Inter Press Service » Middle East & North Africa http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Wed, 04 May 2016 00:57:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 Mideast: 1 in 3 Bribes to Access Basic Public Serviceshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mideast-1-in-3-bribe-to-access-basic-public-services/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-1-in-3-bribe-to-access-basic-public-services http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/mideast-1-in-3-bribe-to-access-basic-public-services/#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 13:16:07 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144942 Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 | Credit: Transparency International

Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 | Credit: Transparency International

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 3 2016 (IPS)

Just an ordinary citizen living in a Middle East and North of Africa country and requring a birth certificate for your new-born daughter? No problem—just take something with you, either some cash, a pack of cigarettes or buy a glass of tea with milk and a lot of sugar.

Or a rich Middle-Eastern and want to strike a good business deal? No problem again –all you need is to carry with you an envelope full of banknotes or ask for the bank account of the concerned high government official, preferably abroad.

You may say that paying bribes is a worldwide practise that may have different names—commission, compensation, gratification, or maybe just a little present. You would be right. In fact, Transparency International (TI) estimates that more than 6 billion people live in countries with “a serious corruption problem.”

Poor Countries Lose One Trillion Dollars a Year to Corruption

In the case of poor countries, 1 trillion dollars a year is lost to corruption, TI estimates.

The Middle East and North Africa is no exception. In fact, paying bribes to access even the basic public service in this region of 22 states, home to nearly 400 million people, has become a deeply rooted “normal”, at least over the last seven decades or so, i.e. since many of them accessed formal independence.

This is basically due to two major facts: long decades of colonialism pushing the majority of citizens more and more towards the very bottom of growing impoverishment. And a widespread phenomenon of corrupted government officials.

Credit: Transparency International

Credit: Transparency International

Anyway, big and small corruption is so extended over the whole region, that a new Transparency International report issued on May 3 estimated that nearly one in three citizens who tried to access basic public services in the MENA region paid a bribe, showing that governments across the region have failed to hear their citizens’ voices against corruption.

According to a public opinion survey by the international anti-corruption group of nearly 11,000 adults in 9 countries and territories, the majority of people (61 per cent) across the region think that the level of corruption has gone up over the last 12 months.

The 30 per cent who paid a bribe for a basic service represent the equivalent of nearly 50 million people, TI reported.

“It’s as if the Arab Spring never happened. Leaders who fail to stop secrecy, fail to promote free speech and fail to stop bribery also fail to bring dignity to the daily lives of people living in the Middle East and North Africa. Peoples’ human rights are seriously affected,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.

Public dissatisfaction with corrupt leaders and regimes was a key catalyst for change in the region, notably with Arab Spring protests, says Transparency International.

Five years on, it adds, the survey finds governments have done little to enforce laws against corruption and bribery, nor have they done enough for transparency and accountability through the promotion of freedoms of the press, civil society and for individuals.

“In Lebanon, numbers are alarming as nine in ten people (92 per cent) say that they think corruption has increased,” says TI. “Government officials, tax officials and members of parliament are perceived to be the most corrupt groups in the region.”

Based on the findings of the survey, here are Transparency International’s four top recommendations:

— Governments in the region must speak out immediately and publicly about their commitment to end corruption. They must also finally deliver on their anti-corruption commitments made globally and regionally, such as under the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the Arabic Convention for Combating Corruption.

— Governments must eradicate impunity and bring the corrupt to justice so they can take responsibility for the consequences of their actions

— Governments must create a safe and enabling environment for civil society and the media to fight and report corruption.

— Governments must involve their citizens in the fight against corruption and create the space to hold institutions to account and to help law enforcement institutions. This is especially important when the majority of citizens (58 per cent) believe they have the power to make a difference.

The Global Corruption Barometer 2016 question module was implemented by the Afrobarometer network and by several national partners in the Arab Barometer network.

All fieldwork was completed using a face-to-face survey methodology. The survey samples were selected and weighted to be nationally representative of all adults aged 18 and above living in each country/territory.

From villages in rural India to the corridors of power in Brussels, Transparency International works to give voice to the victims and witnesses of corruption. “We work together with governments, businesses and citizens to stop the abuse of power, bribery and secret deals,” it says.

“As a global movement with one vision, we want a world free of corruption. Through chapters in more than 100 countries and an international secretariat in Berlin, we are leading the fight against corruption to turn this vision into reality.“

All this is fine. The point is: who dares to put the cat in the bag?

Click here for the full report. Download the report | View online

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Playing Ping Pong with Disabilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/playing-ping-pong-with-disability/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=playing-ping-pong-with-disability http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/playing-ping-pong-with-disability/#comments Thu, 28 Apr 2016 07:53:51 +0000 Silvia Boarini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144866 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/playing-ping-pong-with-disability/feed/ 0 Choose Humanity: Make the Impossible Choice Possible!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/choose-humanity-make-the-impossible-choice-possible/#comments Wed, 27 Apr 2016 15:03:47 +0000 Herve Verhoosel http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144850 Herve Verhoosel is the Spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24. He was previously leading the Roll Back Malaria office at the UN in New York and was also Head of External Relations, Advocacy and Communication. In this Op-Ed Verhoosel introduces this major event, the first ever of its kind, which will bring together governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector to propose solutions.]]>

Herve Verhoosel is the Spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24. He was previously leading the Roll Back Malaria office at the UN in New York and was also Head of External Relations, Advocacy and Communication. In this Op-Ed Verhoosel introduces this major event, the first ever of its kind, which will bring together governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector to propose solutions.

By Herve Verhoosel
UN, New York, Apr 27 2016 (IPS)

We have arrived at the point of no return. At this very moment the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War Two. We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.

Herve Verhoosel

Herve Verhoosel

More than $20 billion is needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts. Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030. Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before.

The situation has hit home. We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters. We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards. We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.

These are desperate times. With so much at stake, we have only one choice to make: humanity. Now is the time to stand together and reverse the rising trend of humanitarian needs. Now is the time to create clear, actionable goals for change to be implemented within the next three years that are grounded in our common humanity, the one value that unites us all.

This is why the United Nations Secretary-General is calling on world leaders to reinforce our collective responsibility to guard humanity by attending the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.

From May 23rd to the 24th, our leaders are being asked to come together in Istanbul, Turkey, to agree on a core set of actions that will chart a course for real change. This foundation for change was not born overnight. It was a direct result of three years of consultations with more than 23,000 people in 153 countries.

On the basis of the consultation process, the United Nations Secretary-General launched his report for the World Humanitarian Summit titled “One Humanity, Shared responsibility. As a roadmap to guide the Summit, the report outlines a clear vision for global leadership to take swift and collective action toward strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and crisis relief.

Aptly referred to as an “Agenda for Humanity,” the report lays out ground-breaking changes to the humanitarian system that, once put into action, will promptly help to alleviate suffering, reduce risk and lessen vulnerability on a global scale.

The Agenda is also linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically maps out a timeline for the future and health of our world. Imagine the end of poverty, inequality and civil war by 2030. Is it possible? Undoubtedly so. Most importantly, the Secretary-General has called for measurable progress within the next three years following the Summit.

As such, the Summit is not an endpoint, but a kick-off towards making a real difference in the lives of millions of women, men and children. It’s an unprecedented opportunity for global leaders to mobilize the political will to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. So, how to take action?

The Agenda specifies five core responsibilities that the international community must shoulder if we expect to end our shared humanitarian crises. These core responsibilities offer a framework for unified and concentrated action to Summit attendees, leadership and the public at large. Once implemented, change will inevitably follow.

1. Prevent and End Conflict: Political leaders (including the UN Security Council) must resolve to not only manage crises, but also to prevent them. They must analyse conflict risks and utilize all political and economic means necessary to prevent conflict and find solutions, working with their communities – youth, women and faith-based groups – to find the ones that work.

The Summit presents a unique opportunity to gain political momentum and commitment from leaders to promote and invest in conflict prevention and mediation in order to reduce the impacts of conflicts, which generate 80 percent of humanitarian needs.

2. Respect Rules of War: Most states have signed and implemented international humanitarian and human rights laws, but, sadly, few are respected or monitored. Unless violators are held accountable each time they break these laws, civilians will continue to make up the vast majority of those killed in conflict – roughly 90 percent. Hospitals, schools and homes will continue to be obliterated and aid workers will continue to be barred access from injured parties.

The Summit allows a forum for which leadership can promote the protection of civilians and respect for basic human rights.

3. Leave No One Behind: Imagine being forcibly displaced from your home, being stateless or targeted because of your race, religion or nationality. Now, imagine that development programs are put in place for the world’s poorest; world leaders are working to diminish displacement; women and girls are empowered and protected; and all children – whether in conflict zones or not – are able to attend school. Imagine a world that refuses to leave you behind. This world could become our reality.

At the Summit, the Secretary-General will call on world leaders to commit to reducing internal displacement by 50 percent before 2030.

4. Working Differently to End Need: While sudden natural disasters often take us by surprise, many crises we respond to are predictable. It is time to commit to a better way of working hand-in-hand with local systems and development partners to meet the basic needs of at-risk communities and help them prepare for and become less vulnerable to disaster and catastrophe. Both better data collection on crisis risk and the call to act early are needed and required to reduce risk and vulnerability on a global scale.

The Summit will provide the necessary platform for commitment to new ways of working together toward a common goal – humanity.

5. Invest in Humanity:
If we really want to act on our responsibility toward vulnerable people, we need to invest in them politically and financially, by supporting collective goals rather than individual projects. This means increasing funding not only to responses, but also to crisis preparedness, peacebuilding and mediation efforts.

It also means being more creative about how we fund national non-governmental organizations – using loans, grants, bonds and insurance systems in addition to working with investment banks, credit card companies and Islamic social finance mechanisms.

It requires donors to be more flexible in the way they finance crises (i.e., longer-term funding) and aid agencies to be as efficient and transparent as possible about how they are spending money.

Our world is at a tipping point. The World Humanitarian Summit and its Agenda for Humanity are more necessary today than ever before. We, as global citizens, must urge our leaders to come together at the Summit and commit to the necessary action to reduce human suffering. Humanity must be the ultimate choice.

Join us at http://www.ImpossibleChoices.org and find more information on the Summit at https://www.worldhumanitariansummit.org.
@WHSummit
@herveverhoosel
#ShareHumanity

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Any Ways to Combat Extremism?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/any-ways-to-combat-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=any-ways-to-combat-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/any-ways-to-combat-extremism/#comments Mon, 25 Apr 2016 13:45:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144817 Mehla Ahmed Talebna, Director General of Cultural, Social and Family Affairs of the OIC. Credit: Courtesy of the OIC

Mehla Ahmed Talebna, Director General of Cultural, Social and Family Affairs of the OIC. Credit: Courtesy of the OIC

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 25 2016 (IPS)

“The objective of extremists is for us to turn on each other [and] our unity is the ultimate rebuke for that bankrupt strategy.”

This is what the UN chief Ban Ki-moon has recently said. “While it may be inevitable to draw on examples, such as Da’esh [also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL] or Boko Haram, “the phenomenon of violent extremism conducive to terrorism is not rooted or confined to any religion, region, nationality or ethnic group.”

“Let us also recognize that today, the vast majority of victims worldwide are Muslims,” Ban on April 8 stressed while addressing the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism – The Way Forward.

There, Ban stressed, “violent extremism is clearly a transnational threat that requires urgent international cooperation.” Then he explained that his Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism puts forward a comprehensive and balanced approach for concerted action at the global, regional and national levels.

Such Plan was first submitted to the General Assembly on 15 January. Then, on 12 February, the 193-nation body adopted a resolution that welcome Ban’s initiative, pledging to give further consideration to the Plan, including in the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy review in June 2016, as well as in other relevant forums.

