Inter Press ServiceMiddle East & North Africa – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 27 Jun 2017 23:34:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8 Refugee Protection an Obligation Under International Lawhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/refugee-protection-obligation-international-law/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=refugee-protection-obligation-international-law http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/refugee-protection-obligation-international-law/#respond Wed, 21 Jun 2017 14:40:50 +0000 Antonio Guterres SG http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150992 UN Secretary-General António Guterres on the occasion of the World Refugee Day

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Refugee Protection an Obligation Under International Law

A young refugee girl pushing a wheelbarrow of rubbish through the refugee camp in Obock, Djibouti. Credit: James Jeffrey/IPS

By Secretary-General António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2017 (IPS)

It is impossible to be ten years as High Commissioner for Refugees, doing my best to try to help the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, without changing your life. And, indeed, not only witnessing the suffering of people but also learning [about] the extraordinary courage, resilience and capacity to permanently generate hope of refugees is something that has changed my perspective of the world and, to a large extent, changed my life.

And this was the reason why I became candidate for Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Now we are witnessing the largest number of refugees ever. But it is important to say that refugee protection is not a matter of solidarity or generosity, refugee protection is an obligation under international law – the ‘51 Convention and many regional instruments of binding nature. And, as a matter of fact, during the ten years in which I was High Commissioner for Refugees, I have to say that, by large, international law was respected.

Borders were, in general, open, very few situations where refugees were rejected or sent back to their countries of origin, where they might face persecution – what is technically called refoulement. The number of resettlement opportunities offered by developed countries for refugees living in camps and other dramatic situations in the developing world has doubled during those ten years and there was, in general, a strong acceptance by Member States that refugee protection was something that was needed and had to be granted.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo

The situation has considerably changed now. It’s true that we are still witnessing a very large number of countries doing an enormous effort to provide protection to refugees in very dramatic circumstances. I’ll be flying tonight to Uganda. Uganda has been receiving, very generously, refugees from the neighbouring countries – it has now more than 1.3 million refugees, 950,000 from South Sudan alone – and providing them not only with protection, but even with plots of land and the capacity to live not in camps, but in the society, in a way that is much more humane but, of course,, that requires a much stronger solidarity from the country itself.

We are still witnessing many remarkable examples of solidarity in today’s world. But at the same time, we are seeing more and more borders being closed, we are seeing more and more refugees being rejected and, namely in countries of the developed world, we are seeing the opportunities for resettlement in richer countries of refugees coming from the global South being decreased in number at the present moment.

And this is particularly worrying, especially when associated to forms of political populism, xenophobia, racism, in which refugees become a target, many times being accused of being part of the terror threat when refugees are not terrorists – they are the first victims of terror, they are fleeing terror; that is why they are refugees. And this is the reason why I believe it is important to make today five very strong appeals to the international community. Five very strong appeals that I believe are absolutely necessary for the right of refugees to be again fully respected.

First: I call Member States that are not doing it, to re-establish the integrity of the international protection for refugees regime, which means to have the right, obviously, to manage their borders in a responsible way, but managing them also in a protection-sensitive way, and not refusing entry to those seeking asylum and deserving protection, which means asking countries not to send back people to where they might face persecution, which means asking countries to increase their resettlement quotas and to grant protection to a larger number of refugees that are living in very dramatic circumstances in crowded camps or in the slums of cities in abject poverty.

Second: recognizing that there is no humanitarian solution for the refugee plight, the solution is political and it is related to the solution of the conflict that generate refugees in larger numbers; to ask all parties to different conflicts in the world and all countries that have an influence on the parties to each conflict to come together and understand that all those conflicts are now conflicts that are causing tremendous suffering in which nobody is winning, everybody is losing, that are becoming a threat not only to the refugees themselves but a threat to the whole world, as those conflicts are becoming also more and more interlinked to problems of global terrorism.

Third: humanitarian support for refugees is still largely underfunded. I believe that, grosso modo, appeals made are funded at about 50%. That means that the majority of the refugees live below the poverty line — that many cannot bring their children to school, that many cannot guarantee adequate nutrition to their children, that many have not adequate health support, that most of them have no jobs and no hopes or perspective to have a dignified life. It is absolutely crucial that humanitarian appeals are fully funded and that international solidarity is expressed in relation to refugees, not forgetting that 80% of the world’s refugees live in the developing world.

Fourth: I appeal to countries in the developed world to be able to express a much stronger solidarity to countries of first asylum in the global South; those that host, as I mentioned, 80% of the world’s refugees, and sometimes with a dramatic impact on their economy, on their society, not to mention the impact on their security with the conflict next door.

If one looks at countries like Lebanon, where one third of the population is refugees, if one looks at countries like Uganda or Kenya or Ethiopia – they have now more than one million refugees- in societies that are poor, that lack resources, that have huge development gaps and huge development problems; it is absolutely crucial not only to support refugees but to support those communities. And that requires effective development cooperation with these countries.

I must praise the World Bank that was able to create new financial instruments, namely for middle-income countries that are hosting a large number of refugees, in the cases of Lebanon and Jordan innovating financially, to allow these countries to have a little bit more support than the one that they were receiving from the international community.

But the truth is that at the same time, countries are asking those in the developing world that host the largest number of refugees to keep them but are not providing the necessary support for that to be possible. Stronger solidarity with refugee-hosting countries in the global South is absolutely a must.

And finally: I ask countries in the developed world to increase their resettlement quotas at least to the levels that we had two or three years ago, to be able to offer an effective responsibility-sharing with those that are hosting millions of refugees in the deep South.

Just to give you an idea about the differences between the global North and the global South, I’m going to Uganda, as I mentioned. Uganda, last year, received three times more refugees from South Sudan than those crossing the central Mediterranean, and you all know the enormous impact in public opinion and in political debates that the movement through the central Mediterranean caused last year. Well, Uganda received three times more, and Uganda is a tiny country with a relatively small economy and with an enormous generosity in the hearts of the people and the decisions of the Government.

I’d also like to remind you that beyond those that are able to cross the border to seek protection outside their country, we have an even larger number, probably about double, of people that are displaced within the borders of their own country, internally displaced people. And those are under the authority either of their Governments or of different non-State actors that occupy parts of the territory.

And they have been systematically, in many parts of the world, victims of dramatic violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. And so I also would like to make a very strong appeal to all actors in all the conflicts to respect international humanitarian law and to respect human rights law and for the international community to be able to implement those methods of accountability to make sure that those that are responsible for the worst atrocities to be effectively accountable and to be punished for what they are doing, because that’s probably the only way to stop the kind of tragic impact we are having in the life and dignity of now more than 65 million people around the world.

I also think it’s important to underline that the difficulties faced by refugees are also linked to the fact that the migration debate has become quite irrational in today’s world. We are talking about two different situations: refugees crossing borders, fleeing conflict or prosecution, [and] economic migrants who aspire legitimately to have a better life and move from one country to another, aiming at a better future for them and their children.

They do not have the same rights as refugees, countries are not forced to grant them protection, but they also have human rights that also need to be respected and their dignity needs to be respected. Now, the truth is that the debate about the migration became largely an irrational debate. Migration has been present in the world since [forever], and as a matter of fact, if one looks at demographic and economic projections of different parts of the world, migration is a necessary element of establishing different forms of equilibrium in the global society and the global economy.

In my country, my mother is assisted by some people, she is 93 years old, and those that are assisting her – they are not Portuguese. They are from different countries, they are migrants in my country, and Portugal is a relatively poor country in the context of the European Union. And so migration is necessary. If something is necessary, it’s better to control it and to do it regularly than to let smugglers and traffickers be in charge of these movements.

And so my strong appeal in relation to migration is that a rational debate become possible about migration, that of course countries have the right to apply their own migration policies, but that they do that in full respect of human rights, that at the same time, development cooperation policies are able to address the problems of human mobility, to create opportunities in countries of origin for migration to be out of choice, not out of necessity, and much stronger cooperation of States among themselves to crack down on smugglers and traffickers, but also a much big offer of opportunities of legal, regular migration.

I think if migration can be discussed in a rational way, that will create a much better environment in our societies that are all multiethnic, multicultural, multireligious, and at the same time that will also help refugees benefit more easily from the protection rights they are entitled to receive.

We will have two very important debates in the General Assembly next year for two compacts: on migration and refugees. And my appeal to all Member States is to engage positively in those debates and to allow for the international community to be able to define, both in [terms of] refugees and in migration, adequate policies that are assumed by the whole of the international community, respecting human rights, taking into account the legitimate interests of States, but also the opportunities that are generated by human mobility in our world.

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Half of World’s Civilian War Deaths Occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/half-worlds-civilian-war-deaths-occurred-syria-iraq-yemen/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 19:38:13 +0000 IPS World Desk http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150985 Between 2010 and 2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, a major independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence informs. According to a new report ‘I Saw My City Die‘ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), […]

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Between 2010-2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq & Yemen, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross

On the road going east from Mosul, people fleeing the fighting cross through Gogjali, a Kurdish village located on the way to Al Khazer displaced camp. Credit: CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / ICRC / A. Qusay

By IPS World Desk
ROME/GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

Between 2010 and 2015, nearly half of all civilian war deaths worldwide occurred in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, a major independent, neutral organisation ensuring humanitarian protection and assistance for victims of war and armed violence informs.

According to a new report ‘I Saw My City Die‘ by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), five times more civilians die in offensives carried out in cities than in other battles.

“Over the past three years, our research shows that wars in cities accounted for a shocking 70% of all civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria”, said the ICRC’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Robert Mardini.

“This illustrates just how deadly these battles have become. This is all the more alarming as new offensives get underway in cities like Raqqa in Syria, or intensify in Mosul, Iraq. A new scale of urban suffering is emerging, where no one and nothing is spared by the violence.”

The research findings are based on preliminary analysis of battle trends and data over the past three years in Iraq and Syria.

The report includes testimony from residents in Syria’s Aleppo, Iraq’s Mosul and Yemen’s Taiz, and expert analysis. It vividly illustrates the effects of siege warfare, the use of explosive weapons and the extensive damage caused to key infrastructure.

The conflicts in these countries have resulted in internal displacement and migration levels unprecedented since WWII, says the Geneva-based ICRC.

Ahmad Ali has just arrived home with a bag of Kudam, a local Yemeni bread. His dry lips tell of his fatigue and the difficult life he leads. He earns a pittance working as a cobbler. “I keep hoping we can soon go back to our home town and the peaceful lives we used to lead. Life here is very difficult. There is no water, no food, no medicine, and no stability,” he says. Credit: CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC / Mohammed Yaseen

17 Millions Fleeing Home

More than 17 million Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis have fled their homes. And these battles risk becoming even more protracted if real political solutions are not found soon, says the report.

Wars in cities are so devastating because of the way in which they are being fought. Armed parties are failing to distinguish between military objectives and civilian infrastructure – or worse, they are using or directly targeting them, it adds.

“It’s beholden on those with power to act. Warring sides must realise the full impact the fighting has on the people they ultimately hope to govern. Will the victors be able to keep the peace if people feel they have respected neither the law nor the basic humanity of local citizens? The consequences of this violence will resonate for generations and there is the very real danger that cities experiencing these conflicts will simply act as incubators for further violence in the future”, said Mardini.

“States supporting parties to conflict must also do their utmost to restrain their allies and ensure better respect for international humanitarian law. And once the guns fall silent, it is local people and organisations which must play a full part in the rebuilding of the communities.”

The report also considers Lebanon’s 15-year civil war and examines the lessons Beirut can offer to help ensure the recovery of urban communities after such overwhelming and protracted violence.

According to ICRC, findings on the proportion of civilian casualties in cities are based on preliminary research in the Iraqi provinces of Anbar, Ninewah and Salahuddin and Syrian governorates of Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Rif Damascus and Damascus, based on data available between January 2014 and March 2017.

The proportion of deaths in Iraq, Syria and Yemen is based on a yearly average of around 90.000 global conflict-related deaths between 2010 and 2015, during which time the yearly average of deaths in Iraq, Syria and Yemen was of 42.000 conflict-related deaths i.e. 47 per cent of the total casualties worldwide.

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VIDEO: Yusra Mardini, A Young Refugee, Finds Safety in Her New Homehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/video-yusra-mardini-young-refugee-finds-safety-new-home/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=video-yusra-mardini-young-refugee-finds-safety-new-home http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/video-yusra-mardini-young-refugee-finds-safety-new-home/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 16:21:56 +0000 UNHCR http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=151070 The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year. Yusra Mardini was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN […]

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The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year.

The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year.

By UNHCR
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The United Nations Department of Public Information has launched a new animated video on the dramatic story of Yusra Mardini, a young refugee from conflict-torn Syria who achieved her dream to compete in the Olympics last year. Yusra Mardini was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on 27 April 2017. The video was produced by the Education Outreach Section in support of the Together Initiative to mark World Refugee day on 20 June and highlight the advent of the International Day of Peace on 21 September.

