Inter Press Service » North America http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 25 Jun 2016 07:39:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.12 Xenophobic Rhetoric, Now Socially and Politically ‘Acceptable’ ?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobic-rhetoric-now-socially-and-politically-acceptable/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2016 14:09:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145759 Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

Families from Falluja, Iraq, continue to flee from the city as fighting continues. Credit: ©UNHCR/Anmar Qusay

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 23 2016 (IPS)

“Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to be becoming more socially and politically acceptable.”

The warning has been heralded by the authoritative voice of Mogens Lykketoft, current president of the United Nations General Assembly, who on World Refugee Day on June 20, reacted to the just announced new record number of people displaced from their homes due to conflict and persecution.

In fact, while last year their number exceeded 60 million for the first time in United Nations history, a tally greater than the population of the United Kingdom, or of Canada, Australia and New Zealand combined, the Global Trends 2015 report now notes that 65.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2015, an increase of more than 5 million from 59.5 million a year earlier.

The tally comprises 21.3 million refugees, 3.2 million asylum seekers, and 40.8 million people internally displaced within their own countries, says the new report, which has been compiled by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Measured against the world’s population of 7.4 billion people, 1 in every 113 people globally is now either a refugee, an asylum-seeker or internally displaced, putting them at a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent, the report adds.

On average, 24 people were forced to flee each minute in 2015, four times more than a decade earlier, when six people fled every 60 seconds. Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia produce half the world’s refugees, at 4.9 million, 2.7 million and 1.1 million, respectively.

And Colombia had the largest numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), at 6.9 million, followed by Syria’s 6.6 million and Iraq’s 4.4 million, according to the new Global Trends report.

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck

UNHCR distribution of emergency relief items for displaced families from Fallujah who’ve arrived in camps from Ameriyat al-Falluja. Photo credit: UNHCR/Caroline Gluck


Distressingly, children made up an astonishing 51 per cent of the world’s refugees in 2015, with many separated from their parents or travelling alone, the UN reported.

Anti-Refugee Rhetoric Is So Loud…

On this, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon stressed that meanwhile, “divisive political rhetoric on asylum and migration issues, rising xenophobia, and restrictions on access to asylum have become increasingly visible in certain regions, and the spirit of shared responsibility has been replaced by a hate-filled narrative of intolerance.”

With anti-refugee rhetoric so loud, he said, it is sometimes difficult to hear the voices of welcome.

For his part, Mogens Lykketoft, UN General Assembly President, alerted that “violations of international humanitarian and human rights law are of grave concern… Xenophobic and racist rhetoric seems not only to be on the rise, but also to becoming more socially and politically acceptable…”

The UN General Assembly’s president warning against the rising wave of extremism and hatred, came just a week after a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein’ strong statement before the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016).

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers,” the High Commissioner on June 13 warned.

De-Radicalisation

Against this backdrop and the need to find ways how to halt and even prevent the growing waves of extremism of all kinds, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue on June 23 organised a panel themed Deradicalisation or the Roll-Back of Extremism.

IPS asked Algerian diplomat Idriss Jazairy, Board Member of the Geneva Centre, about the concept of this panel he moderated.

“Violent extremism, which sprang up in what might be perceived here as remoter parts of the world during the last part of the XXth century, has spread its dark shadow worldwide and is henceforth sparing no region… And with it, wanton deaths and desolation.”

He then explained that unregulated access to lethal weapons in some countries make matters worse. Violent extremism fuels indiscriminate xenophobic responses. “These in turn feed the recruitment propaganda of terrorist groups competing for world attention.”

According to the panel moderator, it seems at first sight that conflict is intensifying. “In fact what is happening is that it has changed its nature from more or less predictable classical inter-State or civil conflict to a generalisation of unpredictable ad hoc violence by terrorist groups randomising victims and outbidding one another in criminal horror.”

Thus casualties are not more numerous than was the case in the past, with some important exceptions such as Algeria during the Dark Decade of the ‘nineties, said Jazairy.

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab

In Yemen, internally displaced children stand outside their family tent after the family fled their home in Saada province and found refuge in Darwin camp, in the northern province of Amran. Photo credit: UNHCR/Yahya Arhab


“Yet their impact is greater because attacks spread more fear among ordinary people and reporting on these crimes is echoed instantly across the world. The danger of polarisation of societies is thereby enhanced and peace is jeopardised.”

This meets the ultimate goal of terrorist violence, he added, while stressing that such violence has ceased to be simply a national or regional challenge. “It is now of worldwide concern. A concern that calls for immediate security responses with due respect for human rights of course.”

Jazairy explained that the panel has been intended to contribute to the maturing of such strategies and to rolling back violent extremism, xenophobic populism fuelled by it and that the latter in turn further exacerbates.

Understanding the Genesis of Violent Extremism

According to the panel moderator, understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not tantamount to excusing it despite what some politicians claim. It is a precondition to providing a smart and durable policy response, rather than a dumb crowd-pleasing short-term knee-jerk reaction, he added.

“True there is no single explanation to the emergence of violent extremism… Street crime in overpopulated cities may be its incubator.”

On this, Jazairy explained that in the South, high rates of youth unemployment and shortfalls in the respect of basic freedoms together with inadequate governance may be relevant considerations. In the North, he added, glass ceilings and marginalisation of minority groups and the desire of youths feeling powerless to develop an alternative identity and to become all-powerful, may also be at issue.

The former head of a UN agency then warned that understanding the genesis of violent extremism is not a philosophical debate as it ties in with the issue of how to “de-radicalise”.

In Belgium, he said, it has been claimed that condemnations in absentia of home grown terrorists that have joined Daesh (Islamic State) has pushed some to not return home with a group of others for fear of the penalty, thus radicalising them further.

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Xenophobia: ‘Hate Is Mainstreamed, Walls Are Back, Suspicion Kills’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/xenophobia-hate-is-mainstreamed-walls-are-back-suspicion-kills/#comments Mon, 20 Jun 2016 13:43:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145697 With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

With fear etched on their faces, clearly still suffering from the trauma of a rough by boat across the Aegean, an Afghan family arrives in Lesvos, Greece (2015). Photo credit: UNHCR/Giles Duley

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 20 2016 (IPS)

“Hate is becoming mainstreamed. Walls – which tormented previous generations, and have never yielded any sustainable solution to any problem – are returning. Barriers of suspicion are rising, snaking through and between our societies – and they are killers…”

Hardly a statement could have portrayed more accurately the current wave of hatred invading humankind, like the one made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

“… Clampdowns on public freedoms, and crackdowns on civil society activists and human rights defenders, are hacking away at the forces, which uphold the healthy functioning of societies. Judicial institutions, which act as checks on executive power, are being dismantled. Towering inequalities are hollowing out the sense that there are common goods.” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned.

In his address to the 32 session of the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (13 June to 1 July 2016), the Human Rights Commissioner warned, “As the international community’s familiar customs and procedures are much in evidence… And yet the workable space in which we function as one community – resolving disputes, coming to consensus – is under attack.”

Zeid explained, “The common sets of laws, the institutions – and deeper still, the values“ which bind us together are buckling. And suffering most from this onslaught are our fellow human beings – your people – who bear the brunt of the resulting deprivation, misery, injustice, and bloodshed.”

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy

High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. Credit: UN Photo/Pierre Albouy


He the recalled, “We are 7.4 billion human beings clinging to a small and fragile planet. And there is really only one way to ensure a good and sustainable future: ensure respect, resolve disputes, construct institutions that are sound and fair and share resources and opportunities equitably.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner referred to the millions of stranded refuges and migrants, saying that globally, many countries have distinguished themselves by their principled welcome to large numbers of desperate, often terrified and poverty-stricken migrants and refugees.

“But many other countries have not done so. And their failure to take in a fair share of the world’s most vulnerable is undermining the efforts of more responsible States. Across the board, we are seeing a strong trend that overturns international commitments, refuses basic humanity, and slams doors in the face of human beings in need.”

‘Europe Must Remove Hysteria and Panic’

The only sustainable way to resolve today’s movements of people will be to improve human rights in countries of origin, “ he said, while stressing that “Europe must find a way to address the current migration crisis consistently and in a manner that respects the rights of the people concerned – including in the context of the EU-Turkey agreement,” which was sealed on March 22, 2016.

“It is entirely possible to create well-functioning migration governance systems, even for large numbers of people, with fair and effective determination of individual protection needs. If European governments can remove hysteria and panic from the equation – and if all contribute to a solution…”

According to Zeid, in many parts of the Middle East and North Africa, the life-forces of society – which are the freedom and hopes of the people – are crushed by repression, conflict or violent anarchy. “Torture, summary execution and arbitrary arrests are assaults on the people’s security, not measures to protect security. It is a mistake to imagine that attacking the people’s rights makes them any safer or more content.”

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee

There are roughly as many people seeking protection outside their countries as live in all of France. © UNHCR/Younghee Lee


“The antidote to the savagery of violent extremism is greater rule of law,” he said and added that “the best way to fight terrorism, and to stabilize the region, is to push back against discrimination; corruption; poor governance; failures of policing and justice; inequality; the denial of public freedoms, and other drivers of radicalization.”

De-Radicalisation

Radicalisation, or rather de-radicalisation, is precisely the focus of one of the panels organised within the current session of the Human Rights Council.

 Idriss Jazairy

Idriss Jazairy

In fact, on June 23, 2016, the Geneva Centre on Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue has organized the event under the auspices of the Permanent Mission of Algeria to the UN Office in Geneva. The panel will be moderated by highly respected Algerian diplomat and former head of a UN agency Idriss Jazairy, Resident Board Member of the Geneva Centre.

The panel organisers recall that “violent extremism had been until 2001 mainly in the lot of developing countries such as Uganda where a Christian mandate was usurped by the Lord’s Resistance Army to attack civilians and force children to participate in armed conflict, Sri Lanka, where the first suicide attacks originated, and Algeria where more Muslims were killed during a decade than Europeans worldwide ever since, through an evil manipulation of the precepts of Islam.”

Outside observers, they add, tended to belittle the impact of such violence considered as local incidents, at times preferring to ascribe it to “militants” responding to deficits of democracy and governance in the targeted countries.

During the last phases of the Cold War, violent extremism was condoned in some quarters as a weapon against communism, the panel concept note recalls, and adds that the recruitment of new cohorts of violent extremists was given added impetus by the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate, the collapse of Iraq and Libya and the wars in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.

“These developments, or lack thereof, occurred mainly in Muslim countries thus exacerbating violent extremism associated with this region and leading to an intensification of Islamophobia elsewhere, especially in Europe and North America.”

It remains, as underlined by the joint co-chairs conclusions of the Geneva Conference on Preventing Violent Extremism (7-8 April 2016), that “violent extremism or terrorism cannot and should not be associated with any religion, nationality, civilization or ethnic group.”

 A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA

A woman prepares a meal at a makeshift outdoor cooking area, atop the muddy grounds of the Bab Al Salame camp for IDPs, near the border with Turkey in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (January 2014). Photo credit: UNOCHA


The reaction of the international community was slow in taking shape in the UN if only because of political differences in terms of acceptance of a common definition of terrorism, says the panel’s concept note.

In a key remark, the organisers warn, “The very lexicon of international affairs is being manipulated to provide knee-jerk reactions that nurture ideologies of racist and xenophobic parties in the advanced world. It also provides a propitious climate for explosion of violent extremism around the world.”

In Europe, over 20 million Muslims have lived for decades as citizens in harmony with followers of other religions as well as with non-believers and have been contributing to the wealth of their countries of residence, the panel organisers recall.

“They are now being targeted by virtue of their identity, not their deeds. They are alone to suffer from fear-mongering and the rise of xenophobia for diverse minority groups in different parts of the world. One needs in this context to understand better the causes and means by which violent extremism is perpetrated and spread.”

The focus has been so far on how to roll back radicalism and on fighting violent extremism by all possible means without a full understanding of the root causes of such violence, says the panel’s concept note.

“The roll-back of violent extremism calls for an in-depth approach informed by the genesis and evolution of radicalisation, its link with citizenship and possible tipping point into violence… There also needs to be a better understanding of short-cuts to violent extremism that do not transit through radicalisation.”

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What If Turkey Drops Its “Human Bomb” on Europe?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/what-if-turkey-drops-its-human-bomb-on-europe/#comments Sun, 19 Jun 2016 22:26:05 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145685 Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

Hundreds of refugees and migrants aboard a fishing boat moments before being rescued by the Italian Navy as part of their Mare Nostrum operation in June 2014. Photo: The Italian Coastguard/Massimo Sestini | Source: UN News Centre

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 19 2016 (IPS)

Will the rapid–though silent escalation of political tensions between the European Union and Turkey, which has been taking a dangerous turn over the last few weeks, push Ankara to drop a “human bomb” on Europe by opening its borders for refugees to enter Greece and other EU countries?

The question is anything but trivial—it is rather a source of deep concern among the many non-governmental humanitarian organisations and the United Nations, who are making relentless efforts to fill the huge relief gaps caused by the apparent indifference of those powers who greatly contributed to creating this unprecedented humanitarian crisis.

These powers are mainly the United States, the United Kingdom and France who, supported by other Western countries and rich Arab nations, led military coalitions that invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and who, along with Russia, have been providing weapons to most of the fighting parties in Syria.

Ironically, these four powers are permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

Neither the above posed question is about a mere, alarming speculation. In fact, Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan has recently made veiled, though specific threats to the EU, by warning against the consequences of Europe continuing to fail the two key commitments it made in exchange of the EU-Turkey refugee agreement —also known as “the shame deal”–, which the two parties sealed on March 22 this year.

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

People across Syria continue to face horrific deprivation and violence, says UN Humanitarian Chief. Photo: Al-Riad shelter, Aleppo. Credit: OCHA/Josephine Guerrero

The deal is about Turkey taking back the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who fled to its territories mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and crossed from there to EU bordering countries like Greece. Once “re-taken”, the EU said it would “select” an undetermined number of asylum seekers, mainly Syrians.

