Inter Press ServiceSouth-South – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Thu, 13 Dec 2018 14:39:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.8 Youth in Latin America Learn About Paths to Clean Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/youth-latin-america-learn-paths-clean-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youth-latin-america-learn-paths-clean-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/youth-latin-america-learn-paths-clean-energy/#respond Mon, 29 Oct 2018 03:34:17 +0000 Mariela Jara http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158404 Young Peruvians plan to take advantage of the knowledge acquired in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast to bring water to segments of the population who suffer from shortages, after sharing experiences in that ecoregion on the multiple uses of renewable energies in communities affected by climatic phenomena. Freyre Pedraza and Yeffel Pedreros, both 24-year-old environmental engineers, were […]

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Is There a Remittance Trap?http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/is-there-a-remittance-trap/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=is-there-a-remittance-trap http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/is-there-a-remittance-trap/#respond Thu, 18 Oct 2018 10:11:45 +0000 Ralph Chami http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158247 RALPH CHAMI is an assistant director in the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development, EKKEHARD ERNST is chief of the macroeconomic policy and jobs unit at the International Labour Organization, CONNEL FULLENKAMP is professor of the practice of economics at Duke University, and ANNE OEKING is an economist in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department*.

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But research that digs deeper into the remittance-growth nexus increasingly suggests that remittances change economies in ways that reduce growth and increase dependence on these funds from abroad. In other words, there is increasing evidence of a remittance trap that causes economies to get stuck on a lower-growth, higher-emigration treadmill.

Beirut, Lebanon

By Ralph Chami, Ekkehard Ernst, Connel Fullenkamp, and Anne Oeking
WASHINGTON DC, Oct 18 2018 (IPS)

Workers’ remittances—the money migrants send home to their families—command the attention of economists and policymakers because of their potential to improve the lives of millions of people.

Amounting to over $400 billion in 2017, remittances rank between official development assistance and foreign direct investment in terms of size. Such massive financial flows have important consequences for the economies that receive them, especially when many countries receive flows that are large relative to the size of their exports or even their economies.

Many argue that remittances help economies in two ways. First, because remittances are person-to-person transfers motivated by family ties, these transfers from outside the country help relatives back home afford the necessities of life.

But remittances also have the potential to fuel economic growth, by funding investment in human or physical capital or by financing new businesses.

Economists have worked to measure both of these effects. Many studies confirm that remittances are essential in the battle against poverty, lifting millions of families out of deprivation or bare subsistence.

But at the same time, economic research has failed to find that remittances make a significant contribution to a country’s economic growth (see Chart 1).

The latter result is puzzling, especially given the finding that remittance income helps families consume more. Consumption spending is a driver of short-term economic growth, which in turn should also lead to longer-term growth as industries expand to meet the increased demand.

But research that digs deeper into the remittance-growth nexus increasingly suggests that remittances change economies in ways that reduce growth and increase dependence on these funds from abroad. In other words, there is increasing evidence of a remittance trap that causes economies to get stuck on a lower-growth, higher-emigration treadmill.

Consider the case of Lebanon. For many years, this country has been one of the leading recipients of remittances, in both absolute and relative terms. During the past decade, inflows have averaged over $6 billion a year, equal to 16 percent of GDP. Lebanon received $1,500 a person in 2016, more than any other nation, according to IMF data.

Given the size of these inflows, it should not be surprising that remittances play a key if not leading role in Lebanon’s economy. They constitute an essential part of the country’s social safety net, accounting on average for over 40 percent of the income of the families that receive them.

But research that digs deeper into the remittance-growth nexus increasingly suggests that remittances change economies in ways that reduce growth and increase dependence on these funds from abroad. In other words, there is increasing evidence of a remittance trap that causes economies to get stuck on a lower-growth, higher-emigration treadmill.
They have undoubtedly played a vital stabilizing role in a country that has endured civil war, invasions, and refugee crises in the past several decades. In addition, remittances are a valuable source of foreign exchange, amounting to 50 percent more than the country’s merchandise exports. This has helped Lebanon maintain a stable exchange rate despite high government debt.

While remittances have helped the Lebanese economy absorb shocks, there is no evidence that they have served as an engine of growth. Real per capita GDP in Lebanon grew only 0.32 percent on average annually between 1995 and 2015. Even during 2005–15, it grew at an average annual rate of only 0.79 percent.

Lebanon is not an isolated example. Of the 10 countries that receive the largest remittance inflows relative to their GDP—such as Honduras, Jamaica, the Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, and Tonga—none has per capita GDP growth higher than its regional peers.

And for most of these countries, growth rates are well below their peers. It is important to recognize that each of these countries is dealing with other issues that may also interfere with growth. But remittances appear to be an additional determining factor rather than just a consequence of slow growth. And remittances may even amplify some of the other problems that restrict growth and development.

Returning to the case of Lebanon, the country’s well-educated population could be expected to point to robust growth. Lebanese families, including those who receive remittances, spend much of their income on educating their young people, who score much higher on standardized mathematics tests than their peers in the region.

Lebanon is also home to three of the top 20 universities in the Middle East, and researchers at these universities produce more research than their regional peers. Lebanon’s abundant remittance inflows could provide seed capital to fund business start-ups led by its well-educated citizens.

But statistics show that Lebanon has much less entrepreneurial activity than it should, especially in the high-tech information and communication technology sector. The size of this sector is less than 1 percent of GDP, and Lebanon scores very low on international gauges of this sector’s development.

Studies of the overall spending habits of remittance-receiving households in Lebanon show that less than 2 percent of inflows goes toward starting businesses. Instead, these funds are typically spent on nontraded goods such as restaurant meals and services, and on imports.

Instead of starting new businesses—or even working in established ones—many young Lebanese choose to emigrate. The statistics are stark: up to two-thirds of male and nearly half of female university graduates leave the country. Employers complain of an emigration brain drain that has caused a dearth of highly skilled workers.

This shortage has been identified as a leading obstacle to diversifying Lebanon’s economy away from tourism, construction, and real estate, its traditional sources of growth. For their part, young people who choose to seek their fortune elsewhere cite a lack of attractive employment opportunities at home.

Part of the remittance trap thus appears to be the use of this source of income to prepare young people to emigrate rather than to invest in businesses at home. In other words, countries that receive remittances may come to rely on exporting labor, rather than commodities produced with this labor. In some countries, governments even encourage the development of institutions that specialize in producing skilled labor for export.

But why would this situation develop and persist?

Research into both the household-level and economy-wide effects of remittances on their recipients provides an answer to this question. The impact on individual countries that receive significant remittances—such as Egypt, Mexico, and Pakistan—has been studied, and cross-country analysis of a variety of countries that receive various amounts of remittances (and of those that send rather than receive remittances) has been performed as well. The insights from the academic literature can be combined into a consistent explanation of how and why economies that receive significant remittance inflows may become stuck at low levels of growth.

To begin with, remittances are spent mostly on household consumption, and the demand for all products (nontraded and traded) in an economy increases as remittances grow.

This places upward pressure on prices. The flood of foreign exchange, along with higher prices, makes exports less competitive, with the result that their production declines. Some have referred to this syndrome as Dutch disease (see Chart 2).

The effect of remittances on work incentives makes this problem worse, by increasing the so-called reservation wage—that is, the lowest wage at which a worker would be willing to accept a particular type of job. As remittances increase, workers drop out of the labor force, and the resulting increase in wages puts more upward pressure on prices, further reducing the competitiveness of exports.

Resources then flow away from industries producing tradable products that face international competition toward those that serve the domestic market. The result: a decline in the number of better-paid, high-skill jobs, which are typical in the traded sector, and an increase in low-skill, poorly paid jobs in the nontraded sector.

This shift in the labor market encourages higher- skilled workers to emigrate in search of better-paying jobs. Meanwhile, the cost of living for most families rises along with domestic prices, and the loss in competitiveness means that more products must be imported, hurting economic growth. This in turn increases the incentive for family members to emigrate so that they can send money home to help relatives shoulder the burden of the higher cost of living.

To make matters worse, remittances are often spent on real estate, causing home prices to rise and in some cases stoking property bubbles. This provides a motive to emigrate for young people seeking to earn enough to buy a home. The result of all this is a vicious circle of emigration, economic stagnation, rising cost of living, and more emigration.

Governments could potentially mitigate or break this cycle by taking steps to keep domestic industries competitive. But policies that can accomplish this, such as improving the education system and physical infrastructure, are expensive and take years to implement. And they require strong political will to succeed.

As research has shown, however, remittances have important political economy side effects (see Chart 3). In particular, large inflows allow governments to be less responsive to the needs of society.

The reasoning is simple: families that receive remittances are better insulated from economic shocks and are less motivated to demand change from their governments; government in turn feels less obligated to be accountable to its citizens.

Many politicians welcome the reduced public scrutiny and political pressure that come with remittance inflows. But politicians have other reasons to encourage remittances. To the extent that governments tax consumption—say through value-added taxes—remittances enlarge the tax base. This enables governments to continue spending on things that will win them popular support, which in turn helps politicians win reelection.

Given these benefits, it is little wonder that many governments actively encourage their citizens to emigrate and send money home, even establishing official offices or agencies to promote emigration in some cases.

Remittances make politicians’ job easier, by improving the economic conditions of individual families and making them less likely to complain to the government or scrutinize its activities. Official encouragement of migration and remittances then makes the remittance trap even more difficult to escape.

The absence of clear evidence linking remittances to increased economic growth—and the lack of examples of countries that experienced remittance-led growth—suggests that remittances do indeed interfere with economic growth. The example of Lebanon, moreover, gives a concrete example of how the remittance trap may operate.

And if a remittances trap does exist, then what?

Clearly, given their importance to the well-being of millions of families, remittances should not be discouraged. Is the remittance trap simply the cost societies must bear in exchange for a reduction in poverty? Not necessarily.

Preventing the two downsides of remittances—Dutch disease and weaker governance—could help countries avoid or escape the remittance trap. Improving the competitiveness of industries that face foreign competition is the general prescription for mitigating Dutch disease.

Specific measures include upgrading a country’s physical infrastructure, improving the education system, and reducing the cost of doing business. Governments could also play a more active role in stimulating new business formation, including seed funding or other financial assistance for start-ups. At the same time, remittance-receiving countries must also push for stronger institutions and better governance.

Enhancing economic competitiveness and strengthening governance and social institutions are already considered essential to the inclusive growth agenda. But the remittance trap lends urgency to these goals.

Avoiding this potentially serious pitfall of remittances may actually be the key to unlocking their development potential by removing a previously unrecognized obstacle to inclusive development.

*Opinions expressed in articles and other materials are those of the authors; they do not necessarily reflect IMF policy.

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Excerpt:

RALPH CHAMI is an assistant director in the IMF’s Institute for Capacity Development, EKKEHARD ERNST is chief of the macroeconomic policy and jobs unit at the International Labour Organization, CONNEL FULLENKAMP is professor of the practice of economics at Duke University, and ANNE OEKING is an economist in the IMF’s Asia and Pacific Department*.

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UN Vote on Palestine a Humiliating Defeat for US & its Envoyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/un-vote-palestine-humiliating-defeat-us-envoy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-vote-palestine-humiliating-defeat-us-envoy http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/un-vote-palestine-humiliating-defeat-us-envoy/#comments Wed, 17 Oct 2018 15:43:47 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158235 Nikky Haley, the vociferously anti-Palestine US Ambassador to the United Nations, warned member states last year she will “take down names” of those who vote against American interests in the world body—perhaps with the implicit threat of cutting US aid to countries that refuse to play ball with the diplomatically-reckless Trump administration. But that vengeance-driven […]

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Credit: Institute for Palestine Studies

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 17 2018 (IPS)

Nikky Haley, the vociferously anti-Palestine US Ambassador to the United Nations, warned member states last year she will “take down names” of those who vote against American interests in the world body—perhaps with the implicit threat of cutting US aid to countries that refuse to play ball with the diplomatically-reckless Trump administration.

But that vengeance-driven head count – and no ball playing — could be a tedious exercise for the US when 146 out of 193 member states vote to affirm Palestine as the new chairman of the 134-member Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations.

The 146 included some of the strongest Western allies of the US, plus four of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: UK, France, China and Russia.

The only two countries that stood sheepishly by the US were Israel, its traditional client state, and Australia, a newcomer to the ranks of US supporters.

The 15 abstentions included some of the usual suspects: Austria, Andorra, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Honduras, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Monaco, Poland, Slovakia and Tuvalu.

The vote in the General Assembly on October 16 was, by all accounts, a humiliating defeat to the Trump administration which moved the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and cut $300 million from its contributions to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) aiding Palestinian refugees.

Both were decisions aimed at undermining Palestine at the United Nations. But the Palestinians pulled off a major victory despite the behind-the-scenes lobbying both by the US and Israel to thwart the Palestinians.

Palestine, which is a non-member state, was endorsed as the chairman of the Group of 77, beginning January next year, at a ministerial meeting late September. The General Assembly vote was a ratification of that decision.

Mouin Rabbani, Resident Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies at Washington DC, told IPS the election of Palestine as the new Chairman of the Group of 77, particularly given the overwhelmingly lopsided nature of the vote, can only be interpreted as a pre-meditated and deliberate slap in the face to the United States by the international community.

Last month the civilized world audibly laughed at Trump as he engaged in another boorish display of Americana at the General Assembly, he added.

“Today it demonstrated that its response to the determination of the United States to dismantle the international system and its institutions, eliminate the concept of accountability under international law, make US power the sole arbiter of international affairs, and use the Question of Palestine as the vehicle of choice for achieving these objectives, can also take more serious forms”.

Following the vote, Haley said the United States voted against the resolution granting the Palestinians privileges at the United Nations as chair of the “Group of 77” – a coalition of developing Member States at the UN.

“The United States does not recognize a Palestinian state, notes that‎ no such state has been admitted as a UN Member State, and does not believe that the Palestinians are eligible to be admitted as a UN Member State.”

The U.S. strongly opposes the Palestinian election as Chair of the G77, as well as the so-called enabling resolution in the UN General Assembly, added the outgoing envoy, who announced last week that she will resign her post by the end of the year.

