Inter Press ServiceMiddle East & North Africa – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 23 Oct 2017 07:17:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 Peace and stability must be restored in the Middle East and North Africa so as to alleviate povertyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/peace-stability-must-restored-middle-east-north-africa-alleviate-poverty/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=peace-stability-must-restored-middle-east-north-africa-alleviate-poverty http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/peace-stability-must-restored-middle-east-north-africa-alleviate-poverty/#respond Tue, 17 Oct 2017 09:26:26 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152540 On the occasion of the 2017 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim observed that the unprecedented rise of violence and insecurity in the Arab region combined, breed poverty and societal decline. He noted […]

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By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Oct 17 2017 (IPS)

On the occasion of the 2017 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue H. E. Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim observed that the unprecedented rise of violence and insecurity in the Arab region combined, breed poverty and societal decline.

Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

He noted that the Middle East and the North Africa region was once at the forefront of progress to alleviate poverty and hunger – in line with the provisions set forth in Millennium Development Goal 1 – but noted, however, that a multitude of factors have contributed to a reversal of progress undermining the alleviation of poverty as stipulated in Sustainable Development Goal 1 to end poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030.

In this context, he stated that “the spread of conflict and violence have left a social and political vacuum that has been filled by violent and extremist groups. The persistence of political and social unrest in the Arab region have become the main drivers of poverty. Approximately 2/3 of the population in Syria are now living below the poverty line. In Yemen, more than 50% of the population live in extreme poverty, whereas this malaise now affects around 1/3 of Libya’s population. Insecurity driven poverty and fragile societies – gripped by violence and conflict – have thrown Arab countries into chronic poverty and societal decline.”

He further added that “the failure of diplomacy to create peace and stability in countries affected by conflict and violence has triggered a massive movement of people escaping insecurity and sectarian violence. Refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons in the region experience extreme poverty in a way unbeknownst to them hitherto. They have lost livelihood opportunities and have inadequate access to basic services. Forcibly displaced people remain stuck in limbo as they are either unwanted or forced to live in destitution in refugee or detention camps, after having witnessed the destruction of their home societies. The current situation undermines the prospects of recovery of conflict-affected societies from the adverse impact of armed conflict owing to the destruction of human capital and of a stable middle class.”

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman further observed that “the adverse impact of climate change has contributed to exacerbating all forms of poverty and food insecurity in the Arab region as a result of lack of access to renewable and non-renewable resources. Depletion of resources, desertification and water scarcity are indiscriminately affecting countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It has given rise to an ecological crisis affecting the livelihood of millions of people and forcing people to flee.”

He concluded stating that addressing the multidimensional elements of poverty in the Arab region requires adopting a holistic approach addressing the root-causes of extreme poverty in the Arab region.

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Strengthening Youth Potential and the Prospects for a Better Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/strengthening-youth-potential-prospects-better-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=strengthening-youth-potential-prospects-better-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/strengthening-youth-potential-prospects-better-future/#respond Thu, 12 Oct 2017 12:47:44 +0000 Bandar Hajjar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152440 Dr. Bandar M. H. Hajjar is President of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group

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Bandar M. H. Hajjar, President of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group - Strengthening Youth Potential and the Prospects for a Better Future

The United Nations estimates that by 2030, the youth population will be 1.3 billion globally. Credit: Mahmuddun Rashed Manik/IPS

By Bandar Hajjar
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia, Oct 12 2017 (IPS)

Investing in youth by developing their potential through education, job creation and instilling the values that advance the cause of humanity is the most daunting, yet promising challenge facing world leaders.

The challenges our society faces today cannot be divorced from those faced by the youth. Recently, the international community agreed on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. We must keep in mind that the relevance of each of the SDG goals to the youth must constantly remain a top priority.

A United Nations report, titled Youth Population Trends and Sustainable Development, estimated that as of 2015, there were 1.2 billion youth in the world, aged 15-24. This figure will increase by 7 percent by 2030, raising the youth population to 1.3 billion globally.

According to UN data, the youth population will grow by 15 percent in Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia and by 42 percent in Africa by 2030.

Dr. Bandar M. H. Hajjar is President of the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) Group

Dr. Bandar M. H. Hajjar

These major changes in youth population bring tremendous opportunities for economic growth.  It can help emerging economies develop their manufacturing potential and create markets that can help drive the global economy. Yet, lack of proper planning and investment in the youth can be catastrophic, as we have seen in some countries at the beginning of this decade. The world is still grappling with these challenges.

Still, I remain optimistic. Earlier this year, the Islamic Development Bank chose “Youth Economic Empowerment” as a theme for its 2017 Annual Meeting in Jeddah. That meeting brought together youth delegates from the 57 IDB member countries to brainstorm and determine their priorities. The Youth Summit, the first of its kind in the Muslim World, convened talented youth already making a difference in education, entrepreneurship and social mobilization. Here at the IDB, it has been decided by top management to integrate youth initiatives in projects. Drawing on the IDB’s 10-Year Strategic Framework, the President’s 5-Year Programme includes key components related to youth development.

Harnessing the potential of the global youth population to become an asset in their own societies is of paramount importance. With the right policies and strategies, the youth can stay in their home countries to contribute to their economies, rather than seek an uncertain future, crossing borders only to end up in the hands of criminals.

Islam holds youth in high esteem, calls upon them to be active members in society by contributing to socio-economic development. The youth population is one of the strengths of OIC countries if the critical challenges facing this population are addressed. According to a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), OIC countries will remain to have the largest share of young population. In 2050, 15.9% of the population in OIC countries are projected to be 15-24 years old. This could result in OIC countries having a solid position in terms of their younger population.

While the youth population can offer great opportunities for OIC countries, neglecting their development issues can threaten socio-economic development and lead to massive youth migration to countries that offer them better life prospects, resulting in a brain drain of OIC countries.
The ILO’s ILO report on the World Employment and Social Outlook for Youth, 2016 estimated that the global youth unemployment rate is expected to reach 13.1 per cent in 2016, rising by half a million to reach 71 million. For the most part, their condition is abysmal, with high unemployment rates and widespread poverty. If the issue of youth migration is to be addressed, it will require efforts and an overarching agenda for youth development in OIC countries by multiple partners, including governments, development institutions, policymakers, economists, civil society agencies and the youth themselves.

The UN World Report (2013) states that “young migrants constitute a relatively large proportion of the overall migrant population”. The high number of youth migrant population can be explained by the “Push-Pull-Facilitation” model proposed by SESRIC (2014).  Push factors are problems and difficulties that compel young people to leave their home country or region, while pull factors are features that attract young people to the country of destination, and facilitation factors are the dynamics that enable the immigration process from the home country to the country of destination. SESRIC (2015) reports that “One of the major push factors is the lack of inclusion of OIC youth in society”, in addition to factors such as unemployment, poor working conditions, lack of political stability, the rise of extremism, poor governance, corruption, poverty and lack of freedom. The main pull factors the report highlights include higher income, better employment prospects, higher living standards, freedom and political stability. Facilitation factors are forces such as globalization, internationalization of professions and advances in information and communication technology, which has led to an increase in young people mobility, as well as easier access to information about education, employment and living opportunities abroad.

In harnessing the potential of youth in OIC countries, I believe that we must consider the push factors by undertaking two critical  objectives: (i) Productive and economically empowered youth who contribute to the development of their societies/communities; and (ii) Engaged and responsible youth who embody and embrace leadership. To achieve these objectives, we need to address the following four strategic pillars: Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Effective Engagement:

 

  1. Education: Education is a key pillar in addressing youth migration. Education is about making the most important investment in human capital to increase the productive capacity of a nation. Quality education generates both immediate and long-term benefits to society. It gives the youth effective skills for employment, or for becoming entrepreneurs, improving living standards and personal and mental health and promoting peace and stability.

 

  1. Employment: Youth unemployment is one of the main push factors forcing young people from OIC countries to migrate in search for a better life. This issue has grown in prominence on the global development agenda. To achieve job growth for the youth, it is essential to strengthen existing industries and develop new, competitive ones. Enhancing trade stimulates the economy, requiring member countries to provide their youth with appropriate vocational skills to seize the job opportunities thus created.

 

  1. Entrepreneurship: Youth entrepreneurship has the potential to integrate youth into the labor market and combat poverty. This in turn will reduce youth unemployment and lead to additional socio-economic outcomes. Islamic microfinance supports the youth’s entrepreneurial endeavors by financing their income-generating activities in proportion to their capacity as business partners. Islamic microfinance institutions support economic empowerment, providing access to credit as well as business opportunities to youth through access to markets, information and technology. They play an important catalyst role in creating startups and in SME growth.

 

  1. Effective Engagement: In addition to becoming economically empowered, the youth of OIC countries should be effectively engaged. First, they should seek to be informed and consulted about decisions affecting their socio-economic well-being, made in their communities. Second, they should be able to take positive and constructive action to influence changes potentially affecting them.

 

The main aim of these pillars is to instill in the minds of the youth such useful character traits as leadership, volunteerism, civic engagement and skill development for lifelong learning and advocacy. This sense of empowerment will create a strong bond between the youth and their communities, eliminating the need to migrate in search for better lives.

In addition to the four strategic pillars above, the following points may be worth considering as key success factors:

  1. Strengthening cooperation with other Multilateral Development Banks and regional institutions to create platforms for learning about youth development issues.
  2. Consulting the youth and allowing their perspective and experience to be included as a part of a high-level, strategic dialogue. This will ensure that initiatives, projects and programmes will take into consideration the youth dimension (including the perspectives of women, the disabled and marginalized youth).
  3. Involving youth in designing, implementing and evaluating youth-related projects and programmes. Platforms to support this role for youth have to be established and maintained.

In conclusion, I share the popular adage that today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders. Islam regards youth as a blessing, and holds them in high esteem. While the youth population can offer great opportunities for OIC countries, neglecting their development issues can threaten socio-economic development and lead to massive youth migration to countries that offer them better life prospects, resulting in a brain drain of OIC countries.

Addressing youth migration in OIC countries is an enormous undertaking. Therefore. I suggest that we adopt a focused, yet comprehensive approach in order to increase the impact and capability of interventions so that the youth in OIC countries can look forward to a more promising future and contribute positively to their countries’ well-being.