So far, so good.

Barely six days after the UN chief’s assertion that the vast majority of victims of extremism are Muslims, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)—which was founded in 1969 being the second largest inter-governmental body after the UN, grouping 57 member states – held its 13th Islamic Summit in Istanbul on 14-15 April to discuss ways on how to combat the escalation of extremism and terrorism and the resulting growing Islamophobia.

How to do this? IPS posed this question in an interview to Mehla Ahmed Talebna, Director General of Cultural, Social and Family Affairs of the OIC.

OIC summit in Istanbul. Credit: Courtesy of the OIC

OIC summit in Istanbul. Credit: Courtesy of the OIC

“The OIC summit agreed on a set of measures to counter Islamophobia. And member states have been also be urged to establish stronger dialogue with the international community at the bilateral and multilateral levels and engage with the West in order to establish stronger cross-cultural and religious ties as a counterweight to polarising sentiment against religious minorities.”

Talebna explained that the Istanbul summit discussed “the need to reinforce the role of religious and social leaders in halting tendencies towards extremism, which sometimes fuel Islamophobia, by encouraging the principles of tolerance, moderation, mutual respect and peaceful coexistence.”

Asked what are the key reasons behind on-going wave of Islamophobia in Western countries in general and in Europe in particular, Talebna said “despite the growing social ethics, the Economy in Europe has gone towards the opposite direction, hand-in-hand with populist rhetoric and a resurgence in far-right politics.”

“Negative Stereotypes Against all Muslims”

This coupled with the extremist acts of a few Muslims that have made it easier to generalise negative stereotypes and discrimination against all Muslims to take place, she said.

“Such circumstances inter-mingled with the rising intolerance against Islam and Muslims in western countries, which to a large extent was proliferated by widespread reporting, writings, articles, interviews, commentaries, and editorials in some western print and visual media, including social media and cinema that has resulted in negative stereotyping and racial discrimination and victimization directed against Muslims and distortion of the Islamic faith.”

According to the OIC senior official, “ironically, terrorist groups like DAESH and right-wing extremist groups in the west, and the negative media campaigns feed off each other. Here at the OIC, we are committed to oppose right wing extremists and to combat terrorist groups like DAESH.”

“We also encouraged all OIC Member States to work with the media to promote the understanding of responsible use of freedom of speech, to hold the media accountable for perpetuating hate speech and extremism, and to speed up the implementation of the OIC Media Strategy in Countering Islamophobia, adopted at the Ninth Islamic Conference of Information Ministers held in Libreville, Republic of Gabon, in 2012.”

This requires partnership and mutual trust with the West, and notably advancing cultural rapprochement something the OIC is committed to, Talebna added.

Asked about the role of religious and social leaders in halting tendencies towards extremism, Talebna said “We are setting up an anti-extremism messaging centre that uses leading Islamic clerics, through the International Islamic Fiqh (jurisprudence) Academy, to create religiously sound counter-narratives against extremist propaganda.”

“We will also collaborate with various NGOs and institutions and community leaders advocating and promoting tolerance, moderation and mutual respect and countering extremist rhetoric.”

Empowering Women to Restrain Extremism

The OIC is also making efforts to restrain extremism by taking actions such as empowering women as well as building capacity among the youth in order to promote peace and development in the Muslim world. We expect that such an approach will help easing the problem of extremism in the long run, she said.

Asked how could she explain to lay people the reasons behind the growing trend of Muslim societies, especially in the Middle East, to seek refuge in religion, Talebna said, “If such a trend is indeed taking place, then this is not a trend confined to Muslim societies. Religion is generally on the rise across the developing world.”

She explained that countless surveys have shown that religious people are more law-abiding happier and generally not prone to extremism. “If it makes people happier then more religion and religious practice should be welcomed. Even many people believe that religion could bring about, not only happier, but also healthier life.“

“Religion can play a positive social, political, economic, cultural and spiritual role in society. After all, it has done so for centuries across the Islamic world and led the world in scientific discovery, education, governance and proven conducive to building strong multicultural societies. There is no reason any increased observance of religion in the Islamic world cannot, with the right institutions and intellectual leadership, lead to similarly positive results.”

The OIC Summit planned to adopt a set of “practical” measures “to counter mounting anti-Muslim sentiment, both in Western countries and other regions of the world. How?

“The official communiqué of the Islamic Summit calls on all Member States to increase the role of religious and community leaders to curb tendencies of extremism, and to diminish Islamophobia, which is in fact main factors of extremism,” Talebna said to IPS.

“The conference encouraged all Member States to promote inter-faith and inter-religious dialogues within the OIC Member States to raise awareness about religious interpretations and beliefs, and open space for further discussion about Islam and faith and to initiate relevant projects at the level of United Nations Alliance of Civilizations.”

The OIC also encouraged all Member States to make further efforts to effectively implement of the Action Plan contained in Res. 16/18 of the Human Rights Council that focuses on combatting anti-religious hatred without double standards

“In an attempt to address the root causes of factors giving rise to the resurgence of racism and xenophobia more generally, of which Islamophobia is a part, the OIC expressed support for efforts to galvanize the international community towards re-engaging with the on-going discourse on the negative historic legacies of trans-Atlantic slave trade and colonialism.”

According to the OIC high official, such a discourse would include the reference to the looting of cultural heritage and artifacts and the related issues of restitution, reparations and atonement for these wrongs, including the need for an agreement on strategies for achieving them.

In this regards, the Istanbul summit further mandated the OIC to support the convening of an international conference to comprehensively discuss the issue of the slave trade, slavery, colonialism, restitution and reparations.

(End)

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Forced Closure of Bedouin Settlementshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/forced-closure-of-bedouin-settlements/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=forced-closure-of-bedouin-settlements http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/forced-closure-of-bedouin-settlements/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 07:43:44 +0000 Silvia Boarini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144775 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/forced-closure-of-bedouin-settlements/feed/ 1 Climate: Africa’s Human Existence Is at Severe Riskhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-africas-human-existence-is-at-severe-risk/#comments Thu, 21 Apr 2016 14:53:52 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144755 Education vital for healthy, productive ecosystems. One of UNEP’s goals within an integrated ecosystem management framework is to foster the capacity of professionals and develop human capacity across all social strata and genders.  Credit: UNEP

Education vital for healthy, productive ecosystems. One of UNEP’s goals within an integrated ecosystem management framework is to foster the capacity of professionals and develop human capacity across all social strata and genders. Credit: UNEP

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 21 2016 (IPS)

“Africa’s human existence and development is under threat from the adverse impacts of climate change – its population, ecosystems and unique biodiversity will all be the major victims of global climate change.”

This is how clear the Nairobi-based United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is when it comes to assessing the negative impact of climate change on this continent of 54 countries with a combined population of over 1,200 billion inhabitants. “No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa.”

Other international organisations are similarly trenchant. For instance, the World Bank, basing on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, confirms that Africa is becoming the most exposed region in the world to the impacts of climate change.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, extreme weather will cause dry areas to become drier and wet areas wetter; agriculture yields will suffer from crop failures; and diseases will spread to new altitudes, say the World Bank experts, while alerting that by 2030 it is expected that 90 million more people in Africa will be exposed to malaria, “already the biggest killer in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

These and other dramatic conclusions are not new to the World Bank specialists. In fact, they alerted five years ago that the African continent has warmed about half a degree over the last century and the average annual temperature is likely to rise an average of 1.5-4°C by 2099, according to the most recent estimates from the IPCC.

Meanwhile, UNEP’s experts explain that, given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the “considerably limited adaptive capacity, exacerbated by widespread poverty and the existing low levels of development.”

What Is at Stake?

The facts are striking as mentioned in UNEP’ summary of the projected impacts of climate change in Africa. See UNEP’s fact sheet “Climate Change in Africa – What Is at Sake?”, which is based on excerpts from IPCC reports:

— By 2020, between 75 and 250 million people in Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change.

— By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.

— Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition.

— Towards the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations.

— By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8 per cent of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios,

— The cost of adaptation could amount to at least 5 to 10% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Furthermore, the African chapter of IPCC Report on Regional Climate Projections provide some key factors:

Temperatures: By 2050, average temperatures in Africa are predicted to increase by 1.5 to 3°C, and will continue further upwards beyond this time. Warming is very likely to be larger than the global annual mean warming throughout the continent and in all seasons, with drier subtropical regions warming more than the moister tropics.

Ecosystems: It is estimated that, by the 2080s, the proportion of arid and semi-arid lands in Africa is likely to increase by 5-8 per cent. Ecosystems are critical in Africa, contributing significantly to biodiversity and human well-being.

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest. Communities look to protect ecosystems for livelihoods, following a disease that devastated their coconut plantations. Credit: UNEP

Mozambique: Investing in Environment Pays off for the Poorest. Communities look to protect ecosystems for livelihoods, following a disease that devastated their coconut plantations. Credit: UNEP

Between 25 and 40 per cent of mammal species in national parks in sub-Saharan Africa will become endangered. There is evidence that climate is modifying natural mountain ecosystems via complex interactions and feedbacks.

Rainfall: There will also be major changes in rainfall in terms of annual and seasonal trends, and extreme events of flood and drought.

Annual rainfall is likely to decrease in much of Mediterranean Africa and the northern Sahara, with a greater likelihood of decreasing rainfall as the Mediterranean coast is approached.

Droughts: By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8 per cent of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios. Droughts have become more common, especially in the tropics and subtropics, since the 1970s.

Human health, already compromised by a range of factors, could be further negatively impacted by climate change and climate variability, e.g., malaria in southern Africa and the East African highlands.

Water: By 2020, a population of between 75 and 250 million and 350-600 million by 2050, are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. Climate change and variability are likely to impose additional pressures on water availability, water accessibility and water demand in Africa.

In Ethiopia, owners bring their livestock to sell for destocking purposes. El Niño impacts have made it necessary to reduce herd sizes. Credit: FAO

In Ethiopia, owners bring their livestock to sell for destocking purposes. El Niño impacts have made it necessary to reduce herd sizes. Credit: FAO

Agriculture: By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 per cent.

Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. Projected reductions in yield in some countries could be as much as 50 per cent by 2020, and crop net revenues could fall by as much as 90 per cent by 2100, with small-scale farmers being the most affected.

Sea-level rise: Africa has close to 320 coastal cities –with more than 10,000 people– and an estimated population of 56 million people (2005 estimate) living in low elevation (10-m) coastal zones. Toward the end of the 21st century, projected sea level rise will affect low-lying coastal areas with large populations.

Energy: Access to energy is severely constrained in sub-Saharan Africa, with an estimated 51 per cent of urban populations and only about 8 per cent of rural populations having access to electricity. Extreme poverty and the lack of access to other fuels mean that 80 per cent of the overall African population relies primarily on biomass to meet its residential needs, with this fuel source supplying more than 80 per cent of the energy consumed in sub-Saharan Africa.

Further challenges from urbanisation, rising energy demands and volatile oil prices further compound energy issues in Africa.

Agriculture Pays the Price

Another concerned United Nations body–the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) focuses on the threat climate changes poses to agriculture. “Climate change is emerging as a major challenge to agriculture development in Africa,” FAO reports.

A Zimbabwean subsistence farmer holds a stunted maize cob in his field outside Harare. Credit: FAO

A Zimbabwean subsistence farmer holds a stunted maize cob in his field outside Harare. Credit: FAO

It explains that the increasingly unpredictable and erratic nature of weather systems on the continent have placed an extra burden on food security and rural livelihoods.

“Agriculture is expected to pay a significant cost of the damage caused by climate change.”

