Inter Press Service » South-South News and Views from the Global South Sat, 29 Apr 2017 23:38:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ACP: One Billion People to Speak To Europe with One Voice Fri, 14 Apr 2017 14:07:11 +0000 Baher Kamal Map of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) member states. Author: Cflm001. Public Domain.

Map of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) member states. Author: Cflm001. Public Domain.

By Baher Kamal
ROME, Apr 14 2017 (IPS)

Seventy-nine countries from Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific, which are home to around one billon people, will speak with one voice as they prepare to negotiate a major partnership agreement with the European Union (500 million inhabitants) in May.

The decision, announced by the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) informs that the group will negotiate as a single bloc with the European Union (EU) the new accord expected to come out of the ACP-EU ministerial meeting, scheduled for 4-5 May 2017 in Brussels.

The new accord will follow on the current ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (also known as the Cotonou Agreement), which covers trade, development cooperation and political dialogue between the two parties until 2020.“The ultimate aim is to facilitate poverty eradication, sustainable development and improve the livelihoods of the one billion people that live in our countries,” ACP secretary general Dr. Patrick I. Gomes.

The Cotonou Agreement 2000 was signed in Cotonou, Benin on 23 June 2000 and was revised both on 2005 and 2010. In it, both blocs of countries affirmed their commitment to work together towards the achievement of the objectives of poverty eradication, sustainable development and the gradual integration of the ACP countries into the world economy.

They also asserted their resolve to make, through their cooperation, a significant contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of the ACP states and to the greater well-being of their population, helping them facing the challenges of globalisation and strengthening the ACP-EU Partnership in the effort to give the process of globalisation a stronger social dimension;

The two bloc reaffirmed their willingness to revitalise their special relationship and to implement a comprehensive and integrated approach for a strengthened partnership based on political dialogue, development cooperation and economic and trade relations.

Regarding the expected new agreement, representatives from the ACP and the EU have already agreed on several major issues to discuss at the upcoming joint ministerial council meetings.

There is “a clear common interest in aligning future ACP-EU cooperation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals,” the Brussels-based ACP secretariat added.

Improving the Livelihoods of One Billion People

“These basic principles highlight the importance the ACP Group places on negotiating [with the EU] as a unified entity, aiming for a mature political partnership based on mutual respect,” stated ACP secretary general Dr. Patrick I. Gomes of Guyana.

“The ultimate aim is to facilitate poverty eradication, sustainable development and improve the livelihoods of the one billion people that live in our countries, added Gomes, who was elected for this key post in December 2014, had served as Guyana’s Ambassador to Belgium and the European Community and as Guyana’s representative to the World Trade Organisation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

South Sudan, the youngest world nation, is expected to join the ACP group, raising to 80 the number of its member countries.

Climate Change, Migration, Private Sector, Finance and Economy

According to the ACP, the key issues on the agenda of the ACP-EU Joint Council of Ministers are:
— The implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals remains a top priority, and both ACP and EU sides agree that cooperation between the two parties should align with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals.
— Climate change is also high on the agenda, being a concrete area where ACP and EU collaboration has enabled the global community to forge an international coalition, and paved the way for achieving the historic Paris Agreement. Continued cooperation is envisaged, including the development of effective programs and actions under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF).
— The future relations between ACP and EU countries is a fundamental issue in the lead up to negotiations for a renewed partnership agreement to follow the current ACP-EU framework, which expires in 2020. The ACP Group intends to negotiate as a unified entity, supporting a legally binding agreement with a dedicated development finance mechanism.
— Discussions on migration will look at the progress of the Valetta Action Plan as well as the EU Trust Fund for Africa, with the primary goal of assisting African countries to help stem migratory flows to Europe.
On this, the ACP has highlighted synergies with the ACP-EU Dialogue on Migration, while also underlining trends in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, particularly in relation to human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, and high cost of remittances.
— Both the EU and ACP recognise the importance of private sector development. Ministers will consider the progress made under the Joint ACP-EU Cooperation Framework for Private Sector Development Support.
— As far as development finance cooperation, talks will focus on aspects related to implementing the SDGs, the status of the European Development Funds and the implementation of the ACP Investment Facility.
— Finally, economic issues such as trade cooperation (including the state of play of the ACP-EU regional Economic Partnership Agreements – EPAS), the European External Investment Plan and perspectives of the Investment Facility, round up the main part of the agenda.

Credit: ACP

Credit: ACP

A set of several basic points have been outlined to guide member states in preparing for negotiations to reshape relations with the EU after 2020:

1) The ACP Group of States is committed to remain united as an inter-governmental organisation;
2) As a unified trans-regional entity, the ACP Group will negotiate a successor agreement to the ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement;
3) Formally structured relations with regional and continental groupings of developing countries will be an important aspect of the negotiations;
4) Principles and mechanisms for inclusive policy formulation, decision-making and programme implementation with Non-State Actors will be given serious consideration during the negotiations;
5) The substantive thematic areas and pillars of an ACP-EU post-Cotonou Agreement are (i) Trade, Investment, Industrialisation and Services; (ii) Development Cooperation, Technology, Science and Innovation/Research; and (iii) Political dialogue and Advocacy;
6) An ACP-EU post-Cotonou Agreement should maintain the core geographic and geopolitical character of the ACP Group structured in six regions of Central, East, Southern and West Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific, while being open to different types of association with other developing countries;
7) The negotiation process is envisaged as leading to a legally binding agreement;
8) A dedicated development finance mechanism is to be included within a negotiation framework for an ACP-EU post-Cotonou Agreement.

In addition, the ACP Group informed that it will also advocate for “preferential trading agreements” that are development-oriented, as well as structural support for debt management, trade facilitation and innovative development financing, especially for members with Middle Income status.

The ACP Group´s main objectives are: sustainable development of its member-States and their gradual integration into the global economy, which entails making poverty reduction a matter of priority and establishing a new, fairer, and more equitable world order, and the coordination of the activities of the ACP Group in the framework of the implementation of ACP-EC Partnership Agreements.

Other key objectives are the consolidation of unity and solidarity among ACP States, as well as understanding among their peoples, and the establishment and consolidation of peace and stability in a free and democratic society.