In exchange, the European Union promised to pay to Ankara three billion euro a year, starting in November 2015, to share only a relatively small part of the big financial burden that Turkey has to face by providing basically shelter, food and health care to the repatriated asylum seekers. Turkey currently hosts three million refugees.

The EU also promised to allow Turkish citizens to access its member countries without entry visa, also as part of the “shame deal.”

The tensions between the EU and Turkey were made clearly visible on the occasion of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), which Turkey hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24, 2016, covering a big portion of its cost.

The WHS was meant to highlight the fact that human suffering has now reached unprecedented, staggering levels as stated to IPS by Stephen O’ Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), as well as to call on world leaders to mobilise the much needed resources to alleviate this human drama.

For this, the UN submitted to the WHS a set of shocking facts: the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War II, and experiencing a human catastrophe “on a titanic scale” as stated on IPS by the WHS spokesperson Herve Verhoosel: 125 million humans in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.

The UN also quantified the urgently needed resources: more than 20 billion dollars needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts.

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Refugee children at a reception centre in Rome, Italy. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

And stressed that unless immediate action is taken, 62 per cent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all human beings could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030.

In spite of these staggering facts, none of the leaders of the most industrialised countries–the so-called Group of the 7 richest nations (G7), nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, attended the World Humanitarian Summit.

The sole exception of German Chancellor Angela Merkel who had reportedly gone to Istanbul to meet Erdogan over the growing political tensions rather to participate in the Summit.

This absence of the top decision-makers of the richest countries has been widely criticised, starting with the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon who on May 24 publicly decried it. Also Turkish president Erdogan expressed deep disappointment at such political boycott by world leaders.

Moreover, in a press conference at the closure of the WHS on May 24, Erdogan revealed that Europe had not met its promises as it had not provided the committed financial resources, nor kept its compromise to let Turkish citizens enter the EU without visa as from June this year.

He then expressed strong indignation, rather fury, over the set of 72 new conditions the EU has suddenly imposed on Ankara in exchange of suppressing the entry visa requisite for Turkish citizens. These conditions imply, among others, that Ankara changes its current anti-terrorist laws.

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

An Afghan child showing all his family’s belongings in front of their tent near Röszke. © UNHCR/Zsolt Balla

All this moved Erdogan to warn that of Europe does not honour its part of the refugee deal, the Turkish Parliament will not ratify it.

This simply means that Turley would not only stop allowing refugees to be forcibly returned to its territories, but that it would also permit more and more of them to cross its borders to the EU countries.

In the mean time, more and more organisations have been accusing Europe of sealing an immoral, unethical and, above all, illegal refugee deal with Turkey. But meanwhile Europe has been turning rapidly, dangerously towards far right parties and movements that are feeding hate, xenophobia and islamophobia.

Also meanwhile, tens of thousands of refugees and migrants are arriving to Europe, many of them drowning at sea, prey to inhumane practices and manipulation by smugglers.

Humanitarian assistance organisations such as Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, the UN Children Fund, UN Refugee agency, among many others, have been warning that a growing number of unaccompanied children—estimated in 1 in 3 refugees and migrants, are crossing Mediterranean waters and European frontiers.

Only two days ahead of the World Refugee Day, marked on June 20, the UN secretary general visited the Greek island of Lesbos, which has become migrants’ entry point to Europe. There he called on “the countries in the region” to respond with “a humane and human rights-based approach, instead of border closures, barriers and bigotry.”

“Today, I met refugees from some of the world’s most troubled places. They have lived through a nightmare. And that nightmare is not over,” Ban told non-governmental organisations, volunteers and media.

The “human bomb” is ticking at Europe’s doors amidst an inexplicable passivity of its leaders.

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Humanitarian Aid – Business As Unusual?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/humanitarian-aid-business-as-unusual/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-aid-business-as-unusual http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/humanitarian-aid-business-as-unusual/#comments Thu, 09 Jun 2016 12:23:34 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145517 Credit: Oxfam International

Credit: Oxfam International

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Jun 9 2016 (IPS)

Big business is most often seen by human rights defenders and civil society organisations as “bad news,” as those huge heartless, soulless corporations whose exclusive goal is to make the biggest profits possible. Too often and in too many cases this is a proven fact.

Meanwhile, the United Nations was born after World War II as the best possible system to help improve the living conditions of the most needed. In fact, it started its mission by providing humanitarian assistance to war victims—mostly Europeans.

In the following years, the UN expanded its activities to help the emerging development needs in Africa, Asian and Latin American countries, which had just won independence from European colonizers. So far, big business had practically no role to play… at least directly.

This year as it turned 70, the UN system has become visibly and increasingly helpless to fulfill its mission due to the growing lack of funding by the richest countries and traditional donors.

Precisely now that the world faces the most staggering levels of human suffering since WWII, the private sector has jumped on the stage as an actor with strong funding potential.

For example, while the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is starving for funds to assist the current 60 million refugees around the planet and with numbers growing, the widely known and largest ready-made furniture maker in the world—IKEA, has become through its Foundation, the largest private donor to this UN agency, with 150 million euro provided over the last five years.

The same Foundation has also become the biggest private donor to both the UN Children Fund (UNICEF) and to the UN’s largest funding umbrella for development programmes – the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

And on Match 22 this year, on the occasion of the World Water Day, IKEA Foundation announced a new grant of for 12.4 million euro to water.org to expand efforts to provide safe water and sanitation to one million people in India and Indonesia.

Per Heggenes

Per Heggenes

How does one explain this new phenomenon? IPS met Per Heggenes, Chief Executive Officer of IKEA Foundation on the margins of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) that took place in Istanbul on May 23-24.

“First of all, there is no conflict between making money and doing good,” says Heggenes. “If you look at IKEA Group, you will see that we care strongly about social responsibility and environmental responsibility—this is how they do business, how the business operates.”

According to Heggenes, the company takes responsibility for the communities where it operates. “And this is also good for business—if you do things in the right way, in a sustainable away, in a responsible way, you turn that into a good business.”

But what is this “right way”? “Look, we focus our investments on children and youth in the poorest communities in the world, simply because that is where we can have the biggest impact. Children and families are absolutely at the core of IKEA Foundation,” he answers. “Children are the most important people in the world and of course they are the future of this world.”

Therefore, he says, “we have decided our initiatives for children to have a place to call home, a healthy start in life, access to quality education, and take all that and turn it into a adequate livelihood that makes possible for them to live out of poverty… That’s the basic philosophy of IKEA Foundation and that’s how we operate.”

The Foundation is now present in 50 countries around the world with initiatives focused on children, aiming at helping children and their families help themselves out of poverty.

“In doing all that, we believe that our Foundation is also in a position to be able to take risks. We try to find new solutions, new ways of doing this kind of activities better. And we are always very focused on driving innovation and constant improvements, while taking responsibilities for the people and the environment,” says Heggenes.

How? “We look for ways to work with partners who are looking to develop new models, new ways of thinking, new ways of bringing aid and services to the people that we try to help… and we develop systems and structures that otherwise would not have not been there.”

And the budget? Heggenes responds that since 2009 when he joined the Foundation, “we have constantly increased the funding year by year. Specifically, in 2016 we will donate 160 million euro – a budget which will grow to 200 million euro annually by the year 2020.”

IKEA Foundation works with everybody—with both the private sector, the governments, the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the UN.

In the case of UNHCR, “we work specifically on what we call self-reliance, looking at refugees as assets instead of just as mere beneficiaries, on how we can engage refugees while they are forced to be in camps so that they can choose their future by themselves, so that they can have opportunities to work, to use their capabilities for something productive, rather than frustrations, instead of sitting and waiting—and we know that refugees now stay in camps for an average of 17 years.”

Courtesy IKEA Foundation

Courtesy IKEA Foundation

Heggenes then explains that “there we focus on education, children’s education is absolutely key when you think about the fact that many refugee children spend their entire childhood in camps. There, education is lacking often because of the lack of money.”

The second thing, he adds, is that a big part of the Foundation’s work with UNCHR is providing opportunities for refugees to work, to earn a living and take care of their families.

The third element of what the Foundation does is renewable energy. “We have a large commitment to do whatever we can to reduce climate change and use renewable energy in the refugee settings. This helps children to study at night or for women to feel safe after dark, and also to help small business with providing energy to them.”

As an example, he mentions that they are in the midst of finalising a large power plant in Jordan, which aims to cover the needs of the entire Asraq refugee camp.

The IKEA Foundation chief is skeptical about big summits, like the WHS in Istanbul. “But I believe that if we can use a summit like this to bring the different actors, so that the private sector can engage with the UN and with the NGOs to drive more efficiency and more innovation in this humanitarian role, then I think we can achieve something that would not have been otherwise achieved,” he says.

“It is all about collaboration, sharing of best practices, not only about providing financial resources. Business can also contribute valuable experience and knowledge. I personally have a big belief in business’ ability to help drive social change.”

Heggenes feels comfortable in reminding that IKEA Foundation is committed to provide 400 million euro to climate action through 2020. “We made a commitment last year before the Paris Summit to be involved in climate change related investments. Out of the 600 million euro the business sector will invest, IKEA Foundation will invest 400 million euro.”

“For us this is about helping the people who are the most impacted by climate change, that’s the poorest people in the world. we are investing in different programmes to help these communities fight the impact of climate change.

The investment will be directed to renewable energy. “Climate smart agriculture often combined with irrigation could maybe enable small farmers to have three crops a year. We are also looking into different ways to help people to find smart ways to cope with the impact of climate change, and most importantly, help them to fight prevent this impact and become more resilient.”

Heggenes repeats once and again the term “innovation.” What does this means for the millions of refugees?

“Five years ago we started developing a shelter that was meant to replace or be an alternative to tents, where most people are exposed to natural disasters, etc.” he says and add that living in a tent for years is not a way to live. It is also very expensive for the organizations that have to pay for the tents, because tents used to last six months, perhaps 12 months.

“So we decided to invest in developing something that can replace tents, at least in certain situations, that meet certain specifications when it comes to weight, price, mobility, and at the same time provide better life quality for the people. After five years we have been into a prototype testing. We have established a social enterprise that will manufacture this new kind of shelter.”

Just three days ahead of the WHS, IKEA foundation and Oxfam announced a 7.3 million euro partnership agreement to improve disaster response.

Through it, Oxfam partners with the Foundation to launch an innovative, three-year programme to ensure that local humanitarian actors in Bangladesh and Uganda are able to cope more effectively with crises, from severe flooding to large numbers of refugees fleeing conflict.

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Islamophobia: Why Are So Many People So Frightened?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/islamophobia-why-are-so-many-people-so-frightened/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islamophobia-why-are-so-many-people-so-frightened http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/06/islamophobia-why-are-so-many-people-so-frightened/#comments Wed, 01 Jun 2016 13:25:36 +0000 Robert Burrowes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145385 The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘]]> Symbol against the construction of a Mosque. Credit: Albert Mestre. GNU Free Documentation License. Wikipedia

Symbol against the construction of a Mosque. Credit: Albert Mestre. GNU Free Documentation License. Wikipedia

By Robert J. Burrowes
Daylesford, Australia, Jun 1 2016 (IPS)

Islamophobia has become a significant factor driving politics in many Western countries.

Islamophobia – fear of Muslims – is now highly visible among European populations concerned about terrorist responses from Islamic groups claiming Jihadi links.

However, it is also evident among those same populations in relation to the refugee flow from the Middle East.

In addition, Islamophobia is highly evident among sectors of the US population during the presidential race. It is a significant issue in Australia. Outside the West, even the (Muslim) Rohingya in Burma are feared by Buddhist monks and others.

Given that this widespread Western fear of Muslims was not the case prior to the US-instigated ‘War on Terror’, do Muslims around the world now pose a greater threat to western interests than previously? Or is something else going on here?

In short, why are so many Westerners (and others) now frightened of Muslims? Let me start at the beginning.

Human socialization is essentially a process of terrorising children into ‘thinking’ and doing what the adults around them want (irrespective of the functionality of this thought and behaviour in evolutionary terms).

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes

Hence, the attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviours that most humans exhibit are driven by fear and the self-hatred that accompanies this fear. For a comprehensive explanation of this point, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

However, because this fear and self-hatred are so unpleasant to feel consciously, most people suppress these feelings below conscious awareness and then (unconsciously) project them onto ‘legitimised’ victims (that is, those people ‘approved’ for victimisation by their parents and/or society generally).

In short: the fear and self-hatred are projected as fear of, and hatred for, particular social groups (whether people of another gender, nation, race, religion or class).

This all happens because virtually all adults are (unconsciously) terrified and self-hating, so they unconsciously terrorise children into accepting the attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviours that make the adults feel safe. A child who thinks and acts differently is frightening and is not allowed to flourish.

Once the child has been so terrorized however, they will respond to their fear and self-hatred with diminishing adult stimulus. What is important, emotionally speaking, is that the fear and self-hatred have an outlet so that they can be released and acted upon.

And because parents do not allow their child to feel and express their fear and hatred in relation to the parents themselves (who, fundamentally, just want obedience without comprehending that obedience is rooted in fear and generates enormous self-hatred because it denies the individual’s Self-will), the child is left with no alternative but to project their fear and hatred in socially approved directions.

Hence, as an adult, their own fear and self-hatred are unconscious to the individual precisely because they were never allowed to feel and express them safely as a child. What they do feel, consciously, is their hatred for ‘legitimised’ victims.

Historically, different social groups in different cultural contexts have been the victim of this projected but ‘socially approved’ fear and hatred. Women, indigenous peoples, Catholics, Afro-Americans, Jews, communists, Palestinians….
The list goes on. The predominant group in this category, of course, is children (whose ‘uncontrollability’ frightens virtually all parents until they are successfully terrorized and tamed).

The groups that are socially approved to be feared and hated are determined by elites. This is because individual members of the elite are themselves terrified and full of self-hatred and they use the various powerful instruments at their disposal – ranging from control of politicians to the corporate media – to trigger the fear and self-hatred of the population at large in order to focus this fear and hatred on what frightens the elite. This makes it easier for the elite to then attack the group that they are projecting frightens them.