 
 

 
 

Nearly 66 million people were forcibly displaced from their homes last year, the United Nation refugee agency has reported.  Around 20 people are newly displaced every minute of the day, according to a new report. In its annual Global Trends report, the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR has recorded unprecedented and concerning levels of displacement around the world.
The figure equates to “one person displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports, stressing the “very high” pace at which conflict and persecution is forcing people to flee their homes.

“We are used to looking at the world and seeing progress, but there is no progress to be made in terms of conflict and violence that is producing people who have had to flee,” said the Director of UNHCR’s New York Office Ninette Kelley, ahead of World Refugee Day.

In just two decades, the population of forcibly displaced persons doubled from 32 million in 1997 to 65 million in 2016, larger than the total population of the United Kingdom.

Much of the growth was concentrated between 2012 and 2015, and driven largely by the Syrian conflict which, now in its seventh year, has forcibly displaced over 12 million representing over half of the Middle Eastern nation’s population.

 

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwidehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/world-society-needs-express-greater-solidarity-refugees-worldwide/#respond Tue, 20 Jun 2017 12:02:36 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150978 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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The World Society Needs to Express Greater Solidarity for Refugees Worldwide

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 20 2017 (IPS)

The world is heading into troubled waters as we are witnessing an unprecedented movement of people – refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) alike – fleeing from misery, poverty and conflicts. The refugee crisis that has swept across Europe and the Middle East is becoming the 21st century’s most protracted crisis with no immediate solution in sight. The world has not witnessed a more complex movement of people since the end of the Second World War; thousands of human beings undertake perilous and treacherous journeys in hope for a better and a safer future. Many of them perish during these hazardous journeys. How can we forget the words the British-Somali poet Warsan Shire who said:

No one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”

The 2017 World Refugee Day is an important occasion to stand united with millions of refugees around the world. This international commemorative day was announced in 2001 following the adoption of Resolution 55/76 by the United Nations General Assembly on 12 February 2001. It also marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the “1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.” Although the traumas of the Second World War reminded the world of the importance of never ignoring the past, the contemporary crisis calls for concerted efforts to resolve the plight of refugees worldwide as a matter of urgency and to address the root causes of mass exodus, as a long-term strategy.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are 21 million refugees worldwide. In 2017, there was an estimated 5 million Syrian refugees worldwide. Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Sudan – countries located in the Arab region – are also considered as source countries of refugees owing to the proliferation of conflicts and the rise of violent extremism.

The majority of these refugees have sought refuge in countries neighbouring their country of origin. In the Middle East, countries in the Arab region are hosting one of the highest number of refugees. More than 1 million people have found refuge in Lebanon, a country that has already welcomed more than 500,000 Palestinian refugees. Jordan is home to approximately 660,000 refugees, whereas Iraq and Egypt have welcomed around 240,000 and 120,000 refugees respectively despite internal upheavals and civil strife. On top of this, one can also add Turkey that is currently hosting nearly 3 million Syrian refugees.

On the other side of the Mediterranean Sea, several European countries have showed some support to address the plights of refugees from the Arab region. Germany and Sweden have taken adequate measures to accommodate the influx of refugees by welcoming 400,000 and 100,000 refugees respectively. Other countries such as France and the Netherlands have also pleaded to relocate refugees entrenched in refugee camps in transit countries such as Italy, Greece and Hungary.

Although a certain degree of solidarity is being expressed by European countries, the number of refugees being granted protection in rich Western countries constitutes a very small one-digit percentage of the population compared with countries in the Arab region. Despite being signatories to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, many countries have decided to openly defy the acceptance of refugees belonging to certain religious faiths within their societies. Walls have been built in a misconceived attempt to exclude refugees from entering certain countries. The fearmongering and scapegoating of refugees have likewise given rise to a populist tidal wave. Right-wing movements use the contemporary refugee crisis to confer legitimacy on their aspirations to political power through whipping up xenophobia and through conflating Islam with terrorism.

During a panel debate that was held on 15 March 2017 at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) on the subject of “Islam and Christianity, the Great Convergence: Working Jointly Towards Equal Citizenship Rights” several panellists underscored that these types of practices are contradictory to the core principles of Islam and Christianity preaching love, peace and tolerance towards people in need. Societies should stand united in addressing the rise of populism that is pervasive in many countries.

I would also like to call upon governments in the Middle East and in the West to work jointly to address the protracted refugee crisis. Rich countries have a moral responsibility to provide development assistance to poorer countries to achieve a more equitable burden sharing arrangement for hosting refugees. Countries in the West and in the Middle East need also to step up their joint efforts to eliminate the root causes which have fuelled extremism. Peace and stability in the Middle East need to be restored before refugees can safely return to their home societies. This calls for a radical political change of approach in problem solving in the region.

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Housing Refugees of the Middle East Conflicts: Where Will They Go?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/housing-refugees-middle-east-conflicts-will-go/#respond Fri, 16 Jun 2017 20:39:42 +0000 Roshni Majumdar http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150927 Prolonged conflicts in the Middle East have led to a deadly humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17.5 million people displaced in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. In Syria alone, 11.5 million people have fled their homes—more than three people a minute—since the beginning of war in 2011. Five million have fled the country, and six […]

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Housing Refugees of the Middle East Conflicts: Where Will They Go?

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon signs the ICRC guest book, as Mr. Maurer Looks on; 3rd Oct., 2016. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

By Roshni Majumdar
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 16 2017 (IPS)

Prolonged conflicts in the Middle East have led to a deadly humanitarian crisis, with as many as 17.5 million people displaced in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

In Syria alone, 11.5 million people have fled their homes—more than three people a minute—since the beginning of war in 2011. Five million have fled the country, and six million live in ad-hoc shelters across the country.

The new numbers, in a report by the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) highlight the sheer magnitude of movement in the region, and the struggle of everyday life in first-hand accounts.

“When the siege of east Aleppo started last Ramadan [2016], the situation grew even more difficult as people were stranded for 190 days. The situation there was in a state of paralysis. My son was always hungry as there was nothing to eat or drink. Food was extremely expensive. We were forced to eat different kinds of lentil-based food. As a result, I lost 25 kilos,” said Yasser, a businessman in Aleppo, who watched his son die as his building collapsed after a bombing.

Aleppo, a flourishing economic hub in northern Syria, laid in ruins after four years of hellish fighting between varying warring groups. When the fighting finally ended on Dec. 15, 2016, 35,000 people were evacuated to neighbouring areas in just one week. As residents move back into the city, livable housing remains a major problem.

In Ramadi, Iraq, which was recently liberated from the Islamic State, fighting damaged almost 80 percent of the city. By March, more than a year since the war ended, only 60 percent of its civilians were able to return to the city. Nationwide, even before the Iraqi offensive on Mosul began in October 2016, almost a tenth of Iraqis were uprooted from their homes.

In Mosul, at the beginning of April this year, nearly 274,000 remained displaced from their homes in the city.

In all cases, the extent of damage has been complicated by tactics of urban warfare—firing in densely packed cities, and employing sieges against civilians.

In three cities—Foua, Kefraya and Madaya—in eastern Aleppo, for instance, nearly 60,000 civilians were trapped in a siege that lasted 190 days in 2016. Similarly, in a 15-month siege in Taiz, Yemen, nearly 200,000 people were caught in the cross-fire.

Matters are made worse by continual use of high-impact weapons that destroy urban infrastructure—a single broken pipe, for instance, can deprive 100,000 people of water.

“What we are witnessing is a sustained assault on, and massive disregard for, the provision of health care during times of conflict,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer and Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) President Dr Joanne Liu in a co-written editorial for The Guardian.

The report urges parties involved in the conflict to uphold the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), protect urban settings, and work to the pressing concerns of civilians.

On May 3, 2016, spurred by ongoing attacks on volunteers and medical facilities, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2286, which called on all warring parties to protect medical facilities and personnel.

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Drought Pushes 1 in 3 Somalis to a Hunger Knife-Edgehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/drought-pushes-1-3-somalis-hunger-knife-edge/#respond Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:55:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150897 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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FAO massive famine-prevention campaign in Somalia--12 million animals treated so far against livestock diseases and illness. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 15 2017 (IPS)

Another famine in former European colonies in Africa and another time in its Eastern region, with Ethiopia and Somalia among the major victims of drought and made-made climate disasters mainly caused by US and European multinational business.

While an estimated 7.8 million people are food insecure in Ethiopia, where drought has dented crop and pasture output in southern regions, in the specific case of Somalia, the United Nations reports that 3.2 million people—that’s one third of its estimated 11 million inhabitants, are now on a ‘hunger knife-edge.’

Meanwhile, more than six million people are affected, of whom only about three million have been reached with food rations.

Key Numbers

· Animals provided with life-sustaining care so far: 12.3 million

· People supported by those animals: 1.8 million pastoralists

· Approximate cost of each FAO treatment per animal: $0.40

· Cost to a pastoralist to replace one dead animal: $40

· Cumulative value of prevented livestock losses so far: $492 million

SOURCE: FAO

“The humanitarian crisis has deteriorated more rapidly than was originally projected,” the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Raisedon Zenenga, few weeks ago told the Council in New York.

People Are Dying. Survivor, Forced to Migrate

“People are dying and need protection, particularly women and children, as drought conditions force them to migrate from rural areas to town, and as sexual violence increases in displacement camps.”

Worldwide, land degradation, severe droughts and advancing desertification are set to force populations to flee their homes and migrate.

Over the next few decades, worldwide, close to 135 million people are at risk of being permanently displaced by desertification and land degradation, says Monique Barbut, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“If they don’t migrate, the young and unemployed are also at more risk of falling victim to extremist groups that exploit and recruit the disillusioned and vulnerable, “ added Barbut in her message on the occasion of this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) marked on June 17.

They are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from increasing global demand and wider sustained economic growth. In fact, the economic losses they suffer and growing inequalities they perceive means many people feel they are being left behind, Barbut said.

“They look for a route out. Migration is well-trodden path. People have always migrated, on a temporary basis, to survive when times are tough. The ambitious often chose to move for a better job and a brighter future.”

Famine-prevention: The livestock protection campaign is vital for vulnerable pastoralists who rely on their animals to survive. Credit: FAO

One in every five youth, aged 15-24 years, for example is willing to migrate to another country, she noted, adding that youth in poorer countries are even more willing to migrate for a chance to lift themselves out of poverty.

“It is becoming clear though that the element of hope and choice in migration is increasingly missing. Once, migration was temporary or ambitious. Now, it is often permanent and distressed.”

Saving Animals Saves Human Lives, Livelihoods

In parallel, concerned United Nations agencies have been strongly mobilised to help mitigate the new famine facing African countries. One of them, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has been pushing forward with a massive campaign that has so far treated more than 12 million animals in less than three months.

The objective is to protect the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families who rely on their livestock’s meat and milk for survival. By mid-July, the UN specialised body will have reached 22 million animals, benefiting over 3 million people.

“Saving animals saves human lives and livelihoods. When animals are weakened by drought, they stop producing milk or die which means people go hungry and families are pushed out of self-reliance,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Somalia.

Worsening drought conditions have left hundreds of thousands of Somalis facing severe food and water shortages. Credit: OCHA Somalia

Around 3.2 million people in Somalia are on a hunger knife-edge, the agency reports, adding that the majority live in rural areas and livestock such as goats, camels, sheep and cattle are their main source of food and income.

“What we have heard again and again from displaced people in camps is that when they lost their animals, everything collapsed. It is a steep, long climb for them to get back on their feet again. We have stepped up our response to reach families before that happens,” added Trenchard. “Livelihoods are their best defence against famine”.

In Somalia, 6.7 million people face acute hunger as threat of famine persists, according to a FAO new assessment.

The UN agency is deploying 150 veterinary teams across Somalia to treat goats and sheep as well as cattle and camels – up to 270,000 animals each day. The teams are made up of local Somali veterinary professionals.

Simple, Cost-Effective Care

Livestock badly weakened by the lack of feed and water are highly susceptible to illnesses and parasites but are too weak to withstand vaccination, the specialised organisation reports.

As part of an integrated response program to improve the conditions of livestock, animals are treated with multivitamin boosters, medicines that kill off internal and external parasites, deworming, and other treatments to fight respiratory infections.

The simple and cost-effective care being provided by the FAO vet teams is reinforcing animals’ coping capacity and keeping them alive and productive. (See Key Numbers Box).

Meanwhile, through its Famine Prevention and Drought Response Plan, the UN specialised body is delivering large-scale, strategic combinations of assistance to prevent famine in Somalia.