]]> 2
New Recipe for School Meals Programmes in Latin America Thu, 23 Mar 2017 22:51:52 +0000 Diego Arguedas Ortiz Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, speaks as a panelist during the Mar. 20-22 “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” meeting in the Costa Rican capital. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/ IPS

Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, speaks as a panelist during the Mar. 20-22 “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals” meeting in the Costa Rican capital. Credit: Diego Arguedas Ortiz/ IPS

By Diego Arguedas Ortiz
SAN JOSE, Mar 23 2017 (IPS)

Sunita Daniel remembers what the school lunch programmes were like in her Caribbean island nation, Saint Lucía, until a couple of years ago: meals made of processed foods and imported products, and little integration with the surrounding communities.

This changed after Daniel, then head of planning in the Agriculture Ministry, visited Brazil in 2014 and learned about that country’s school meals system, which prioritises a balanced, healthy diet and the participation of family famers in each town.

“I went back to the government and said: This is a good example of what we can do,” said Daniel.

Today, the small island state puts a priority on purchasing from local producers, especially family farmers, and is working on improving the diet offered to schoolchildren.

Saint Lucia is not unique. A new generation of school meals programme that combine healthy diets, public purchases of products from local farmers, and social integration with local communities is transforming school lunchrooms and communities throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

The model followed by these projects is Brazil’s National School Feeding Programme, which has taken shape over recent years and is now at the heart of a regional project, supported by the Brazilian government.

Currently, the regional initiative is seeking to strengthen school meal programmes in 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries, through triangular South-South cooperation that receives the support of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

Delegates from the countries participating in the project, and representatives of the FAO and the Brazilian government, met Mar. 20-22 in the Costa Rican capital to take part in the “School feeding as a strategy to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, and share their experiences.

“This kind of workshop strengthens everyone – the Brazilian programme itself, countries and governments,” said Najla Veloso, regional coordinator of the project for Strengthening School Feeding Programmes in Latin American and the Caribbean. “It works as a feedback system, to inspire change.”

Brazil’s system focuses on guaranteeing continuous school feeding coverage with quality food. The menus are based on food produced by local farmers and school gardens.

In Brazil, “we’re talking about offering healthy food every day of the school year, in combination with dietary and nutritional education and purchases from family farmers,” Veloso told IPS during the three-day meeting.

In Brazil, a country of 208 million people, more than 41 million students eat at least one meal a day at school, said Veloso, thanks to coordination between the federal government and state and municipal authorities.

“This does not exist in any other country in the world,” said the Brazilian expert.

Students at a school in an indigenous village in western Honduras work in the school garden, where they learn about nutrition and healthy eating. Since 2016 Honduras has a law regulating a new generation oschool meals programme, which focuses on a healthy diet and serves fresh food from local family farmers and school gardens. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Students at a school in an indigenous village in western Honduras work in the school garden, where they learn about nutrition and healthy eating. Since 2016 Honduras has a law regulating a new generation oschool meals programme, which focuses on a healthy diet and serves fresh food from local family farmers and school gardens. Credit: Thelma Mejía/IPS

Taking Brazil’s successful programme as a model, the regional technical cooperation project was launched in 2009 in five countries, a number that climbed to 17. At the present time, 13 new-generation projects are receiving support as part of the regional initiative, which is to end this year.

According to Veloso, more than 68 million schoolchildren in the region, besides the children in Brazil, have benefited from the innovative feeding programmes, which have also boosted ties between communities and local farmers.

Today, the project is operating in Belize, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Lucía, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The project has had varied results and has followed different formats in each country, as shown by the delegates who shared their experiences in San José.

In the case of Saint Lucía, for example, the authorities forged an alliance with the private sector to raise funds and provide food to between 8,000 and 9,000 schoolchildren aged five to 12, said Daniel.

In Honduras, grassroots participation enabled cooperation between the communities, the municipal authorities and the schools, Joselino Pacheco, the head of the School Lunch programme, described during the meeting.

“We didn’t have a law on school feeding until last year, but that didn’t stop us because our work comes from the grassroots,” the Honduran delegate said.

The law, which went into effect in September 2016, built on the experience of a government programme founded in 1998, and is backed up by social organisations that support the process and which are in turn supported by the regional project, Pacheco told IPS.

Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay, like Honduras, have specific laws to regulate school feeding programmes.

In the case of Costa Rica, the country already had a broad school meals programme, so the authorities decided to focus on expanding its capacities by including innovative elements of the new generation of initiatives aimed at achieving food security.

“A programme has been in place since 2015 to open school lunchrooms during the mid-term break and at the beginning and the end of the school year,” said Costa Rica’s first lady, Mercedes Peñas, a renowned expert in municipal development.

A pilot plan in 2015 was carried out in 121 school lunchrooms in the 75 most vulnerable districts. By 2016 the number of participating schools had expanded and 200,000 meals were served in the first 40 days of the school year.

This is spending that not only produces short-term results, improving nutrition among schoolchildren, but also has an impact on public health for decades, said Ricardo Rapallo, technical coordinator of FAO’s Hunger-Free Mesoamérica programme.

“If we don’t work on creating healthy eating habits among children, it is more difficult to change them later,” said Rapallo.

School meals programmes are essential in achieving economic, social and environmental development in Latin America, the speakers agreed, describing school feeding as a fundamental component for achieving several of the 17 SDGs, which have a 2030 deadline.

“The experience of a school feeding programme, together with a programme for public purchases from family farmers, makes the 2030 agenda possible,” said Tito Díaz, FAO subregional coordinator for Mesoamerica, during one of the meeting’s panels.

Daniel described one inspirational case. In Belle Vue, a town in southwestern Saint Lucía, the school lunchroom inspired women in the community to start their own garden.

“They came and said, what can we provide. And a lot of their children went to the school,” said Daniel, who is now director of the school meals programme in Saint Lucía and a liaison on the issue between FAO and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The school set up a daycare center for toddlers and preschoolers so the local mothers could work in the garden. As a result, some 30 mothers now earn a fixed income.

Veloso explained that although the programme is due to close this year, they are studying what needs and opportunities exist, to decide whether to launch a second phase.

]]> 1
Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund Calls for Project Proposals for 2017 Thu, 02 Mar 2017 17:47:10 +0000 an IPS Correspondent By an IPS Correspondent

The Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund (PGTF), which has been funding small scale projects in developing countries since 1983, is calling for new project proposals on an April 30 deadline.

The Fund has so far supported 291 projects with a total allocation of $13.7 million benefiting 127 developing countries as direct participants/beneficiaries in PGTF-supported projects and 141 developing countries as collective participants/beneficiaries.

In a letter to the New York-based Permanent Missions of developing nations, the PGTF says the maximum amount of support available for any given project in 2017 will be US$35,000.

