fishermen who belong to the National Council for the Defence of Artisanal Fishing (CONDEPP) protest in Santiago against the fisheries law, which they say has left 90 percent of artisanal fishers without fish. The white-haired man in the middle is the organisation’s leader, Gino Bavestrello. Credit: Claudio Riquelme/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Jun 17 2015 (IPS)

Millions of families on South America’s Pacific coast have long depended on artisanal fishing for a living. But they have been increasingly being pushed aside by the industrial fisheries that have made this region a major player in the global seafood industry.

“Fishing is part of the most ancient history of the Americas,” social anthropologist Juan Carlos Skewes told IPS. “Both on land and along the coasts and rivers it provided sustenance for many (indigenous) peoples, including those whose nomadic lives revolved around the sea.”

In Latin America and the Caribbean there are over two million small-scale fisherpersons who generate some three billion dollars a year in revenues, according to the Latin American Organisation for Fisheries Development (OLDEPESCA).

Three of the world’s large marine ecosystems are found along South America’s coasts.

The main one is the Humboldt Current. It flows north along the west coast of South America, from the southern tip of Chile, past Ecuador, to northern Peru, creating one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems with approximately 20 percent of the world’s fish catch, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Other important ecosystems in the region – but in the Atlantic Ocean – are the Patagonian Shelf along the coasts of Argentina and Uruguay, and the South Brazil Shelf.

Despite the enormous diversity of species and ecosystems, production and trade flows in the region are dominated by a handful of countries: Peru, Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, which together and in that order account for 90 percent of the region’s catch, with a total combined production of 18 million tons a year.

Fishing and aquaculture have made a major contribution to the wellbeing and prosperity of the people living in South America’s coastal areas, who for centuries depended on them for a living and for highly nutritional food.

“In the pre-Hispanic world fishing was an essential tool for the existence of humankind and it also provided a link with nature,” Skewes said.

But the voracious large-scale fishing industry poses a threat to this way of life.

This is exemplified by 57-year-old Gino Bavestrello, a small-scale Chilean fisherman from the coastal town of Corral, near Valdivia, some 800 km south of Santiago. He has worked out at sea since as far back as he can remember, and he is both the son and the father of fishermen.

“I’ve been an artisanal fisherman all my life,” he told IPS with emotion in his voice. “My father was also a scuba diver; 30 years ago he found the mast of the (Chilean corvette) Esmeralda,” which sank during the War of the Pacific (1879-1883).

But for the last two months Bavestrello, the head of the National Council for the Defence of Artisanal Fishing (CONDEPP), has not gone out to sea. His energy is focused on a greater good: the repeal of the controversial fisheries law.

Artisanal fishing, which is facing a number of threats, has long provided food and a livelihood to millions of fisherpersons in South America like these small-scale fishers in the town of Duao on the southern coast of Chile, who make a living selling their daily catch at informal markets on the beach itself. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Artisanal fishing, which is facing a number of threats, has long provided food and a livelihood to millions of fisherpersons in South America like these small-scale fishers in the town of Duao on the southern coast of Chile, who make a living selling their daily catch at informal markets on the beach itself. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The law, in force since 2013, was promoted by the government of right-wing former president Sebastián Piñera (2010-2014) and grants fishing concessions for 20 years, renewable for another 20.

Small-scale fishermen complain that the law further concentrates the activity in the hands of large-scale commercial fishing interests, because large companies can receive fishing rights in perpetuity, which can be passed from one generation to the next.

The legislation also directly threatens marine life, and thus the livelihoods of small-scale fisherpersons.

In addition, there have been irregularities, as a recent judicial investigation showed. It found that the fishing corporation Corpesca, which controls 51.5 percent of the Chilean market, had paid bribes to members of the Senate fishing commission before it approved the fisheries act.

“What is happening is an extremely serious problem for us,” Bavestrello said. “For two months we haven’t brought in any income. We have organised soup kitchens and thanks to people who have constantly helped us, we have been able to feed our families.

“What we’re doing now is selling firewood, and we’ve fallen to the level of illegal practices, such as cutting down native trees,” he admitted.

“This law needs to be modified soon. We fishermen can’t continue to face these conditions. The aim of the law is to kill us,” he asserted.

CONDEPP spokesman Juan Carlos Quezada told IPS that the fishing law not only privatised marine resources, but also undermined the rights of small-scale fishermen.

“Ninety percent of artisanal fisherpersons have been left without fish catch quotas,” because concessions and quotas were only assigned to industrial fisheries and shipowners, he said.

“Artisanal fisherworkers who used to have quotas and used to fish were left without rights and a lot of them as a result had no work,” he complained.

“Because of that they have had to find other work, and the great majority are taking jobs as paid crew hired by medium-scale owners of several boats.”

The unfair competition between artisanal and industrial fishers is part of a complex crisis where ecological sustainability is also at risk in South America.

One example of this is Peru, where the Argentine oil company Pluspetrol has polluted rivers and lake Shanshacocha in the Amazon rainforest. Consequently, the fish catch has been reduced by nearly 50 percent in the lake.

The scarcity of the Peruvian anchoveta is now endangering exports of fish meal and oil, two of Peru’s main exports.

In Colombia, meanwhile, a study by the National University’s Biology Group found up to three times less fish today in the country’s waters than in the 1970s.

“Industrial scale fishing in the region has increasingly put pressure on artisanal fishers,” said Skewes.

“Currently we’re seeing a scenario where big industrial producers have taken over a major part of not only the ocean but the fish stocks,” he said.

This situation “has pushed small-scale artisanal fishers to find ways to get by, which are starting to complicate the survival of the ecosystem.”

The damage has been suffered by low-income people who have begun to work in other areas of production – which has made the problem invisible from a social point of view, he added.

But many small-scale fishers continue to fight for their rights and their livelihoods.

“Today we are fighting against the poverty facing artisanal fishers, who made a living from natural resources and brought these resources to the rest of the population, boosting food sovereignty,” said Bavestrello.

“We fish for a living while industrial-scale fishing interests fish to make profits,” he said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Domestics in Mexico Face Abuse and Scant Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/domestics-in-mexico-face-abuse-and-scant-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=domestics-in-mexico-face-abuse-and-scant-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/domestics-in-mexico-face-abuse-and-scant-protection/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 15:59:29 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141155 Domestics celebrating the approval of the convention concerning decent work for domestic workers (Convention No. 189) at International Labour Organisation headquarters in Geneva in June 2011. Credit: ILO

Domestics celebrating the approval of the convention concerning decent work for domestic workers (Convention No. 189) at International Labour Organisation headquarters in Geneva in June 2011. Credit: ILO

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 16 2015 (IPS)

Her last two jobs left a bitter taste in the mouth of Yoloxochitl Solís, a 48-year-old single mother from Mexico. She sums up the experience in two words: abuse and discrimination.

“My employer would throw the food and medicine back in my face,” Solís told IPS. “She started to be rude to me, because she didn’t like me to say hello to people who were visiting her, she wanted me to stay shut up in the kitchen – I couldn’t even go out to the bathroom.”

Solís, who raised her 24-year-old son on her own, and whose first name means “flower heart” in the Náhuatl indigenous tongue, worked from 2000 to 2005 in a home in Villa Olímpica, a middle-class neighbourhood on the south side of Mexico City, where she cleaned, cooked and took care of a woman in her eighties.

“The hostile way she treated me was really strange, because there was no reason for them to discriminate against anyone,” she said, talking about the elderly woman and her son, who was in his sixties.

She earned roughly 20 dollars a day, two of which paid for her one-hour commute to and from work every day. Her workdays were long, from Monday through Saturday, and the only benefit she received was a small annual bonus. Tired of the mistreatment, she finally quit.“Domestic workers are fired without justification, accused of theft, thrown in jail over accusations of all kinds just to avoid paying them, and suffer sexual harassment. They have no protection, and their work is not valued.” -- Marcelina Bautista

But her next job was even worse. She was recommended by a nephew, and began to look after a stroke victim who had two children, also in Villa Olímpica.

Theoretically her workday was from 8:30 to 15:00. “But I would leave as late as eight o’clock at night; there was always something to do, and even if I was ill, I couldn’t miss work.”

In March, Solís ended up sick in bed with a fever in her home in the poor neighbourhood of Magdalena Contreras, to the south of Mexico City. “They shouted at me, insulted me, wouldn’t listen,” she said. As a result, she quit the job she had since 2006.

Stories like hers are routine in Mexico, where domestic workers suffer discrimination, exploitative working conditions, sexual harassment and low wages, with little protection from the law.

Mexico has not yet ratified International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 189 concerning decent work for domestic workers, which was adopted in 2011 and went into effect two years later.

The binding convention, which Mexico signed in 2011, asserts that domestic workers are entitled to the same basic rights as other workers, including weekly days off, limits to hours of work, minimum wage coverage, overtime compensation, clear information on the terms and conditions of employment, freedom of association, collective bargaining, protection from abuse and harassment, formal contracts, social security coverage and maternity leave.