The agriculture sector is also likely to experience periods of prolonged droughts and /or floods during El- Nino events. And fisheries will be particularly affected due to changes in sea temperatures that could decrease trends in productivity by 50-60 per cent.

(End)

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Climate Change and the Middle East (II) No Water in the Kingdom of the Two Seas—Nor Elsewherehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/climate-change-and-the-middle-east-ii-no-water-in-the-kingdom-of-the-two-seas-nor-elsewhere/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 16:24:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144674 This is part II of a two-part series of reports focusing on the impact of climate change on the Middle East & North of Africa region, ahead of the signing ceremony of the Paris climate agreement, on 22 April 2016 in New York. Part I: Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?]]> In Somaliland and Puntland, close to two million people are affected by the drought amid the El Niño phenomenon. Somalia is a member of the League of Arab States. Photo credit: WFP/Petterik Wiggers

In Somaliland and Puntland, close to two million people are affected by the drought amid the El Niño phenomenon. Somalia is a member of the League of Arab States. Photo credit: WFP/Petterik Wiggers

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

There is an oil producing country situated in the Gulf region, made of a cluster of islands. It is small, surface and population wise. But it holds the dubious privilege of ranking top of the list out of the 33 countries most likely to be water-stressed in the year 2040.

This country is the “Mamlakat Al Bahrain” (the Kingdom of the Two Seas) or simply Bahrain.

Distant only 200 kilometres from Iran, Bahrain’s largest island is linked to Saudi Arabia by the 25 km-long King Fahd Causeway. The Kingdom extends over just 765 km2, and is home to 1,4 million people.

Considered as the “white gold” –as opposed to the “black gold”—oil, water scarcity has become one of the major concerns of Bahrain in spite of the fact that it has a high Human Development Index and was recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy.

It’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita amounts to 29,140 US Dollars. And it is home to the headquarters for the United States Naval Forces Central Command/United States Fifth Fleet.

All the above does not suffice to make Bahrainis happy. In fact, their country leads the list of 14 out of the 33 countries most likely to be water-stressed in 2040 –all of them situated in the Middle East– including nine considered extremely highly stressed according to the World Resources Institute (WRI).

After Bahrain comes Kuwait, Lebanon, Palestine, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Other Middle East Arab countries more or less share with Bahrain this front line position of water-stressed states. These are Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. All of them hold a very close second position in the region’ s water-stress ranking.

The total represents two thirds of the 22 Arab countries. Not that the remaining Arab states are water-safe. Not at all: Mauritania, in the far Maghreb West, and Egypt, at the opposite end, are already under heavy threat as well.

The whole region, already arguably the least water-secure in the world, draws heavily on groundwater and desalinated sea water, and faces exceptional water-related challenges for the foreseeable future, says the WRI’s report: Ranking the World’s Most Water-Stressed Countries in 2040.

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent food security issues facing Near East and North Africa countries: fresh water availability in the region is expected to drop by 50% by year 2050. Photo credit: FAO / Marco Longari

Water scarcity is one of the most urgent food security issues facing Near East and North Africa countries: fresh water availability in the region is expected to drop by 50% by year 2050. Photo credit: FAO / Marco Longari

The report’s authors Andrew Maddocks, Robert Samuel Young and Paul Reig foresee that world’s demand for water, including of course the Middle East, is likely to surge in the next few decades.

“Rapidly growing populations will drive increased consumption by people, farms and companies. More people will move to cities, further straining supplies. An emerging middle class could clamor for more water-intensive food production and electricity generation.”

But it’s not clear where all that water will come from, they say. “Climate change is expected to make some areas drier and others wetter. As precipitation extremes increase in some regions, affected communities face greater threats from droughts and floods.”

While changing water supply and demand is inevitable, exactly what that change will look like around the world is far from certain. A first-of-its-kind analysis by WRI sheds new light on the issue.

Using an ensemble of climate models and socioeconomic scenarios, WRI scored and ranked future water stress—a measure of competition and depletion of surface water—in 167 countries by 2020, 2030, and 2040.

“We found that 33 countries face extremely high water stress in 2040 (see the full list). We also found that Chile, Estonia, Namibia, and Botswana could face an especially significant increase in water stress by 2040. This means that businesses, farms, and communities in these countries in particular may be more vulnerable to scarcity than they are today,” say the authors.

Specialised studies coincide that water consumption in the Arab region has doubled five times in the past fifty years, with an estimated annual consumption of about 230 billion cubic meters, of which 43 billion cubic meters used for drinking and the industry, and 187 billion cubic meters for agriculture.

Poverty of the Arab region with regard to water resources is reflected in water insecurity for human beings and agriculture. While water consumption per capit is estimated in at least one 1,000 cubic meters a year according to the global rate, the average Arab citizen’s share comes down to nearly 500 cubic meters per year, this placing Arab countries below the water poverty line.

This comes at a time when the Arab region has not taken advantage of its water resources of about 340 billion cubic meters, using only 50 per cent. The rest is lost and wasted.

Regarding the North of Africa, the Egyptian Ministry for Environment has recently admitted that large extensions of the country’s Northern area of the Nile Delta, which represents the most important and extensive agricultural region in Egypt, is already heavily exposed to two dangerous effects: salinasation and flooding. This is due to the rise of the Mediterranean Sea water levels and the land depression.

The impact of global warming and growing heat waves is particularly worrying the Egyptian authorities as it might reduce the flow of the Nile water in up to 80 per cent according to latest estimates. All this adds to the loss of massive investments made to promote domestic and foreign tourism.

Meanwhile, Syria, Jordan and Iraq would be sentenced to a similar fate.

In some Middle East countries, water scarcity will increase conflictivity among Bedouin population who survive thanks to pasturage.

Dr. Moslem Shatout, the Cairo-based professor of Sun and Space Research and Deputy Chairman of the Arab Union for Astronomy and Space Sciences, considers that the Arab North African countries are among the most affected, by large, by the climate change impact.

Satellites monitoring, in particular those carried out by the US-French satellite, have detected between 1991 and 2005, a global rise in the sea levels of 3 millimetres per year, “but given that the Mediterranean is a semi-closed sea this rise reaches 8 millimetres per year.”

In Morocco, the effect of global warming and water scarcity have already forced farmers to cultivate only one third of the lands they used to farm.

A similar situation is being witnessed in Algeria, with a much worse situation in Mauritania.

In the case of Morocco and Algeria, while expected rainfalls should be of at least 400 millimetres/year, the last five years this amount went down to just 200 millimetres, that’s half of the minimum needed.

Last but not least: while Morocco and Algeria have high rocky coasts, this protecting them from sea floods, Arab countries situated at the East of the Mediterranean sea, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, are exposed to floods.

(End)

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A World Drowning in Oilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-world-drowning-in-oil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-world-drowning-in-oil http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/a-world-drowning-in-oil/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 12:37:16 +0000 N Chandra Mohan http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144665 By N Chandra Mohan
DOHA, Qatar, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

Thanks to tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, major oil producers couldn’t come to an agreement in Doha to freeze their output to January levels to raise oil prices. The current low oil prices have a lot to do with the grim outlook for global economic growth while supply is growing. China, the second largest economy in the world, is slowing down. Not surprisingly, global oil demand is much lower at 94.8 million barrels a day vis-à-vis supply of 96.3 million barrels a day in the first quarter of 2016 according to the International Energy Agency.

N Chandra Mohan

N Chandra Mohan

Low prices are no doubt hurting producers like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar, forcing them to run huge deficits as their oil revenues shrink while expenditures keep mounting. Iran, which is just free from US sanctions, too, wants to sell as much as possible to modernise its economy. Paradoxically, these talks to curb rather than cut output have failed when major oil producers are pumping as much oil as possible. Saudi Arabia, for instance, produced 10.2 million barrels a day in March, close to previous record highs. How then can prices start rising again?

For such reasons, a freeze – even if it did materialise — is unlikely to have made much of an impact in getting prices back up again. The current levels of Brent crude at $40 a barrel reflect excess supply. The global oil market is nervous that Saudi Arabia’s tension with Iran for dominance in West Asia can get out of hand. Geopolitical tensions in Syria, Libya and Iraq are also fast-escalating. Although prices can spike upwards, they are kept low by excess supply as demand is declining due to weaker global growth. But with lower US shale oil production, supply and demand may balance later this year.

Instead of a freeze, an excess supply situation normally ought to signal to dominant producers like Saudi Arabia or the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to cut production to avoid a build-up of stock and ensure higher prices. But this is exactly what they have chosen not to do for geopolitical reasons. One year ago, Ali Ali-Naimi, Saudi’s oil minister asked “Why should we cut production?” on the sidelights of a climate conference in Lima. The Saudis resistance to lowering oil output is to squeeze out high cost producers and rivals like shale oil producers in the US and Iran.

The House of Saud and allies like Kuwait and the UAE were ready for prices even as low as even $20 a barrel. There is no doubt that low prices adversely affect the economics of oil extraction from shale. The US is now self-sufficient for its energy requirements and has emerged as a major swing producer in the global oil market. But in recent months, there are signs that shale producers in that country are experiencing a boom-bust cycle and the decks are being cleared for a decline in shale oil production. The Saudis expect higher prices to reflect such factors on the ground.

Saudi Arabia’s compulsions of late have changed due to rapidly dwindling coffers and losing out in 9 out of 15 key markets where it sold oil from 2013 to 2015 according to Financial Times. Its share of China’s imports thus has dropped from 19.4 per cent to 15.4 per cent over this period. Today, the Saudis prefer oil prices in the range of $60 to $80 a barrel to encourage demand and discourage supplies from high cost non-OPEC producers. But the contradiction is that they are now stepping up than cutting production to shore up their budgets and contributing to the persistence of global excess supply.

All of this ensures Brent crude prices that are no different from 2015. In any case, a production freeze can only succeed if all the major oil producers, including Iran, agree to do so. Iran, for its part, did not participate in this meeting in Doha. When both oil producers pump up more and more oil, how will prices rise? Saudi Arabia needs oil at $95.8 a barrel for its budget to balance. Iran needs oil at $70.4 a barrel according to the International Monetary Fund. The yawning gap between the current Brent crude and fiscal break-even prices is the difference between reality and unrealistic budgetary hopes.

If global oil prices remain depressed, the Gulf economies need to envision a future beyond oil. as we have written earlier. This is bad news for the millions of expatriate workers from South Asian countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal who work in these economies. If the oil revenue-financed boom is over, many of them will be forced to return home. Already there are signs that remittances are declining. A world drowning in oil spells the end of the Gulf dream as major economies register slower growth in the rest of this year and beyond.

(End)

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Climate Change (I)Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/will-the-middle-east-become-uninhabitable/#comments Mon, 18 Apr 2016 11:43:50 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144663 This is the first of a two-part series of reports focusing on the impact of climate change on the Middle East & North of Africa region, ahead of the signing ceremony of the Paris climate agreement, on 22 April 2016 in New York. Part II will address the dramatic issue of water scarcity in the region.]]> Middle East map of Köppen climate classification | 20 February 2016 | Derived from World Koppen Classification.svg.| Enhanced, modified, and vectorized by Ali Zifan.| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.| en.wikipedia

Middle East map of Köppen climate classification | 20 February 2016 | Derived from World Koppen Classification.svg.| Enhanced, modified, and vectorized by Ali Zifan.| Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.| en.wikipedia

By Baher Kamal
CAIRO, Apr 18 2016 (IPS)

This is not about any alarming header—it is the dramatic conclusion of several scientific studies about the on-going climate change impact on the Middle East region, particularly in the Gulf area. The examples are stark.

“Within this century, parts of the Persian Gulf region could be hit with unprecedented events of deadly heat as a result of climate change, according to a study of high-resolution climate models,” a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research warned.