“The Palestinians are not a UN Member State or any state at all. The United States will continually point that out in our remarks at UN events led by the Palestinians.

“Today’s UN mistake undermines the prospects for peace by encouraging the illusion held by some Palestinian leaders that they can advance their goals without direct peace negotiations. In fact, today’s vote does nothing to help the Palestinian people,” said Haley.

The Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour said the General Assembly vote represents multilateralism at its best, with the wider membership supporting a resolution to enable the elected Chair of a group to perform its duties effectively.

He said it was an expression of respect for the decision of the Group of 77 and China to elect the State of Palestine as its chair for the year 2019 by consensus, following the endorsement by the Asia-Pacific group of the State of Palestine’s candidature, also by consensus.

“The State of Palestine will spare no effort to prove worthy of this trust in its capacity to represent and defend the interests of the Group of 77 and China, while also engaging constructively, and in an inclusive and transparent manner, with all partners, in order to advance cooperation and mutually beneficial agreements, for the common good of all humanity,” he added.

The General Assembly resolution not only ratified the ministerial decision but also provided Palestine with additional rights and privileges, including the right to make statements on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, including among representatives of major groups; the right to submit proposals and amendments and introduce them on behalf of the Group of 77 and China and the right to co-sponsor proposals and amendments.

Additionally, Palestine has been given the right to make explanations of vote on behalf of the States Members of the United Nations that are members of the Group of 77 and China; the right of reply regarding positions of the Group of 77 and China; and the right to raise procedural motions, including points of order and requests to put proposals to the vote, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.

Rabbani said the election of Palestine to lead the Group of 77 should be seen as a direct response to the US recognition of exclusive Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem in flagrant violation of numerous UNSC resolutions, the termination of US funding to UNRWA as part of a campaign to redefine Palestinian refugees out of existence, punitive measures taken against the Palestinian civilian population of the occupied territories to dissuade the Palestinians from pursuing claims against Israel at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and further measures to legitimize perpetual Israeli control over the Palestinian people, their territory, and resources.

“If this was a traditional election for the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 it is questionable whether Palestine would have been nominated, highly unlikely it would have won, and virtually out of the question it would have achieved the result it did. In other words, this was about issues much larger than the managerial qualifications of the successful candidate, and above all a political message directed at Washington,” Rabbani declared.

The vast majority of Group of 77 members have gotten in line to ask Nikki Haley, and by extension the “hidden genius”, Jared Von Metternich, to take down their names and note that they categorically reject US policy on Palestine and on the broader objectives the Trump administration is seeking to achieve, he said.

“The greater challenge is to translate these symbolic victories, important as they may be, into substantive achievements,” he declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@ips.org

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Caribbean-American Artist Blazes in New Showhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/caribbean-american-artist-blazes-new-show/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-american-artist-blazes-new-show http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/10/caribbean-american-artist-blazes-new-show/#respond Mon, 08 Oct 2018 18:02:41 +0000 SWAN http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=158053 When Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings were shown in France a few years ago, a visitor overheard a teenager remarking that the artwork seemed to have come from “a very angry little boy”. Now, that sense of artistic fury or frenetic energy is put into context in a stunning new exhibition that comprises more than 120 works […]

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The works of Caribbean-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (pictured here) are on display in the the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. It presents Basquiat in a new light, emphasising his status as a major figure in the history of art, 30 years after his death at the age of 27. Credit: CC by 2.0

By SWAN
PARIS, Oct 8 2018 (IPS)

When Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings were shown in France a few years ago, a visitor overheard a teenager remarking that the artwork seemed to have come from “a very angry little boy”.

Now, that sense of artistic fury or frenetic energy is put into context in a stunning new exhibition that comprises more than 120 works displayed in the remarkable setting of the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris  –  the museum and cultural centre designed by the architect Frank Gehry and launched in 2014.

The Foundation’s spacious galleries present the Caribbean-American artist in a new light, emphasising Basquiat’s status as a major figure in the history of art, 30 years after his death at the age of 27.

“The Foundation spotlights an artist I personally consider to be among the most important of the second half of the twentieth century,” said Bernard Arnault, president of the Foundation, and CEO of global luxury-goods company LMVH, which sponsors the museum.

In a foreword to the exhibition, Arnault, an avid art collector, added that the “complexity of Basquiat’s work is equalled only by the spontaneity” of the feelings it arouses.

“He figures among the origins of my collection and I owe him a tremendous amount for inspiring my passion for art in general, and for contemporary art in particular,” wrote Arnault, whose collection has contributed to that of the Foundation.

The exhibition comprises an impressive range of huge paintings and drawings on canvas, wood and other materials. They are shown in a thematic fashion that takes viewers into Basquiat’s thoughts and feelings about issues such as discrimination and inequality, and one can’t help being impressed by the immense number of works he produced in his short life.

The show runs in tandem with an exhibition on Austrian painter Egon Schiele, who also died in his twenties – 70 years before Basquiat, in 1918. Both artists are “signal figures in the art of their time, the early and late twentieth century respectively,” says Suzanne Pagé, artistic director of the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Although their art is presented separately, in different parts of the museum, the artists are linked by “their breath-taking, youth-driven work” which has made them “icons” for new generations, according to Pagé.

The “Jean-Michel Basquiat” exhibition certainly addresses his iconic stature: his work is easily identifiable from his graphic style of painting, his use of vibrant colours and the subjects he addressed. As viewers walk through the eight galleries, over four flours of the museum, the works form a searing biography of the artist.

Born in Brooklyn in 1960 to a mother of Puerto Rican descent and a father from Haiti, Basquiat grew up with a love for art, as his mother took him to museums in New York and enrolled him in art lessons.

His childhood was marked by an accident in 1968 when, at the age of seven, he was hit by a car as he played in the street. While recovering from a broken arm and internal injuries, his mother gave him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, a book on human anatomy with illustrations of body parts, skulls and skeletons.

More than 120 works of Caribbean-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat are on display in the the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris. Pictured here is his work Taking Venus. Credit: Thomas Hawk/CC by 2.0

According to biographers, this book would have a great influence on his work; indeed, a theme in the current exhibition is Basquiat’s preoccupation with the inner functions of the body and with dying.

As a child, Basquiat also experienced his parents’ separation and his mother’s mental illness, as the family moved between New York and Puerto Rico. He dropped out of high school at age 17 and was homeless for a while, producing postcards and other items to support himself. But his precocious talent soon caught the eye of gallery owners, collectors and fellow artists including the influential Andy Warhol.

“With a natural instinct for openness, linked to his twin Haitian and Puerto Rican roots, Basquiat absorbed everything like a sponge, mixing the lessons of the street with a repertoire of images, heroes, and symbols from a wide range of cultures,” Pagé said in a text introducing the exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

The sequence of his works at the show begins with the 1980 painting Untitled (Car Crash) and ends with Riding With Death – a striking painting that depicts a figure on a horse-like skeleton and which Basquiat produced shortly before he died in 1988 of a heroin overdose.

In between, visitors can view the works portraying boxers such as Sugar Ray Robinson and Cassius Clay / Muhammad Ali, and see Basquiat’s artistic and political commentary on exploitation and the slave trade through paintings that include Price of Gasoline in the Third World and Slave Auction.

“Basquiat mirrored himself in his figures of black boxers and jazz musicians, as well as in victims of police brutality and everyday racism,” said Dieter Buchhart, curator of the exhibition, in an interview published by Le Journal de la Fondation Louis Vuitton.

“He connected the Black Atlantic, African diaspora, slavery, colonialism, suppression and exploitation with his time in New York in the 1980s, always keeping his own circumstances in view as well as those of humanity in general.”

For Basquiat, who was a forerunner of hip-hop culture, music and musicians were an essential part of the diaspora experience, and he paid homage to jazz artists, particularly Charlie Parker, with Horn Players, Discography and other works in his signature style of skulls, teeth, frantic figures, and text that send cryptic messages.

His collaborations with Warhol also form a significant part of the exhibition, with huge mural-type paintings that they jointly produced. The painting Eiffel Tower illustrates their respective styles as they playfully depict the most symbolic structure in the French capital. It’s a fitting inclusion in this Paris-based retrospective.

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Venezuela’s Surname Is Diasporahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/venezuelas-surname-diaspora/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=venezuelas-surname-diaspora http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/09/venezuelas-surname-diaspora/#respond Fri, 28 Sep 2018 21:49:10 +0000 Humberto Marquez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=157885 They sell their houses, cars, motorcycles, household goods, clothes and ornaments – if they have any – even at derisory prices, save up a few dollars, take a bus and, in many cases, for the first time ever travel outside their country: they are the migrants who are fleeing Venezuela by the hundreds of thousands. […]

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Palestine to Lead UN’s Largest Group of Developing Nationshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/palestine-lead-uns-largest-group-developing-nations/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=palestine-lead-uns-largest-group-developing-nations http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/palestine-lead-uns-largest-group-developing-nations/#comments Tue, 24 Jul 2018 07:30:51 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156836 The Group of 77 (G77) — the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations– is to be chaired by Palestine, come January. “It’s a historical first, both for Palestine and the G77,” an Asian diplomat told IPS, pointing out that Palestine will be politically empowered to collectively represent 134 UN member states, […]

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Credit: Institute for Palestine Studies

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jul 24 2018 (IPS)

The Group of 77 (G77) — the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations– is to be chaired by Palestine, come January.

“It’s a historical first, both for Palestine and the G77,” an Asian diplomat told IPS, pointing out that Palestine will be politically empowered to collectively represent 134 UN member states, including China.

Created in June 1964, the 54-year-old Group comprises over 80 per cent of the world’s population and approximately two-thirds of the United Nations membership

Traditionally, the G77 speaks with a single voice before the 193-member General Assembly, the highest policy making body at the UN, and also at all UN committee meetings and at international conferences.

Under a system of geographical rotation, it was Asia’s turn to name a chairman for 2019. The Asian Group has unanimously endorsed Palestine, which will be formally elected chair at the annual G77 ministerial meeting, scheduled to take place in mid-September.

Palestine will take over from the current chair, Egypt, which is representing the African Group of countries.

The chairmanship is a tremendous political boost for Palestine at a time when it is being increasingly blacklisted by the Trump administration which is kowtowing to the Israelis.

Although it is not a full-fledged UN member state, Palestine is recognized by 136 UN members, and since 2012, has the status of a “non-member observer state” –as is the Holy See (the Vatican).

Nadia Hijab, President, Al-Shabaka Board of Directors, told IPS: “At a time when Israel is moving on all fronts to wipe Palestine definitively off the map through relentless colonization – and to muscle in on UN committees despite its flagrant violations of international law — it is a source of solace to see Palestine slated for a very visible role at the UN.”

However, comforting as this may be, she pointed out, it will take a lot more than this to make “Palestine” a reality on the ground.

Sadly, the Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has been unwilling or unable to end security coordination with Israel and to heal internal divisions. Instead, she said, it is cracking down on peaceful Palestinian protests.

”It is also reshaping the Palestine Liberation Organization, which has always been recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, in a way that excludes alternative and opposing views,” Hijab declared.

Martin Khor, Advisor to the Malaysia-based Third World Network, told IPS: “I think it will be a historic and a significant development-first for the G77 countries to elect Palestine as its chair, and thereby affirm their confidence in its leadership.”

The election will also prove that the State of Palestine itself has decided it can mobilise its human and material resources to take on the complex task of coordinating the largest grouping in the UN system– even though it has to fight its own very challenging battles of survival and independence, said Khor, the former executive director of the Geneva-based South Centre.

“Both Palestine and the G77 deserve the support of people around the world to wish them success in voicing and defending the interests of developing countries in these very difficult times when international cooperation and multilateralism are coming under attack,” he said.

Last week, the Trump administration refused to grant visas to a six-member Palestinian delegation that was expected to participate at the UN’s High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development which took place July 16-18.

This was clearly in violation of the 1947 US-UN Headquarters Agreement which calls on the US, among other obligations, to facilitate delegates participating at UN meetings.

Asked about the visa refusal, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters last week: “Well, certainly, we’re aware of this latest incident, but as far as I’m aware, there is a Host Country Committee that deals with disputes involving access to the United Nations and any problems dealing with the host country on that.”

”As of now, the Host Country Committee has not been approached or formally informed of this, so they haven’t acted on this. But it’s normally their role to deal with this situation. Of course, we would hope that all of those who are here to attend UN meetings would have the ability to do so,” he added.

Samir Sanbar, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General who headed the Department of Public Information (DPI), told IPS chairing the G-77 will be an unprecedented role for Palestine. He said leading that large, varied yet collaborative group will require tactful handling by all sides at a time when the rightful Palestinian cause needs every support as the region—and a fragmented conflicted, almost leaderless world— is facing serious challenges.

“It is hoped that Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine and an experienced diplomat with proven U.N. record, will be given the opportunity and required leeway to operate in an inclusive, patient and fruitful manner to enhance the role of the G 77 while advancing the status of the Palestine, said Sanbar, who served under five different UN secretaries-general.

At the UN, the Trump administration has been increasingly undermining the Palestinian cause – a cause long supported by an overwhelming majority of member states in the world body.

In May, the US relocated its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem even though the UN has deemed it “occupied” declaring that the status of East Jerusalem should be subject to negotiations and that East Jerusalem will be the future capital of the State of Palestine.

Last month, the Trump administration also reduced its funding—from an estimated $360 million in 2017 to $60 million this year — to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), created in 1949 to provide assistance to over 5.5 million refugees resulting from the creation of Israel in 1948.

Last year when Secretary-General Antonio Guterres proposed the appointment of former Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as UN’s Special Representative in Libya, the proposal was shot down by US Ambassador Nikki Haley, purely because he was a Palestinian.

And speaking before the US House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Haley went even further down the road when she indicated she would block any appointment of a Palestinian official to a senior role at the UN because Washington “does not recognize Palestine” as an independent state.

Suddenly, the Palestinians, for the first time, seem blacklisted– and declared political outcasts– in a world body where some of them held key posts in a bygone era.