Convention 189 is accompanied by Recommendation 201, a non-binding instrument that provides practical guidance on possible legal measures to help enforce the rights and principles established in the convention.

The recommendation also addresses areas not covered by the convention, such as vocational training policies and programmes, international cooperation, and protection of the rights of domestic workers employed by diplomatic personnel.

“Domestic workers are fired without justification, accused of theft, thrown in jail over accusations of all kinds just to avoid paying them, and suffer sexual harassment,” said Marcelina Bautista, founder and director of the non-governmental Centre for Support and Training for Domestic Workers (CACEH).

“They have no protection, and their work is not valued,” Bautista, originally from the impoverished southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, told IPS.

Bautista, who is also the Latin America regional coordinator of the International Domestic Workers Federation, speaks from experience: she began to work as a domestic in Mexico City at the age of 14.

The abuse she experienced opened her eyes to the difficulties faced by domestics, and she returned to school with the aim of helping to improve conditions for maids.

CACEH receives three to five complaints a day, most of them involving unfair dismissal and discrimination, which are referred to a group of pro bono lawyers if they are not settled through dialogue. The Centre also offers advice to domestics about their rights, and runs a job placement programme.

The numbers tell the story

In the report “Labour Conditions of Domestic Workers”, published in April by the National Commission for the Prevention of Discrimination, stresses the classism, violence, racism and grievances suffered by domestics.

An estimated 2.3 million people, over 90 percent of them women, work as domestics in this Latin American country of 120 million people.

Domestics tend to have little formal schooling, are often paid under the table, have long workdays, and frequently inherit their positions from their mothers or other family members.

Based on surveys among domestics and their employers, the National Commission found that the main conflicts arose from false accusations of theft, searches of their belongings, verbal abuse including putdowns and insults, and even physical mistreatment.

Domestics interviewed complained that they had no social security coverage, were paid low wages and were mistreated, and that they had to do heavy and demanding work with no set working hours.

They also complained that their employers violated the terms of their contracts.

They said they had become domestics because they couldn’t afford to continue their studies and did not have other options.

The average age of the respondents was 35, while 28 percent were between the ages of 18 and 25, and five percent were minors.

Of those interviewed, 36 percent began to work between the legal working age of 15 and 18, and 21 percent started before turning 15.

In addition, 23 percent were indigenous, and of that portion, 33 percent had suffered derogatory treatment and 25 percent were prohibited from speaking their own language.

During the 104th Session of the ILO’s International Labour Conference, held Jun. 1-13 in Geneva, the Mexican government reported that it was studying how to reconcile Convention 189 and Recommendation 201 with the Federal Labour Law that was amended in 2012 without including the commitments assumed in Convention 189.

But the government did not meet the prior invitation by the ILO Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations to send the text to the legislature as early as possible for ratification, in order for it to enter into effect.

The Latin American countries that have ratified the convention so far are Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Uruguay, according to the ILO.

Solís admitted that she had no idea there was an international convention that could protect her and other domestic workers. “It’s very important for us to be oriented about our work and our rights,” she said.

Bautista said it was difficult to raise awareness among decision-makers. The activist said Convention 189 was “fundamental because it is better than any national law. Furthermore, legislation must be brought into line with the convention; the laws do not protect domestic workers.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Adaptation Funding a Key Issue for Caribbean at Climate Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/adaptation-funding-a-key-issue-for-caribbean-at-climate-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=adaptation-funding-a-key-issue-for-caribbean-at-climate-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/adaptation-funding-a-key-issue-for-caribbean-at-climate-talks/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 14:00:40 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141141 Rising sea levels pose a challenge for tourism-dependent Caribbean economies where the beach is a major attraction. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Jun 15 2015 (IPS)

With less than six months to go before the next full United Nations Conference of the Parties also known as COP 21 – widely regarded as a make-or-break moment for an agreement on global action on climate change – Caribbean nations are still hammering out the best approach to the talks.

The Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Director of Sustainable Development, Garfield Barnwell, said “the region’s expectations are extremely sober” with regards to COP 21, scheduled for Paris during November and December of this year. This is due to the poor response from the major emitting countries in addressing the issue of climate change."For the region, climate change magnifies the growing concerns regarding food security, water scarcity, energy security and the resource requirements for protection from natural disaster." -- CARICOM Chair Perry Christie

“An ideal 2015 agreement for the Caribbean would be one that first and foremost addresses the global rate of emissions and if that could be as close as possible to 1.5 degrees stabilisation of the global emissions level,” Barnwell told IPS.

“If there are commitments on the part of the major emitters meeting their commitments; and also if the international community would acknowledge the importance of adaptation and that they would provide adequate resources for all developing countries to address their adaptation needs, certainly that would be a good starting point with regards to further discussions in addressing the serious challenge of dangerous climate change.”

Barnwell said the region has been taking stock of what has been happening at the global level with regards to greenhouse gas emissions and “great concerns” remain concerning the responses from the major emitting countries.

He pointed to “the lack of action in meeting the commitments made in the past” on the climate change issue.

“The expectation is that there would be a number of announcements with regards to how the major emitters plan to meet their goals with respect to the expected discussions, but the (countries of the) region do, to a large extent,  have a measured level of expectation regarding the Paris talks in December.”

Caribbean countries are also trying their utmost to seek the mobilisation of resources to more aggressively implement their adaptation programmes at the national level.

“Adaptation is of great significance to us in the Caribbean because our region as a group contributes less than one percent of the total global greenhouse gasses. When we calculated the amount, it comes up to about 0.33 percent of global greenhouse gasses so mitigation is not an issue for the Caribbean given our contribution,” Barnwell said.

“However, it must be stated that the impact of both temperature rises and precipitation levels poses serious challenges for our survival as a region and a national security (concern) to many of our member states given that most of us are either islands or most of our populations and social and economic infrastructure reside on the coastal belt which brings into focus the issue of sea level rise which is of great concern to all our member states.”

Climate change poses significant challenges to the natural resource base of the Caribbean, with most countries having resource-based economies including tourism where there is great reliance on the sea in terms of the beaches which are a major source of attraction.

Some countries are also primary producers of agricultural crops, and the agricultural sector, like tourism, is significantly affected by climate change.

“We have a problem with regards to rising sea levels in terms of the oceans coming more inland and that poses a challenge not only for the beaches but also for the hotels and the airports that to a large extent are roughly about three centimetres away from the sea in many of our islands,” Barnwell said.

“For many of our islands, we are challenged and have been challenged by the impact of natural disasters and again as a result of rising sea levels and warming oceans, the potential for a greater impact of natural disasters poses some significant challenges in terms of the frequency and the impact.

“For those agriculture-oriented economies in the region, we also face challenges associated with the change in temperatures and also the precipitation rates with regards to patterns with respect to planting, with respect to reaping of our products. All these are significant problems with regards to how we have been living and the kinds of activities we’ve been engaged in. So climate change poses significant challenges for our region in terms of our livelihood and our survival,” Barnwell added.

At the just ended two-week Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, Caribbean negotiators maintained the pressure to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level.

They noted that limiting global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius instead of 2 degrees Celsius would come with several advantages, including avoiding or significantly reducing risks to food production and unique and threatened systems such as coral reefs.

The Caribbean negotiators also requested that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ensure that the lowest marker scenario used in its 6th Assessment Report is consistent with limiting warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of The Bahamas Perry Christie said as a result of the impacts of climate change, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which spearheads the technical work for CARICOM on this issue, estimates the cost of global inaction in the sub-region to be approximately 10.7 billion dollars per year by 2025 and that this figure could double by 2050.

He said the Caribbean is urging parties that have made pledges towards the initial capitalisation of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to enter into their contribution agreements with the GCF as soon as possible and scale up their contributions in line with the pledge for 100 billion dollars per year by 2020.

“For the region, climate change magnifies the growing concerns regarding food security, water scarcity, energy security and the resource requirements for protection from natural disaster,” Christie told IPS.

“Another significant threat is linked to the projected impact of climate change on public health, through an increase in the presence of vectors of tropical diseases, such as malaria and dengue, and the prevalence of respiratory illnesses.

“These diseases will affect the well-being and productivity of the workforce of the sub-region and compromise the economic growth, competitiveness and development potential of the Caribbean Community,” he said.

Meantime, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt, who chairs the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), said they are constantly reminded that the power to bring about the desired change in the global climate system rests with those countries that are the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

“We in the OECS are among the smallest of the small and despite or negligible contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, we are on the frontline as the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change,” Skerritt told IPS.

“For us, climate change and its related phenomenon are issues affecting our very survival and can be viewed as a matter of life and death.

“As an organisation comprising and representing the smallest of the small, ours is a solemn duty and responsibility to articulate and champion the cause of all our member states – those that are sovereign as well as those that are not; and those that are party to the UNFCC as well as those that are not.”