This article is part of a series of stories and op-eds launched by IPS on the occasion of this year’s World Food Day on October 16.

 

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Non-violence and lasting peace are key to secure the long-term stability of the Arab regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/non-violence-lasting-peace-key-secure-long-term-stability-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=non-violence-lasting-peace-key-secure-long-term-stability-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/non-violence-lasting-peace-key-secure-long-term-stability-arab-region/#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 10:26:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152306 International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October 2017

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International Day of Non-Violence – 2 October 2017

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
Geneva/Dubai, Oct 2 2017 (IPS)

The Chairman of the Geneva Centre Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim is calling on the international community to address the surge of extremist violence exacerbating the volatile security situation in the Arab region. This appeal was made by Dr. Al Qassim in relation to the commemoration of the 2017 International Day of Non-Violence observed on 2 October 2017.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The Arab region is witnessing yet again a wave of extremist violence owing to the proliferation of local and international conflicts. Armed conflicts and internal upheavals in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen have resulted in the displacement of millions of people. Hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the surge of extremist violence and armed conflict which undermine the long-term stability of the Arab region,” Dr. Al Qassim said.

The Geneva Centre’s Chairman warned against extremist violence and related external military interventions in the Arab region which “provide fertile ground for terrorist groups to spread and justify its heinous and deadly ideology in countries in the Middle East and North Africa. “

In order to address the volatile security situation in the Arab region, Dr. Al Qassim appealed to “countries in the West and in the Arab region to work together to defeat all extremist and violent groups causing destruction and death in societies in the West, the Middle East and North Africa alike. All societies – regardless of religious beliefs and geographical location – are targets of the poisonous ideology of such extremist and violent groups.”

Dr. Al Qassim also noted that military victory over terrorism will “only bring a short-term solution to the Arab region as building lasting and sustainable peace requires addressing inter alia the root-causes of conflict, injustice, inequality, poverty and lack of social development.” He therefore stated that “the international community must provide an enabling environment allowing countries in the Arab region – affected by conflict and violence – to rebuild their societies through reconciliation, dialogue, respect for human rights and non-violence.”

He further noted that the spirit of the great Statesman of the Global South – Mahatma Gandhi like his African counterpart Nelson Mandela – should serve as an example for international decision-makers in promoting peace and justice in every corner of the world. In this regard, he stated that “the 2017 International Day of Non-Violence – observed today in commemoration of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi – is an opportunity for world society to commemorate the non-violent ideology of a world Statesman who believed in promoting peace and justice worldwide.”

Non-violence and lasting peace are key to securing the long-term stability of the Arab region and to promoting a sustainable future. On the commemoration of the International Day of Non-Violence, let the spirit of Gandhi guide the efforts of decision-makers in achieving this goal and in bringing justice, to all countries and in particular to those that suffer most in the Arab region,” concluded Dr. Al Qassim.

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Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in the Arab Region: Where Do We Stand?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/gender-equality-womens-empowerment-arab-region-stand/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=gender-equality-womens-empowerment-arab-region-stand http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/gender-equality-womens-empowerment-arab-region-stand/#respond Fri, 29 Sep 2017 14:18:44 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152286 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, Ambassador Idriss Jazairy Executive Director of the Geneva Centre and H. E. Ms. Naela Mohamed Gabr member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

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From left to right, H. E. Mr. Amr Ramadan, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt ; Ambassador Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre, H. E. Dr. Hanif Al Qassim, Chairman of the Board of Management of the Geneva Centre, H. E. Ms. Hoda Al-Helaissi, Member of Saudi Arabia's Shura Council and Dr. Susan Carland, Director of Monash University's Bachelor of Global Studies in Australia, during the panel discussion on “Women’s rights in the Arab world: between myth and reality” organized by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on 15 September 2017, at the UN Geneva.

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim and Ambassador Idriss Jazairy and H. E. Ms. Naela Mohamed
GENEVA, Sep 29 2017 (IPS)

Women’s empowerment and gender equality should remain a central objective of the world community. The recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) includes specific provisions to member States of the United Nations – notably through SDG 5 – to commit to enhancing gender equality and to give women a stronger voice in the fight for equality. The Preamble of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights calls for “equal rights” to be enjoyed by “men and women”: 69 years later, gender equality has not only been recognised for what it is: a fundamental human right, it is also becoming a guiding principle in the efforts of States to attain the highest ideals of a just and inclusive society and the highest rate of growth.

No society in the world can claim to have a society exempt from discrimination against women and girls. All regions of the world face their specific challenges related to the promotion and advancement of women’s rights. In the Arab region as in the West, the enhancement of the social status of women is of high importance. The barriers and the challenges which stand in the way of making impeding gender equality a reality cannot be seen as attributable solely to one region; charting a more inclusive agenda to enhance gender equality requires all regions to identify a suitable framework responding to its specific needs.

Amidst growing instability and social unrest as currently witnessed in the Middle East and North Africa region, encouraging developments are taking place in the Arab region. Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan have recently decided to repeal discriminatory laws enabling rape perpetrators to escape justice if they would opt for marrying their female victims. Tunisia has just initiated ground-breaking measures in favour of women. In the national parliaments of Algeria, Tunisia and Iraq, women occupy more than 20% of the proportion of seats for parliamentarians. The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have likewise introduced legislation enabling women to benefit from equal rights and opportunities as their male compatriots. Other countries in the Arab region have likewise taken similar initiatives to advance the status of women. These developments show that the promotion and the enhancement of women’s rights in the Arab region have gained strong social acceptance within Arab societies.

Despite these encouraging signs, misperceptions and stereotyping of Arab women have become prolific news sources for mainstream media in depicting and offering a misleading picture of Arab women. The rise of extremism, Islamophobia and right-wing populism have further contributed to exacerbate the popular stereotyping of women as weak and voiceless. Societies as a whole are held further “guilty” for the alleged failures of Arab countries in advancing women’s rights. Hence the need to correct “orientalist” misperceptions.

The relations between Islam and women’s rights have also been the subject of widespread debate among women’s rights experts. Some people lacking perceptiveness consider that Islam is incompatible with women’s rights and gender equality, and that Islamic principles are hostile and discriminatory towards women. Generating simplistic solutions to challenges deriving from societal and cultural challenges – with no root in the teachings of Islam – will not solve “the mystery of Islam as a hostile religion to women.” We need to ask Arab women themselves whether they consider Islam as an emancipating factor in their efforts to achieve gender equality. According to the findings of the book “Fighting Hislam: Women, Faith and Sexism” written by Dr. Susan Carland in 2017, Arab women do not see Islam as an obstacle to fight sexism, discrimination and marginalization of women. Indeed Islam’s egalitarian spirit guides women in their efforts and commitments to advance their own rights. The fact that Islam has played an important role in redefining women’s rights in modern societies is hardly given any recognition in mainstream media. This shows that we have an uphill task ahead of us.

The deconstruction of existing myths regarding the status of Arab women will enable decision-makers and women’s rights experts to identify a common agenda to promote gender equality at a global level. It will enable women’s rights experts from the Arab region and the West to shift from “naming and shaming” and proclamations of moral superiority to the enhancement of women’s rights through constructive dialogue and the identification of joint solutions. Advancing the status of women requires a unified attempt by the Arab region and the West to safeguard women’s rights from adverse policies impeding the realization of gender equality. This idea was explored during the “Women’s rights in the Arab region: between myth and reality” panel debate held on 15 September at the United Nations Office in Geneva. Now is the time to join forces and work together to make this a reality.

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To Be an Egyptian Migrant in Rome (And Also Make Great Pizza)http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/egyptian-migrant-rome-also-make-great-pizza/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=egyptian-migrant-rome-also-make-great-pizza http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/egyptian-migrant-rome-also-make-great-pizza/#respond Thu, 28 Sep 2017 12:45:19 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152276 “I asked him: do you want to come with us to Greece? He said: ‘Why not?’ So my wife and myself packed up and drove to Athens to open our ‘trattoria’ there.” Mario* (63) and his wife Concetta* (57) started telling their story while waiting for the chef to prepare three pizzas and one spaghetti […]

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Credit: IOM/Ingy Mehanna. Contributor: Christine Beshay. International Organization for Migration

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Sep 28 2017 (IPS)

“I asked him: do you want to come with us to Greece? He said: ‘Why not?’ So my wife and myself packed up and drove to Athens to open our ‘trattoria’ there.”

Mario* (63) and his wife Concetta* (57) started telling their story while waiting for the chef to prepare three pizzas and one spaghetti carbonara for this table of four tourists coming from four different countries.

When Mario learnt that one of them—this journalist– was born in Cairo, he said, “Come with me,” and led him to the kitchen. “Here is our champion.”

The “champion” is Mahmoud*, a young Egyptian man (29) who had arrived in Italy seven years earlier and started working as a dishwasher at Mario and Concetta’s small trattoria in the Trastevere area in the heart of Rome.

“He was watching me cooking all the time. And he quickly learnt how to cook pizza, pasta and everything,” said Concetta.

“Yes, very quickly and very well,” added Mario, “so we began to rely on him when we had many clients over the weekends.”

Both Concetta, Mario, Mahmoud and this journalist are all back in Rome now. They called the journalist and met again. Having left Greece due to the financial crisis that struck the whole world around a decade ago, they have opened another trattoria. “We are now becoming old so we asked Mahmoud to run our little restaurant.”

Pizza al taglio at Trastevere in Rome. Credit: Shoebill2. Public Domain.

Mahmoud hired a young Egyptian migrant as a dishwasher and as a kitchen assistant. History might repeat itself.

Mahmoud is just one of hundreds of young Egyptian migrants in Rome who work as chefs in typical Italian restaurants. Their pizza and pasta are much appreciated by local customers, who usually pay compliments to the owners and waiters for the tasty dishes.

“Journalist”* Ahmad

But, with very few exceptions, these Egyptian pizza-makers are not cooks–just migrants who reached Rome by sea with a tourist entry visa or as part of groups of migrants smuggled to Italy.

One of them, Ahmad* (36), tells IPS that he came to Rome around ten years ago as a correspondent for an Egyptian weekly magazine. “Actually I am not a journalist. By through friends, I managed to get a letter of accreditation from that publication to facilitate the more and more complex entry visa procedures.”