For now, of course, Muslims are the primary target for this projected fear and self-hatred, which accounts for the US-led Western war on the Middle East. Islamophobia thus allows elites and others to project their fear and self-hatred onto Muslims so that elites can then seek to destroy this fear and self-hatred. Obviously, this cannot work.

You cannot destroy fear, whether yours or that of anyone else. However, you can cause phenomenal damage to those onto whom your fear and self-hatred are projected. Of course, there is nothing intelligent about this process. If every Muslim in the world was killed, elites would simply then project their fear and self-hatred onto other groups and set out to destroy those groups too.

In fact, as western elites now demonise Russia and encircle it with nuclear weapons and ABM defence systems, we simply witness another example of these elites projecting their fear and self-hatred.

If you are starting to wonder about the sanity of this, you can rest assured there is none. Elites are insane. If you want to read a fuller explanation of this point, see ‘The Global Elite is Insane‘.

So is there anything we can do? Fundamentally, we need to stop terrorizing our children. As a back up, we can provide safe spaces for children and adults alike to feel their fear and self-hatred consciously (which will allow them to be safely released). By doing this, we can avoid creating more insane individuals who will project their fear and self-hatred in elite-approved directions.

In addition, if you are fearless enough to recognise that elites are manipulating you into fearing Muslims and others whom we do not need to fear, now would be a good time to speak up and to demonstrate your solidarity. You might also like to sign the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create aNonviolent World‘.

Suppressed fear and self-hatred must be projected and they are usually projected in socially approved ways (although mental illnesses and some forms of criminal activity are ways in which this suppressed fear manifests that are not socially approved).

In essence, Islamophobia is a manifestation of the mental illness of elites manipulating us into doing their insane bidding. Unfortunately, many people are easy victims of this manipulation.

Roberto J. Burrowes website is at http://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com and his email address is flametree@riseup.net

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The Korean Peninsula Conflict: A Way Outhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-korean-peninsula-conflict-a-way-out/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-korean-peninsula-conflict-a-way-out http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-korean-peninsula-conflict-a-way-out/#comments Tue, 31 May 2016 12:11:19 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145371 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]>

The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.

By Johan Galtung
SEOUL, South Korea, May 31 2016 (IPS)

Like the Israel-Palestine conflict, the world has gotten tired of it, “what, the two Koreas still unable to sort it out”? Also, like Israel-Palestine, the USA is in it; making the situation complicated.

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

Never has the situation been so tense after the end of the war in Korea more than 60 years ago. Not only because of the nuclear bomb with missiles in North Korea, and the hawkish pro-nuke reaction in South Korea and Japan, but because of no moves forward to solve the underlying conflict.

And where is that conflict? Not between North and South Korea, but between North Korea and USA that after 140+ years of victorious warfare had to accept armistice, not victory, in Korea.

Conflict means incompatible goals. Travel to Pyongyang and find that their goals are peace treaty, normalization of relations, and a nuclear free Korean Peninsula.

And the US goal is the collapse of the present NK regime; failing that, status quo. Given the threat of a major war, even nuclear war, that goal is untenable. Some points.

• Why does NK have nuclear capability? Because NK is threatened by the USA-South Korea alliance in general and their “Team Spirit” in particular to deter conventional, or nuclear attacks; failing that to fight back, and particularly against where the attack might come from: US bases in Okinawa-RyuKyu, and from Japan proper. Militarily trivial.
• AND to have a bargaining chip in any denuclearization that of course has to be monitored; given the US cheating in connection with Austrian neutralization in 1955 focused particularly on that one.
• AND to show that we are not collapsing, we are capable of making nuclear bombs and the missiles to carry them; far from collapsing.
• AND, ominously: as the ultimate response if threatened by collapse. Nuclear suicide? More likely killing those seen as never listening, never thawing in sunshine, using boycotts and sanctions.

Beat a dog repeatedly and it becomes crazy. NK has been beaten, also by exceptional rain causing slides of clay covering enormous cultivated areas, but mainly by an unholy alliance Seoul-Washington. Seoul even commits fratricide on their brothers and sisters in NK, into death and collapse, because Seoul dislikes their regime.

This situation has made both Koreas absurd societies, detached from reality. In the North a fundamentalist Confucian society with a filial piety through the Kims, assuming that the spirit of Kim Il Sung drifts down to son and grandson as incorporations in one person of the national will; in the South through the Parks, at present running a society that is a carbon copy of Japan down to the smallest details on the basis of hysterical anti-Japanism, run by US micro-management.

They will both change. Absurdities are unsustainable.

SK is also a Christian, Methodist-Catholic, country. But one senses no Love Thy Neighbor and Love Thy Enemy, only much of Seoul sitting in “judgment over living and dead”. Jointly with USA.

Sanctions are multi-state terrorism, like terrorism and state terrorism hitting the weak, defenseless, and like them backfiring. Idea: “get rid of your leaders and terrorism will stop”. Reality: the victims turn against the killers, not the leaders. One more absurdity.

There is a way out. Build on the North Korean goals, hold NK to their words. Their regime will, like all regimes, change; even the USA is now heading for basic change. Design a peace treaty, like with South Korea, normalize diplomatic relations North-South and North-USA; and design a regime for a nuclear free peninsula, destroying or removing weapons monitored by solid UN inspection.

The two instruments for normalization and denuclearization are then exchanged by depositing them in an escrow with a third party–the UN General Assembly, not UNSC, too similar to the Six Parties Talks.

Then: implementation; preferably quick; de Gaulle style.

But that is only the beginning, only remedies for a pathological and very dangerous situation. Then comes the peace-building, based on cooperation for mutual and equal benefit, equity (not some SK chaebol-재벌 getting cheap labor in NK), and on harmony based on deep empathy with each other, sharing joys and sorrows; not the opposite, like enjoying suffering and imminent collapse because “sanctions are having a bite”.

Of 40 such proposals here are two.

There is the contested maritime zone between the two different maritime border: use it for joint fishing and joint fish breeding. Share the income 40-40-20; 20 for the ecology and administration.

There is no flight Seoul-Pyongyang: start it both ways. Use it also for the construction workers and personnel for two embassies.

Admittedly, it is unlikely that USA will come to its senses and initiate all of this although not impossible-the absurdity built into the US boycott of Cuba is being remedied after 58 years. For Korea under a Trump or Sanders presidency, but not belligerent Clinton.

South Korea has to do it, by becoming an independent, autonomous country, not micro-managed, on at least this issue. There is a longer term mechanism: absurdities have limited life expectancy as witnessed by the decline and fall of empires to the UK, Soviet and US empires.

And there is a short term possibility: presidential power in SK accrues to the two term UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, if elected as a candidate for the governing Sae Noo Ri party. Watching his choice of words on the Korean issue, he is always emphasizing dialogue. He would know how to handle a UN General Assembly Uniting for Peace, could have dialogue contact with NK; the rest more or less as above.

Could a united Korean nation with two states at peace inspire the other four of the Six, their ten relations all non-peace, some even recently at war? History moves quickly these days. If pushed by democratic pressure from below. And pulled by power from above.

*Johan Galtung’s editorial originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 30 May 2016: TMS: The Korean Peninsula Conflict: A Way Out

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The Humanitarian Clock Is Ticking, The Powerful Feign Deafnesshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2 http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/the-humanitarian-clock-is-ticking-the-powerful-feign-deafness-2/#comments Thu, 26 May 2016 13:07:50 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145314 Among the issues discussed was how the humanitarian sector could improve protection of civilians from violence. Jan Egelend, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council and is also the Special Advisor to Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said that the international community needs to “blacklist” any group or Government that bombs civilians and civilian targets. Pictured, Baharka IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: OCHA/Brandon Bateman

Among the issues discussed was how the humanitarian sector could improve protection of civilians from violence. Jan Egelend, who heads the Norwegian Refugee Council and is also the Special Advisor to Staffan de Mistura, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, said that the international community needs to “blacklist” any group or Government that bombs civilians and civilian targets. Pictured, Baharka IDP camp in northern Iraq. Photo: OCHA/Brandon Bateman

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 26 2016 (IPS)

The humanitarian clock is now ticking away faster than ever, with over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people in dire need of assistance. But the most powerful, richest countries—those who have largely contributed to manufacturing it and can therefore stop it, continue to pretend not hearing nor seeing the signals.

The World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, May 23-24) represented an unprecedented effort by all United Nations bodies who, along with member countries, hundreds of non-governmental aid organisations, and the most concerned stakeholders, conducted a three-year long consultation process involving over 23,000 stakeholders, that converged in Istanbul to portray the real½ current human drama.

Led by the UN, they put on the table a “Grand Bargain” that aims to get more resources into the hands of people who most need them, those who are victims of crises that they have not caused. The WHS also managed to gather unanimous support to Five Core Responsibilities that will help alleviate human suffering and contribute to preventing and even ending it.

Around 9,000 participants from 173 countries, including 55 heads of state or government, and hundreds of key stakeholders attending the Summit, have unanimously cautioned against the current growing human-made crises, while launching strong appeals for action to prevent such a “humanitarian bomb” from detonating anytime soon.

In spite of all that, the top leaders of the Group of the seven most industrialised countries (G 7), and of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, have all stayed away from this first-ever Humanitarian Summit, limiting their presence to delegations with lower ranking officials.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the Summit as a “turning point” that has “set a new course” in humanitarian aid. “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another,” Ban said. Photo: UNOCHA

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hailed the Summit as a “turning point” that has “set a new course” in humanitarian aid. “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another,” Ban said. Photo: UNOCHA

Although several UN officials reiterated that it was not about a pledging conference but the fact is that massive funds are badly needed to start alleviating the present human suffering which, if allowed to grow exponentially as feared, would cause a human drama of incalculable consequences.

The notable absence of the top decision-makers of the most powerful and richest countries sent a strong negative signal with a frustrating impact on the humongous efforts the UN has displayed to prepare for the Istanbul Summit and mobilise the world’s human conscious– let alone the millions of the most vulnerable who are prey to human dramas they are not responsible for creating.

In fact, most of world’s refugee flows are direct results of wars not only in Afghanistan and Iraq—both subject to vast military operations by coalitions led by the biggest Western powers (G 7), but also a result of on-going armed conflicts in Yemen (also with the support of the US and Europe), and Syria where the Security Council permanent member states, except China, have been proving weapons to the parties involved in this long six-year war.

Other victims of the current humanitarian drama are “climate refugees”, those who flee death caused by unprecedented droughts, floods and other disasters resulting from climate change, which is largely caused by the most industrialised countries.

The sole exception was German chancellor Angela Merkel who addressed the Summit, though she reportedly went to Istanbul to meet Turkish president Recep Tayyib Erdogan to try to alleviate the growing tensions between Ankara and the European Union, who accuse each other of not fulfilling the refugee deportation deal they sealed in March.

In fact, the EU-Ankara deal is about deporting to Turkey all asylum seekers and also migrants arriving in Europe mainly through Turkish borders, once the European Union announced last year its readiness to host them but decided later½ to flinch. In simple words, the deal simply transforms Turkey into a huge “deposit” of millions fleeing wars and other human-made disasters.

In exchange, Ankara should receive from the EU 3 billion euro a year to help shelter and feed the 3 million refugees who are already there. The EU also promised to authorise the entry of Turkish citizens to its member countries without visa.

At a press briefing at the end of the Summit, Erdogan launched veiled warnings to the EU that if this bloc does not implement its part of the refugees deal, the Turkish Parliament may not ratify it.

In other words, Turkey would not only stop admitting “returnees”, i.e. refugees repatriated by Europe, but would even open its borders for them—and other millions to come and go to EU countries. The “human bomb” is therefore ticking at the very doors of Europe.

That said, the Istanbul Summit has set us on a new course. “It is not an end point, but a turning point,” said the UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon at the closing session.

Governments, people affected by crisis, non-governmental organisations, the private sector, UN agencies and other partners came together and expressed their support for the Agenda for Humanity, and its five Core Responsibilities, Ban added.

“Implementing this agenda is a necessity, if we are to enable people to live in dignity and prosperity, and fulfil the promise of last year’s landmark agreements on the Sustainable Development Agenda and Climate Change.”

Ban stressed that humanitarian and development partners agreed on a new way of working aimed at reducing the need for humanitarian action by investing in resilient communities and stable societies.

Aid agencies and donor governments committed to a ‘Grand Bargain’ that will get more resources into the hands of people who need them, at the local and national level, said Ban.

Unfortunately, when funding is sparse, the UN and partners have to reprioritize preventive and resilience-building actions to aid emergencies. In Sudan, women line up to receive food at the Tawilla site for newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Jebel Marra in Darfur. Assisting those urgent needs meant less funding for a nutrition project in Khartoum. Photo: OCHA

Unfortunately, when funding is sparse, the UN and partners have to reprioritize preventive and resilience-building actions to aid emergencies. In Sudan, women line up to receive food at the Tawilla site for newly arrived internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing Jebel Marra in Darfur. Assisting those urgent needs meant less funding for a nutrition project in Khartoum. Photo: OCHA

“And Governments committed to do more to prevent conflict and build peace, to uphold international humanitarian law, and live up to the promise of the Charter of the UN, he added. “I hope all member states will work at the highest level to find the political solutions that are so vital to reduce humanitarian needs around the world.”

According to Ban, ”Together, we launched a ground-breaking charter that places people with disabilities at the heart of humanitarian decision-making; a platform on young people in crises; and commitments to uphold the rights of women and girls in emergencies and protect them from gender-based violence.”

Ban also announced that in September this year he will report to the UN General Assembly on the Summit’s achievements, and will propose “ways to take our commitments forward through intergovernmental processes, inter-agency forums and other mechanisms.”

The WHS Chair’s Summary: Standing up for Humanity: Committing to Action issued at the end of the Summit states that “civil strife and conflicts are driving suffering and humanitarian need to unprecedented levels and serious violations of international humanitarian law and abuses of international human rights law continue on an alarming scale with entire populations left without essential supplies they desperately need.”

It adds that natural disasters, exacerbated by the effects of climate change, are affecting greater numbers of women, men and children than ever before, eroding development gains and jeopardising the stability of entire countries.