Prospective applicants should fully fill in the mandatory project proposal model format and summary checklist in any of the working languages of the Group of 77 (Arabic, English, French and Spanish).

Applications that are not submitted fully in compliance with the requirement of the model format and summary checklist will not be considered.

In the case of nationally executed projects, applications should be accompanied by letters of endorsement from the countries that will benefit directly and/or participate in the activities of this project. Such endorsement letters should contain a clear indication of the institution, as well as name, position and signature of the person providing the endorsement.

In the case of project proposals submitted by institutions (e.g., non-governmental organizations, regional and sub-regional organizations, etc.), a copy of the relevant decision of the respective governing bodies and countries involved in the project should be provided.

The letter advises applicants to familiarize themselves with the Guidelines for Utilization of PGTF before preparing and submitting a funding application.

Applications should be delivered to the following mailing address:

Executive Secretariat of the Group of 77
United Nations Secretariat Building
Room S-0518
New York, NY 10017
United States of America

A copy of the application may also be submitted electronically to the following email address:

The objective of the PGTF is to provide seed money for (i) financing pre-investment/feasibility studies/reports prepared by professional consultancy organizations in developing countries members of the Group of 77; and (ii) facilitating the implementation of projects within the framework of the Caracas Programme of Action on ECDC.

The list of eight priority areas set in the guidelines, as spelled out in the Caracas Programme of Action, include trade; technology; food and agriculture; energy; raw materials; finance; industrialization and technical cooperation among developing countries; plus in the Havana Programme of Action, South-South cooperation, mainly in areas relating to education, health and environment.

]]> 1
‘World Must Implement Pledges on Women’s Human Rights’ Tue, 31 Jan 2017 12:30:46 +0000 IPS World Desk Schoolchildren in Chowrapara, Rangpur, Bangladesh. Photo: UNICEF/Tapash Paul

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

By IPS World Desk
ROME, Jan 31 2017 (IPS)

“Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work” will provide concrete, practical and action-oriented recommendations that will cover significant new ground, on overcoming structural barriers to gender equality, gender-based discrimination and violence against women at work, a senior United Nations official stressed.

Speaking at a consultation in preparation for the Commission on the Status of Women, a body exclusively dedicated to promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, Lakshmi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), on Jan. 30 called for sustained commitment and leadership to ensure a successful outcome of the Commission.

“We are at an important [juncture] in the achievement of gender equality and women’s empowerment and women’s human rights,” she said.

Recalling the recent adoption of a number of far-reaching global commitments, such as Beijing+20 (the 20-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action), the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement on climate change, the New Urban Agenda, and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, Puri added:

“Now it is about the normative of implementation – how do we implement different parts of the compact and how do we follow up and monitor the implementation.”

Puri was speaking at a multi-stakeholder forum, which has been organised to contribute to the preparations for the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women – a functional commission of the UN Economic and Social Council – that will meet on March 13 to 24 this year at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

In particular, the Jan. 30 forum sought to raise awareness on existing commitments as well as to identify key areas and issues that should be considered by the Commission in the context of its priority theme, and to strengthen dialogue and galvanise partnerships to accelerate the implementation of the outcomes of the Commission.

“There is a dynamic new element of assessing how the world of work is changing due to technology, migration, and other factors and whether women can be enabled to leapfrog beneficially into this new context and not be adversely affected and left behind,” she added.

Puri also underlined important commitments such as those under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on gender equality and women’s empowerment and spoke of processes underway in different regions of the world to prepare for the session.

]]> 0
Ecuador Revives Campaign for UN Tax Body Fri, 27 Jan 2017 07:33:40 +0000 Thalif Deen By Thalif Deen

The Republic of Ecuador, currently chair of the largest single coalition of developing countries at the United Nations, is reviving a longstanding campaign for the creation of an inter-governmental UN tax body and the elimination of tax havens and illicit financial flows.

Practicing what it preaches, Ecuador says it is the world’s first country to hold a nation-wide referendum on tax havens, scheduled to take place on February 19.

Addressing a meeting of the 134-member Group of 77 (G77) on January 13, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, who was anointed the new G77 chair for 2017, said “illegitimate wealth mostly affected the world’s poorer nations”.

“There should be more knowledge havens and less tax havens,” he said, at a formal handover ceremony of the chairmanship, from Thailand to Ecuador.

Meanwhile, speaking at a civil society panel discussion in Washington DC on January 12, Guillaume Long, Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, said Ecuador, in an unprecedented move, will let the people decide, pointing out that “the struggle against tax havens is a global struggle.

“We need a UN tax body to ensure tax justice. Ecuador will unite with all those fighting this battle – states and civil society.”

The referendum, known as the “ethical pact,” will ask “Do you agree that, for those holding a popularly elected office or for public servants, there should be a prohibition on holding assets or capital, of any nature, in tax havens?”

Public servants and elected officials will be given a year to repatriate their capital or be removed from office or their post.

At the panel discussion, several US-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs) commended the new G77 chair, for leading a campaign both for the elimination of tax havens and the creation of a new UN tax body.

The proposal for a UN tax body has already been shot down twice by Western nations, first, at the Financing for Development (FfD) conference in Addis Ababa in July 2015, and also at the 14th session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 14) in Nairobi in August last year.

Asked about the feasibility of the proposal against Western opposition, Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the Jubilee USA Network, one of NGOs backing the proposal, told IPS: “In just a few years we’ve seen almost universal acknowledgment of the problems of tax avoidance, tax evasion and corruption.”

“At the same time we do see clear opposition from many wealthy countries on the idea of a global tax body as part of a solution”.

For this to be successful, he pointed out, there needs to be some re-envisioning of the proposal from the Addis Ababa conference. He said the G77 could also engage in bilateral agreements to move this forward.

“While the United Nations tries to operate by consensus, we could also see countries force a vote at the United Nations. While a vote would likely be successful under this method, without some re-envisioning of the concept, we’d likely see many wealthy countries refuse to participate in the process,” he warned.

Asked if Ecuador will be able to pull it off?, LeCompte told IPS: “Ecuador seems to be operating out of a G77 consensus on these issues. Since the Financing for Development meetings in Addis Ababa, we’ve seen G77 countries like Ecuador strengthen their support for these efforts.”

The original proposal by the G77 called for the establishment of a standing intergovernmental group of experts to address tax issues, including international tax issues, and to assist countries better mobilize and employ fiscal revenues.