Skerritt said they have adopted this posture in the knowledge that climate change has absolutely no regard for political status and that it impacts, with equal severity, the islands and low-lying and coastal regions regardless of political or sovereign status.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Peru a Shining Example for South America’s Climate Action Planshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/peru-a-shining-example-for-south-americas-climate-action-plans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peru-a-shining-example-for-south-americas-climate-action-plans http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/peru-a-shining-example-for-south-americas-climate-action-plans/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 13:13:59 +0000 Chris Wright http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141107 A villager from Combayo, Peru. Citizen engagement is critical for the country to achieve its ambitious climate action plans. Photo courtesy of La República /IPS

A villager from Combayo, Peru. Citizen engagement is critical for the country to achieve its ambitious climate action plans. Photo courtesy of La República /IPS

By Chris Wright
BONN, Jun 12 2015 (IPS)

This week, Peru became the first South American nation to publicly announce its Climate Action Plan, or INDC. In doing so, it may have set the scene for a new wave of highly transparent and ambitious INDC submissions from the continent.

This most recent plan comes after 12 years of collective planning, as Peru developed a suite of regional and national strategies to address climate change. As a result, the government of Peru has come out with an ambitious proposal to cut business as usual emissions by 31 per cent.

However, it is the carefully constructed road map towards this goal that displays what Tania Gullen from Climate Action Network Latin America describes as its true “leadership”.

Gullen, who is also from SUSWATCH, has welcomed the new draft action plan “as an example for other Latin American countries who are still developing or haven’t started their national planning processes”.

This is because Peru’s target of 31 per cent is backed up by 58 clearly outlined different mitigation projects. These projects cover energy, transport, agriculture, forestry and waste management. While two of these projects involve a shift from coal to natural gas, rather than renewables, each of these options has been carefully identified and their emissions reduction potential quantified.

chris chart

This makes it very easy for Peru to ask for support from developed countries to help improve on its commitments. In fact, the government has even outlined how it can increase emissions cuts to up to 42 per cent with an extra 18 projects. Considering the planning that has gone into creating this additional scenario of a 42 per cent reduction by 2030, this could also be released as a twin-track conditional and unconditional pledge.

Marcela Jaramillo from E3G believes this is a key aspect of the Peruvian proposal that should be copied by other Latin American states. She argues that “the INDCs” need to be “translated into investment plans that attract national and international resources”. She believes that these resources will “build action on the ground in hand with government, private sector and all critically supported with actively engaged citizens”.

Citizen engagement may be critical to Peru being able to achieve these ambitious plans. However, the most recent pledge also makes the country vulnerable. There are those who are worried that given a poor implementation record in the past, the government is opening itself up for failure.

Last year, NGO’s at COP20 in Lima criticised the government’s “Law 30230”, which they argued “decouples environmental protection from economic growth”. As such there are ongoing concerns that environmental bodies in Peru will have the power to “regulate and supervise economic activity like power and infrastructure development”.

Other questions have been raised over Peru’s business as usual projections. After years of political instability and all-out conflict in Peru during the 1980’s, Peru’s economy has transitioned from one of the lowest levels of economic freedom in the world to now being ranked as the 20th most-free economy in the world, according to the Economic Freedom of the World 2014 Annual Report. This has been partnered by a relatively consistent growth rate of 5.5 per cent per year.

However, Peru’s growth has slowed over the last 12 months and is not represented in its “Business As Usual” scenario. Here, its emissions trajectories are based on its growth rate leading into 2013, rather than the reality that had been witnessed more recently.

Under a BAU scenario, it is estimated that Peru would increase its annual emissions to 216 million tonnes of CO2 eq., and that this would rise to 243 millon tonnes by 2o25, and to 269 millon tonnes CO2eq by 2030.

This could potentially become a key aspect of the ongoing civil society dialogues that are now open until Jul. 17. As Gullen notes, the “inclusiveness” of this process will be a clear sign of the former COP president’s leadership. This is due to the fact that she believes “inclusive and participative consultation processes are crucial for the definition of the INDC in Peru, but also in all Latin American and Caribbean countries.”

As Bitia Chavez, a young Peruvian from Generacion+1, has suggested, it is critical that Peruvians are “aware and fully engaged in this process to contribute positively to the environment”.

However, it won’t just be this clearly laid out mitigation pledge that Peruvians will have to decide on. Peru has also developed an extensive adaptation package. Its adaptation plan focusses on decreasing the vulnerability of its largely agrarian population, and even has distinct indicators for how to meet adaptation goals going forward.

This includes specific adaptation sectors, objectives and indicators. Below is an example of its specific goal of ensuring health as a key adaptation sector.

salud

Considering that a number of developing nations have called for a global adaptation goal to be a key part of the Paris agreement, the inclusion of quantifiable adaptation goals within the Peruvian INDC could be a key step that other countries may also like to follow.

This may indeed be one of the goals of Peru, as Argentinian campaigner Tais Gadea Lara believes its extensive INDC may be a wake-up call to some of the country’s neighbours who “haven’t realised yet the power they have on their hands to participate actively through delivering an ambitious INDC”.

She noted that in the case of Argentina, there is a disconnect between its strong stance within the negotiations, and lack of action domestically.

She hopes that “Argentina, Peru, Brazil and all of the countries across the region can start making history with ambitious and quantified Climate Action Plans that demonstrate the continent’s leadership on climate change.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Organic Cacao Farmers Help Reforest Brazil’s Amazon Junglehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/organic-cacao-farmers-help-reforest-brazils-amazon-jungle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=organic-cacao-farmers-help-reforest-brazils-amazon-jungle http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/organic-cacao-farmers-help-reforest-brazils-amazon-jungle/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 18:22:57 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141097 Darcicio Wronski displays the cacao seeds drying in the sun in his yard. His family is one of 120 grouped in six cooperatives that produce organic cacao near Medicilândia and Altamira in the Amazon rainforest state of Pará, in northern Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
MEDICILÂNDIA, Brazil, Jun 11 2015 (IPS)

“Now we realise what a paradise we live in,” said Darcirio Wronski, a leader of the organic cacao producers in the region where the Trans-Amazonian highway cuts across the Xingú river basin in northern Brazil.

Besides cacao, on their 100 hectares of land he grows bananas, passion fruit, cupuazú (Theobroma grandiflorum), pineapples and other native or exotic fruit with which his wife, Rosalina Brighanti, makes preserves that she sells as jams or jellies or uses as filling in homemade chocolate bars that she and her assistants make.

All of the products are labeled as certifiably organic.

But the situation they found in the 1970s was more like hell than paradise, they said, when they migrated separately from southern Brazil to Medicilândia, a town known as the “capital of cacao”, where they met, married in 1980 and had four children, who work with them on the farm.

They were drawn to the Amazon rainforest by misleading ads published by the then military dictatorship, which promised land with infrastructure and healthcare and schools in settlements created by the National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform.

The aim was to populate the Amazon, which the de facto government considered a demographic vacuum vulnerable to invasions from abroad or to international machinations that could undermine Brazil’s sovereignty over the immense jungle with its rivers and possible mineral wealth.

The Trans-Amazonian highway, which was to run 4,965 km horizontally across the country from the northeast all the way to the west, was to link the rainforest to the rest of the nation. And thousands of rural families from other regions settled along the road.

The unfinished highway, unpaved and without proper bridges, became impassable along many stretches, especially in the rainy season. The settlers ended up isolated and abandoned, practically cut off from the rest of the world, and large swathes of land were deforested.

Rosalina Brighanti or Doña Rosa in her kitchen, where she makes jams and preserves, holding a sign advertising the organic chocolates made with the family’s special recipes, which are popular with consumers and businesses in Brazil and abroad. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Rosalina Brighanti or Doña Rosa in her kitchen, where she makes jams and preserves, holding a sign advertising the organic chocolates made with the family’s special recipes, which are popular with consumers and businesses in Brazil and abroad. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Medicilândia is a product of that process. The city’s name pays homage to General Garrastazú Médici, president from 1969 to 1974, who inaugurated the Trans-Amazonian highway in 1972. The town emerged on kilometer 90 of the highway, and was recognised in 1989 as a municipality, home today to some 29,000 people.

“For the pioneers of the colonisation process it was torture, there was nothing to buy or sell here,” said 55-year-old Rosalina Brighanti, who everyone knows as Doña Rosa. “Some foods we could only get in Altamira, 100 km away along an unpaved road.”

Her husband Wronski, originally from the southern state of Santa Catarina, where his father had a small farm, impossible to divide between 10 sons and daughters, followed “the Amazonian dream.”

After running into failure with traditional crops like rice and beans, Wronski ended up buying a farm and planting cacao, a local crop encouraged by the government by means of incentives.

His decision to go organic accelerated the reforestation of his land, where sugarcane used to grow.

Cacao is increasingly looking like an alternative for the generation of jobs and incomes to mitigate local unemployment once construction is completed on the giant Belo Monte hydropower dam on the Xingú river, near Altamira, the capital of the region which encompasses 11 municipalities.