“I met some Egyptians who were working in restaurants in Rome and they helped me find a good job as a waiter with a work contract that allows me to stay here legally.”

“Of course I miss Egypt and my family, but life there has become so difficult that the best way I can help them is to save as much as I can from my salary and generous tips and send money to them.”

Smuggled Osman*

Working at a trattoria in the outskirts of Rome, Osman* (41) hesitates before telling IPS that he was a victim of smugglers who cheated him, demanding 3,000 dollars to take him to Europe. He managed to borrow 2,000 dollars and promised to pay the remaining amount as soon as he found a job.

“They treated me worse than an animal taken to a slaughterhouse,” Osman told IPS. Smugglers literally “loaded me” with dozens of other Egyptians on a truck to Libya.

“From there, after five endless weeks, they loaded us on a boat to Lampedusa Island” in Italy. Civil society humanitarian organisations “helped us find jobs as fruit pickers.”

Migrants arriving on the Island of Lampedusa, Italy. Credit: Sara Prestianni / noborder network. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

A Case of Tough Success

Halim* (49) has a different story. He was born in Port Said, northeast of Cairo. Italy is one of the main destinations for Egyptians in Europe, and Halim landed here during the fall of 1987, having taken a regular boat trip to Naples.

He immediately connected with others in the Egyptian community in the EUR area of Rome. “My father worked for eleven long years as a helping hand in a restaurant and then ventured into setting up his own business independently,” he told Laurent Vercken in an interview for IPS.

Halim is one of more than 100,000 migrants from Egypt who live in Italy. Like most other Egyptian migrants, he chooses to stay here rather than return to his native land. “There are no opportunities to work there and I prefer to work long hours in the kitchen that my father set up, which is giving me a better life.”

When Halim’s father passed away twelve years ago, he took on the responsibility of looking after his entire family.

It has been very hard work, with little free time spent with his loved ones. Halim soon found that running a business had serious pitfalls as well, like facing organised crime. He discovered that over the years, his father had made many undefined regular payments.

A few days after his father’s death, a couple of men came to the restaurant, pretending to buy some food. But after placing their orders, they forced him to provide a free meal and demanded cash payoffs in the future as well.

After contacting the local police station, Halim was advised to install micro-cameras and microphones inside the restaurant. “The police were then able to apprehend the thugs and have discovered a bigger network of local, organised crime groups that were taking advantage of migrant businesses,” he said.

Today, he seems older than his real age, but perhaps stronger than ever. When asked how he feels after so many years of being a migrant, he responds, “Try just to imagine that if I am not able to survive every day, who will help my family to survive?”

Unaccompanied Egyptian Children Migrating to Europe

Last year, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)–Egypt launched its “Egyptian Unaccompanied Migrant Children:A Case Study on Irregular Migration,” designed to shed light on the irregular migration of Egyptian children to Europe.

Based on IOM counselling interviews in Egypt and Greece, the report looked at the driving forces behind unaccompanied children travelling irregularly from Egypt to Europe and their vulnerability. It also provided insights into the modus operandi and characteristics of smuggling networks operating from Egypt.

Over a million migrants arrived to Europe by sea in 2015 and some estimates suggest that up to 20 per cent of them may have been minors, the UN Migration Agency informs.

The report provides recommendations covering prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership for the development of a multidisciplinary response to address irregular migration of unaccompanied migrant children.

“The report addresses the significant information gap on the issue of irregular child migration and comes at a time where Egypt is the highest sending country of unaccompanied migrant children to Europe. We are working closely with the government to develop an integrated response and are seeking donor support,” said Amr Taha, IOM Egypt Head of Office.

Since 2011, the percentage of unaccompanied children among Egyptian irregular migrants reaching Europe has been remarkably high. In 2014, they accounted for nearly half of 4,095 irregular Egyptian migrants arriving in Italy. In 2015, Italy registered the arrival of some 1,711 Egyptian children – more than from any other country.

Migration Shaping the Middle East

Migration has long shaped the Middle East and North Africa, with countries in the region often simultaneously representing points of origin, transit and destination, says the UN migration Agency.

Demographic and socioeconomic trends, conflict and, increasingly, climate change are among the multitude of factors that influence migration dynamics in the region, IOM explains.

According to IOM, the migration context in the Middle East and North Africa can be broadly characterised as consisting of closely interrelated patterns. One of them is that forced migration and internal displacement are a result of “multiple, acute and protracted crises across the region, particularly in Iraq, Libya and the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Globalisation, conflict and instability, development differentials and –increasingly– climate change are amongst the multitude of factors that continue to influence the dynamics of human mobility in the region, says the UN specialised agency.

Question: Aren’t all these patterns and factors human-made? Being so, one wonders if perhaps governments cannot find a human-made solution other than building walls, shutting borders, and installing detention centres.

*Names of migrants have been changed to protect their identity.

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Out of Africa: Understanding Economic Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-understanding-economic-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/africa-understanding-economic-refugees/#comments Tue, 19 Sep 2017 15:19:45 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152132 Anis Chowdhury, a former professor of economics at the University of Western Sydney, held senior United Nations positions during 2008–2015 in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Young African migrants seek opportunities abroad as the World Bank projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”. Credit: Ilaria Vechi/IPS

By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY and KUALA LUMPUR, Sep 19 2017 (IPS)

Not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of this year. Last year, 5,096 deaths were recorded.

The majority – including ‘economic migrants’, victims of ‘people smugglers’, and so on – were young Africans aged between 17 and 25. The former head of the British mission in Benghazi (Libya) claimed in April that as many as a million more were already on their way to Libya, and then Europe, from across Africa.

Why flee Africa?
Why are so many young Africans trying to leave the continent of their birth? Why are they risking their lives to flee Africa?

Part of the answer lies in the failure of earlier economic policies of liberalization and privatization, typically introduced as part of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that many countries in Africa were subjected to from the 1980s and onwards. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and most Western donors supported the SAPs, despite United Nations’ warnings about their adverse social consequences.

SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow, bringing growth and prosperity. Now, a few representatives from the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions admit that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, condemning the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’.

While SAPs were officially abandoned in the late 1990s, their replacements were little better. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of the World Bank and IMF promised to reduce poverty with some modified policy conditionalities and prescriptions.

Meanwhile, the G8 countries reneged on their 2005 Gleneagles pledge to provide an extra US$25 billion a year for Africa as part of a US$50 billion increase in financial assistance to “make poverty history”.

Poor Africa

Thanks to the SAPs, PRSPs and complementary policies, Africa became the only continent to see a massive increase in poverty by the end of the 20th century and during the 15 years of the Millennium Development Goals. Nearly half the continent’s population now lives in poverty.

According to the World Bank’s Poverty in Rising Africa, the number of Africans in extreme poverty increased by more than 100 million between 1990 and 2012 to about 330 million. It projects that “the world’s extreme poor will be increasingly concentrated in Africa”.

The continent has also been experiencing rising economic inequality, with higher inequality than in the rest of the developing world, even overtaking Latin America. National Gini coefficients – the most common measure of inequality – average around 0.45 for the continent, rising above 0.60 in some countries, and increasing in recent years.

While the continent is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’, with more young people (aged 15-24) in its population, it has failed to generate sufficient decent jobs. South Africa, the most developed economy in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), has a youth unemployment rate of 54%.

The real situation could be even worse. Discouraged youth, unable to find decent jobs, drop out of the labour force, and consequently, are simply not counted.

Surviving in Africa
Most poor people simply cannot afford to remain unemployed in the absence of a decent social protection system. To survive, they have to accept whatever is available. Hence, Africa’s ‘working poor’ and underemployment ratios are much higher. In Ghana, for example, the official unemployment rate is 5.2%, while the underemployment rate is 47.0%!

Annual growth rates have often exceeded 5% in many African countries in the new century. SAP and PRSP advocates were quick to claim credit for the end of Africa’s ‘lost quarter century’, arguing that their harsh policy prescriptions were finally bearing fruit. After the commodity price collapse since 2014, the proponents have gone quiet.

With trade liberalization and consequently, greater specialization, many African countries are now even more dependent on fewer export commodities. The top five exports of SSA are all non-renewable natural resources, accounting for 60% of exports in 2013.

The linkages of extractive activities with the rest of national economies are now lower than ever. Thus, despite impressive economic growth rates, the nature of structural change in many African economies have made them more vulnerable to external shocks.

False start again?
Africa possesses about half the uncultivated arable land in the world. Sixty percent of SSA’s population work in jobs related to agriculture. However, agricultural productivity has mostly remained stagnant since 1980.

With agriculture stagnant, people moved from rural to urban areas, only to find life little improved. Thus, Africa has been experiencing rapid urbanization and slum growth. According to UN Habitat, 60% of SSA’s urban population live in slums, with poor access to basic services, let alone new technologies.

Powerful outside interests, including the BWIs and donors, have been advocating large farm production, claiming it to be the only way to boost productivity. Several governments have already leased out land to international agribusiness, often displacing settled local communities.

Meanwhile, Africa’s share of global manufacturing has fallen from about 3% in 1970 to less than 2% in 2013. Manufacturing’s share of total African GDP has decreased from 16% in 1974 to around 13% in 2013. At around a tenth, manufacturing’s share of SSA’s output in 2013 is much lower than in other developing regions. Unsurprisingly, Africa has deindustrialized over the past four decades!

One cannot help but doubt how the G20’s new ‘compact with Africa’, showcased at Hamburg, can combat poverty and climate change effects, in addition to deterring the exodus out of Africa, without fundamental policy changes.

