Inter Press ServiceNorth America – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Tue, 21 Aug 2018 02:08:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.7 Trump’s Attacks on Media Violate Basic Norms of Press Freedom, Human Rights Experts sayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/trumps-attacks-media-violate-basic-norms-press-freedom-human-rights-experts-say/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trumps-attacks-media-violate-basic-norms-press-freedom-human-rights-experts-say http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/08/trumps-attacks-media-violate-basic-norms-press-freedom-human-rights-experts-say/#comments Fri, 03 Aug 2018 13:16:41 +0000 David Kaye and Edison Lanza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157047 David Kaye is the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression for the United Nations and Edison Lanza is Special Rapporteur for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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David Kaye is the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression for the United Nations and Edison Lanza is Special Rapporteur for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

By David Kaye and Edison Lanza
GENEVA / WASHINGTON, Aug 3 2018 (IPS)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on the free press are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts.

The President has labelled the media as being the “enemy of the American people” “very dishonest” or “fake news,” and accused the press of “distorting democracy” or spreading “conspiracy theories and blind hatred”.

Journalists wait for the arrival of official delegations at the Geneva II Conference on Syria, in Montreux, Switzerland. Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

These attacks run counter to the country’s obligations to respect press freedom and international human rights law. We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence.

Over the course of his presidency, Mr. Trump and others within his administration, have sought to undermine reporting that had uncovered waste, fraud, abuse, potential illegal conduct, and disinformation.

Each time the President calls the media ‘the enemy of the people’ or fails to allow questions from reporters from disfavoured outlets, he suggests nefarious motivations or animus. But he has failed to show even once that specific reporting has been driven by any untoward motivations.

It is critical that the U.S. administration promote the role of a vibrant press and counter rampant disinformation. To this end, we urge President Trump not only to stop using his platform to denigrate the media but to condemn these attacks, including threats directed at the press at his own rallies.

The attack on the media goes beyond President Trump’s language. We also urge his entire administration, including the Department of Justice, to avoid pursuing legal cases against journalists in an effort to identify confidential sources, an effort that undermines the independence of the media and the ability of the public to have access to information.

We urge the Government to stop pursuing whistle-blowers through the tool of the Espionage Act, which provides no basis for a person to make an argument about the public interest of such information.

We stand with the independent media in the United States, a community of journalists and publishers and broadcasters long among the strongest examples of professional journalism worldwide. We especially urge the press to continue, where it does so, its efforts to hold all public officials accountable.

We encourage all media to act in solidarity against the efforts of President Trump to favour some outlets over others.

Two years of attacks on the press could have long term negative implications for the public’s trust in media and public institutions. Two years is two years too much, and we strongly urge that President Trump and his administration and his supporters end these attacks.

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Excerpt:

David Kaye is the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression for the United Nations and Edison Lanza is Special Rapporteur for the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

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New York, With 8.5 Million People, Among Cities Heading for a Sustainable Futurehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/new-york-8-5-million-people-among-cities-heading-sustainable-future/#respond Tue, 17 Jul 2018 12:11:39 +0000 Maimunah Mohd Sharif and Achim Steiner http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156736 Maimunah Mohd Sharif is Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

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Maimunah Mohd Sharif is Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

By Maimunah Mohd Sharif and Achim Steiner
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 17 2018 (IPS)

New York has long been considered a pioneer – in fashion, art, music, and food, just to name a few. Now this city of 8.5 million is leading a shift in how we tackle today’s toughest global challenges like climate change, education, inequality, and poverty.

UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

These issues are at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, an agenda agreed by all nations in 2015 that chart a path for people, prosperity, and the planet. This July, New York is joining countries at the United Nations to report on its progress and to share experiences, becoming the first city to do so.

It makes good sense for New York and other cities to spearhead progress on these global goals – including the need for decent housing, public transport, green spaces and clean air.

More than half of the world’s 7 billion people currently live in cities, and by 2050 that number will be closer to 70%. By 2030, there will be over 700 cities with more than a million inhabitants.

Urban growth is happening fastest in developing countries, which often struggle to meet the demand for quality municipal services and have little experience in planning. Rapid growth can also push up the prices of housing and energy, and can increase pollution, threatening the health and well-being of millions.

Cities are also financial powerhouses, generating 82% of global GDP, yet they also account for 50% of global greenhouse gas emissions, use 80% of the world’s energy, and generate over 1 billion tonnes of waste per year.

Inequality within cities on issues like income, health, and education are also a big challenge.

Cities are a fulcrum for sustainable development worldwide and crucible for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Unleashing the power of cities to help solve global challenges means linking local plans to national plans, and also to global agendas.

Cities are already showing how to lead by example on one of our most pressing global challenges: climate change.

The global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy is an alliance of cities and local governments working to combat climate change and move to a low-emission and resilient society. This group has commitments from over 9,000 cities and local governments from 6 continents and 127 countries.

The Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco this September is another example of how cities, as well as states, regions, companies and citizens, are coming together to show how every group can do something and accelerate action.

Which brings us back to New York.

Cities are on the frontlines of nearly every global challenge we currently face, and they need to be at the center of our strategy to solve them. The urban development of yesterday will not suffice.

By using the Sustainable Development Goals as their guide, New York is showing how cities can adapt their plans to mirror development plans, allowing them to grow in the most sustainable way possible while creating policies for the things people living in cities need.

Things like jobs, affordable housing, good education, quality health care, clean air and good waste management, just to name a few. Getting cities right can provide opportunities to address poverty, migration, employment and pollution.

We invite all cities to join New York and help lead the way in planning for a shared and sustainable future that benefits all people of the world.

On 17 July 2018, the UN will host an event at the High-level Political Forum: ‘The SDGs in Action – Working together for inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and human settlements. The event will focus on how cities and human settlement are accelerating progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and contributing to a transformation towards sustainable and resilient societies.

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Excerpt:

Maimunah Mohd Sharif is Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and Achim Steiner is Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme

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Will Trump’s Trade War Make America Great Again?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/will-trumps-trade-war-make-america-great/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=will-trumps-trade-war-make-america-great http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/will-trumps-trade-war-make-america-great/#comments Mon, 16 Jul 2018 14:26:11 +0000 Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156713 The United States has had the world’s largest trade deficit for almost half a century. In 2017, the US trade deficit in goods and services was $566 billion; without services, the merchandise account deficit was $810 billion. The largest US trade deficit is with China, amounting to $375 billion, rising dramatically from an average of […]

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By Anis Chowdhury and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
SYDNEY & KUALA LUMPUR, Jul 16 2018 (IPS)

The United States has had the world’s largest trade deficit for almost half a century. In 2017, the US trade deficit in goods and services was $566 billion; without services, the merchandise account deficit was $810 billion.

The largest US trade deficit is with China, amounting to $375 billion, rising dramatically from an average of $34 billion in the 1990s. In 2017, its trade deficit with Japan was $69 billion, and with Germany, $65 billion. The US also has trade deficits with both its NAFTA partners, including $71 billion with Mexico.

President Trump wants to reduce these deficits with protectionist measures. In March 2018, he imposed a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminium, a month after imposing tariffs and quotas on imported solar panels and washing machines. On 10 July, the US listed Chinese imports worth $200 billion annually that will face 10% tariffs, probably from September, following 25% tariffs on $34 billion of such imports from 7 July.

 

Do US trade deficits reflect weakness?

The usual explanation for bilateral trade deficits is price differentials. However, the US accuses such countries of ‘unfair’ trade practices, such as currency manipulation, wage suppression and government subsidies to boost exports, besides blocking US imports.

Trump views most trade deals such as NAFTA as unfair. His team insists that renegotiating trade deals, ‘buying American’, a strong dollar and confronting China will shrink US trade deficits.

Anis Chowdhury

But the country’s overall trade deficit, offset by capital inflows, is related to the gap between its savings and investments. The US spends more than it produces, thus importing foreign goods and services. Cheap credit fuels debt-financed consumption, increasing the trade deficit.

Total US household debt rose to $13.2 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, the 15th consecutive quarter of growth in the mortgage, student, auto and credit card loan categories. American consumer debt was more than double GDP in 2017.

US government budget deficits have also been growing. From 67.7% of GDP in 2008, US government debt rose to 105.4% in 2017. The federal budget deficit was $665 billion in FY2017, rising 14% from $585 billion in FY2016.

The US budget deficit was 3.5% of GDP in 2017. According to the US Congressional Budget Office, it will surpass $1 trillion by 2020, two years sooner than previously projected, due to Trump tax cuts and spending increases.

The growing US economy may also increase the trade deficit, as consumers spend more on imported goods and services. The stronger dollar has made foreign products cheaper for American consumers while making US exports more expensive for foreigners.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram. Credit: FAO

These underlying economic forces have become more important than policies in raising the overall trade deficit, while bilateral deficits reflect specific commercial relations with particular countries. Thus, disrupting bilateral trade relations may only shift the trade deficit to others.

 

Have the cake and eat it?

So, why does the US have a structural trade deficit? As the de facto international ‘reserve currency’ after the Second World War, the US has provided the rest of the world with liquidity. Its perceived military strength means it is seen as a safe place to keep financial assets. Of about $10 trillion in global reserves in 2016, for example, around three fifths were held in US dollars.

US supply of international liquidity by issuing the global reserve currency offers several economic advantages. It also earns seigniorage from issuing the main currency used around the world, due to the difference between the face value of a currency note and the cost of issuing it.

With growing foreign demand for dollars, the US can run deficits almost indefinitely by creating more debt or selling assets. Demand for dollar-denominated assets, e.g., US Treasury bonds, raises their prices, lowering interest rates, to finance both consumption and investment.

While foreign investors buy low-yielding, short-term US assets, Americans can invest abroad in higher-yielding, long-term assets. The US usually reaps higher returns on such investments than it pays for debt, labelled America’s ‘exorbitant privilege’.

Thus, for the US to enjoy the ‘exorbitant privilege’ of the dollar’s role as the major reserve currency, it must run a chronic trade deficit. Therefore, giving up the dollar’s global reserve currency status will have major implications for the US economy, finances and living standards.

 

Can the US win Trump’s trade war?

Barry Eichengreen noted that countries in military alliances with reserve-currency issuing countries hold about 30% more of the partner’s currency in their foreign-exchange reserves than countries not in such alliances. Instead, Trump has prioritized reducing trade deficits to strengthen the US dollar and dominance while disrupting some old political alliances.

As the US retreats from the global diplomatic stage, use of other reserve currencies, including China’s renminbi, has been growing, especially in Europe and Africa. Thus, ironically, as Trump wages trade wars on both foes and friends, China will probably gain, both geopolitically and economically.

The resulting global economic shift will not only hurt the US dollar and economy through the exchange rate and borrowing costs, but also its geopolitical dominance.


Anis Chowdhury
, Adjunct Professor at Western Sydney University (Australia), held senior United Nations positions in New York and Bangkok.
Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought in 2007.

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Family Planning Is A Human Righthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=family-planning-human-right http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/family-planning-human-right/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2018 07:32:15 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156639 It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world. For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is […]

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A basket of condoms passed around during International Women’s Day in Manila. Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S. Credit: Kara Santos/IPS

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

It has been five decades since the international community affirmed the right to family planning but women still remain unable to enjoy this right, which is increasingly under attack around the world.

For World Population Day, held annually on Jul. 11, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has focused its attention on “Family Planning is a Human Right,” and aptly so.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights where family planning was, for the first time, understood to be a human right.“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children,” the Tehran Proclamation from the conference states.