In addition to livestock treatments, this includes giving rural families cash for food purchases, helping communities rehabilitate agricultural infrastructure, and providing farmers with vouchers for locally-sourced seeds along with tractor services that reduce their labour burden.

Any serious reaction from Africa’s former colonisers?

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Mideast: Drought to Turn People into Eternal Migrants, Prey to Extremism?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/mideast-drought-to-turn-people-into-eternal-migrants-prey-to-extremism/#respond Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:31:40 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150865 This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Credit: UNCCD

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 13 2017 (IPS)

Worldwide, land degradation, severe droughts and advancing desertification are set to force populations to flee their homes and migrate. In the specific case of the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA), such an obliged choice implies the additional risk to turn peoples into easy prey to extremist, terrorist groups.

This quick conclusion does not come out of the blue–the MENA region, which is home to around 400 million people, is one of the world’s most impacted areas by drought and fast advancing desertification.

The situation is such that several scientific researches have been handling the scary scenario that the MENA region may become inhabitable in very few decades from now, even as soon as 2040.

On this, study-based reports are bold clear. See for instance: New Evidence Confirms Risk That Mideast May Become Uninhabitable. And Will the Middle East Become ‘Uninhabitable’?

The international community is set to mark this year’s World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) on June 17, under the theme: “Our Land. Our Home. Our Future.” The Day will precisely examine the important link between land degradation and migration.

The WDCD is observed every year to promote public awareness of international efforts to combat desertification.

What Desertification Is All About?

Desertification is the degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas. It is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations, according to the United Nations.

“Desertification does not refer to the expansion of existing deserts. It occurs because dryland ecosystems, which cover over one third of the world‘s land area, are extremely vulnerable to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use. Poverty, political instability, deforestation, overgrazing and bad irrigation practices can all undermine the productivity of the land.”

Over 250 million people are directly affected by desertification, and about one billion people in over one hundred countries are at risk, the world body reports. “These people include many of the world‘s poorest, most marginalized and politically weak citizens.”

Bandiagara, a town in the semi-arid central plateau of Mali inhabited by mainly agricultural Dogon people. Credit: UN Photo/Alejandra Carvajal

Bandiagara, a town in the semi-arid central plateau of Mali inhabited by mainly agricultural Dogon people. Credit: UN Photo/Alejandra Carvajal

The World Day to Combat Desertification is a unique moment to remind everyone that land degradation neutrality (LDN) is achievable through problem solving, strong community involvement and co-operation at all levels,” according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Environmental degradation, political instability, food insecurity and poverty are causes of migration and development challenges.”

In fact, the Bonn-based UNCCD secretariat timely reminds that in just 15 years, the number of international migrants worldwide has risen from 173 million in 2000 to 244 million in 2015.

Drought, the Big Unknown

Drought, a complex and slowly encroaching natural hazard with significant and pervasive socio-economic and environmental impacts, is known to cause more deaths and displace more people than any other natural disaster, says the UN Convention secretariat.

By 2025, 1.8 billion people will experience absolute water scarcity, and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions.

Meanwhile, UNCCD reports that the demand for water is expected to increase by 50 per cent by the year 2050. As populations increase, especially in dryland areas, more and more people are becoming dependent on fresh water supplies in land that are becoming degraded. Water scarcity is one of the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century.

“Drought and water scarcity are considered to be the most far-reaching of all natural disasters, causing short and long-term economic and ecological losses as well as significant secondary and tertiary impacts.”

Ten Times Less Available Fresh Water

Per capita availability of fresh water in the region is now 10 times less than the world average, the United Nations has recently warned. Moreover, higher temperatures may shorten growing seasons in the region by 18 days and reduce agricultural yields a further 27 per cent to 55 per cent less by the end of this century.

Add to this that the region’s fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world, and are expected to fall over 50 per cent by 2050, according to the United Nations leading agency in the field of food and agriculture.

Moreover, 90 per cent of the total land in the region lies within arid, semi/arid and dry sub/humid areas, while 45 per cent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) adds.

On this, UNCCD says that to mitigate these impacts, drought preparedness that responds to human needs, while preserving environmental quality and ecosystems, requires involvement of all stakeholders including water users and water providers to achieve solutions for drought.

“Action on mitigating the effects of drought should be implemented considering comprehensive drought early warning and monitoring systems, vulnerability and risk assessment, upstream-downstream water uses, the link between water and land use; livelihood diversification strategies for drought affected people, etc. For example, addressing land degradation upstream improves access to water on site and downstream.”

The health of land is critical in the search for sustainable solutions to water resource provision and management, the UN Convention secretariat informs. “It is essential for countries to be proactive (rather than reactive); be coordinated at regional level (in addition to the country level actions); holistic and multi-sectoral (rather than silos) and to treat drought as a ‘constant risk’ (rather than a ‘crisis’).”

The global observance of #2017WDCD will be on 15 June in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The Day will be hosted by le Ministère de l’Environnement, de l’Economie Verte et du Changement Climatique.

The UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Established in 1994, UNCCD is the sole legally binding international agreement linking environment and development to sustainable land management. It addresses specifically the arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, known as the drylands, where some of the most vulnerable ecosystems and peoples can be found.

Its 195 parties work together to improve the living conditions for people in drylands, to maintain and restore land and soil productivity, and to mitigate the effects of drought.

The UNCCD is particularly committed to a bottom-up approach, encouraging the participation of local people in combating desertification and land degradation. Its secretariat facilitates cooperation between developed and developing countries, particularly around knowledge and technology transfer for sustainable land management.

As the dynamics of land, climate and biodiversity are intimately connected, the UNCCD collaborates closely with the other two Rio Conventions; the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to meet these complex challenges with an integrated approach and the best possible use of natural resources.

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Child Labor in the Arab Region Does Not Belong to the 21st Centuryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/child-labor-in-the-arab-region-does-not-belong-to-the-21st-century/#respond Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:08:57 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150860 Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim, is Chairman of the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue

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

By Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 12 2017 (IPS)

Today marks the 2017 World Day against Child Labor to reaffirm the goal to eliminate all forms of child labor. This year’s annual theme highlights a subject that is often neglected, namely the importance of addressing child labor in conflict areas and in disaster settings.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Ali Al Qassim

The United Nations (UN) estimates that approximately 1.5 billion people live in conflict areas around the world. It is likewise projected that around 200 million people are affected annually by disasters whether related to man-made environmental devastations, to natural hazards or to other types of catastrophes.

Out of these figures, 168 million children worldwide are affected by child labor in conflict and in disaster settings. Asia and the Pacific has the highest incidence with approximately 78 million (9.3%) followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 59 million (21%) and Latin America and the Caribbean with 13 million (8.8%). 9.2 million children – 8.4% of the total figures – are engaged in child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa.

Child labor is prohibited by several legal conventions. ILO Convention No. 182 often referred to as the “Worst Forms of Child Labor Convention” provides important guidelines on the worst types of child labor that need to be prohibited and eliminated by States. ILO Convention No. 138 entitled “Minimum Age Convention” likewise upholds in Article 7 that children at an early age should not undertake employment considered “to be harmful to their health or development.”

Although the incidence of child labor in the Middle East and in North Africa is lower than in other parts of the world, it remains a major challenge for many countries in the Arab region owing to the proliferation of conflicts.

The war in Syria is a major humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century. Several hundred thousand civilians have died, whereas it is estimated that approximately 7.6 million people are internally displaced and 4.8 million are refugees. A figure that is often left unaddressed is the incidence of child labor involving Syrian refugee and displaced children. According to several think-thanks, these children perform hazardous work and hard labor under harsh and unsustainable working conditions. Organized crime groups exploit children for financial gains. Child labor has now reached a disturbing level among Syrian refugee children.

Yemen has also witnessed the growth of child labor owing to the war that is unfolding in the country. According to a joint UNHCR-IOM press release issued in February 2017, it was concluded that the deteriorating situation in Yemen has pushed children into “danger and adversity” including child labor and hazardous work. Other Arab countries facing turmoil and civil war – such as Libya and Iraq – also experience a resurgence of child labor as a result of the disintegration and the fragmentation of these societies.

Despite this troubling context, there is hope in the horizon. I am pleased that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) underscore the importance of addressing and of ending child labor. SDG 8.7 stipulates the need to end child labor “in all its forms” by 2025. I invite all Arab states to work jointly towards the realization of this imperative goal by 2030. Arab States have showed great dedication and commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); I remain convinced that similar progress will be realized vis-à-vis the SDGs.

The deteriorating security situation and the growing threat of famine throw societies into a situation of despair and instability. The lack of employment, decent work and poverty provide fertile ground for child labor to prosper as the only hope for economically disadvantaged families is to send their children – in particular girls – to engage in child labor. To reverse this trend, war-torn societies need to be allowed to return to a modicum of peace and stability guaranteeing families safe living conditions and peaceful prospects. The return to peace is the first step towards the full elimination of child labor.

Lastly, despite a massive influx of refugees and internally displaced persons to Europe, the heaviest burden by far is borne by Muslim societies in neighbouring countries bordering war-torn countries of departure of refugees and other migrants. It is therefore important to step up the efforts of the international community to provide adequate support and assistance to such countries welcoming a high percentage of migrants and refugees including children in relation to their own population.

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Crisis in the Gulf: Escalation or negotiation?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/crisis-in-the-gulf-escalation-or-negotiation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=crisis-in-the-gulf-escalation-or-negotiation http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/crisis-in-the-gulf-escalation-or-negotiation/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:37:23 +0000 James M. Dorsey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150821 *Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies & co-director of the University of Würzburg’s Institute for Fan Culture

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By James M. Dorsey
SINGAPORE, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

Turkey’s parliament is this week fast tracking the dispatch of up to 3,000 troops to Qatar, home to the country’s military base in the Middle East. Certain to stiffen Qatar’s resolve to resist Saudi and UAE-led pressure to force it to change policies, the Turkish move comes amid hints that the kingdom and its allies may seek to undermine the rule of Qatari emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The stakes for both sides of the Gulf divide could not be higher. Saudi Arabia and the UAE cannot afford to fail in their effort to force Qatar’s hand after leading several Arab and non-Arab states in a rupture of diplomatic relations and declaring an economic boycott that also targets Qatar’s food supplies. By the same token, Qatar cannot afford a cave-in to Saudi and UAE demands that would humiliate the country and effectively turn it in to a Saudi vassal.

The dispatch of Turkish troops as well as Turkish and Iranian offers to help Qatar offset the impact of the boycott by ensuring that its food and water needs are met positions the Gulf crisis and Saudi Arabia’s proxy war with the Islamic republic as a political rather than a sectarian battle. Sunni Turkey and Shiite Iran countering of the Saudi-UAE campaign undermines the kingdom’s effort to project its rivalry with Iran as both a sectarian conflict and a power struggle.

The dispatch of troops and the emergence of a pro-Qatari alliance opposed to that of Saudi Arabia also eases pressure on non-Arab Muslim states to take sides. By raising the stakes, Turkey and Iran could potentially contribute to efforts to find a political solution to the crisis.

The move to quickly dispatch troops to Qatar came a day after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the Saudi-UAE effort to isolate sanctions and cripple it with sanctions. Mr. Erdogan warned that the moves would fail to solve problems and said he would do what he could to end the crisis.

Kuwait is already attempting to bridge the gap between the Gulf states and Qatar while the United States and Germany have called for a political solution. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif was scheduled to visit Ankara to discuss ways of resolving the Gulf crisis.

That may prove to be easier said than done. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are bent on avoiding a repeat of 2014 when Qatar failed to respond to the withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati and Bahraini ambassadors from Doha by caving in to their demands that it halts its support for Islamists and militants. The three countries were forced to return their ambassadors after an absence of nine months with little to show for their action.

Leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have moreover put their credibility on the line by not only breaking off diplomatic relations but also imposing a harsh boycott. The UAE, apparently concerned that the boycott, and particularly the targeting of food supplies, could spark domestic criticism, made expressions of sympathy with Qatar a criminal offense punishable with up to 15 years in prison and/or a fine of at least US$ 136,000. Up to 40 percent of Qatar’s approximately $1 billion in food exports a year were trucked to Qatar from Saudi Arabia until this week’s eruption of the crisis.

Also raising the stakes is the fact that a Qatar capable of resisting Saudi and UAE pressure would effectively contribute to a Muslim bloc in the Middle East that stands for everything Saudi Arabia and the UAE are seeking to defeat.

Inevitably, closer Qatari ties with Turkey as well as Iran, with which the Gulf state shares the world’s largest gas field, would become a fixture of Middle Eastern geopolitics. Iran is already helping Qatar not only with food but also by allowing Qatar Airways flights to Asia to cross Iranian airspace in their bid to circumvent Saudi, UAE and Bahrain airspace that has been closed to them.