This includes international initiatives to counter tax avoidance and tax evasion, as well as strengthening the capabilities of developing countries to address tax avoidance and tax evasion practices.

In Africa alone, the estimated resources leaving the continent, in the form of illicit financial transfers, was nearly 530 billion dollars between 2002 and 2012, according to UNCTAD.

The three key causes of illicit financial outflows are largely commercial tax evasion, government corruption and criminal activity, including money laundering.

Addressing the NGOs, the Ecuadorean Foreign Minister said: “Our government has introduced very redistributive policies in the most unequal continent on earth. Our priority is to fight inequality which is the cause of most of problems we face.”

He pointed out that Ecuador has seen big improvements in living standards over the last decade due to major economic reforms, including a tripling of tax takes achieved overwhelmingly by collecting taxes, not by raising them.

“This has become an important source of investment in public services. The next stage in this battle for a fair economy is against tax havens”

“Tax havens are a real ethical problem. For example, while Ecuadorian migrants loyally work long hours to send remittances to Ecuador, an elite section of the population siphons billions of dollars back out of the country to tax havens,” he noted.

The Washington DC panel discussion was co-sponsored by several NGOs, including Jubilee USA, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Center of Concern, FACT Coalition, Financial Transparency Coalition, Latindadd, Global Alliance for Tax Justice Network, Public Citizen, the Latin American and Caribbean Tax Justice Network.

The topic under discussion was titled: “Tax Avoidance, Illicit Financial Flows and Global Development: A Call for a United Nations Tax Body”.

According to a press release, several experts, including Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA; Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research; Elise Bean, Former Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Permanent subCommittee on investigations; Aldo Caliari, Center of Concern; and Clark Gascoigne, FACT Coalition gave their support to the Ecuadorean initiatives on tax havens.

The event moderator Eric LeCompte, Director of Jubilee USA, told the panel discussion: “This conversation today comes at a critical moment. Due to tax evasion and corruption the developing world loses more than a trillion dollars a year because of tax evasion and corruption.”

“These tax issues are a global problem and require a global solution. Addressing tax havens is like a carnival game of whack-a-mole. You deal with problem in one place and it pops up in another.”

Economist Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) said: “Latin America did go through a decade where poverty was reduced from 44 to 28 % in the region as a whole. The standard narrative is that this was just a commodities boom.”

“Ecuador is probably the best example of why that is really not true. They had to do a whole set of institutional, policy and financial reforms in order to achieve the success that they did, and they did achieve success. They have reduced poverty by 30% by 2014. They reduced inequality. They increased access to healthcare. They tripled the amount of GDP that went to public investment.”

He also said that Ecuador was able to build the institutions and do enormous financial and regulatory reforms that we could use here in the United States. They took control of the financial system and regulated it really for the first time in the way it should be regulated. I think the referendum on tax havens is very creative and innovative.”

Aldo Caliari, Director of the REthinking Bretton Woods Project, Center of Concern said: “The battle for an intergovernmental body was not won in Addis Ababa. We need to keep struggling. A UN intergovernmental body is about who defines the rules of the game”.

“I salute the efforts” of Ecuador to raise awareness and pressure against tax havens. “I like the significance of the fact that Ecuador, with this mindset of achieving progress, is taking over the G77 presidency, because it is critical.”

Elise Bean, former Staff Director and Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Permanent Sub-Committee on investigations welcomed Ecuador’s work against tax havens saying: “One of the really interesting things is about how Ecuador is giving us an example about how if you strengthen the capacity to collect taxes it really contributes to stability, to the ability to fight poverty. This culture of paying taxes is a remarkable achievement and is something that should be studied and I think we should try to replicate it elsewhere.”

“I have tremendous admiration for Ecuador, to show that it is possible to build a culture of paying taxes. I congratulate you on your country’s progress.”

Clark Gascoigne, Deputy Director of the FACT Coalition said: “Illicit financial flows have a devastating impact on developing countries, wringing tens of billions of dollars out of the developing world. But also have a major effect on developed countries. $150 billion dollars is the most recent estimate of the cost to the US from tax haven abuse annually. This of course exacerbates inequality, leads to austerity and undermines our ability to act collectively and solve problems.”

Porter McConnell, Director of the Financial Transparency Initiative said after the meeting: “I have been very impressed by the leadership that Ecuador has demonstrated on this issue of tax havens and on the issue of illicit financial flows more widely”.

“We have been working with the government of Ecuador for some months to draw attention to the issue and to support the leadership role of Ecuador in the G77. We are very excited to see what comes next and are very supportive of the efforts of Ecuador,” McConnell said.

The writer can be contacted at

]]> 0
Protecting the Rights of Women Migrant Workers Thu, 26 Jan 2017 20:33:45 +0000 Prasad Kariyawasam Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam is a member of the UN Committee on Migrant Workers]]> Women migrant workers. - UN photo

Women migrant workers. - UN photo

By Prasad Kariyawasam

International migration is a complex phenomenon dealing with overlapping issues relating to the human rights of migrants, mixed migration flows, international protection, smuggling and trafficking, as well as other push and pull factors affecting migration.

But, the need of the hour is a rights-based comprehensive approach placing the human rights of migrants at the center of the discussion to halt and roll back overall deterioration of treatment of migrant workers, worldwide, in particular, women migrant workers and children.

Evidence suggests that the world is on the eve of far greater international mobility largely due to work force decline and population ageing, coupled with low birth rates in many industrialized countries. Migrants will be even more essential to address labour market needs and the sustainability of economic development in many countries.

But as we all know, migrants move due to a number of reasons. Migration is not only due to economic factors, but man-made disasters and conflicts can drive them in large number as we observe now.

And migration can be engendered due to poverty and lack of human development; gender inequalities; discrimination; abuse and neglect; gang violence; political instability; socio-ethnic tensions; bad governance; food insecurity; environmental degradation and climate change.

As underscored by many Human Rights defenders, human rights abuses play a crucial role in decisions to migrate, in particular by women.

Out of more than 244 million migrants throughout the world, half are women, and an estimated 20 percent are in an irregular situation. In some countries like Sri Lanka and the Philippines, female migrant workers leaving for work abroad are much more than half of those leaving.

And in overall, international migration is becoming increasingly feminized as more women are migrating on their own volition, seeking economic and social opportunities and empowerment through migration.

Most women contribute more than men in destination countries in professions, such as care-givers while contributing even more to the well-being of their families in their countries of origin. But, women migrant workers are particularly at risk of discrimination, abuse and exploitations.