Guterres, who apparently relented to US pressure by stepping back on Fayyad’s appointment plucked up courage to tell reporters: “I think it was a serious mistake. I think that Mr. Fayyad was the right person in the right place at the right time, and I think that those who will lose will be the Libyan people and the Libyan peace process.”

And, he rightly added: “”I believe that it is essential for everybody to understand that people serving the UN are serving in their personal capacities. They don’t represent a country or a government – they are citizens of the world representing the UN Charter and abiding by the UN Charter,” he said, pointedly directing his answer at Haley

A former chair of the G77 chapter in Vienna told IPS although the Palestinian issue is fundamentally a political one, centred as well on the legitimacy and legality of Israeli occupation, it no longer remains in the political-legal realms exclusively.

He said there are a large number of issues of economic, social and cultural and environmental nature, including health, education, food, water, etc, which arises both directly from conditions of occupation, as well as laterally from other conditions such as denial of humanitarian access, and, very recently, the declaration of “Israel as a Jewish state”.

It is logical that advancing a struggle on these issues call for a broad forum of solidarity, and the G 77 fits the bill, he noted.

In an oped piece marking the 50th anniversary of the G77, Mourad Ahmia, the G77 Executive Secretary said: “When it was established on Jun. 15, 1964, the signing nations of the well-known “Joint Declaration of Seventy-Seven Countries” formed the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the United Nations to articulate and promote their collective interests and common development agenda.

Since the First Ministerial meeting of the G-77 held in Algeria in October 1967, and the adoption of the “Charter of Algiers”, the Group of 77 laid down the institutional mechanisms and structures that have contributed to shaping the international development agenda and changing the landscape of the global South for the past five decades, he pointed out.

“Over the years, the Group has gained an increasing role in the determination and conduct of international relations through global negotiations on major North-South and development issues.”

The Group has a presence worldwide at U.N. centres in New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Paris, Rome, Vienna, and Washington D.C., and is actively involved in ongoing negotiations on a wide range of global issues including climate change, poverty eradication, migration, trade, and the law of the sea.

“Today, the G-77 remains the only viable and operational mechanism in multilateral economic diplomacy within the U.N system. The growing membership is proof of its enduring strength,” he declared.

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Agroecology Beats Land and Water Scarcity in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/07/agroecology-beats-land-water-scarcity-brazil/#respond Thu, 12 Jul 2018 01:26:19 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156656 “Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques. Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did […]

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Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo dos Santos stands next to a tree loaded with grapefruit in the orchard which he and his wife have planted thanks to the use of techniques that allow them to have plenty of water for irrigation, despite the fact that their small farm is in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

By Mario Osava
ESPERANÇA/CUMARU, Brazil, Jul 12 2018 (IPS)

“Now we live well,” say both Givaldo and Nina dos Santos, after showing visiting farmers their 1.25-hectare farm in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast, which is small but has a great variety of fruit trees, thanks to innovative water and production techniques.

Givaldo began his adult life in Rio de Janeiro, in the southeast, where he did his military service, married and had three children. Then he returned to his homeland, where it was not easy for him to restart his life on a farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern state of Paraiba, with his new wife, Maria das Graças, whom everyone knows as Nina and with whom he has a 15-year-old daughter.

“I’d leave at four in the morning to fetch water. I would walk 40 minutes with two cans on my shoulders, going up and down hills,” recalled the 48-year-old farmer.

But in 2000, thanks to a rainwater collection tank, he finally managed to get potable water on Caldeirão, his farm, part of which he inherited.

And in 2011 he got water for production, through a “barreiro” or pond dug into the ground. Two years later, a “calçadão” tank was built on a terrace with a slope to channel rainwater, with the capacity to hold 52,000 litres.

“Now we have plenty of water, despite the drought in the last six years,” said 47-year-old Nina. The “barreiro” only dried up once, two years ago, and for a short time, she said.

The water allowed the couple to expand their fruit orchard with orange, grapefruit, mango, acerola (Malpighia emarginata) and hog plum (Spondias mombin L, typical of the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil) trees.

With funding from a government programme to support family farming and from the non-governmental organisation Assessment and Services for Alternative Agricultural Projects (ASPTA), focused on agroecology, the couple purchased a machine to produce fruit pulp and a freezer to store it.

“When the pulp sale takes off, our income will grow,” said Givaldo. “For now we earn more with orange and lemon seedlings, which sell better because they last longer than other fruits.”

Besides storing water in the “barreiro”, they also raise tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus), a species of fish, for their own consumption. Meanwhile, in the garden, in addition to fruit trees, they grow vegetables, whose production will increase thanks to a small greenhouse that they have just built, where they will plant tomatoes, cilantro and other vegetables for sale, Nina said with enthusiasm.

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil's semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma Pereira tells visitors from Central America and Brazil about the many sustainable practices that have improved the production on her family farm, on a terrace with a slope, which now has a roof, that makes it easier to capture rainwater, which is collected in a 52,000-litre tank used for the animals and to irrigate crops in Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

The productive activities on their small farm are further diversified by an ecological oven, which they use to make cakes and which cuts down on the use of cooking gas while at the same time using very little wood; by the production of fertilizer using manure from calves they raise and sell when they reach the right weight; and by the storage of native seeds.

The boundaries of their farm are marked by fences made of gliricidias (Gliricidia sepium), a tree native to Mexico and Central America, which offers good animal feed. The Dos Santos family hopes that they will serve as a barrier to the agrochemicals used on the corn crops on neighbouring farms.

Some time ago, the couple stopped raising chickens, which were sold at a good price due to their natural diet. “We had 200, but we sold them all, because there are a lot of robberies here. You can lose your life for a chicken,” Givaldo said.

Organic production, diversified and integrated with the efficient utilisation of water, turned this small farm into a showcase for ASPTA, an example of how to coexist with the semi-arid climate in Brazil’s Northeast.

This is why they frequently receive visitors. “Once we were visited by 52 people,” said the husband.

In the last week of June, the couple received 20 visitors from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, mostly farmers, in an exchange promoted by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Brazil’s Articulation of the Semi-Arid (ASA), a network of 3,000 social organisations, including ASPTA.

Another farm visited during the exchange, accompanied by IPS, was that of Joelma and Roberto Pereira, in the municipality of Cumaru, in the state of Pernambuco, also in the Northeast. They even built a roof over the sloping terrace that collects rainwater on their property, to hold meetings there.

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Givaldo and Nina dos Santos stand next to the small machine used to extract pulp from the fruit they grow, and the freezer where they store the fruit pulp in units ready for sale at their farm in the municipality of Esperança, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Paraiba. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Three tanks for drinking water and one for production, a biodigester that generates much more gas than the family consumes, a system for producing liquid biofertiliser, another for composting, a small seedbed, cactus (Nopalea cochinilifera) and other forage plants are squeezed onto just half a hectare.

“We bought this half hectare in 2002 from a guy who raised cattle and left the soil trampled and only two trees. Now everything looks green,” said Joelma, who has three children in their twenties and lives surrounded by relatives, including her father, 65, who was born and still lives in the community, Pedra Branca, part of Cumaru.

The couple later acquired two other farms, of two and four hectares in size, just a few hundred metres away, where they raise cows, sheep, goats and pigs. The production of cheese, butter and other dairy products are, along with honey, their main income-earners.

On the original farm they have an agro-ecological laboratory, where they also have chicken coops and a bathroom with a dry toilet, built on rocks, in order to use human faeces as fertiliser and to “save water”.

“We reuse 60 percent of the water we use in the kitchen and bathroom, which passes through the bio water (filtration system) before it is used for irrigation,” Joelma said, while reciting her almost endless list of sustainable farm practices.

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

Joelma (in the picture) next to a biodigester, one of 23 donated by Caritas Switzerland to Brazilian farmers. Joelma and Roberto Pereira are family farmers from Cumaru, in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast. The biodigester uses manure from five cows to produce more than twice the amount of biogas consumed by the family. Credit: Mario Osava/IPS

It all began many years ago, when her husband became a builder of rainwater collection tanks and she learned about the technologies promoted by the non-governmental Sabiá Agro-ecological Development Centre in the neighbouring municipality of Bom Jardim. Sabiá is the name of a bird and a tree that symbolise biodiversity.

Some tobacco seedlings stand out in a seedbed. “They serve as a natural insecticide, along with other plants with a strong odor,” she said.

“Joelma is an important model because she incorporated the agroforestry system and a set of values into her practices,” Alexandre Bezerra Pires, general coordinator of the Sabiá Centre, told the Central American farmers during the visit to her farm.

“The exchanges with Central America and Africa are a fantastic opportunity to boost cooperation, strengthen ties and help other countries. The idea of coexisting with the Semi-Arid (ASA’s motto) took the Central Americans by surprise,” he said.

The biodigester is the technology of “greatest interest for Guatemala, where they use a lot of firewood,” said Doris Chavarría, a FAO technician in that Central American country. She also noted the practices of making pulp from fruit that are not generally used because they are seasonal and diversifying techniques for preparing corn as interesting to adopt in her country.

“We don’t have enough resources, the government doesn’t help us, the only institution that supports us is FAO,” said Guatemalan farmer Gloria Diaz, after pointing out that Brazilian farmers have the support of various non-governmental organisations.

Mariana García from El Salvador was impressed by the “great diversity of vegetables” that the Brazilians grow and “the fairs 130 km away, an opportunity to sell at better prices, with the cost of transportation cut when several farmers go together.”

She was referring to family farmers in Bom Jardim who sell their produce in Recife, the capital of the state of Pernambuco, with a population of 1.6 million.

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Senegalese Immigrants Face Police Brutality in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/senegalese-immigrants-face-police-brutality-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=senegalese-immigrants-face-police-brutality-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/senegalese-immigrants-face-police-brutality-argentina/#comments Fri, 22 Jun 2018 15:09:34 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156365 Senegalese immigrants began to arrive in Argentina in the 1990s and most of them joined the group of street vendors in Buenos Aires and other cities. But in recent months, they have suffered police brutality, denounced as a campaign of racial persecution. “We always had a good relationship with the police. They even looked after […]

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Farmers from Central America and Brazil Join Forces to Live with Droughthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/farmers-central-america-brazil-join-forces-live-drought/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=farmers-central-america-brazil-join-forces-live-drought http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/farmers-central-america-brazil-join-forces-live-drought/#comments Thu, 14 Jun 2018 02:49:55 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156228 Having a seven-litre container with a filter on the dining room table that purifies the collected rainwater, and opening a small valve to fill a cup and quench thirst, is almost revolutionry for Salvadoran peasant farmer Víctor de León. As if that weren’t enough, having a pond dug in the ground, a reservoir of rainwater […]

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After a day working on the land where he grows corn and beans, Víctor de León serves himself freshly purified water, one of the benefits of the climate change adaptation project in the Central American Dry Corridor region, La Colmena village, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western department of Santa Ana, El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

After a day working on the land where he grows corn and beans, Víctor de León serves himself freshly purified water, one of the benefits of the climate change adaptation project in the Central American Dry Corridor region, La Colmena village, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western department of Santa Ana, El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
CANDELARIA DE LA FRONTERA, El Salvador, Jun 14 2018 (IPS)

Having a seven-litre container with a filter on the dining room table that purifies the collected rainwater, and opening a small valve to fill a cup and quench thirst, is almost revolutionry for Salvadoran peasant farmer Víctor de León.

As if that weren’t enough, having a pond dug in the ground, a reservoir of rainwater collected to ensure that livestock survive periods of drought, is also unprecedented in La Colmena, a village in the rural municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, in the western department of Santa Ana.

“All our lives we’ve been going to rivers or springs to get water, and now it’s a great thing to have it always within reach,” De León, 63, told IPS while carrying forage to one of his calves.

De León grows staple grains and produces milk with a herd of 13 cows.

This region of El Salvador, located in the so-called Dry Corridor of Central America, has suffered for years the effects of extreme weather: droughts and excessive rainfall that have ruined several times the maize and bean crops, the country’s two main agricultural products and local staple foods.

There has also been a shortage of drinking water for people and livestock.

But now the 13 families of La Colmena and others in the municipality of Metapán, also in Santa Ana, are adapting to climate change.

They have learned about sustainable water and soil management through a project that has combined the efforts of international aid, the government, the municipalities involved and local communities.

The 7.9 million dollar project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), with the support of several ministries and municipal governments.

Sharing experiences

The work in the local communities, which began in September 2014, is already producing positive results, which led to the May visit by a group of 13 Brazilian farmers, six of them women, who also live in a water-scarce region.

The objective was to exchange experiences and learn how the Salvadorans have dealt with drought and climatic effects on crops.

“It was very interesting to learn about what they are doing there, how they are coping with the water shortage, and we told them what we are doing here,” Pedro Ramos, a 36-year-old farmer from El Salvador, told IPS.

Ofelia Chávez shows some of the chicks given to the families of the village of La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, Santa Ana department, El Salvador, to promote poultry farming in this rural village. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Ofelia Chávez shows some of the chicks given to the families of the village of La Colmena, in the municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera, Santa Ana department, El Salvador, to promote poultry farming in this rural village. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The visit was organised by the Networking in Brazil’s Semi-Arid Region (ASA), a network of 3,000 farmers and social organisations of this ecoregion of Northeast Brazil, the country’s driest region. Now, six Salvadoran peasants will travel to learn about their experience between Jun. 26-30.

“The Brazilians told us that there was a year when total rains amounted to only what the families in the area consume in a day, practically nothing,” Ramos continued.

The Brazilian delegation learned about the project that FAO is carrying out in the area and visited similar initiatives in the municipality of Chiquimula, in the department of the same name, in the east of neighbouring Guatemala.

“These Brazilian farmers have a lot of experience in this field, they are very organised, their motto is not to fight drought but to learn to live with it,” said Vera Boerger, a land and water officer of FAO’s Subregional Office for Mesoamerica.

Brazilians, she added in an interview with IPS from Panama City, have it harder than Central Americans: in the Dry Corridor it rains between 600 and 1,000 mm a year, while in Brazil’s semi-arid Northeast it only rains between 300 and 600 mm, “when it feels like raining.”