The historic meeting also linked the right to the “dignity and worth of the human person.”

“Family planning is not only a matter of human rights; it is also central to women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, and achieving sustainable development,” said UNFPA’s Executive Director Natalia Kanem.

However, in developing countries, more than 200 million women still lack safe and effective family planning methods largely due to the lack of information or services.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently found that clinical guidelines are followed in less than 50 percent of cases in poorer nations, resulting in “deficient” family planning.

In such circumstances and without access to contraception, women and girls often turn to dangerous methods such as ingesting or inserting vinegar, which can cause bodily damage.

UNFPA found that in one country, the stiff plastic wrapper of an ice popsicle is used as a replacement for condoms which could result in genital lacerations.

While such practices have generally decreased, countries like Yemen where conflict has restricted access to family planning are seeing more women using unsafe, traditional methods of contraception.

In other places such as the United States, family planning is deliberately under attack.

Just a year after implementing the global gag rule, which cuts off international family planning funds to any foreign nongovernmental organization who advocate or even give information about abortion, the Trump administration is now turning inwards and targeting its own.

Title X is a USD300 million government programme dedicated to helping the four million low-income women who wish to access birth control and other family planning services

However, new proposed regulations echo a sense of a “domestic gag rule” by restricting people’s access to family planning care. One such proposal forbids doctors from counselling patients with unplanned pregnancies about their reproductive options and instead advocates coercing pregnant patients towards having children regardless of their own wishes.

The scenario can already be seen playing out across the country.

Recently in California, the Supreme Court reversed a law that required crisis pregnancy centres, which often trick women into believing they provide family planning services, to provide full disclosure.

The Supreme Court found that it “imposes an unduly burdensome disclosure requirement that will chill their protected speech.”

“It’s clear the U.S. government is taking more and more swipes at a fundamental aspect of the right to health—the right to information,” said Human Rights Watch’s Senior Researcher Amanda Klasing.

“Chipping away at women’s access to information is a direct attack on their access to healthcare, and the right to make informed autonomous decisions about their lives and their bodies,” she continued.

Withholding such essential resources and information from women also heightens the risk of ill-health or even death for newborns.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, women with unintended pregnancies, which is often higher among the poor, often receive worse prenatal care and poor birth outcomes. When women are able to decide when to have children and space out their pregnancies, their children are less likely to be born prematurely or have low birth weights.

Already, a study found that U.S. babies are three times more likely to die compared to 19 countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development largely due to high poverty rates and a weak social safety net.

Without publicly funded family planning services or information, we can only expect to see higher rates of unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and infant mortality in the U.S.

And now with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has a history of undermining women’s reproductive freedom, we may even see worse including the dismantling of the historic Roe v. Wade case which legalised abortions.

If we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, including ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health care and meeting all family planning needs, the international community should not forget its affirmation at the 1968 International Conference on Human Rights.

“Investments in family planning today are investments in the health and well-being of women for generations to come,” Kanem concluded.

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United Nations Compact Must End Child Detentionhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/united-nations-compact-must-end-child-detention/#respond Sat, 07 Jul 2018 06:17:28 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156589 World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said. Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations. As images and […]

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People gathered in the United States to protest against immigrant children being taken from their families last month. The protesters called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to be abolished. Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S. Credit: Fibonacci Blue

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 7 2018 (IPS)

World leaders must commit to ending child migrant detention during United Nations negotiations next week, a human rights group said.

Leaders from around the world are due to convene to discuss the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), an intergovernmental agreement on managing international migration which is in its final stage of negotiations.

As images and stories of children trapped in detention centres in the United States continue to come out, Amnesty International (AI) has called on negotiation participants to end child detention. “Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the USA irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action.”

“The appalling scenes in the U.S. have illustrated why an international commitment to ending child migration detention is so desperately needed – these negotiations could not have come at a more crucial time,” said AI’s Senior Americas Advocate Perseo Quiroz.

“Many world leaders have expressed their outrage at the Trump administration’s recent horrendous treatment of children whose parents have arrived in the U.S. irregularly. Now is the time to channel that outrage into concrete action,” he added.

As a result of the Trump administration’s family separation policy, over 2,000 children have been separated from their parents and detained since May after crossing the country’s southern border.

Officials estimate that up to 10,000 children are held in poor conditions in detention centres in the U.S.

“At the U.N. next week there is a real opportunity for states to show they are serious about ending child migration detention for good by pushing for the strongest protections possible for all children, accompanied or otherwise,” Quiroz said.

The current draft of the GCM does mention the issue including a clause to “work to end the practice of child detention in the context of international migration” and to “use migration detention only as a last resort.”

However, AI believes the language is not strong enough as there is no circumstance in which migration-related detention of children is justified.

While U.S. president Donald Trump has signed an executive order reversing the family separation policy, he has replaced it with a policy of detaining entire families together.

This means that children, along with their parents, can be detained for a prolonged and indefinite period of time.

“Now is not the time to look away,” said Brian Root and Rachel Schmidt from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

“Family separation and detention policies are symptoms are a much larger global issue: how receiving countries treat migrants, who are often fleeing unstable and/or violent situations,” they added.

Recently, Oxfam found that children as young as 12 are physically abused, detained, and illegally returned to Italy by French border guards, contrary to French and European Union laws.

Over 4,000 child migrants have passed through the Italian border town of Ventimiglia between July 2017 and April 2018. The majority are fleeing persecution and conflict in countries such as Sudan, Eritrea, and Syria and are often trying to reach relatives or friends in other European countries.

Children have reported being detained overnight in French cells without food, water, or blankets and with no access to an official guardian.

In Australia, over 200 children are in asylum-seeker detention centres including on Nauru and are often detained for months, if not years.

“The Global Compact on Migration…offers some hope, but it will not work if many countries continue to see the issue purely in terms of border control,” HRW said.

“In addition, this compact will have little effect on an American president who seems to hold contempt for the idea of international cooperation,” they continued.

Last year, the U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Global Compact on Migration, just days before  a migration conference in Mexico, citing that the document undermines the country’s sovereignty.

Though the GCM itself is also not legally binding, AI said that it is politically binding and establishes a basis for future discussions on migration.

“Recent events have shone a spotlight on the brutal realities of detaining children simply because their parents are on the move, and we hope this will compel other governments to take concrete steps to protect all children from this cruel treatment,” Quiroz said.

Starting on Jul. 9, leaders of the 193 U.N. member states will meet in New York to agree on the final text of the GCM.

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Separated Central American Families Suffer Abuse in the United Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/separated-central-american-families-suffer-abuse-united-states/#respond Mon, 02 Jul 2018 23:20:14 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156513 After three hours of paperwork, Katy Rodriguez from El Salvador, who was deported from the United States, finally exited the government’s immigration facilities together with her young son and embraced family members who were waiting outside. Rodríguez and her three-year-old son were reunited again on Jun. 28, just before she was sent back to her […]

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Katy Rodríguez and her son (in his father’s arms) when they were reunited after leaving the Migrant Assistance Centre in San Salvador following their deportation. Like thousands of other Central American families since April, mother and son were separated for four months after entering the United States without the proper documents. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Katy Rodríguez and her son (in his father’s arms) when they were reunited after leaving the Migrant Assistance Centre in San Salvador following their deportation. Like thousands of other Central American families since April, mother and son were separated for four months after entering the United States without the proper documents. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR, Jul 2 2018 (IPS)

After three hours of paperwork, Katy Rodriguez from El Salvador, who was deported from the United States, finally exited the government’s immigration facilities together with her young son and embraced family members who were waiting outside.

Rodríguez and her three-year-old son were reunited again on Jun. 28, just before she was sent back to her home country El Salvador. She is originally from Chalatenanango, in the central department of the same name.

The 29-year-old mother and her little boy spent more than four months apart after being detained on Feb. 19 for being intercepted without the proper documents in the U.S. state of Texas, where they entered the country from the Mexican border city of Reynosa.

“It’s been bad, very bad, everything we’ve been through, my son in one place and me in another,” Rodríguez told IPS in a brief statement before getting into a family car outside the Migrant Assistance Centre, where Salvadorans deported from both the United States and Mexico arrive.

She was informed she could apply for asylum, but that meant spending more time away from her son, and for that reason she chose to be deported. “I felt immense joy when they finally gave me my child,” she said with a faint smile..

Rodriguez was held in a detention centre on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, while her son was sent to a children’s shelter in far-flung New York City as a result of the “Zero Tolerance” policy on illegal immigration imposed in April by the Donald Trump administration.

The traumatic events experienced by Rodríguez and her son are similar to what has happened to thousands of families, most of them from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, detained and separated on the southern U.S. border after Trump implemented the measure to, in theory, stem the flow of immigrants to the United States.

According to the Salvadoran General Migration Officete, between Jan. 1 and Jun. 27, 39 minors were deported from the US, either alone or accompanied, 1,020 from Mexico and five others from other locations. That figure of 1,064 is well below the 1,472 returned in the first half of 2017.

Of the 2,500 children separated from their parents or guardians on the southern border of the U.S. since April, just over 2,000 are still being held in detention centres and shelters in that country, according to the media and human rights organisations.

This is despite the fact that President Trump signed a decree on Jun. 20 putting an end to the separation of families.

Images of children locked up in cages created by metal fencing, crying and asking to see their parents, triggered an international outcry.

“The detention of children and the separation of families is comparable to the practice of torture under international law and U.S. law itself. There is an intention to inflict harm by the authorities for the purpose of coercion,” Erika Guevara, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, told IPS from Mexico City.

The plane in which Rodríguez was deported carried another 132 migrants, including some 20 women, who told IPS about the abuses and human rights violations suffered in the detention centres.

The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of the United States gave a press conference after a Jun. 28 meeting in Guatemala City on the issue of migration by undocumented Central Americans to the U.S.. Credit: Presidency of El Salvador

The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and the vice president of the United States gave a press conference after a Jun. 28 meeting in Guatemala City on the issue of migration by undocumented Central Americans to the U.S.. Credit: Presidency of El Salvador

Carolina Díaz, 21, who worked in a maquiladora – export assembly plant – before migrating to the United States, told IPS that she was held for a day and a half in what migrants refer to as the “icebox” in McAllen,Texas.

The icebox is kept extremely cold on purpose, because the guards turn up the air conditioning as a form of punishment “for crossing the border without papers,” said Díaz, a native of Ciudad Arce, in the central department of La Libertad, El Salvador.

“You practically freeze to death there, with nothing to keep yourself warm with,” she added, saying she had decided to migrate “because of the economic situation, looking for a better future.”

To sleep, all they gave her was a thermal blanket that looked like a giant sheet of aluminum foil, she said. Another woman, who did not want to be identified, told IPS that she was held in the icebox for nine days without knowing exactly why.

Díaz also spent another day and a half in the “kennel,” as they refer to the metal cages where dozens of undocumented immigrants are held.

“When I was in the kennel, the guards made fun of us, they threw the food at us as if we were dogs, almost always stale bologna sandwiches,” she said.

Díaz said that in McAllen, as well as in a similar detention centre in Laredo, Texas, she saw many mothers who had been separated from their children, crying inconsolably.

“The mothers were traumatised by the pain of the separation,” she said.

Guevara of Amnesty International said Trump’s decree does not stop the separations, but only postpones them, and families will continue to be detained, including those seeking asylum.

“The president’s Jun. 20 decree does not say what they are going to do with the more than 2,000 children already separated, in a situation of disorder that is generating other human rights violations,” she said.

These violations include the failure to notify parents or guardians when children are transferred to other detention facilities.