The dam’s turbines will gradually begin operating, from this year to 2019.

A cacao tree laden with beans, in the shade of banana trees on the Wronski family farm in Medicilândia, a municipality in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest state of Pará, where organic farmers are helping to reforest the jungle. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

A cacao tree laden with beans, in the shade of banana trees on the Wronski family farm in Medicilândia, a municipality in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest state of Pará, where organic farmers are helping to reforest the jungle. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The Belo Monte construction project has drawn labour power away from cacao production. “That has caused the loss of 30 percent of Medicilândia’s cacao harvest this year,” Wronski told IPS during a tour of his farm.

“I know a family that has 70,000 cacao plants, whose son is working on Belo Monte and not in the harvest,” the 64-year-old farmer said.

The hope is that workers will return to the cacao crop once large numbers of people start to be laid off as the construction of the dam comes to a close. For routine maintenance of the plants, only the families who live on the farms are needed, but additional workers are necessary at harvest time.

From settler to reforester

José “Cido” Tinte Zeferino, 57, brought his passion for growing coffee from the southern state of Paraná to the Trans-Amazonian highway. But since coffee production wasn’t feasible in that area, he tried several other crops until hitting on organic cacao in Brasil Novo, a municipality bordering Altamira and the Xingú river.

Today his passion is forestry – the huge trees he has planted or preserved on the 98-hectare farm he bought 15 years ago.

Cacao trees require deep shade, but according to other members of the cooperative Cido went overboard, at the expense of productivity. He says, however, that “I produce 2,800 to 3,000 kgs a year, and thanks to the better prices fetched by organic cacao, it’s enough to live on.”

What he likes most is being surrounded by the giant trees on his land; his house is invisible from the road, hidden behind the dense vegetation. He has completed the journey from settler to reforester.

Wronski and his wife Brighanti don’t have a seasonal labour problem. Six families – some of them relatives and others sharecroppers – live on their farm and take care of the cacao trees in exchange for half of the harvest.

They also hire seasonal workers from a nearby rural village where some 40 families live, most of whom do not grow their own crops.

Cacao farms employ large numbers of people because “the work is 100 percent manual; there are no machines to harvest and smash the beans,” local agricultural technician Alino Zavarise Bis, with the Executive Commission of the Cacao Cultivation Plan (CEPLAC), a state body that provides technical assistance and does research, told IPS.

Besides providing jobs and incomes for people in the countryside, cacao farming drives reforestation. Two-thirds of the population of the municipality of Medicilândia is still rural, and a view from the air shows that it has conserved the native forests.

That is because cacao trees need shade from taller trees. When the bushes are still small, banana trees are used for shade – which has led to a major increase in local production of bananas.

“We have the privilege of working in the shade,” joked Jedielcio Oliveira, sales and marketing coordinator of the Organic Production Programme carried out in the Trans-Amazonian/Xingú region by CEPLAC, other national institutions and the German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ).

But organic production is still small-scale, accounting for just one percent of total cacao output in the Amazon state of Pará, where Medicilândia is located.

“That’s around 800,000 tons a year of cacao beans grown by a niche of 120 families, grouped in six cooperatives,” said Bis.

Wronski presides over one of them, the Organic Production Cooperative of Amazonia, and he was just elected to head the Central Cooperative, recently created to coordinate the activities of the six organic cacao cooperatives, including marketing and sales.

“Organic cacao farmers are different – they are more aware of the need to preserve the environment, more focused on sustainability,” said CEPLAC’s Bis. “While conventional farmers are looking at productivity and profits, organic growers are interested in taking care of the family’s health and well-being, and preserving nature, although without ignoring profit margins, since they get better prices.”

New members have to be invited by a member of one of the cooperatives and approved in assembly, “and the process of conversion to organic takes three years, which is the time needed to detoxify the soil from the effects of chemical fertilisers and poisons,” he said.

Cacao farmer José Tinte Zeferino, known as “Cido”, in front of his house, which is hidden by dense vegetation and surrounded by his cacao trees, in the municipality of Brasil Novo, near the Xingú river and the Trans-Amazonian highway. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Cacao farmer José Tinte Zeferino, known as “Cido”, in front of his house, which is hidden by dense vegetation and surrounded by his cacao trees, in the municipality of Brasil Novo, near the Xingú river and the Trans-Amazonian highway. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

“The entire production system has to be organic, and not just the final product,” another cacao producer, Raimundo Silva from Uruará, a municipality to the west of Medicilândia, who is responsible for commercial operations in the new Central Cooperative, told IPS.

Organic cacao from Pará supplies, for example, the Austrian firm Zotter Chocolate, which boasts 365 different flavours and sells only organic, fair trade chocolate. Among its clients in Brazil is Harald, which exports chocolates to more than 30 countries, and Natura Cosméticos.

The industry in general, although it prefers the more abundant and less costly standard cacao butter, also adds the richer organic cacao to produce the best quality chocolates.

Conventional cacao, which uses pesticides and other chemical products, is still predominant in Pará. A small chocolate factory, Cacauway, was founded in 2010 in Medicilândia by the Trans-Amazonian Agroindustrial Cooperative, which groups traditional producers of non-organic cacao.

“The future of cacao is in Pará, which has favourable conditions for production, like abundant rains, fertile soil, and family farmers who live on the land, unlike the large landowners who live in the cities,” said Bis.

Pará is surpassed by another northern state, Bahia, which accounts for two-thirds of national cacao production. But productivity in Pará averages 800 kg per tree – double the productivity of Bahia, the expert noted.

And cacao trees in the Amazon rainforest are more resistant to witch’s broom, a fungus that reduced the harvest in Bahia by 60 percent in the 1990s. At the time, Brazil was the world’s second-biggest producer, but it fell to sixth place, behind countries of West Africa, Indonesia and even neighbouring Ecuador.

This article forms part of a reporting series conceived in collaboration with Ecosocialist Horizons.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Infrastructure Investments in Emerging Economies Hit Record Levels – but at What Cost?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/infrastructure-boom-in-emerging-economies-hits-record-levels-but-at-what-cost/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=infrastructure-boom-in-emerging-economies-hits-record-levels-but-at-what-cost http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/infrastructure-boom-in-emerging-economies-hits-record-levels-but-at-what-cost/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 16:50:16 +0000 Kanya DAlmeida http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141081 Large-scale energy and logistical infrastructure initiatives in Brazil are notorious for their delays. The majority of railways, ports, highways and power plants are several years behind schedule. Credit: Darío Montero/IPS

Large-scale energy and logistical infrastructure initiatives in Brazil are notorious for their delays. The majority of railways, ports, highways and power plants are several years behind schedule. Credit: Darío Montero/IPS

By Kanya D'Almeida
NEW YORK, Jun 11 2015 (IPS)

According to new data released by the World Bank Tuesday, investments in infrastructure in 139 emerging economies shot up to 107.5 billion dollars in 2014, with just five countries – Brazil, Colombia, India, Peru and Turkey – accounting for 73 percent of the total.

The update, published by the Bank’s Private Participation in Infrastructure (PPI) database, reveals that projects with private participation in the water, energy and transport sectors totaled 51.2 billion in the first half of 2014, compared to 41.7 billion in the first half of 2013.

"The concept of ‘appropriate scale’ has been deleted from […] policy discourse because now instead of ‘small is beautiful’, the catchphrase is ‘big is better’.” -- Nancy Alexander, director of the Economic Governance Program at the Heinrich Böll Foundation
Based on a review of investments in some 6,000 projects in 139 low- and middle-income countries between 1990 and 2014, the data show that the energy sector accounted for the greatest number of new projects, but the transport sector captured the largest amount of investment, securing 55.3 billion dollars or 51 percent of the total.

Some 33 road construction projects attracted 28.5 billion dollars in investment, with four of the top five road projects in Brazil and one in Turkey. Five airport projects secured 13.2 billion dollars in investment commitments.

Driven largely by massive infrastructure booms in Brazil, Colombia and Peru, Latin and America and the Caribbean accounted for 55 percent of global investments, snagging 69.1 billion dollars last year.

These mega-projects include 11 major ventures, eight of them in the energy sector, in Peru alone, amounting to over eight billion dollars, the largest of which, the Lima Metro Line 2, brought in 5.3 billion dollars in investment.

Not all regions are seeing an increase. Both India and China experienced declines last year, with the latter witnessing its lowest infrastructure investment levels since 2010, at 2.5 billion dollars. India’s commitments dropped down to 6.2 billion dollars.

In sub-Saharan Africa investment plunged from 9.3 billion in 2013 to 2.6 billion in 2014, although increased infrastructure activity in Ghana, Kenya and Senegal suggests that the downward trend might soon be reversed.

Despite uneven investment levels globally, the Bank estimates that spending on infrastructure projects in 2014 represents 91 percent of the five-year average between 2009 and 2013.