Life in La Colmena is precarious, without access to electricity and piped water, among other challenges.

According to official figures, El Salvador’s 95.5 percent of the urban population had piped water in 2017 compared to 76.5 percent in rural areas. Poverty in the cities stands at 33 percent, while in the countryside the poverty rate is 53.3 percent.

In La Colmena, Brazilian farmers were able to see up close the two reservoirs built in the village to collect rainwater.

They are rectangular ponds dug into the ground, 2.5 m deep, 20 m long and 14 m wide, covered by a polyethylene membrane that prevents filtration and retains the water. Their capacity is 500,000 litres.

They have started to fill up, IPS noted, as the rainy season, from May to October, has just begun. The water will be mainly used for cattle and family gardens.

(L to R) Pedro Ramos, Víctor de León, Ofelia Chávez and Daniel Santos, in front of one of the two rainwater reservoirs built in their village, La Colmena, in the Salvadoran municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera. The pond is part of the benefits of a climate change adaptation project implemented by FAO. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

(L to R) Pedro Ramos, Víctor de León, Ofelia Chávez and Daniel Santos, in front of one of the two rainwater reservoirs built in their village, La Colmena, in the Salvadoran municipality of Candelaria de la Frontera. The pond is part of the benefits of a climate change adaptation project implemented by FAO. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Ofelia Chávez, 63, raises livestock on her 11.5 hectares of land. With 19 cows and calves, she is one of those who has benefited the most from the reservoir built on her property, although the water is shared with the community.

“I used to go down to the river with my cattle, and it was exhausting, and I got worried in the summer when the water was scarce,” she told IPS, next to the other pond on the De León farm, along with several enthusiastic neighbours who watched the level of water rise every day as it rained.

“Experts tell us that we can even raise tilapia here,” Ramos said, referring to the possibility of boosting the community’s income with fish farming.

He added that the Brazilians told them that the reservoirs in their country are built with cement instead of polyethylene membranes. But he believes that in El Salvador that system probably won’t work because the soil is brittle and the cement will eventually crack.

“It is possible to use (this design with polyethylene membrane) in some places of the semi-arid region, we can experiment with it here,” said one of the Brazilians who visited the country, Raimundo Nonado Patricio, 54, who lives in a rural community in Tururu, a municipality in the state of Ceará.

For the farmers in the Dry Corridor, he told IPS in an interview by phone from Rio de Janeiro, it is a useful experience “to see our crop diversity and our rainwater harvesting systems.”

In the two Central American countries visited, production is concentrated “in two or three crops, mainly maize,” he said, while in Brazil’s semi-arid region dozens of vegetables, fruits and grains are grown, and several species of animals are raised, even on small plots of land.

In total, the Salvadoran project financed by the GEF built eight reservoirs of a similar size.

Each beneficiary family also received two 5,000-litre tanks to collect rainwater made of polyethylene resin, so they can store up to 10,000 litres. Once purified with the filter they were provided, the water is fit for human consumption.

“My wife tells me that now she sees the difference. We are grateful, because before we had to walk for more than an hour along paths and hills to a spring,” said Daniel Santos, a 37-year-old farmer who grows grains.

In addition, in the beneficiary communities, living fences were erected with grass, and other fences with stones, on sloping ground, to prevent erosion and facilitate water infiltration, an effort aimed at preserving water resources.

Furthermore, 300,000 fruit and forestry trees, as well as seeds to plant grass, were distributed to increase plant cover.

María de Fátima Santos, 29, who lives in a rural community in Fatima, in the northeast Brazilian state of Bahía, told IPS that of the experiences she learned about in El Salvador and Guatemala, the most useful one was “the use of the drinking water filter, which is common, similar to that in Brazil, but which is less appreciated here.”

For their part, their Central American counterparts, she said, could adopt the “economic garden”, which consists of a large hole in the ground, with a canvas or plastic cloth, which is covered with ploughed soil and buried pipes provide underground drip irrigation.

With additional reporting by Mario Osava in Rio de Janeiro.

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China Generates Energy and Controversy in Argentinahttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/china-generates-energy-controversy-argentina/#comments Fri, 08 Jun 2018 08:04:43 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156109 As in other Latin American countries, in recent years China has been a strong investor in Argentina. The environmental impact and economic benefits of this phenomenon, however, are a subject of discussion among local stakeholders. One of the key areas is energy. A study by the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) states that […]

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Demonstrators protest the construction of two mega hydroelectric power plants on the Santa Cruz River in Argentine Patagonia, with Chinese investment of five billion dollars. Despite concerns about environmental impacts, the government of Mauricio Macri decided to go ahead with the projects. Credit: Courtesy of FARN

Demonstrators protest the construction of two mega hydroelectric power plants on the Santa Cruz River in Argentine Patagonia, with Chinese investment of five billion dollars. Despite concerns about environmental impacts, the government of Mauricio Macri decided to go ahead with the projects. Credit: Courtesy of FARN

By Daniel Gutman
BUENOS AIRES, Jun 8 2018 (IPS)

As in other Latin American countries, in recent years China has been a strong investor in Argentina. The environmental impact and economic benefits of this phenomenon, however, are a subject of discussion among local stakeholders.

One of the key areas is energy. A study by the non-governmental Environment and Natural Resources Foundation (FARN) states that China has mainly been financing hydroelectric, nuclear and hydrocarbon projects.

Just four percent of these investments are in renewable energies, which is precisely the sector where the country is clearly lagging.

“China’s main objective is to export its technology and inputs. And it has highly developed hydraulic, nuclear and oil sectors. There are no more rivers in China where dams can be built and this is why they are so interested in the dams on the Santa Cruz River,” María Marta Di Paola, FARN’s director of research, told IPS."What we attributed in the past to U.S. pressure we are now experiencing with China….The dams are a clear example of how this pressure for economic reasons could be trampling over the nation's environmental sovereignty.” -- Hernán Casañas

China is behind a controversial project to build two giant dams in Patagonia, on the Santa Cruz River, which was approved during the administration of Cristina Kirchner (2007-2015) and ratified by President Mauricio Macri, despite strong environmental concerns.

The dams would cost some five billion dollars, with a foreseen a capacity of 1,310 MW.

However, expert Gustavo Girado said that it is not China that refuses to get involved in renewable energy projects, but Argentina that has not yet made a firm commitment to the energy transition towards clean and unconventional renewable sources.

“Like any country with a lot of capital, China is interested in all possible businesses and takes what it is offered. In fact, in Argentina it also has a high level of participation in the RenovAr Plan,” explained Girado, an economist and director of a postgraduate course on contemporary China at the public National University of Lanús, based in Buenos Aires.

He was referring to the initiative launched by the Argentine government to develop renewable energies and revert the current scenario, in which fossil fuels account for 87 percent of the country’s primary energy mix.

Also participating in this industry are Chinese companies, which during the period January-September 2017 produced 25 percent of the total oil and 14 percent of the natural gas extracted in the country.

Since 2016, the Ministry of Energy has signed 147 contracts for renewable energy projects that would contribute a total of 4,466 MW to the electric grid, most of them involving solar and wind power, which are currently under development.

The goal is to comply with the law enacted in 2015, which establishes that by 2025 renewables must contribute at least 20 percent of the capacity of the electric grid, which today is around 30,000 MW.

In this sense, 15 percent of the power allocated through the RenovAr Plan has been to Chinese capital.

One mega project in renewable energies is the Caucharí solar park, in the northern province of Jujuy, which is to consist of the installation of 1,200,000 solar panels built in China, on a 700-hectare site.

The project has a budget of 390 million dollars, of which 330 million will be financed by the state-owned Export-Import Bank of China.

China is also behind Argentina’s intention to develop nuclear energy, since in 2017 it was agreed that it would finance the fourth and fifth nuclear power plants in this South American country, at a total cost of 14 billion dollars.

However, the Macri administration announced this month that it would indefinitely postpone the start of construction of at least the first of these plants, to avoid further indebtedness and reduce the country’s high fiscal deficit.

The decision is aimed at facilitating the granting of a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), after the crisis of confidence that resulted in a massive outflow of capital and which put the local economy in serious trouble.

On the other hand, other energy projects funded by Chinese capital are going ahead, including four other hydroelectric power plants and thermal plants powered by natural gas.

So far, the investments already committed by Beijing in the energy sector in Latin America’s third-largest economy total 30 billion dollars, in addition to projects in other areas, such as infrastructure, agribusiness or mining.

“The Chinese looked first at their continent, then at Africa, and for some years now they have their eyes on Latin America. First of all, they were interested in agricultural and mineral products, and today they are not only the region’s second largest trading partner, but also a good investor,” Jorge Taiana, Argentine foreign minister between 2005 and 2010, told IPS.

The veteran diplomat recalled a point made by then U.S. President George W. Bush at the 2005 Summit of the Americas (SOA) in the Argentine city of Mar del Plata, where the region refused to form the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

“He (Bush) told us,’I don’t know why they care so much about the FTAA, when what we need to discuss is how we defend ourselves against China’,” Taiana said.

He maintains that it depends on the decisions of Argentina and the rest of the countries in the region whether they will benefit from or be victims of China’s aggressive economic expansion.

“Foreign direct investment is always beneficial. The secret lies in what conditions the recipients put in place and what their development plan is,” he said.

“Argentina, for example, built its railways with English capital, and all the tracks converge in Buenos Aires because the English were only interested in getting the agricultural products to to the port. Those are the things that shouldn’t happen,” he added.

Environmental organisations are particularly critical of the dams on the Santa Cruz River, which begins in the magnificent Los Glaciares National Park and could affect the water level in Lake Argentino, home to the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the country’s major tourist attractions.

However, the dam contract has a cross default clause whereby, if not built, Chinese banks could also cut off financing for railway infrastructure projects they are carrying out in Argentina.

“What we attributed in the past to U.S. pressure we are now experiencing with China,” said Hernán Casañas, director of Aves Argentinas, the country’s oldest environmental organisation.

“The dams are a clear example of how this pressure for economic reasons could be trampling over the nation’s environmental sovereignty,” he told IPS.

In this regard, Di Paola said that “China has occupied in Latin America the place previously occupied primarily by traditional financial institutions such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.”

“The problem is that it does not have the same framework of safeguards, so they are able to start infrastructure works without complying with environmental requirements,” he said.

But Girado sees things differently, saying “the financial institutions impose conditions on the countries that receive the credits, which China does not do. In that sense it is more advantageous.”

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Chile, an Oasis for Haitians that Has Begun to Run Dryhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/chile-oasis-haitians-begun-run-dry/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 02:11:29 +0000 Orlando Milesi http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155779 A wave of Haitian migrants has arrived in Chile in recent years, changing the face of low-income neighbourhoods. But this oasis has begun to dry up, thanks to measures adopted by decree by the new government against the first massive immigration of people of African descent in this South American country. Some 120,000 Haitians were […]

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Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician, has lived for three years in Santiago with his family. He has a five-year residency permit, thanks to a job contract in an exclusive condominium, where he reinstalled the electrical network, among other tasks. In 2014, there were fewer than 1,800 migrants from Haiti; by April of this year there were nearly 120,000, according to official figures. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician, has lived for three years in Santiago with his family. He has a five-year residency permit, thanks to a job contract in an exclusive condominium, where he reinstalled the electrical network, among other tasks. In 2014, there were fewer than 1,800 migrants from Haiti; by April of this year there were nearly 120,000, according to official figures. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

By Orlando Milesi
SANTIAGO, May 16 2018 (IPS)

A wave of Haitian migrants has arrived in Chile in recent years, changing the face of low-income neighbourhoods. But this oasis has begun to dry up, thanks to measures adopted by decree by the new government against the first massive immigration of people of African descent in this South American country.

Some 120,000 Haitians were living in Chile in early April, according to official figures, most of them working in low wage jobs in sectors such as construction and cleaning.

These immigrants, with an average age of 30, came with tourist visas, almost all of them since 2014, and stayed to work and build a new life in this long and narrow country wedged between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, whose dynamic economic growth has made it one of the most attractive destinations for immigrants from the rest of the region in the last five years.

But on Apr. 8, their situation changed radically when the right-wing government of President Sebastián Piñera, in power since Mar. 11, eliminated the temporary visas that allowed them to go from tourists to regular migrants once they obtained a job, and then to be able to bring their families to this country.

Piñera seeks to curb immigration in general – which according to official figures is around one million people in a country of 17.7 million – and of Haitians in particular, with measures which analysts and activists see as discriminatory against the fifth-largest foreign community in Chile, after Peruvians, Colombians, Bolivians and Venezuelans.

From now on, Haitians will have to obtain a tourist visa at the consulate in Port-au-Prince, in order to board a plane bound for Chile. The visa will be valid for 30 days, extendable to 90, and they will not be able to exchange it for a permit allowing them to stay in the country.

By contrast Venezuelans, the other foreign community that has experienced explosive growth, will be able to obtain in Caracas a so-called “democratic visa” valid for one year.

Offsetting the new restrictions, since Apr. 16, all Haitians who arrived before Apr. 8 have begun to be able to regularise their status, in a process that will end in July 2019. Also, starting on Jul. 2, 10,000 additional family reunification visas will be issued over the following year. In total, the government estimates at 300,000 the number of undocumented immigrants in Chile, a minority of whom are Haitians.

 The Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, near the La Moneda government palace, in Santiago, is crowded with Haitians and other foreign nationals seeking to regularise their migration status, on Apr. 17, a day after a special process was opened as part of measures decreed by the government to curb immigration, which especially affect Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS


The Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, near the La Moneda government palace, in Santiago, is crowded with Haitians and other foreign nationals seeking to regularise their migration status, on Apr. 17, a day after a special process was opened as part of measures decreed by the government to curb immigration, which especially affect Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

For Erik Lundi, 37, who arrived in Chile six years ago from Haiti, the plan “is a very good option. It is very reasonable to give legal status to those who are here.”