Beyond demonstrating that Qatar is not alone in its fight, the dispatch of Turkish troops would also seek to dissuade Saudi Arabia and the UAE from intervening directly in the Gulf state.

Turkey and Qatar have long pursued similar policies. Both countries supported the 2011 popular Arab revolts.

By contrast, Saudi Arabia and the UAE went to great length to thwart their success., including helping engineer the military coup that in 2013 toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim brother and Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president. Saudi and UAE troops also helped Bahrain brutally squash its 2011 popular uprising.

Turkey and Qatar moreover both support the Muslim Brotherhood, rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Islamist groups in divided Libya. The UAE and Saudi Arabia alongside Egypt back the internationally recognized Tobruk-based Libyan government that joined them in breaking off relations with Qatar.

Turkey set up a military base in Qatar with some 150 troops, its first in the Middle East, as part of an agreement signed in 2014. Turkish officials have since said Turkey’s presence would be increased to some 3,000 troops.

Turkey’s move to expedite the dispatch of additional troops to Qatar came as UAE state minister for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said that one “cannot rule out further measures. We hope that cooler heads will prevail, that wiser heads will prevail and we will not get to that.”

Accusing Qatar of being “the main champion of extremism and terrorism in the region,” Mr. Gargash insisted that “this is not about regime change — this is about change of policy, change of approach.”

Egyptian, Emirati and Saudi newspapers, none of which are known to be truly independent, reported in recent days that domestic opposition to Qatari emir sheikh Tamim was mounting.

“We have long been silent about the irrational practices of the regime in Qatar,” Sheikh Saud bin Nasser Al-Thani, a little known member of the ruling family which is believed to account for up to 20 percent of Qatar’s citizens, told Egypt’s Youm7 newspaper.

The newspaper reported that opponents of Sheikh Tamim would form a London-based opposition paper headed by Sheikh Abdelaziz Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, an uncle of the emir and former oil and finance minister, who was accused of involvement in a failed effort in 2011 by Qatari military officers to overthrow Sheikh Tamim’s father and predecessor, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Abu Dhabi’s The National newspaper reported that the party would advocate a Qatari policy in line with Saudi and UAE demands, including curbing the activities of Sheikh Hamad’s wife, Sheikha Mozah Al-Misnad, who heads Qatar Foundation; freezing Qatar’s relations with Iran, ending Qatari support for Islamists in Libya and Egypt, and expelling Islamist leaders from the Gulf state.

“On behalf of the Qatari people, we offer the highest apology to the people of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen and other countries that have been abused and harmed by the Qatari regime. We inform you that the Qatari people do not approve of the national policies that seek to shatter the Arab unity,” Sheikh Saud said in a statement carried by Egypt Today.

“Qataris are questioning whether this is going to end up in seeing a change in leadership itself in Qatar,” added Sultan Sooud Al Qassemi, a prominent liberal intellectual, art collector and businessman who is a member of the ruling family of the UAE emirate of Sharjah.

Earlier, Salman al-Ansari, the head of the Saudi American Public Relation Affairs Committee (SAPRAC), a Washington-based lobby, warned Sheikh Tamim that he could meet the same fate as Mr. Morsi, the toppled Egyptian president.

The Arab press reports notwithstanding, there is little by which to gauge possible support for opposition to Sheikh Tamim among the military or the public in Qatar, which like others in the region controls its media but has not imposed the kind of draconic penalties on freedom of expression introduced this week in the UAE.

Whatever the case, Qatar and Turkey hope that a substantial presence of Turkish troops rather than the fact that Qatar also hosts 10,000 US troops on the largest US military facility in the Middle East, would complicate, if not dampen, any plans to force Sheikh Tamim’s exit.

Said Mr. Al Qassemi: “The Qataris should not count on that base as being a guarantee or sort of American protection when it comes to conflict with Saudi Arabia. I think the Americans would choose to side with Saudi Arabia over any other country in the region.”

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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What Future for 700 Million Arab and Asian Youth?http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/what-future-for-700-million-arab-and-asian-youth/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 15:11:23 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150818 With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future […]

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Women and girls in the garment industry are often subject to forced overtime and low wages, and on domestic workers because of the unprotected nature of their work. Credit: ILO / A. Khemka

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

With a combined population of around 400 million inhabitants, 22 Arab countries are home to nearly 300 million youth. Meantime, there are 400 million youth living in Asia and the Pacific. In both regions, these 700 million young people aged 15–24 years account for up to 60 per cent of world’s youth population. What future for them?.

Not an easy question, especially if you consider that the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) region faces a bulk of huge challenges: from fast growing population to increasing food insecurity; from armed conflicts (Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Iraq) to climate driven instability and massive displacement and migration.

Let alone the widening gender gap—in fact only 13.5 per cent of female youth are economically active, compared to around 50 per cent per cent of male youth.

All the above occurs amidst record high unemployment rates, reaching and average of 30 per cent in the whole region, with peaks of up to 55 per cent in the case of war-torn Yemen.

This challenge is aggravated by the fact that young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as over four times in the Arab states.

Asian Youth
In Asia and the Pacific, youth appear not to be much better off. There, in 2015, nearly 40 million youth –12 per cent of the youth labour force– were unemployed. Although this was less than the global youth unemployment rate of 13 per cent, it varied by sub-region.

In 2015, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

Here, despite relatively low youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-Eastern Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul

Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Credit: UNICEF / Tapash Paul


This region faces as well a huge gender gap. In South Asia, low female participation (19.9 per cent) is estimated to be nearly 40 percentage points lower than among youth males (53 per cent). And the gender gap in labour force participation rates has been widening over the last decade in South Asia.

Experts from national regional and international organisations have worked hard on finding solutions. One of them, the International Labour Organization, UNESCO, UN Population Fund, World Bank, among others, emphasise the need for education, which will determine the livelihoods of 700 million people in the these two regions and drive growth and development for generations to come.

They also coincide in warning that while significant policy developments have focused on these challenges, including school-to-work transitions and skill mismatches, further coordinated efforts are needed to address obstacles to productive employment and decent work for all youth and thereby help to properly unleash their potential.

Asian and Arab Parliamentarians to Meet
In addition to international experts, analysts and organisations, parliamentarians as direct, elected representatives of people, are set to meet next month in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), this Asian and Arab Parliamentarians Meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development, will on 18-20 July discuss in the Jordanian capital, the above challenges and ways how to face them.

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS

In spite of the rising number of women entering the labour force in Bangladesh, gender disparities persist. Credit: Obaidul Arif / IPS


The Amman meeting will be hosted by the Jordanian Senate, the Forum of Arab Parliamentarians on Population and Development (FAPPD), with the support of the Japan Trust Fund (JTF); the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

The Jordanian capital’s meeting will be followed by a two specific ones: Africa-Asia in New Delhi at mid of September, and an event on ageing, scheduled to take place in Korea end of October.

Annual Parliamentarian Meetings
Since its establishment, APDA has been holding the annual Asian Parliamentarians’ Meeting on Population and Development to promote understanding and increase awareness of population and development issues among Japanese, Asian, and Pacific parliamentarians.

APDA sends Japanese and Asian parliamentarians overseas to observe projects conducted by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japanese Government.

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care. Through exchange between parliamentarians from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

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In Volatile Times, the U.A.E. calls for Tolerancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/in-volatile-times-the-u-a-e-calls-for-tolerance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-volatile-times-the-u-a-e-calls-for-tolerance http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/in-volatile-times-the-u-a-e-calls-for-tolerance/#respond Thu, 08 Jun 2017 06:23:08 +0000 Rose Delaney http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150804 With terror attacks on the increase worldwide, there are more people today who believe that it has something to do with the religion of Islam. Seeds of misinformation are taking root and the divide between peoples and cultures is ever increasing. The promotion of tolerance is critically important now more than ever. Undoubtedly, bigotry has […]

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By Rose Delaney
MIAMI, Jun 8 2017 (IPS)

With terror attacks on the increase worldwide, there are more people today who believe that it has something to do with the religion of Islam.

Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi

Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi

Seeds of misinformation are taking root and the divide between peoples and cultures is ever increasing. The promotion of tolerance is critically important now more than ever.

Undoubtedly, bigotry has increased worldwide and violent hate crimes have risen exponentially. The recent epidemic of “fake news” utilized by major media outlets and the outbreak of anti-Islamic sensationalism have only worsened the situation and fueled further conflict and division.

The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E..) is widely considered to be a multicultural “marvel” of the Middle East. The country proudly hosts an ethnically diverse population with over 200 nationalities living in harmony.

The U.A.E.’s leadership promotes a positive image of Islam but also sets an example of peace and tolerance of all world religions in the country.

The U.A.E. and its multi-ethnic population aim to be an international role model for “acceptance, coexistence, and understanding.”

The U.A.E. today is considered a globalized symbol of acceptance and progression. Recently, an anti-discriminatory law was passed which forbids citizens and residents alike from discriminating against anyone on the grounds of caste, creed, culture or religion.

In 2016, U.A.E.’s first Ministry of Tolerance was officially established with Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi as its minister. Al-Qasimi believes that the Arab world has a great responsibility when it comes to ensuring the universal spread of tolerance and acceptance. She emphasizes the pivotal role youth and the global media play in the understanding and celebration of religious and ethnic diversity.

To instill values of cultural and religious acceptance everywhere, the government of the U.A.E. believes institutions of tolerance should be established on a global scale, especially in volatile times of terror and extremism.

The proliferation of these institutions would act as symbols of peace and co-existence, ensuring global societies that universal tolerance is achievable and can become a tangible reality.

Al-Qasimi recognizes that transparency in the media is vital during periods of fear and instability and emphasizes that the global dissemination of positive and tolerant news content is a critical form of “protection against extremism”.

At the 16th Arab Media Forum (AMF) held in Dubai last month, Al Qasimi highlighted that the media played a key role in the universal perception of Islam. The rise of “fake news” has proven detrimental to the promotion of universal tolerance. The media has a duty to “correct misconceptions about the image of the Arab world,” Al Qasimi said.

This ties in with the fact that global media content has lately been used as a weapon of divisive manipulation, rather than a method of progressing and sustaining universal harmony and acceptance.

The U.A.E.’s President, Sheikha Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also considers the media to be a key player in the advancement of universal tolerance.

For this reason, Al Nahyan has committed to providing full support for the development of transparent media in his home nation. The U.A.E. encourages its media to disseminate, along with other institutions, the values of acceptance and open dialogue across all walks of society.

“Responsible media that fully understands its role and mission is a fundamental tool in countering extremist and terrorist ideology amid the widespread digital media that has a powerful influence on people’s thoughts and orientations,” Al Nahyan says.

Al Nahyan recognizes that the future development of tolerance rests largely on the perceptions and messages spread by the global media. “The media is not just a profession“, Al Nahyan stated. It is rather, in his belief, a vital means to spread the message of global justice and truth. In other words, it is high time the media stop being used a sensationalized tool to stir divisive controversy and “boost ratings” based on the plight of the stigmatized.

Al Nahyan highlighted the fact that the proliferation of positive media could only lead to effective nation-building and progress. Furthermore, it can help break down the negative perceptions surrounding Islam and the Middle East itself by drawing back to the multicultural and accepting values, ethics and traditions of Emirati society.

In an increasingly globalized world dominated by the trends of social media, the voice of youth undoubtedly holds a tremendous degree of power. The multicultural array of young professionals and students that make up U.A.E.’s fast growing population are actively encouraged to act as tomorrow’s leading voices in the pursuit of universal tolerance.

In the U.A.E., “the sky really appears to be the limit” for its young adult population. Its ministry of youth is led by the youngest minister in the world, 23-year-old Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui. For many Emirati youths, spreading the principles of harmonious unity and actively condemning all forms of divisive extremism are a core objective, especially for the protection and benefit of upcoming generations.

As the rise of extremism threatens global security, the U.A.E. aims to encourage all forms of tolerance with the belief that through open dialogue and a strong sense of unity, the global community could overcome adversity.

However, the question remains, are other countries willing to follow the U.A.E.’s model of peaceful co-existence, or will ongoing extremism and divisive Islamophobic media campaigns hinder the U.A.E.’s idealistic vision of universal tolerance? Only time will tell.

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Civilian Casualties Mount in Battle to Re-take Mosulhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/civilian-casualties-mount-in-battle-to-re-take-mosul/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=civilian-casualties-mount-in-battle-to-re-take-mosul http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/civilian-casualties-mount-in-battle-to-re-take-mosul/#respond Wed, 07 Jun 2017 16:51:33 +0000 Mark Lattimer http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150797 Mark Lattimer is the Executive Director of Minority Rights Group International

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Yezidi girl from Khanke camp near Dohuk. Credit: Fernando Burgés

By Mark Lattimer
LONDON, Jun 7 2017 (IPS)

East of Mosul, many of the lands liberated from ISIS stand empty. Driving through the Nineveh plains, traditional homelands of Iraq’s minority communities of Yezidis, Christians, Shabak and Turkmen, you pass one ghost town after another, peopled only by members of the armed militias known in Iraq as the Hashd al-Shaabi, or ‘popular mobilization’.