“At the same time we have been unable to generate the resources to cope with these alarming trends, and there is a need for more direct predictable humanitarian financing,” the statement warns.

“The Summit has brought to the forefront of global attention the scale of the changes required if we are to address the magnitude of challenges before us. The participants have made it emphatically clear that humanitarian assistance alone can neither adequately address nor sustainably reduce the needs of over 130 million of the world’s most vulnerable people.”

A new and coherent approach is required based on addressing root causes, increasing political diplomacy for prevention and conflict resolution, and bringing humanitarian, development and
peace-building efforts together, it adds.

“Global leaders recognized the centrality of political will to effectively prevent and end conflicts, to address root causes and to reduce fragility and strengthen good governance. Preventing and resolving conflicts would be the biggest difference leaders could make to reduce overwhelming humanitarian needs. Humanitarian action cannot be a substitute for political action.”

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Humanitarian Summit, The Big Fiascohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-the-big-fiasco/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 18:44:42 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145286 UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Credit: United Nations

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 24 2016 (IPS)

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) held in Istanbul on May 23-24, managed to send a strong wake-up call to the world about the unprecedented human suffering now in course, but failed to achieve the objective of attracting the massive funds needed to alleviate the humanitarian drama, as none of the leaders of the Group 7 of the richest countries nor of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council attended, with the exception of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At the summit’s closing session, while recalling that the WHS achieved its main objective of addressing the conscious of the world towards the growing human drama, both Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed strong “disappointment” on the absence of leaders of the most powerful countries.

Though they reiterated their appeal for solidarity to rescue the most vulnerable people on Earth–130 million victims of conflicts and natural disasters and growing, none of them could hold out or offer any hope soon.

“Their absence (G-7 and Security Council leaders) is not an excuse for inaction,” Ban said. The resources required to rescue the lives of tens of millions of human beings represent only 1 per cent of the total world military expenditure, he added.

Ban showed no signs of optimism regarding an end soon of conflicts in Syrian, Yemen, South Sudan, among others, while recalling that every year the United Nations organised a pledging conference and “countries are tired of that.” He also stressed that currently 80 per cent of the UN humanitarian resources are spent on made-made crises.

For his part, Erdogan reiterated veiled threats to the European Union (EU), saying that if this bloc does not fulfil its agreements with Ankara, the “law of returnees” (refugees deported from EU countries to Turkey) may not be passed at the Turkish Parliament.

The EU promised Turkey 3.000 billions in 2017, to add to an equal sum promised last year, in its refugees deportation deal with Ankara, sealed in March.

The EU also is to authorise the entry to its member countries without visa. Nevertheless, thus authorisation will not be implemented soon as promised, as the EU now demands that Turkey fulfils a long list of requirements.

A Foretold Political Failure
During the two-day summit, leaders of 173 countries, including 55 heads of state or government, promised to do more for the 130 million civilians who are victims of conflicts and natural disasters.
Nevertheless, the community of humanitarian organisations have shown scepticism about½ such announcements that would end up in effective commitments and if the expected funds will be employed in the right way.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, secretary general of Norwegian Refugee Council. Credit: United Nations

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a leading humanitarian organisation with over 5000 humanitarian workers across more than 25 countries, was one of the strongest voices in this regard.

The humanitarian sector is failing to protect civilians from violence, Egeland said, while commenting how humanitarian aid has to be more efficient and cost-effective not to fail those most in need.

According to Egeland, humanitarian assistance does not reach thousands of victims who are among the most vulnerable of all. “In Fallujah, Iraq, there are now over 50,000 civilians who are besieged, prey to the Islamic State (IS), Engeland cited as an example.

“Nobody is helping them, nobody is reaching them, he warned. The Iraqi government is not helping them, the humanitarian organisations cannot reach them.”

There are thousands of victims like them who are in dire need but are not reached. In Yemen, Engeland said, there are 20 million civilians among the most vulnerable, while stressing that coalitions supported by Western countries are attacking civilians.

Egeland expressed hope that leaders can ask themselves if they can at least stop giving arms, giving money to those armed groups that are systematically violating the humanitarian law, and bombing hospitals and schools, abusing women and children.

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Nigerian refugee children at the Minawao refugee camp in Northern Cameroon. Photo: UNICEF/Karel Prinsloo

Fighting parties, be they governmental or militias or opposition or rebels, still get weapons that they use to blow up hospitals and kill civilians, he warned. “Let’s blacklist that armed group and that army and that government.”

“We lack governments saying they will also uphold humanitarian law and the UN refugee convention, keeping borders open and keeping the right of asylum sacrosanct,” Egeland added.

The NSC Secretary General emphasised that “all borders should be open… in Europe, in the Gulf states… in the United States. “As Europeans, when we initiated the refugee convention we really felt that asylum was important when we were the asylum seekers. Why don’t we think it’s equally important now, when we are those to whom people come for asylum?”

From 2011 to 2013, he was the Europe Director of Human Rights Watch, prior to joining NRC where he took up his post as Secretary General in August 2013. In 2006, Time magazine named Jan Egeland one of the 100 “people who shape our world.”

“More resources are sorely needed… but more resources will not solve the problem,” said for his part Francesco Rocca, Vice-President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Speaking on behalf of 190 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Rocca demanded more support to strengthening national and local actors, who are key to the solution.

“Strengthening local and national capacity would have an impact,” he said “Yet, scant resources have been channelled though those key local actors or invested in their long-term capacities.”

Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, warned, “the less we help in conflict zones, the more people will move,” and that “sticking people in camps is not the solution.”

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Is it in Europe’s Interest to Push Russia into China’s Arms?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/is-it-in-europes-interest-to-push-russia-into-chinas-arms/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:59:31 +0000 Roberto Savio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145256 Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.]]>

Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News.

By Roberto Savio
ROME, May 23 2016 (IPS)

No mention in the media of the dangerous increase in the tension between Europe and Russia and yet Nato has just made operational in Romania a missile system, the ABM, which the United States has declared will protect it from “rogue” states, like Iran.

Roberto Savio

Roberto Savio

Russia, especially after the agreement reached with Iran on the control of its atomic industry, is convinced that the system is intended against its military force. The US has announced it will build another second site in Poland in 2018.The intention is to move from “reassurance” of eastern Nato allies to “deterrence” of the Kremlin. That means more troops and equipment, longer deployments, bigger exercises, and a “persistent” presence of Nato and American troops in countries like Poland and the Baltics.

In June, as many as 12 000 American troops will join servicemen from a number of European allies in Poland for an exercise called Anakonda, which will be the largest military exercise carried out in Europe for years. Altogether, 25 000 troops from 24 Nato and partner countries will be involved. US Deputy Secretary of Defence, Robert Work, has announced that 4 000 Nato troops, involving two US battalions, will be moved to the Russian border, permanently:” The Russians have been doing a lot of snap exercises right against the border, with a lot of troops, in extraordinarily provocative behaviour”, he said. Germany is to provide one battalion.

For a long time, the official line of US military is to see in Russia a regime intent on aggression, after the annexation of Crimea, and the country’s intervention in Ukraine. When General Ray Odierno retired as Chairman of Staff, he declared,“Russia is the greatest threat to the United States. His predecessor, General Joseph Dunford, was more specific. He thought Rusia was a bigger threat than ISIS. Odierno said that he saw threats to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine.

It would be useful to remember that Putin started his tenure by continuing Boris Yeltsin’s line of total cooperation with the United States. As George W. Bush famously said: I have seen inside Vladimir Putin’s eyes, and finally we have a strong ally for US interests”. That was before Bush proceeded to take a number of actions without consultation, which convinced the Russian that he was only considered a marginal player.

While it is obvious that Putin suffers from paranoia, and uses confrontation to obtain popular support, it would be wise to see matters also from the Russian viewpoint. To start with, it has been established beyond doubt that Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to not intervene militarily in the European countries that were under USSR dominance, provided NATO kept the existing borders.

The fact that this engagement was not kept has always been present in the Russian psyche. When Reagan met Gorbachev in Reykavik in 1986, Putin was in his mid-30s. the USSR was a superpower, present in Africa, the Caribbean and Central America, with important allies in Asia.

When Putin become 40, his country had been splintered into 15 nations. And when he come to power, in 1999, the USSR had lost one-third of his territory, and half of its population. Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia and Azerbaijan, ihe Baltic States, Ukraine, Bielorussia, Moldova and Armenia were gone. At the same time, Nato continued its endless trend of encirclement with Russia. Putin saw the Ukrainian pro-Russian government overthrown in a US-backed coup. And the encirclement continues, asking even militarily insignificant countries, like Montenegro (some 3 000 soldiers in total), to join Nato.

“Russia has not accepted the hand of partnership “says Nato Commander, General Philip Bredlove, “ but has chosen a path of belligerence”. Well, it is significant that an impressive 80% of the Russian population shares Putin’s paranoia, and also does not see the “hand of partnership”. When Putin annexed Crimea and supported separatists in Ukraine, his popularity increased at home dramatically., especially because Crimea had always been part of Russia, until Nikita Khrushchev donated it to Ukraine, as a symbolic move in 1954. The 90% of Crimeans were Russian speakers, like those living in the Eastern part of Ukraine, a country that was created by joining Western Ukraine, which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with Eastern Ukraine, which was part of the Russian empire. Putin very adroitly said that his task was to protect “Russian citizens, wherever they live”, and this struck a chord with the Russian people.

It should be made clear that there are no excuses in legal terms for Putin’s action. But in real life it is always useful to consider events by taking into account both sides of any story. The fact is that Putin reached the conclusion that Russia was considered, in Barack Obama’s words, “just a regional power”, and that to be admitted into the G7 and other Western fora was not giving him the chance to have Russia and himself considered an important player, and thus he decided to take a confrontational path in order to be taken seriously. He put a knife in the side of the West, by dividing again the two halves of Ukraine, obliging the West to sink hundreds of billions of dollars to sustain a deeply corrupt government in Kiev, and its ability to turn the knife when he wanted.

This move led to the establishment of sanctions by the West in 2014, with the declared goal of having Putin capitulate and abandon his intervention in Ukraine. However, Putin again interceded outside its borders, by intervening in Syria, where Russia has a naval base. The arrival of Russia has completely changed the situation in Syria, and now everybody agrees that there cannot be any military solution without Russia’s agreement.

Of course, one key principle behind US foreign policy is that nobody should challenge its power. Yet it is a principle, which is becoming increasingly unrealistic, as the emergence of China is showing. However, in the American psyche, the USSR is gone, and any attempt to recreate it, under any guise, is just a provocation. And while China has not had a direct clash yet with the US, Crimea and Ukraine were indeed a slap on the hand…

Now, seen from outside the western world, as many analysts have pointed out from Latin America and Asia, this situation does not make much sense. Let us take the sanctions. They have cost over $100 billion in lost exports to Russia. But this figure hides a difference: US exports to Russia dropped by 3.5%, while for Europe by as much as 13%, especially from the fragile European agricultural sector (which fell by 43%). Imports from Russia into Europe fell by 13.5%. According to the European Commission, the European Union’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is going to drop by 0.3% in 2014 and 0.4% in 2015 due to the sanctions. That is quite a considerable drawback, considering that Europe’s expected growth rate is expected to be just 1.5% on average, with countries, like Italy, barely making it over 1%.

Meanwhile a new trend is emerging that is largely being ignored by the media. Since 2104, Russia has been deepening its partnership with China, with which it had traditionally had difficult relations. The Chinese economic slowdown, due to its change of economic model based on exports to this latest shift towards internal market expansion, does not make this the best moment for economic cooperation. Yet, Russia and China have just signed a $25 billion deal, to boost Chinese lending to Russian firms, and a host of other accords. Russia has agreed a $400 billion deal, to supply China with 38 billion cubic meters of gas annually, from 2018 over the coming 30 years.

Russia’s Sberbank has received a $966 million credit line from the China Development Bank. China is launching a $2 billion-investment fund, targetig agricultural projects. And $19.7 billion will be used to open a rail link between Moscow and the Russian city of Kazan. At the same time, Russia agreed to increase its weapon’s sales to China, and a deal was done for the sale of the S-400 air defence system to China (to the great chagrin of the United States and Japan), for $3 billion, with another $2 billion for the sale of 24 Su-35 fighter planes. The two countries declared that they would increase their bilateral trade to $200 billion by 2020.

What is totally new and important is that both countries also decided to strengthen their military cooperation. This year they will take part in a joint Sea-2016 naval drill, hosted by China. The Deputy minister of Defence, Anatoly Antonov has declared: “Military cooperation between the two countries is highly diverse, and has improved significantly over the last three years .A more tight interaction between military departments corresponds to the national interest, and we expect this interaction to increase”.

This should lead Europeans to start reflecting seriously on events. Is it in the interest of Europe to keep pushing Russia into the hands of China? Is it not time to search for a settlement with Russia, that would include Ukraine, Syria, and an engagement to end “deterrence”, for an agreed status quo, which would reopen trade and cooperation, and satisfy the frustrated egos of Russian citizens? It should be recognized that even between allies, like the EU and US, sometimes there are different priorities…Maybe the American elections will change the rules of the game…

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Humanitarian Summit: Too Big to Fail?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-too-big-to-fail/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 13:14:27 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145254 A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

A family living in this tent in Baghdad, Iraq, explains that the camp and the tents were not ready for winter. Credit: WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

With a line up of heads of state or government telling all what they did to alleviate human suffering and promising to do more, along with leaders of civil society and humanitarian
organisations denouncing lack of honest political will to act while governments continue spending trillions of dollars in weapons, the two-day World Humanitarian Summit kicked off today May 23 in Istanbul.

In fact, while the United Nations reports that the international community spends today around 25 billion dollars to provide live-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). estimates world’s military expenditure in 2015 was over 1.6 trillion dollars.

“Never mind–this Summit is too important to fail,” a high-ranking Asian diplomat on condition of anonymity said to IPS. “The leaders of the richest countries, especially in Europe and the Gulf Arab states, are perfectly aware of the magnitude of the humanitarian challenges facing them,” the diplomat added.

“Some of them will be sincerely sensitive to human suffering; others will be more concerned with their ‘political’ peace of mind… Most industrialised countries, in particular in Europe, are eager that the humanitarian crises are dealt with and solved out of and beyond their borders.”