They receive wages that are under the minimum baseline, and are victims of fraudulent practices, excessive working hours and even illegal confinement by their employers. Sexual harassment, threats and intimidation against them are rampant.

Meanwhile, number of women migrant workers committing suicide is on the increase. Abuses of women migrant workers are more intensified when their immigration status is irregular. They are often denied the most basic labour protections, personal security, due process guarantees, health care and, education for their children. They often face abuse and harassment at international borders based on race, identity and age. And often they risk being trafficked, enslaved or sexually assaulted.

Domestic female migrant workers are a most vulnerable group. According to the ILO, 53 million women and girls around the world are employed as domestic workers in private households. They clean, cook, care for children, look after elderly family members, and perform other care giving essential tasks for their employers.

Despite their important role, they are among the most exploited and abused workers in the world. They often work 14 to 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for wages far below the minimum wage. And their work is often not recognized as work under national labour codes.

Their work is not quantified in financial terms and therefore not adequately compensated. They may be locked within their workplace and subject to physical and sexual violence for lack of means for seeking formal protection normally available for other women in formal sectors of employment.

Therefore, policymakers and other stakeholders in every country must adopt a gender-sensitive and rights based approach in developing labour migration laws and policies in line with the core human rights treaties, and in particular CEDAW and CMW, as well as relevant ILO labour standards.

These human rights instruments relevant to migrants seek to achieve gender equality and protection for women and girls irrespective of age, sexuality, race, disability, migration status and other identity markers.

National and local laws and policies should be evolved to guarantee that human rights, including labour rights, are enjoyed equally by men and women migrant workers and that migration legislation, policies and programmes must promote equality of opportunity and treatment in respect of employment and occupations with a view to eliminating any discrimination based on sex.

In this regard, female domestic workers must receive special attention, as they are most vulnerable group. The Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families is a robust and agreed legal framework for the rights of all migrant workers and their families in countries of origin, transit and destination.

The Convention sets out the best strategy to prevent abuses and address challenges faced by female migrant workers. It provides guidance for elaborating of national migration policies for international co-operation based on respect for human rights and the rule of law.

In addition to setting minimum obligations for the protection of migrant workers and members of their families, the Convention is a helpful tool for governance of migration. The Convention explicitly provides a framework for human-rights based policy-making on migration, including irregular migration and female migrant workers.

The treaty body of the convention, the “Committee on Migrant Workers” (CMW) seeks to encourage its State parties and all stakeholders to work towards reaching standard enunciated in this convention and other relevant international instruments. And CMW in its general comments have elaborated guidance as to how States can implement their obligation with respect to migrant domestic workers, in particular, females.

CMW regularly advises States to ensure that they develop effective pre-departure and awareness-raising programmes for female workers who have made the decision to migrate, with briefings on their rights under the relevant human rights treaties in force, including CMW, as well as the conditions of their admission and employment and their rights and obligations under the law and practice of the receiving States.

Among other measures, CMW encourage countries of origin to enter into agreements with States of destination for the establishment of standard, unified and binding employment contracts with fair, full and clear conditions and labour standards that are enforceable by systems of law in countries of origin and employment; and to ensure that consular offices are trained to assist female migrant workers, and to provide counselling and guidance for submitting complaints; and encourage States to regulate and monitor recruitment agencies to ensure that they respect the human and labour rights of women migrant workers.

CMW also advises States to repeal sex-specific bans and discriminatory restrictions on women’s migration on the basis of age, marital status, pregnancy or maternity status, including restrictions that require women to get permission from their spouse or male guardian to obtain a passport or to travel or bans on women migrant workers.

The issue of detention of female migrant workers is yet another punitive measure that is often abused by authorities in many countries. The convention attempts to make migration for work as a positive and empowering experience for individuals and their societies, contributing to economic progress and human development both at home and in destination countries.

Today’s dramatic migration crisis underscores the urgent need to begin a more honest discussion about the obstacles to ratification of the Migrant Workers Convention. The Convention at present has only 50 State parties, and most are States of origin of migrant workers, and destination countries by not ratifying the Convention are conspicuously avoiding the human rights standards of the Convention.

A clear vision of the need for migrant labour in destination countries, with more channels for regular migration, as well as for family reunification, would assist greatly in preventing the exploitation and other dangers faced by female migrant workers and to enable them to live a life in dignity.

]]> 0
President of UNGA Disillusioned by Unsustainable Development Tue, 01 Nov 2016 16:06:32 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly.

Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly.

By Lyndal Rowlands

Development should be about more than building roads or buying air conditioners, the President of the UN General Assembly, Peter Thomson told IPS in a recent interview.

Thomson, who started his career working as “a rural development man in Fiji” says he had become disillusioned with development before the Sustainable Development Goals came along.

After studying development studies at Cambridge Thomson returned to Fiji where he spent much of the 1970s working in villages for the Fiji government: “digging pit latrines and building sea walls.”

However he began to feel disillusioned by development when he saw that it ultimately led to communities breaking up. Young people would leave to sell produce at the markets on newly constructed roads, and then eventually would stop coming back.

“Now the goal is give them a sustainable future, do not accept that it’s ok to steal from future generations, make sure that every development is going to produce a better life for your grandchildren.”

“I got quite disillusioned with this whole idea of this is what humanity is set on: growth (where) every government had to produce growth and every government had to put in roads.”

“It just seemed we were covering all our best agricultural land with urban sprawl.”

However Thomson believes that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – which UN member states have agreed to implement between 2016 and 2030 – represent a different paradigm, as for example shown in goal 12 – which promotes responsible consumption and production.

He observes how Fiji has become reliant on air conditioners which didn’t even exist there 30 years ago.
“We were brought up to sleep in a room that had cross breeze.”

As President of the 71st session of the UN General Assembly from September 2016 until September 2017, representing his home country of Fiji, Thomson is now tasked with leading the second year of implementation of the goals among UN member states.

He sees the sustainability aspect of the development goals as being about ensuring that his grandchildren’s generation will have a future on this planet.

“With that sustainability added to development you have a future for humanity, as opposed to what we’re on at the moment which is just this path towards (economic growth).”

“Now the goal is give them a sustainable future, do not accept that it’s ok to steal from future generations, make sure that every development is going to produce a better life for your grandchildren.”

However Thomson acknowledges that achieving all 17 of the goals will not be easy.