Houses destroyed by ISIS vehicle bombs are juxtaposed with buildings flattened by international coalition air strikes. Inside the houses in many residential streets, there are holes smashed into the party walls to create the rat-runs used by insurgents to evade surveillance.

The battle to retake Mosul is already nearly eight months old and, as resistance on the city’s right bank has proved intense, civilian casualties have mounted rapidly. Yet many of the empty territories in Nineveh east of the city and in Sinjar to the west were first retaken months ago.

They join lands in Diyala, Kirkuk and Anbar where ISIS has been defeated but displaced people numbering in the millions have yet to return. To understand why is to appreciate the threats that now hang over the future of Iraq – threats that will not disappear when ISIS is defeated.

The Iraqi central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil are broadly in agreement that IDPs can only return once security and services are restored. They have a point. There is extensive destruction to essential infrastructure. When thousands of civilians first returned to Ramadi after it was retaken, there were dozens of reported serious casualties from booby-traps and other IEDs and explosive remnants of war.

But many displaced minority communities now believe that their return is being delayed for other reasons. Christians, Yezidis, Shabak and Turkmen all cite cases where IDPs and supplies have been stopped at checkpoints, as detailed in a new report published by four international NGOs, Minority Rights Group International, the International Institute for Law and Human Rights, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, and No Peace Without Justice. The fear is that land-grabbing is already underway.

Destroyed church building, Tal Kaif district, Ninewa Governorate. Credit: Mays Al-Juboori

Destroyed church building, Tal Kaif district, Ninewa Governorate. Credit: Mays Al-Juboori

A conservative estimate puts the number of armed militias controlling territory in liberated Nineveh at over 15, including ethnic militias drawn from members of local communities. On the ground, militia checkpoints have proliferated and you frequently have to pass through two or even three in a row. They play the game of who can fly their flag the highest. At the moment the relationship is one of mutual acceptance, but it is unclear how long that will last. Some are affiliated with the Iraqi Security Forces, others with the Kurdish authorities. Some take their orders from further afield.

Just as Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani called on Iraqi volunteers to mobilize in the fight against ISIS in June 2014, so many hope he will issue the fatwa to demobilize once ISIS is defeated. The practical challenges of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration have hardly begun to be discussed in Iraq. Ensuring that members of local communities, including minorities, are properly integrated into the security forces is essential for their communities to feel safe.

But many of the most powerful militias supported by Iran, which for example control much of Diyala and key locations in Tel Afar, have already made clear that they have no intention of demobilizing. And as long as Turkey fears an Iranian corridor from Baghdad to Syria, its own attempts at securing a base in Nineveh will intensify. With those forces at play, the resurgence, post-ISIS, of Sunni Arab opposition under another name is perhaps inevitable.

In the face of this sectarian fragmentation members of minorities remain passionate about the future of their lands and many fiercely patriotic to the state of Iraq. Interviewing minority Shi’a IDPs in Kerbala last year, their gratitude at the religious authorities for giving them a temporary shelter was quickly followed by expressions of hope for their return to their homes in Tel Afar and the Nineveh plains. Assyrian and Chaldean Christians emphasize their millennia-long attachment to the land. Even Yezidi IDPs, who were subject to egregious crimes at the hands of ISIS and, in many cases, betrayal by their former neighbours, have begun to talk about the prospects of return.

But their hopes of return depend on security, and that must ultimately depend on a political agreement between the different forces now vying for control of their land. For years, the UN has tried to promote agreement between Baghdad and Erbil over ‘disputed territories’ in Nineveh and Kirkuk. With de facto boundaries being redrawn and new parties added to the conflict, the task just got a lot harder.

The battle against ISIS has created in Iraq a rare moment of unity. Sunni tribal forces and Shi’a militias, Iran and Turkey, the US and the other members of the international coalition, the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government are all cooperating in the face of a common enemy. As Gyorgy Busztin, deputy head of the UN mission, emphasized to me in Baghdad in March, that presents a window of opportunity, for Iraq’s people and for the international community.

But as control over retaken territory continues to fragment, and the militias become entrenched, the window is closing fast. By the time Mosul is finally declared liberated, it may already be too late.

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Aggression against children in the Arab region needs to come to an endhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/aggression-against-children-in-the-arab-region-needs-to-come-to-an-end/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=aggression-against-children-in-the-arab-region-needs-to-come-to-an-end http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/06/aggression-against-children-in-the-arab-region-needs-to-come-to-an-end/#respond Sun, 04 Jun 2017 15:35:15 +0000 Hanif Hassan Al Qassim http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150726 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 Al Qassim
GENEVA, Jun 4 2017 (IPS)

On 20 February 1997, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 51/77 to promote the rights of children. This Resolution was considered a milestone in promoting and advancing the right of children in conflict and wars.

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim

The resolution was also seen as a further acknowledgement of the growing number of States that had signed and ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child that entered into force on 2 September 1990. To this day only one State has not yet ratified this seminal Convention.

Despite the broad-based ratification of the Convention, children continue to bear the burden of conflicts and calamities. They are indiscriminately targeted by belligerents owing to their vulnerability and physical weakness. According to the United Nations more than 250 million children live in countries affected by conflict.

The 2017 International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression is therefore an important opportunity to recognise the challenges and constraints children experience in the context of wars and conflicts. This day is also celebrated in commemoration of Resolution 51/77 that marked a new era in the joint commitments taken by the Member States of the United Nations (UN) to accelerate the promotion and advancement of the rights of children.

Despite the existing consensus that exists between States, there are various cases of contemporary conflicts that have indiscriminately targeted children and the Arab region is no exception.

In December 2016, UNICEF reported that approximately 2.2 million children in Yemen – out of 3.3 million people – face grave risk of hunger and malnutrition owing to the civil war in Yemen. From the period of 2015 – 2017, civil society and donor governments – in collaboration with its international partners such as WHO, WFP, UNICEF and ICRC – have allocated aid and relief assistance to the hunger-stricken population in Yemen. This has enabled several million children to benefit from the joint efforts of regional and international actors to address the severe food shortage.

The civil war in Syria – also known as the 21st century’s worst humanitarian disaster – is yet another example of a terrible humanitarian catastrophe that indiscriminately targets children. According to UNICEF, 5.8 million children in Syria are in need of help, 2.8 million children are located in conflicts areas, 281,000 living under siege whereas 2.3 million children have fled the country.

This is the gripping reality affecting children in the Arab region. They are not being spared from the adverse impacts of wars and conflicts. They are seen as the easiest victims to target. The international community needs to step up their efforts to provide the necessary aid support to the Yemeni and Syrian civilian populations.

In order to protect children from abuse, exploitation and the intensifying conflicts, peace needs to be given a chance. The conflicts in the Middle East need to come to an end through diplomacy.

It is likewise important that justice triumph in cases where abuses against children are documented. Impunity should not become the norm of societies recovering from wars and conflicts. Peacebuilding and transitional justice require that crimes against humanity be addressed in a transparent and objective manner. Perpetrators who have committed crimes against children need to be brought to justice. They should stand trial for their heinous and barbaric crimes inflicted on civilian populations.

In concluding this statement, I would also like to underscore the importance of education as a peacebuilding measure. On 12 May, I chaired a panel debate at the United Nations Office in Geneva entitled “Human rights: Enhancing equal citizenship rights through education.” The objective of this panel debate was to address the role of education in instilling a culture of peace and tolerance among children in post-conflict environments. The lessons learned from the case studies of Bahrain, Sri Lanka and Colombia underlined the potential of education in enabling children to overcome hostile mindsets – sometime resulting from family backgrounds – and to understand that differences need not beget division but can be an opportunity to celebrate diversity. Many of these countries have taken a number of initiatives in creating supportive environments to facilitate the socializing of children and their peaceful reintegration in society.

No children in the world should face conflict and war. They should spend their childhood and youth in harmony and in peaceful surroundings. Aggression inflicted on children in the Arab region and elsewhere in the world needs to come to an immediate end.

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The Worsening Humanitarian Crisis in Syriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-worsening-humanitarian-crisis-in-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-worsening-humanitarian-crisis-in-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-worsening-humanitarian-crisis-in-syria/#respond Wed, 31 May 2017 05:18:46 +0000 Stephen O Brien http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150668 Stephen O’Brien is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs & Emergency Relief Coordinator

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Stephen O’Brien is UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs & Emergency Relief Coordinator

By Stephen O’Brien*
UNITED NATIONS, May 31 2017 (IPS)

The cruel conflict in Syria continues to tear families apart, inflicts brutal suffering on the innocent, and leaves them pleading for protection and justice. I readily acknowledge that there have been reports of a significant drop in violence in some areas of the country, but such steps forward continue to be counter-weighted by the reality of a conflict that continues to devastate the civilian population.

Stephen O’Brien

Stephen O’Brien

Just last week, 30 children and women were gravely injured in a heinous attack by ISIL on besieged neighbourhoods in Deir ez-Zor as they were lining up for water. In addition, more than a hundred civilians, many of them women and children, have fallen victim, in recent weeks, to the escalating counter-ISIL airstrikes, particularly in the north-eastern governorates of Al-Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor.

Millions more are in the line of fire, facing crushing poverty and alarming physical danger. Tens of thousands of children have been killed, and for those who have survived till today, the outlook remains bleak. Children have been forcibly detained, they have been tortured, subjected to sexual violence, forcibly recruited and in some cases executed.

Close to seven million children in Syria live in poverty. Nearly 1.75 million children remain out of school and another 1.35 million are at risk of dropping out. 7,400 schools – one in three across the country – have been damaged, destroyed, or otherwise made inaccessible. And even if the schools were intact, many would be unable to open, with almost one quarter of the country’s teaching personnel no longer at their posts.

Outside Syria, hundreds of thousands of Syrian children are left to face an uncertain and traumatic future on their own; they have become stateless, abandoned by the world but for the generosity of neighbouring Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, as well as Egypt.

How are these children meant to function as adults? What future do these children have – illiterate, orphaned, starved, traumatized and maimed? What future does a country have when its next generation is a lost generation? For these suffering children, what’s at stake isn’t politics. It’s their lives and their futures. It is their innocent voices, their suffering that need advocating.

Astana produced a promising step: a memorandum between the three guarantors – Iran, Russia and Turkey – on the creation of four de-escalation areas; a memorandum that stipulates, in no uncertain terms, that fighting must significantly decrease and unhindered humanitarian access be enabled to these four areas – areas which essentially encompass all of the besieged locations except for those in Damascus and Deir ez-Zor.

That said, too many agreements that could have saved lives and reduced suffering have failed in the past. Let me therefore be clear: this agreement simply has to succeed. We owe it to the 2.6 million people that we estimate to be in these four de-escalation areas.

We – the United Nations – stand ready to sit with all parties involved to make it a workable agreement – one that will make a tangible difference to civilians on the ground; one that facilitates the delivery of life-saving assistance based on the UN’s own needs assessments without constant interference, reduced beneficiary numbers, the removal of medical and other essential items out of spite, bureaucratic restrictions and procedural and physical roadblocks.

We also must not lose sight of the fact that – all over Syria – millions of people, in locations inside and outside the four de-escalation areas, continue to suffer because they lack the most basic elements to sustain their lives. We must not stand silent while violence flares up elsewhere in the country and parties continue to use starvation, fear tactics and the denial of food, water, medical supplies, and other forms of aid as methods of war.

As you all know, in recent months, restricted access and increased attacks resulted in a number of so-called ‘surrender’ or ‘evacuation’ agreements in communities such as Al-Tal, Darraya, Moadamiyeh, Eastern Aleppo, Khan al-Shieh, Wadi Barada, and the four towns of Madaya, Zabadani, Foah and Kafraya. In the last few weeks, thousands more have been moved from the besieged neighbourhoods of Barzeh and Qaboun (Damascus) and the besieged Al Wa’er neighbourhood in Homs city to Idlib and Jarablus city in rural Aleppo.

These are evacuations that have followed years of intense airstrikes, shelling and sniping. The tactics are all too obvious: make life intolerable and make death likely; push people to choose between starvation and death or fleeing on green buses to locations that are just as unsafe.

There needs to be accountability for these actions; for these ‘starve and surrender tactics’ – a monstrous form of cruelty to impose upon a civilian population. We have seen this happen numerous times already – as I said, in Homs, Moadamiyeh, Al Waer, and elsewhere. In fact, Darayya and Zabadani are already devoid of their civilian population. And this may very well be the fate of hundreds of thousands more people still trapped in besieged locations across the country.