It is about the fear that this unprecedented crisis, if it grows exponentially as predicted, would inevitably lead to more conflicts and more instability affecting their [those leaders] political and economic welfare, according to the diplomat.

In this regard, the facts before the 5,500 participants in this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit are that over the last years conflicts and natural disasters have led to fast-growing numbers of people in need and a funding gap for humanitarian action of an estimated 15 billion dollars, according to UN estimates.

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

In Madaya, Syria, local community members help offload and distribute humanitarian aid supplies. Photo: WFP/Hussam Al Saleh

“This is a lot of money, but not out of reach for a world producing 78 trillion dollars of annual Gross Domestic Product,” says the report of a UN promoted high-level panel on humanitarian financing. “Closing the humanitarian financing gap would mean no one having to die or live without dignity for the lack of money,” it adds.

The report addressing the humanitarian financing gap, says that this “would be a victory for humanity at a time when it is much needed.

As part of the preparations for the WHS, the UN Secretary-General had appointed a nine-person panel of experts to work on finding solutions about this widening financial gap.

The panel identified–and examined three important and inter-dependent aspects of the humanitarian financing challenge: reducing the needs, mobilising additional funds through either traditional or innovative mechanisms, and improving the efficiency of humanitarian assistance.

The report is also relevant in the context of adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It states that only by focusing the world’s attention on the rapidly growing numbers of people in desperate need will we be able to achieve the SDGs.

The panel recognises that the best way to deal with growing humanitarian needs is to address their root causes. “This requires a strong determination at the highest level of global political leadership to prevent and resolve conflicts and to increase investment in disaster risk reduction.”

“Because development is the best resilience-builder of all, the panel believes that the world’s scarce resources of official development assistance (ODA) should be used where it matters most—in situations of fragility,” the report concludes.

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Humanitarian Summit Aims to Mobilise Up to 30 Billion Dollarshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/humanitarian-summit-aims-to-mobilise-up-to-30-billion-dollars/#comments Mon, 23 May 2016 09:08:49 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145245 Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

Sudanese refugee children protest against food ration cuts at Touloum refugee camp in Chad | Credit: IRIN

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 23 2016 (IPS)

The two-day World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), opening today May 23 in Istanbul, aims at mobilising between 20 and 30 billion dollars to face the on-gowing, worst-ever humanitarian crises, said Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs andEmergency Relief Coordinator.

“Let us not underestimate the gravity of what lies before us in these coming days: A once in a generation opportunity to set in motion an ambitious and far-reaching agenda to change the way that we alleviate, and most importantly prevent, the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people,” O’Brien added in an interview with IPS.

Asked about most civil society organisations increasing concern that the financial resources the WHS is aiming to moblise would come at the very cost of current, already extremely short funding to longer-term objectives, such as the sustainable development goals, O’Brien said, “Not at all; we expect the international community fo be more generous.”

The Istanbul Summit is both about fresh thinking and building on the best, and the change that’s necessary to deliver for our fellow men and women who need us most, said O’Brien.

“Disasters, both man-made and natural, are becoming more frequent, more complex and more intense. More than 60 million people have been forced to flee their homes due to conflict and violence. At this summit, humanitarian partners around the world will commit to take concrete action to address this,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliassonin at a press conference on the eve of the Istanbul Summit.

The United Nations estimates that more than 130 million people are in need of assistance and protection across the world today.

Every year, humanitarian needs continue to grow and more people need more help for longer periods of time. This also drives up the costs of delivering life-saving assistance and protection. UN-led appeals have grown six-fold from 3.4 billion dollars in 2003 to nearly 21 billion dollars today.

Representatives of 177 countries, including 68 heads of state and governments, and crises-affected communities, civil society organisations, the private sector and UN agencies attend this first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.

The WHS follows an extensive global consultation with 23,000 stakeholders world-wide to identify the key humanitarian challenges of our time.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General laid out the United Nations’ vision for the Summit in an Agenda for Humanity focusing on a set of core commitments: to prevent and end conflicts; uphold the norms that safeguard humanity; leave no one behind; change people’s lives – from delivering aid to ending need; and invest in humanity.

In addition to the Summit’s plenary sessions starting May 23, series high-level leaders’ round tables are scheduled on: Leaders’ Segment for Heads of States and Governments on day one.

The Leaders’ Segment will discuss the five core responsibilities of the Agenda for Humanity.

These five core responsibilities are: one, Political Leadership to Prevent and End Conflict; two, Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity; three, Leave No One Behind; four, Change People’s Lives – from Delivering Aid to Ending Need; and five, Invest in Humanity.

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Africa: Resolved to Address African Problems Using African Solutionshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/africa-resolved-to-address-african-problems-using-african-solutions/#comments Sun, 22 May 2016 17:31:28 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145238 Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission.

Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission.

By Baher Kamal
ISTANBUL, Turkey , May 22 2016 (IPS)

The African Union (AU) representing 54 countries and home to 1,2 billion inhabitants, will be in Istanbul to participate in the May 23-24, 2016, first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) with two key demands—that the international humanitarian system be redefined, and a strong, firm own commitment to itself, to the continent and its people, anchoring on the primacy of the states.

In an interview with IPS on the eve of the WHS, the Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission, Olabisi Dare said “All the key concerns that the AU will be raising at the World Humanitarian Summit is that there is a need for the redefinition of the international humanitarian system; this redefinition should take the form of a reconfiguration of the system.”

The Nigerian career diplomat and international civil servant with over 27 years international field and desk experience in Asia, Africa, Europe and America, added that the requested redefinition “should take the form of a reconfiguration of the system, it being understood that the existing system which is predicated on the UN Resolution 46 182 is to say the least not being faithfully implemented.”

It is therefore in this context that the African Union is going to Istanbul with its own commitments to itself, that is its own commitment to the continent and its people and one of the key things of this commitment is to anchor on the primacy of the states itself, “the State has the primary responsibility to its own people to satisfy their needs and to take care of their vulnerabilities,” said Olabisi.

“We look at these in several forms:

  1. The African Union feels the State has to play the primary role of coordinating any and all humanitarian action that may take place within its territory; the States have in their efforts to alleviate the needs of its people; the States have also to maintain humanitarian space and have a responsibility to guarantee the safety of both the humanitarian workers and humanitarian infrastructure.
  2. We note that the State has the capability and capacity in key areas like use of military assets in assisting humanitarian action–a key  example is the use of military forces in Liberia and other acted countries the military was deployed to serve as the first line of defense to combat the spread of the disease.

That said, Olabisi remarked “We can’t over-emphasise the role of the State in ensuring that humanitarian action and relief is dispensed in an effective manner and we see that this in itself will effect humanitarian action more readily on the continent.”

“Africa however is resolved to begin addressing its own problems using African solutions to African problems.“ - Olabisi Dare, Head of Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees, and Displaced Persons Division at the AU Commission
Asked what are the African needed solutions that the AUC brings to the WHS, Olabisi, who was also senior Political/Humanitarian Affairs Officer at the African Union Mission in Liberia, with extensive experience in various aspects peace-building in a post conflict environment, including serving on the Technical Support Team to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia, reaffirmed “The African Union will make proposals in terms of what it considers as the reconfiguration of the International Humanitarian systems.”

“Part of the solution is that there is a need for governments to play the primary role and a greater coordination role in order to fulfill the attributes of state in terms of its predictive and responsive nature and other attributes and this in itself is as part of what Africa has committed  to do and if this find its way to the Secretary General’s report as part of the recommendation, this would be very good.”

Olabisi, who was involved in the return and rehabilitation programme of over 300,000 Liberian refugees from across the West Africa sub-region, added “We are also going to call for the re-engineering of resolution 46182 Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian emergency assistance of the United Nations to reflect  Africa’s views, to reflect the need to elevate the role of the state primarily to be to deliver to its people.”

The Resolution 46182 that Olabisi refers to, was adopted in 1991, setting as “Guiding Principles” that humanitarian assistance is of cardinal importance for the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies and must be provided in accordance with the principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality.

Guiding Principle 3 clearly states, “The sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity of States must be fully respected in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. In this context, humanitarian assistance should be provided with the consent of the affected country and in principle on the basis of an appeal by the affected country.”

“Each State has the responsibility first and foremost to take care of the victims of natural disasters and other emergencies occurring on its territory. Hence, the affected State has the primary role in the initiation, organization, coordination, and implementation of humanitarian assistance within its territory,” states also the Guiding Principle 4.

And Guiding Principle 9 stresses, “There is a clear relationship between emergency, rehabilitation and development. In order to ensure a smooth transition from relief to rehabilitation and development, emergency assistance should be provided in ways that will be supportive of recovery and long-term development. Thus, emergency measures should be seen as a step towards long-term development.”

Common African Position (CAP). Courtsey of the African Union Commission

Common African Position (CAP). Courtsey of the African Union Commission

For its part, Guiding Principle 10 stresses, “Economic growth and sustainable development are essential for prevention of and preparedness against natural disasters and other emergencies. Many emergencies reflect the underlying crisis in development facing developing countries.

“Humanitarian assistance should therefore be accompanied by a renewal of commitment to economic growth and sustainable development of developing countries,” it adds. ”In this context, adequate resources must be made available to address their development problems.”

“Contributions for humanitarian assistance should be provided in a way which is not to the detriment of resources made available for international cooperation for development,” says Guiding Principle 11.

Obalisi then recalled “When you look at the Common African Position (CAP) [on the post 2015 development agenda], you find  that the first pillar speaks to the privacy of the state; all the other 9 pillar speak the same in one form or another.”

Africa will be calling on itself to be able to deliver more on resources and allocate more resources to humanitarian action, he added. “This is because it is mindful of the fact that the resource portals are dwindling from the north.”

Asked what are the outcomes that Africa would most expect from the WHS, Olabisi said that Africa expects the guarantee that international humanitarian system will be reconfigured to conform with new demands and address the issues faced by the humanitarian system at the moment – one of the main outcome the Summit will deliver.

“Africa is making these commitments to itself-due to the non-binding nature of the summit. The commitments Africa has made go beyond the WHS whether the summit is binding or not it will not affect what Africa is committed to, in its own self-interest and this is one of the key recommendations we will be taking to WHS.”

He stressed that Africa’s commitments are not to the WHS but the Summit “gives us an opportunity to discuss a paradigm shift in terms of the way we do things in the humanitarian field in Africa and also to see that we can positively add to the mitigation and alleviation of the sufferings of our people when disasters and displacements occur.”

“One of the key things to note is that Africa will go ahead with its own commitments, “our resolve to come up with something that is workable, pragmatic, and something that will make us see ourselves in a light that puts us in a position to help ourselves despite the grand bargain on Africa being shut out of the whole system,” Olabisi emphasised.

“Africa however is resolved to begin addressing its own problems using African solutions to African problems.“

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‘We Cannot Keep Jumping from Crisis to Crisis’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/we-cannot-keep-jumping-from-crisis-to-crisis/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=we-cannot-keep-jumping-from-crisis-to-crisis http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/we-cannot-keep-jumping-from-crisis-to-crisis/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 15:04:51 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145208 Josefina Stubbs, IFAD's Chief Development Strategist, visits an IFAD-funded program in Guatemala’s Verapaces region, Arminda Cruz. The micro-irrigation project is improving the livelihoods and food security of thousands of smallholder farmers, especially women, in the country. Credit: IFAD

Josefina Stubbs, IFAD's Chief Development Strategist, visits an IFAD-funded program in Guatemala’s Verapaces region, Arminda Cruz. The micro-irrigation project is improving the livelihoods and food security of thousands of smallholder farmers, especially women, in the country. Credit: IFAD

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 20 2016 (IPS)

“We cannot keep jumping from crisis to crisis. We have to invest in long-term development that helps people cope with shocks so that they can continue to grow enough food for their communities and not require emergency aid.”

With this clear warning, Josefina Stubbs, Chief Strategist of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), has just launched a strong message for leaders who will gather at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey next week.

Recalling that more than 60 million people across the world are reeling from the drought caused by the weather phenomenon known as El Niño, Stubbs warns, “The demand for emergency assistance cannot keep up with the supply.”

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Climate change is causing more extreme weather events and natural disasters resulting in an average displacement of 22.5 million people a year – equivalent to 62,000 people every day, says IFAD.

This movement of people can lead to local and regional instability. And when people are pushed away from rural areas and farming, it can threaten the food security of entire countries, it adds.

“Poor people in developing countries are disproportionately affected by disasters because they do not have the resources to cope with the impacts and bounce back,” says IFAD’s Associate Vice-President and Chief Strategist.

People Are Not waiting for Hand-Outs

“These people are not waiting for hand-outs. They are looking for opportunities to keep earning incomes even in the face of disasters. Our focus should be on creating these opportunities.”

The current El Niño drought has had a catastrophic effect on crops around the world causing almost 32 million people in southern Africa alone to go hungry.

“This number is expected to rise to 49 million by the end of the year. The UN estimates that at least 3.6 billion dollars is required to meet emergency needs resulting from this drought. Less than half of this has been provided.”

Ethiopia is the worst hit in Africa, with 75 per cent of its harvests lost and emergency food assistance required for at least ten million people. IFAD has been working with small-scale farmers in the country for more than a decade to make them more resilient to the impacts of drought.

With investments in irrigation, water-harvesting techniques and early warning systems, and training in sustainable water usage, none of these communities have required any food aid during the current drought, says this UN agency, which since 1978 has provided about 17.7 billion dollars in grants and low-interest loans to projects that have reached some 459 million people.

“At IFAD we have seen that building resilience to disasters does work and saves communities from suffering,” says Stubbs. “But there has to be a global commitment to invest in long-term development.”

Changing Climate, Scarcity of Natural Resources

“The changing climate and the increasing scarcity of natural resources are also impacting the already precarious situation of the estimated 60 million people who have been forcibly displaced by conflict.”

Long-term investments are urgently needed to stimulate the economies of the rural areas of host countries where the majority of refugees live.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialised United Nations agency based in Rome – the UN’s food and agriculture hub. It invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience.