“I still think the stakes are very high in that there are elements of the SDGs which are not necessarily attainable, but we have to nevertheless fight for their attainment.”

Two targets he notes will be particularly difficult to achieve are Goal 13 on Carbon Dioxide (CO2) levels, and Goal 14 on ocean acidification.

In order to achieve the goals Thomson now believes that it is important that they go beyond the four walls of the UN General Assembly.

“I see the SDGs as rights and responsibilities of people (but) you can’t fight for your rights unless you know what they are and at present the great majority of humanity does not know what the SDGs are.”

Realising the goals will also require a complete rethink of development funding.

“It’s not just throw some money at the SDGs it’s how do you transform the financial system to make it financially sustainable?” says Thomson, noting that the current financial system will collapse at a certain point if it continues on its current trajectory.

“At a point somewhere between three percent and four percent of CO2 levels over pre-industrial age the insurance industry stops functioning because they just can’t handle the risk,” he says.

Achieving the goals therefore requires transforming the global financial system so that the world’s capital – the majority of which is handled by about half a dozen firms – is invested in long term rather than short term projects, he said.

Thomson sees the role of Official Development Assistance – the official term for government aid – as being more effective when it is used to encourage private sector investment, an idea which he says is gaining traction at the UN.

However he also notes that addressing tax cooperation is also needed.

“I’ve seen the calculations on Africa. If they had proper taxation on their wealth Official Development Assistance isn’t even a toenail compared with what good taxation would produce for governments to build schools and roads.”

Tax cooperation has been an issue particularly of interest to the 133 developing countries at the UN which form the Group of 77 or G77.

Thomson a former Chair of the group in 2013, believes that tax cooperation will be a key issue for Ecuador which will chair the group from January 2017.

At the heart of the G77 he says is the objective of equity.

“The fact that we do come together eventually – after long discussions, in common positions, not always but most of the time, is because everybody believes in this principle of equity in this world.”

“The fact is that there’s still so much to do to bring developing countries into an equitable position in the community of nations so that’s the grand work of the G77.”

“I think there’s also a recognition within the UN system that the G77 is necessary because you always think about a house of parliament there’s got to be government and opposition to argue through to get progress.”

]]> 0
Africa and the Paris Agreement: Which Way Forward? Sun, 30 Oct 2016 15:23:30 +0000 Friday Phiri Delegates at the Sixth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA VI), held from Oct. 18-20, 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

Delegates at the Sixth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA VI), held from Oct. 18-20, 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

By Friday Phiri
ADDIS ABABA, Oct 30 2016 (IPS)

The Paris Agreement on climate change is set to enter into force on Nov. 4, after it passed the required threshold of at least 55 Parties, accounting for an estimated 55 per cent of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, ratifying the agreement.

The landmark deal, reached at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention (COP21) in Paris in December 2015, aims to limit the increase in the global average temperature to ‘well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels’ and to pursue efforts to ‘limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’ in this century."Parties cannot have bargaining power from outside." -- Natasha Banda of the ACPC’s Young African Lawyers Programme

The basis of the Agreement is the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by all parties in the lead-up to COP 21, which are essentially blueprints for how they plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Once a party ratifies the Paris Agreement, its coming into force implies that the Agreement and all its provisions – including INDC which changes to NDC – becomes legally binding to that Party.

However, while some African countries are among the 86 Parties that had ratified the Agreement by Oct. 27, an analysis by the African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC) of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has revealed that most African NDCs are vague in their adaptation and mitigation aspirations.

“There are still a number of challenges with the submissions of many developing countries, including vagueness in their mitigation ambitions and adaptation aspirations; lack of cost estimates, no indication of sources of funding and in some cases, pledges of mitigation commitments that exceed their current levels of emissions, among others,” Johnson Nkem of ACPC told IPS during the Sixth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA VI), held from Oct. 18-20.

Nkem sympathises with most African countries, which he said had to outsource the development of their INDCs due to lack of capacity and resources to do so on their own. He says ACPC is ready to help countries that are yet ratify to consider revising their climate action plans and make them more realistic before they submit instruments of ratification.

James Murombedzi of the African Climate Policy Centre speaking at the Sixth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA VI), held from Oct. 18-20, 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

James Murombedzi of the African Climate Policy Centre speaking at the Sixth Conference on Climate Change and Development in Africa (CCDA VI), held from Oct. 18-20, 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Credit: Friday Phiri/IPS

With the continent considered the most vulnerable to climate change vagaries but contributing a mere five percent to global GHG emissions, the CCDA VI was held under the theme: The Paris Agreement on climate change: What next for Africa?

The main objective of the meeting was to discuss implications of implementing the Paris Agreement, considering that the continent is already experiencing climate-induced impacts, such as frequent and prolonged droughts and floods, as well as environmental degradation that make livelihoods difficult for rural and urban communities. Increasing migration is both triggered and amplified by climate change.

In this vein, of utmost importance for Africa is to understand the implications of the Agreement with regards to means of implementation (technology transfer and finance), an issue that has never escaped the minds of the African Group of Negotiators, and this is a point that Murombedzi emphasised to stakeholders at the conference.

“There are contentious nuances of the agreement that must be unpacked in the context of Africa’s development priorities, particularly in regard to the means of implementation which were binding provisions of the Kyoto Protocol and currently only non-binding decisions in the Paris Agreement,” said James Murombedzi, Officer in Charge of the ACPC.

But with the defective NDCs, Murombedzi is of the view that “the unprecedented momentum for ratification of the Paris Agreement presents an urgent opportunity for African countries to revise their Climate Action Plans to address the noted discrepancies and strengthen their ambition levels where appropriate.”

According to Murombedzi, the move would ensure that the implementation of the Agreement supports and accelerates the continent’s sustainable and inclusive development agenda as framed by the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Apart from revision of NDCs, another key issue that emerged at the conference was the mainstreaming of climate information and services in national decision-making processes, in order to better manage the risks of climate variability and adaptation, especially among the most vulnerable communities.

UNECA believes the vulnerable groups’ access to climate information services differs from the rest of society, thus, climate information services, with pro-active targeting where possible, need to be integrated throughout climate interventions for the benefit of women, girls and the youth.

In catalyzing action for this, UNECA organised a meeting for lawmakers, on the sidelines of CCDA VI.

“This training is geared at setting the scene for lawmakers to factor climate information issues in budgetary allocation in their countries,” said Thierry Amoussougo of Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), pointing out that the meeting was looking at strategies that could be implemented by lawmakers and governments to ensure climate change policies were mainstreamed into development planning and actions in different African countries.