The research–titled “Persian Gulf could experience deadly heat”, reveals details of a business-as-usual scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, but also shows that curbing emissions could forestall these “deadly temperature extremes.”

The study, which was published in detail ahead of the Paris climate summit in the journal Nature Climate Change, was conducted by Elfatih Eltahir, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, and Jeremy Pal PhD ’01 at Loyola Marymount University.

The authors conclude that conditions in the Persian Gulf region, including its shallow water and intense sun, make it “a specific regional hotspot where climate change, in absence of significant mitigation, is likely to severely impact human habitability in the future.”

Running high-resolution versions of standard climate models, Eltahir and Pal found that many major cities in the region could exceed a tipping point for human survival, even in shaded and well-ventilated spaces. Eltahir says this threshold “has, as far as we know … never been reported for any location on Earth.”

MIT, which was founded in 1861 with the stated mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century, alerts that “detailed climate simulation shows a threshold of survivability could be crossed without mitigation measures.”

The research, which was supported by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Science, reveals that the tipping point involves a measurement called the “wet-bulb temperature” that combines temperature and humidity, reflecting conditions the human body could maintain without artificial cooling, the say.

That threshold for survival for more than six unprotected hours is 35 degrees Celsius, or about 95 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the recently published research.

The severe danger to human health and life occurs when such temperatures are sustained for several hours, Eltahir says — which the models show would occur several times in a 30-year period toward the end of the century under the business-as-usual scenario used as a benchmark by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

An Even Hotter and Drier Middle East

For its part, the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change latest assessment warns that the climate is predicted to become even hotter and drier in most of the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region.

Higher temperatures and reduced precipitation will increase the occurrence of droughts, an effect that is already materializing in the Maghreb,” says the World Bank while citing the IPCC assessment.

A scene in the high desert right outside of Marrakech, Morocco. A shepherd is guiding his sheep through the landscape in search of vegetation. | Credit: Johntarantino1 | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

A scene in the high desert right outside of Marrakech, Morocco. A shepherd is guiding his sheep through the landscape in search of vegetation. | Credit: Johntarantino1 | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

“It is further estimated that an additional 80–100 million people will be exposed by 2025 to water stress, which is likely to result in increased pressure on groundwater resources, which are currently being extracted in most areas beyond the aquifers’ recharge potential.”

In addition, agriculture yields, especially in rain fed areas, are expected to fluctuate more widely, ultimately falling to a significantly lower long-term average.

“In urban areas in North Africa, a temperature increase of 1-3 degrees could expose 6–25 million people to coastal flooding. In addition, heat waves, an increased “heat island effect,” water scarcity, decreasing water quality, worsening air quality, and ground ozone formation are likely to affect public health, and more generally lead to challenging living conditions.”

The World Bank report “Adaptation to Climate Change in the Middle East and North Africa Region” warns that the Middle East and North Africa region is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

“It is one of the world’s most water-scarce and dry regions; with a high dependency on climate-sensitive agriculture and a large share of its population and economic activity in flood-prone urban coastal zones.”

On the other hand, the report adds, societies of this region have been under pressure to adapt to water scarcity and heat for thousands of years, and have developed various technical solutions and institutional mechanisms to deal with these environmental constraints.

While global models predict sea levels rising from about 0.1 to 0.3 meters by the year 2050, and from about 0.1 to 0.9 meters by 2100, the World Bank says, for MENA, the social, economic, and ecological impacts are expected to be relatively higher compared to the rest of the world. Low-lying coastal areas in Tunisia, Qatar, Libya, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and specially Egypt are at particular risk.

Climate change also poses many challenges to the region’s cities, which represent hubs for economic, social, cultural and political activities. Rising sea level could affect 43 port cities—24 in the Middle East and 19 in North Africa, according to the World Bank study.

“In the case of Alexandria, Egypt, a 0.5 meter rise would leave more than 2 million people displaced, with 35 billion dollars in losses in land, property, and infrastructure, as well as incalculable losses of historic and cultural assets.” (TO BE CONTINUED)

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Can an Animal Heist Fable Help Solve the Middle East Crisis?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/can-an-animal-heist-fable-help-solve-the-middle-east-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=can-an-animal-heist-fable-help-solve-the-middle-east-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/can-an-animal-heist-fable-help-solve-the-middle-east-crisis/#comments Fri, 15 Apr 2016 15:37:20 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144639 A scene from the film, Giraffada, directed by Rani Massalha and produced by Pyramide Films. The film was screened at the UN on 7 April 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Pyramide Films | Source: UN News Centre

A scene from the film, Giraffada, directed by Rani Massalha and produced by Pyramide Films. The film was screened at the UN on 7 April 2016. Photo: Courtesy of Pyramide Films | Source: UN News Centre

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 15 2016 (IPS)

Make no mistake-the Middle East is the longest and perhaps the most complex crisis in recent History, this explaining the innumerable, successive –and frustrating- attempts to solve it.

Now, while expecting the US president Barack Obama to follow the “tradition” of his predecessors of calling for a big summit in Washington to talk about this crisis as one of his last official acts, an animal heist fable has just appeared as a new try to serve as poignant metaphor for Middle East relations.

See what is this all about: A 4.5 meter giraffe is one of the main characters in Giraffada, a film shown on April 13 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, depicting the struggles of living in a Palestinian town as seen through the eyes of a young boy who has a close connection with the animal.

The award-winning production’s title is a cross between “giraffe” and “intifada” or Palestinian “uprising,” the director Rani Massalha told the UN News Centre in an interview ahead of the screening.

“The film is set during the second Intifada,” Massalha said, referring to a period of intensified Israeli-Palestinian violence from September 2000 to February 2005.

The film focuses on a widowed Palestinian veterinarian, Yacine, and his 10-year-old son, Ziad, who are trying to keep a giraffe named Rita from dying of loneliness after her partner is killed in an Israeli air raid. The only viable solution is for Rita to be placed in a zoo in Tel Aviv, Israel, or so it seems.

Created as a fable, the film shows “what it is to be a kid in West Bank today living in war, living with a wall surrounding you, with checkpoints, colonies, it’s a very different childhood from people in the West,” the director said.

In one of the most emotional scenes in the film, a giraffe meanders through Palestinian streets, temporarily stopping day activities, such as shopping and praying, as people watch in jaw-dropping disbelief.

“The giraffe is the tallest animal in nature so it sees man from above looking down,” Massalha said, a reference to the height giving the animal perspective to see the situation in the Middle East as it is, not politicized.

The director also used giraffes as a metaphor for how the relationship between the Israelis and Palestinians could be, with two giraffes coming together from both sides of the West Bank barrier, known simply as the wall.

In this interview clip, Massalha discusses how he came up with the idea of having the world’s tallest land animal star in the film, and the connection with hope for peace in the Middle East.

The screening was organised under the auspices of the UN Working Group of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Deputy Permanent Representative of Malta to the United Nations and Chairperson of the Working Group, Natasha Meli-Daudey, said the film was chosen because of its portrayal of “the reality of the conflict and the impact of the Israeli occupation on the daily life of Palestinian adults and children.”

“We thought the film was well suited to inform a UN and broader New York audience about such topics,” she continued, adding that more than 500 people, including children, attended the screening.

The film’s human characters include different portrayals of Israeli and Palestinian personalities, often with fluid stereotypes. The characters include an Israeli veterinarian, who is actually played by an Arab actor of Moroccan descent, and whose help is integral to the plot’s success.

In contrast, there is an angry confrontation between the characters and a gun-wielding Israeli settler.

Despite it being a film with animals, shown through a child’s eyes, there are scenes that touch on the brutality of living in a war zone. Rather than give away the film’s ending, the UN News Centre asked Massalha to explain one of the scenes from the film

The ‘Two-State Solution Is in Danger’

All this is fine. The point is that only one day after the film screening, a new UN report warned that the viability of a two-state solution –which envisages peaceful co-existence of both Israel and Palestine– is in danger due to the negative trends on the ground, including recent violence, on-going settlement activity, demolitions, incitement, and the absence of Palestinian unity.

The report, issued on April 14 by the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), highlights an increase in settlement activities by Israel and a further consolidation of Israeli control over the West Bank.

It underscores that the demolition of Palestinian homes and livelihood structures more than doubled in the reporting period as compared with the previous six months, noting that the total demolitions by mid-April already exceeded last year’s total. The report also expresses concern over Palestinian access to land and natural resources in ‘Area C’ of the West Bank, among other development factors.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has condemned the April 6 large scale home demolitions by Israeli authorities in the Bedouin refugee community of Um al Khayr in the South Hebron Hills.

A boy in the Bedouin refugee community of Um al Khayr in the South Hebron Hills where large scale home demolitions by Israeli authorities took place. Credit: UNRWA

A boy in the Bedouin refugee community of Um al Khayr in the South Hebron Hills where large scale home demolitions by Israeli authorities took place. Credit: UNRWA


As a result, according to UNRWA, 31 Palestine refugees, including 16 children, were made homeless in a community that has endured several rounds of demolitions and often faced harassment from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Karmel.

Already this year, over 700 Palestinians have been displaced by Israeli demolitions in the West Bank. This figure is approaching the total number of displaced for all of 2015, said Lance Bartholomeusz, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank, who stated that he was “appalled” by the “unjustifiable” demolitions, which are in violation of international law.

“As the UN has said repeatedly, these demolitions must stop,” said UNRWA.

Regarding the Palestinian side, the new UNSCO report notes that despite continuing reconciliation discussions held in February and March between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Qatar, no consensus has been reached on achieving genuine Palestinian unity.

“The formation of a national unity government and the holding of elections are vital to laying the foundations of a future Palestinian state,” the report adds.

Degenerated Human Rights Situation

Citing a protracted humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, the report says that “some 1.1 million people in the West Bank and some 1.3 million in Gaza, over 900,000 of them refugees, need some form of humanitarian assistance in 2016.”

The report stresses that the human rights situation degenerated with the dramatic rise in clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli Security Forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, increased instances of punitive measures against families of alleged perpetrators of attacks, and administrative detentions.

The new UN report will be presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) at its bi-annual meeting in Brussels on 19 April. The Committee, chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the European Union and the United States, serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Merely three weeks ago, the UN envoy for the peace process in the Middle East warned the Security Council that the prospects for an independent Palestinian state are disappearing, and questioned the political will of the Israeli and Palestinian actors to address the main challenges blocking peace efforts.

“The time has come to ring the alarm bells that the two-state solution is slipping from our fingers,” on 24 March said Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, pointing to ongoing Israeli settlement activities and confiscation of Palestinian land, as well as the continued lack of genuine Palestinian unity.

(End)

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Desert Locust Invading Yemen, More Arab Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/desert-locust-invading-yemen-more-arab-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=desert-locust-invading-yemen-more-arab-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/desert-locust-invading-yemen-more-arab-states/#comments Wed, 13 Apr 2016 16:32:31 +0000 Kareem Ezzat http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144603 Juvenile desert locust hoppers. Photo: FAO/G.Tortoli

Juvenile desert locust hoppers. Photo: FAO/G.Tortoli

By Kareem Ezzat
CAIRO, Apr 13 2016 (IPS)

Now that Yemenis begin to hope that their year-long armed conflict may come to an end as a result of the Gulf Cooperation Council and the United Nations sponsored round of talks between the parties in dispute, scheduled on 18 April in Kuwait, a new threat to their already desperate humanitarian crisis has just appeared in the form of a much feared massive desert locust invasion.

“The presence of recently discovered Desert Locust infestations in Yemen, where conflict is severely hampering control operations, poses a potential threat to crops in the region,” the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned.