The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit takes place on 23 and 24 May and originates from a growing concern about the protracted nature of recent humanitarian crises and the limited capacity of the global community to respond to them.

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Credit: International Fund for Agricultural Development – IFAD

Some 6,000 world leaders and humanitarian and development agencies will gather in Istanbul to make commitments to help countries better prepare for and respond to crises.

“Human suffering from the impacts of armed conflicts and disasters has reached staggering levels,” the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, portrayed the current humanitarian drama, explaining why the UN has decided to hold the WHS.

For his part, in an interview to IPS, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), Stephen O’Brien, said “Every humanitarian crisis is inherently unique and context-specific.”

“However, taken together, there are 125 million people in need of aid in the world today as a result of conflicts and natural disasters and over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced. These are the highest numbers we have on record since WWII,” O’Brien told IPS.

It is not about one humanitarian crisis, but multiple crises happening at the same time, from the crisis in Syria and the region to the impact of El Niño, which currently affects 60 million people in the world, O’Brien said.

Herve Verhoosel, WHS spokesperson, wrote in an editorial for IPS “We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.”

More than 20 billion dollars is needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts. Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030,” Verhoosel stressed.

Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before, he wrote, and added, “The situation has hit home. We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters.”

“We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards. We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.”

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China’s Silk Geopoliticshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/chinas-silk-geopolitics/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chinas-silk-geopolitics http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/chinas-silk-geopolitics/#comments Fri, 20 May 2016 12:18:25 +0000 Johan Galtung http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145203 The author is professor of peace studies, dr hc mult, is founder of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and rector of the TRANSCEND Peace University-TPU. He has published 164 books on peace and related issues, of which 41 have been translated into 35 languages, for a total of 135 book translations, including ‘50 Years-100 Peace and Conflict Perspectives,’ published by the TRANSCEND University Press-TUP.]]> The modern Silk Road linking East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. www.bulwarkreview.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

The modern Silk Road linking East-West, Yiwu/China to Madrid/Spain. Although the transit time for goods or people to transit the route is 21 days, this is 30 days faster than a ship and is 1/10 the cost of shipping freight. www.bulwarkreview.com | Source: TRANSCEND Media Service.

By Johan Galtung
ALICANTE, Spain, May 20 2016 (IPS)

China is changing world geography, or at least trying to do so.

Not in the sense of land and water like the Netherlands, but in the sense of weaving new infrastructures on land, on water, in the air, and on the web.

It is not surprising that a country with some Marxist orientation would focus politics on infrastructure–but as means of transportation-communication, not as means of production.

Nor is it surprising that a country with a Daoist worldview focuses politics on totalities, on holons and dialectics, forces and counter-forces, trying to tilt balances in China’s favor. How this will work depends on the background, and its implications.

Two recent books, Valerie Hansen, Silk Road: A New History (Oxford University Press, 2012) and Peter Frankopan, The Silk Roads: A New History of the World (Knopf, 2015) see them as arteries connecting the world, globalization, before that term became a la mode. Not that loads of goods moved all the way in both directions, parts of the way, maybe further. Europe had much less to offer in return; however:

“Viking traders from–Norway–coarse, suspicious men, by Arab account–were moving down the great rivers of Russia–trading honey, amber and slaves–as early as the ninth century–returning home to be buried with the silks of Byzantium and China beside them”. (Frankopan)

Johan Galtung

Johan Galtung

The Silk Roads–so named by the German geographer von Richthofen in 1877–connected China and Europe (Istanbul) over land from -1200; more precisely from Xi’an to Samarkand by a northern and southern road (Hansen for maps). And the Silk Lanes connected East China and East Africa (Somalia) from +500 till +1500 (when Portuguese-Spanish and English naval expansion started a Western takeover by colonization).

For long periods run by Buddhists in the East and Muslims in the West; Islam using them to expand, from Casablanca to the Philippines. Frankopan sees the high points in the Han dynasty (-207-220, capital Xi’an for West Han), the Tang dynasty (618-902, capital mainly Xi’an) and under Mongolian, Yuan rule–for goods, ideas, faiths, inventions.

Xi’an, 3,000 years old, served as a starting point, both for Silk Roads and for the Silk Lanes, traveling the Yangzi River, or over land, to the East China Sea coast. Till the military uprising against the Tang emperor in 755 (Hansen, Ch. 5, “The Cosmopolitan Terminus on the Silk Road”); but Xi’an is destined always to play major roles.

China is now reviving the past, adding Silk Railroads from East China to Madrid via Kazakhstan-Russia-Belarus-Poland-Germany-France, to Thailand, from East to West Africa–from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic–from North to South Africa. Silk Flights. And Silk Web.

A silky cocoon is being woven, by worms in China. Too much?

Two features stand out in this approach to geopolitics.

First, weaving together Eurasiafrica, three “continents” by old-fashioned geography. Second, leaving out the other two “continents”, separated by oceans from Eurasiafrica: the Americas, Australia-NZ.

However, South-South-South trade opens lanes to Latin America-Caribbean from West Africa, and Australia-New Zealand are much closer to China than to their colonial origins in England. That leaves us with Anglo-America, USA-Canada, isolated by two oceans that served as their protection, really left out of silky road and lane nets.

USA does not like that, hence a “pivot” to Asia, based on alliances and TPP. With some major differences: China builds on a millennia old tradition, the USA on one and half century since Perry “opened up” East Asia. China’s domination in “their” Himalayas-Gobi-Tundra-Sea “pocket” is millennia old; U.S. massive killing in Korea and Vietnam is recent; fresh in people’s memory.

However, the key difference is between U.S. “everybody but China” policy and China’s silk nets open to everybody. Roads, railroads, lanes, flights are two-way. Chinese goods move on China-built infrastructure available to others as well. Prognosis: states in East Asia will play on both, thereby favoring China more than USA.

Is this possible, with the USA trying to replace Russia in India; playing on China-India conflicts that they, since Zhou Enlai-Nehru, have been good at solving?

Nepal, with long borders to both, tilting toward China, given Indian domination and boycott?

Mongolia, friendly to both Russia and China, making little space for USA?

And 10 ASEAN states in the Southeast that, given the composition have to be friends with all?

There is much (Southern) China in ASEAN; Singapore, as minorities, and culturally–in something for good reasons once called “Indo-China”. We get ASEAN+, and +, playing on all horses.

There is a message in this to the Big Powers, to China and USA, India and Russia: do not press, do not demand exclusive allegiance; offer positive services. China’s silk diplomacy is nonviolent; its defense of what China sees as old patterns to be revived is not. No longer massive People’s Liberation Army defensive defense; with “modern”, provocative arms.

And there is a message to the smaller powers: choose both, even all four; leaning toward one will mobilize the worst in the other(s).

How does this tally with silk diplomacy? Quite well, except for South China Sea. China did not colonize along Silk roads and lanes, nor chinize. Japan japanized rather than colonized and–as opposed to China–fought Western colonialism. Silk nets open for huge tourism and trade both ways, weaving continents together when demand meets supply; that may take some time.

Nevertheless, the symmetry built into Silk diplomacy makes negotiated conflict solutions, and even a (North) East Asian Community, possible. U.S. asymmetry rules out both.

In the South China Sea U.S. demands “freedom of navigation” for U.S. aircraft carriers right off China’s coast, ASEAN has navy exercises, and China militarizes. China has to respect the UN Law of the Sea, demand revision of freedom for military navigation, and make clear that the lanes are open for civilian–U.S., EU, ASEAN, whatever–trade.

All will gain from silk diplomacy; and lose from militarization.

Johan Galtung’s article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 16 May 2016: TMS: China’s Silk Geopolitics

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Now 1 in 2 World’s Refugees Live in Urban Areashttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/now-1-in-2-worlds-refugees-live-in-urban-area/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=now-1-in-2-worlds-refugees-live-in-urban-area http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/now-1-in-2-worlds-refugees-live-in-urban-area/#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 12:49:22 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145187 A view of an IDP camp in Al-Jamea, Baghdad, where 97 families from Anbar Governorate have found temporary shelter. Photo: ©UNICEF Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

A view of an IDP camp in Al-Jamea, Baghdad, where 97 families from Anbar Governorate have found temporary shelter. Photo: ©UNICEF Iraq/2015/Khuzaie

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 19 2016 (IPS)

It is true that millions of refugees, especially in Africa and the Middle East, reside in camps. But in all they represent only one-quarter of the total number of refugees.

Meanwhile, more than 1 in 2 of all the world’s refugees live in slums or in informal settlements and on the fringes of cities, in overcrowded neighbourhoods and in areas prone to flooding, sanitation hazards and diseases.

These are some of the facts that United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson has just revealed basing on data from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“More than half of the world’s refugees live in urban areas, and often in fragile cities with high levels of inequality,” Eliasson warned at a high-level event on ‘Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants: Critical Challenges for Sustainable Urbanization’ held on May 18 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. CREDIT: UN

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. CREDIT: UN

“Every day, millions of refugee children are unable to attend school. Every day, the dignity and well-being of millions of people is compromised due to lack of basic services and job opportunities.”

The drama of millions of refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, and migrants will be top on the agenda of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24 in Istanbul, Turkey.

According to Eliasson, among the issues that must be addressed include the causes of forced displacement; the safety of migrants and refugees as they cross international borders; and support for host countries to integrate newcomers into their communities.

Who Assists Urban Refugees?

The point is that while most of the humanitarian assistance goes to refugees living in camps, the ‘urban refugees’ are largely overlooked, he said.

Eliasson highlighted that in 2009, UNHCR changed its policy and practice towards refugees in cities and towns, and is now working closely with national authorities, municipalities and local communities and authorities to protect urban refugees, respecting their refugee status.

In the same vein, he said that the report of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, prepared for a summit on refugees and migrants being convened by the General Assembly on 19 September, draws attention to the important role of local authorities, which are at the forefront in providing refugees access to housing, education, health care and employment.

“We should bear in mind that refugees and [internally displaced persons] IDPs often are just a small proportion of those who are swelling the ranks of cities, while the speed of urbanization is getting faster,” the Deputy Secretary-General said.

He noted that it is also important to remember that, even if cities struggle to accommodate large flows of migrants, they also largely benefit from their presence and work, since in many countries in the world, immigrants often take up low-paying jobs and provide services in areas like domestic work, agricultural labour and home care.

No Signs The Flow of Refugees Will Diminish Any Time Soon

“As migrants and refugees continue to arrive – and there are no signs that these flows will diminish any time soon – we must resolve to uphold and implement the principle of every human being’s equal value,” Eliasson stressed. “This is a fundamental human right, never to be compromised.”

The international community, for its part, must be concerned about political rhetoric that stigmatises refugees and migrants, and do “everything possible to counter this false and negative narrative,” the Deputy Secretary-General said.

“We must dispel the myths about migrants and migration which tend to poison the public discourse,” he added.

Makeshift shelters and new tents at the new arrivals section of IFO camp, Kenya. file photo.  CREDIT: UNHCR/E.Hockstein

Makeshift shelters and new tents at the new arrivals section of IFO camp, Kenya. file photo. CREDIT: UNHCR/E.Hockstein

A Half-Billion-Dollar Shortfall in Funds

On the same day, May 18, UNHCR) warned that half a billion dollar shortfall in funds for sheltering refugees is severely undermining efforts to tackle the biggest global displacement crisis since World War II, as it launched a new campaign that calls on the private sector to contribute funds for shelter solutions for two million refugees.

“Shelter is the foundation stone for refugees to survive and recover, and should be considered a non-negotiable human right,” stressed Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“As we tackle worldwide displacement on a level not seen since World War II, no refugee should be left outside,” he added.

The Nobody Left Outside campaign is aimed at individuals, companies, foundations and philanthropists worldwide.

At the launch of the campaign, UNHCR underscored that forced displacement, most of it arising from war and conflict, has risen sharply in the past decade, largely as a result of the Syria crisis, but also due to a proliferation of new displacement situations and unresolved old ones.

Worldwide, some 60 million people are forcibly displaced today, the agency said. Of that figure, almost 20 million people are refugees who have been forced to flee across international borders, while the rest are people displaced within their own countries.

“A shelter – be it a tent, a makeshift structure or a house – is the basic building block for refugees to survive and recover from the physical and mental effects of violence and persecution,” UNHCR emphasised.

“Yet around the world, millions are struggling to get by in inadequate and often dangerous dwellings, barely able to pay the rent, and putting their lives, dignity and futures at risk.”

The campaign aims to raise funds from the private sector to build or improve shelter for 2 million refugees by 2018, amounting to almost one in eight of the 15.1 million under UNHCR’s remit in mid-2015. The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) cares for the remaining Palestinian refugees.

Millions of Homeless

“Without a safe place to eat, sleep, study, store belongings and have privacy, the consequences to their health and welfare can be profound.”

The UN refugee agency emphasised that as it continues to face high levels of shelter needs and with limited funding available, operations often face the difficult decision to prioritise emergency shelter for the maximum number of people of concern, over an investment in more durable and sustainable solutions.

Outside of camps, refugees rely on UNHCR support to find housing and pay rent in towns and cities across dozens of countries bordering conflict zones.

These operations are expected to cost 724 million dollars in 2016. Yet only 158 million is currently available, a shortfall that threatens to leave millions of men, women and children without adequate shelter and struggling to rebuild their lives.

UNHCR noted that the private sector is one of its increasingly important donor sources, contributing more than 8 per cent of its overall funding in 2015.

According to UNHCR, the regions most in need of assistance are sub-Saharan Africa (255 million dollars needed but only 48 million dollars available) and the Middle East and North Africa (373 million dollars needed, 91 million available).

Asia requires 59 million dollars, with only 8 million available, while Europe requires more help (36 million dollars needed, 10 million available) as the influx of refugees continues.