Evacuations are, however, only the beginning of a new set of challenges for both those who are forced to leave their homes, and host communities. Traveling mostly to Idleb and northern rural Aleppo, those displaced now find themselves in an increasingly precarious environment. The capacity in these areas to support additional displacement is reaching its limit.

In Idleb alone, there are over 900,000 displaced people, placing significant strain on local communities and resources. While the situation has quietened since the memorandum on de-escalation was signed, any increase in fighting – attacks by the Government of Syria, or fighting among groups inside of Idelb – would be catastrophic for these already stressed communities.

In fact, in many corners of the country, the protection space is shrinking, humanitarian conditions are worsening, and the level of despair is rising – not due to insecurity or poor infrastructure, but by increasingly strict limitations by local authorities, non-State armed groups, as well as terrorist organizations, and the actions of some neighbouring countries.

I call on members of the Security Council to use their influence to see that these actors respect humanitarian principles and allow the unfettered delivery of aid. We are also greatly concerned at cross-border restrictions and regulatory impediments imposed on the NGO community operating in northern Syria and are troubled by increasing reports indicating that IDPs fleeing Raqqa Governorate are being kept for prolonged periods in screening camps and subjected to restrictions on their movement by the self-proclaimed Democratic Self-Administration in northeastern Syria.

We need to see a step-change in access to the increasingly dire situation in northeastern Syria. Rather than restrictions, we need an opening of space to respond. With some 100,000 people displaced due to fighting around Raqqa since April, access is needed now through every possible modality.

We need to see restrictions eased for those operating in the area. We need to see increased cross-border and cross-line access for humanitarian assistance into the area, including land access from Aleppo. I call on all with influence over the parties involved to act now. Further delays or restrictions will only result in the continued suffering and the death of civilians.

For cross-line inter-agency convoys, administrative delays on the part of the Syrian Government in the approval of facilitation letters and convoy plans continue to hamper our efforts. Every month, thousands of facilitation letters are readily signed for convoys headed to Government-controlled areas.

Yet, in cross-line areas, we have only been able to secure facilitation letters for seven convoys under the April/May access plan, allowing us to reach 266,750 people in need. This is out of a million people requested under the bi-monthly plan. And as a result, we are essentially down to one cross-line convoy per week to reach those who are most in need, with only one besieged location – namely Duma in eastern Ghouta – reached by road during the April/May period.

Compared to last year, when we deployed 50 cross-line convoys through May, today we stand at 18 cross-line convoys in 2017. In addition, the ICRC and the SARC also delivered three cross-line convoys without the UN, reaching 136,500 people in hard-to-reach areas during this period as well.

Moreover, the removal of life-saving medicines and medical supplies such as surgical kits, midwifery kits, and emergency kits has continued unabated, with nearly 100,000 medical supplies refused or removed from convoys since the beginning of the year. In addition, and as you all know, attacks on hospitals and other health facilities – as highlighted by the Secretary-General in the open debate last week on the Protection of Civilians – have become commonplace in Syria – about 20 per month between January and April this year, an average of one attack every 36 hours, turning Syrian hospitals into death traps.

These attacks and restrictions are not only violations of international law and Council resolutions, they are deliberate and cowardly acts aimed at those – the sick, the injured, the infirm, unborn children, the elderly, pregnant women, young children – who are least able to protect themselves and are most in need of care and assistance.

The denial and delay of access, particularly to those in besieged locations, is a political calculation and a military tactic; this much is clear in Syria. We may speak about the practical elements of delay and denial – facilitation letters, inspections, checkpoints – but these are simply the manifestation of a mindset and approach by the Government of Syria to use civilian suffering as a tactic of war.

We have seen that when political will exists, the humanitarian imperative to deliver based on assessed need is possible. Facilitation letters are signed, inspectors do not remove items, and checkpoints allow safe passage. I call on the Security Council to take all necessary steps to see that the will to place humanitarian aid delivery in its rightful position – outside of any military or political calculations and totally impartially – is restored.

The delivery of aid is not an ask, but is a demand and the law and its denial, refusal or frustration is and must be a red line not to be crossed. Denial and delays of assistance contravene resolutions of the Council and are against international humanitarian law. They must end. I call on this Council to act to see its resolutions implemented. Any prevarication will result in further death and suffering of civilians. Humanitarian relief cannot be viewed as an optional element to be occasionally provided. It must go where it is needed, when it is needed, not where it is allowed and when it is convenient.

As I have said numerous times before, we remain committed and ready to deliver aid – through all possible modalities – for people in desperate need, whoever and wherever they are. However, the bottom line is that the real extent of progress cannot be measured by ad hoc deliveries to besieged communities – once or twice, every so often.

The bottom line is that we have been wasting too much of our time literally begging for facilitation letters; too much time arguing at roadblocks, pleading that trucks can pass without the sniper taking the shot and medical items not be removed.

I do not come here today to seek favours. But let me say this. Calling for humanitarian actors to be allowed sustained access to all people in need throughout Syria is not a favour. Calling for an end to the removal of medical items off of convoys is not a favour. Calling for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure by all parties to the conflict is not a favour.

Seeking to prevent children from being buried under piles of rubble, in their basements, in their schools, is not a favour. Medicine for the sick and food for the starving are not favours. These are the common precepts, the bedrock, of our shared humanity and the foundations of international humanitarian law, and they must be an unflinching call to the fundamental decency of all people. I call on all those with influence over the parties to reinforce this message and act.

In closing, let me send my very best wishes to everyone observing the holy month of Ramadan. For Muslims in Syria, in the region and across the world it is a time for charity, for contemplation and community; a time for peace and forgiveness. Let us all sincerely hope for an end of violence for this period and beyond.

Let us all sincerely work towards achieving the objectives of the Astana memorandum, so that attacks and bureaucratic impositions are put to an end – once and for all – and the UN and its humanitarian partners can sustainably reach those hundreds of thousands of civilians trapped behind the current front lines.

(* From a statement before the UN Security Council on 30 May 2017)

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The ‘Water-Employment-Migration’ Explosive Nexushttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-water-employment-migration-explosive-nexus/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-water-employment-migration-explosive-nexus http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/the-water-employment-migration-explosive-nexus/#comments Tue, 30 May 2017 13:33:24 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150652 Water–everybody talks about it, warns against its growing scarcity, excessive waste, the impact of climate change, the frequent severe droughts and so on. Now, a global action network with over 3,000 partner organisations in 183 countries comes to unveil the dangerous nexus between water, employment and migration, in particular in the Mediterranean region. The Water-Employment-Migration […]

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An explosive nexus in the Mediterranean: Water-Employment-Migration. Credit: Global Water Partnership

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 30 2017 (IPS)

Water–everybody talks about it, warns against its growing scarcity, excessive waste, the impact of climate change, the frequent severe droughts and so on. Now, a global action network with over 3,000 partner organisations in 183 countries comes to unveil the dangerous nexus between water, employment and migration, in particular in the Mediterranean region.

The Water-Employment-Migration nexus triggers a multi-faceted crisis posing major socio-political, economic and environmental risks in several regions (Africa, Asia, Europe), with the Mediterranean being in the eye of the cyclone, warns in fact the Global Water Partnership (GWP).

The Mediterranean is not only among the most arid regions in the world–parts of the region face a persistent economic crisis, socio-political instability, conflicts and large-scale migratory movements, often under dramatic conditions, putting further stress on the available water resources, adds this global network, whose partners work to make water a top policy priority.

Moreover, a recent GWP-led Regional Roundtable in Tunis highlighted several pressing facts, such as the eagerness of 25 per cent of the youth population in the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) to migrate and seek for a better future away from home.
“25 per cent of the youth population in the Middle East and North of Africa are eager to migrate and seek for a better future away from home.”

Youth unemployment in the region is at a global high, and it is the main driver for both males and females to migrate, GWP informed, adding that female youth is in an even more disadvantaged position suffering the triple burden of gender, age and skills mismatch.

Alarming Facts

No wonder. The leading United Nations agency in the fields of food and agriculture has recently revealed a set of alarming key facts about the dramatic water shortage in the region, specifically in the Middle East and North of Africa countries.

In fact, the Near East and North Africa fresh water resources are among the lowest in the world: they have decreased by two thirds during last 40 years and are expected to fall over 50 per cent by 2050, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported.

Should these facts not be enough, the specialised agency also informs that 90 per cent of the total land in the region lies within arid, semi/arid and dry sub/humid areas, while 45 per cent of the total agricultural area is exposed to salinity, soil nutrient depletion and wind water erosion.

At the same time, agriculture in the region uses approximately 85 per cent of the total available freshwater, while over 60 per cent of water resources in the region flows from outside national and regional boundaries.

Add to all the above that fact that groundwater, which has become a significant source of water across the region, and which is the basis for the rapid growth of new agricultural economies in the Arabian Peninsula, is now also experiencing significant depletion, according to FAO.

“The considerable degradation of water quality is accelerating, along with competition for water between all sectors.”

The cause of higher temperatures, droughts, floods and soil degradation, climate change will impose a further threat to the region’s water resources and food security,” the UN agency warns, adding that the decrease in production that this situation is likely to cause, could contribute to increasing the region’s current dependence on cereal imports.

“Water Scarcity – One of the greatest challenges of our time – FAO. Credit: FAO

“Water Scarcity – One of the greatest challenges of our time – FAO. Credit: FAO

The Needed Linkages

Experts from 13 institutions and organisations across 10 countries gathered in GWP-led Regional Roundtable in Tunis last December to elaborate on the linkages among water insecurity, enduring unemployment and increasing migration in the Mediterranean, emphasising also on youth and gender challenges.

The Roundtable discussions made evident that education is strongly correlated with employment and the MENA youth do not have the skills desired for employers.

“Designing tailored training programs to bridge this gap can gradually help decrease the unemployment ratio in the region, and improve female employability. Such training and educational programs will be among areas of focus in the development of the regional program on Water-Employment-Migration.”

Furthermore, the need to assist national and regional authorities in setting the needed institutional and regulatory ground for related successful measures was pinpointed, according to GWP.

“Development of strategies and action plans and/or operational mainstreaming of related considerations in existing national processes should assist in addressing the root causes of unemployment and migration and effectively contribute to water security in the Mediterranean. Synergies should be sought with neighbouring regions/countries that are migration-origins (in Africa, Asia) as well as destination countries (in Europe).”

The GWP network provides knowledge and builds capacity to improve water management at all levels.

The Water We “Eat”

Meanwhile, FAO also informs that the ‘water we eat’ daily through the food we consume is much more than what we drink, FAO informs, while providing some examples: Did you know depending on the diet, we need 2 000 to 5 000 litres of water to produce the food consumed daily by one person?

“As the global population is estimated to reach 10 billion people by 2050, demand for food is expected to surge by more than 50 per cent. Evidence suggests that two-thirds of the world population could be living in water-stressed countries by 2025 if current consumption patterns continue.”

Agriculture is both a major cause and casualty of water scarcity. Farming accounts for almost 70 per cent of all water withdrawals, and up to 95 per cent in some developing countries, the UN specialised agency reports.

Water scarcity is expected to intensify as a result of climate change, it adds, while informing that it is predicted to bring about increased temperatures across the world in the range of 1.6°c to as much as 6°c by 2050.

“For each 1 degree of global warming, 7 per cent of the global population will see a decrease of 20 per cent or more in renewable water resources.

Last but not leas, the UN agency also informs that each year, one-third of world food production is either lost or wasted — that translates into a volume of agriculture water wasted equal to around three times the volume of Lake Geneva.

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Valuing Water Beyond the Moneyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/valuing-water-beyond-the-money/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=valuing-water-beyond-the-money http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/valuing-water-beyond-the-money/#respond Mon, 29 May 2017 11:29:03 +0000 Paula Fray http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150629 Amid the worst drought in a century, South Africans are kick-starting a global consultative process to agree on the values of water in a bid to ensure more equitable use of the finite resource. On May 30, ministers, officials, civil society, business and local regional organisations will gather outside Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of […]

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The catchment area of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, which flows into South Africa. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

The catchment area of the Katse Dam in Lesotho, which flows into South Africa. Credit: Campbell Easton/IPS

By Paula Fray
JOHANNESBURG, May 29 2017 (IPS)

Amid the worst drought in a century, South Africans are kick-starting a global consultative process to agree on the values of water in a bid to ensure more equitable use of the finite resource.

On May 30, ministers, officials, civil society, business and local regional organisations will gather outside Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of a high-level consultation on water called the “Valuing Water Initiative”.“The distribution of water has always been a point of advocacy in relation to the land transformation debate. [There can be] no land reform without water reform.” --Herschelle Milford

The High Level Panel on Water – first convened by the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim and then UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon – consists of 11 sitting Heads of State and Government and one Special Adviser, to provide the leadership required to “champion a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services”.