On 12 April the FAO also urged neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran, to mobilise survey and control teams and to take all necessary measures to prevent the destructive insects from reaching breeding areas situated in their respective territories.

The desert locust threat poses high risks not only to the Southern region of the Gulf, but also to North of Africa, FAO said and warned that strict vigilance is also required in Morocco and Algeria, especially in areas south of the Atlas Mountains, which could become possible breeding grounds for Desert Locust that have gathered in parts of the Western Sahara, Morocco and Mauritania.

Climate change appears among the major causes of the destructive plague, as groups of juvenile wingless hoppers and adults as well as hopper bands and at least one swarm formed on the southern coast of Yemen in March where heavy rains associated with tropical cyclones Chapala and Megh fell in November 2015.

“The extent of current Desert Locust breeding in Yemen is not fully known since survey teams are unable to access most areas. However, as vegetation dries out along the coast, more groups, bands and small swarms are likely to form,” said Keith Cressman, FAO Senior Locust Forecasting Officer.

Cressman noted that a moderate risk exists that Desert Locusts will move into the interior of southern Yemen, perhaps reaching spring breeding areas in the interior of central Saudi Arabia and northern Oman.

There is a possibility that this movement could continue to the United Arab Emirates where a few small swarms may appear and transit through the country before arriving in areas of recent rainfall in southeast Iran.

For its part, the Cairo-based FAO Regional office for the Middle East and North of Africa reported that the organisation is currently assisting technical teams from Yemen’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation in conducting field survey and control operations in infested coastal areas.

As for the North of Africa, the UN agency has also warned that in the North Western region, small groups and perhaps a few small swarms could find suitable breeding areas in Morocco, Mauritania, and Algeria. In addition, some small-scale Desert Locust breeding is likely to occur in South Western Libya, but numbers should remain low.

Elsewhere, the situation remains calm with only low numbers of adults present in northern Mali and Niger, South West Libya, southeast Egypt and North East Oman.

A Force of Nature?

Desert Locust hoppers can form vast ground-based bands. These can eventually turn into adult locust swarms, which, numbering in the tens of millions can fly up to 150 km a day with the wind.

Female locusts can lay 300 eggs within their lifetime while an adult insect can consume roughly its own weight in fresh food per day — about two grams every day.

A very small swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 35,000 people and the devastating impact locusts can have on crops poses a major threat to food security, especially in already vulnerable areas.

Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Photo: FAO/Giampiero Diana

Locusts can devastate crops and pastures. Photo: FAO/Giampiero Diana


Locust monitoring, early warning and preventive control measures are believed to have played an important role in the decline in the frequency and duration of plagues since the 1960s; however, today climate change is leading to more frequent, unpredictable and extreme weather and poses fresh challenges on how to monitor and respond to locust activity.

FAO operates a Desert Locust Information Service that receives data from locust-affected countries. This information is regularly analysed together with weather and habitat data and satellite imagery in order to assess the current locust situation, provide forecasts up to six weeks in advance and if required issue warnings and alerts.

It also undertakes field assessment missions and coordinates survey and control operations as well as assistance during locust emergencies. Its three regional locust commissions provide regular training and strengthen national capacities in survey, control and planning.

A Disastrous Year

2015 was a disastrous year for Yemen, which is home to around 27 million people living over an area of more than 528,000 km2. Already the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country, the rise of the Houthi insurgency and Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes intended to oust them from power led to a full-blown humanitarian disaster. And then in November, coastal regions were hit by the most powerful storm in decades, causing displacement and flooding.

Services are the largest economic sector in Yemen (61.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product-GDP), followed by the industrial sector (30.9 per cent), and agriculture (7.7 per cent). Of these, petroleum production represents around 25 per cent of GDP and 63 per cent of the State revenue.

In recent decade, agriculture represented between 18–27% of the GDP, but this percentage has been shrinking due to emigration of rural labour, among others. Main agricultural commodities produced in Yemen include grain, vegetables, fruits, pulses, gat, coffee, cotton, dairy products, fish, livestock (sheep, goats, cattle, camels), and poultry.

Nevertheless, most Yemenis are employed in agriculture. Sorghum is the most common crop. Cotton and many fruit trees are also grown, with `mangoes being the most valuable.

Regarding the on-going humanitarian crisis, one year on into the conflict in Yemen, tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed or injured, one in 10 are displaced and nearly the entire population is in urgent need of aid, the top UN humanitarian official in the country stated on 22 March 2016.

Credit: Almigdad Mojalli / IRIN

Credit: Almigdad Mojalli / IRIN


“It has been a terrible year for Yemen, during which a war peppered with airstrikes, shelling and violence had raged on in the already impoverished country,” added Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.

Shelling of ports and airports, resulting in blockades and congestion, is one of the drivers of the humanitarian crisis, McGoldrick said, noting that health workers cannot reach patients and some 90 per cent of the food has to be imported.

“The country had extremely high levels of poverty before the war, and currently, the war has escalated, in an already fragile environment,” said the aid official.

Some 6,400 people have been killed in the past year, half of them civilians, and more than 30,000 are injured, with 2.5 million people displaced, according to figures from the UN World Health Organization (WHO). And more than 20 million people, or 80 per cent of the population, require some form of aid – about 14 million people in need of food and even more in need of water or sanitation.

The UN has appealed for 1.8 billion dollars for food, water, health care and shelter and protection issues, but only 12 per cent has been funded so far.

Bettina Luescher, senior communications officer for the World Food Programme (WFP) recently said in Geneva that shortages have forced the agency to cut rations to 75 per cent of a full ratio so that enough people could eat. “Yemen should not be forgotten, with all the attention focused on the Syria crisis,” she said.

(End)

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‘Little Boy’ Devouring African Foodhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/little-boy-devouring-african-food/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=little-boy-devouring-african-food http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/little-boy-devouring-african-food/#comments Thu, 07 Apr 2016 15:51:52 +0000 Jeff Williams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144520 Credit: Anne Holmes/IPS

Credit: Anne Holmes/IPS

By Jeff Williams
Mombasa, Kenya, Apr 7 2016 (IPS)

There is a ‘Little Boy’ who has nothing to do with the atomic bomb that the United States dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. This time it is about another ‘Little Boy’ who has been devastating the harvests in many regions, especially in Africa.

This ‘Little Boy’ (from El Niño in Spanish) is a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific including the coasts of South America. In Latin America the term “El Niño” refers to the Child Jesus, so named because the pool of warm water in the Pacific near South America is often at its warmest around Christmas.

In other words, the current El Niño, which in 2015 and 2016 has been among the strongest on record, affects the climate world wide, unleashing more floods in some areas and longer periods of droughts in others, as well as stronger typhoons and cyclones.

The point is that developing countries dependent upon agriculture and fishing, particularly those bordering the Pacific Ocean, are the most affected by ‘Little Boy’.

In the specific case of Africa, this adds a new, heavy burden on food production in this vast continent, which is home to 54 countries with a total combined population of more than 1,2 billion inhabitants. Why?

On the one hand, because while roughly one-third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year —around 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted, these losses are particularly dramatic in Africa where 220 million people—one in five Africans, are estimated to be undernourished.

On the other hand, the collapse of commodities prices all over the world has severely impacted Africa, where agriculture still represents a major source of income.

The climate-induced crop failures -including those caused by the on-going El Niño phenomenon– have further compounded the food insecurity situation in the affected parts of Eastern and Southern Africa.

The UN agency in charge of food and agriculture on 24 March 2016 stressed in Harare the need for a shift in focus to not only increase productivity at farm level, but also to improve post-production handling among smallholder farmers and other value chain actors.

Shortly before, the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on 12 February informed that Southern Africa was in the grip of an intense drought that has expanded and strengthened since the earliest stages of the 2015-2016 agricultural season, driven by one of the strongest El Niño events of the last 50 years.

Across large swathes of Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, and Madagascar, the current rainfall season has so far been the driest in the last 35 years.

Dry, cracked soil. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

Dry, cracked soil. Credit: Mauricio Ramos/IPS

Agricultural areas in northern Namibia and southern Angola have also experienced high levels of water deficit, FAO said in a joint statement with Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET); the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“Much of the southern African sub-region has consequently experienced significant delays in planting and very poor conditions for early crop development and pasture re-growth. In many areas, planting has not been possible due to 30 to 50 day delays in the onset of seasonal rains resulting in widespread crop failure.”

Little Hope

Although there has been some relief since mid-January in certain areas, the window of opportunity for the successful planting of crops under rain-fed conditions is nearly closed, FAO, WFP and FEWS NET alerted. Even assuming normal rainfall for the remainder of the season, crop-water balance models indicate poor performance of maize over a widespread area.

“Seasonal forecasts from a variety of sources are unanimous in predicting a continuation of below-average rainfall and above-average temperatures across most of the region for the remainder of the growing season.”

The combination of a poor 2014-2015 season, an extremely dry early season (October to December) and forecasts for continuing hot and drier-than-average conditions through mid-2016, suggest a scenario of extensive, regional-scale crop failure.

South Africa has issued a preliminary forecast of maize production for the coming harvest of 7.4 million tonnes, a drop of 25 per cent from the already poor production levels of last season and 36 per cent below the previous five-year average.

These conditions follow a 2014-2015 agricultural season that was similarly characterised by hot, dry conditions and a 23 percent drop in regional cereal production.

This drop has increased the region’s vulnerability due to the depletion of regional cereal stocks and higher-than-average food prices, and has substantially increased food insecurity, FAO and its partners reported.

For its part, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) stated that even before the current crisis began, the number of food-insecure people in the region (not including South Africa), already stood at 14 million.

As of early February, Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) estimated that, of this total, at least 2.5 million people are in crisis and require urgent humanitarian assistance to protect livelihoods and household food consumption.

The numbers of the food insecure population are now increasing due to the current drought and high market prices (maize prices in South Africa and Malawi were at record highs in January).

Consequently, drought emergencies have been declared in most of South Africa’s provinces as well as in Zimbabwe and Lesotho. Water authorities in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa and Namibia are limiting water usage because of low water levels.

And power outages have been occurring in Zambia and Zimbabwe as water levels at the Kariba Dam have become much lower than usual.

“While it is too early to provide detailed estimates of the population likely to be food-insecure in 2016-2017, it is expected that the population in need of emergency food assistance and livelihood recovery support will increase significantly. Additional assistance will be required to help food-insecure households manage an extended 2016 lean season,” says the joint statement.

Ethiopia’s Worst Drought in 30 Years

This weather phenomenon, aggravated by climate change, has also strongly hit Eastern Africa. This is the case of Ethiopia, which has been battling its worst drought in 30 years due to the El Niño weather pattern, with 8.2 million people already in urgent need of food aid.

The United Nations sent an emergency health team to help support the Government’s response to a crisis that is expected to become even worse over the next eight months.

“The food security emergency is coming against a background of multiple on-going epidemics in the country,” the interim Director of Emergency Risk Management and Humanitarian Response at the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), said Michelle Gayer on 4 December 2015 in Geneva.

“This creates an additional burden for people’s health as well as the health system as malnutrition, especially in children, predisposes them to more severe infectious disease, which can kill quickly,” she added.

Ethiopia has experienced two poor growing seasons in 2015. Due to delayed rains attributed to El Niño, its main annual harvest was severely reduced.

Every month since January has seen an increase in the number of malnourished children, with 400,000 likely to face severe malnutrition in 2016, according to WHO. Moreover, some 700,000 expectant and new mothers are at risk for severe malnutrition.