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A Latin American Humanitarian Emergency Invisible to the Worldhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/a-latin-american-humanitarian-emergency-invisible-to-the-world/#comments Wed, 18 May 2016 23:42:43 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145171 In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

In Mexico there is a trail of ghost towns, where local residents have fled en masse due to the violence of the drug cartels. On empty streets in Santa Ana del Águila, in the municipality of Ajuchitlán del Progreso, Guerrero state, bullet marks can be seen on the walls. Credit: Daniela Pastrana /IPS

By Daniela Pastrana
MEXICO CITY, May 18 2016 (IPS)

“This is a humanitarian crisis,” said Bertha Zúñiga Cáceres, referring to the generalised violence in Mexico and in Honduras and other countries of Central America, which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and is a product of transnational crime, but is invisible to the international community.

Zúñiga Cáceres, the daughter of indigenous environmental activist Berta Cáceres, who was murdered on Mar. 2, is in Mexico after visiting several European cities to ask for help clarifying her mother’s murder and to call for a cancellation of the financing for the Agua Zarca hydroelectric project, to which the Lenca indigenous people are opposed.

In an interview with IPS she admitted that despite the death threats and the murders of other activists, she didn’t believe they would dare kill her mother, who was so well-known at an international level.“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency).” -- Rubén Figueroa

She herself and her siblings had fled to Mexico due to the threats against members of the Civic Council of Popular and Indigenous Organisations of Honduras (COPINH), which was founded by Cáceres 23 years ago. She had been studying in Mexico for a month when her mother was killed.

Now she wants to tell the world about communities that are displaced and forced off their land because of a “neoliberal, racist and patriarchal” system.

The victims, she said, are not only the Lenca Indians. Also affected are the Garifunas, mixed-race descendants of native people and African slaves, who have been displaced by the construction of tourist resorts in their coastal territory.

To that is added abuse by the police and other agents of the state, since the 2009 coup d’etat that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya, mixed with criminal violence that has forced thousands of people to seek refuge outside of Honduras.

Rubén Figueroa, coordinator of the Mesoamerican Migrant Movement, which has organised 11 caravans of Central American mothers searching for their children who have gone missing in Mexico, concurs with Zúñiga Cáceres.

“The situation in the entire Northern Triangle region of Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras) is a humanitarian crisis,” the migrants’ rights activist told IPS.

“You don’t hear bombs here (like in the Middle East, for example), but blood is shed, there are killings, many killings. It’s a situation that has to be urgently addressed by the United Nations agencies, especially the UNHCR (the refugee agency),” he said.

Figures from an invisible crisis

According to the 2016 Global Report on Internal Displacement, published this month by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), the number of internally displaced people forced from their homes by armed conflict and violence rose to a record 40.8 million in 2015.

Of that total, at least 7.3 million were in Latin America, most of them in Colombia, because of its decades-long armed conflict.

But the report dedicates a special analysis to the growing new phenomenon of displacement caused by criminal violence, in Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico now stand out on the global map of internal displacement because of the victims of criminal violence, a phenomenon that is invisible and ignored by international humanitarian assistance agencies. Credit: IDMC 2016 report

These four countries accounted for a total of one million internally displaced persons – nearly double the number reported in the 2014 edition of the report. They are mainly victims of criminal violence, principally associated with drug trafficking and gangs.

The IDMC stresses that these are incomplete figures, to which must be added the number of people who are forced to leave the country by criminal violence.

It describes those displaced by criminal violence as “unseen and in displacement limbo”.

Human rights activists in Mexico blame this generalised violence on the war between organised crime groups, as well as on violence by the states against opponents to mining and energy projects.

“What we are experiencing is not a war on drug trafficking, but a war by the state against the general population,” María Herrera, an activist with the group of relatives searching for family members forcibly disappeared in Mexico, who number in the thousands, told IPS.

Also part of this new kind of humanitarian emergency, arising from transnational crime, are civilian victims of the growing militarisation in countries of Central America and Mexico, according to those interviewed by IPS, who complain that the issue is not on the agenda for the World Humanitarian Summit to be held May 23-24 in Istanbul.

Figueroa said a series of regional policies, such as Mexico’s Southern Border Plan and the Alliance for Progress in Central America, were partly to blame for the crisis.

“Approximately five years ago we began to notice that displacement is caused by more direct violence. We have seen young people who come to the shelters with bullets in their bodies. People who have returned to their countries and have been killed,” the activist said.

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

The Beast, the train that undocumented migrants from Central America ride on its way across Mexico, heading for the United States, stopped in Hidalgo in the centre of the country, in a photo from the IDMC 2016 report. Migrants hitching a ride on the train face the risk of being robbed, assaulted, raped and even killed by gangs and organised crime. Credit: Keith Dannemiller/OM

“Migration has always existed, but now people are being displaced by drug trafficking and gang warfare, and there is also the question of persecution and harassment of activists and human rights defenders in Honduras. It’s become structural violence,” he said.

Mexico between a rock and a hard place

The Central American diaspora triggered by violence, along with the deportation of thousands of migrants by the United States, has turned Mexico into a sort of sandwich. And this is causing a growing phenomenon, which has not been addressed either: Central Americans who are choosing to stay in Mexico rather than head north to the United States.

More than two million people were deported during U.S. President Barack Obama’s first term – 2009-2012 – alone.

The governmental Mexican Commission for Aid to Refugees (COMAR) reports that 2,000 Central Americans requested refugee status in 2014, and only one-fifth were granted it.

Mexico, meanwhile, has its own humanitarian emergency. The Mexican Commission of Defence and Promotion of Human Rights (CMDPDH) documented 281,400 cases of forced displacement caused by generalised violence between 2011 and February 2015.

One-third of these displaced persons fled their communities in 141 mass displacements in 14 states.

Mass displacement is defined as an event simultaneously affecting more than 50 people or 10 families. Between January 2014 and February 2015, the CMDPDH registered 23 mass displacements.

One-fifth of these happened in Guerrero, a state that doubled its record and became the leader in forced displacement due to violence in Mexico in the last year.

“People who have been internally displaced do not have mechanisms or institutions for their protection or assistance,” says the report Forced Displacement in Mexico, released by the CMDPDH, a government agency, in 2015.

But there are other cases, like that of Myrna Lazcano, a Mexican woman who, after marrying and having two daughters in the United States, decided to return to Mexico in 2008.

However, the violence against women in her home state of Puebla and in Veracruz, where she found work, forced her to send her daughters back, first, and then return herself to the United States, where she has requested asylum.

Like her, another 9,200 Mexicans applied for asylum in the United States in 2012 – three times the number of requests filed there by Mexicans in 2008.

“This is an emergency that no one wants to address,” said Figueroa. “It is influenced by the position, especially on the part of the United States, with regard to the situation in Central America, because they would be forced to offer refuge if they recognised it.”

But in his view, “another element is the stance taken by Mexico and the countries of origin (of the migrants), because they would be forced to admit that they are failing, as is the international community.”

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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‘Human Suffering Has Reached Staggering Levels’http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/human-suffering-has-reached-staggering-levels/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=human-suffering-has-reached-staggering-levels http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/human-suffering-has-reached-staggering-levels/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 11:05:10 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145153 Stephen O’Brien during a visit to Yemen, Faj Attan neighbourhood of Sana'a. Credit: OCHA /Philippe Kropf

Stephen O’Brien during a visit to Yemen, Faj Attan neighbourhood of Sana'a. Credit: OCHA /Philippe Kropf

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 17 2016 (IPS)

“Human suffering from the impacts of armed conflicts and disasters has reached staggering levels.”

With these one dozen or few words, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, briefly but sharply portrayed the current humanitarian drama, explaining why the UN has decided to hold the first ever World Humanitarian Summit on May 23-24 this year in Istanbul, Turkey.

Secretary General Ban documented his statement with specific figures: nearly 60 million people, half of them children, have been forced from their homes due to conflict and violence.

As if this was not enough, the UN chief talked about another man-made tragedy: “The human and economic cost of disasters caused by natural hazards is also escalating. In the last two decades, 218 million people each year were affected by disasters; at an annual cost to the global economy that now exceeds 300 billion dollars.”

Based on these and other facts, experts and UN high officials labelled the on-going, growing human drama, as the “worst humanitarian crisis since World War II”.

How to face this unprecedented human and humanitarian challenge will be the task of around 6,000 delegates expected to attend this World Humanitarian Summit.

Stephen O’Brian, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affair. Credit: UN Multimedia

Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affair. Credit: UN Multimedia

IPS asks the Tanzania-born, British politician and diplomat Stephen O’Brien, who since March this year is the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), taking over from Valerie Amos, also British.

“Every humanitarian crisis is inherently unique and context-specific,” O’Brien responded to IPS in an interview. “However, taken together, there are 125 million people in need of aid in the world today as a result of conflicts and natural disasters and over 60 million people have been forcibly displaced. These are the highest numbers we have on record since WWII.”

According to O’Brien, it is clear that the landscape of humanitarian action has changed significantly over the past years and “collectively we have not been able to adequately keep up with and respond to contemporary challenges.”

The UN Under Secretary General then explains to IPS that it is not about one humanitarian crisis, but multiple crises happening at the same time, from the crisis in Syria and the region to the impact of El Niño, which currently affects 60 million people in the world.

And that the humanitarian needs have grown exponentially while the resources have not been able to follow suit which has created an ever-widening gap.

O’Brien who does not want to take questions prior to the World Humanitarian Summit on the expected specific outcomes of the Summit.

But he says it is a unique opportunity to sustain the momentum for change generated over three years of global consultations with key stakeholders and send a message of solidarity and support to the millions in need of life-saving and life-sustaining assistance.

“We expect key commitments from world leaders to meaningfully act to prevent, prepare for and mitigate the effects of conflict, natural disasters, displacement and other causes of need and move forward on issues such as timely and adequate funding of humanitarian work,” he says.

The interview then comes to another on-going and expected to rapidly grow huge humanitarian crisis—that of the known “climate refugees.”

For the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the consequences of climate change are “enormous”. Scarce natural resources such as drinking water are likely to become even more limited, it says.

And adds that many crops and some livestock are unlikely to survive in certain locations if conditions become too hot and dry, or too cold and wet. Food security, already a significant concern, will become even more challenging.

Recent reports cited by UNHCR indicate that 22 million people were displaced in 2013 by disasters brought on by natural hazard events. And as in previous years, the worst affected region is Asia, where 19 million people, or 87.1 per cent of the global total, were displaced during the year.

That was the situation as far back as three years ago. The numbers have certainly dramatically increased.

People will have to try and adapt to this situation, but for many this will mean a conscious move to another place to survive. Such moves, or the adverse effects that climate change may have on natural resources, may spark conflict with other communities, as an increasing number of people compete for a decreasing amount of resources, says UNHCR.

IPS asks O’Brien about this phenomena and the expected number of climate refugees in the near future.

“In the Secretary-General’s Report One Humanity: Shared Responsibility, he highlights the increased disaster risk fuelled by climate change. As previous crises have shown, each crisis is different, unpredictable and context-specific and may trigger displacement and increased migration. OCHA is however not in a position to speculate or provide estimates in any hypothetical scenario,” he says.

According to O’Brien what is clear is that “we need to break through existing silos to collaboratively work together, anticipate rather than wait for crises to hit, transcend the humanitarian-development divide by working towards collective outcomes, invest more on risk and leverage on available technology and best practices.”

Then IPS asks the UN Under Secretary General if he expects from the Istanbul Summit an effective, immediate implementation of the decisions/recommendations that will be taken there. In other words, if he thinks there is now enough, solid political will to face the humanitarian crisis?

O’Brien states: “A core aim of the summit is the reinvigoration of political will and commitment to take forward the Agenda for Humanity.” And adds “The Summit is a launch pad at the highest level: but what is even more important will be a commitment to follow up and make these actions a reality.”

He also says that UN member States and other stakeholders making commitments during the Summit will be asked to update on progress against their implementation. “Follow-up at the inter-governmental level will begin with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Humanitarian Affairs Segment.

O’Brien adds that the UN Secretary-General’s report to the General Assembly will address how each of the core responsibilities will be carried forward and will define the vehicles for assessing progress.

Back to the Istanbul Summit and its expected decisions/recommendations, IPS asks O’Brien if he thinks they may impact the current humanitarian funding in the sense of putting all current, available funds in just one basket, thus giving the same sum total, which is considered short, or new, additional funding?

The UN Under Secretary General responds: ”Existing humanitarian funding generally takes the form of short-term grants even when responses continue for years on end. This can result to fragmentation between all actors and specifically, it can incentivise humanitarian and development actors to operate in isolation.”

Asked to further elaborate, O’Brien states “It is clear that incoherent and inflexible financial structures, which are not equitable nor based on risk analysis are detrimental towards achieving long-term results.

“At the first instance, investment in humanity must of course be increased, says O’Brien.

“However, the aim is also for all actors to commit to financing collective outcomes rather than individual projects and to do so in a manner that is flexible, nimble and predictable over multiple years so that actors can plan and work towards achieving collective outcomes in a sustainable manner and adapt to changing risk levels and needs in a particular context.”

The pooled fund mechanism – both at global level through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and at country level where various funds exist – is one tried and tested mechanism for flexible and readily available funding, concludes O’Brien.

The CERF was the first concrete outcome of the UN Secretary-General’s reform process and the Millennium Summit. It was launched on 9 March 2006 and represents an important international multilateral funding instrument.

“It saves lives by providing rapid initial funding for life-saving assistance at the onset of humanitarian crises, and critical support for poorly funded, essential humanitarian response operations. Each year, CERF allocates approximately US$400 million.”

CERF has three objectives: to promote early and coordinated action and response to save lives; to enhance response to time-crucial requirements based on demonstrable needs, and to strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in under-funded crises.

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Middle East – The Mother of All Humanitarian Criseshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/middle-east-the-mother-of-all-humanitarian-crises/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=middle-east-the-mother-of-all-humanitarian-crises http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/middle-east-the-mother-of-all-humanitarian-crises/#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 13:15:00 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145129 In March 2016, a mother walks through misty weather with her two sons along train tracks in Idomeni, Greece. Credit: ©UNICEF/UN012794/Georgie

In March 2016, a mother walks through misty weather with her two sons along train tracks in Idomeni, Greece. Credit: ©UNICEF/UN012794/Georgie

By Baher Kamal
ROME, May 16 2016 (IPS)

When, in March 2015, delegates from the Middle East met in Amman for their regional consultations round in preparation for the May 23-24 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, most likely what they had in mind is the fact that their region was –and still is– the dramatic set of “the mother of all humanitarian crises.”