The HLPW’s core focus is to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, as well as to contribute to the achievement of the other SDGs that rely on the development and management of water resources.

The members of the panel are Heads of State from Australia, Bangladesh, Hungary, Jordan, Mauritius (co-chair), Mexico (co-chair), Netherlands, Peru, Senegal, South Africa, and Tajikistan.

The South African consultation takes place on May 30, followed by consultations in Mexico, Senegal, Tajikistan and Bangladesh ahead of a global presentation at the Stockholm World Water Week in August 2017.

Global Water Partnership’s (GWP) executive secretary Rudolph Cleveringa explained that, as the first in a series of consultations, the South Africa meeting was expected to “set the tone and pace”.

“South Africa is extremely committed to the water agenda. South Africa went from an Apartheid policy-driven water policy to a human rights approach. We are very keen to see the country lead not only from a South Africa view but also from a southern Africa perspective,” said Cleveringa.

When she presented her budget speech to South Africa’s Parliament on May 26, Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane – acknowledging her participation on the HLPW –  said “water knows no boundaries and water can be a social, security and economic catalyst, both nationally and internationally”

Announcing that South Africa, in partnership with GWP and working together with the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), was hosting the regional consultations, Mokonyane said the initiative would “support countries to enhance job creation through investments in water infrastructure and industrialisation”.

On the table will be the draft principles that note “making all the values of water explicit gives recognition and a voice to dimensions that are easily overlooked. This is more than a cost-benefit analysis and is necessary to make collective decisions and trade-offs. It is important to lead towards sustainable solutions that overcome inequalities and strengthen institutions and infrastructure.”

The meeting takes place as the Western Cape province of South Africa has been declared a disaster area as a result of the drought which has seen dam levels drop to crisis levels. The City recently said its feeder dam levels were at 20.7 percent, with only 10.7 percent left for consumption.

According to the minister, it is the “worst drought in the last 100 years and the severest for the Western Cape in the last 104 years.

“This drought has not only affected South Africa, but also the rest of the world because of global warming, climate change,” she said, adding that it would take at least two to three years for the Western Cape to recover.

Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said the city would increase emergency water schemes in the coming months with programmes such as drilling boreholes and exploring desalinisation.

In a recent speech, De Lille emphasised the need for public-private partnerships.

“We need to be innovative and diversify our financing mechanisms and these efforts will require partnership with the private sector,” De Lille was quoted as saying.

The city council has introduced Level 4 restrictions – one level below emergency level.

Western Cape-based Surplus People Project CEO Herschelle Milford, whose organisation works to support agrarian transformation, said that the city had blamed migration as a reason for the water crisis in Cape Town.

“However, the biggest consumers of water is industry, then agriculture and then households,” she noted. This called for dialogue on how water could be shared equitably among all its users, noted Milford.

“The water crisis is a discussion point in the context of large-scale commercial farmers using irrigation with limited recourse amongst land and agrarian activists,” said Milford.

Water was much more than simply about access: “The distribution of water has always been a point of advocacy in relation to the land transformation debate. [There can be] no land reform without water reform.”

Cleveringa said the discussions were being generated from very high international dialogues to discussions at the local level. To this end, the draft principles offer a range of perspectives on how water can be valued.

Not only will the South African dialogue include a host of ministers but regional input will be provided by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Executive Secretary Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, as well as various organisations such as Dr Oyun Sanjaasuren, Chair of the Global Water Partnership; and Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank.

SADC head of water Phera Ramoeli said water valuation was a critical component of water resources management as it allowed “policy and planning across all the developmental spectrum”.

“The SADC region has 15 Shared Watercourses which accounts for over 70 percent of all the available renewable water resources in the region. If they are properly managed and adequately funded they will ensure the continued availability of these resources for the current and future generations for the various needs and uses that water is put to,” he said, noting that water was present in a large number of value chains including agro-processing, mineral processing, pharmaceuticals, energy production, even health.

“Valuing water is important as it will ensure that water resources management, development, conservation and monitoring receives an appropriate share of the national budget,” he added.

The water principles being discussed also emphasise the collaborative process to build water champions and ownership at all levels that allows users to meet all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are moving away from valuing water in its fiscal interpretation only. We’re not just looking at it in terms of how much does water cost but going beyond this utilitarian approach. The Bellagio principles demonstrate that there is more than just a utilitarian approach to water and we hope that these consultations will draw out those discussions,” said Cleveringa.

“The value of water is basically about making choices,” he said, adding that this called for “not just a cross-sectoral approach but also all of society input into valuing water”.

It is in this discussion that the high level panels aim to provide leadership to champion a “comprehensive, inclusive, and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services”.

The dialogues need to generate an open debate on the values of water as well as get regional input to the Bellagio principles.

Over half of the consultations are happening in non-OECD settings that are being led by the global South.

“This sets the right tone for buy-in at multiple levels,” said Cleveringa.

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Mideast: Growing Urbanisation Worsens Water Scarcity, Food Importshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mideast-growing-urbanisation-worsens-water-scarcity-food-imports/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mideast-growing-urbanisation-worsens-water-scarcity-food-imports http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/mideast-growing-urbanisation-worsens-water-scarcity-food-imports/#respond Wed, 24 May 2017 13:47:29 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150566 Conflict and insecurity remain the key barriers to development progress in the Middle East and North Africa. In Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, about half the population—around 40 million people—require humanitarian assistance. Across the region, countries depend heavily on food imports. As their populations urbanise and grow, the need for imports will increase. These are […]

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Egyptian countryside south of Luxor, Egypt. In the background: the village of Al Bayadiyah. Photo: Marc Ryckaert (MJJR). Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 24 2017 (IPS)

Conflict and insecurity remain the key barriers to development progress in the Middle East and North Africa. In Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, about half the population—around 40 million people—require humanitarian assistance. Across the region, countries depend heavily on food imports. As their populations urbanise and grow, the need for imports will increase.

These are some of the Middle East and North of Africa related key findings of the 2017 Global Food Policy Report, which was issued by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on 24 May at an international experts meeting in Cairo.

Dealing with the major challenges facing the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) social and economic development, the Cairo international experts seminar focused on food import dependency in a region rife with population growth, urbanisation and conflict.

Organised by IFPRI and the Faculty of Economics and Political Science of Cairo University under the theme “Rapid Urbanisation Challenges Food Security in Egypt” the meeting examined the situation in Egypt.

Clemens Breisinger

Clemens Breisinger

In an interview to IPS, Clemens Breisinger, economist and senior research fellow based in IFPRI’s Cairo office, said that rapidly growing populations and the related increase in food consumption are likely to increase MENA countries’ dependence on food imports.

Countries with sizable agriculture sectors, such as Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia, generally have a low food import dependency ratio of between 10 and 20 per cent—that is, food imports account for 10 to 20 per cent of food consumption, he said.

Food Imports Dependency

Nevertheless, the food imports dependency ratio of all other MENA countries exceeds 30 per cent, with Iraq, Mauritania, Oman, and Yemen reaching about 50 per cent, and Gulf countries such as Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates reaching up to 70 per cent, said Breisinger.

According to the researcher, scope remains for increasing agricultural output in the region—but additional land and water resources for crop production are limited; climate change is expected to reduce crop yields; and fast-growing cities are encroaching on (often fertile) agricultural land.

“To ensure future food security, MENA countries should be prepared to import more food from international markets in the near future.”

Asked about the growing water challenges in the region, Breisinger said to IPS that water scarcity is projected to get much more severe in MENA, but there are technical and policy options to avoid disaster.

The food security challenges place an added burden on the available water sources over and above the higher demand brought about by population increases, he said, while informing that by 2050, projections show that global per capita renewable water resources will fall by 25 per cent.

“These pressures vary greatly across different regions of the world. In the Middle East and North Africa, further declines, estimated from 778 m3 to 506 m3 per capita per year, are expected to severely constrain livelihoods and economic development.”

According to Breisinger, possible solutions to mitigate climate change impact on water scarcity include: increasing water use efficiency, and investing in alternative sources of water.

The former can be achieved through investing in improved irrigation schemes and improving wastewater reuse, while the latter includes investing more in desalination technology, water harvesting, groundwater extraction, he explained.

Breisinger added that the share of people living in urban areas is projected to overtake the share living in rural areas in most MENA countries by 2030—with the notable exceptions of Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen.

“In combination with population growth and rising incomes, urbanisation can be expected to increase the demand for processed foods. This likely trend provides an opportunity for agroindustry-led economic transformation in the MENA region to generate employment opportunities, improve food security, and reduce poverty.”

Credit: IFPRI

Credit: IFPRI

The Double Burden of Malnutrition

Asked about the “the double burden of malnutrition” in MENA, i.e. “over-and-under-nutrition,” he said this has been particularly prevalent in middle-income countries and especially those in the region.

“Egypt faces relatively more pronounced instances of the double burden of malnutrition than other developing countries. For instance, almost every third Egyptian child under five years of age is chronically undernourished, while 78 per cent of all (non-pregnant) ever-married women 15–49 years of age are overweight.”

According to the researcher, addressing these challenges through the reform of existing policies and programs can be expected to make a critical contribution to accelerating the country’s economic and social development.

Economic and Social Safety Net Reforms in Egypt

Many of the economic challenges that Egypt is facing today have for decades been deeply rooted in the country, he said. “To tackle these longstanding issues, such as slow progress in economic diversification and persistently high levels of unemployment and poverty, Egypt recently embarked on a historic economic reform process.”

The year 2016 witnessed several of these reforms, including the imposition of a value-added tax (in August 2016), the floatation of the Egyptian pound (in November 2016), and further reductions in energy subsidies (in November 2016, following the 2014 partial removal of the subsidy,) explained Breisinger.

The Egyptian government estimates current population growth rate of 2.4 per cent, which is double the average of other developing countries. Much of that growth is concentrated in urban areas, with the Cairo metropolitan area expected to grow by half a million people by the end of 2017, more than any other city in the world.

In addition, armed conflict and drought in the region are exacerbating the challenges high growth and urbanisation bring, by adding displaced migrants and refugees to some of the country’s most vulnerable populations, according to the report.

IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyse alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups. It is member of CGIAR, a worldwide partnership engaged in agricultural research for development.

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Agony of Mother Earth (II) World’s Forests Depleted for Fuelhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/agony-of-mother-earth-ii-worlds-forests-depleted-for-fuel/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agony-of-mother-earth-ii-worlds-forests-depleted-for-fuel http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/agony-of-mother-earth-ii-worlds-forests-depleted-for-fuel/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 11:13:54 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150481 This is the second of a two-part series on how humankind has been systematically destroying world’s forests—the real lungs of Mother Earth. Part I dealt with the relentless destruction of forests.

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Forests play a critical role for many countries in their ability to mitigate climate change. Credit: FAO/Rudolf Hahn

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 19 2017 (IPS)

Humankind is the biggest ever predator of natural resources. Just take the case of forests, the real lungs of Mother Earth, and learn that every 60 seconds humans cut down 15 hectares of trees primarily for food or energy production. And that as much as 45,000 hectares of rainforest are cleared for every million kilos of beef exported from South America.

Should these figures not be enough, Monique Barbut, the executive-secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), also drew world’s attention to the fact that “when we take away the forest it is not just the trees that go… The entire ecosystem begins to fall apart… with dire consequences for us all…”

Barbut, who provided these and other figures on the occasion of this year’s International Day of Forests –marked under the theme “Forestry and Energy”— also reminded that deforestation and forest degradation are responsible for over 17 per cent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

UNCCD’s chief is far from the only expert to sound the alarm–the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that up to seven per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans come from the production and use of fuel-wood and charcoal.

This happens largely due to unsustainable forest management and inefficient charcoal manufacture and fuel-wood combustion, according to The Charcoal Transition report published on the Day (March 21).

Right – but the other relevant fact is that for more than two billion people worldwide, wood fuel means a cooked meal, boiled water for safe drinking, and a warm dwelling, as this specialised body’s director-general José Graziano da Silva timely recalled.

Forest loss contributes to 1/6 of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: FAO/Joan Manuel Baliellas

Forest loss contributes to 1/6 of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Credit: FAO/Joan Manuel Baliellas

Poor People in Rural Areas

This is especially important for poor people in rural areas of developing countries, where wood is often the only energy source available.

Regions with the greatest incidence of poverty, most notably in Sub-Saharan Africa and low income households in Asia, are also the most dependent on fuel-wood: “Nearly 90 per cent of all fuel wood and charcoal use takes place in developing countries, where forests are often the only energy source available to the rural poor,” said Manoel Sobral Filho, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat.

However, much of the current production of wood fuel is “unsustainable,” contributing significantly to the degradation of forests and soils and the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, said Graziano da Silva. “In many regions the conversion to charcoal is often done using rudimentary and polluting methods.”