(End)

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Want to Feel Fit? Eat Falafel, Dahl, Cow Pea and…!http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/want-to-feel-fit-eat-falafel-dahl-cow-pea-and/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=want-to-feel-fit-eat-falafel-dahl-cow-pea-and http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/want-to-feel-fit-eat-falafel-dahl-cow-pea-and/#comments Wed, 06 Apr 2016 18:07:52 +0000 Osman Sharif http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144499 Credit: Courtesy FAO

Credit: Courtesy FAO

By Osman Sharif
CASABLANCA, Morocco, Apr 6 2016 (IPS)

This is not a minor issue. Chickpea, faba bean, lentil, common bean, field pea, mung bean, black gram, pigeon pea, cowpea, and grass pea are the major pulse crops produced globally. And these especially play an important role in food and nutritional security and sustainable agricultural production systems in the drylands, which cover over 40 per cent of the world’s land area and are home to approximately 2.5 billion people.

“These crops are the mainstay of agriculture and diets in these regions, constituting a major source of protein for billions. With an ever-growing health conscious population, the demand for pulses is increasing, says the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), while announcing its International Conference on Pulses for Health, Nutrition and Sustainable Agriculture for Drylands in Marrakesh, Morocco, 18-20 April 2016.

Coinciding with the 2016 International Year of Pulses (IYP), the conference aims at sensitising main actors in pulse research and industries about the more recent scientific findings on health, nutrition and environmental benefits of producing, processing and eating pulses.

And the conference is expected to provide a platform to various stakeholders, including scientists, policy-makers, extension workers, traders and entrepreneurs, to discuss the various contributions of pulses to food and nutritional security and ecosystem health.

“Challenges ahead for driving greater production and benefits for all will be addressed with a focus on Central and West Asia, and North Africa,” says ICARDA and adds “a roadmap will be developed for increasing productivity and profitability of pulses through diversification and intensification of cereal/livestock-based cropping systems.

These, among others, are expected to be the main outcomes of this international conference, which is organised, along with the Moroccan National Institute forAgricultural Research (INRA), in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and other national and regional institutions.

How to Get kids to Eat Pulses?

But technical issues aside, the question is how to learn to eat pulses. One of the conference main co-organisers, FAO, apparently recommends to start from the very beginning, by posing this question: How to get kids to eat pulses?

Credit: Courtsey FAO

Credit: Courtesy FAO

And the response reminds parents and families at large that pulses are a highly versatile ingredient to cook with—as either a main meal or a side dish, they are the perfect complement to even the boldest of flavours.

But just like any new ingredient, convincing the pickiest eaters in the family to try these nutritious beans, peas and lentils can sometimes prove more than difficult.

For this, FAO presents some fun and creative suggestions for getting your kids excited about eating their pulses:

Start with the Familiar

Hummus is a widely popular dip made of chickpeas and many children love it. But did you know you can make it with almost any kind of cooked pulses?

Using your favourite hummus recipe, simply replace the chickpeas with cooked lentils or beans. Try serving with toasted pita or sliced veggies, or spread on a sandwich.

Burgers and meatballs are also a popular food with children, and lentils, beans or a mixture of the two can be substituted for meat to make delicious, homemade veggie patties and meatless meatballs.

Eliminate Mushiness

Many kids hate the “mushy” texture of beans. This can be eliminated by cooking with dried beans instead of canned beans, which produce a much more palatable texture. Dried beans should be soaked overnight before cooking.

Take the Hands-on Approach

Getting kids involved in the cooking process can excite them about trying the dishes they helped create. Take a trip to the market together and let your children choose the pulses that they want to eat.

When making veggie patties with pulses, let kids help you mix and shape the patties. You can also let kids build their own burritos or tacos using beans as an ingredient.

Play with Your Food

Beans, peas and lentils are easy to arrange on a plate to create different designs. Shape your beans into happy faces or your lentils into shooting stars—or let your children design their own plate of pulses.

What About the Grown-Ups?

For his part, Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of Nutrition at World Health Organization (WHO), knows much about how eating pulses can have a positive impact on nutrition and health.

Credit: Courtsey FAO

Credit: Courtesy FAO

Good nutrition is really important for physical and mental development, and it allows people to reach their full potential (e.g. in school and at work), he said in an interview. It also underpins a strong immune system, which protects us from both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Undernutrition is a major contributor to the burden of disease. Almost half (45%) of all deaths among children under the age of five are linked to under-nutrition.

Dr. Branca states that unhealthy diet is the greatest underlying cause of deaths worldwide, accounting for 11 million deaths each year. Another measure of the burden of disease is the disability-adjusted life year (DALY), which is the number of years lost due to poor health, disability or early death.

“Unhealthy diet is responsible for 241.4 million DALYs; child and maternal malnutrition accounts for 176.9 million DALYs; and obesity for 134 million DALYs.”

Pulses contain many nutrients, one of the most important of which is fibre. Asked to explain some of the health benefits of a diet rich in fibre?, Dr. Brabca said: When someone has a diet that is high in fibre, this can help prevent him or her from becoming obese, especially when s/he also does sports or other physical activity.

Studies suggest that one of the reasons that type 2 diabetes was relatively rare in rural Africa 40 years ago was because people there were eating a diet that was high in fibre. More recent studies in the United States also indicate that diets that are high in fibre reduce the chances of developing diabetes, he adds

“Eating foods like pulses that are high in fibre can help bring down blood glucose and insulin levels, which is crucial for people who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.”

Many studies indicate that diets high in fibre can reduce the risk of heart disease and reduce blood pressure, according to D. Branca, who adds: “one of the ways this works is because many types of fibre reduce the levels of the so-called ‘bad’ cholesterol in a person’s blood, which in turn lowers his or her risk of heart disease.’

There are many other health benefits of a diet rich in fibre, including some suggestion that it may reduce the risk of certain types of cancers and can protect from tooth decay, he said, explaining that in populations that are transitioning away from traditional diets that are high in fibre (e.g. the Mediterranean diet)—fibre intake is going down, spurring an increased risk of non-communicable diseases.

(End)

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The Arab Spring: Five Years Onhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/the-arab-spring-five-years-on/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-arab-spring-five-years-on http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/04/the-arab-spring-five-years-on/#comments Fri, 01 Apr 2016 13:20:04 +0000 Ugo Tramballi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144443 is senior correspondent andcolumnist for the Italian daily Sole 24 Ore.]]> An Egyptian man riding a scooter and wearing a traditional fez known locally as a “tarboush” in Tahrir square Cairo, October 20, 2015.

An Egyptian man riding a scooter and wearing a traditional fez known locally as a “tarboush” in Tahrir square Cairo, October 20, 2015.

By Ugo Tramballi
Apr 1 2016 (Longitude - Italy)

Five years ago the Arab world blew up, and the flames are still raging. What at first had been euphoria quickly turned to chaos. What cannot be denied, though, is that the uprisings were the spark of an epochal change.

There is no law or decree in Egypt – by now back to a sense of normality – which does not claim to be taken in the name of the January 25 Revolution. This event has created around it a rhetoric in apparent contrast with the real importance of what it would celebrate. But were the events of Tahrir Square really a revolution, or just a student uprising? Whichever way the experts define it, along with the upheavals in the whole region, it is still a question as to whether it was a catastrophe or a historic step for the Arab world.

Five years after the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, which began in December 2010, and the Revolt of Tahrir Square, which erupted shortly afterwards in Cairo on January 25, 2011, the memory of these events has blurred. Shortly after Egypt, rebellions took hold in Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen. In some countries they turned into civil war, in others they were quickly repressed. The only thing that that everyone seems to agree on is that the Arab Springs – as they were called, imagining them to be something like the Prague Spring of 1968 against the Soviet yoke – have been a failure. The only country spared was Tunisia, but only because it is small, with an educated population, religiously and ethnically homogeneous, and not so geographically strategic as to possesses natural resources that could entice others in the region and the world.

Five years after Tahrir, Egypt’s President General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, formerly a general, has essentially imposed a restoration after a period of unrest and a shortlived government of the Muslim Brotherhood, democratically elected but inept. The Sisi regime is more illiberal than that of Hosni Mubarak, which the crowd had overthrown five years ago: the laws are more repressive, most opponents are in prison, and freedom of the press has disappeared. Any criticism is punished as if it were an act of terrorism against the state. But Sisi has the consent of the majority of Egyptians in search of order and stability. His seizure of power in the summer of 2013, against the Muslim Brotherhood, was a brutal coup d’état in every sense. But it was supported by millions of Egyptians who demanded the military release Egypt from chaos.

Elsewhere other “springs” have been a complete disaster. They toppled dictatorial regimes – or, as in Syrian, weakened it – but they did not create democratic forms of government. On the contrary, they have paved the way to anarchy combined with tribal, sectarian and Islamic extremism. Many are convinced that without the great upheaval of 2011, there would be no Islamic State today. It would seem that the dictators of before were better; they managed to control systems and ommunities unprepared for democracy. In short, the riots have shown that the Arab Middle East is not ready, and perhaps never will be, to accept social and political systems that were better than what it had. In some ways, this is a modern form of that old lens full of stereotypes, through which we have always observed the Levant: Orientalism.

Yet the facts would seem to support this view. Today there is no Arab country that is better off than it was in 2010. The only one, Tunisia, is a victim of recurring Islamic terrorism that was not as aggressive before the revolution. But all this is true only if you look at the short-term history, following the daily news of a nascent political process full of fits and starts.

The French Revolution broke out in 1789: there was the Terror followed by the Thermidor, Napoleon, and the Restoration. European states, enemies and friends of France, took advantage of the uncertainty as today Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey and Qatar are exploiting the instability in Syria, Iraq and Libya, as well as the weakness of Egypt. Then there was 1848: the year of European revolutions, which broke out spontaneously and without a common design, resembling the Arab world in 2011. Then came Napoleon III, and only the birth of the Third Republic in 1870 put an end to the process begun by the Revolution 81 years ago.

Nowadays television and the internet have accelerated the dissemination of information and increased the volatility ofpolitical developments. But before establishing the futility, or worse, the danger of the Arab Spring, we must look to a time frame outside that of journalism. Dictators who were swept away by the uprisings of 2011 were not the alternative to the Arab Springs, but rather their cause. They prevented the modernization and gradual opening of their civil societies; they refused reforms, transforming economic growth into a gift that the leader bestowed on his subjects; they prevented the consolidation of a healthy relationship between state and religion. Because of them, it was inevitable that sooner or later these countries would explode. It was just a matter of time – whether in 2011, or 2015, or later – before those regimes failed under the crust of apparent social order. If today Tunisia is the only democratic model that has come out of the revolts, then this is mainly because its leader from 1957 to 1987, Habib Bourguiba, was the only Arab dictator to have really modernized his country, creating a school system and giving women a role in society.

Yet through protests or with weapons, through a painful political evolution or a tragic bloodbath that still continues, the revolutions of 2011 represent a turning point that the Arab world can no longer avoid. If the French Revolution is the universally recognized barometer for the transition from one historical epoch to another, the Arabs will count their modernity (or post-modernity, if you will) from the Springs.

This story was originally published by Longitude, Italy

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UN Chief Lauds Oman for Discreet Role in Peace Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/un-chief-lauds-oman-for-discreet-role-in-peace-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-chief-lauds-oman-for-discreet-role-in-peace-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/un-chief-lauds-oman-for-discreet-role-in-peace-talks/#comments Wed, 30 Mar 2016 21:09:09 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144418 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 30 2016 (IPS)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has singled out Oman as perhaps the only Arab country in the Gulf playing a discreet role – mostly behind-the- scenes – in helping resolve some of the military and political conflicts in the war-ravaged region.

The conflicts include the devastating war in Yemen, the long drawn out confrontation between Iran and the big powers on a controversial nuclear agreement with Tehran, and the eight year- long Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.