“But there is a lot of racial discrimination in the new tourist visa. Only in the case of Haitians is it granted for only 30 days, because Venezuelans have the democratic visa. That is very discriminatory. Why are only Haitians given 30 days? It should be the same for everyone,” he told IPS.

Activists for the human rights of migrants told IPS that in Chile Haitian immigrants face a special cocktail of xenophobia mixed with racism, sometimes disguised as criticism of the fact that their languages are Creole or French, not Spanish.

Salomón Henry, a painter and electrician who arrived three years ago after spending time in the Dominican Republic, the country that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, told IPS that “I do not see anything wrong, I see the measures adopted by the government as positive,” while Congress approves a reform of the Migration Law, in force since 1975, one of Piñera’s main campaign promises.

Henry agrees that “Chile is saturated with immigrants and if more continue to arrive, it means more poverty for those who are already here. It’s not because I’m already here, but you have to take action for the greater good of all,” he said.

A history of inefficiency

José Tomás Vicuña, national director of the Jesuit Migrants Service (SJM), doubts the effectiveness of instituting the consular visa for tourism for Haitians and eliminating the temporary one, based on the experience of similar provisions adopted for Dominicans in 2012, during the previous government of Piñera (2010-2014).

“When they started requiring a consular visa, more started to arrive,” the director of Chile’s leading migrant rights organisation told IPS.

On Pingüinos Street, in the populous municipality of Estación Central, one of the two that has the largest number of migrants from Haiti in Santiago, a hairdresser from the Caribbean island nation has established a barber shop where people speak Creole and customers are fellow Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

On Pingüinos Street, in the populous municipality of Estación Central, one of the two that has the largest number of migrants from Haiti in Santiago, a hairdresser from the Caribbean island nation has established a barber shop where people speak Creole and customers are fellow Haitians. Credit: Orlando Milesi/IPS

The SJM predicts that “the influx (of Haitians) will increase across unauthorised border crossing points. And smuggling networks will also grow,” said Vicuña, who noted that “this happens in many countries when access is severely restricted.”

Luis Eduardo Thayer, a researcher at the Central University School of Social Sciences and until 2017 chair of the National Consultative Council on Migration – an autonomous civil society entity eliminated by the Piñera administration – agrees with that view.

“The Dominicans kept coming because they had family here, they had networks and job opportunities and the conditions in their country of origin were not what they hoped for,” he told IPS.

There were only 6,000 Dominicans in the country when their entrance was restricted, compared to 120,000 Haitians, Thayer said, so “the magnitude of the ‘calling effect’ by the labour market and family ties is much greater in the case of Haitians.”

The 3,000-km Chilean border is described as “porous” by migration officials, making it difficult to control irregular entry.

Thayer ventured that as the Dominicans did, Haitians will use a route known locally as “the hole” or “the gap.”

“They take a plane to Colombia and there they set out on a clandestine route to Chile, assisted by people who know the route and charge them money – in other words, a people smuggling network,” he explained.

The expert said it is “discriminatory” for Haitians to be required to obtain consular visas to come as tourists “just because they are Haitians.” “The government’s argument is that they come here using fraudulent means. But it must be acknowledged that fewer Haitians come here than Venezuelans, Bolivians, Peruvians or Colombians,” he said emphatically.

The Chilean Undersecretary of the Interior, Rodrigo Ubilla, responsible for foreign and immigration policy, denied in a meeting with foreign correspondents that the measures for Haitians are discriminatory and pointed out that they have the special benefit of family reunification visas.

“The community of Haitian citizens numbers around 120,000 and we believe that for practical purposes we have to help their children and spouses to come quickly and without obstacles to this country,” he said.

Stories of those who are already here

The immediate causes of Haitian migration lie in the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 which added devastating effects to the chronic political, economic, social and environmental crisis in Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas.

Word of mouth is another major factor.

And José Miguel Torrico, coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), emphasises another long-standing factor. The degradation of Haitian soil “is a major impact factor, since basically the migration we have here is unskilled workers, the rural poor,” he said.

“The immigration that Chile is receiving comes from rural sectors mainly because they have not been able to maintain their standard of living on the lands they farm,” he told IPS in an interview at his regional office in Santiago.

“I came because I saw on the Internet that there are opportunities to work in Chile, and other Haitians who had come here told me about those opportunities,” said Henry.

Every Sunday, on Pingüinos street, there is a street fair where Haitian migrants go to buy clothes, shoes and a variety of products, including some from their own country, and where they eat typical dishes from Haiti, offered at different stands. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Every Sunday, on Pingüinos street, there is a street fair where Haitian migrants go to buy clothes, shoes and a variety of products, including some from their own country, and where they eat typical dishes from Haiti, offered at different stands. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

During a break at work in a municipality in the foothills in the Chilean capital, Henry explained that he has a work contract and legal residency for five years, and was able to bring his wife and three of his four children. But his case is exceptional.

His youngest daughter was born in Santiago. “My wife was treated like a queen in the hospital and I did not pay a peso”, he said, explaining that the cost was covered by a health fund to which she pays a monthly fee. But undocumented migrants do not have the right to healthcare in Chile.

Accionel Sain Melus, 44, arrived eight years ago from the Dominican Republic (where he lived for 10 years), and works on contract at the Lo Valledor Market, the main vegetable and fruit supply centre in the Chilean capital.

“I have legal residency for five years. The problem is that my wife and daughter were given a temporary visa for one year. I applied and they rejected it. I have all the marriage papers and legalisations. I paid a visa for five years and they sent me a visa for one,” he said.

In his conversation with IPS, at the end of a mass in Creole in the Catholic parish of Santa Cruz, in the municipality of Estación Central, he confided his worries: “This is a difficult time for us…”

Pedro Labrín, the priest of that parish in one of the two municipalities with the largest Haitian communities, where some streets are like a “small Haiti”, explained to IPS that some immigrants from Haiti “have a strong educational background, language skills and technical qualifications.”

But most, he added, “come from the countryside, with very little education, and great difficulties to integrate into the new society because they have fewer social skills and suffer a language barrier.”

Lundi said that “most of them leave their country with the dream of continuing their studies. But migrants here have almost no chance to study,” he said, pointing to the high cost of Chilean universities.

Living with racism and xenophobia

For the parish priest Labrín “the main problem that Haitians face is racism: black people seem interesting as long as they are not next to us. I observe that attitude here… there is a lot of racial resistance,” he said.

In his opinion, “Haitians are stigmatised as carriers of diseases, generators of garbage and domestic violence, as noisy, child abusers, people who speak loudly and are always arguing. Chileans are also angry that they compete with Haitians in terms of access to basic services in healthcare, day care centres, kindergartens and schools.”

Lundi’s experiences have varied: “On the one hand, Chile has been a welcoming country for migrants. On the other hand, Chileans are a bit more violent, more discriminating.”

He accused some sectors of “xenophobia, I do not know if because of their culture they are not used to living with many foreigners, especially black people. They discriminate on the basis of skin colour. That is manifested directly with insults and sometimes psychologically.”

Labrín said that in Estación Central “there is an unethical business to subdivide poor houses to lease them at exorbitant prices.”

“For up to 200,000 pesos (about 333 dollars) they rent miserable rooms with no safety or sanitary conditions. During the visit by Pope Francis (in January 2018), one of these houses where a hundred people were living with just three showers, one of which was not working, and one toilet, was burned,” he complained.

Doubts about the process

For Lundi “the family reunification visa is extremely important because people cannot be happy if they are not with their families. It gives them the opportunity to live together.”

Two girls wearing fancy dresses are presented to the Lord during a special ceremony in an evangelical church, crowded as every Sunday, where the service and other activities are carried out in Creole. The church is close to Pingüinos street, in the Estación Central neighbourhood in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

Two girls wearing fancy dresses are presented to the Lord during a special ceremony in an evangelical church, crowded as every Sunday, where the service and other activities are carried out in Creole. The church is close to Pingüinos street, in the Estación Central neighbourhood in Santiago. Credit: Orlando Milesi / IPS

But the academic Thayer said this offer “is demagogic: they are saying we are going to close the border, but we are going to allow them to be with their family… which is a basic human right.”

Meanwhile, Vicuña said it is essential to know “what will be the criteria for granting the visas, because reducing the criteria to only family reunification will fall short of demand.”

“Orderly, safe and regulated migration requires a clear information process, and many measures have been taken here on the fly,” he said.

Thayer broke down another growing social prejudice against Haitians. “The rate of unemployment of migrants is very low, like that of Chileans, from five to six percent,” he said.

“You cannot say that the labour market is overrun because of the arrival of Haitians. What there is, is a problem of integration because of a lack of public policies on housing, education and work,” he said.

Parish priest Labrín called for an emphasis to be put on the contributions made by Haitians: “culture, work, economic assets and children.” “The Chilean birth rate, which causes so much concern in the development pyramid, will be bolstered by the birth of Chilean children to migrant parents,” he said, to illustrate.

First impact: crowded migration offices

In the Migration Office on Fanor Velasco Street, three blocks from the La Moneda government palace, the air was unbreathable on Apr. 17, the day after the new regulations entered into force.

An unrelenting crowd of migrants seeking to get the process done packed the office and its surroundings from dawn, doubling the already heavy daily flow of people, before the new immigration measures adopted by decree went into effect.

Leonel Dorelus, a 32-year-old Haitian, arrived in Chile in Novembers 2017, after living in the Dominican Republic for three years. He lives with a brother-in-law, who arrived earlier, in a municipality on the south side of Santiago, where he works in an evangelical church.

“I would only like to bring my girlfriend,” he told IPS as he waited his turn.

Mark Edouard, 30, comes from the Haitian town of Artibonite. He works as a night-shift doorman, with a contract, and during the day he works at a public market, in the populated district of Puente Alto, 20 km southeast of Santiago.

“I started as an assistant at the same market. At first I lived with other people, but I was not comfortable so I moved and now I live alone,” he said.

Zilus Jeandenel, 28, came to Chile from the rural town of Comine. He lives in the municipality of San Bernardo, in the south of Greater Santiago, with two sisters. He arrived eight months ago and has no job, just like one of his sisters. “It’s hard to get work,” he said, “even though my quality of life is much better here.”

Little Haiti in Santiago

It’s Sunday, and dozens of Haitians are attending mass in the Jesuit parish church of Santa Cruz, on Pinguinos street in the neighbourhood of Nogales, in the municipality of Estación Central in Santiago, where Erik Lundi works. Kitty corner from the church, a Haitian barber attends his fellow countrymen. They all speak Creole and while they wait for their turn they watch a Formula One race on television.

In front of the barbershop is the bus stop where people catch the bus to downtown Santiago or the southern outskirts of the city. The ticket costs the equivalent of one dollar.

Also on Pingüinos, further east, a street market is held, every Sunday, with stands selling clothes and used shoes that customers try on right there. Other stands, some improvised on the sidewalk, sell vegetables, fruit, meat, typical Haitian products and the most sought-after: sacks of beans. Haitian dishes are also offered to sample on the spot.

There are some Chilean vendors, but most are Haitians. All explain, in Creole or Spanish, the prices, in a street market that, as the parishioners explain, is also a social meeting place. Women with small children, pregnant women, young people who greet each other with high fives and a couple made up of a Haitian man and a smiling Chilean woman holding hands, are part of the Sunday landscape on Pingüinos street.

Just two blocks away, there is an evangelical church which, like the Catholic church, also functions as a social centre, where the service is carried out in Creole and is accompanied by live music played on guitars, electric basses and large congo drums.

People dress up for church as an important occasion. The women wear colourful outfits and shoes and the men wear shiny shoes, some white, while almost all of them wear ties. The girls especially stand out with their tulles and elaborate braided hairstyles. This is Haitian life and culture, transplanted to Santiago, in the Andes mountains.

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/belt-road-initiative-vows-green-infrastructure-connectivity/#respond Tue, 08 May 2018 12:04:47 +0000 Diana G Mendoza http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155665 “My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies […]

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Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

Belt and Road Initiative Vows Green Infrastructure with Connectivity

By Diana G Mendoza
MANILA, May 8 2018 (IPS)

“My son in primary school did not attend a birthday celebration because it was cancelled due to bad air — and we live in Seoul, a great place to live,” said Dr. Frank Rijsberman, director-general of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI).

He was speaking to delegates of a forum that discussed creating environmental policies while enabling economic and regional cooperation among countries in the Belt and Road route during the 51st annual meeting of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) that concluded over the weekend.The initiative covers more than 65 countries -- or more than 60% of the world's population -- that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years.

The forum took cues from Rijsberman’s story of living in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, one of the poorest countries that in 50 years became an example for many developing countries to demonstrate the importance of economic growth while being mindful of air quality and the overall livability of the environment.

The “Green Growth and Regional Cooperation” forum was a side event hosted by GGGI with an expert panel that discussed China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and, with many references to “green growth,” “green policies” and “green investments,” looked at putting in place policies to accelerate green investments and green technology while exploring ways to create opportunities that address poverty across countries.

“Climate change is already exacting its toll, particularly in the Asian region, so rapidly that technological and economic growth (that may have worsened issues like air quality) should also be our most immediate driver of action to do something,” said Rijsberman.

He said there is a need for countries to have “green growth,” a new development approach that delivers environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive economic growth that is low-carbon and climate resilient; prevents or remediates pollution; maintains healthy and productive ecosystems and creates green jobs, reduce poverty and enhance social inclusion.

Rijsberman said the GGGI will join the Green Belt and Road Coalition and currently cooperates with the China Ministry of Ecology and Environment and the ASEAN Center for Environmental Cooperation on regional cooperation and integration that facilitates sustainable urban development and supports high-level policies and impactful knowledge sharing on the adoption of sustainable growth in the Belt and Road countries.

Prof. Dongmei Guo, China state council expert of the China-ASEAN Environmental Cooperation Center, said the BRI brings together two regional trade corridors: the Silk Road Economic Belt that will link China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea though Central Asia and West Asia with three routes:  China-Central Asia-Russia-Europe through the Baltic Sea; China-Central Asia-West Asia-Persian Gulf through the Mediterranean Sea and China- Southeast Asia-South Asia through the Indian Ocean; and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road that stretches from the South Pacific Sea to Europe with two roads — Coastal China-South China Sea-Indian Ocean-Europe and Coastal China-South China Sea and South Pacific.