She added that the United States has created the world’s largest immigrant detention system, and currently operates 115 centres with at least 300,000 people detained each year.

Meanwhile, Marleny Montenegro, a psychologist with the Migrations programme in Guatemala’s non-governmental Psychosocial Action and StudiesTeam, explained that children detained and separated from their parents suffer from depression, fear, anxiety and anguish, among other psychological issues.

“They are affected in their ability to trust, their insecurity and they have trouble reintegrating into the community and in communicating their feelings and thoughts,” Montenegro told IPS from the Guatemalan capital.

The plane with undocumented deportees arrived in El Salvador on the same day as U.S. Vice President Michael Pence, who was meeting in Guatemala with Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, and El Salvador’s President Sánchez Cerén.

Pence’s aim at the Jun. 28 meeting was to obtain a commitment from the three governments to adopt policies to curb migration to the U.S. According the figures he cited, 150,000 Central Americans have arrived to the US. so far this year – an irregular migration flow that he said “must stop.”

In a joint statement, at the end of what they called “a frank dialogue” with Pence, the three Central American leaders expressed their willingness to work together with the United States on actions that prioritise the well-being of children and adolescents, family unity and the due process of law.

They also stressed the importance of working in a coordinated manner to inform nationals of their countries of the risks involved in irregular migration and to combat human trafficking and smuggling networks.

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America First or America Alone?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/america-first-america-alone/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=america-first-america-alone http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/america-first-america-alone/#respond Thu, 21 Jun 2018 19:50:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156347 The United States’ move to withdraw from the Human Rights Council will have “reverberations” throughout the world in years to come, say human rights groups. This week, the U.S. announced its intention to withdraw from the 47-member Human Rights Council, accusing it of bias against Israel. “The Human Rights Council has been a protector of […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 21 2018 (IPS)

The United States’ move to withdraw from the Human Rights Council will have “reverberations” throughout the world in years to come, say human rights groups.

This week, the U.S. announced its intention to withdraw from the 47-member Human Rights Council, accusing it of bias against Israel.

“The Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias,” said U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley in a statement.

Nikki R. Haley, new United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations presented her credentials to Secretary-General António Guterres. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

While it comes as no surprise to many, the move has been condemned by global human rights groups.

“It is the latest in a series of gestures that says we’re really only interested in transactional diplomacy—you give us something we want, and we give you something you want and we better get a better deal,” Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead Scott Paul told IPS, noting that it undermines human rights around the world.

Human Rights Watch’s Deputy UN Director Akshaya Kumar echoed similar comments on the U.S.’ “one dimensional” policy to IPS, stating: “By turning their back on the UN with this decision, they also turn their back on victims in Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Burma—all just because of this concern with Israel.”

Created in 2006, the Human Rights Council (HRC) plays a vital role in addressing rights violations around the world. It has initiated investigations in Syria, Yemen, Burundi, Myanmar, and South Sudan while also raising awareness and discussing key topics such as disability rights and violence against women.

Last month, the Council accused Israel of excessive use of force during demonstrations at the border and voted to probe killings in Gaza.

Paul also noted that the U.S. withdrawal is ill-timed as the country’s human rights record is “rightly” under the spotlight.

Most recently, the human rights body blasted President Donald Trump’s immigration policy of separating children from parents at the southern border. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called the policy “unconscionable.”

A new report by the UN’s rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston has also found and criticized the North American nation’s policies which have “overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality.”

“Quitting this body doesn’t in any way protect you from the scrutiny of the world, or from being assessed by international standards of human rights law…all of those issues are going to continue to be discussed,” Kumar said.

In a letter, Haley attacked human rights groups including Human Rights Watch for opposing her recent push for a General Assembly vote on changes to the Council.

“You put yourself on the side of Russia and China, and opposite the United States, on a key human rights issue. You should know that your efforts to block negotiations and thwart reform were a contributing factor in the U.S. decision to withdraw from the council,” Haley wrote.

Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau called it “outrageous” and that blaming organizations for the country’s own failure is “taking a page out of the book of some of the worst governments around the world.”

Though Haley promised to continue to work to reform the HRC and to engage in human rights in other fora such as the Security Council, it could be difficult to make significant progress.

For instance, China, a member of both the HRC and the Security Council, has blocked a number of justice and accountability measures at the Security Council including those concerning Syria.

Russia has vetoed Security Council action on Syria 12 times, and very little progress has been made to help protect Syrians.

“So its a rhetorical slight of hand for her to say that the U.S. is still committed to human rights and will pursue it in other spaces when they are walking away from the primary body dedicated to human rights,” Kumar told IPS.

Not only are they withdrawing their membership, the U.S., with almost 18 months remaining on its term, is refusing to attend anymore meetings.

Kumar noted that the move is “really rare” as countries often attend meetings if they come up on the body’s agenda and even if they are not members but are committed to human rights.

“To say that they are not going to come at all is a pretty significant step away from multilateralism,” she said.

“It is really deeply disappointing,” Paul said, noting the withdrawal is a major step back from the U.S.’ legacy at the HRC.

While their engagement with the Council has been spotty, the U.S. has helped some of the body’s key decisions such as the creation of a commission of inquiry into human rights violations in North Korea.

The U.S. has also played a leading role on initiatives related to Syria, South Sudan, and Sri Lanka.

While the HRC is not a perfect institution, the U.S. move to abandon ship does not help the Council either, Paul noted.

“I don’t think we should expect perfection over institutions, I think we should work to make them more perfect…simply walking away because it’s not going so well or because we are not getting everything we want isn’t actually the way to make things better,” he told IPS.

“They are taking themselves off the field and out of really important conversations and that’s something that is going to have reverberations for years to come,” Kumar reiterated.

And just because the U.S. is leaving the Council also does not mean that the North American nation should leave behind its commitments to human rights.

“At some point, we will be back at the table. And in the meantime, we will be doing everything we can to hold our own government to account,” Paul concluded.

The U.S. joined the HRC in 2009, previously refusing to be involved under the Bush administration due to concerns over the body’s members.

Among the HRC’s members are Burundi, the Philippines, and Venezuela.

It is the first time a member has voluntarily withdrawn from the Council.

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Human Rights Must Be on the Table During U.S.-North Korea Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/human-rights-must-table-u-s-north-korea-talks/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2018 06:54:46 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156112 Human rights issues must be included in next week’s United States-North Korea summit in order to create a “sustainable agreement”, said a UN expert. In an effort towards denuclearization, U.S. President Trump is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore. In anticipation of the summit, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights […]

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Donald J. Trump, President of the United States of America, addresses the Assembly’s annual general debate. Credit: UN Photo/Cia Pak

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

Human rights issues must be included in next week’s United States-North Korea summit in order to create a “sustainable agreement”, said a UN expert.

In an effort towards denuclearization, U.S. President Trump is set to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.

In anticipation of the summit, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Tomás Ojea Quintana called for human rights issues to be a topic of discussion.

“At some point, whether [in] the next summit or other summits to come or meetings, it is very important that human rights are raised,” Quintana said.

“I am not of the opinion that a human rights dialogue will undermine the opening and the talks on denuclearization at all,” he added.

Instead, DPRK’s participation in a discussion on human rights will give them “credibility” and “show that they want to become a normal state.”

While they have signed and ratified several human rights treaties, North Korea remains one of the most repressive, authoritarian states in the world

A 2014 UN report found systematic, gross human rights violations committed by the government including forced labor, enslavement, torture, and imprisonment.

It is estimated that up to 120,000 people are detained in political prison camps in the East Asian nation, often referred to as the “world’s biggest open prison.”

“My call is for an amnesty, a general amnesty that includes these prisoners, and it is a concrete call,” Quintana said.

The UN Commission of Inquiry also found the “inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation.”

Approximately two in five North Koreans are undernourished and more than 70 percent of the population rely on food aid.

Most North Koreans also lack access to basic services such as healthcare or sanitation.

Diarrhea and pneumonia are the two main causes of death for children under five, the report said.

It wouldn’t be the first time that President Trump has taken a strong stance on North Korea.

“No one has shown more contempt for other nations and for the wellbeing of their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea,” Trump said during his first speech to the General Assembly in 2017.

“It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior,” he added.

In an open letter, more than 300 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from around the world have also called on North Korea to reform its regime and hope the upcoming meeting will urge human rights improvements as part of any agreement.

“North Korea’s increased dialogue with other countries is a positive step, but before the world gets too excited they should remember that Kim Jong Un still presides over perhaps the most repressive system in the world,” said Human Rights Watch’s Asia Director Brad Adams.

“As the UN Security Council has recognized, human rights abuses in North Korea and threats to international peace and security are intrinsically connected, so any security discussion needs to include human rights,” he continued.

Human Rights Watch is among the human rights organizations that signed the letter.

Among the letter’s calls to actions, organizations urged Kim Jong Un to act on UN human rights recommendations, increase engagement with the international human rights system, end abuses in detention and prisons, and to accept international humanitarian aid for needy communities.

“If [Kim Jong Un] really wants to end North Korea’s international isolation, he should take strong and quick action to show the North Korean people and the world that he is committed to ending decades of rights abuses,” Adams said.

Quintana echoed similar sentiments, noting that human rights issues were sidelined over two decades ago when the U.S. and the DPRK signed an agreement to freeze Pyongyang’s nuclear programme and again during recent six-party talks.

“Those processes, although they were well-intentioned, were not successful,” he said.

“For this new process to be successful, my humble opinion as a human rights rapporteur is that the human rights dialogue should be included because it is part of the discussion. Human rights and security and peace are interlinked, definitely, and this is the situation where we can prove that,” Quintana continued.

Otherwise, any denuclearization agreement would send the “wrong message” and prevent the two parties from building a “sustainable agreement.”

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Why Would an Immigrant Support Trump?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/immigrant-support-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=immigrant-support-trump http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/immigrant-support-trump/#comments Fri, 25 May 2018 12:17:44 +0000 Rose Delaney http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155922 Giuseppe DiMarco is 83 years old. He has recognized the U.S. as his home for over 30 years. In the aftermath of World War Two, DiMarco fled an impoverished farming town in Southern Italy in the pursuit of advancement and the promise of wealth he had never known. Whilst economic strife and extreme poverty drove […]

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U.S. Signals New Approach to Horn of Africa Allyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/u-s-signals-new-approach-horn-africa-ally/#respond Thu, 10 May 2018 12:13:42 +0000 James Jeffrey http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155699 The April inauguration of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came amid much fanfare and raised expectations for the future of true democracy in Ethiopia, while far less publicized though relevant developments in the American capital could also play a significant role in shaping that future. At a relatively youthful and spritely 42 years of age, Abiy […]

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Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, addresses press and supporters outside Washington’s Capitol Building after passage of House Resolution-128. Behind and to his left is Congressman Chris Smith and behind and to his right is Congressman Mike Coffman, both of whom played key roles in the resolution’s successful passage. Photo courtesy Tewodrose Tirfe/Congressman Mike Coffman’s office.

Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, addresses press and supporters outside Washington’s Capitol Building after passage of House Resolution-128. Behind and to his left is Congressman Chris Smith and behind and to his right is Congressman Mike Coffman, both of whom played key roles in the resolution’s successful passage. Photo courtesy Tewodrose Tirfe/Congressman Mike Coffman’s office.

By James Jeffrey
WASHINGTON, May 10 2018 (IPS)

The April inauguration of Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came amid much fanfare and raised expectations for the future of true democracy in Ethiopia, while far less publicized though relevant developments in the American capital could also play a significant role in shaping that future.