In a statement released on Jun. 9, Bank officials claimed, “This is the fourth highest level of investment commitments ever recorded, exceeded only by levels seen from 2010 through 2012.”

What this data reveals is that a global consensus to bolster public-private partnerships in mega-projects is bearing fruit.

Practically every major international organisation from the United Nations to multilateral development banks believe that strengthening road, energy and transport networks are crucial at a time when one billion people lack access to an all-weather road, 783 million people live without clean water supplies and 1.3 billion people are not connected to an electricity grid.

But a closer look at the track records of these gigantic infrastructure projects and new plans for financing them suggests that pouring billions of dollars into highways and dams in the developing world not only enriches some of the wealthiest sectors of the population, they also threaten to further impoverish the poorest, thereby widening global inequality.

‘Appropriate Scale’ – a thing of the past

The world’s most cited scholar on mega-project management and planning, Bent Flyvbjerg of Oxford University, found that on average only one in 1,000 mega-projects is completed on time, within its stated budget and with the ability to deliver what was promised.

Flyvbjerg’s extensive database on the subject reveals that approximately nine out of every 10 large-scale projects incur cost overruns, often over 50 percent of the stated budget – an expense borne primarily by taxpayers.

According to Nancy Alexander, director of the Economic Governance Program at the Heinrich Böll Foundation, these massive projects can cost “potentially billions and trillions of dollars, so when they go over budget and over time, they can devastate the national budget of a country.”

Alexander told IPS that, while there is a very real need for improved infrastructure, particularly in developing countries, there is an equally urgent need to tailor such ventures towards those who would most benefit from the services.

“Whether they are in education, healthcare, water or electricity, projects really need to be appropriate in scale to meet their goals. But the concept of ‘appropriate scale’ has been deleted from […] policy discourse because now instead of ‘small is beautiful’, the catchphrase is ‘big is better’.”

Part of the reason for this change, experts say, is the push to use investment in infrastructure to finance development, particularly by strengthening public-private partnerships and by ‘financialising’ investment.

Research by the Heinrich Böll Foundation reveals that the G20 group of major economies aims to finance the so-called infrastructure gap by tapping into the roughly 80 trillion dollars in long-term private institutional finance – from pension funds to insurance schemes – by creating infrastructure as an “asset class”.

Under this model, governments will undertake a range of public-private partnerships (PPPs) and financial institutions will package and sell financial products “that offer long-term investors a stake in a portfolio of PPPs”.

“When speculators take stakes in physical infrastructure,” the organisation says, “such infrastructure is subject to the whims of herds of investors [and] could trigger instability in the provision of basic services.”

Already, a lack of evidence on the success of PPPs suggests that the current pace of investment in infrastructure with private participation is at best a gamble – and at worst a recipe for disaster.

In a sample of 128 World Bank-financed public-private partnerships, 67 percent of those in the energy distribution sector failed, as did 41 percent of those in the water sector. These are the findings of the World Bank’s own independent evaluation group (IEG).

Other research indicates that mega-projects seldom lead to improvement in access to basic services, since many such ventures are undertaken to serve global, rather than local, demand.

“Energy projects, for instance, are often launched to serve a mine, or you’ll see a dam or power plant built for the same purpose – as is the case with the Inga Dam in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” Alexander explained.

The very countries highlighted in the Bank’s latest update have a poor track record of successfully managing mega-projects.

Large-scale energy and logistical infrastructure initiatives in Brazil, for instance, are notorious for their delays, while the majority of railways, ports, highways and power plants are several years behind schedule.

Meanwhile, back in April, an expose published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) revealed that in the course of a single decade, some 3.4 million people were evicted from their homes, torn away from their lands or otherwise displaced by projects funded by the World Bank.

Fifty percent of those displaced by large-scale ventures – ostensibly aimed at improving water and electricity supplies or beefing up transport and energy networks in some of the world’s most impoverished nations – reside in Africa, or one of three Asian nations: China, India and Vietnam.

The investigators further alleged that the Bank and its private-sector lending arm, the International Finance Corp, pumped 50 billion dollars into projects that financed governments and companies accused of human rights violations.

Brent Blackwelder, president emeritus of Friends of the Earth International, told IPS that “planning bigger and bigger projects despite the failure rate proves what Einstein said: that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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A Regional Foodbasket Plans for the Worsthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/a-regional-foodbasket-plans-for-the-worst/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-regional-foodbasket-plans-for-the-worst http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/a-regional-foodbasket-plans-for-the-worst/#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2015 19:46:05 +0000 Desmond Brown http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141073 Boys catch fish in a gully that runs through their community in Guyana. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Boys catch fish in a gully that runs through their community in Guyana. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

By Desmond Brown
GEORGETOWN, Jun 10 2015 (IPS)

Despite its highly variable climate, Guyana is the only Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country that enjoys food security. But rapid climate change could pose a challenge not only for Guyana, but for its Caribbean neigbours who depend on the South American country for much of their produce.

Agriculture in Guyana accounts for 32 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP); 37 percent of all export earnings; and employs about one third of the labour force. Main agricultural exports are sugar, earning some 137 million dollars annually; rice, earning 55 million dollars, forestry, earning 70 million; fish products, earning 65 million; and other crops and livestock 7.5 million.“The big expenditure will come if we ever have to move from the coastline and go further inland...That would be something that we don’t want to contemplate but you can never tell when a catastrophe could strike." -- President David Granger

David Granger, who became Guyana’s new president after winning general and regional elections here on May 11, said his administration is not taking this for granted, and he is fully aware that climate change could cause the country to lose its food-secure status.

“On the coastland which is low and flat, the climate is actually slightly different to the hinterland and the forested mountainous areas where the rainfall is very heavy, part of the Amazonian rainforest; and deeper south, closer to Brazil you have a completely different terrain, a landscape of savannahs,” Granger told IPS.

“On the savannahs you have a long wet season, which is now taking place, and a long dry season. On the coastland we have a long dry season and a long wet season and a short dry season and a short wet season. So when we speak of climate change we’re speaking of very complex geographical phenomenon.”

Approximately 90 percent of Guyana’s population lives on a narrow coastline strip a half to one metre below sea level. That coastal belt is protected by seawall barriers that have existed since the Dutch occupation of the country. In recent times, however, severe storms have toppled these defences, resulting in significant flooding, a danger scientists predict may become more frequent.

The government is spending six million dollars annually on drainage and irrigation and requires some 100 million dollars to adapt its drainage infrastructure to deal with the effects of climate change.

“We have to plan a policy…we have to chart a course that protects our citizens and traditionally as far as coastal zone management is concerned. We have had to build sea defences and build proper drainage and irrigation works otherwise our people will be flooded out,” Granger said.

He related that the country experienced “a terrible flood exactly 10 years ago” and many of the communities on the coast were affected.

“We lost billions of dollars because of floods. So we have to protect our people from that type of catastrophe and we just have to continue  what we’ve been doing traditionally in terms of seawalls but also we have to implement plans to prevent the excessive cutting down of our trees and of course reforestation to plant back areas that have been mined out.”

Guyanese President David Granger. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Guyanese President David Granger. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

An impressive 80 percent of Guyana’s surface area is covered by rainforest the size of England. Beneath the jungle and savannah lie gold, diamond and bauxite – staples of Guyana’s economy.

Norway has committed to providing Guyana up to 250 million dollars by 2015 for avoided deforestation once certain performance indicators are met. Earnings from the partnership to date amount to 190 million dollars.

It is one of the highest payments worldwide for results achieved under a bilateral REDD+ partnership, second only to Brazil.

The partnership between Guyana and Norway began in 2009 and payments made to Guyana under it support the country’s ambitious climate action, keeping deforestation low while promoting development and sustainable economic growth through the country’s Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

“The big expenditure will come if we ever have to move from the coastline and go further inland which is higher,” Granger said.

“Most of the inland territory, maybe 50 kilometres from here, is higher and the sort of doomsday scenarios that we might have to abandon some parts of the coastline, that would be a tremendous cost. That would be something that we don’t want to contemplate but you can never tell when a catastrophe could strike.”

The Guyanese president said the country has also been putting aside funds from the millions earned annually from the extractive industries.

“As part of our policy which we’ve already announced, profits from revenues from extractive industries – gold, timber, diamond, bauxite – will be used in something we call Sovereign Wealth Fund so that our children don’t have to face the ravages of poverty,” he said.

“It is something we have to include in our budget…we must start putting aside money in order to prepare for any form of catastrophe. We can’t depend on handouts all the time,” Granger added.

Jamilla Sealy, regional chairperson of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) and project manager of the World Wide Views on Climate and Energy, said climate change impacts in Guyana could affect neighbouring countries like Barbados.

“If Guyana, for instance, has significant flooding, and the major rivers overflow, the contents can reach our coasts via ocean currents. This can lead to fish kills and stress on the coral reefs in Barbados. Also climate change aids in the spread of vector-borne diseases, e.g. chikungunya and may cause a re-emergence of yellow fever and malaria,” she told IPS.