The initiative covers more than 65 countries — or more than 60% of the world’s population — that includes Africa and Europe and plans to mobilize 150 billion dollars in investments over the next five years. Initiated in 2013, the BRI aims to create the world’s largest platform for economic cooperation, including policy coordination, trade and financing collaboration, and social and cultural cooperation.

“The BRI provides great opportunities for promoting green transformation and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2030,” said Guo, mentioning environmental-related SGDs 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 as the same targets envisioned in the initiative.  “The global sustainable development process has entered a new stage through the BRI and it must be green.”

Goals 6, 12, 13, 14 and 15 enjoin countries to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation and sustainable consumption and production patterns, to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts, conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development and to protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Guo said among some of the concerns in the countries along the route are water shortages, water pollution, agricultural pollution, tailings, industrial wastes, and nuclear waste for Central Asia, biodiversity loss, water pollution and urbanization-led pollution in South Asia, and biodiversity, forest fire and haze brought by conventional pollution in Southeast Asia.

Winston Chow, GGGI country representative for China, said the program is still in its initial phase but is seeing an estimated investment of 500 billion dollars through 2030 that will be invested in the developing world along the BRI route, with 300 billion of that being carbon-related.

“What that means is that we have to consider the impacts of these economies in the long term and a major opportunity to decarbonize, which is a big step as we enhance global development,” he said. “We have to look at 2030 development goals and align our efforts at helping member countries contribute as they implement development projects.”

Organized under five guiding tasks of policy coordination, unimpeded trade, facilities connectivity financial integration, and people-to-people bond, Chow said the BRI aims to utilize Chinese government policy, financing and technology in enhancing strong projects in the developing world. The GGGI will facilitate the work with member states on how to deploy green projects and we have talked to a number of country governments such as those in Mongolia, Jordan, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Vietnam and the Philippines.”

He cited the strong collaboration with Mongolia after its policy makers were introduced to energy efficiency with air quality restrictions and environmental impact reductions through the introduction of the electric vehicles tariff in the capital Ulaanbaatar that successfully reduced bad air from 2016 to 2017.

Jordan, Indonesia and Ethiopia are also underway in their ecological restoration and water treatment practices. Transformative projects among Chinese technologies in solar energy use, e-transportation and e-mobility technology, land restoration, water and solid waste treatment and solar, wind and energy building efficiency projects will also be shared as well with participating countries.

But with BRI being recently introduced, Chow mentioned a few challenges in financing schemes such as gaps between what China wants to invest in and what developing countries are ready to do but have financial needs that are complex to underwrite. For instance, he said “the debate is still out on countries that have electricity grids not quite ready for global energy integration that may not necessarily yield benefits financially or socially.”

The gap is also shown in Chinese investments in green projects that can be worth 100 million dollars but some countries can only do projects in the 20 or 30 million range. He cited BRI large scale projects such as airports in Cambodia or Vietnam’s hydropower plants and dams.

In his press conference prior to the GGGI side event, ADB President Takehiko Nakao lauded China’s Belt and Road Initiative as a key program to connect countries and regions and to broaden integration and cooperation across Asia, and that the ADB will participate in this initiative when needed. He enjoined countries along the route to be careful not to take out excessive loans when they get involved in the initiative to finance their projects and to look closely at the benefits the projects can give to their citizens.

“If countries borrow too much for certain projects without seriously looking at the feasibility, it might bring more trouble in repayment,” he said, stressing the need to “look at debt sustainability issues very seriously.”

Ayumi Konishi, special senior adviser to the president of ADB, told the side event “the ADB intends to cooperate with BRI because of its strong preference for green projects such as renewable energy or sustaining transport projects.”

Since the BRI initiative was announced in September 2013 advocating for improved connectivity for shared prosperity and after China signed an agreement with six multilateral development banks, he said the ADB is in agreement as “we share the same vision; we need the entire portfolio of cooperation projects to make them greener and make them less vulnerable to potential bad impacts of climate change.”

Rijsberman, GGGI’s director-general, said the GGGI, a treaty-based international organization headquartered in Seoul, South Korea, is seeing good examples of green efforts such as the Pacific greening in Vanuatu, the eco-towns in the Philippines, the business models in Indonesia that prevent fires and rehabilitate forests, the efforts in Rwanda to eradicate plastics and the biodiversity protection efforts in the Greater Mekong area.

“Efforts go beyond protecting environment but more on promoting it,” he said, stressing that such initiatives are all anchored on landmark agreements such as the UN SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.

The 2018 ADB Annual Meeting, themed “Linking People and Economies for Inclusive Development,” was held on May 3-6 2018 in Manila, its headquarters. It gathered more than 4,000 delegates and brought together experts of different disciplines who discussed framing global economic shifts, re-examined governance structures, explored governments and development institutions’ adapting new opportunities while addressing challenges presented by an increasingly digital future.

The ADB estimates Asia’s infrastructure needs could reach 22.6 trillion dollars through 2030, or 1.5 trillion annually. If climate change adaptation measures are adopted, the cost would rise to over 26 trillion. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled 32.2 billion dollars, including 11.9 billion in co-financing.

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From the Syrian War to Argentina – Or How to Start a New Lifehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/syrian-war-argentina-start-new-life/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=syrian-war-argentina-start-new-life http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/syrian-war-argentina-start-new-life/#comments Mon, 07 May 2018 02:49:08 +0000 Daniel Gutman http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155642 Fares al Badwan moved to Buenos Aires alone, from Syria, in 2011. He was 17 years old then and the armed conflict in his country had just broken out. Since then he has managed to bring over his whole family and today he cannot imagine living outside of Argentina. “I like the people here. No […]

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Mexico’s Solidarity Towards Haitians Only Goes So Farhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mexicos-solidarity-towards-haitians-goes-far/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mexicos-solidarity-towards-haitians-goes-far http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/04/mexicos-solidarity-towards-haitians-goes-far/#respond Mon, 30 Apr 2018 18:25:35 +0000 Daniela Pastrana http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=155551 In the airport of this Mexican city, on the border with the United States, customs agents warn that they will carry out a “random” inspection. But it’s not so random. The only people who are stopped and checked have dark skin and kinky hair, and virtually do not speak a word of Spanish. The same […]

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Healthy Nutrition Spreads in El Salvador’s Schoolshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/healthy-nutrition-spreads-el-salvadors-schools/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=healthy-nutrition-spreads-el-salvadors-schools http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/healthy-nutrition-spreads-el-salvadors-schools/#comments Mon, 05 Feb 2018 00:09:17 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154164 Eating healthy and nutritious food in schools in El Salvador is an effort that went from a pilot plan to a well-entrenched programme that has now taken off. The Sustainable Schools programme, initially launched in 2013 in three schools in the rural municipality of Atiquizaya, in the western department of Ahuachapán, surpassed expectations and has […]

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FAO Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Julio Berdegué visited the rural school in Pepenance, in western El Salvador, which has become a model in healthy eating, within El Salvador’s programme of sustainable schools. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

FAO Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean Julio Berdegué visited the rural school in Pepenance, in western El Salvador, which has become a model in healthy eating, within El Salvador’s programme of sustainable schools. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
ATIQUIZAYA, El Salvador, Feb 5 2018 (IPS)

Eating healthy and nutritious food in schools in El Salvador is an effort that went from a pilot plan to a well-entrenched programme that has now taken off.

The Sustainable Schools programme, initially launched in 2013 in three schools in the rural municipality of Atiquizaya, in the western department of Ahuachapán, surpassed expectations and has now been replicated in all 22 schools in the municipality, and in many others in the country.

“With the 10 menus that we have implemented here, we have changed the student’s expectations about meals,” the director of the Pepenance District Educational Centre, José Antonio Tespan, told IPS before this year’s first parent-teacher assembly.

That institution is one of the three where the programme started, and over time became the flagship of the initiative."This gives us the opportunity to open new doors with other decision-makers to promote more integral projects... there are families who want a school garden, so we’re starting a project of family gardens in the municipality.” -- Ana Luisa Rodríguez

Now it has been implemented in 10 of El Salvador’s 14 departments, and includes 40 of the country’s 262 municipalities and 215 of the more than 3,000 schools in the rural area, benefiting some 73,000 students.

The project has had from the start technical support from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and financing from the Brazilian government. And although it officially ended in December 2017, it will continue because of its success.

“There was a paradigm shift and a sustainable school model was developed in Atiquizaya, it was a pleasure for FAO to have accompanied them,” the U.N. agency’s representative in El Salvador, Alan González, told IPS.

El Salvador is part of a group of 13 countries in the region that, since 2009, have taken part in an initiative executed by FAO and the Brazilian government, extending the programme of sustainable schools, adapting the achievements of that South American country’s National School Feeding Programme.

This Central American nation of 6.5 million people faces serious socioeconomic problems, and child malnutrition has never been eradicated.

Chronic malnutrition in El Salvador was around 14 percent in 2014, in children under five, according to that year’s National Health Survey, the most recent. That exceeds the Latin American average, which is 11.6 percent, according to 2015 data from the World Health Organisation.

The students benefiting from the initiative receive a mid-morning snack, made with products purchased from farmers in the area, as part of the “local purchases” component, a key aspect of the project.

Students of the Pepenance District School in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, pose for pictures in front of one of the nutritious daily meals offered to the students, which are made with products from local farmers. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Students of the Pepenance District School in the municipality of Atiquizaya, in western El Salvador, pose for pictures in front of one of the nutritious daily meals offered to the students, which are made with products from local farmers. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

“In addition to ensuring a nutritious diet for our students, at the same time we are strengthening the local economy,” said Tespan, the director of the school in Pepenance, home to 3,225 of the 34,000 inhabitants of the 67-sq-km municipality of Atiquizaya, which encompasses 13 districts (villages or small towns).

The school’s cook, 46-year-old Rosa Delmy Fajardo, a native of Pepenance, mixes fruits, vegetables, and eggs with enthusiasm. Her meals have achieved the approval of the students.

She told IPS that of the 10 menus, there was one she had never seen or tasted, the so-called “Chinese rice”, based on that grain, to which is added an egg cake, cut into pieces.

“When I make that, they eat everything, and there are children who ask their mothers to make them Chinese rice,” she said.

She added that she has been in charge of the school kitchen for 11 years, but has worked three years under FAO nutritional guidelines.

Before that, the menu was less nutritious, since it only had staples such as oil, rice, beans, sugar and milk.

“Now we have everything that is needed for the food to have another touch,” Fajardo said.

The success achieved in Pepenance was reflected in November when it became a finalist for the Banco do Brasil Foundation Award, in the international category.

The award promotes low-cost sustainable development initiatives with a major social impact that involve community participation. The categories are aligned with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promoted by the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

“I am overjoyed about this award, for me it is a great achievement, and I feel proud,” added Fajardo.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Atiquizaya, Ana Luisa Rodríguez, said she felt happy and moved by the recognition obtained in Brazil, and hoped it would bring more benefits to strengthen the programme.

“This gives us the opportunity to open new doors with other decision-makers to promote more integral projects… there are families who want a school garden, so we’re starting a project of family gardens in the municipality,” she said in a conversation with IPS.

For the mayor, part of the key to the success obtained in Pepenance has been the work coordinated with all the actors and agencies that have been working towards the same end.

“Having achieved this intersectoral collaboration was momentous: the parents got involved in the construction of a storehouse, kitchen and dining room, and they were also empowered, they are part of the project,” she said.
For his part, the FAO’s González stressed that “in Atiquizaya the involvement by the community and local actors was vital” in achieving the result obtained.

In September 2017, FAO regional representative Julio Berdegué visited Pepenance for a first-hand view of the achievements obtained, and stressed that the small Salvadoran community’s accomplishments are an example to be replicated in other countries.

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Wars, Crises and Catastrophes Drive Immigration to Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/02/wars-crises-catastrophes-drive-immigration-brazil/#respond Fri, 02 Feb 2018 00:13:58 +0000 Mario Osava http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=154125 The war in Angola, the earthquake in Haiti, Venezuela’s political crisis and shortages and the political repression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the main driving factors behind the recent waves of immigration to Brazil. The largest and most populous Latin American country is no longer the major recipient of immigrants that it […]

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Haitian cultural producer Bob Montinard and his French wife, Melanie, are seen at the Haitian food stand they run at the monthly refugee food fair in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the couple and their two children have been living since 2010 and where they created Mawon, an organisation dedicated to helping immigrants. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Haitian cultural producer Bob Montinard and his French wife, Melanie, are seen at the Haitian food stand they run at the monthly refugee food fair in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro, where the couple and their two children have been living since 2010 and where they created Mawon, an organisation dedicated to helping immigrants. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

By Mario Osava
RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 2 2018 (IPS)

The war in Angola, the earthquake in Haiti, Venezuela’s political crisis and shortages and the political repression in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the main driving factors behind the recent waves of immigration to Brazil.

The largest and most populous Latin American country is no longer the major recipient of immigrants that it was until the mid-twentieth century, which gave it its well-known ethnic and cultural diversity, with large European, Arab and Asian inflows.

Brazil, with a current population of 208 million inhabitants, had only 713,568 foreign residents in 2015, equivalent to just 0.3 percent of its population at that time, according to the World Migration Report 2018 published in December by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Almost nothing compared to Argentina and Venezuela, where immigrants represent 4.5 and 4.8 percent of the population, respectively, IOM Brazil project coordinator Marcelo Torelly told IPS.

But Brazil again became an attractive destination this century, especially in the current decade, when the number of foreign-born inhabitants grew 20 percent from 2010 to 2015, according to the IOM.

“The main flow of immigration is now South-South from Haiti, Africa and Asia, not the flows from bordering nations, and surpassing those from the North,” academic Leonardo Cavalcanti, scientific coordinator of the Observatory of International Migration (OBMigra), a joint studies group of the Ministry of Labour and the University of Brasilia, told IPS.