At a relatively youthful and spritely 42 years of age, Abiy Ahmed is widely seen as a reformer who can take the necessary steps to calm a nation that has been engulfed in unprecedented levels of political unrest since the end of 2015.“The new resolution by the US House of Representatives is a reminder to the Ethiopian government that should it fail to reform, it can no longer rely on US largesse to contain problems at home.” --Hassen Hussein

Crucially, he heralds from the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization (OPDO), which represents the Oromo, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and who have spearheaded protests against the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition party, of which the OPDO is a key member.

After the resignation of previous Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, many warned that if the EPRDF chose a figure from its old guard it might well lead to more, perhaps worse, unrest.

That has been avoided with the party embracing a politician with greater public support, and the first Oromo head of government in Ethiopia has already traveled to several areas of the country, promising to address grievances and strengthen a range of political and civil rights.

But, as everyone knows and agrees on, Abiy faces numerous challenges domestically and externally in bringing stability back to Ethiopia and settling a discontented populace that is the second largest in Africa.

One problem is the state of emergency declared in Ethiopia in February following the last prime minister’s surprise resignation (and which is the second state of emergency after the first ended in August 2017). This could hinder Abiy in moving forward with any reform agenda, because the new prime minister’s hold on the state security apparatus is much reduced than normal during a state of emergency, with a group of military officers referred to as the “Command Post” effectively in control of the mechanism of the state.

Also, the very fact of Abiy’s reluctance to push for the lifting of the state of emergency illustrates, observers say, how the internal dynamics of the EPRDF that played a large part in the undoing of Desalegn are still a force to be reckoned with.

The historical dominance of the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the EPRDF continues to wield force and means Ethiopia’s new, apparently reformist, prime minister will need to deal shrewdly with members of the establishment resistant to reform or reconciliation efforts—if Abiy is, in fact, genuinely for reform, that is.

“I like the things [Abiy] has been saying in public—most of the country and many in the opposition at home and abroad resonate with the sentiments expressed in his public statements,” says Alemante Selassie, emeritus professor at the William and Mary Law School in the US.  “Still, I cannot say that I have full confidence in him, because he is a party functionary who rose through the ranks of the EPRDF and probably remains committed to upholding its hegemonic rule for the foreseeable future.”

Nevertheless, whatever the inner workings of the new prime minister’s mind, as an ex-army officer he understands the military-security apparatus and its culture; he has a strong party mandate and public support behind him, and he comes to power at a time when those previously in charge are reviled by the populace, thereby putting him in a unique position to potentially resolve many of the country’s problems.

Furthermore, recent developments in the US Congress may also have a bearing on what happens next. On April 10, the US House of Representatives unanimously adopted House Resolution-128: “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia.”

The resolution—uunusually outspoken for US public policy in it criticism of Ethiopia’s government—condemns “the killings of peaceful protesters and excessive use of force by Ethiopian security forces; the detention of journalists, students, activists, and political leaders; and the regime’s abuse of the Anti-Terrorism Proclamation to stifle political and civil dissent and journalistic freedoms.”

The resolution and its wording deeply angered the Ethiopian government, which even suggested it might cut off security cooperation with the US if the resolution was passed. Ethiopia is viewed by the US as its most important ally in the volatile East African region, and hence receives one of the largest security and humanitarian aid packages among sub-Saharan African countries.

“The passage of HR-128 by the US House of Representatives without any opposition was a historical achievement,” says Tewodrose Tirfe, chair of the Amhara Association of America, a US-based advocacy group for the Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group. “The main difference this time, compared to previous attempts to get legislation through, was Ethiopian-American advocacy organizations working in coordination with human rights groups to bring to the attention of [US state] representatives the humanitarian and political crisis that has been unfolding in Ethiopia, especially the past three years.”

Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee of Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations, introduced HR-128, and played a major role, along with Congressman Mike Coffman, in achieving the passage of the resolution.

“Chairman Smith has held more hearings and authored more legislation on Ethiopia then anyone in Congress—he has been a voice for the Ethiopian diaspora for many years,” Tewodrose says. “Congressman Coffman put his political capital on the line for this resolution and helped us overcome every hurdle encountered.”

The vast sum of humanitarian aid and bi-lateral support Ethiopia receives from the US is not at risk—yet.  That said, Tewodrose notes, the Senate is considering a partner bill, which is even stronger in its wording. Senate Resolution 168 calls on the Department of State and USAID “to improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia and to ensure such assistance reinforces long-term goals for improved governance.”

Essentially, Tewodros explains, this would tie aid to improved governance and more scrutiny of support given, because even though resolutions aren’t laws and are non-binding, if they have strong bipartisan support—like HR-128—coupled with the fact that Congress has the power of oversight, then agencies named in the resolutions would seriously consider implementing the terms of these declarations.

Furthermore, the Amhara Association of America and other advocacy partners are working to introduce binding legislation that would be signed by the president and would become the law directing how the US deals with Ethiopia.

“We believe this is a much easier task now since the Ethiopian diaspora groups are activated and engaged, the policy makers are educated, and we have built strong bipartisan support in Congress,” Tewodrose says.

That said, opposition exists in the Senate to the senate resolution, and there is still some way to go before a new law guiding US foreign policy towards Ethiopia emerges. But any resolution about Ethiopia, such as HR-128, could still have an impact on the actions of the Ethiopian regime and the new prime minister’s reform agenda.

Previously, though the US government was aware of well-documented problems with regards to human rights abuses, lack of democracy promotion and corruption at the highest levels of the Ethiopian state, it didn’t forcefully act to pressure Ethiopia’s government.

But the House resolution signals a shift in that approach. Besides condemning killings, detentions, and abuse of Ethiopia’s Anti-Terror Proclamation, the resolution also makes more ambitious demands of the Ethiopian regime including reforms that would protect the Ethiopian people’s civil liberties and release political prisoners, views that the new prime minister is also believed to share.

“The resolution could give Abiy a freer hand to deal more decisively with those resisting change—so far he has been very conciliatory and accommodating,” says Hassen Hussein an academic and writer based in Minnesota.  “The new resolution by the US House of Representatives is a reminder to the Ethiopian government that should it fail to reform, it can no longer rely on US largesse to contain problems at home.”

While HR-128 is an important development, what further US legislation, if any, follows it, is likely to have the most tangible impact on strengthening—or not—the hand of the new prime minister in persuading those power brokers within the EPRDF who control country’s security apparatus and the intelligence and economic sectors, to participate in negotiations for reform.

“The TPLF has ruled Ethiopia for the last 27 years with the support of the US and the UK,” Alemante says. “If it loses this support— financial, military, diplomatic, etc.— it has very little else to stand on.”

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Trump Begins to Reverberate in Mexico’s Presidential Electionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/trump-begins-reverberate-mexicos-presidential-elections/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-begins-reverberate-mexicos-presidential-elections http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/trump-begins-reverberate-mexicos-presidential-elections/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 23:49:15 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155154 Statements by U.S. President Donald Trump against Mexico have begun to permeate the presidential election campaign in this Latin American country, forcing the candidates to pronounce themselves on the matter. In his most recent angry tweet, Trump said Apr. 1 that he would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico doesn’t […]

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Activists and academics from Canada, the United States and Mexico called in March in Mexico for an end to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), because of its secrecy and because it fails to represent the interests of the people of the three nations. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

Activists and academics from Canada, the United States and Mexico called in March in Mexico for an end to the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), because of its secrecy and because it fails to represent the interests of the people of the three nations. Credit: Emilio Godoy / IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Apr 4 2018 (IPS)

Statements by U.S. President Donald Trump against Mexico have begun to permeate the presidential election campaign in this Latin American country, forcing the candidates to pronounce themselves on the matter.

In his most recent angry tweet, Trump said Apr. 1 that he would withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Mexico doesn’t work harder to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking into the U.S.

The next few days will be crucial for the renegotiation of the trade deal between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada."After Trump's remarks, everything is up in the air. We will hear statements back and forth from the negotiating parties and the candidates. Any sign of having anything in common with Trump is political suicide for the candidates." -- Manuel Pérez Rocha

“After Trump’s remarks, everything is up in the air. We will hear statements back and forth from the negotiating parties and the candidates. Any sign of having anything in common with Trump is political suicide for the candidates,” said Manuel Pérez Rocha, Associate Fellow at the U.S. Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.

The expert told IPS that “the important thing is to continue analysing the proposals of the candidates and see what positions they take with respect to NAFTA.”

The eighth, and presumably last, round of negotiations is scheduled to begin on Apr. 8 in Washington and end on Apr. 16.

After the seven previous rounds, the advances disclosed by the three partners have been scarce, in negotiations marked by rigid positions, tension and secrecy.

Of the 30 chapters that have been discussed, the negotiating teams have concluded the chapters on good regulatory practices, transparency, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, small and medium-sized businesses, competition and anti-corruption.

The priorities of the United States include new phytosanitary measures, greater protection of intellectual property, labour and environmental matters and the possible elimination of the dispute resolution chapter, which establishes special panels to address abusive trade practices.

Meanwhile, Mexico is focusing mainly on energy, electronic commerce and small and medium enterprises.

Canada, for its part, prioritises the inclusion of labour, environmental and gender standards, an increased migratory flow, indigenous rights, a revision of the dispute resolution mechanism, a more open government procurement market and higher wages.

The renegotiation of the treaty in force since 1994 also covers issues not included in the original text, such as energy, e-commerce and on-line activities.

The renegotiation of NAFTA was imposed by Trump, who included it in the campaign that took him to the White House in January 2017.

NAFTA and, above all, Trump’s outbursts about Mexico and Mexicans have begun to appear in the campaign for Mexico’s Jul. 1 presidential elections, although only the front-runner has addressed it explicitly.

Leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, heading the “Together We Make History” coalition, said on Apr. 1 that “we are not going to rule out the possibility of convincing Donald Trump of his mistaken foreign policy and in particular of his contemptuous attitude towards Mexicans, we will be very respectful of the government of the United States, but we will also demand respect for Mexicans.”

The three-time candidate for the Mexican presidency expressed his support for NAFTA, but clarified that “it would be best to sign agreements after Jul. 1,” when he hopes to finally win the presidency with the support of an alliance between the leftist National Regeneration Movement and Workers’ Party, together with the conservative Social Encounter Party.

A protest against U.S. President Donald Trump outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. Trump’s verbal attacks against Mexico and Mexicans have increased since March and are beginning to reverberate in the campaign for the Jul. 1 presidential elections. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

A protest against U.S. President Donald Trump outside the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. Trump’s verbal attacks against Mexico and Mexicans have increased since March and are beginning to reverberate in the campaign for the Jul. 1 presidential elections. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The second in the polls, Ricardo Anaya, candidate for the “Mexico al Frente” coalition, formed by the right-wing National Action Party, the centrist Party of the Democratic Revolution, and the centre-right Citizen’s Movement, has not referred to the renegotiation.

Nor has the ruling party candidate José Meade, representing the conservative Institutional Revolutionary Party, the Ecologist Green Party and the New Alliance, mentioned NAFTA or Trump so far in the campaign.

None of the candidates have discussed Trump’s promise to build a border wall between the two countries.

“Mexico has to withdraw from negotiations to reform the treaty and wait for a new government to take over the process. We can’t tolerate all of these insults and threats from Trump,” academic Alberto Arroyo, a member of the non-governmental coalition Mexico Better without FTAs, told IPS.