“In terms of food security, if we import most of our food from one country and it is diminished, then we will be severely affected. For example, if a large hurricane decimates a country like Ivan did to Grenada in 2004, it can destroy the country’s economy and draw on the resources of neighbouring islands such as water and food.”

Barbados’ imports from Guyana have grown the fastest of all imports from CARICOM countries except for Trinidad & Tobago, according to data published by the Central Bank of Barbados. Barbados imports more than 15 million dollars’ worth of goods from Guyana annually. The Caribbean as a whole expends 3.5 billion annually on food importation.

Sealy noted that Small Island Developing States like those in the Caribbean would be the first to be impacted by climate change.

“Owing to our size, we have limited land, water, and food. We import oil. So if something happens in another country that has the oil and food, we would not have any and we would be in a vulnerable state,” she said.

CYEN is a non-profit, non-governmental, regional organisation which has been empowering youth to address issues such as climate change, sustainable land management, solid waste management and other sustainable development issues. They have been operating since 1993 and there are currently 18 chapters in the Caribbean.

CYEN believes that there should be no decisions made about sustainable development without the involvement of youth.

Sealy said CYEN is on a drive to empower youth to address issues surrounding climate change.

The World Wide Views is the largest citizen consultation in the world which aims to include citizen voices into major international decisions. World Wide Views consultations were conducted by five CYEN chapters last weekend in Barbados, Bahamas, Grenada, Guyana and Haiti.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Why ACP Countries Matter for the EU Post-2015 Development Agendahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/why-acp-countries-matter-for-the-eu-post-2015-development-agenda/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-acp-countries-matter-for-the-eu-post-2015-development-agenda http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/why-acp-countries-matter-for-the-eu-post-2015-development-agenda/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 16:20:13 +0000 Valentina Gasbarri http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141043 By Valentina Gasbarri
BRUSSELS, Jun 9 2015 (IPS)

We are witnessing a shift in the original rationale behind the unique relationship between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries of the ACP group, which goes beyond the logic of “unilateral aid transfer”, “donor-recipient approach” and “North-South dialogue”.

“The [ACP] Group will have to transform itself if it wants to realise its ambition of becoming a player of global importance, beyond its longstanding partnership with the EU” – Dr Patrick I. Gomes, ACP Secretary General
In November last year, in his mission letter to the newly appointed European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker said: “The first priority is the post-2015 framework and the second priority of my mandate is the future of EU’s strategic partnership with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.”

With the agreement for that partnership coming to an end in 2020, both the European Union and the ACP group are currently stimulating intense debates on a critical review of the past and future perspective as well as challenging issues for the future “acquis” between the ACP countries and Europe under the umbrella of the Cotonou Agreement.

Last month’s Joint Session of the ACP-EU Council of Ministers held in Brussels (May 28-29) May offered an occasion for discussing innovative options to outline new bases of common interests, needs and difficulties, and to forge forthcoming cooperation, particularly in terms of the post-2015 agenda, financing for development, migration, international trade, climate change and democratic governance.

At ACP level, there is a growing awareness among members that “the Group will have to transform itself if it wants to realise its ambition of becoming a player of global importance, beyond its longstanding partnership with the EU,” said ACP Secretary General, Dr Patrick I. Gomes.

“There is the need to re-balance the ACP-EU partnership in favour of the ACP Group” was one of the key messages from the 101st ACP Council of Ministers held on May 27-28 to re-align ACP positions before the Joint Session with the European Union.

Within the European Union, there is also recognition of the relevance of the EU-ACP relationship. “Our exchanges of view on a number of key issues such as the post-2015 development agenda and migration once again underlined the importance of our partnership,” said Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica, Latvian Parliamentary State Secretary for E.U. Affairs, in a statement.

Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica (right), Latvian Parliamentary Secretary of State for E.U. Affairs and Meltek Livtuvanu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu and President of the ACP’s Council of Ministers. Photo Credit: EU Council

Zanda Kalniņa-Lukaševica (right), Latvian Parliamentary Secretary of State for E.U. Affairs and Meltek Livtuvanu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu and President of the ACP’s Council of Ministers. Photo Credit: EU Council

On paper, the Cotonou Agreement remains the most sophisticated framework for ACP-EU cooperation, covering political, trade, economic and development cooperation issues.

According to the last figures for the E.U. budget for 2014-2020, a package of 30.5 billion euros is specifically provided to ACP regions and countries. In fact, the ACP still remains the biggest group of states with which the European Union has a partnership.

The European Development Fund (EDF), an implementing instrument of the Cotonou Agreement, will finance E.U. development cooperation projects until 2020 to assist partner countries in poverty eradication. These funds will target the people most in need and finance different sectors such as health and education, infrastructure, environment, energy, food and nutrition.

Looking towards the future, the ACP is determined to move from being on the receiving end of development assistance to asserting its aim to speak with “one voice in global governance institutions”, in the words of ACP Secretary-General Gomes.

The need to consider and treat ACP countries as “responsible partners” at the global level despite the reluctance of the international community, emerged strongly during the E.U.-Africa Summit in  April 2014, with ACP members hoping for a lift-up effect on the ACP’s political leverage.

According to observers, ACP countries matter for the European Union partly to help overcome the effects of the economic crisis. Some ACP countries in the North African region, for example, have witnessed upturns in economic growth since 2004. At the same time, the abundance of natural resources in ACP countries provides an alternative to the volatile Middle East, Russia and some other countries as a source of energy and raw materials.

On the issue of financing for development, Alexandre Polack, European Commission Spokesperson for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management & International Cooperation and Development told IPS: “We need to come away from Addis with a comprehensive agreement which covers all the means of implementation for the post-2015 development agenda.”

He was referring to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development which will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from Jul. 13 to 16 this year.

“This,” added Polack, “means addressing non-financial aspects, including policies. We need an agreement which puts domestic actions and domestic capacities at the heart of poverty eradication and sustainable development, and adheres to the principles of universality in terms of shared responsibilities.”

Observers also point out that the ACP countries can also be important interlocutors during the U.N. Climate Change Conference this coming December in Paris.

While the Western industrialised and emerging countries are the main greenhouse gas emitters, many ACP countries – particularly Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – are directly threatened by the consequences of climate change through, for example, natural disasters, hurricanes and tornados, flooding and drought.

Their voice on this, along with their experience and good practices developed in countering or mitigating the drastic effects of climate change, can make a useful contribution to the deliberations in Paris.

Meanwhile, the ACP-EU Joint Council has endorsed recommendations concerning the migration crisis, including enacting comprehensive legislation on both trafficking in human beings and smuggling of migrants, stressing the differences between both phenomena, while also implementing relevant national laws.

The co-President of the Joint Council, Hon. Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu of Vanuatu, speaking on behalf of the ACP ministers, said: “We consider that even if the military and security approach is meant to discourage and respond immediately to the issue, there is an urgent need to have a comprehensive approach to deal with the root causes of this phenomenon, in partnership with all the countries involved.”

Edited by Phil Harris   

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Ni Una Menos – The Cry Against ‘Femicides’ Finally Heard in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/ni-una-menos-the-cry-against-femicides-finally-heard-in-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=ni-una-menos-the-cry-against-femicides-finally-heard-in-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/ni-una-menos-the-cry-against-femicides-finally-heard-in-argentina/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2015 21:52:18 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141001 Demonstrators overflowed the plaza in front of the national legislature, in Buenos Aires, demanding an end to killings of women. Credit: Courtesy of Ni Una Menos

Demonstrators overflowed the plaza in front of the national legislature, in Buenos Aires, demanding an end to killings of women. Credit: Courtesy of Ni Una Menos

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 5 2015 (IPS)

In the wake of the massive response to their call to protest violence against women in Argentina, the organisers of this week’s demonstrations are starting to plan the steps to be taken to get results for their demand “Ni Una Menos” (not one less), taking advantage of the strength in numbers shown to obtain political support for public policies aimed at protecting women.

“This mobilisation has concrete proposals,” said Fabiana Túñez, one of the founders of La Casa del Encuentro, an organisation that took part in the protests that filled the streets of the capital and other cities on Wednesday Jun. 3, demanding an end to gender-related killings.

In an interview with IPS, Túñez said “the hope is that all public officials and possible candidates who were photographed (in the protests) will now respond to the strength shown by the people in the streets and incorporate in their agendas policies to step up the effort to fight violence against women.”

The call to take to the streets emerged spontaneously over the social networks in response to the slogan “Ni Una Menos” (not one less), launched by a group of journalists, artists and activists demanding that women be protected from violent deaths at the hands of men.

The response in Buenos Aires, outside of Congress, and in other cities around the country, was massive: demonstrators overflowed the parks into surrounding streets. In a politically polarised country, the slogan brought together a broad spectrum of mutually antagonistic political parties, trade unions, student organisations, and even conservative religious groups.