Nevertheless, as a sort of reminder, the United Nations told them again: “millions of people, from Libya to Palestine, from Yemen to Syria and Iraq, have had their lives completely overturned by violence.”

They were also reminded that the huge numbers of people affected by conflict, violence and displacement did little to convey the real trauma experienced.

The Facts

The United Nations reported “more people are displaced by conflict than at any time since 1945.” Figures are self-explanatory. There are currently an estimated total of 60 million forcibly displaced people –either at home or abroad— across the globe.

Of these:

— 5 million Palestinian refugees are still dispersed mostly in neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, according to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA);

— 1,5 million people are practically besieged in the Palestinian Gaza Strip, in a permanent humanitarian crisis;

— 4 million Syrian civilians so far had to flee war as refugees seeking safety in the region and in Europe, as an immediate consequence of the Syrian five-year long conflict, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates;

— 1 million Syrians have been forcibly displaced from their homes in their own country, according to the United Nations;

— 1 million Libyans are victims of uncontrolled armed fights in their own, unstable state. “There is alarming information coming from Libya about grave acts that could amount to war crimes,” UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon warned on 6 March 2016;

— 5 million Iraqis have been sentenced to the condition of being either refugees abroad or ‘refugees’ at home. Already in July 2015, the top UN humanitarian official in Iraq declared as “devastating” the closure of life-saving services in Iraq for people in need, citing the most recent shut-downs of basic health care will directly impact more than one million people, including some 500,000 children who now will not be immunised, spreading risk of a measles outbreak and resumption of polio;

— 1 million Syrian refugees live in Lebanon. The UN reported six months ago that some 70 per cent of these refugees were living below the extreme poverty line in Lebanon;

— 2 million civilian Yemenis fled to even another war long-hit country–Somalia as result of the on-going armed conflict. More than 15.2 million Yemenis lack access to health care services, well over half the war-torn country’s total population, yet there is a 55 per cent gap in requested international funding to address the crisis, according to the World Health Organisation.

Born into conflict: Every two seconds, a child takes his or her first breath in a conflict zone. Credit: © UNICEF/UN04038/Gilbertson VII

Born into conflict: Every two seconds, a child takes his or her first breath in a conflict zone. Credit: © UNICEF/UN04038/Gilbertson VII

In other words—the Middle East is both the origin of and/or home to 1 in 3 refugees and displaced persons in the whole world.

These major figures refer to the known as ‘traditional’ Middle East region, comprising 22 Arab countries and Israel.

The data go much further when it comes to the so-called “Greater Middle East”, which also include armed conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The extended region would be in this case origin and home to additional 10 million refugees and displaced persons, this making nearly half of their total numbers all over the planet.

The Ira of Nature

But not only wars and conflicts hit the Middle East–natural disasters do more damage, last longer, and in many places recur before people have even had a chance to recover, according to the United Nations.

So, while all the above is a consequence of armed conflicts, there are other dramatic facts the make of the Middle East ‘the mother of all humanitarian crises’.

Just some examples:

— The Middle East risks to become an ‘uninhabitable’ region due to the impact of climate change

— 2 in 3 Arab countries already suffer from acute water shortage, while the remaining third is considered water unsafe nations;

— The United Nations predicts 40 per cent water shortfall by 2030. The Middle East is expected to be one of the most impacted.

In short, a whole region of nearly 400 million people is already victim of man-made disasters, be these wars and violence or simply the expected response of nature.

“We see it, we live it,…”

The Istanbul World Humanitarian Summit will focus on five key areas: to prevent and end conflict; to respect the rules of war; to leave no one behind; to work differently to end need, and to invest in humanity.

When announcing the Summit, top UN officials, headed by the secretary general Ban Ki-moon, have repeatedly warned that the world is living the worst ever-humanitarian crisis since World War II.

Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit, recently wrote in IPS “We have arrived at the point of no return. At this very moment the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War Two.”

“We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades,” Verhoosel said.

This makes a total of 400 million victims, the equivalent to some 80 per cent of the entire European population.

Verhoosel gave specific figures: more than 20 billion dollars are needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts.

“Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030. Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before.”

The situation has hit home, Verhoosel said. “We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters. We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards.”

“We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.”

(End)

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OPINION: After the Primarieshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/after-the-primaries/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=after-the-primaries http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/after-the-primaries/#comments Fri, 13 May 2016 18:47:57 +0000 Joaquin Roy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145112

In this column Joaquín Roy (roy@miami.edu), Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and director of the European Union Centre at the University of Miami, writes about this year’s unusual race for president of the United States.

By Joaquín Roy
MIAMI, May 13 2016 (IPS)

It was no news to observers, analysts and potential voters that Hillary Clinton would seek the Democratic nomination again to run for president of the United States in November 2016. This was not a surprise. But what only a bold analyst could have speculated is that Bill Clinton’s wife would end up facing off against such unlikely rivals.

On one hand, she would face novel competition in her party from another, very different, senator. Hillary would have to present herself as the candidate who truly represented the ideals of the Democratic Party, in contrast to Bernie Sanders, who declared himself a “socialist”. Although no one expects him to defeat her in the primaries, Sanders has put up an unexpectedly strong showing.

On the other hand, even more surprising and unusual was that Hillary would go up against a one-of-a-kind Republican candidate, who has triggered much consternation and extreme comments. If Donald Trump’s nomination is confirmed in Cleveland, it will go down in U.S. history as one of the strangest political races. Voters, observers and analysts are still wondering about the reasons underlying his spectacular ascent – which Clinton should worry about, if she means to defeat him.

The Sanders phenomenon can be explained to some extent using traditional analytical methods. The ideological inclinations of the senator from Vermont are not really that new. So far it has merely been a curious case of a political leader not afraid to use terminology outside of the grasp of most citizens and voters. It is not easy to translate what is known in Europe as “social democracy” into U.S. English. “Social Democrat” or “Democratic Socialist” are terms that don’t fit into the everyday vocabulary of people in the U.S. So to simplify, he opted for “Socialist”, which in the U.S. has more radical connotations, and which popular culture has turned into a synonym for “Communist”. This is the sense in which Sanders’ positions differ from Hillary’s.

His ideas have enjoyed a warm reception among young university graduates with less employable degrees, students struggling with the high cost of tuition, women of a certain cultural level, the unemployed, victims of the recession, people who have fallen out of the already shrunken middle class, and those disenchanted with the traditional propaganda of the political parties.

The case of Trump, meanwhile, has roots that go deep, far from the superficiality indicated by the things he says. The billionaire without experience in formal politics sends out a basic message, promising to make the United States “great” again. He plans a series of confrontations abroad, and not only on the economic front. But at the same time, his foreign policy stance is reminiscent of the most extreme form of isolationism that reigned in this country just before the times of crisis and armed conflict that the United States faced in the two world wars.

Trump alludes to a mythical country that actually only exists in the memory of people in the U.S. who are nostalgic about something they themselves never experienced and which is only sustained by high-flying speeches. It is an idyllic, basically Anglo-Protestant America which reluctantly accepted the necessary waves of immigration from the rest of the world. He uses the rhetoric needed to build a national identity in the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th.

Trump’s simple message focuses on calamities from outside: Companies abroad undermine U.S. industry by producing cheap merchandise that then floods the U.S. market, while undesirable undocumented immigrants steal local jobs. The remedy: high import duties and walls along the border.

As indicated in Sanders’ campaign speeches, the real enemy shared by the voters of Clinton and Trump is the rampant poverty and inequality plaguing what is still the most powerful country on earth. The citizens are losing confidence in the country and they feel let down by the lack of answers from the Washington establishment.

Hillary will have to clearly differentiate her message in the election campaign from these two visions of the United States. Sanders’ is the most grounded in reality; Trump’s is a fantasy. But both are real from an electoral standpoint.

Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Why Set Up a Shell Company in Panama?http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/05/why-set-up-a-shell-company-in-panama/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 13:28:21 +0000 Robert Burrowes http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=145091 The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?‘ ]]> Panama City financial district | 22 March 2016 | Author: Dronepicr | Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

Panama City financial district | 22 March 2016 | Author: Dronepicr | Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. | Wikimedia Commons

By Robert J. Burrowes
Daylesford, Australia, May 12 2016 (IPS)

A previously little-known law firm called Mossack Fonseca, based in Panama, has recently been exposed as one of the world’s major creators of ‘shell companies’, that is, corporate structures that can be used to hide the ownership of assets. This can be done legally but shell companies of this nature are widely used for illegal purposes such as tax evasion and money laundering of proceeds from criminal activity.

See ‘Giant Leak of Offshore Financial Records Exposes Global Array of Crime and Corruption: The Panama Papers‘.

Robert J. Burrowes

Robert J. Burrowes

Despite widespread awareness of offshore tax havens in many countries around the world, governments have never acted in a concerted manner to halt these illicit financial flows.

Why? In essence, because wealthy elites are heavily involved in using these mechanisms to isolate their wealth from the usual scrutiny to which the rest of us are subjected precisely so that they can evade tax. And governments do as these controlling elites instruct them.

There is an important reason why wealthy individuals want to maximise their wealth and evade contributing to any country that gave them the opportunity to make this wealth. You might think that you know this reason too: greed.

However, greed is a simplistic explanation that fails to explain, psychologically, why an individual might be greedy. So let me explain it now.

Individuals who engage in dysfunctional behaviours, ranging from accumulating excess wealth to inflicting violence, do so because they are very frightened that one or more of their vital needs will not be met. In virtually all cases, the needs that the individual fears will not be met are emotional ones, particularly including the needs for listening, understanding and love.

So, bizarre though it might seem, the dysfunctional behaviour is simply a (dysfunctional) attempt to have these needs met.

Unfortunately, the individual who compulsively accumulates wealth and/or hides money in a shell company is never aware of their deep emotional needs and of the functional ways of having these needs met which, admittedly, is not easy to do given that listening, understanding and love are not readily available from others who have themselves been denied these needs.

These are the countries, where country leaders, politicians, public officials, or their close family/associates are implicated in the Panama Papers. | Author: JCRules | 3 April 2016 | Brown: Countries of people implicated | Grey: Countries without people implicated (excludes businesspeople and celebrities) | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Wikimedia Commons.

These are the countries, where country leaders, politicians, public officials, or their close family/associates are implicated in the Panama Papers. | Author: JCRules | 3 April 2016 | Brown: Countries of people implicated | Grey: Countries without people implicated (excludes businesspeople and celebrities) | Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. | Wikimedia Commons.

Moreover, because the individual is unconscious of their emotional needs, the individual (particularly one who lives in a materialist culture) often projects that the need they want met is, in fact, a material need.

This projection occurs because children who are crying, angry or frightened are often scared into not expressing their feelings and offered material items – such as a toy or food – to distract them instead.

Because their emotional responses to events in their life are not heard and addressed, the distractive items become addictive drugs. This is why most violence and ‘business’ involving illicit financial flows is overtly directed at gaining control of material, rather than emotional, resources.

The material resource becomes a dysfunctional and quite inadequate replacement for satisfaction of the emotional need.

And, because the material resource cannot ‘work’ to meet an emotional need, the individual is most likely to keep using direct and/or structural violence to gain control of more material resources in an unconscious and utterly futile attempt to meet unidentified emotional needs.

This is the reason why individuals using the services of Mossack Fonseca seek material wealth and are willing to take advantage of tax evasion structures beyond legal scrutiny.

They are certainly wealthy in the material sense; unfortunately, they are emotional voids and each of them justly deserves the appellation ‘poor little rich boy’ (or girl). For a full explanation of how this emotional damage occurs, see ‘Why Violence?‘ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice‘.

Were they emotionally healthy, their conscience, their compassion, their empathy, their sympathy and, indeed, their love would compel them to not hide their wealth and, in fact, to disperse it in ways that would alleviate world poverty (which starves to death 100,000 people in Africa, Asia and Central/South America each day) and nurture restoration of the ancient, just and ecologically sustainable economy: local self-reliance. See ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth‘.

Of course, it is not just those who use tax havens to evade their social responsibilities or, more generally, those billionaires and millionaires of the corporate elite who have suffered this emotional destruction.

Those intellectuals in universities and think tanks who accept payment to ‘justify’ the worldwide system of violence and exploitation, those politicians, bureaucrats and ordinary businesspeople who accept payment to manage it, those judges and lawyers who accept payment to act as its legal (but immoral) guardians, those media editors and journalists who accept payment to obscure the truth, as well as the many middle and working class people who perform other roles to defend it (such as those in the military, police and prison systems, as well as many school teachers), are either emotionally void or just too frightened to resist violence and exploitation.

Of course, it takes courage to resist violence and exploitation. But underlying courage is a sense of responsibility towards one’s fellows and the future.

As an extension of the above point, governments that use military violence to gain control of material resources are simply governments composed of many individuals with this dysfunctionality, which is very common in industrialized countries that promote materialism.

Thus, cultures that unconsciously allow and encourage this dysfunctional projection (that an emotional need is met by material acquisition) are the most violent both domestically and internationally. This also explains why industrialized (material) countries use military violence to maintain political and economic structures that allow ongoing exploitation of non-industrialized countries in Africa, Asia and Central/South America.

In summary, the individual who has all of their emotional needs met requires only the intellectual and few material resources necessary to maintain this fulfilling life: anything beyond this is not only useless, it is a burden.

What can we do? We need to recognize that several generations of people who were extremely badly emotionally damaged created the world as it is and that their successors now maintain the political, economic and social structures that allow ruthless exploitation of the rest of us and the Earth itself. We also need to recognize that the Earth’s ecological limits are now being breached.

And if we are to successfully resist these emotionally damaged individuals, their structures of exploitation and their violence, then we need a comprehensive strategy for doing so. If you wish to participate in this strategy you are welcome to sign online ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World‘.

Whatever else they do, the Panama Papers give us insight into the extent of the psychological damage suffered by wealthy elites and those who serve them.

(End)

The author has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?

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