The car industry, “maquilas” or for-export assembly plants, agro-exports and financial services are among the sectors that have benefited from the 24 years of free trade between the three countries.

According to academics and activists from the affected sectors, the big losers under NAFTA have been small-scale farmers, including producers of the staple products corn and beans, and the food sector in general.

NAFTA strengthened Mexico’s trade dependency on the U.S., which purchases more than 80 percent of Mexico’s exports.

Imports from the United States, meanwhile, climbed from 151 billion dollars in 1993 to 614 billion dollars in 2017 – a 307 percent increase. Meanwhile, its exports grew from 142 billion to 525 billion, a 270 percent rise.

“Any disruption to the economic relationship could have adverse effects on investment, employment, productivity, and North American competitiveness,” says the study “NAFTA Renegotiation and Modernization,” prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a non-partisan legislative branch agency housed in the Library of Congress.

The report published in February adds that “Mexico and Canada could consider imposing retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports if the United States were to withdraw” from NAFTA.

In 2017, the United States a trade deficit of 89.6 billion dollars with its two partners, compared with 9.1 billion in 1993.

“It is not clear how the (Trump) administration would expect to reduce the trade deficit through the renegotiation,” says the paper.

In another of his attacks, Trump threatened to impose extraordinary tariffs on steel and aluminum imports unless NAFTA were renegotiated to terms more favorable to the U.S

According to Pérez Rocha, Mexicans would celebrate the end of NAFTA as “a net job destroyer, and for allowing transnational corporations to devastate the environment.”

He added that, in his opinion, the majority of Mexico’s 123 million people would support an end to the treaty “for destroying the livelihoods of millions in rural areas, for being an instrument of corporations for reversing sanitary and environmental policies, and for making Mexico the Latin American country with the most obesity.”

He called for postponing the renegotiation until the new administration takes office, because “this government has been unable to ensure the interests of Mexicans. We need a change to society, a new way of interacting with all social sectors.”

For his part, Arroyo, who is writing a study on NAFTA’s impact on the Mexican economy, called for a treaty that respects “human, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, the national sovereignty of each country and real economic development.”

The CRS report concludes that the outlook for the renegotiation is “uncertain”.

Today, the United States and Mexico are more and more similar to what English journalist Alan Riding once described as “distant neighbours.”

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Castro’s Successor to Inherit Long-standing Conflict Between Cuba and the United Stateshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/castros-successor-inherit-long-standing-conflict-cuba-united-states/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=castros-successor-inherit-long-standing-conflict-cuba-united-states http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/castros-successor-inherit-long-standing-conflict-cuba-united-states/#respond Mon, 02 Apr 2018 02:36:24 +0000 Patricia Grogg http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155117 Cuba’s tense relations with the United States under the administration of Donald Trump reflect a scenario of conflict that is not alien to the generation that will take over the country on Apr. 19, when President Raúl Castro is set to step down. Since the 1960s, Cuba’s nationalist stance has drawn on the animosity with […]

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Cubans wait in line outside the Colombian embassy in Havana, to obtain a visa for Colombia in order to apply for a U.S. visa at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, due to the reductions in staff in the U.S. embassy in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

Cubans wait in line outside the Colombian embassy in Havana, to obtain a visa for Colombia in order to apply for a U.S. visa at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, due to the reductions in staff in the U.S. embassy in the Cuban capital. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

By Patricia Grogg
HAVANA, Apr 2 2018 (IPS)

Cuba’s tense relations with the United States under the administration of Donald Trump reflect a scenario of conflict that is not alien to the generation that will take over the country on Apr. 19, when President Raúl Castro is set to step down.

Since the 1960s, Cuba’s nationalist stance has drawn on the animosity with the U.S., and the likely successors of the country’s current leaders, most of whom were born around the time of the 1959 revolution or afterwards, were educated in a culture of “anti-imperialist resistance”.

According to the official figures on the outcome of the Mar. 11 general elections, the average age of the new members of parliament fell to 49 years, compared to 57 years for the outgoing lawmakers.

The single-chamber National Assembly of People’s Power elects from among its members the 31 members of the Council of State, which according to the constitution is the highest representative of the Cuban state, whose president is the head of state and government."Reconciliation and rapprochement occur on a human level. States can facilitate it, but they can neither impose it nor stop it…Even during the most tense moments of relations between Cuba and the United States, we Cubans have remained in touch with our families, friends and collaborators." -- Lillian Manzor

The most likely candidate to succeed Castro is the current first vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, 57, although there is no official confirmation.

The return to the tension that existed before the détente agreed by Raúl Castro, 86, and Barack Obama (2009-2017) on Dec. 17, 2014, which led to the restoration of diplomatic relations between Washington and Havana, brings additional difficulties to the weakened Cuban economy and puts a brake on the changes required by its socialist model of development.

“Unfortunately, reform in Cuba becomes more difficult when the United States is more aggressive and negative,” said John McAuliff, executive director of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development, a U.S.-based non-governmental organisation that supports efforts for reconciliation with Cuba.

In his opinion, a new generation of leaders “opens a door, but it does not guarantee” how quickly change will come. “If the new leaders expand opportunities for the self-employed and small businesses, especially in tourism and other professional sectors, the economy will improve,” he told IPS from the U.S. by e-mail.

In the same vein, he said that “if the public dialogue incorporates all the sectors that are not explicitly counterrevolutionary inside and outside the country, politics will expand, evolve and be strengthened along with Cuba’s history and culture.”

Trump’s adverse policy towards Cuba since his arrival at the White House in January 2017 has kept bilateral ties at their lowest level, with a skeleton staff at the two embassies, which are unable to carry out their consular and business duties, while it has restricted travel by U.S. citizens to the Caribbean island nation, among other limitations.

Senator Patrick Leahy (centre), and four other U.S. Democrat lawmakers give a press conference in Havana on Feb. 21, at the end of their visit to Cuba, in violation of the U.S. travel advisory against Cuba issued by Republican President Donald Trump. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

Senator Patrick Leahy (centre), and four other U.S. Democrat lawmakers give a press conference in Havana on Feb. 21, at the end of their visit to Cuba, in violation of the U.S. travel advisory against Cuba issued by Republican President Donald Trump. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

Washington justifies the reduction of personnel and the recommendation to U.S. citizens to refrain from traveling to Cuba by citing mysterious attacks – apparently linked to high-pitched sounds – that affected the health of U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba between November 2016 and August 2017.

Havana has denied any involvement in the incidents.

In a Dec. 22 speech in the Cuban parliament, Castro accused the United States of fabricating “pretexts” to justify the return to “failed and universally rejected policies.”

U.S. lawmakers who visited Cuba between Feb. 19-21, led by the Democratic Senator for the state of Vermont, Patrick Leahy, said the measures ordered by Trump were a serious mistake, harmful to the governments and people of both nations.

In defiance of the travel advisory against Cuba, the legislators flew here with their wives, and in the case of Leahy, with his 13-year-old granddaughter. The group met with Castro and other local authorities.

“Cuba is changing. Soon you will elect a new president and likely experience a generation shift in leadership, and regrettably at this historic moment in Cuban history, the U.S. engagement is limited,” Jim Mcgovern, a Democrat member of the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Massachusetts, lamented in a press conference.

In turn, Senator Ron Wyden, of Oregon, reported that there is a legislative proposal against the embargo brought forward by him and other senators, which has strong bipartisan support. “After the November elections, we will have more support to end the embargo,” he said.

Meanwhile, migrants are among the biggest losers in the embassy conflict, although the Cuban embassy in Washington, with 17 fewer staff members, says it has maintained its usual services, including consular services for Cubans and Americans.

A classic 1957 convertible Chevrolet Bel-Air, used by private drivers for sightseeing tours, drives through the historic centre of Old Havana in search of customers, now that the boom of visits by U.S. citizens has ceased. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

A classic 1957 convertible Chevrolet Bel-Air, used by private drivers for sightseeing tours, drives through the historic centre of Old Havana in search of customers, now that the boom of visits by U.S. citizens has ceased. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños / IPS

But the reduction of personnel in the U.S. embassy in Havana forces Cuban immigrants to travel to Colombia to process their visas, which will prevent Washington in 2018 from meeting its commitment to issue 20,000 visas a year, as established in the migration agreements of 1994 and 1995.

The main recipient of Cuban emigration is the United States, where over two million people of Cuban origin reside, of whom almost 1.2 million were born in Cuba, according to official data from the U.S. A good part of that population has not cut its umbilical cord with Cuba.

Lillian Manzor, interim chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Miami, told IPS by e-mail that currently, most Cubans in the U.S. support rapprochement between the two countries, while U.S. foreign policy is going in the opposite direction.

“Reconciliation and rapprochement occur on a human level. States can facilitate it, but they can neither impose it nor stop it,” she said, recalling that “even during the most tense moments of relations between Cuba and the United States, we Cubans have remained in touch with our families, friends and collaborators.”

In that sense, Manzor, a Cuban resident in the United States, does not underestimate the strength that this majority sector of Cuban migrants can represent in order to stop the setback imposed by the Trump administration on the normalisation of bilateral ties between Washington and Havana, restored in July 2015.

“That’s the big challenge. How can this need to stay connected with our family and friends be turned into an electoral force. In the meantime, we must continue with what we have always done: cope with adverse policies and fight for our rights as American citizens,” she said.

The academic also said that among immigrants favourable to “closer political and human relations” there are many who hope that “the new president of Cuba will continue with the necessary migratory changes to facilitate travel for Cubans residing abroad.”

Whoever it will be, Castro’s successor has the stage set to move in that direction. On Jan. 1, four Cuban government measures came into force, aimed at relaxing the country’s migration policy and improving its relation with the Cuban exile community. The provisions followed the new Migration Law in force since 2013.

“The Cuban passport is still one of the most expensive in the world especially considering the payment that must be made every two years to maintain the validity of the passport,” said Manzor. The document, valid for six years, costs 400 dollars plus 200 dollars for the biannual extension.

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Has Trump Just Launched a Global Trade War?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/trump-just-launched-global-trade-war/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=trump-just-launched-global-trade-war http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/trump-just-launched-global-trade-war/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 15:41:32 +0000 Martin Khor http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154815 Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

By Martin Khor
PENANG, Malaysia, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

Last week’s action by President Donald Trump has ended the United States’ leadership on liberal trade and may trigger a global trade war with major damaging consequences.

On 8 March, Trump signed a proclamation to raise tariffs of steel by 25% and aluminium by 10%.

It sent shockwaves across the world not only because of the losses to metal exporters, but due to what it could well signify:  the start of a global trade war causing economic disruption in many countries, and that may also damage if not destroy the multilateral trade system.

The United States, joined by Europe, has been the anchor of the global free trade system, ever since the end of the Second World War.  In practice this rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the developed countries continue to practise very high protection of their agriculture sector which cannot compete with many developing countries if there really was “free trade”.

When a new global financial crisis strikes, the developing countries will be more damaged than in the last crisis as they have become less resilient and more vulnerable. They thus need to prepare from being overwhelmed, says Martin Khor

Martin Khor

Moreover, the developed countries introduced and continue to champion mandatory high intellectual property rights standards through an agreement in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), under which their companies create monopolies, set high prices and make excessive profits.  This is against the free competition touted by free-trade advocates.

In manufactures and metals, the developed countries have pressed the others to join them in cutting or removing tariffs and expand trade, through negotiations in the WTO and its predecessor the GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade).

They have argued that poorer countries can best grow richer by cutting their tariffs, which would benefit their consumers and force their producers to become more efficient.