“No more femicides”, “Let’s stop raising helpless princesses and violent little men”, “We apologise for the inconvenience, they’re killing us”, “If you love us don’t beat us, don’t rape us, don’t kill us” read some of the signs carried by an estimated 200,000 protesters in the capital alone, according to the most conservative estimates. Most of the demonstrators were women, but there were also a significant number of men and entire families.

“Society is tired of hearing about femicides,” Tuñez said. “And that created a breeding-ground for outrage.”

Based on cases covered by the press, La Casa del Encuentro says that in the last seven years 1,808 women have been murdered in killings whose main motive or cause was gender-based discrimination, leaving thousands of children without a mother and often forced to live with their mother’s killer.

According to statistics provided by the organisation during the protest, which it stressed were not complete, the incidence of femicide increased in this country of 43 million people from one every 40 hours in 2008 to one every 30 hours in 2014.

One of the demands is for complete official statistics on femicide. Others are guaranteed access to justice and protection and more shelters for victims of domestic violence.

“We will try to meet with potential candidates (for the October general elections) to outline proposals along different lines, and we hope they will listen to us, because we will keep saying – and these protests showed this very clearly – that it is a cross-cutting issue,” Túñez said.

“All of the parties must incorporate into concrete proposals what society has already made a concrete agenda,” she said.

Soraima Torres, her daughter Mariela and her granddaughter, three generations of Argentine women, hold up signs with the slogan “Ni Una Menos”, in the demonstration against femicide in Buenos Aires. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Soraima Torres, her daughter Mariela and her granddaughter, three generations of Argentine women, hold up signs with the slogan “Ni Una Menos”, in the demonstration against femicide in Buenos Aires. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

The document, read out during the demonstrations by artists like cartoonist Maitena (Burundarena), calls for “the implementation, budget funds and adequate monitoring of the National Action Plan for the Prevention, Assistance and Eradication of Violence Against Women, contained in law 26.485 on Integral Protection of Women,” which has not yet been codified.

Making their voices heard
Soraima Torres, a protester, told IPS “We are asking that the laws be enforced. We don’t want sexist judges – we are fighting the fact that anyone has the right to touch or rape my daughter, because she goes out in a miniskirt.”

“Men should be taught not to hurt, not to rape, not to beat, not to kill – and to call for gender equality,” said her daughter Mariela, holding her own daughter in her arms. “I’m not less than a man.”

The organisers also demanded the full implementation of the sex education plan introduced by the government of Cristina Fernández, which is not completely in effect due to pressure from conservative groups.

Another protester, 18-year-old Evelyn Garazo, said sex education should help change the way women conceive of “love”.

“I have friends with boyfriends who are verbally violent, or really controlling, who don’t let them go out with their friends,” she told IPS. “And they think that’s normal, because it’s a demand coming from the boy who supposedly loves them.”

As Maitena said, underlying femicides are cultural conceptions “that tend to see women as objects to be consumed and discarded.”

Two students who said this was their first protest told IPS they felt unsafe on the street. “There shouldn’t be the slightest violence on the street, like men shouting at you – you can even be raped or killed,” said one of them, Candela Rivero.

“People always think men are superior to women and that they can shout at you, touch your rear end, do anything they want and you have to put up with it because you don’t know if they’ll grab you or do something to you. You have to keep your mouth shut and just keep walking, afraid.”

Men too

The men who participated in the protests are prepared to take part in the struggle.

Economist Sergio Drucaroff told IPS that “Changes should also be demanded on TV if we really want to eradicate gender violence. The number of commercials that put women in the place they occupied five decades ago is obscene.

“Do they think I don’t also buy laundry soap, detergent or pasta? And it is unacceptable that dozens of programmes have segments dedicated to sexist jokes that degrade women,” he added.

Public employee Luis Bignone told IPS “As men, we have to raise awareness among all those ‘machista’ men who beat their wives, or verbally abuse them, another form of mistreatment. We have to show them that being violent doesn’t make them more macho.”

Many of the complaints targeted the justice system – and some even came from the president, who backed the demonstrations.

“Some judges don’t even bear mentioning: just six months for a man who beat a woman in the street,” said President Fernández.

“It’s not just a judicial or police problem. We’re facing a culture that is devastating to women, wherever they happen to be,” she tweeted.

The victims’ families

The families of victims also took part in “The Day Women Said: Enough!” as one local headline described the protests.

One of the cases that caused outrage was the recent murder of Chiara Páez, a pregnant 14-year-old who was beaten to death by her teenage boyfriend and buried in his backyard.

But that was just one of the most visible of the many murders of women at the hands of their current or former boyfriends or husbands.

Julia Ibarra carried a sign with the photo of her 21-year-old daughter Tamara López, who was murdered in El Tigre, a town just north of Buenos Aires where a number of rape and murder cases have been reported, with speculation that drug and people trafficking, and complicity by the authorities, are involved.

“Tamara left home on Jan. 15 at 23:00 and told me ‘I’ll be right back.’ I reported the people who had her feeling terrified. But she turned up dead nine days later,” Tamara’s mother told IPS. Her daughter’s boyfriend was a drug dealer and has been implicated in the deaths of at least two other women.

Edited Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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As Jamaica’s Prime Forests Decline, Row Erupts Over Protectionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/as-jamaicas-prime-forests-decline-row-erupts-over-protection/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=as-jamaicas-prime-forests-decline-row-erupts-over-protection http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/as-jamaicas-prime-forests-decline-row-erupts-over-protection/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 15:05:24 +0000 Zadie Neufville http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140972 Workers at Jamaica's Bodles Agricultural Station prepare fruit tree seedlings for distribution. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

Workers at Jamaica's Bodles Agricultural Station prepare fruit tree seedlings for distribution. Credit: Zadie Neufville/IPS

By Zadie Neufville
KINGSTON, Jun 4 2015 (IPS)

For Jamaica, planting more trees as a way to build resilience is one of the highest priorities of the government’s climate change action plan. So when Cockpit Country residents woke up to bulldozers in the protected area, they rallied to get answers from the authorities.

On May 18, Noranda Bauxite Limited acted on 2004 mining leases and moved its heavy equipment into the outer areas of the Cockpit Country, ignoring unresolved boundary issues. Their actions reignited a simmering row between stakeholders and government over demarcation and protection of the biologically diverse area.Bauxite mining is said to be the single largest cause of deforestation on the island.

Whilst the company denies that it has begun mining, its officials admit to prospecting. Noranda’s actions however, raised suspicions that government had reneged on a promise made in 2006 when several prospecting leases issued to Alumina Partners were revoked. Back then, authorities had promised residents that the Cockpit Country would be off-limits to bauxite mining.

Junior Minister for Mining and Energy Julian Robinson has reiterated his government’s commitment to preserving the area, but many continue to be wary.

Michael Schwartz, director of the Windsor Research Station, is fearful that government will seek to “placate” the people with “a token boundary” which defines the Cockpit Country to an area “where there is no bauxite to be mined”.

“My concern is that GoJ [the government] seems to be completely ignoring the Public Consultation Report, which they commissioned in 2013, and is going to come up with its own boundary,” he said in an email response to IPS.

Schwartz’s concern seems valid. After all bauxite was, until 2008 the island’s second largest earner of foreign exchange. That year bauxite earned 1.37 billion dollars and accounted for 55 per cent of Jamaica’s total merchandise exports and traditionally contributed around five to six per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Just prior to the economic fallout and closure of mining operations in 2009, the sector was the third largest foreign exchange earner.

Bauxite mining is also said to be the single largest cause of deforestation on the island. Not only are large areas of forests destroyed to extract the ore, the cutting of haul and access roads opens the prime forests to further threats from loggers, yam stick traders and coal burners.

Forest clearing is identified as one of the biggest threats to the island’s biodiversity and the remaining forests. The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) also identifies forest clearing as one of the top contributors to climate variation.

Looking westward - Noranda Bauxite's equipment cuts access roads for prospecting. Credit: Courtesy of Michael Schwartz

Looking westward – Noranda Bauxite’s equipment cuts access roads for prospecting. Credit: Courtesy of Michael Schwartz

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill confirms that changes to the forest cover have  “significant implications” for Jamaica, given that is “highly dependent” on its environmental resources.

At a press conference to announce the findings of the most recent forest assessment surveys on Mar. 10, the minister said:  “The open dry forests that now stand as bare lands have increased the country’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and increased our risk of desertification. The loss of our broadleaf forests has reduced the forests’ capacity to provide us with ecosystem services such as water and clean air.”

“Cockpit Country is in relatively good shape today because of its topography, it has conserved itself, so to speak,” Schwartz said, pointing out that whilst farmers have been encroaching on the area for centuries, the difficult terrain had made access difficult thereby limiting the impact of their activities.