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What Charities and Relief organizations do to alleviate poverty in the Arab regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/charities-relief-organizations-alleviate-poverty-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=charities-relief-organizations-alleviate-poverty-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/charities-relief-organizations-alleviate-poverty-arab-region/#respond Tue, 05 Sep 2017 06:29:05 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151925 Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Sep 5 2017 (IPS)

Extreme poverty remains one of the world’s biggest challenges. According to the United Nations, 767 million people live in extreme poverty around the world. Although world society has managed to lift nearly 1 billion people out of extreme poverty – in 1999 it was estimated that 1.7 billion were affected by extreme poverty – the unprecedented rise of conflict and of violence in the Arab region has worsened the socioeconomic situation of vulnerable population segments in many countries. On 22 February 2017, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator of the United Nations –Stephen O’Brien – stated to the United Nations Security Council that 67% of the population in Syria is living under conditions considered as extreme poverty. In another Arab country affected by war and conflict – Yemen – the World Bank estimates that poverty affects 62% of the population, whereas the World Bank’s estimates this number to be at approximately 22% for Iraq or even as high as 40% in territories controlled by DAESH. Inevitably, conflict and violence have worsened the situation in the Arab region.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The 2017 World Charity Day is an opportunity to highlight the potential for an increased role by charity organizations and philanthropies in eradicating poverty worldwide through volunteer work and charitable activities. The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates is an encouraging example of a wealthy businessman who has devoted his life to addressing poverty and humanitarian issues through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The think tank, According to Purpose in Action – specialized in enhancing donor contributions – estimates that the “annual global charitable giving amounts” is at least USD $410.71 billion a year. Put in a wider context, the amount given annually for charitable causes is higher than the nominal GDP of countries such as of the United Arab Emirates (USD 407 billion), Norway (USD 391 billion) and South Africa (USD 317 billion).

The Charities Aid Foundation World Giving Index for 2016 – measuring charitable activities in 140 countries – show that charitable causes motivate people from all over the world to contribute to advancing common causes and address poverty. Countries from the Arab region score high in this index: The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait were among the leading countries in the world that promoted charitable causes. When the survey respondents were asked whether they would participate in helping a stranger, 81%, 79% and 78% of the respondents in Iraq, Libya, Kuwait respectively stated that they would commit themselves to help someone in need. Helping people in need is inherent to the spirit of the Arabs and is in line with the teachings of the Holy Quran in which Muslims are obliged to give Zakat – charity to the poor in specific amounts. Surat Al-Isra from the Holy Quran [17:26] says:

“You shall give the due alms to the relatives, the needy, the poor, and the travelling alien, but do not be excessive, extravagant.”

The war in Syria has had a tremendous negative impact on the civilian population. More than 12 million people have been forced on the move. Although countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have donated significant funds to alleviate the miseries of the Syrian people, the real impact is delivered through the active involvement of NGOs, IGOs, UN entities and grass-root movements working on the ground. According to the latest donor report provided by Islamic Relief USA, more than 9 million people have benefited from charitable contributions channelled through this organization. The International Rescue Committee has also assisted more than 1 million Syrian civilians in need of aid and support. Other relief organizations – such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration – are working tirelessly to provide support to Syrians desperately in need of humanitarian assistance.

The war in Yemen is another example of a country that has benefitted from the goodwill of charities working to alleviate extreme poverty and to provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian population. The ongoing famine in the country is currently affecting up to 17 million people. In response, Saudi Arabia allocated USD 66.7 million to UNICEF and WHO in June this year in response to the cholera outbreak in the country. Other countries in the region, such as the United Arab Emirates has disbursed over USD 2 billion in humanitarian and in development aid – for the period of 2015 – 2017 – to Yemen and USD 200 million for Palestine partly through charities.

These examples show that charitable organizations and governments can work jointly to provide assistance and protection to Syrian and Yemeni civilians living in extreme poverty and distressing situations in their respective countries. It also indicates that charitable organizations can play the role as a mediator – without being regarded with suspicion by the belligerents – in offering assistance to the civilian population on the ground.

Although the praiseworthy activities of charities contribute to alleviate poverty in the short-term, identifying a long-term solution to address extreme poverty requires a more holistic and inclusive approach to deal with its root-causes. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored so as to accelerate economic growth and to enable societies to stand on their feet. The implementation of unilateral coercive measures on countries affected by war continues to further exacerbate poverty, curb economic growth and destroy the middle class whether in Syria or in Gaza. The return to peace is the first required step.

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20,000 Civilians Trapped in Raqqa City, Deemed “The Worst Place on Earth”http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/20000-civilians-trapped-raqqa-city-deemed-worst-place-earth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=20000-civilians-trapped-raqqa-city-deemed-worst-place-earth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/20000-civilians-trapped-raqqa-city-deemed-worst-place-earth/#respond Mon, 28 Aug 2017 20:37:12 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151818 The battle to reclaim Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), has raised concerns among top UN officials as at least 20,000 civilians remain trapped under heavy fire in the city. Last week Monday, 42 civilians, including 12 women and 19 children, were killed in an air attack, […]

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Staffan de Mistura, UN Special Envoy for Syria, briefs journalists on the sixth round of the intra-Syrian talks. Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 28 2017 (IPS)

The battle to reclaim Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), has raised concerns among top UN officials as at least 20,000 civilians remain trapped under heavy fire in the city. Last week Monday, 42 civilians, including 12 women and 19 children, were killed in an air attack, according to the AP.

The heavy fighting to drive out ISIL, led by the United States (US) coalition and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has come under attack for its relentless air raids, which has killed hundred of civilians since June, according to a report by Amnesty International. SDF typically bears the responsibility to chart coordinates for airstrikes which are led by the US coalition. However, this has also made room for gross miscalculations and loss of both SDF fighters, at least 18 in April, and civilians, whose numbers remain unknown.

When Jan Egeland, a top advisor to the UN Special Envoy for Syria, briefed journalists in Geneva recently, he spoke to the complexity of the situation in Raqqa, as ISIL encircles the city and traps civilians to use them as human shields. Additionally, a collapse of communication, he said, has made things worse.

“I say this also recognizing here and in the Humanitarian Task Force that the difference between this situation and Aleppo and other besieged areas is that we do not have contact with those holding those neighborhoods in Raqqa,” Egeland said. He stressed that a lack of “two-way communication” and a “very deliberate policy of holding people, and using them as human shields” has scared civilians into staying in the city.

Egeland said that he could not imagine a “worse place on earth now than in these five neighborhoods” referring to the areas under the terror of ISIL control.

Still, many have left the city and the UN was able to reach those escaping. In his remarks, Egeland stressed all member parties of the International Syria Support Group (ISSG), which was established in 2015 to build policies towards peace in the region, to help civilians escape into safer areas. The decision to do so, he said, rested with the members of the US-led coalition, who are also key members of ISSG.

To those who have escaped, assistance has been provided from 50 concentration points around the city. Approximately, 260,000 people who have escaped the city have received aid, although conditions within the city remain dire.

Similarly, cautions are also being raised in the city of Deir ez-Zor, which is home to 90,000 people, and where clashes between ISIL and pro-government forces have lately ramped up.

The Syrian conflict has prompted several rounds of negotiations, as warring parties have convened in Geneva, Ankara and Kazakhstan for diplomatic intra-Syrian negotiations. The next round of talks, set in Kazakhstan, has been delayed until the middle of September.

The Security Council will be briefed by the Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, this Wednesday, August 30th.

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Lebanon Joins Jordan and Tunisia in Fight Against Rapists Impunityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/lebanon-joins-jordan-and-tunisia-in-fight-against-rapists-impunity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lebanon-joins-jordan-and-tunisia-in-fight-against-rapists-impunity http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/lebanon-joins-jordan-and-tunisia-in-fight-against-rapists-impunity/#respond Wed, 23 Aug 2017 10:59:26 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151776 The top United Nations human rights official hailed the repeal of laws in Lebanon, Tunisia and Jordan that used to allow rapists to avoid criminal prosecution by marrying their victims. “To punish a rape victim by making her marry the perpetrator of a horrible crime against her – there is no place in today’s world […]

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Lebanon Joins Jordan and Tunisia in Fight against Rapists Impunity

Credit: OHCHR

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 23 2017 (IPS)

The top United Nations human rights official hailed the repeal of laws in Lebanon, Tunisia and Jordan that used to allow rapists to avoid criminal prosecution by marrying their victims.

“To punish a rape victim by making her marry the perpetrator of a horrible crime against her – there is no place in today’s world for such hideous laws,” on 22 August said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

He welcomed the stand that lawmakers in Lebanon, Tunisia and Jordan have taken towards eliminating violence against women and ensuring that perpetrators of such violence are held to account.

“To punish a rape victim by making her marry the perpetrator of a horrible crime against her – there is no place in today's world for such hideous laws,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.
According to the UN High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR), on 16 August, Lebanon voted to repeal article 522 of its penal code, a law that exempted from criminal prosecution a person accused of rape who agreed to marry the victim.

Two weeks earlier, Jordanian lawmakers also voted to abolish a similar provision – article 308 of its penal code.

In Tunisia, on 26 July, the Parliament adopted a law on eliminating violence against women and eliminating impunity for perpetrators, recognising that violence against women includes economic, sexual, political and psychological violence.

The Tunisian law will come into effect next year. Tunisia has also established two human rights institutions this year dealing with human trafficking and improving the enjoyment of individual liberties and equality.

“These are hard-won victories, thanks to the tireless campaigns over the years by human rights defenders – in particular women human rights defenders – in Tunisia, Lebanon and Jordan,” underscored High Commissioner Zeid.

He noted, however, that in Lebanon, article 505 of the Penal Code continues to allow those accused of having sex with a minor to go free if they marry their victims, while article 508 allows for marital rape, and called for the article to be repealed and for marital rape to be criminalised.

Salma Nims, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. Photo: Jordanian National Commission for Women.

Salma Nims, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. Photo: Jordanian National Commission for Women.

Jordan

In the case of Jordan, the law until now allowed a rapist to avoid prosecution by marrying his victim for a minimum period of five years. However, the Parliament of Jordan on 4 August voted to abolish the so-called “rape law” of the Penal Code, UN Women, informed.

“The abolishing of article 308 is an important victory for the women’s movement in Jordan,” said Wafa Saed Bani Mustafa, a lawyer and Member of the Parliament (MP), currently serving as head of the Women’s Caucus and Chairperson of the Coalition of Women MPs to Combat Violence against Women the UN specialised entity reported.

The law eliminates impunity for perpetrators of violence, for example, by amending the article 227 of the penal code, which pardoned a perpetrator of a sexual act with a minor when the perpetrator married his victim. The passing of the law follows several years of advocacy efforts led by Tunisian civil society and national institutions, in collaboration with international organisations, including UN Women.