Trump’s move upends the ideology of free trade.  If cheaper imports displace local steel and aluminium producers, they must be stopped because a country must make its own key products, according to the Trump philosophy of America First.

Since the United States has been the flag-bearer of the free-trade religion, this has profound effects on other countries.  If the leader has changed its mind and now believes in protecting its industries, so too can other countries.  The basis for liberal trade is destroyed and the old rationale for protectionism is revived.

...This rhetoric of free trade was hypocritical because the developed countries continue to practise very high protection of their agriculture sector, which cannot compete with many developing countries if there really was “free trade”

The WTO rules allow countries adversely affected by imports to take certain measures, but they have to prove that the producers of exporting countries unfairly receive subsidies, or that they set lower prices for their exports compared to the same goods sold domestically.  Or they can take “safeguard” measures of raising tariffs if they can show that domestic firms have been adversely affected, but only for a limited period to help affected local producers to adjust.

Trump however made use of a little-used national security clause (Section 232) in the U.S. trade laws to justify his big jump in steel and aluminium tariffs.  The clause allows the President to take trade action to defend national security.  The WTO also has a security exception in GATT Article XXI but it has also been rarely if ever used by countries to justify tariff increases.

What constitutes national security is not clearly spelt out either in the US or the WTO laws and because of the ambiguity and lack of clarity, this clause can be abused. The US and other countries can claim it is imposing higher import duties because it is necessary to protect their national security, but in reality this could be a disguise or excuse to protect their economies from other countries’ more efficient producers.

The Trump administration tried to justify invoking the security factor by saying steel and aluminium are needed to make tanks, fighter planes and other weapons of war.  But this was undercut by giving exemptions from the increased duties to Canada and Mexico due to their membership of NAFTA, a trade agreement that includes the United States. These exemptions for reasons unrelated to security exposes the security rationale as fake.

Other countries are angry and preparing to retaliate. The European Union has drawn up a list of American products on which its countries will raise tariffs.  China warned it would make an appropriate and necessary response.

At the WTO General Council on 8 March, the United States action was attacked. Many countries condemned the US measures being unilateral and for misusing the national security rationale.  Canada said the security issue “may be opening a Pandora’ Box we would not be able to close.”

Brazil expressed deep concern about an elastic or broad application of the national security exception.  India said the national security exception under GATT should not be misused and unilateral measures have no place in the trade system. China argued the over-protected domestic industry will never be able to serve its problems through protectionism.

Many WTO member states will most likely take the US to a dispute panel, and how it will rule will have strong consequences.   If it rules for the US, then other countries will view it as allowing all countries to take protectionist measures on the same ground of national security.

If it rules against the US, it will embolden the anti-liberal trade faction in the Trump administration and strengthen their argument that the US should ignore or even leave the WTO.  The US would then be much more unrestrained to undertake further protectionist measures.

In either case, there is a danger that the rest of the world, or significant parts of it, would also feel they should not be constrained by WTO’s generaltrade rules.  Over time, trade protectionism would gain ground.

The next big protectionist move from the US may come in a few weeks when Trump decides what action, if any, to take against China after considering a report on China’s trade and intellectual property practices issued by the Commerce Department.

If, as expected, big action against China is announced, China will almost certainly take equally strong retaliatory action.

That will escalate the trade war that is already on the way.

 

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Excerpt:

Martin Khor is Executive Director of the South Centre, a think tank for developing countries, based in Geneva

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It’s the War, Stupidhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/its-the-war-stupid/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=its-the-war-stupid http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/its-the-war-stupid/#respond Wed, 14 Mar 2018 14:28:19 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154811 Joaquín Roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

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Joaquín Roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Mar 14 2018 (IPS)

It is revealing that a ruler who did not serve in the military, nor enjoys any experience in war affairs, has a special inclination to use a vocabulary more typical of bloody clashes between states than in diplomatic relations.

Donald Trump, both in his electronic messages and in his television addresses, adores the use of military terminology to illustrate his plans. He likes the word “war” to label his government program.

Curiously, almost as a prelude to the surprising and apparent truce that can be put in place with North Korea, Trump has made a declaration of war “Urbi et Orbi”. The first salvo has been the announcement of the imposition of tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum. In addition, he has presumed the qualification that trade wars are good.

The alarm that has generated this decision has been widespread, with the threat of widening the ground to other products. The statements of response from the rest of the planet oscillate between perplexity and the start-up of protective measures of their business partners, friends and foes.

Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

Although Trump announced that his close neighbors, Canada and Mexico are forgiven, neither Trudeau nor Peña Nieto  trust him at all.

If mutual reluctance on both shores of Rio Grande is a permanent dressing of history, the apparent loyalty between Washington and Ottawa suffers from question marks that only the permanently installed courtesy barely manages to mask.

Trump has succeeded in having the Mexicans pass on to the Canadians the lamentation attributed to Porfirio Díaz: “Poor Mexico (Canada), so far from God and so close to the United States.”

The tottering NAFTA alarmed both partners and not even the promise of an improvement in conditions have managed to clear the threat of its disappearance.

That is why the Canadians have endeavored to solidify the agreement with the European Union, just as the Mexicans have reinforced their own alliance with the EU, the strongest between Brussels and the Americas.

The truth is that Trump’s tactic has confirmed his personal refusing of trade agreements and regional block alliances, stressing the option of unilaterality as a primordial strategy, presided by the claim of “America, first.”

And not only is that such decision is obvious, but the language used is the one of confrontation, as a springboard to victory, cemented on the argument of superiority.

If the European Union and China opt for retaliation with the imposition of tariffs on US products, consumers in Alabama, Ohio, and North Dakota, in addition to the classic Trump voters in Appalachia, will need to adjust the shopping cart. Perhaps this matters little to his family and wealthy Fortune 500 owners who have populated his administration, but those who depend on a salary at the end of the week will not be happy. They'll thank him in the election

But the arsenal of the American president’s decision is not reduced to his personal conception and ill-disguised arrogance, but also hides a weakness and fear of losing re-election.

In spite of the opposition of his wife Melania, Trump is not resigned to disappearing from the reduced political map to enjoy a solitary four-year mandate.

It would be like descending to the level of Carter and Bush Sr, who were ousted by their opponents. Trump needs more help than his millionaire donors.

He needs the little people who raised him to victory. He needs those who believe in the imposition of tariff rates and the construction of walls, more convincing than the one that seeks to raise before Mexico.

They naively will vote again under the promise of job creation. In the event that he succeeds in his strategy, Trump will probably be slapped by history.

He will remember that among the failures of the imposition of tariffs, executed as the simple squeezing of the trigger in a Western, often results in a shot on the foot.

Historians still explain the case of the Smoot-Hawley decision, imposed in 1930. Instead of softening the effects of the Great Depression of the late 1920 ‘s, it reduced US exports by 61%.

In an effect on the other side of the Atlantic, some experts even argued that the unfortunate decision helped the emergence of Nazi Germany and other Fascist niceties, in some countries hit by the growing economic war that preceded the bloody confrontation.

If the European Union and China opt for retaliation with the imposition of tariffs on US products, consumers in Alabama, Ohio, and North Dakota, in addition to the classic Trump voters in Appalachia, will need to adjust the shopping cart.

Perhaps this matters little to his family and wealthy Fortune 500 owners who have populated his administration, but those who depend on a salary at the end of the week will not be happy. They’ll thank him in the election.

While it may be true that some practices of US partners and competitors are not exactly fair, the method that the most reasonable advisers suggest is negotiation and brokering within the World Trade Organization (WHO).

Although Trump has heard that “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, Carl von Clausovitz himself could remember with the logic of realism that in the end no one wins the wars and that many lose them. Trump may be a collateral casualty of “friendly fire.”

The author can be reached at jroy@miami.edu

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Excerpt:

Joaquín Roy is Professor Jean Monnet and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami

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A Burger That Saves Emissions Taking 2 Million Cars off the Roadhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/burger-saves-emissions-taking-2-million-cars-off-road/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=burger-saves-emissions-taking-2-million-cars-off-road http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/burger-saves-emissions-taking-2-million-cars-off-road/#respond Fri, 23 Feb 2018 15:46:30 +0000 Richard Waite - Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154467 Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard, & Gerard Pozzi, World Resources Institute

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Rushhour in Los Angeles. Credit: Bigstock

By Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard and Gerard Pozzi
WASHINGTON DC, Feb 23 2018 (IPS)

Burgers are possibly the most ubiquitous meal on Americans’ dinner plates, but they’re also among the most resource-intensive: beef accounts for nearly half of the land use and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food Americans eat.

Although there’s growing interest in plant-based burgers and other alternatives, for the millions of people who still want to order beef, there’s a better burger out there: a beef-mushroom blend that maintains, or even enhances, that meaty flavor with significantly less environmental impact.

Americans eat approximately 10 billion burgers each year. Replacing 30 percent of the beef in those burgers with mushrooms would:
• Reduce agricultural production-related greenhouse gas emissions by 10.5 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per year, equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars (and their annual tailpipe emissions) off the road. That’s like the entire county of San Diego going carless;
• Reduce irrigation water demand by 83 billion gallons per year, an amount equal to 2.6 million Americans’ annual home water use; and
• Reduce global agricultural land demand by more than 14,000 square miles, an area larger than the state of Maryland.

Tastes Great, Less Impact

The Culinary Institute of America and others recommend blending plant-based foods into meat-based dishes as one way to shift mainstream consumers’ diets without requiring lifestyle changes. Mushrooms have a meat-like texture, moisture retention properties, and an umami taste that can enhance the burger’s flavor while enabling chefs to also cut back on salt content.

Beef-mushroom burgers can also be lower in calories and saturated fat than all-beef burgers, making them a healthier choice. Across a variety of important consumer attributes—including flavor, texture, appearance and the ability to make a consumer feel full at the end of the meal—the beef-mushroom blended burger stacks up favorably to a conventional all-beef burger.

Good for Business

Blended burgers represent an exciting sustainability opportunity for restaurants and food service operators, as beef accounts for a sizable portion of these companies’ greenhouse gas emissions. McDonald’s, for example, estimates that 28 percent of its corporate carbon footprint—an amount similar in size to the footprint of its energy use across all of the company’s restaurants and offices—results from beef production.

Similarly, agricultural supply chains tend to account for 90 percent or more of a food company’s total water footprint—and beef production is a particularly thirsty user of water, requiring more irrigation water per pound of product than any other animal-based food. With companies increasingly setting science-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction and water stewardship targets, the blended burger is a sustainability strategy that could sit alongside renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, and waste reduction measures to make progress toward ambitious environmental goals.

Encouragingly, the beef-mushroom blended burger also appears to not increase costs for food service operators. Effects on costs and profitability will depend on the relative prices of beef and mushrooms, the effects on meal preparation time, necessity for additional chef training and kitchen equipment, and the listed price of the blended burger on menus.

A 2014-15 trial in a Baltimore public school suggested that the blended burger could be at least cost-neutral compared to traditional beef burgers. Over time, if meat producers and distributors sell pre-prepared blended burgers, economies of scale could make the blended burger an even more attractive business proposition to food service.

The blended burger is already starting to gain traction across the United States. Last month, Better Buying Lab member Sodexo introduced “The Natural,” a beef-mushroom blend aimed at meeting increasing consumer demand for sustainable foods with a lighter footprint. It will be used to create full-flavored dishes like burgers, lasagna, and chili in workplaces, universities, and other settings across the country.