Depending on which of the three proposed boundaries is used, the Cockpit Country is estimated to cover between 820 and 1099 square kilometres (between 510 and 683 sq. miles). The core boundary – primarily forest reserves and crown lands – totals just over 56,000 hectares (138,379 acres), a transition boundary of just over 80,000 hectares (197, 684 acres) and the outer boundary of 116,218 hectares (287,181 acres).

The outer boundary proposed during the public consultations that the University of the West Indies conducted will more than double the reserves and is the preferred option. It seems that any other would not go down well with the stakeholders and according to Schwartz: “This would show a willful disregard of the public stakeholders.”

Aside from a rich biological diversity that supports the largest number of globally threatened species in the Caribbean region, Jamaica’s State of the Environment Report 2010 described the Cockpit Country as “the largest remaining primary forest” on the island. The area also supplies fresh water for about 40 per cent of islanders and recharges the aquifers in three major agricultural areas.

In what the Forestry Department describes as its most comprehensive analysis of forest cover change to date, a 2013 survey shows an overall increase in forests and a decline in the amount of high quality forests due to the destruction of wetlands and previously undisturbed areas. More than 4,000 hectares (about 10,000 acres) of mined-out lands have also been restored.

“We have gained new low-quality forests but lost high-quality closed and disturbed broadleaf forests. We also lost swamp forests and dry forests,” Conservator of Forests Marilyn Headley told IPS in an email.

The loss of the swamp forests, Pickersgill says, “poses serious risks to our tourism industry, as well as the success of our disaster management strategies and destroys the habitat for many of our essential wetland species.”

In addition to improved assessments, the Forestry Department is now updating the National Forest Management and Conservation Plan that aims to build on and outline additional strategies to arrest the loss of quality forests, promote sustainable use and regulate saw mills.

The Department continues to work with Local Forest Management Committees in the Cockpit Country and other areas across the island to replant and reduce the impact of the local communities on their forests. Schwartz is confident that ongoing sensitisation and community actions will help to preserve the areas if bauxite mining is excluded.

However, with an estimated one billion tonnes of bauxite remaining, a sluggish economy and most of the country’s earnings going to debt repayment, stakeholders are demanding a resolution of the boundaries sooner rather than later. Many believe that potential earnings from bauxite could tip the balance between preservation and mining of the prized ecological area.

“If mining were allowed, how would you explain how it’s alright for the big man to destroy large areas of forest, but it’s not okay for little man to cut a tree to improve his life?” the researcher asks.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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Native Communities in Mexico Demand to be Consulted on Wind Farmshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/native-communities-in-mexico-demand-to-be-consulted-on-wind-farms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=native-communities-in-mexico-demand-to-be-consulted-on-wind-farms http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/06/native-communities-in-mexico-demand-to-be-consulted-on-wind-farms/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 07:32:40 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=140947 A wind park in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, where local communities and indigenous people are fighting the installation of wind turbines in their territory. Credit: Courtesy of the International Service for Peace (SIPAZ)

A wind park in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, where local communities and indigenous people are fighting the installation of wind turbines in their territory. Credit: Courtesy of the International Service for Peace (SIPAZ)

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Jun 3 2015 (IPS)

“It hurts us that our land is affected, and the environmental impacts are not even measured. Wind farm projects affect streams and hurt the flora,” said Zapotec Indian Isabel Jiménez, who is taking part in the struggle against the installation of a wind park in southern Mexico.

The 42-year-old healer says the turbines endanger medicinal plants, which are essential for her traditional healing work in the city of Juchitán in the state of Oaxaca, 720 km south of the capital.

“We are right, we know the truth,” Jiménez told IPS. “That’s why we are resisting this, and exercising our rights.”

The Zapotec indigenous woman is one of the leaders of the opposition to the Energía Eólica del Sur (Wind Energy of the South) company’s plans to build a wind park in the area to generate 396 MW that would feed into regional power grids.

Jiménez belongs to the Asamblea Popular del Pueblo Juchiteco – the Juchiteco People’s Assembly – founded in February 2013 to protect the rights of native communities in the face of the introduction of wind farms in their territories.

They are protesting the ecological, social and economic damage caused by wind parks.“They threaten us, they insult us, they spy on us, they block our roads. We don’t want any more wind turbines; they have to respect our territory because it is the last land we have left.” – Isabel Jiménez

In addition, they are complaining about incompliance with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, which requires prior, free and informed consent, and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, both of which have been ratified by Mexico.

In November an inter-institutional technical committee made up of delegates of local, state and federal governments began a consultation process with regard to the wind park, and decided to conclude the informative phase in April despite the objections raised by local communities, and move on to the deliberative phase to discuss the viewpoints of the different parties.

Local inhabitants worry that the procedure followed will be used as a model for future projects forming part of the country’s energy reform, whose legal framework was enacted in August 2014, opening up electricity generation and sales, including renewables, as well as oil and gas extraction, refining, distribution and retailing, to participation by the domestic and foreign private sectors.

“The problem is that there has been no consultation process to obtain free, prior and informed consent,” Antonio López, a lawyer with the non-governmental Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Project (PRODESC), told IPS. “They are trying to speed up these processes, and the conditions are created to hold a certain kind of consultation process favourable to the projects.”

PRODESC advises local communities in the area in defence of their rights.

On Apr. 24, Zapotec communities filed a lawsuit in federal court against the consultation process that was carried out. The ruling is expected to be handed down shortly.

Juchitán is located in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, a windy narrow land bridge between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca where a large proportion of the country’s wind energy projects are being developed.

The isthmus, which is 200 km wide, is now home to 21 wind farms, including 12 in Juchitán, according to the Mexican Wind Energy Association.

Renewable energies, not including large hydropower dams, account for seven percent of electricity generation in Mexico. Wind power generates 2,551 MW a year, and the plan is to scale that up to 15,000 MW by 2020.

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, there are 11 million indigenous people, distributed in 54 different communities, in this country of 120 million people. But that figure is considered an underestimate because it only includes people over five who speak a native language.

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is mainly inhabited by Zapotec, Huave, Zoque, Mixe and Chontal Indians.

“There have been many problems with the application of the consultation process, such as a lack of information and attacks on community leaders and rights defenders,” Andrea Cerami, a lawyer with the defence and public policies section of the non-governmental Mexican Centre for Environmental Law (CEMDA), told IPS.

He said that when a state plans infrastructure works or other projects in native territories without due consultation, it violates the rights of communities, which are protected by international treaties and national laws.

Mexico’s laws on fossil fuels and the power industry, which form part of the country’s energy reform, stipulate that local communities must be consulted. But the law on fossil fuels does not offer a way out for the owners of land, who must reach an agreement with the public or private companies in question or accept an eventual court verdict.

Civil society organisations complain that the planned energy projects would overlap rural indigenous territories – a source of conflict that makes properly conducted consultation processes essential.

Since January, Rarámuri indigenous communities in the northern state of Sinaloa have blocked the construction of a gas pipeline between Sinaloa and the U.S. state of Texas across the border, until a consultation process is carried out to obtain their free, prior and informed consent.

The Yaqui Indians in the northern state of Sonora are likewise fighting the Acueducto Independencia, a pipeline that has carried water from Sonora to the northern city of Hermosillo since March 2013, despite several victories in court by the native communities.

In Oaxaca, Mixe indigenous groups had to go to federal court to see their right to consultation enforced before the National Water Commission, with respect to the use of wells on their land.

“They threaten us, they insult us, they spy on us, they block our roads,” complained Jiménez, who has practiced traditional healing since 1993. “We don’t want any more wind turbines; they have to respect our territory because it is the last land we have left.”

Energía Eólica del Sur has a history of conflicts. Until 2013 the company was named Mareña Renovables, which tried to build a 396 MW wind farm in the town of San Dionisio del Mar, on Oaxaca’s Pacific coast.

But the wind park, with a projected investment of 1.2 billion dollars, including 75 million from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), has been stalled since 2013 as a result of court verdicts in favour of the local communities that would have been affected. As a result, Energía Eólica del Sur decided to move to Juchitán.

In December 2012 the international Indian Law Resource Center filed a complaint on behalf of 225 inhabitants of seven indigenous communities with the IDB’s Independent Consultation and Investigation Mechanism (ICIM), regarding the loan.

The complaint seeks damages given the absence of adequate consultation with the communities at the start of the project and the lack of measures in its design and execution aimed at avoiding negative impacts.

In September 2013, the IBD’s Panel of the Compliance Review Phase admitted the complaint. It has been investigating the case since December 2014, in order to draw up a report and proceed to oversee compliance with its provisions.

“This is an opportunity to make sure people are informed in the future,” López said. “We want to give the legal system a chance to respect human rights.”

Cerami, whose organisation, CEMDA, advises the Yaqui Indians in their struggle, said the consultation process helps defuse conflicts.

“Already existing social and environmental conflicts can be exacerbated, and they can escalate in intensity and trigger other kinds of actions,” he said. “The consultation is a mechanism for dialogue that should favour broad participation and help parties with different interests reach understandings.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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