The Secretary-General’s sentiments have been reinforced in a new book titled “Oman Reborn” by Linda Pappas Funsch, Professor of Middle East Studies at Frederick Community College, Maryland, who points out that “the Sultanate of Oman is arguably one of the few ‘good news’ stories to emerge from the Middle East in the contemporary era.”

Described as one of the oldest independent countries in the Arab and Muslim world, Oman differs from many of its neighbours in the Middle East, Funsch says.

Largely ignored by a mainstream media that “gravitates toward sensation and scandal, Oman remains a hidden gem…”

When he visited Oman last month, the Secretary-General specifically acknowledged Oman’s role in hosting discreet talks between U.S. and Iranian officials, which eventually helped set the stage for the landmark nuclear agreement involving Iran and P5+1 – namely the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the US, Britain, France, China and Russia, plus Germany.

As the United Nations moves towards mediating peace negotiations between Yemen and Saudi Arabia in Kuwait on April 18— preceded by a cease-fire on April 10 — the Secretary-General said Oman has been a critical partner “as we try to bring peace to Yemen.”

Ban said he is particularly appreciative of Oman’s support for UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, including enabling him to meet representatives of the parties to the Yemen conflict in the Omani capital of Muscat, ahead of peace talks in Switzerland late last year.

Meanwhile, Oman has helped secure the release of foreign nationals held in captivity in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, and has opened its doors to hundreds of Yemenis needing medical assistance and temporary accommodation.

The Sultanate has also re-settled 20 detainees – all Yemenis – who were transferred from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre to Oman.

Oman’s role as a mediator, Ban said, also goes back to the cease-fire negotiations which the Sultanate hosted during the 1980s to help end the conflict between Iran and Iraq (1980-1988).

Paying a tribute to the leadership of Sultan Qaboos bin Said who has been in power for over 26 years as the longest reigning leader in the Middle East, Funsch says Oman neither adopts modernization and Westernization wholesale nor rejects their components outright.

The nine member Saudi coalition, accused of indiscriminate civilian killings in Yemen, includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan—but not Oman, which has scrupulously kept out of the ongoing conflict.

In her book, Funsch says Oman has maintained a venerable tradition of friendship and longstanding cooperation both with Western friends, including UK and the US, with which it shares strong bilateral ties dating back more than two centuries, and with Eastern friends such as Iran, whose history is inextricably linked to Oman’s own.

“Oman is distinguished from many of its regional neighbours in its steadfast embrace of a measured and independent foreign policy, designed to preserve its sovereignty and avoid interference in the internal affairs of other countries while simultaneously pursuing peaceful coexistence with all nations.”

This strategy, says Funsch, effectively permits the country’s leadership to pursue a path of “quiet diplomacy”, engaging with various parties, when requested, in an attempt to serve as interlocutor and mediator in the cause of defusing regional and international tensions.

The present Sultan took over the leadership from his father in 1970. “This affair may have gone down as a bloodless coup but for the fact that one palace insider who attempted to oppose the (former) Sultan’s removal was killed in the melee that followed.”

Meanwhile, according to Ban, Oman is currently helping the United Nations to digitize the world body’s audiovisual archives dating back to the founding of the Organisation 70 years ago.

They will now be preserved for all time, thanks to Oman, the Secretary-General said.

“All Member States stand to benefit from gaining access to these online archives from anywhere in the world.”

Oman’s reputation as a strong presence on the world stage, he declared, can only be enhanced by this generous act. “And Omanis will gain archiving skills that will help you to safeguard your own precious cultural heritage,” Ban said.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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Yemen’s Health Crisis is “Critical,” Says WHOhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/yemens-health-crisis-is-critical-says-who/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemens-health-crisis-is-critical-says-who http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/yemens-health-crisis-is-critical-says-who/#comments Mon, 28 Mar 2016 20:55:52 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144396 By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 28 2016 (IPS)

The health situation in Yemen has severely deteriorated and is critical, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported.

The conflict, which is now entering its second year, has devastated the country’s health system. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien has called the crisis a “human catastrophe.”

Since March 2015, more than 6,200 people have been killed and 30,000 injured.

WHO has expressed alarm over the rise in the number of causalities amid hospital damages as well as shortages in trained staff and medicine. Approximately 25 percent of all health facilities have already shut down in the country.

However, health needs remain vast, said WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr Ala Alwan.

“Operating in a conflict context is never an easy task,” Alwan added.

According to WHO, more than 21 million people—82 percent of the total population—are in dire need of humanitarian aid.

Though the provision of health services was already weak prior to the conflict, the escalation of violence has left millions of Yemenis without access to essential health services.

As a result of air strikes and rockets, water infrastructure has been and continues to be severely damaged. In February, a water reservoir serving over 40,000 people was destroyed in the capital of Sana’a following an airstrike.

Almost 19 million people currently lack access to clean water and sanitation, increasing the risk of epidemics such as dengue fever, malaria and cholera.

More than 14 million Yemenis also require urgent health services, including over 2 million acutely malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women. WHO found that 16 percent of children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished, with the rate in some areas reaching more than 30 percent.

Alwan noted the numerous challenges in providing health services, including lack of access to hard-to-reach areas.

Permission to move and distribute humanitarian foods and personnel has been inconsistent by al-Houthi forces and allied groups such as Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners.

In a statement to the Security Council, O’Brien found that bureaucratic requirements have delayed and impeded the delivery of humanitarian assistance and even restricted movement of aid workers.

In one week alone in February, the Ministry of Interior in Sana’a rejected travel permission to three separate UN missions.

More than one third of Yemenis in need of assistance live in inaccessible areas.

Alwan highlighted the need for all parties to provide humanitarian access to all areas of Yemen and to respect the safety of health workers and health facilities which operate “under extremely challenging conditions.”

He also expressed concern over the limited funding for the health sector, which has only received 6 percent of its 2016 requirements. In February, the UN also appealed for $1.8 billion for the 2016 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. So far, 12 percent has been funded.

“Despite our efforts so far, much more needs to be done to respond to the health needs of people in Yemen,” he urged.

Last week, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced that the country’s warring parties have agreed to cease hostilities starting on April 10 and to continue peace talks in Kuwait on April 18.

Under-Secretary-General O’Brien welcomed the move and urged for continued action to support and provide assistance to civilians in the country.

(End)

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Western Powers Unlikely to Impose Arms Embargo on Saudi Arabiahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/western-powers-unlikely-to-impose-arms-embargo-on-saudi-arabia/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=western-powers-unlikely-to-impose-arms-embargo-on-saudi-arabia http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/western-powers-unlikely-to-impose-arms-embargo-on-saudi-arabia/#comments Thu, 24 Mar 2016 14:50:44 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144339 By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 24 2016 (IPS)

As hundreds of civilians continue to be killed in the ongoing conflict in Yemen, one of the leading human rights organization is calling for an arms embargo – specifically against Saudi Arabia which is leading a coalition of eight countries battling Houthi rebels in the war-ravaged neighbouring country.

U.N. headquarters. Credit: Tressia Boukhors/IPS

U.N. headquarters. Credit: Tressia Boukhors/IPS

“The United States, United Kingdom, France and others should suspend all weapon sales to Saudi Arabia until it not only curtails its unlawful airstrikes in Yemen but also credibly investigates alleged violations”, said Human Rights Watch (HRW).

But chances of an embargo are remote considering the massive multi-billion dollar arms markets nurtured by the three Western powers who, coincidentally, are three of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UN Security Council (the other two being China and Russia).

Asked for a response, Pieter Wezeman, Senior Researcher, Arms and Military Expenditure Programme, at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) told IPS the final direct results of such calls in terms of actual restrictions have been minimal, though they serve as a clear symbolic element of the campaigns aimed at ending what is considered the irresponsible or even criminal use of arms by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

“The only case of significant restrictions involves the Netherlands announcing in January that it will only issue permits for arms exports to Saudi Arabia if it is certain the arms in question cannot be used in Yemen,” he pointed out.

“For the past year, governments that arm Saudi Arabia have rejected or downplayed compelling evidence that the coalition’s airstrikes have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen,” said Philippe Bolopion, Deputy Global Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch.

“By continuing to sell weapons to a known violator that has done little to curtail its abuses, the US, UK, and France risk being complicit in unlawful civilian deaths,” he added.

Asked whether a Western arms embargo would be realistic, Bolopion told IPS: “Lucrative arms deals should not blind the US government to the appalling abuses committed over the last year by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.”

He said looking the other way and continuing to provide arms to Saudi Arabia would expose the US to a risk of complicity in these crimes.

“You can’t put a price tag on that,” he added

Currently, the Saudis have strong military links to the three Western powers — with British, French and mostly American military suppliers providing sophisticated weapons, including state-of-the-art fighter planes, helicopters, missiles, battle tanks and electronic warfare systems.

The Saudi arsenal includes Boeing F-15 fighter planes (US supplied), Tornado strike aircraft (UK), Aerospatiale Puma and Dauphin attack helicopters (French), Bell, Apache and Sikorsky helicopters (US), Boeing E-3A Airborne Warning Control System (US), Sidewinder, Sparrow and Stinger missiles (US) and Abrams and M60 battle tanks (US).

The Saudi-led coalition, unleashing air attacks on Yemen, consist of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan.

The Houthi rebels, on the other hand, are also accused of indiscriminate attacks resulting in civilian killings.

In a statement released here, HRW said non-governmental organizations and the United Nations have investigated and reported on numerous unlawful coalition airstrikes since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015.

Human Rights Watch, Crisis Action, Amnesty International, and other international and Yemeni groups have issued a joint statement calling for the cessation of sales and transfers of all weapons and military-related equipment to parties to the conflict in Yemen where “there is a substantial risk of these arms being used… to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian law or international human rights law.”

Human Rights Watch has documented 36 unlawful airstrikes – some of which may amount to war crimes – that have killed at least 550 civilians, as well as 15 attacks involving internationally banned cluster munitions.

The UN Panel of Experts on Yemen, established under UN Security Council Resolution 2140 (2013), in a report made public on January 26, 2016, “documented 119 coalition sorties relating to violations” of the laws of war, according to HRW.

Saudi Arabia has not responded to letters from HRW detailing apparent violations by the coalition and seeking clarification on the intended target of attack.

On the contrary, Saudi Arabia has successfully lobbied the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to prevent it from creating an independent, international investigative mechanism.

Wezeman told IPS considering both the size of the arms sales to Saudi Arabia and several of its allies and the military campaign against the Houthi rebels the lack of enthusiasm amongst governments to restrict arms sales is not surprising.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer in the past five years.

Despite the steep fall in oil prices and drop in Saudi government revenues, signs are that the country will continue to order more expensive military equipment.

For the UK, Saudi Arabia has been the most important arms export market for many years.

France has for years tried hard to increase its arms sales to the country and has found in 2015 new major markets in Egypt and Qatar, countries that are involved in the military intervention in Yemen, he said.

In addition, said Wezeman, there is a fear that significant arms sales restrictions will damage other trade relations with these countries, which are worth more than the arms deals.

In the case of the US, he said, the economic aspects of arms sales to Saudi Arabia are significant too even if they are less essential to the US arms industry as compared to what’s the case in Europe.

The US has in the past shown to be prepared to impose export restriction even if it involved significant loss of revenues, though losing the Saudi market would probably be too big a economic loss in any case.

However, possibly more important, the US considers the Saudi actions as an important part of efforts to establish security in the region and therefore supports the military intervention as part of overall US foreign and security policy.

“A lot has to happen before the US suspends its arms supplies to Saudi Arabia,” Wezeman added.

Jamie McGoldrick, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, told reporters in Geneva early this week that 2015 has been a terrible one for Yemen, with airstrikes, shelling and localized violence.