“My engagement began in 2013, when I started advocating for the abolishment of this article, along with a group of other parliamentarians while serving in Jordan’s 17th Parliament. I started this action because of my strong belief in the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in our national laws, as I believe that Jordanian women are citizens with equal rights and duties.”

 

 “Continued Drama, Fear and Abuse”

Emphasising the “continued trauma, fear and abuse that rape survivors endure when forced to marry their rapists,” civil society, parliamentarians and other actors formed a dedicated coalition in 2015. Together, they demanded the adoption of better legal measures to protect survivors of rape, sexual assault and harassment, and to punish the perpetrators to end impunity, adds UN Women.

“It is important to introduce the concept that marriage is not the only option for rape survivors,” added Mustafa. “Survivors should know that they can receive adequate physical and psychological support, that they can become financially independent and be reintegrated into the society.”

More than 200 activists and representatives of the civil society attended the discussion in Parliament on 2 August and circulated an online petition, which gathered 5,000 signatures from the public in one day, in support of this legislative reform, according to UN Women.

“Also invaluable was the contribution of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, the national women’s agency, headed by Princess Basma bint Talal, who is as well the UN Women’s National Goodwill Ambassador in Jordan.”

The unfailing advocacy efforts of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, the joint action of the civil society and the continuous commitment of the women’s movement at all levels in the past years have paved the way for this historic reform, and continue to sustain the advancement of the women’s empowerment in Jordan,” said Ziad Sheikh, UN Women Representative in Jordan.

Violence against women - Young Tunisian women. Photo: UN Women

Young Tunisian women. Photo: UN Women

Tunisia

For its part, Tunisia made new strides by passing its first national law to combat violence against women, on 26 July this year.

The long-awaited legislation, which passed with 146 votes out of 217 and zero abstentions, takes a comprehensive approach by combining measures for prevention of violence and support for survivors, UN Women reports.

“As a Tunisian woman, I am very proud that this law has been adopted. This is the climax of the steps that began through the adoption of the Code of Personal Status in 1956,”said Naziha Labidi, Minister of Women, Family and Childhood.

The new violence against women law adopts a broad definition of violence. In addition to physical violence, the law recognises other forms of violence against women and girls, including economic, sexual, political and psychological.

It also provides for new protection mechanisms that will enable survivors to access the necessary services and legal and psychological assistance.

Furthermore, the law eliminates impunity for perpetrators of violence, for example, by amending the article 227 of the penal code, which pardoned a perpetrator of a sexual act with a minor when the perpetrator married his victim.

The passing of the law follows several years of advocacy efforts led by Tunisian civil society and national institutions, in collaboration with international organisations, including UN Women.

“Prior to this law, the only progressive legislation that promoted gender equality was the Code of Personal Status, which abolished polygamy, established the minimal age for marriage, introduced the requirement of mutual consent of both parties for a marriage, and created a judicial procedure for divorce.”

 

50% of Tunisian Women Experienced Violence

Pointing to several recent studies, including the national survey on violence against women in 2010, which estimated that nearly 50 per cent of Tunisian women have experienced violence in their lifetime, Member of Parliament, Bochra Belhaj Hmida said: “This is why the establishment of a legal framework against violence was needed.”

She also stressed on the importance of education within the family and from an early age to prevent such violence, adds UN Women.

 

This story updates Jordan Abolishes Law Allowing Rapists to Avoid Prosecution

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Jordan Abolishes Law Allowing Rapists to Avoid Prosecutionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-abolishes-law-allowing-rapists-to-avoid-prosecution/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jordan-abolishes-law-allowing-rapists-to-avoid-prosecution http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-abolishes-law-allowing-rapists-to-avoid-prosecution/#respond Tue, 22 Aug 2017 10:06:41 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151763 In just three weeks time, two Arab countries adopted major steps to combat violence against women, with Jordan abolishing a law allowing rapists to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims, while Tunisia adopting its first national law to prevent gender-based violence and provide support to survivors. In the case of Jordan, the law until now […]

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Violence against women - Young Tunisian women. Photo: UN Women

Young Tunisian women. Photo: UN Women

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Aug 22 2017 (IPS)

In just three weeks time, two Arab countries adopted major steps to combat violence against women, with Jordan abolishing a law allowing rapists to avoid prosecution by marrying their victims, while Tunisia adopting its first national law to prevent gender-based violence and provide support to survivors.

In the case of Jordan, the law until now allowed a rapist to avoid prosecution by marrying his victim for a minimum period of five years. However, the Parliament of Jordan on 4 August voted to abolish the so-called “rape law” of the Penal Code.

Jordan becomes the third county in the region, after Morocco and Lebanon, to abolish the use of marriage to avoid rape prosecutions, the United Nations specialised body, UN Women, informed.

“The abolishing of article 308 is an important victory for the women’s movement in Jordan,” said Wafa Saed Bani Mustafa, a lawyer and Member of the Parliament (MP), currently serving as head of the Women’s Caucus and Chairperson of the Coalition of Women MPs to Combat Violence against Women the UN specialised entity reported.

The law eliminates impunity for perpetrators of violence, for example, by amending the article 227 of the penal code, which pardoned a perpetrator of a sexual act with a minor when the perpetrator married his victim. The passing of the law follows several years of advocacy efforts led by Tunisian civil society and national institutions, in collaboration with international organisations, including UN Women.

“My engagement began in 2013, when I started advocating for the abolishment of this article, along with a group of other parliamentarians while serving in Jordan’s 17th Parliament. I started this action because of my strong belief in the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women in our national laws, as I believe that Jordanian women are citizens with equal rights and duties.”

In recent years, the advocacy to abolish Article 308 has been growing into a strong front, led by national and international organisations, justice sector professionals, journalists and women’s rights activists, adds the United Nations entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

 

“Continued Drama, Fear and Abuse”

Emphasising the “continued trauma, fear and abuse that rape survivors endure when forced to marry their rapists,” civil society, parliamentarians and other actors formed a dedicated coalition in 2015. Together, they demanded the adoption of better legal measures to protect survivors of rape, sexual assault and harassment, and to punish the perpetrators to end impunity, adds UN Women.

“It is important to introduce the concept that marriage is not the only option for rape survivors,” added Mustafa. “Survivors should know that they can receive adequate physical and psychological support, that they can become financially independent and be reintegrated into the society.”

More than 200 activists and representatives of the civil society attended the discussion in Parliament on 2 August and circulated an online petition, which gathered 5,000 signatures from the public in one day, in support of this legislative reform, according to UN Women.

“Also invaluable was the contribution of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, the national women’s agency, headed by Princess Basma bint Talal, who is as well the UN Women’s National Goodwill Ambassador in Jordan.”

The unfailing advocacy efforts of the Jordanian National Commission for Women, the joint action of the civil society and the continuous commitment of the women’s movement at all levels in the past years have paved the way for this historic reform, and continue to sustain the advancement of the women’s empowerment in Jordan,” said Ziad Sheikh, UN Women Representative in Jordan.

UN Women has been a steadfast supporter of the Jordanian National Commission for Women and Jordanian civil society in their advocacy efforts.

In 2016, it also organised a dialogue on the issue between Jordanian and Moroccan parliamentarians, since Morocco had successfully abolished similar discriminatory provisions from its laws.

Violence against women - Salma Nims, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. Photo: Jordanian National Commission for Women.

Salma Nims, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women. Photo: Jordanian National Commission for Women.

Violence against Women in Tunisia

For its part, Tunisia made new strides by passing its first national law to combat violence against women, on 26 July this year.

The long-awaited legislation, which passed with 146 votes out of 217 and zero abstentions, takes a comprehensive approach by combining measures for prevention of violence and support for survivors, UN Women reports.

“As a Tunisian woman, I am very proud that this law has been adopted. This is the climax of the steps that began through the adoption of the Code of Personal Status in 1956,”said Naziha Labidi, Minister of Women, Family and Childhood.

The new violence against women law adopts a broad definition of violence. In addition to physical violence, the law recognises other forms of violence against women and girls, including economic, sexual, political and psychological.

It also provides for new protection mechanisms that will enable survivors to access the necessary services and legal and psychological assistance.

 

No Impunity for Perpetrators

Furthermore, the law eliminates impunity for perpetrators of violence, for example, by amending the article 227 of the penal code, which pardoned a perpetrator of a sexual act with a minor when the perpetrator married his victim.

The passing of the law follows several years of advocacy efforts led by Tunisian civil society and national institutions, in collaboration with international organisations, including UN Women.

“Prior to this law, the only progressive legislation that promoted gender equality was the Code of Personal Status, which abolished polygamy, established the minimal age for marriage, introduced the requirement of mutual consent of both parties for a marriage, and created a judicial procedure for divorce.”

UN Women supported the development of advocacy tools, including guidance for parliamentarians on the international standards to combat violence against women and an article-by-article analysis of the draft law, which was then submitted by the UN System to the Assembly of People’s Representatives (Tunisian Parliament).

50% of Tunisian Women Experienced Violence

Pointing to several recent studies, including the national survey on violence against women in 2010, which estimated that nearly 50 per cent of Tunisian women have experienced violence in their lifetime, Member of Parliament, Bochra Belhaj Hmida said: “This is why the establishment of a legal framework against violence was needed.”

She also stressed on the importance of education within the family and from an early age to prevent such violence, adds UN Women

UN Women Maghreb is proud to have contributed to every step of this great success—from the very first drafting [of the law] in 2014, to the challenging debates that ensued. The law marks a major step towards achieving gender equality in Tunisia,” said Leila Rhiwi, UN Women Representative in Maghreb Multi-Country Office.

“I would like to stress the incredible mobilization, tenacity and perseverance of Tunisian civil society in this process. The sustainable and long-term dialogue and partnerships that we built with them since 2014 is undoubtedly a key factor of this success, ” she added.

While passing of the law marks a significant step in the right direction, translating it into practice through appropriate implementation measures and resources will be key to making a tangible difference to women’s lives, according to the UN Women.

“Some mechanisms are already in place to assist the process—for example, five Tunisian Ministries (Social Affairs, Justice, Women, Family and Children, the Interior and Health) adopted and signed multi-sectoral protocols in December 2016.”

These protocols constitute a set of procedural guidance and mechanisms to improve coordination among frontline service providers under these sectors to better serve survivors of violence, whose needs often encompass a full range of services, from justice to health and housing. Representatives from the five Ministries also meet every month to jointly follow up on individual cases of women survivors.