There was an upsurge after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, which claimed more than 220,000 lives, displaced 1.5 million people and destroyed the local economy.

Tens of thousands of Haitians sought a chance to rebuild their lives in Brazil, making up the largest foreign group in the formal labour market since 2013.

Brazil already had close relations with Haiti prior to the earthquake. In addition to sending thousands of soldiers and being in charge of the military command of the multinational United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, between 2004 and 2017, it also carried out social projects in the Caribbean island nation.

Among the Brazilians killed in the earthquake was Zilda Arns, who brought to Haiti the experience of the Pastoral Care of Children, a Catholic organisation that she founded, and which was instrumental in reducing child mortality in Brazil.

Bob Montinard, a 42-year-old Haitian, was working in Port-au-Prince on disarmament, conflict mediation and reintegration projects for juvenile offenders after their release, promoted by the U.N. and the Brazilian non-governmental organisation Viva Río, when the earthquake destroyed his house and his left leg was broken as debris fell.

Worried about the malnutrition of their children – including their unborn baby - due to food shortages in their country, this Venezuelan woman - who asked to preserve her anonymity – and her husband decided to migrate to Brazil. They sold their home to finance their trip to Rio de Janeiro, where she received excellent healthcare in childbirth, her husband has already found work, and the children are impressed with the number of playgrounds. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Worried about the malnutrition of their children – including their unborn baby – due to food shortages in their country, this Venezuelan woman – who asked to preserve her anonymity – and her husband decided to migrate to Brazil. They sold their home to finance their trip to Rio de Janeiro, where she received excellent healthcare in childbirth, her husband has already found work, and the children are impressed with the number of playgrounds. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Surgeries in France and the need for ongoing physiotherapy made him decide to move to Río de Janeiro, where he has lived since 2010 with his French wife and their children aged eight and nine, as a cultural producer and activist.

Last year he founded an organisation called Mawon, which in the Haitian Creole language means chestnut colour but was also the name given to black slaves who fled to freedom, like the “quilombolas” in Brazil.

“Mawon is neither black nor white, it is Creole, meaning escape and now migration, diversity, mixture, and against racism,” defined Montinard, explaining that the organisation is active in social issues, welcoming immigrants and helping them get settled in Brazil, and also has a business side.

“Migrants bring their culture, their food and their music. It is what they produce, share and sell in the destination country. Everyone wins: immigrants get an income, while they offer enriching knowledge for all,” he told IPS.

Cultural production is the best way to integrate immigrants, especially in Rio de Janeiro, he said while frying typical Haitian plantain snacks at a food stand.

Aryadne Bittencourt is legal protection agent for refugees in Caritas in Rio de Janeiro, a Catholic organisation that assists some 150 foreigners per week, to whom it provides a small financial aid stipend, job training and Portuguese language courses, to help them survive and integrate in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Aryadne Bittencourt is legal protection agent for refugees in Caritas in Rio de Janeiro, a Catholic organisation that assists some 150 foreigners per week, to whom it provides a small financial aid stipend, job training and Portuguese language courses, to help them survive and integrate in Brazil. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

He was at the refugee food fair, held monthly in Botafogo, a Río de Janeiro neighbourhood, with support from the local Anglican church, which provides outdoor patios, from the Catholic organisation Caritas, and from the Local Board, a group that connects producers and consumers, to offer healthy meals at fair prices.

In recent years there has also been an increased influx of Africans, such as Congolese and Senegalese, as well as Syrians, while more recently there has been an inflow of Venezuelans, all fleeing poverty or violence.

In the past, the largest number of African immigrants came from Angola, a country that shares the Portuguese language, fleeing from the civil war that ended in 2002 after 27 years of conflict.

There are also economic reasons behind the shift in immigration flows, since the 2008 international financial crisis weakened the appeal of the United States and Europe, while Brazil’s booming growth offered many employment opportunities, said Cavalcanti, who is also a graduate studies professor at the University of Brasilia.

However, that scenario changed when Brazil fell into recession in 2015, and employment fell, which reduced the flow of immigrants, except for Africans. It also failed to curb the wave of Venezuelans, who, sometimes hungry, cross the border into the state of Roraima.

Garcia Malunza, 25, together with her year and a half old daughter, fled the war in Angola and took refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which she left in 2006 to migrate to Brazil, "for personal reasons." She sells African dresses and fabrics at the refugee fair held monthly in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Botafogo. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

Garcia Malunza, 25, together with her year and a half old daughter, fled the war in Angola and took refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which she left in 2006 to migrate to Brazil, “for personal reasons.” She sells African dresses and fabrics at the refugee fair held monthly in the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood of Botafogo. Credit: Mario Osava / IPS

This was the case of the couple who, with two young children and with her pregnant, sold their house in Venezuela to travel overland to Roraima, and from there by plane to Río de Janeiro, where they were assisted by Caritas, which helps refugees and migrants in several Brazilian cities.

“We decided to leave because I didn’t have the food or vitamins to prevent my baby from being undernourished, and the children were only eating cassava and sardines. Our business went bankrupt because of inflation and we suffered threats because we were not supporters of the government,” said the woman, who preferred to remain unidentified because they still have family in Venezuela.

“I do not see any crisis in Brazil, nothing compared to what we experienced in Venezuela,” she said, praising the good treatment she received during her daughter’s birth, the possibility of freely buying enough food and “of living without fear.”

Initially they received aid from Caritas, equivalent to 95 dollars a month for a few months, and Portuguese language courses. With her husband employed in a hotel, she hopes to “settle down and provide a decent life for our children,” who love the many playgrounds and beaches that they were unable to enjoy in their country.

The IOM, which only opened its office in Brasilia in 2016, opened another one in 2017 in the capital of Roraima, Boa Vista, in the face of the humanitarian emergency situation arising from the mass flight of Venezuelans.

Its Displacement Tracking Matrix platform began to be used in that northern state in January, to help the Brazilian authorities manage the influx, with clear data on the immigrants, Torelly reported.

Of the 33,865 refugee claims in Brazil last year, 52.7 percent were filed by Venezuelans.

Refuge for political or humanitarian reasons offers a path to legal residency in Brazil. It has been the means of entry for about one-third of foreigners in recent years. But few applications are approved.

The National Committee for Refugees, the interministerial body responsible for the approvals, only granted refuge to a little over 9,000 people, and has more than 55,000 pending applications, according to Aryadne Bittencourt, legal protection agent for Caritas Rio refugees.

A new law, passed in 2017, aims to facilitate immigration and refugee status, but the way it is being regulated would tend to continue imposing obstacles, as does the red tape, she lamented.

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Central America Builds Interconnected Clean Energy Corridorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-builds-interconnected-clean-energy-corridor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=central-america-builds-interconnected-clean-energy-corridor http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/central-america-builds-interconnected-clean-energy-corridor/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 21:30:57 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153505 Countries in Central America are working to strengthen their regional electricity infrastructure to boost their exchange of electricity generated from renewable sources, which are cheaper and more environmentally friendly. With the Clean Energy Corridor, a project agreed in 2015 by the governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, these countries seek […]

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Workers at an electricity distribution company carry out maintenance work on the grid, on the outskirts of San Salvador. Central American countries, including El Salvador, are promoting an interconnected Clean Energy Corridor. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

Workers at an electricity distribution company carry out maintenance work on the grid, on the outskirts of San Salvador. Central American countries, including El Salvador, are promoting an interconnected Clean Energy Corridor. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
SAN SALVADOR , Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

Countries in Central America are working to strengthen their regional electricity infrastructure to boost their exchange of electricity generated from renewable sources, which are cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

With the Clean Energy Corridor, a project agreed in 2015 by the governments of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama, these countries seek to share their surplus electricity from renewable sources, including non-conventional sources, such as wind, geothermal and solar.

To achieve this they will have to gradually modify their energy mixes to depend less and less on thermal power, which is more expensive and has more negative impacts on the planet, since it is based on the burning of fossil fuels."The problem is the stability of the sources. The State can have a 60-MW photovoltaic plant, but if there is variability, it must have a backup in thermal, hydroelectric or other sources allowing it to meet the needs of the market.” -- Werner Vargas

The objective is to inject cleaner energy into the system that interconnects the electricity grids of the countries of the region, with economic and environmental benefits, experts and regional authorities told IPS.

“Each country is doing everything possible to generate energy with clean sources…and if there is surplus energy that is not consumed, it is illogical for it not to be used by other countries that are using thermal power: that’s where the Clean Energy Corridor comes into the picture,” Fernando Díaz, director of electricity at Panama’s Energy Ministry, told IPS.

About 60 percent of electricity in the region is produced from renewable sources, mostly hydroelectric plants.

But Central America is still highly dependent on fossil fuels, says a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

This organisation, based in the United Arab Emirates, promotes the development of renewable energies in the world, and is the main driver of the Corridor project in Central America, following similar efforts in Africa and Southeast Asia.

The Corridor will use a platform already functioning in Central America: a 1,800-km power grid cutting across the isthmus, from Guatemala in the extreme northwest, to Panama in the southeast.

The grid was built to give life to the Regional Electricity Market, created in May 2000, as part of the Central American Integration System (SICA), a mechanism of political and economic complementation established by the presidents of the area in December 1991.

Over 50 percent of the energy traded is supplied by hydroelectric plants, 35 percent by thermal and 15 percent by geothermal, solar and wind, explained René González of Nicaragua, executive director of the Regional Operator Entity (EOR), which administers electricity sales.

It is estimated, he added in a dialogue with IPS in San Salvador, that the proportion of non-conventional renewables could grow to up to 20 percent by 2020.

The Providencia Solar company inaugurated this year the first photovoltaic power plant in El Salvador, in the central department of La Paz. With 320,000 solar panels, it is one of the largest solar installations in Central America, whose countries are making efforts to transition their energy mixes to renewable sources. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

The Providencia Solar company inaugurated this year the first photovoltaic power plant in El Salvador, in the central department of La Paz. With 320,000 solar panels, it is one of the largest solar installations in Central America, whose countries are making efforts to transition their energy mixes to renewable sources. Credit: Edgardo Ayala / IPS

The countries of the area as a whole will need an additional seven gigawatts that year, on top of the current level of production, according to a report published in July by IRENA.

The Corridor is in line with the goals set out in the Central American Sustainable Energy Strategy 2020, agreed by the governments of the region in 2007, which aims to overcome the dependence on fossil fuels and promote renewable sources, Werner Vargas, the executive director of the SICA General Secretariat, told IPS.

“The idea (of the Corridor) is to inject clean energies into the Central American electricity system, but guaranteeing that there is not too much variability,” explained Vargas, at the Secretariat’s headquarters in San Salvador.

Part of the challenge is to operate a system with higher flows of renewable electricity, which is more unstable, as is the case with solar and wind sources, which depend on climate variability.

“The problem is the stability of the sources. The State can have a 60-MW photovoltaic plant, but if there is variability, it must have a backup in thermal, hydroelectric or other sources allowing it to meet the needs of the market, ” added Vargas, who is also from Nicaragua.

The governments of Central America must also develop the necessary regulatory frameworks to adapt the technical processes and purchase and sale of energy from mainly renewable sources.

If national power grids are fed with clean sources, and surpluses reach the regional network, Central American consumers will be able to have cheaper electricity.

“The cost of electricity production is about 70 percent of its total cost, so if you want to reduce the cost of supply to the final consumer you have to reduce the cost of production,” said the EOR’s González.

He added that the corridor would affect production costs, and the regional market is a way to achieve that goal, since it can inject cheaper energy produced in other regions.

In the same vein, “the vision we have in Central and Latin America is to move towards renewable energies, towards corridors, and that is why interregional connections are important,” said Díaz, from Panama’s Energy Ministry.

He mentioned the case of the project of interconnection between Panama and Colombia, which would link the electricity market of that South American country not only with Panama, but by extension with all of Central America, while linking Central America with different parts of South America.

“This way we will have the capacity to capture solar power from the Atacama Desert, in Chile, hydropower from Brazil, and wind power from Uruguay; these are the things we are seeing as a region,” Díaz said.

Another economic benefit derived from greater energy integration in Central America is that the region is more attractive to international investors, seeing it as a bloc, rather than separate countries.

“It is more attractive to invest in larger projects than individually, that is another fundamental reason for the project: it generates conditions to attract investment,” said the EOR’s González.

But despite the economic and environmental advantages of further development of renewable energy sources, some environmentalists argue that the issue is being viewed too much from a technical and economic perspective, without considering some social costs that these projects may entail.

“There are projects where solar collectors are used on large extensions of land that could be devoted to agriculture or used to build houses…it seems that there is only interest in energy and making money quickly,” said Ricardo Navarro, director of the Salvadoran Centre for Appropriate Technology.

Navarro, who is also head of the Salvadoran branch of Friends of the Earth International, told IPS that it is important for the planet to seek to increase the use of renewable energies, but with that same emphasis the governments of the area should engage in energy saving policies.

“How about trying to reduce demand? For example, a tree prevents the sun beating down directly on a building, and thereby reduces the demand for air conditioning; there are also ways to cook food with less electricity,” he said.

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South-South Cooperation Key to a New Multilateralismhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/south-south-cooperation-key-new-multilateralism/#respond Mon, 04 Dec 2017 14:36:16 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=153298 “There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.” This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation […]

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Mongolian farmers harvest carrots as part of an FAO South-South Cooperation Programme between China and Mongolia. Credit: FAO

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Dec 4 2017 (IPS)

“There are new challenges to all states: among them, the real threat to multilateralism… South-South and triangular cooperation can contribute to a new multilateralism and drive the revitalisation of the global partnership for sustainable development.”

This is how Liu Zhenmin, the UN under-secretary general for Economic and Social Affairs, underscored the importance of South-South Cooperation at an event marking the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation on 12 September, just few weeks ahead of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey (27 to 30 November).

The statement came a few weeks ahead of US President Donald Trump’s announcement that his country was revoking its commitment to the September 2016 UN-promoted global pact that aims at guaranteeing the human rights of migrants and refugees worldwide, in what is widely considered as his third blow to multilateralism in less than one year since he took office after US withdrawal from both the Paris Climate Agreement and UNESCO.