Another Lab member, Stanford University’s Residential & Dining Enterprises, has been exclusively offering blended burgers in their operations for several years. And in mid-2017, Sonic became the first national burger chain to join the trend, trialing Sonic Slingers—their “juiciest burger ever”—at locations across the country.

We at WRI’s Better Buying Lab are working with member companies and partners in the culinary world to refine and scale this remixed burger across the market. This includes researching and testing improved names that could further drive demand for blended burgers.

The potential is so great that the Lab is pursuing the blended burger as one its three core Power Dishes, which are more sustainable menu items with the kind of appeal and familiarity to go mainstream.

A Simple Shift to More Sustainable Eating

Shifting to healthier and more sustainable diets does not always need to mean overhauling people’s lifestyles. The blended burger is a nice example of a potential “multiple win”—better for the environment, better for health and enjoyed by consumers.

Blending plants into burgers is only a start. Consider that only about one-third of ground beef is consumed in the form of burgers in the United States. If plants were mixed into all ground beef dishes—tacos, chili, lasagna, meatballs, pasta sauces, and so on—the total potential environmental benefits could be much higher.

Meat producers and distributors, restauranteurs, chefs, food service operators and retailers all have a role to play in serving up this delicious strategy for change.

The post A Burger That Saves Emissions Taking 2 Million Cars off the Road appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Excerpt:

Richard Waite, Daniel Vennard, & Gerard Pozzi, World Resources Institute

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The United States: Innovation and Immobilityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/united-states-innovation-immobility/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=united-states-innovation-immobility http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/united-states-innovation-immobility/#comments Tue, 20 Feb 2018 11:08:09 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154397 Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami.

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Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami.

By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, Feb 20 2018 (IPS)

It is the country of paradox, based on the double column of creativity and tradition. Americans are unable to escape the twin submission to the adamnism of being the first and the last to accept that the rest of the planet can be more original and may outrank them in any field.

Expelled, transferred, fled from Europe, they refuse to admit that the reconstructed European civilization, which they have neglected since 1776, can be superior to them. Sometimes, as Trump came up with, they would willingly admit Norwegians, especially if this option would prevent the arrival of citizens from the shithole dumps of the galaxy. It is a useless alternative.

Joaquín Roy

Joaquín Roy

The United States is in danger if it strives stubbornly to maintain myths that slow its progress. Its idyllic interpretation of its foundational moments prevents Americans from accepting how much the world has changed by technology, social habits and laws, aspects among many others to which the genuine Mayflower and Ellis Island civilization has contributed in an impressive way. But the United States insists on believing that change, especially if it implies the admission of a subtle inferiority with respect to Europe, is detrimental to the survival of its identity.

The new massacre at another school (could have been in a mall, it does not matter) reminds us that the leaders of the United States and millions of citizens injure themselves with permanent damage. They erroneously interpret certain pioneering premises of their fundamental laws to their detriment. They confuse epochs and concepts sheltered under a security blanket that is shown as brutally perforated.

The so-called “right to bear arms” (what does not mean to use them at will), enthroned in the Second Amendment, has its origin in the era when there were neither federal armed forces nor the original states had the resources to maintain security. There were no structures that guaranteed the monopoly of the exercise of force (and protective violence, if appropriate) that is the hallmark of the Nation-State that inherited the authority of the old kingdoms and empires.

The new massacre at another school (could have been in a mall, it does not matter) reminds us that the leaders of the United States and millions of citizens injure themselves with permanent damage. They erroneously interpret certain pioneering premises of their fundamental laws to their detriment. They confuse epochs and concepts sheltered under a security blanket that is shown as brutally perforated.


The perverse belief that individuals are policemen and drivers of tanks in defense of their families and heritage, beyond the living room of their homes, can contribute to a comfort in which the individual is sacred. Society is secondary. The American “exceptionalism” prevents accepting that in other countries the forging of private armies and the collection of lethal weapons is not allowed, beyond the museum pieces. The opposite would be to admit the superiority of a Europe that had to be rescued from its own sins on two occasions. Europeans are masters in stumbling over the same stone, but after WWI they have learnt.

In this new massacre, more young people and children are victims of a system with atrocious deficiencies of mental health, education, and (why not?) well understood discipline. The key to these extremely serious incidents lies in the shortcomings of health plans that are gripped by the same myth of superiority and animosity towards what is interpreted (horror!) as “socialism”. The “system” (to call it somehow that) of health of the United States is a disaster of colossal proportions. But nobody seems capable of correcting it, innovating it or changing it. It is another result of the survival of foundational myths.

The beneficiaries of this health chaos are diverse. Of particular note are the private insurance companies that offer coverage to privileged users, who can afford to pay the fees and co-pay. They are followed by the manufacturers of medicines that claim the need to recover the costs of research (often developed with public funds). Then there are the doctors who must pay the debts incurred in obtaining their licenses in private universities. And finally, there are the politicians who play on the side of opposition to medicine and public health, universal and free, under the claim that this modality is a variant of “socialism”, a word pronounced with a “communist” accent

The losers are the millions of disinherited citizens who do not have access to jobs with mandatory coverage and shared financing. The worst affected are the unemployed who must be temporarily admitted to public hospitals or covered by charities. But there are those who recklessly go free until surgery leaves them without a home and inheritance. And when someone, like Obama, tries to change this chaos, he is crucified and his project becomes a primary target of annihilation.

When one asks why millions of Europeans are willing to accept these “socialist” solutions, in many of the capitalist countries with the highest rates of development, equality, education, low crime, reasonable birth rates and life expectancy, the answer is simple: because they accept to pay high taxes. Americans themselves pay the same high contributions, and swear without questioning that primary and secondary education remains public, universal. They accept this “socialist” modality.

But Americans and the politicians who stubbornly oppose  a reform are not willing to do the same with health, a fundamental right as life, freedom and … the pursuit of happiness, as the jeffersonian motto says. And they allow this unjust madness until the next group murder, committed by a madman, lacking basic health coverage, armed to the teeth, protected by the constitutional amendment that allows him to “have and bear arms.”

Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami.
jroy@miami.edu

 

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Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami.

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In the Wake of the Millennium Migrationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/wake-millennium-migration/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wake-millennium-migration http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/wake-millennium-migration/#comments Thu, 04 Jan 2018 10:49:45 +0000 Peter Costantini http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153718 A century ago, Italian immigrants told a joke: “Before I came to America, I thought the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I learned three things: one, the streets were not paved with gold; two, the streets were not paved at all; and three, they expected me to pave them.” More recently, […]

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Memorial to migrants who died crossing, on U.S.-Mexico border fence, Tijuana. Credit: Peter Costantini

Memorial to migrants who died crossing, on U.S.-Mexico border fence, Tijuana. Credit: Peter Costantini

By Peter Costantini
SEATTLE, Jan 4 2018 (IPS)

A century ago, Italian immigrants told a joke: “Before I came to America, I thought the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I learned three things: one, the streets were not paved with gold; two, the streets were not paved at all; and three, they expected me to pave them.”

More recently, Mexican and Central American immigrants have been drawn northward by similarly voracious demand for their labor. Starting in the 1980s, a massive exodus of Mesoamericans swelled, cresting around 2000. Let’s call it the Millennium Migration.

The majority of the migrants were Mexican, and most were undocumented. They were driven by powerful push-pull effects: the disastrous 1990s depression in Mexico next door to a boom in the States as its population grayed.

It’s clear that the influx produced modest but tangible benefits for nearly all native-born consumers and workers. Even the six percent of the workforce with no high-school diploma experienced few to no negative effects, suffering mainly from broader forces like automation and outsourcing. In an economic sense, there was no immigration crisis.

The migratory surge built on a century-long tradition: circular migration back and forth to the rhythms of the US and Mexican economies. Many migrants were driven by the Mexican Dream, sending home remittances and returning to build a house there.

This time, though, the economy pulled them into new industries beyond agriculture, like construction and lodging, and towards new areas of the Midwest, Southeast and Northeast.

The influx slowed after the 2000 dot-com crash, and ended with the bursting of the housing bubble and the resulting Great Recession. Since 2008, slightly more undocumented people have gone back to Mexico than have entered the U.S.

The Millennium Migration was the largest in U.S. history in absolute terms. It left Latinos as the biggest minority group with 16.3 percent of the population, and shifted demographic and political balances in many areas.

Nearly a decade later, it’s clear that the influx produced modest but tangible benefits for nearly all native-born consumers and workers. Even the six percent of the workforce with no high-school diploma experienced few to no negative effects, suffering mainly from broader forces like automation and outsourcing. In an economic sense, there was no immigration crisis.

Millennium immigrants avoided areas of unemployment, and gravitated towards places with plentiful low-wage jobs. If they could not find work, they usually moved on to look elsewhere.

Most undocumented workers lacked the education and English to compete with natives. They often segmented into parallel, complementary labor markets. And they tended to “bump up” natives into jobs requiring better communications skills.

Most labor and community organizations have welcomed immigrants as allies. The infrequent cases of immigrant-native workplace friction have nearly always been fomented by unscrupulous employers. Undocumented workers forced to live in fear and insecurity are much more vulnerable to management pressures to accept lower wages and worse working conditions. The best way to protect immigrants and native workers, most advocates agree, is to join forces to defend everyone’s human and labor rights.

Those rights, under international law and the U.S. Constitution, are nearly the same for immigrants as for citizens. Yet the immigration system makes it difficult for many immigrants to exercise them. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has ruled twice against the U.S. government for discriminating against Mexican workers. And the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Human Rights of Migrants has criticized the U.S. for biased and inhumane treatment of immigrants, especially children, and denial of due process for them.

Entering the country without papers is not a crime. It’s an administrative infraction similar to parking overtime or trespassing for a benign purpose. Most of us are no less “illegal”: we routinely exceed speed limits or commit other minor violations.

Over recent decades, though, demagogues like pundit Lou Dobbs and ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio have incubated a nativist and racist constituency by scapegoating immigrants. Now the Trump administration has made the West Wing a bouncy house for bigots, who are lighting the neo-Nazis’ and Ku Klux Klan’s torches.

 

Names of migrants who died crossing, on U.S.-Mexico border fence, Tijuana. Credit: Peter Costantini

Names of migrants who died crossing, on U.S.-Mexico border fence, Tijuana. Credit: Peter Costantini

 

A half-century-long escalation of unjust laws and repressive enforcement – dubbed “Juan Crow” – has manufactured “illegals” by criminalizing immigration and militarizing the border. Juan Crow set quotas for Mexicans so low that it left them no practical way to migrate legally. It legislatively twisted simply re-entering the country and other minor misdemeanors into phony “aggravated felonies”, punishable by prison and deportation. And it continually feeds a guaranteed stream of non-criminals through a judicial assembly line into abusive private prisons, whose owners bankroll their congressional enablers.

To the kids who skip school because they’re afraid that their parents will be taken away while they’re gone, this persecution must feel a lot like a police state. To those imprisoned for non-crimes, the detention centers must feel a lot like a gulag.

Juan Crow has multiplied the border enforcement budget many times. It has not been very effective at keeping out immigrants, but it has raised the costs in money and lives by pushing crossers out into the Sonoran Desert.

The gold-plated iron fist has also effectively backstopped and subsidized Mexican organized crime. The narcos now tax or control most crossings. Trafficking, kidnapping and extorting migrants may be a bigger profit center for some than drugs. To avoid them, many crossers either overstay visas or cross concealed at a legal port of entry.

The increased dangers and costs have also forced many migrants to stop circulating. This has created a paperless but deeply rooted diaspora of over 11 million. Two-thirds of them have lived here for more than 10 years, and nearly half of these own houses. More than four-fifths of their children are U.S. citizens, while many of the rest are Dreamers.