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Civilians Increasingly Bearing Burden of Armed Conflicts in Arab Regionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/civilians-increasingly-bearing-burden-armed-conflicts-arab-region/#respond Fri, 18 Aug 2017 11:32:17 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151695 The author is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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World Humanitarian Day / Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

Syrian boy brings bread back from underground bakery in severly damaged opposition-held area of Aleppo. August 2014. photo credit Shelly KittlesonIPS

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim
GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug 18 2017 (IPS)

The war in Syria has now entered its 6th year and is becoming the world’s worst man-made disaster.

The humanitarian calamity in Syria has affected millions of lives; more than half of Syria’s pre-war population has been forced to flee, including 6.3 million internally displaced persons and 5.1 million refugees living in refugee camps in the Middle East and in Europe. It is also estimated that approximately 465,000 people have lost their lives because of this enduring conflict with no immediate end in sight.

Arab civilians are also suffering in other major armed conflicts in the Middle East. According to UNHCR and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, at least 3 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the civil strife in Iraq.

Iraq Body Count estimates that more than 50% of the war-related deaths – following the 2003 Iraq invasion – were civilians.

In Yemen, the United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 civilians have perished from the fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthi rebels. On top of this, IOM and UNHCR estimates that around 3 million Yemeni civilians have been displaced from their homes since the beginning of the conflict.

World Humanitarian Day / Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim. Credit: United Nations Library at Geneva

The high civilian tolls witnessed in these conflicts reveal that civilians are increasingly bearing the burden of armed conflicts in the Arab region.

The pattern of modern warfare has changed: battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.
The theme of the 2017 World Humanitarian Day – Civilians caught in conflict are not a target – reaffirm the vision expressed in the 10 May 2017 report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict calling for “collective action to strengthen the protection of civilians in armed conflict.”

A “global protection crisis” has emerged – noted the Secretary General in the same report – owing to the rise of use of force of which civilians are ultimately the main victims. Since the end of World War II, it is estimated that between 60-90% of war-related deaths are primarily among civilians. Civilians have become the primary casualties of war in the 21st century.

The irregular and black market arms trade have fuelled the rise of violent and extremist groups in numerous countries in the Arab region.

The illicit arms trade has enabled terrorist groups to thrive in countries affected by conflict and violence. Disturbing images of civilian infrastructure such as schools and hospitals being bombed in Palestine, in Syria and in Iraq show that civilian infrastructure is increasingly being targeted by belligerents.

Although the Arms Trade Treaty sought to regulate the international arms trade, the flow of arms and weapons to violent and extremist groups continues to fuel bloody conflicts in the Arab region owing to the lack of ratification of the Treaty by the member states of the United Nations.

Warfare and armed conflicts are increasingly being fought in urban centres in the Arab region. It has brought the war closer to people. The pattern of modern warfare has changed: Battles that were once fought in the unpopulated shores of Normandie and in the desert of El Alamein are now being fought in the urban centres of Gaza, Mosul, Baghdad and Aleppo affecting the lives of millions of civilians.

World Humanitarian Day / Civilians are Not a Target

The use of heavy weapons, so-called strategic bombardments and the use of modern technologies such as drones have increased the likelihood of inflicting collateral damage on civilians during armed conflicts. The disproportionate use of force has caused immense suffering leading to abuse and to killings of civilians. Collateral damage has emerged as an acceptable term to justify errors and the indiscriminate use of force.

In order to respond to the need to provide protection to civilians in armed conflict, the world has a moral responsibility to end the illegal trade of arms and weapons fuelling the growth of violent and extremist groups.

States need to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty and comply with its provisions so as to end the illicit arms trade that is currently estimated to lie at around 10 billion US dollars per year. Weapons and arms should not end up in the hands of extremist groups such as DAESH that commit heinous and unscrupulous crimes on civilian populations in the Arab region.

I also appeal to the international community to ensure that all parties to conflict comply with their provisions to protect the lives of civilians in line with the provisions set forth in the Convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War commonly known as the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Respect for international law must guide the actions of belligerents in armed conflicts. Widespread crimes against humanity affecting civilians must be condemned uniformly by world leaders regardless of where they take place. Civilians should not bear the burden of the devastating consequences of military conflicts.

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Jordan Makes Strides Toward Inclusive Green Economyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-makes-strides-toward-inclusive-green-economy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=jordan-makes-strides-toward-inclusive-green-economy http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/jordan-makes-strides-toward-inclusive-green-economy/#respond Thu, 10 Aug 2017 00:37:08 +0000 Safa Khasawneh http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151635 Jordan may be one of the smallest economies in the Middle East, but it has high ambitions for inclusive green growth and sustainable development despite the fact that it lies in the heart of a region that has been long plagued with wars and other troubles, says the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute […]

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Safa Khasawneh interviews the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman. Credit: Safa Khasawneh/IPS

Safa Khasawneh interviews the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman. Credit: Safa Khasawneh/IPS

By Safa Khasawneh
AMMAN, Aug 10 2017 (IPS)

Jordan may be one of the smallest economies in the Middle East, but it has high ambitions for inclusive green growth and sustainable development despite the fact that it lies in the heart of a region that has been long plagued with wars and other troubles, says the Director-General of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) Dr. Frank Rijsberman.

In a wide-ranging interview with IPS, Rijsberman stressed that Jordan has shown a strong commitment towards shifting to a green economy, and has made significant strides in the area of renewable energy.The demand for water and energy is increasing due to the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees.

Following months of intensive cooperation with GGGI, the government of Jordan – represented by the Ministry of Environment with contributions by line ministries and other stakeholders – launched its National Green Growth Plan (NGGP) in December 2016, Rijsberman said.

Highlighting GGGI’s key role in helping Jordan launch its NGGP and develop a clear vision towards green growth strategy and policy framework in line with the country’s vision 2025, Rijsberman said that his institute will also play a critical part in mobilizing funds and investments to enable green growth.

Rijsberman, who is currently visiting Amman to check on projects funded and implemented by GGGI and the German government, underscored Jordan’s accelerated steps towards preserving its natural resources, leading the country into a sustainable economy, fighting poverty and creating more jobs for young people.

Rijsberman told IPS that the NGGP, which was approved by the cabinet, lists 24 projects in six main sectors, including water, agriculture, transport, energy, waste and tourism, the most pressing of which are water and energy, two of Jordan’s most limited resources.

The demand for these two resources is increasing due to the influx of more than one million Syrian refugees, Rijsberman said, adding that the GGGI water projects take into consideration that Jordan is one of the world’s poorest countries in terms of water. According to World Bank data, the availability of water per capita stands now at 145 m3 /year but is projected to decline to 90 m3 /year by 2025.

“In terms of water, our projects in Jordan aim to preserve the country’s efficiency of water distribution system, provide clean drinking water, maximize the use of treated wastewater for agricultural and industrial purposes and prevent pollution by cleaning some of the polluted rivers,” he told IPS.

Rijsberman, who is also an expert in water issues, revealed that one of the GGGI’s important near future projects in Jordan is the “Master Plan for Cleaning and Rehabilitation of Zarqa River Basin,” a heavily polluted river located 25 kilometers east of the Jordanian capital Amman.

The GGGI also works to address Jordan’s energy challenges, Rijsberman said, adding that the Kingdom imports 97 percent of its energy needs, and its annual consumption of electricity rises by 5 percent annually.

“In the energy sector, our primary focus is on the efficiency of this resource, since Jordan has already made good progress in setting up solar energy plans, and the need lies on storing this energy,” he said.

During his visit to Jordan, Rijsberman said that he had talks with officials in the ministries of energy, environment and planning on ways to exploit solar energy for battery technology, another renewable technology that can store extra solar power for later use. This new technology, Rijsberman explained, will provide the country with the opportunity to shift to renewable energy and reduce imports of fossil fuels.

In transportation, Jordan has also made further progress by introducing eco-friendly hybrid cars with greater fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions.

In order to move to a green economy, another step in the right direction was made by the Ministry of Environment, which established a “Green Economy Directorate (unit)”, he said, adding that the GGGI is truly impressed by the full support the unit is receiving from the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Energy.

As Jordan faces new geopolitical challenges and an unprecedented influx of refugees, Rijsberman revealed that GGGI is working with government on a Country Planning Framework (CPF), which is a five-year in-country delivery strategy that identifies and operationalizes the institute’s value additions to national development targets in partner countries.

As a strategic and planning document, the CPF aims at delivering in-country development targets that are in alignment with the overarching GGGI Strategic Plan and Corporate Results Framework. It also elaborates a clear and logical assessment of development challenges and enabling conditions, identifies GGGI’s comparative advantage in country and sets priority interventions, he explained.

In Jordan, he explained, there is political will and determination to create green jobs, green businesses, a healthy environment, and secure and affordable supply of energy for all. What the country lacks is the capacity and technical skills as well as adequate financing mechanisms to encourage the private sector to implement green growth projects.

“So a big part of our job is capacity-building to come up with bankable projects that are green and sustainable, and as we know that the government can’t fund projects by itself, therefore it is very important to build partnerships between the private and public sector to reach this end,” the DG told IPS.

According to official data, four workshops were organized in 2016 to enhance capacity among green growth stakeholders in Jordan. A total of 177 participants attended these workshops in Amman, Jordan, and Abu Dhabi, and the UAE. Eighty-two percent of participants responded to surveys conducted after the workshops, indicating an improvement in their knowledge and skills as a result of their participation.

Rijsberman stressed that although Jordan has made tremendous progress in its approach, there is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

Despite accelerating degrees of environmental degradation and depletion of resources in the region because of wars, poverty and high unemployment, the GGGI official said he was impressed by how rapidly some Arab countries such as the UAE and Qatar are shifting towards green growth.

The concept of green growth is starting to take hold in the region, Rijsberman said, adding that there is a sustainability week held annually Abu Dhabi, the GGGI has offices in Masdar city in UAE, Jordan started implementing its National Green Growth Plan and the Arab League has requested to share this plan be with its 22 members.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) is a treaty-based inter-governmental organization dedicated to supporting and promoting strong, inclusive and sustainable economic growth in developing countries and emerging economies.