One in ten Yemenis is displaced — 2.5 million people. More than 6,400 people have been killed and more than 30,000 injured, with half of those killed and injured being civilians.

Today, he said, more than 20 million people in Yemen — 80 per cent of the population — require some kind of humanitarian assistance: 14 million people need food assistance; 7 million people are severely food insecure; 20 million people do not have access to water and sanitation; and 14 million lack adequate health care.

At the same time, he said, human rights violations have soared.

Meanwhile, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said Wednesday he had just completed an extensive round of consultations with Yemeni leaders and regional partners.

After active consultations with the President Hadi and Yemeni officials in Riyadh and the delegations of Ansar Allah and the General People’s Congress in Sana’a, the parties to the conflict have agreed to a nation-wide cessation of hostilities beginning at midnight on 10 April, he said.

This is in advance of the upcoming round of peace talks, which will take place on 18 April in Kuwait, to be hosted by the Prince of Kuwait Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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DIHAD 2016 Closes With Calls For Better Future Of Those Faced With Wars And Catastropheshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/dihad-2016-closes-with-calls-for-better-future-of-those-faced-with-wars-and-catastrophes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dihad-2016-closes-with-calls-for-better-future-of-those-faced-with-wars-and-catastrophes http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/dihad-2016-closes-with-calls-for-better-future-of-those-faced-with-wars-and-catastrophes/#comments Wed, 23 Mar 2016 16:40:30 +0000 Francesco Farne http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144347 By Francesco Farnè
DUBAI, Mar 23 2016 (IPS)

The 13th Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD) ended today with keynote speakers drawn from International organizations, technical experts, diplomats and the private sector calling for building a better future and more development for those who are suffering from crisis, wars and catastrophes.

The overall aim of DIHAD conferences is to further technically sound and principled international humanitarian and development assistance. DIHAD is held under the auspices of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Dubai, supported by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Est., the United Nations, the UAE Red Crescent Authority, International Humanitarian City, Dubai Cares and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

DIHAD emphasises the transfer and sharing of knowledge through presentations, debate and dialogue; the showcasing of new trends in operational support and supply services related to the assistance domain; and networking among local, regional and global players.

This year, the three-day conference attended by a large number of international experts focused on the theme “The Importance of Innovation in Humanitarian Aid & Development”, addressing the innovative solutions that could be applied in humanitarian operations today, in the context of food security, nutrition, water and sanitation, emergency healthcare, transport, logistics and shelter. The conference highlighted that resources available to respond to these pressing crises are inadequate in the face of the unprecedented pressures of responding to crises and emergencies in the world.

Dr. Joana Wronecka, Undersecretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Poland said: “I think that the UAE can be our key gate to do more humanitarian work in the Middle East due to its perfect location and good relationships with the Middle East countries. We are also looking forward for exchanging expertise between Polish and UAE’s NGOs where they can learn from each other and add value to the humanitarian industry”.

Mr. Nabil Ben Soussia, Managing Director of IEC Telecom UAE, highlighted the importance of telecommunications when dealing with a crisis. “Humanitarian organizations usually face a breakdown of conventional communications networks which can severely restrict fast and effective delivery of aid into the field. This essential connectivity allows frontline staff rapidly and efficiently co-ordinate first response to disasters or emergency situations” he explained. With his company’s telecommunications systems, aid agencies can consolidate their relief efforts over time, set up temporary offices using semi-fixed modems, a range of satellite broadband solutions and access corporate applications, manage logistics or even use low bandwidth videoconferencing solutions.”

The UAE Red Crescent Authority received the 2016 DIHAD Recognition Award, for it being one of the fastest humanitarian and relief organisation in responding to crises and delivering aid to those affected locally and in the world.

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Corruption Swallows a Huge Dose of Waterhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/corruption-swallows-a-huge-dose-of-water/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=corruption-swallows-a-huge-dose-of-water http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/corruption-swallows-a-huge-dose-of-water/#comments Tue, 22 Mar 2016 23:51:46 +0000 Jeff Williams http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144308 A Somali woman in Garowe drawing water from one of the many man-made ponds dug through a UNDP-supported initiative to bring water to drought-affected communities. Credit: UNDP Somalia

A Somali woman in Garowe drawing water from one of the many man-made ponds dug through a UNDP-supported initiative to bring water to drought-affected communities. Credit: UNDP Somalia

By Jeff Williams
MOMBASA, Kenya, Mar 22 2016 (IPS)

While the United Nations marked this year’s World Water Day on March 22 focusing on the connection between water and jobs, a new report has rung loud alarm bells about the heavy impact of corruption on the massive investments being made in the water sector.

Each year, between 770 billion and 1,760 billion dollars are needed to develop water resources and services worldwide — yet the number of people without “safe” drinking water is about as large as those who lack access to basic sanitation: around 32 per cent of the world’s population in 2015, Transparency International on March 22 reported.

And asked how can so much be spent and yet such massive shortfalls still exist?

“One answer: About 10 per cent of water sector investment is lost to corruption.”

This striking information came out on the occasion of World Water Day 2016, as the Water Integrity Network (WIN) released a new report that documents the legacy of corruption in the water sector.

The WIN report reveals corruption’s costly impact on the world’s water resources. It also shows the degree to which poor water governance negatively affects the world’s most vulnerable populations – specifically women, children, and the landless.

Women carry gravel from the river to be taken to a construction site in Indonesia. Credit © Maillard J. /ILO

Women carry gravel from the river to be taken to a construction site in Indonesia. Credit © Maillard J. /ILO


While access to water and sanitation were formally recognised as human rights by the UN General Assembly in 2010, the reality is far from this goal, says WIN, a network of organisations and individuals promoting water integrity to reduce corruption and improve water sector performance.

“According to the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, some 663 million people lack access to so-called “improved” drinking water sources globally… this contributes to 1.6 million deaths annually, most of whom are children under 5 years old.”

Although the UN’s new 2030 Agenda includes a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) on water and sanitation as well as a mandate for accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels (SDG 16), action is needed so that pervasive and systemic corruption do not continue to seep from the water sector, according to the report.

The study cites some specific cases. In 2013, Malawi’s reformed public financial management system was misused to divert 5 million dollars in public funds to the private accounts of officials.

Another case: in 2015, an audit of the 70 million euro phase II national water programme in Benin, which included 50 million euro from the Netherlands, revealed that 4 million euro had vanished. Dutch development cooperation with the Benin government was suspended thereafter to safeguard additional funds.

Corruption is, however, not limited to developing countries. In fact, WING cites an example from the United States. “In California, a member of the State Senate in 2015 declared a system of permits that allowed oil companies to discharge wastewater into underground aquifers to be corrupt.”

Further more, the Water Integrity Global Outlook 2016 (WIGO) shares examples of both corruption and good practices at all levels worldwide.

In this sense, WIGO demonstrates how improved governance and anti-corruption measures can win back an estimated 75 billion dollars for global investment in water services and infrastructure annually.

It therefore highlights and draws lessons from those examples of where governments, companies, and community groups have won gains for water consumers and environmental protection.

“The report proposes to build ‘integrity walls’ from building blocks of transparency, accountability, participation and anti-corruption measures,” says Frank van der Valk, the Water Integrity Network’s executive director. “Urgent action by all stakeholders is required.”

WIN works to raise awareness on the impact of corruption especially on the poor and disenfranchised assesses risk and promotes practical responses. Its vision is a world with equitable and sustained access to water and a clean environment, which is no longer, threatened by corruption, greed, dishonesty and willful malpractice.

Formerly hosted by Transparency International, the WIN global network is formally led by the WIN association and supported by the WIN Secretariat in Berlin.

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DIHAD Emphasizes Relief and Development Efforts to Meet Humanitarian Challengeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/dihad-emphasizes-relief-and-development-efforts-to-meet-humanitarian-challenges/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=dihad-emphasizes-relief-and-development-efforts-to-meet-humanitarian-challenges http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/dihad-emphasizes-relief-and-development-efforts-to-meet-humanitarian-challenges/#comments Mon, 21 Mar 2016 17:00:39 +0000 Robert Williamson-Noble http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144279 Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD)

Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD)

By Robert Williamson-Noble
DUBAI, Mar 21 2016 (IPS)

The Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition (DIHAD) opened today with key speakers emphasizing the urgency to discuss innovative solutions to be applied in humanitarian operations. Under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister of United Arab Emirates, Ruler of Dubai, the 13th edition of DIHAD was inaugurated by HE Mr. Ibrahim Bumelha, Cultural and Humanitarian Advisor of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Chairman of DIHAD Higher Committee, President of DISAB, on behalf of UN Messenger of Peace and Chairperson of International Humanitarian City HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Attended by a large number of international organizations and associations, the DIHAD conference is another big step toward realizing the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum to make Dubai a global hub for innovation in all sectors. HE Ibrahim Bumelha in his address emphasized “It is no secret that the UAE is always keen to respond instantly to humanitarian crises and disasters that happen in all over the world, and it strives to help those in need and to alleviate the suffering of victims, refugees and the displaced, which follows the guidelines of our leadership and the directives of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE.” He added that “The importance of this edition of DIHAD lies in discussing the pressing issues related to innovation and its importance in enhancing the relief and development efforts to meet the humanitarian challenges that lie ahead especially asylum-seekers, migration, and climate change, and most of all finding appropriate solutions for all these issues.”

“From our point of view, innovation represents a forward-looking vision for the future of the humanitarian work on the long run, aimed at ensuring a decent life for the victims of conflicts and disasters. Certainly, innovation will have a positive impact on the humanitarian efforts via planning for the future using innovative and unconventional tools that harness science, knowledge, and technology to serve humans and achieve maximum happiness and well-being,” stated Dr. Mohammaed Atiq Al Falahi, Secretary General of Emirates Red Crescent, on behalf of HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Representative of the Ruler of Abu Dhabi in the Western Region and President of the UAE Red Crescent Authority. He concluded “What we see today on the humanitarian front, especially in the Arab region, from humanitarian tragedies that exceed all expectations, puts us in front of great challenges that need to be faced through constructive cooperation and concentrated efforts to reduce the human losses caused by the conflicts and severity of disasters.”

Ms Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Chair of the UN Development Group, who also addressed the opening session of DIHAD, emphasized that “As humanitarian and development actors alike, we must rethink how we collaborate in response to the increasing number of protracted conflicts which the world is currently witnessing.” She added: “Traditional relief first, development later approaches are not tenable in the kinds of complex and protracted crises we face today. That is why UNDP has championed resilience-based development approaches to dealing with protracted crises, like that which Syria and neighboring countries are experiencing.”

Dr. Abdul Salam Al Madani, Executive Chairman of DIHAD Conference and Exhibition and the international scientific committee DISAB welcomed all humanitarians taking part this year, and said: “DIHAD now occupies a distinctive position on the world map, and with every success we achieve, the responsibility becomes bigger and bigger. Through the years we took the lead to embrace all international organizations, associations, institutes and NGOs and encouraged them to cooperate and build partnerships in addition to join their efforts for the benefit of the people who are going through crisis and catastrophes.”

Finally, Amin Awad, Middle East and North Africa Director of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said: “DIHAD’s theme for this year is a reflection of the leadership and commitment of the United Arab Emirates’ leadership to fostering a culture of innovation, particularly in humanitarianism. This commitment is aligned with UNHCR’s emphasis on finding new and ground-breaking responses to refugee crises in the Middle East and North Africa, and globally.”

DIHAD is organized by INDEX Conferences and Exhibitions – member of INDEX Holding and supported by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Humanitarian and Charity Est, the United Nations, the UAE Red Crescent Authority, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, International Humanitarian City, the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – Dubai and Dubai Cares. DIHAD 2016 is also sponsored by Al Khair Foundation & IQRA TV.

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