He urged countries to reverse these negative trends in wood energy production and use. “We need, for instance, to adopt improved technologies for energy conversion.” Currently the organisation he leads while is participating in several programmes to deliver fuel-efficient stoves, especially for poor people in Latin America and Africa.

In conflict and famine-struck South Sudan, the organisation and partners have already distributed more than 30,000 improved stoves.

For his part, Fiji’s president, Jioji Konousi Konrote, stressed, “We need to turn our attention to scaling up the transfer of renewable energy technologies, particularly for forest biomass, in order to ensure that developing countries are making use of these technologies and keep pace with growing energy demands in a sustainable manner.”

The government of Fiji is poised to assume the presidency of the next Conference of Parties of the UN Climate Agreement scheduled to take place in in Bonn, Germany, in November.

1 in 3 People Wood-Fuel Dependent

The challenge is huge knowing that more than 2.4 billion people –about one-third of the world’s population– still rely on the traditional use of wood-fuel for cooking, and many small enterprises use fuel-wood and charcoal as the main energy carriers for various purposes such as baking, tea processing and brickmaking.

Of all the wood used as fuel worldwide, about 17 per cent is converted to charcoal, according to The Charcoal Transition report. The point is when charcoal is produced using inefficient technologies and unsustainable resources, the emission of greenhouse gases can be as high as 9 kg carbon dioxide equivalent per 1 kg charcoal produced.

The report highlights that in the absence of realistic and renewable alternatives to charcoal in the near future, in particular, in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, greening the charcoal value chain and applying sustainable forest management practices are essential for mitigating climate change while maintaining the access of households to renewable energy.

Changing the way wood is sourced and charcoal is made offers a high potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it says, adding that a shift from traditional ovens or stoves to highly efficient modern kilns could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent. At the end-use level, a transition from traditional stoves to improved state-of-the-art stoves could reduce emissions by around 60 per cent.

“Wood based energy accounts for 27 per cent of the total primary energy supply in Africa, 13 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean and 5 per cent in Asia and Oceania,” according to FAO estimates.

Forests continue to be under threat from unsustainable use, environmental degradation, rapid urbanisation, population growth, and the impacts of climate change. Between 2010 and 2015, global forest area saw a net decrease of 3.3 million hectares per year.

This is Part II of a two-part series on how humankind has been systematically destroying world’s forests—the reall lungs of Mother Earth. Read Part I: Agony of Mother Earth (I) The Unstoppable Destruction of Forests.

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An Untold Economic Success Story in Syriahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/an-untold-economic-success-story-in-syria/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 21:17:30 +0000 Pierre Krahenbuhl http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150473 Pierre Krähenbühl is Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)

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Hanan, UNRWA microfinance recipient, Jaramana camp, Damascus, Syria © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Wasim al Masri

By Pierre Pierre Krähenbühl
AMMAN, Jordan, May 18 2017 (IPS)

Hidden almost literally under the rubble of the civil war in Syria is an economic success story that is rarely told. Hanan Odah is a thirty-year-old Palestine refugee living in Jaramana refugee camp in Damascus. She supports her multiply displaced family of three from a thriving micro-enterprise venture. Her husband was killed in the conflict, but she refused to submit to despair and dependency on her parents.

Hanan founded a stationery and perfume business, which she runs from the family house that was badly damaged and which she rebuilt. Young, innovative and courageous, she is living proof that as large businesses have collapsed, small scale enterprises can survive and even thrive in the markets opening up at the grassroots.

As senior leaders and key business figures gather at the World Economic Forum in Jordan this week a thought should be spared for Hanan who lives the ideals they champion. Her work should resonate at their meeting which seeks to “stimulate entrepreneurship” and map out a path to an “inclusive economic transformation”.

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

Pierre Krähenbühl UNRWA CG. Credit: © UNRWA Photo

In July 2014, violence engulfed Hanan’s home and business. She fled in fear of her life and after two years of living hand to mouth with her family moved back into her house which had been damaged and completely looted. Hanan immediately set to work rebuilding and obtained her first loan from UNRWA in 2016. That added to Hanan’s working capital; she expanded her product base increasing income and is now looking to take her business to another level of expansion and brand recognition.

According to the Syrian Centre for Policy Research, de-industrialization has inflicted USD 254.7 billion in economic damage on Syria. In 2015 alone GDP loss was USD 163.3 billion. As a result of the economic collapse, more than 85 per cent of Syrians were living in poverty by the end of 2015, with more than 69 per cent of the population barely surviving in extreme poverty. Nearly three million jobs have been lost and unemployment is now over fifty per cent.

With recent donor funding, in particular USD 1 million from the European Union, we have expanded our micro finance outreach. Always searching for new openings, we have been actively mapping new locations of internally displaced people to reach the Palestine refugees we serve and to deliver loan products where market opportunities open up. Al Huseniya near Damascus is a good illustration.

The town’s inhabitants fled when armed groups seized it but in the second half of 2015 people began to return after insurgents were driven out. With the improved security situation and the return of Palestine refugees UNRWA dispatched two micro finance specialists to Al Huseniya.

Within a year, dozens of business plans were vetted, market risks were assessed and one hundred loans were issued, helping to secure a better standard of living for returning refugees; enabling them to generate income, repair and furnish their homes, lifting themselves and their families out of the poverty trap and away from aid dependency.

Across Syria, UNRWA’s Micro Finance Department disbursed a staggering 9,520 loans in 2016, worth nearly two million dollars. We can build on this track record and expand with the support of donors and partners.

I pay tribute to UNRWA staff who have achieved this against the odds. During the Syria conflict, the majority of UNRWA’s microfinance offices have been damaged. Moreover, the war has significantly affected our microfinance staff and their families. Prior to the conflict we had 130 staff in six offices across the country. The majority were from the now devastated Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, where our largest microfinance office had been situated.

Over half of our microfinance staff have fled the country and a third have been displaced. Against the odds, we seek to retain staff as circumstances allow and have reassigned personnel to new branches as opportunities have been found.

Our loans have also developed flexibly in response to the evolving conflict. There are currently five products that respond to the deepening emergency situations in Syria and help Palestine refugees re-build their houses and maintain stable incomes for themselves and extended families; no small achievement as war rages relentlessly in the country.

UNRWA’s micro finance work is a rare but significant example of hope in the country. As leaders at the World Economic Forum strive to shape innovative, flexible, and inclusive responses to the most traumatic conflict of our age, I hope they might find Hanan’s story revealing, instructive and perhaps even inspiring. She is an extraordinary young woman who in the face of untold adversity is bravely transforming her community from within, one business plan at a time, which is what the World Economic Forum, at its best, is striving to achieve.

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Agony of Mother Earth (I) The Unstoppable Destruction of Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/agony-of-mother-earth-i-the-unstoppable-destruction-of-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agony-of-mother-earth-i-the-unstoppable-destruction-of-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/05/agony-of-mother-earth-i-the-unstoppable-destruction-of-forests/#comments Thu, 18 May 2017 13:13:36 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=150456 This is the first of a two-part series on how humankind has been systematically destroying world’s forests—the real lungs of Mother Earth. Part II will deal with forest depletion for wood-fuel.

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The Selm Muir Forest of West Lothian, Scotland. Credit: UN Photo/Robert Clamp

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 18 2017 (IPS)

The world’s forests are being degraded and lost at a staggering rate of 3.3 million hectares per year. While their steady destruction in many Asian countries continues apace, deforestation of the world’s largest tropical forest – the Amazon – increased 29 per cent from last year’s numbers. And some of the most precious ecosystems in Africa are threatened by oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation.

These are some of the facts that have been repeatedly heralded by the scientific community and the world’s most authoritative voices, who remind us that globally, 1.3 billion people are estimated to be “forest peoples”, who depend almost entirely on them for their livelihoods.

Asia

Patrick Durst, the senior Forestry officer at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, on May 15 added to this figure that 28 per cent of the total income of households living in or near forests come from forest and environmental income.

According to FAO’s Global Forest Resource Assessment in 2015, forests continue to be lost in many countries of the Asia-Pacific region, including Sri Lanka. Moreover, the degradation of forest quality further decreases the forests’ capacity to provide goods and services necessary for human survival. These losses will be more acutely felt as the demand for forest products steadily rises in the future.

While most countries in the Asia-Pacific region continue to struggle to respond to forest loss, some are taking positive action, says the assessment, adding that through reforestation programmes, China and Viet Nam are actually increasing the amount of forested land. And the government of Sri Lanka has announced plans to increase the country’s forest cover by as much as 35 per cent.

Latin America

Meanwhile, “the world’s ancient forests are in crisis–a staggering 80 per cent have already been destroyed or degraded and much of what remains is under threat from illegal and destructive logging.”

Believe it or not, these estimates are anything but new or even recent—they were advanced around 9 years ago by a major independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace.

In fact, Greenpeace had already on 30 January 2008 reported that illegal logging was having a devastating impact on the world’s forests.

Its effects include deforestation, the loss of biodiversity and fuelling climate change, the group noted, adding that this creates “social conflict with indigenous and local populations and leads to violence, crime and human rights abuses.”

According to Greenpeace, it is estimated that some 1.6 billion people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihood and 60 million indigenous peoples depend on forests for their subsistence.

Sustainably managed forests hold vast potential to play a decisive role in ending hunger, improving livelihoods and combating climate change. Credit: FAO/Simon Maina

Sustainably managed forests hold vast potential to play a decisive role in ending hunger, improving livelihoods and combating climate change. Credit: FAO/Simon Maina

Amazon Deforestation Now

Barely six months ago, the very same global campaigning organisation reported that Amazon deforestation had increased 29 per cent from the numbers released for last year, according to data released by the Brazilian government on 31 November 2016.

“Brazil is losing control over the destruction of its forests because of poor policy decisions and may now have difficulty reaching its climate agreement targets, “ Greenpeace said on Dec. 1, 2016.

Data from the Deforestation Monitoring Program for the Legal Amazon indicated that 7989 km² of forest in the Amazon was destroyed between August 2015 and July 2016, the conservationist organisation reported.

“This is the second consecutive year deforestation in the world’s largest tropical forest has increased, a direct result of the government’s lack of ambition in dealing with the challenge of curbing forest loss. It is the first time in 12 years there have been increases in deforestation two years in a row.”

Cristiane Mazzetti, Greenpeace Amazon Campaigner, warned that the increase in deforestation rates can be linked to signals from Brazil’s government that it will tolerate the destruction of the Amazon.

“In recent years, public environmental protection policies in Brazil have weakened. For example, very few protected areas and Indigenous Lands have been created, and a new Forest Code was approved in 2012 that gives amnesty to those who committed illegal deforestation.”

According to Greenpeace, deforestation is responsible for approximately 40 per cent of Brazil’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“With forest loss on the rise again, the country could find it difficult to fulfil its commitments under the Paris Agreement, recently signed and ratified by Brazil… It is estimated that the deforestation of 7989km² has released the equivalent of 586 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere—the same amount as eight years of emissions from all of the cars in Brazil.”

The illegal harvesting of timber, expansion of agribusiness and the conversion of forests into pasture are a few of the major drivers of deforestation, Mazzetti explained, adding that building large infrastructure projects, like hydroelectric plants, also stimulates land grabbing and speculation, leading to even more deforestation.

Africa

For his part, Kofi Annan, former UN secretary general and current chair of the Africa Progress Panel (APP), recently warned against the destruction of forests, which provide clean air and water, and local communities with food, shelter and livelihoods.

“Each day more forests are cleared, driven by multiple activities, from agriculture to infrastructure development, to the growing demand for wood and forest products, often made worse by illegal logging,” he said.

In his keynote address at the ‘Forests for the Future – New Forests for Africa’ conference in Accra, Ghana on 16 March, Kofi Annan said, “some of the world’s most precious ecosystems, such as the Virunga National Park in the Congo Basin, are threatened by oil, gas and mineral exploration and exploitation”.

Forests offer incredible impetus to the fight against climate change. “Forest restoration and reforestation in Africa can contribute to the global effort to tackle climate change and accelerate progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Annan, adding that “forest restoration of 350 million hectares could generate 170 billion dollars per year in net benefits from watershed protection, improved crop yields and forest products”.

In its 2014 report, Grain, Fish, Money: Financing Africa’s Green and Blue Revolutions, the Africa Progress Panel argued that effective protection, management and mobilisation of Africa’s vast forest resources are needed to support transformative growth.

The Panel estimated that Africa lost 12.4 billion Euros (17 billion dollars) to illegal exports of timber in 2011.

Part II and last of this series on the Agony of Mother Earth focuses on forests depletion for fuel.

The post Agony of Mother Earth (I) The Unstoppable Destruction of Forests appeared first on Inter Press Service.

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