Established in 2012 at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, GGGI is accelerating the transition toward a new model of economic green growth founded on principles of social inclusivity and environmental sustainability.

With the support of strong leadership and the commitment of stakeholders, the GGGI has achieved impressive growth over the last several years and now includes 27 members with operations in 25 developing countries and emerging economies.

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Zaatari Camp Marks Fifth Year With 80,000 Refugeeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/08/zaatari-camp-marks-fifth-year-80000-refugees/#respond Tue, 01 Aug 2017 15:00:00 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151525 Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which opened in 2012 as a makeshift camp to house Syrian refugees fleeing the war, marked its fifth year on June 28. The camp was opened by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations (UN) to cope with the humanitarian crisis in Syria—which has recorded the world’s largest refugee movement […]

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A view of the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees are living. Credit: UN Photo/Sahem Rababah

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Aug 1 2017 (IPS)

Jordan’s Zaatari camp, which opened in 2012 as a makeshift camp to house Syrian refugees fleeing the war, marked its fifth year on June 28.

The camp was opened by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the United Nations (UN) to cope with the humanitarian crisis in Syria—which has recorded the world’s largest refugee movement since WWII—with a clear goal to house refugees temporarily.

Between then and today, more than 80,000 Syrian refugees have settled in the camp, making it the world’s largest Syrian refugee camp.

Far from being a makeshift settlement today, the camp has a bustling economy, with many teaching young children—who make up more than half of all refugees—to read and write. The NRC has set up educational centers and centers for vocational activities.

“Now the camp is completely different. There are many more facilities and services. There are no more tents, everyone is living in prefabs. We feel more at home now,” Anwar, one of the first refugees to enter the camp from Daraa, says in a report by the NRC.

“We struggled at the beginning. We used to have shared washrooms. Water lacked sometimes. We had no electricity. The shops weren’t there,” he continued.

All that, of course, has changed. Today, Anwar teaches carpentry and painting to others. Similarly, because many haven’t been able to leave the camp, new businesses have thronged the area.

Still, the very permanence of the camp illustrates the protracted nature of the Syrian conflict, now in its seventh year. Many children have been born in the camp, and the UN has urged other governments to share in this humanitarian responsibility to ensure a better life for all.

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Yemen Records 400,000 Cholera Caseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/yemen-records-400000-cholera-cases/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=yemen-records-400000-cholera-cases http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/yemen-records-400000-cholera-cases/#respond Thu, 27 Jul 2017 06:37:59 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151450 The directors of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint statement today shedding light on a deadly cholera epidemic engulfing war-torn Yemen. More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone. […]

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More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected in Yemen, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone.

Tents set up at Alsabeen hospital in Sana'a Yemen for screening suspected cholera cases.

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 27 2017 (IPS)

The directors of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint statement today shedding light on a deadly cholera epidemic engulfing war-torn Yemen.

More than 400,000 cases of cholera are suspected, and nearly 1,900 people have died from associated cases in the last three months alone.

The dire situation results from a culmination of factors, such as modern tactics of warfare that destroy water pipelines, as well as continuous bombing of schools and hospitals. More than 60 percent of the population remains uncertain of their next meal as famine looms.

Nearly 2 million children are suffering from malnutrition, and are easy targets of the water-borne disease. The report estimates that nearly 80 percent of all children need immediate humanitarian assistance.

Amid the lack of adequate international support, community leaders have stepped up to the task—more than 16,000 volunteers visit families from door-to-door to raise awareness about cholera, and assist them with information to protect themselves.

Many health-care workers, as many as 30,000, haven’t been paid in nearly 10 months. Still, that doesn’t keep them from their work.

Similarly, international organisations like UNICEF and WHO have set up nearly 1,000 diarrhoea treatment centers to provide key supplies, like food and medicine. They are also similarly assisting, with the help of the community, to rebuild the local infrastructure.

There is hope, and more than 99 percent who are now showing cholera-related symptoms have a good chance of surviving.

The two-year deadly conflict in Yemen between the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) and Houthi rebels in one of the most poorest Arab countries has produced devastating results—one report in 2016, which was quickly withdrawn, estimated that nearly 60% of children died from attacks by the SLC.

The UN agency leaders, Anthony Lake (UNICEF), David Beasley (WFP) and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (WHO) urged the international community to “redouble its support for the people of Yemen,” following a trip to the country themselves.

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No Justice, No Peace for Yemeni Childrenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/no-justice-no-peace-yemeni-children/#respond Fri, 21 Jul 2017 14:09:04 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151395 Human rights groups are urging the UN Secretary-General to include the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) in a child rights’ “shame list” after documenting grave violations against children. Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict have documented at least 23 SLC airstrikes which injured or killed children, prompting an urgent call for the […]

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'Zuhoor_Yemen' : One-year-old Zuhoor was forced to have the fingers of her right hand amputated after being seriously injured by an airstrikes near Sana'a. Credit: Mohammed Awadh/Save the Children

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 21 2017 (IPS)

Human rights groups are urging the UN Secretary-General to include the Saudi-led Coalition (SLC) in a child rights’ “shame list” after documenting grave violations against children.

Save the Children and the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict have documented at least 23 SLC airstrikes which injured or killed children, prompting an urgent call for the UN to help protect children caught in the midst of the deadly two year-long conflict.

“Everywhere you go in Yemen you see the devastation caused by airstrikes…all parties have been responsible for the unnecessary deaths of children in Yemen, and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition is among them,” said Save the Children’s Yemen country director Tamer Kirolos.

“The UN Secretary-General must put the interests of children first – and hold all of those responsible to account,” he continued.

The human rights groups compiled evidence of “grave violations” in an effort to push Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to include the SLC in a report on child rights violations in conflict, expected to be released next month.

The annual Children and Armed Conflict report documents grave violations including the killing and maiming of children and attacks on schools and hospitals. It also includes an annex which names and shames perpetrators of such violations.

The coalition was initially listed in the 2016 report, only to be removed a few days later after the Gulf state reportedly threatened to withdraw funding from critical UN programs.

“I had to make a decision just to have all UN operations, particularly humanitarian operations, continue,” former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said following the move.

“I also had to consider the very real prospect that millions of other children would suffer grievously if, as was suggested to me, countries would defund many UN programs,” he added.

The 2016 report found that the coalition was responsible for 60 percent of all recorded child deaths and injuries.

This pattern has only continued as Save the Children and Watchlist documented the killing and maiming of more than 120 children.

In one incident, multiple airstrikes on a market in Hajjah in March 2016 left 25 children dead and four injured.

Multiple bombings of schools and hospitals have also been recorded, including attacks on two different Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-supported hospitals.

Beyond the immediate and devastating effects on children, such attacks have exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the country including the “world’s worst cholera outbreak.”

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), children under the age of 15 account for 40 percent of the almost 300,000 suspected cholera cases and make up a quarter of cholera-related deaths.

The 1.8 million acutely malnourished children under five are particularly vulnerable to such communicable diseases.

However, the health system remains unable to respond to the needs of the population as only 45 percent of health facilities remain with limited functionality.

“As war grinds on and children’s lives are blighted not just in Yemen but around the world, the Secretary-General’s annual list has rarely been more important,” the organisations said in a briefing.

“It offers an opportunity to stand up for children caught in today’s brutal conflict to say that their lives and rights have value,” they continued.

In order to hold perpetrators accountable, the list must be “executed without fear or favour” where every party to the conflict that has committed grave violations is included, they added.

Though listing the SLC is not an end in itself, failure to include a key party to the conflict will set a “dangerous precedent” that others around the world will take note of.

“It would also betray the families whose loved ones were killed, the children who suffered life-changing injuries in airstrikes last year…Yemen’s children deserve accountability for the attacks committed against them,” Save the Children and Watchlist concluded.

The coalition is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Sudan. Because of an ongoing diplomatic rift, Qatar is no longer a part of the SLC.

More than 4,000 children have been killed or injured by all sides of the conflict.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Youth Bulge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What remains of a street in Aleppo. Credit: IPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mideast: Water Use Innovations ‘Crucial’ to Face Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/mideast-water-use-innovations-crucial-face-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-water-use-innovations-crucial-face-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/mideast-water-use-innovations-crucial-face-climate-change/#respond Wed, 05 Jul 2017 17:11:15 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151170 In the Near East and North Africa region, the per capita renewable water availability is around 600 cubic metres per person per year –only 10 per cent of the world average- and drops to just 100 cubic metres in some countries, the United Nations warned. “Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water […]

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Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water scarcity in the face of climate change,” said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva

The Initiative on water scarcity will make governments, international organisations, civil society and the private sector work together to seek participatory and innovative policy, governance and management options for the sustainable use of water scarce resources, which are vital for the food security of the Near east and North Africa countries. Credit: FAO

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jul 5 2017 (IPS)

In the Near East and North Africa region, the per capita renewable water availability is around 600 cubic metres per person per year –only 10 per cent of the world average- and drops to just 100 cubic metres in some countries, the United Nations warned.

“Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water scarcity in the face of climate change,” said the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva at an event co-hosted by the Arab League on the side-lines of the UN specialised agency’s biennial Conference (3-8 July 2017).

“In the Near East and North Africa region, the per capita renewable water availability is around 600 cubic metres per person per year --only 10 per cent of the world average- and drops to just 100 cubic metres in some countries.”

He praised Near East and North African countries’ progress, despite the challenges, in areas such as desalination, water harvesting, drip irrigation and treating wastewater. “It is fundamental to promote ways for agriculture, and food production in general, to use less water, and use it more efficiently”.

“Population growth and the impacts of climate change will put more pressure on water availability in the near future. Climate change, in particular, poses very serious risks.”

Agriculture Accounts for over 80% of Freshwater Withdrawals

Farmers and rural households should be at the centre of strategies to address water scarcity, Graziano da Silva said. “Not only to encourage them to adopt more efficient farming technologies, but also to secure access to drinking water for poor rural households. This is vital for food security and improved nutrition.”

Agriculture accounts for more than 80 per cent of all freshwater withdrawals in the region, reaching peaks above 90 per cent in some countries including Yemen and Syria. Sustainable and efficient water management practices in agriculture are therefore key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger.

“The future of the Arab region is tightly linked to the problem of water scarcity,” said for his part the Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Abul-Gheith.

Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water scarcity in the face of climate change,” said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva

Water use innovations crucial to face climate change in Arab countries. Credit: FAO

“There is a major gap between supply and demand when it comes not only to water but also food in the Arab region. This gap leads to dire political, economic and security consequences.”

He also urged better collaboration with countries that are home to rivers that flow into the region, and noted that water levels in the Euphrates and Nile Rivers are decreasing steadily.

Climate Change to Compound Water Scarcity

Unrestrained demand for water for agriculture in the region has led to groundwater over‐drafting, declines in water quality and land degradation including salinization, FAO reports. “Climate change is expected to compound these trends and agriculture will be one of the hardest hit sectors.”

More frequent and intense heat waves and reduced rainfall will curb growing seasons. With less rain, there will be a reduction in soil moisture, river runoff and aquifer recharge. Increased uncertainty will affect productivity, and make agricultural planning more difficult.

In collaboration with the Arab League, FAO launched a Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity in the Near East in 2013, which supports the coordination of a Regional Collaborative Strategy.

Building on this, the UN agency launched a Global Framework, Coping with water scarcity in agriculture, at COP 22 in Marrakesh last year. It encourages cooperation among stakeholders and will help develop technology and governance based on good science.

New Global Action Programme for SIDS Countries

Meantime, new United Nations global action programme launched on 4 July at FAO seeks to address pressing challenges related to food security, nutrition and the impacts of climate change facing the world’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

The initiative was developed jointly by FAO, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS).

Arab states must continue to seek innovations to overcome water scarcity in the face of climate change,” said FAO's Director-General José Graziano da Silva

Global Action Programme (GAP) on Food Security and Nutrition in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Credit: FAO

Because of their small size and isolation, SIDS are particularly threatened by natural disasters and the impacts of climate change, says the UN specialised body. “Many have limited arable agricultural land and are dependent on small-scale agriculture, ocean resources and high priced imports.”

The Global Action Programme aims to achieve three objectives: i) create enabling environments for food security and nutrition; ii) promote sustainable, resilient nutrition-sensitive food systems; and, iii) empower people and communities for improved food security and nutrition.

On this, Graziano da Silva stressed that the Global Action Programme is the fruit of wide-ranging consultations in the SIDS regions where food security and nutrition must be addressed together with issues such as climate change, the health of oceans, land degradation, social inclusion education and gender equality.

“The impacts of climate change are particularly worrisome. They affect everything that we plan to do in the SIDS countries,” he said, referring to their vulnerability to rising ocean levels and the increase in extreme weather events such as tsunamis, storms, floods and droughts.

Regarding the nutrition situation, FAO chief said that “the triple burden of malnutrition is a reality among many SIDS countries. This means that undernourishment, micronutrient deficiency and obesity coexist within the same country, same communities and even the same households.”

For his part, the President of the Republic of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr. pointed to the need to “curb the alarming trends” in the SIDS such as, in the case of the Pacific region, the high rate of mortality caused by non-communicable diseases including cancer and heart attacks, to which poor nutrition is a major contributor.

“In my view the Global Action Programme is an important mechanism to empower our communities and peoples,” Remengesau said, underscoring the need to gradually shift people in the SIDS towards “wholesome nutrition and healthy lifestyles.”

“I call on the international community, development partners, intergovernmental organizations and fellow SIDS to work together to help our communities and our people,” he said.

UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson, who is also Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said at the event that the launch of the programme “represents an important step towards implementation of the (SDG) Sustainable Development Goals targets as related to the SIDS for addressing poverty, health, water, sanitation, economic development, inequalities, climate change, and of course the oceans”.

Thomson noted that the Global Action Programme stems from the SIDS Acclerated Modalities Of Action (S.A.M.O.A.) Pathway – the outcome of the Third International Conference on SIDS held in Apia, Samoa in 2014, where FAO was invited to develop a global framework for action.

Focus on the Small Island Developing States

FAO has scaled up its work with the SIDS in recent years including in areas aimed at improving the management and use of natural resources; promoting integrated rural development; and building resilience to extreme weather events.

Last month during the Ocean Conference in New York, FAO presented a commitment to increase economic benefits to SIDS countries through the Blue Growth Initiative. In particular, this will be done through three specific regional SIDS projects, with funding of some 16 million dollars from this agency’s budget.

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Is the United States Preparing for a War in Syria?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/is-the-united-states-preparing-for-a-war-in-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-the-united-states-preparing-for-a-war-in-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/07/is-the-united-states-preparing-for-a-war-in-syria/#comments Mon, 03 Jul 2017 13:53:21 +0000 Farhang Jahanpour http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151152 Although US policies during the past few months have been quite puzzling and unpredictable, the events of the past few days have been truly bewildering and alarming. On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It […]

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A civil defence team search for survivors after a barrel bomb attack in Aleppo Syria in August 2014. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

A civil defence team search for survivors after a barrel bomb attack in Aleppo Syria in August 2014. Credit: Shelly Kittleson/IPS

By Farhang Jahanpour
OXFORD, Jul 3 2017 (IPS)

Although US policies during the past few months have been quite puzzling and unpredictable, the events of the past few days have been truly bewildering and alarming. On Monday 26th June, the White House released a statement saying that the United States had “identified potential preparations for another chemical attack by the Assad regime…” It went on to say: “If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

The threats were not limited to the Syrian government. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, followed that statement by tweeting: “Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

It is of course beside the point to ask how US officials have “identified” that Syria was preparing for another chemical attack, while after so many years of fighting ISIS and other terrorists, they have not yet been able to find out who is supplying them with weapons, funds and organization.

Farhang Jahanpour

With these strange and unsubstantiated statements, the Trump Administration is introducing a new element of uncertainty to the developments in the Middle East. As if the situation in that volatile region was not bad enough, these warlike statements have made it much worse. Many people are asking whether the US Administration is preparing the ground for a major confrontation in the Middle East with unimaginable consequences.

Some 14 years ago, in total violation of international law, former US President George W. Bush launched a barbaric attack on Iraq on the basis of fabricated intelligence, which destroyed that country, killed and wounded more than a million people, and gave rise to ISIS that has afflicted the world ever since.

Far from having learned any lessons from that disastrous mistake, the Trump Administration seems intent on committing a similar mistake on a grander scale. During the campaign, Candidate Trump accused the former US Administration of having created ISIS, not indirectly but deliberately. He spoke about America having spent six trillion dollars on illegal wars in the Middle East and having nothing to show for it. He vowed that he would not be interested in regime change and was intent on resolving international disputes through negotiations and deals.

Whether he has changed his mind or whether the neocons in the Administration have infiltrated and dominated his administration makes little difference. The clear fact is that the Trump Administration seems to have opted for the logic of war, instead of resolving the conflicts by peaceful means.

During the past few weeks, US forces have launched a number of attacks on the positions of the forces allied with the Syrian government. On 18th May and 6th June, American aircraft bombed pro-Syrian militias in southern Syria. They shot down two Iranian-made drones on 8th and 20 June, and on 18th June a US fighter shot down a Syrian aircraft that was attacking ISIS bases west of Raqqa.

On 6th April, after an alleged Syrian chemical attack on Khan Shaykhun, a US frigate fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the air base from which the Syrian aircraft had taken off. This was despite the fact that the United Nations was still investigating the source of the attack, and some leading investigative reporters and even the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who were on the ground had cast doubt on the Syria government’s involvement in the chemical attack.

It is strange that as Syrian forces, backed by Russia and Iran, are gaining the upper hand and liberating most of Syria from the terrorists, the intensity of Israeli and American attacks on Syrian government forces has increased.

From the start of the crisis in Syria, there have been a number of theories based on some leaked information that claimed that the entire debacle in Syria was part of a vicious plot by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States, initially supported by Turkey and Qatar, to isolate Iran and to cut off any links between Iran and Hezbollah through Syria.

Whether those theories about US involvement in Syria in support of Israel and against Iran were correct or not, the fact remains that the Trump Administration is engaged in an illegal and dangerous course of action that may result in a an unwanted war between Russia and Iran on the one hand, and the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia on the other.

In view of these developments it is important to point out:

  1. US actions are in clear violation of the UN Charter and are acts of aggression against a sovereign state.
  2. While Russian and Iranian forces are fighting in Syria against the insurgents at the invitation of the Syrian government, America as an uninvited guest has been fighting against the Syrian forces.
  3. If the Trump Administration is sincere in wanting to eliminate ISIS it should support Russia and Iran to liberate the remaining territory occupied by the terrorists.
  4. If the Trump Administration believes in democracy, free elections and the rule of law, it should call for elections in Syria under UN supervision after the defeat of the insurgents, and then accept the election results, rather than keep calling for the ouster of the Syrian president.
  5. Before launching into a dangerous adventure against Russia and Iran, the Trump Administration must carefully consider the consequences of such a major confrontation.
  6. If the Trump Administration is determined to push for war in Syria, US allies should make it clear that they will not support another unnecessary war in the Middle East.
  7. Meanwhile, instead of being only concerned about possible threats to the state of Israel, it is time to take serious steps to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict with some justice for the hard-pressed Palestinians who have lived under a brutal occupation for more than 50 years. Finding a fair solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict would ensure Israel’s security more than any attempts at regime change in other countries.
  8. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump strongly criticized President Obama for having set a red line regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and then failing to punish Syria. President Trump should realize that by issuing similar ultimatums to the Syrian government on the hypothetical use of chemical weapons, he is giving an open invitation to the terrorists to undertake such false flag operations, and then he will have to act, whether the Syrian government had been responsible for the use of chemical weapons or not.

Finally, to add an element of farce to the entire episode, on June 28th Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that the Syrian government had heeded the US warning and had changed its mind about the use of chemical weapons.

The situation in the world is too serious for the leading superpower in the world to pursue such confused and contradictory policies. It is time for the US government to adopt serious and sane approaches towards the Middle East before the world is engulfed in another major catastrophe.

 

Farhang Jahanpour is a former professor and dean of the Faculty of Languages at the University of Isfahan and a former Senior Research Scholar at Harvard. For the past 30 years he has been teaching courses on the Middle East at the Department of Continuing Education and is a member of Kellogg College at the University of Oxford

The statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of IPS.

 

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