Today, shrinking demographic and economic pressures in Mexico make another mass migration improbable. More non-Mexicans than Mexicans are now detained at the border, both in much reduced numbers. And China and India have passed Mexico as the leading sources of new immigrants.

The Millennium Migration has enriched the “gorgeous mosaic” that we’re still struggling to become. Yet its realities are continually distorted by restrictionist immigrant-bashing.

We expected the migrants to pick our crops, build our houses and clean our hotel rooms. But they did much more: they became part of our communities and economies. A decade later, those millions without papers have earned a freeway to citizenship, starting with the Dreamers and their families.

Minimal human decency – and enlightened self-interest – demand that we dismantle Juan Crow. These pilgrims merit paths out of the desert that let them reunite families and reestablish circular migration responsive to needs north and south of the border. Safeguards should prevent employers from taking advantage of immigrant or native workers.

Mexican-American comedian George Lopez said that when people ask him how he feels about Trump’s proposed wall, he tells them, “You know what? We’ll get over it.”

At a recent gathering, a man in a cowboy hat put it more bluntly: “Aquí estamos y no nos vamos, y si nos sacan, nos regresamos.” – “Here we are, and we’re not leaving, and if they kick us out, we’ll come right back.”

 

Peter Costantini is an analyst and writer based in Seattle. For the past three decades, he has written about migration, labor, Latin America and international economics for Inter Press Service and other news sources. He is currently embedded as a volunteer with immigrant-rights groups.

This commentary is based on a heavily footnoted and referenced paper, available for download from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/59dffb37e4b09e31db9757cd

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Uncertainty Surrounds Renegotiation of NAFTA and Its Consequences for Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/uncertainty-surrounds-renegotiation-nafta-consequences-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=uncertainty-surrounds-renegotiation-nafta-consequences-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/uncertainty-surrounds-renegotiation-nafta-consequences-mexico/#comments Wed, 03 Jan 2018 16:32:20 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153721 The first few months of 2018 will be key to defining the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), whose renegotiation due to the insistence of U.S. President Donald Trump has Mexico on edge because of the potential economic and social consequences. After five rounds of ministerial negotiations, which began in August, the […]

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The World is Losing the Battle Against Child Labourhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/world-losing-battle-child-labour/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-losing-battle-child-labour http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/world-losing-battle-child-labour/#comments Fri, 17 Nov 2017 22:06:46 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153085 The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour,  which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine capital, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate. Child labour is declining far too slowly, in the midst of unprecedented growth in migration and forced displacement that aggravate the situation, […]

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The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, held in the Argentine capital, concluded with an urgent call to accelerate efforts to eradicate this major problem by 2025, a goal of the international community that today does not appear to be feasible. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour, held in the Argentine capital, concluded with an urgent call to accelerate efforts to eradicate this major problem by 2025, a goal of the international community that today does not appear to be feasible. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Nov 17 2017 (IPS)

The IV Global Conference on the Sustained Eradication of Child Labour,  which drew nearly 2000 delegates from 190 countries to the Argentine capital, left many declarations of good intentions but nothing to celebrate.

Child labour is declining far too slowly, in the midst of unprecedented growth in migration and forced displacement that aggravate the situation, said representatives of governments, workers and employers in the Buenos Aires Declaration on Child Labour Forced Labour and Youth Employment.

The document, signed at the end of the Nov. 14-16 meeting, recognises that unless something changes, the goals set by the international community will not be met.

As a result, there is a pressing need to “Accelerate efforts to end child labour in all its forms by 2025,” the text states.

In the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), target seven of goal eight – which promotes decent work – states that child labour in all its forms is to be eradicated by 2025."The increase in child labour in the countryside has to do with informal employment. Most of the children work in family farming, without pay, in areas where the state does not reach.” -- Junko Sazaki

“For the first time, this Conference recognised that child labour is mostly concentrated in agriculture and is growing,” said Bernd Seiffert, focal point on child labour, gender, equity and rural employment at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

“While the general numbers for child labour dwindled from 162 million to 152 million since 2013, in rural areas the number grew: from 98 to 108 million,” he explained in a conversation with IPS.

Seiffert said: “We heard a lot in this conference about the role played by child labour in global supply chains. But the majority of boys and girls work for the local value chains, in the production of food.”

The declared aim of the Conference, organised by the Argentine Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security with technical assistance from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), was to “take stock of the progress made” since the previous meeting, held in 2013 in Brasilia.

Guest of honour 2014 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Kailash Satyarthi said he was “confident that the young will be able to steer the situation that we are leaving them,” but warned that it would not make sense to hold a new conference in four years if the situation remains the same.

Satyarthi was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work in his country, India, in defence of children’s rights, and in particular for his fight against forced labour, from which he has saved thousands of children.

“We know that children are used because they are the cheapest labour force. But I ask how much longer we are going to keep coming to these conferences to go over the same things again. The next meeting should be held only if it is to celebrate achievements,” he said.

Junko Sasaki, director of the Social Policies and Rural Institutions Division at FAO, said “the increase in child labour in the countryside has to do with informal employment. Most of the children work in family farming, without pay, in areas where the state does not reach.”

“We must promote the incorporation of technologies and good agricultural practices to allow many poor families to stop having to make their children work,” she told IPS.

According to the ILO, as reflected by the final declaration, 71 percent of child labour is concentrated in agriculture, and 42 percent of that work is hazardous and is carried out in informal and family enterprises.

“There are also gender differences. While it is common for children to be exposed to pesticides that can affect their health, girls usually have to work more on household chores. In India, for example, many girls receive less food than boys,” said Sazaki.

Children were notably absent from the crowded event, which brought together government officials and delegates of international organisations, the business community and trade unionists.

Their voice was only heard through the presentation of the document “It’s Time to Talk”, the result of research carried out by civil society organisations, which interviewed 1,822 children between the ages of five and 18 who work, in 36 countries.

The study revealed that children who work do so mainly to help support their families, and that their main concern is the conditions in which they work.

They feel good if their work allows them to continue studying, if they can learn from work and earn money; and they become frustrated when their education is hindered, when they do not develop any skills, or their health is affected.

“We understand that children who work have no other option and that we should not criminalise but protect them and make sure that the conditions in which they perform tasks do not put them at risk or prevent their education,” said Anne Jacob, of the Germany-based Kindernothilfe, one of the organisations that participated in the research.

For Jacob, “it is outrageous that the problem of child labour should be addressed without listening to children.”

“After talking with them, we understood that there is no global solution to this issue, but that the structural causes can only be resolved locally, depending on the economic, cultural and social circumstances of each place,” she told IPS.

The participants in the Conference warned in the final declaration that armed conflicts, which affect 250 million children, are aggravating the situation of child labour.

Virginia Gamba, special representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, explained that “modern armed conflicts use children as if they were disposable materials. Children are no longer in the periphery of conflicts but at the centre.”

In this respect, she pointed out that hundreds of thousands of children are left without the possibility of access to formal education every year in different parts of the world. Her office counted 750 attacks on schools in the midst of armed conflict in 2016, while this year it registered 175 in just one month.

“To fight child labour and help children, we have to think about mobile learning and home-based education. Education must be provided even in the most fragile situations, even in refugee camps, since that is the only means of providing normality for a child in the midst of a conflict,” said Gamba.

In the end, the Conference left the bitter sensation that solutions are still far away.

ILO Director-General Guy Ryder warned that the concentration of child labour in rural work indicates that it often has nothing to do with employers, but with families.

It is easy for some to blame transnational corporations or governments. But the truth is that it is everyone’s fault, he concluded.

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Back-to-Back Hurricanes Take Heavy Toll on the Caribbeanhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/10/back-back-hurricanes-take-heavy-roll-caribbean/#respond Wed, 04 Oct 2017 16:58:24 +0000 Antonio Guterres http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152351 António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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A seven-year old boy stands in front of debris as Hurricane Irma moves off from the northern coast of the Dominican Republic. Credit: UNICEF/UN0119399

By António Guterres
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 4 2017 (IPS)

As you know, we are coming off a jam-packed High-level week and opening of the General Assembly. Some of the most important speeches during that period came from leaders of Caribbean nations reeling from back-to-back hurricanes.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda reported that the entire population of Barbuda had been left homeless. The Prime Minister of Dominica declared that he had come to the United Nations “straight from the front line of the war on climate change”.

Today I am announcing that I will travel on Saturday (October 7) to Antigua, Barbuda and Dominica to survey the damage and to assess what more the United Nations can do to help people recover, visiting of course also the operations that are taking place there.

When I met them last month, I was struck most of all by a prevailing message from all the Caribbean leaders – including from the hardest hit countries. Yes, they said, we urgently need support today. But even in the wake of utter devastation, they urged the world to act for tomorrow.

As I said in my address to the General Assembly, we should not link any single weather event with climate change. But scientists are clear that such extreme weather is precisely what their models predict, and they predict it will be the new normal of a warming world. I would like to share some relevant data about what we are seeing.

First, some facts about this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Irma, which devastated Barbuda, was a Category 5 hurricane for three consecutive days – this is the longest on satellite record. Irma’s winds reached 300 kilometers per hour for 37 hours — the longest on record at that intensity.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma marked the first time that two Category 4 storms made landfall in the United States in the same year. And, of course, they were followed by Hurricane Maria, which decimated Dominica and had severe impacts across Puerto Rico.

It is rare to see so many storms of such strength so early in the season.

Second, some facts about the changes in major climate systems. Sea levels have risen more than 10 inches since 1870. Over the past 30 years, the number of annual weather-related disasters has nearly tripled, and economic losses have quintupled.

Scientists are learning more and more about the links between climate change and extreme weather. Climate change is warming the seas. This, in turn, means more water vapor in the atmosphere. When storms come, they bring more rain.

A warmer climate turbocharges the intensity of hurricanes. Instead of dissipating, they pick up fuel as they move across the ocean. The melting of glaciers, and the thermal expansion of the seas, means bigger storm surges. With more and more people living on coastlines, the damage is, and will be that much greater.

Scientific models have long predicted an increase in the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes. This is precisely what is happening – and even sooner than expected. To date, the United Nations and its partners have provided a variety of humanitarian assistance to the Caribbean region by air and by sea: 18 tons of food; 3 million water purification tablets; 3,000 water tanks; 2,500 tents; 2,000 mosquito nets and school kits; 500 debit cards for cash assistance; and much else.

We have launched appeals for $113.9 million to cover humanitarian needs for the immediate period ahead. I commend those countries that are showing solidarity with the Caribbean countries at this time of dire need, including those doing so through South-South cooperation.

But on the whole, I regret to report, the response has been poor. I urge donors to respond more generously in the weeks to come. The United Nations will continue to help countries in the Caribbean to strengthen disaster preparedness, working closely with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency.

We are strongly committed to helping small island states and, indeed, all countries to adapt to inevitable climate impacts, to increase the pace of recovery and to strengthen resilience overall. Innovative financing mechanisms will be crucial in enabling countries, like the Caribbean ones, to cope with external shocks of such significant magnitude.

We know that the world has the tools, the technologies and the wealth to address climate change. But we must show more determination in moving towards a green, clean, sustainable energy future. Once again, I urge countries to implement the Paris Agreement, and with greater ambition.

That is why I will convene a Climate Summit in 2019, as you know. But today and every day, I am determined to ensure that the United Nations works to protect our common future and to seize the opportunities of climate action.

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António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations

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