According to experts, climate information refers to data that is obtained from observations of climate (temperature, precipitation from weather centers) and also data from climate model output. It entails the transformation of climate-related data together with other related information into customized products such as projections, forecast, information, trends, economic analyses, counseling on best practices, development and evaluation of solutions and other services in relation to climate that are useful to society.

The challenge is that due to several factors, these services in most African countries are not well coordinated, let alone accurate.

“There is need to not only build the capacities of the required human resources but also invest in adapted climate information infrastructure and create the enabling environment for different institutions involved in climate information delivery,” said Sylvia Chalikosa, Member of Parliament for Mpika Central located in Zambia’s far Northern region of Muchinga.

Generally, in examining the implications of the Paris Agreement for Africa’s sustainable economic growth, the conference noted the need to identify viable and transformative investment opportunities, reform institutions to make them more efficient, and build capacity to access and absorb climate finance — in readiness to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the Paris agreement, to leapfrog technologies and transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient pathways.

This, according to Natasha Banda, who is part of the ACPC’s Young African Lawyers Programme, supporting the African Group of Negotiators is the only way, for there is no turning back for African countries even amidst the noted teething challenges with their NDCs.

“At this stage, signing and ratifying the Agreement is not optional for us as Africa,” said Banda, stressing that ratifying the Agreement is the starting point because the nature of international Agreements is that “parties cannot have bargaining power from outside.”

To this end, Mithika Mwenda of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) has some advice for African countries as they go to Marrakech next month, where rules and procedures for implementation of the Paris Agreement would be set.

“We in Africa, particularly, are concerned with the most important action—adaptation to climate change,” said Mwenda, emphasising that the continent should not lose focus of the most important aspect—means of implementation.

]]> 0
Pan-African Parliament Seeks Larger Role in Food Security, Policy Mon, 17 Oct 2016 10:23:00 +0000 Hisham Allam With better extension support, women farmers can increase productivity and food security in Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

With better extension support, women farmers can increase productivity and food security in Africa. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Hisham Allam
CAIRO, Oct 17 2016 (IPS)

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) concluded its session in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh Monday with initiatives on PAP’s identity, counter-terrorism challenges in the continent and joint development plans, particularly the question of food security.

The session, themed “Taking the PAP to the People of Africa” and held in Egypt for the first time, witnessed a huge turnout from an array of parliamentarians, politicians, presidents and policymakers from across Africa.

The PAP is one of the organs of the African Union (AU) and comprises five members from each of the 54 African parliaments. Established in March 2004, it is headquartered in Midrand, South Africa.

Thursday’s special session witnessed the signing of a key Memorandum of Understanding between the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the PAP, announcing the establishment of the Pan African Parliamentary Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (PAPA-FSN).

This agreement is part of a broad strategy to mobilise key actors in both government and civil society with the aim of ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030, a statement by PAP read.

Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant-Director General and Regional Representative for the Near East and North Africa, told IPS parliamentarians play a vital role in working through existing institutions, both for capacity building and sustainability of the partnership.

According to Ahmed, PAP represents all member states of the African Union and therefore offers overall continental political support for ending hunger and malnutrition.

“This is expected to make it easier for implementation at the national level. Further, sustainable development forms part of PAP’s mandate,” he said.

According to the president of the Pan African Parliament, Roger Nkodo Dang: “Our alliance puts the battle against hunger on the right pathway, and I am convinced that FAO is the ideal partner based on its notoriety and determination.”

Another key issue in the session was the ratification of the Malabo Protocol, adopted by the AU in Equatorial Guinea in 2014.

Should 28 African countries sign and ratify the protocol, PAP will move from being just a consultative body of the African Union and become a separate legislative body for the continent. It also provides for more representation of women. Only two countries have ratified the agreement so far, Mali and Sierra Leone.

“The transformation of PAP into a legislative body will empower African countries to draft new bills to counter regional challenges—chiefly terrorism,” Dang said.

Dang also highlighted the importance of drafting new legislation to counter terrorism. “No one is safe from terrorism anymore.”

Meanwhile, a special celebration took place to mark the 150th anniversary of the first Egyptian parliament convention. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said in a speech at Sharm El-Sheikh on Sunday that the parliament is a “mirror” reflecting what is happening in today’s Egypt.

He said last year’s legislative elections marked a new phase of parliamentary life in Egypt by “electing the most pluralist chamber in the country’s history,” with over 40 percent youth and 90 female MPs.

Among the other issues tackled in the session was the perils of UN sanctions imposed on Sudan.

Mahadi Ibrahim, former communication minister of Sudan, called on African parliamentarians to adopt a resolution to end those economic sanctions, in order for Sudan to enjoy the legitimate aspiration of its citizens to sustainable development.

Ibrahim noted that the sanctions, which have been imposed since 1997, have had a profound effect on all vital areas such as infrastructure, education, health and the economy. The sanctions also led to a dramatic reduction of the country’s ability to deal with epidemics such as HIV/AIDS.

Speaking to IPS, head of the African affairs committee at the Egyptian parliament and member of the African Union Hatem Bashat said that the sanctions are not “smart.”

“Some African parliamentarians suggested filing a memorandum to end sanctions on Sudan, and to send an official delegation of Arab and African parliament members to negotiate with American counterparts in this regard,” he said.

Some delegates also called for broader reform of the United Nations, in particular the Security Council.

“To meet the challenges of this new century, the UN must become more effective, more representative and more democratic,” said Ivone Soares, a member of parliament from Mozambique, in a plenary speech.

Soares said that Africa should be given two permanent seats. “The privilege of the veto enjoyed by the permanent members must be called into question,” she said.

]]> 0
Q&A: We Won’t Go Far Until Climate Issues Are Mainstreamed in Policy Fri, 14 Oct 2016 12:10:07 +0000 Charles Mkoka Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Director of Programmes Implementation and Communication, in Nairobi, Kenya during the Second Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Forum. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Director of Programmes Implementation and Coordination, in Nairobi, Kenya during the Second Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Forum. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

By Charles Mkoka
NAIROBI, Oct 14 2016 (IPS)

Two years ago at the 31st African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, heads of state and government endorsed the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) programme on agriculture and climate change with the bold vision of at least 25 million smallholder households practicing Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) by 2025.

This means sustainable food systems and broad-based social and environmental resilience from the household level up. CSA also supports the aspirations and goals in Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the AU Malabo Declaration as well as the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and COP21 Paris climate agreement.