Solutions and strategies created in the South are delivering lasting results around the world, said Amina Mohammed, the UN deputy secretary-general, on the occasion of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation.

“Nearly every country in the global South is engaged in South-South cooperation,” she added, citing China’s Belt and Road Initiative, India’s concessional line of credit to Africa, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Strategic Association Agreement by Mexico and Chile as few examples.

The deputy UN chief, however, also cautioned that progress has been uneven and extreme poverty, deep inequality, unemployment, malnutrition and vulnerability to climate and weather-related shocks persist, and underscored the potential of South-South cooperation to tackle these challenges.

Not a Substitute for North-South Cooperation

Significantly, Amina Mohammed highlighted that the support of the North is crucial to advance sustainable development.

“South-South cooperation should not be seen as a substitute for North-South cooperation but as complementary, and we invite all countries and organizations to engage in supporting triangular cooperation initiatives,” she said, urging all developed nations to fulfil their Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments.

A Kenya delegation discuss with Indonesia goverment official about food security in their country. Credit: FAO

She also urged strengthened collaboration to support the increasing momentum of South-South cooperation as the world implements the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Further, noting the importance of the upcoming high-level UN Conference on South-South Cooperation to be hosted by Argentina on 20-22 March 2019, she said, “It will enable us to coordinate our South-South efforts, build bridges, cement partnerships, and establish sustainable strategies for scaling up impact together.”

The UN General Assembly decided to observe this Day on 12 September annually, commemorating the adoption in 1978 of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.

Key to Overcoming Inequalities

At the opening of the Global South-South Development Expo 2017 in Antalya, Turkey, Fekitamoeloa Katoa Utoikamanu, the UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS), on 27 November said that as the most vulnerable countries continue to face serious development challenges, South-South cooperation offers “enormous opportunities and potential” to effectively support them in accelerating progress on implementing globally agreed goals.

“These are all countries faced with complex and unique development challenges which lend themselves to exploring how and where we can maximize South-South cooperation and leverage global partnerships to support countries’ efforts toward sustainable and inclusive futures,” said Utoikamanu.

The 2017 Global Expo gathered 800 participants from 120 countries, senior UN officials, government ministers, national development agency directors, and civil society representatives, to share innovative local solutions and push for scaling up concrete initiatives from the global South to achieve the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The central promise of the 2030 Agenda is to ‘leave no-one behind,’ and thus is about addressing poverty, reducing inequality and building a sustainable future of shared prosperity,” she explained. “But it is already clear that these noble Goals will be elusive if the 91 countries my Office is a voice for remain at the bottom of the development ladder.”

As such, she added, South-South collaboration has led to increasing trade between and with emerging economies, investors, providers of development cooperation and sources of technological innovations and know-how. “This trend is confirmed by trade preferences for [least developed country products], enhanced trade finance opportunities, but also innovative infrastructure finance emerging.”

“The complex and pressing challenges the vulnerable countries experience demand that we further strengthen and leverage South-South cooperation,” said Utoikamanu, adding that South-South cooperation is “not an ‘either-or’ – it is a strategic and complementary means of action for the transfer and dissemination of technologies and innovations. It complements North-South cooperation.”

Science, Technology, Innovation

The Antalya week-long Global South-South Development Expo 2017 focused on a number of key issues, including how to transfer science, technology and innovation among developing countries and, in general, on solutions ‘for the South, by the South.’

The future will be determined by the abilities to leverage science, technology and innovation for sustainable growth, structural transformation and inclusive human and social development, said Utoikamanu. “It is proven that innovative technologies developed in the South often respond in more sustainable ways to the contextual needs of developing countries. Last, but not least, this is a question of cost.”

In all this, the Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries has a major role to play in boosting science, technology and innovation capacity. “It must facilitate technology transfer and promote the integration of [least developed countries] into the global knowledge-based economy.”

Hosted by the Government of Turkey and coordinated by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), the Antalya Global South-South Development Expo 2017’ was wrapped up on 30 November under the theme “South-South Cooperation in the Era of Economic, Social and Environmental Transformation: The Road to the 40th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action.”

Jorge Chediek, the Director of UNOSSC, said: “Many of the achievements of the expo are not reflected in these very impressive numbers themselves, they are reflected in the partnerships that are being established, in institutional friendships and agreements that are been developed and that will certainly generate results.”


UN Day for South South Cooperation. Credit: United Nations

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G77 a Key Partner in Reform of the UN Systemhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/g77-key-partner-reform-un-system/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=g77-key-partner-reform-un-system http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/g77-key-partner-reform-un-system/#respond Mon, 25 Sep 2017 10:03:33 +0000 Miroslav Lajcak http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152220 Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the 41st annual ministerial meeting of the Group of 77

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Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the 41st annual ministerial meeting of the Group of 77

By Miroslav Lajčák
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 25 2017 (IPS)

When the Charter of Algiers was adopted 50 years ago, it marked the unity of the Group of 77. This unity has not wavered since then.

Credit: UN Photo

The G77 is the biggest group at the UN, made up of more than two thirds of Member States. It is also the most diverse– bringing together perspectives and priorities from across the world.

Today I want to focus on the key role played by the Group of 77 in strengthening our multilateral work. And I want to identify opportunities for stronger cooperation, as we head into the 72nd Session.

I will first point to the Group’s commitment to maintaining momentum around the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement.

These two frameworks involve big commitments. And big commitments need loud reminders to ensure they are met. The Group of 77 has spoken in a united voice. Over the past two years, it has worked to remind us all of the financial pledges made to humanity and to the planet. And I intend to add my voice over the coming year.

G77 members have also played a major role in promoting specific goals and issues. We have seen this through initiatives to mobilize youth for Sustainable Development. We will see this again, with the launch of the International Decade for Action on “Water for Sustainable Development” in 2018. And the Group’s commitment to combating climate change will be clear throughout COP23, which will be chaired by Fiji.

In addition, the Group has also acted as an import platform for south-south cooperation. I stand ready to support the preparation leading to the Second UN Conference on South-South Cooperation, to be hosted by Argentina in 2019

This focus on financing and partnerships is very much in line with the priorities of my Presidency. I intend to work with the Group of 77 throughout the coming year to identify opportunities for the sharing of ideas and lessons learned.

Second, I want to stress that an active G77 is crucial in other areas.

In 2018 the General Assembly will be charged with adopting Global Compacts for Refugees and Migrants. To succeed, we must focus on the needs of people, rather than our individual positions or ideologies. And we will need active engagement from the Group of 77.

Additionally, I will convene a High-Level Event on Sustaining Peace in April 2018. It will offer us an important opportunity to strengthen UN actions around peace and prevention. I intend to consult many G77 members as we work towards this event.

Finally, another opportunity for better cooperation lies in our collective goal for a stronger United Nations.

The 72nd Session will see UN Member States consider the reform agenda of the UN’s Secretary-General. This will apply to the UN development system, peace and security architecture, and management. I am committed to facilitating open and inclusive dialogue on reforms. The G77 will be a key partner in this process.

For the UN to carry out the mandates set by Member States, it needs adequate funding. We will need a timely agreement on the UN regular budget for 2018-2019. I commend the Group for its active engagement in this area.

The Group of 77 has a loud – and a united – voice. It can call attention to the needs and priorities of its members. This helps to ensure a prominent role for Least Developing Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries, and Small Island Developing States on the international stage.

But, more importantly, the Group can shed light on the needs and priorities of the people living in these countries.

Many of them are facing challenges. Some have experienced the devastating impact of Hurricane Irma and Maria. Others are dealing with the effects of terrorism, conflict, or drought.

These people, however, are also creating opportunities. They are working to mediate conflicts – start new businesses – and advocate for people and the planet.

Let us ensure that the 72nd Session involves stronger cooperation between the G77 and UN bodies, including the General Assembly. And let us ensure that this cooperation is focused on the people you are all are here to represent.

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Excerpt:

Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, in his address to the 41st annual ministerial meeting of the Group of 77

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Parliamentarians a “Fourth Pillar” of Sustainable Developmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/parliamentarians-fourth-pillar-sustainable-development/#respond Fri, 22 Sep 2017 11:56:11 +0000 Baher Kamal http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=152201 Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week. Of course, these are not […]

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

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

By Baher Kamal
ROME/NEW DELHI, Sep 22 2017 (IPS)

Investing in youth and the population dividend, women’s health, sustainable development objectives, and the key role of parliamentarians to promote transparency, accountability and good governance to achieve the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development topped the agenda of a two-day conference of Asian and African lawmakers in New Delhi last week.

Of course, these are not easy challenges. But according to the discussions of a representative group of around 50 legislators and experts from the two most populous continents, parliamentarians – as representatives of the stakeholders themselves – must be the “fourth pillar” to promote the 2030 Agenda, along with government, private enterprises, and civil society."If our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.” --Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population

“It is not just simply a question of adopting particular legislation and budgetary measures,” said Teruhiko Mashiko, Vice-Chair of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population (JPFP), in his keynote speech.

“Equally vital will be possession of an overarching vision and the conduct of oversight to ensure that the work is being implemented properly. Promoting the global partnerships that have been discussed to date will also be crucial. That is precisely the role that parliamentarians in every country are to fulfill. It is furthermore a role to be fulfilled by parliamentarians both within regions, and between regions.

“Given the law and tax system reforms that will be needed if we are to achieve the SDGs, parliamentarians will have an extremely big role to play,” Mashiko stressed.

Jointly organised by the Japan-based Asian Population and Development Association (APDA) — which is the Secretariat of the JPFP — and the Indian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (IAPPD), the conference approached what has been considered as the key challenge: the linkage between population issues, in particular youth, and the global sustainable development agenda, also known as the SDGs.

Youth

No wonder — while youth in the African continent of 1.2 billion inhabitants face extremely high rates of unemployment, in Asia and the Pacific, nearly 40 million youth – 12 per cent of the youth labour force – were unemployed in 2015. That year, for example, the youth unemployment rate was estimated at around 12.9 per cent in South-East Asia and the Pacific, 11.7 per cent in East Asia and 10.7 per cent in South Asia.

However, despite these apparently moderate youth unemployment rates, young people remain nearly four times more likely to be unemployed than their adult counterparts, and as much as 5.4 times in South-East Asia (over four times in Southern Asia).

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

“Building societies where every person can live with dignity - this is the essential principle of our parliamentarians’ activities,” Mashiko said.

“One of the principles of the SDGs is that ‘no-one is left behind’. From that perspective, ensuring equality of opportunity to young people, despite their differences in birth and wealth, has a definite meaning. So to that end, ensuring education and employment opportunities ought to be treated as priority issues.”

Population Growth

Growing populations across the world are the biggest hurdle in the path of equitable development, said India’s Union Minister of Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, adding that in order to achieve the SDGs, it is of “utmost importance” for all the countries to take care of their populations.

He stressed that there is a need for large-scale awareness on population issues, and that increasing population has created problems around the entire world regarding sustainable development, employment opportunities and health services.

Ena Singh, the India Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said that his country, India, has registered a rapid decline in fertility rates since its Independence and that currently the average fertility rate is 2.2 children, with the challenge now to bring down the total fertility rate to 2.1.

For her part, Marie Rose Nguini Effa, MP from Cameroon and President of the Africa Parliamentary Forum on Population Development, emphasised the Forum’s readiness to work with APDA to promote investment in youth, “which is critical to Africa’s development and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.”

The Inter-Linkage

New Delhi’s meeting is the latest of a series of dedicated Parliamentarian conferences focusing on the inter-linkages between population issues and the 2030 Agenda, examining ways in which both developed and developing countries as equal partners serve to be the driving force to address population issues and achieve sustainable development.

According to the meetings of Parliamentarians organisers, the fundamental underlying concept is that addressing population issues is imperative to attain universal health coverage (UHC), turning the youth bulge into a demographic dividend, achieving food security, promoting regional stability, and building economically viable societies where no one is left behind.

Bigger than the Whole African Population

“India is the world’s largest democracy and home to 1.3 billion people, which is bigger than the whole African population. Being a highly diverse country with a multitude of cultures, languages and ethnicities, India now enjoys one of the fastest economic growth rates,” according to the organisers.

The country’s serious investment in young people is the driving force behind such growth; the pool of well-educated, skilled young people is making the country an IT capital, they said, adding that the Indian economy also has a great influence on the African continent, especially East Africa, due to long-standing historical, cultural and commercial connections between them.

“Furthermore, with its longstanding history of democracy, the power and role of the Parliament of India is well-established and fully exercised, and its democratic system has contributed to promoting unity of diversity and national development.”

Given that addressing population issues calls for an approach to help people to make free and informed RH choices, parliamentarians as representatives of the people have a crucial role to play in this regard as well, they conclude.

The Arab, Asian Youth Bulge

Lawmakers from the Asia and Arab region had gathered last July at a meeting in Amman under the theme “From Youth Bulge to Demographic Dividend: Toward Regional Development and Achievement of the SDGs.”.

Organised by the Asian Population and Development Association and the Secretariat of the Japan Parliamentarians Federation for Population, the Asian and Arab Parliamentarians meeting and Study Visit on Population and Development convened on 18-20 July in the Jordanian capital to analyse these challenges and how to address them.

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

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

Similarly, parliamentarians from selected countries are invited to Japan to visit facilities in areas such as population and development, health and medical care.

Through exchanges between lawmakers from Japan and other countries, the programme aims to strengthen cooperation and promote parliamentarians’ engagement in the field of population and development.

“Japan is embracing its aging society, where individuals in every age group are finding uses for their particular skills and attributes, and is planning to build a vibrant society which makes the maximum use of what its older citizens can offer and helping to achieve sustainable development, which is what humanity should be striving for,” Mashiko concluded.

“This may possibly apply equally everywhere throughout the world. Given their population structure and social systems, the situation in the countries from Africa, the Arab world and Asia represented at this conference will be very, very different. However, the very presence of such differences means that if our countries can work together, our distinctive attributes can make a meaningful contribution to achieving sustainable development.”

*With inputs by an IPS correspondent in India.

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