As a result of farmers embracing Climate-Smart Agriculture, some fields are still green and alive even as drought rages in the south of Madagascar. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

As a result of farmers embracing Climate-Smart Agriculture, some fields are still green and alive even as drought rages in the south of Madagascar. Credit: Miriam Gathigah/IPS

IPS correspondent Charles Mkoka caught up with Estherine Fotabong, NEPAD Director of Programmes Implementation and Coordination, at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya during the Second Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Forum this week to shade more light on some of the initiatives her institution is implementing. Excerpts from the interview follow.

Q: What does the CSA Alliance bring to agriculture and rural development on the African continent?

A: As you know, 2025 is the African Union decision to reach 25 million farmers that are practicing CSA on the continent in order that agriculture remains relevant to the changing weather and climate patterns.  NEPAD being the technical arm, it is part of our responsibility to translate all the decisions into practical actions on the ground. In that respect we have developed partnership and programmes that are targeted to bring support to farmers.

Q: NEPAD cannot do this mammoth task alone considering its footprint is invisible in some states. In terms of synergy, who are you working with on the ground?

A: In terms of partnership we entered in the NEPAD/International Non Governmental (INGOs) Alliance. This is an alliance between NEPAD and five INGO’s working through communities and community-based groups on the ground. As NEPAD, we cannot be present in every country but we realise the role of subsidiary organisations to work with others who have the first engagement with farmers. The alliance can structure their programmes into providing concentrated support to the farmers. This support would either be providing new technologies of farming, inputs that farmers need or availability of credit. But also to adopt practices that help them cope with weather patterns or adapt to innovations that reduce greenhouse gases.

The second area of partnership is the CSA forum. You have seen the last two days that there is a lot of knowledge but this knowledge is sitting on computers. It is not shared for others to utilize. This platform creates space to bring all those working on agriculture, climate change and climate smart agriculture to share experience and knowledge generated through research.

Q: Can you tell our readers what other programmes you’re involved in at the secretariat level as far as issues of building climate change resilience and rural development are concerned across the continent?

A: Resilience-building among farmers is one target coming out of the Malabo Declaration. The declaration reaffirmed the continent’s resolve towards ensuring, through deliberate and targeted public support, that all segments of our populations, particularly women, the youth, and other disadvantaged sectors of our societies, must participate and directly benefit from the growth and transformation opportunities to improve their lives and livelihoods.

So we are working with member states to review the Agricultural Investment Plans, so that issues of climate change can be mainstreamed in their lives. It is clear that we are not going to go far if we don’t ensure that climate change issues are mainstreamed in national development and sectoral policies.

Zambia, for instance, was an early adopter of conservation agriculture, which is an example of climate smart agriculture. According to reports, farmers – particularly women – appreciated the increase in yields as a result of CSA. Yields have translated into increased income, which has translated into improved social economic conditions for their families.

Peter Mcharo's two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

Peter Mcharo’s two children digging their father’s maize field in Kibaigwa village, Morogoro Region, some 350km from Dar es Salaam. Mcharo has benefitted greatly from conservation agriculture techniques. Credit: Orton Kiishweko/IPS

Q: Despite the experimentally proven results in the case of Zambia as you have stated, why is there low uptake of CSA across the continent?

A: The programmes we have try to address those obstacles. These include land ownership, particularly for smallholder farmers, access to finance, access to technologies to take up CSA techniques are some of the challenges.

So through our Gender Climate Change Agriculture Support Programme we hope to reach a significant number of households and women farmers to contribute to the target.  Furthermore, through our Climate Fund programme, we hope to continue to finance grassroots initiatives for the 2025 target. It is our belief that government themselves will put in place investments that will support farmers in their countries to ensure they take on board interventions on CSA so they withstand and cushion shocks brought  about by climate variability.

Q: More women are involved in food production on the continent. However, data shows that in terms of the policy framework embracing gender dimension little is being done by countries to provide an enabling environment for women participation especially when it comes to land ownership. What is your take on this?

A: I have always said that I think it will always be smart for any government to invest in women and make their condition better.

Even in the difficult conditions that they work, women contribute 80 percent of the food we consume in our households on the continent. True that they use these resources to support their families so that brings social cohesion in our communities and countries.

But also, we want to invest in women in terms of supporting their economic empowerment. They will also increase their political participation and empowerment. It is really important that countries give particular attention to policies that favour women, such as policies that make it easier to form women cooperatives. In some countries to register a women’s cooperative they have to pay more money than if it was a men’s cooperative. Why?

Why that kind of discrimination and inequality? The platform has to be equal for both men and women. So we need to develop policies that cut across the board for all stakeholders.

The issue of land is a big question and challenge. We can learn from other countries such as Rwanda and Ethiopia. These countries have developed policies that allow for co-ownership of land, so that a woman who is married in a village will not be chased away not to farm when the husband dies, for instance.

Q: In your speech, you hinted at the need to utilise local indigenous knowledge in the face of climate change, together with scientific-backed data. Why is this crucial in resilience-building?

A: We tend to forget what we have been doing over the years and get good results from that. Much as it is important to embrace new knowledge from science, I think we have also good knowledge from what our ancestors have been doing over the years. Such kind of knowledge we should document and replicate.

We should believe that our farmers have knowledge. They have ideas that can be used to cope with climate change. In Cameroon, for instance, fishermen when I visited them described what they had noticed over the years in their area. They explained about the changes in the water level, changes in the seasonal patterns. As such we need to engage with farmers. They have rich information and knowledge that can help us as technocrats to make informed decisions as well.

]]> 0
Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund Finances 278 Projects in Developing Nations Mon, 03 Oct 2016 14:06:00 +0000 Thalif Deen The PGTF’s five-member Committee of Experts is chaired by Dr Eduardo Praselj.

The PGTF’s five-member Committee of Experts is chaired by Dr Eduardo Praselj.

By Thalif Deen

The Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF), described as one of the most successful ventures of the Group of 77, has provided $13.2 million in “seed money” for 278 small-scale projects in developing countries.

With mandatory “matching funds” from outside sources, the total value of the projects has been estimated at over $38.5 million since the PGTF began operations 30 years ago.

The projects, held out as prime examples of South-South cooperation, are largely regional, sub-regional and inter-regional covering, Asia-Pacific, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The financing, which is maximized at $35,000 each, has benefited a wide range of projects related to socio-economic issues in the developing world.

At its meeting in July 2016, the PGTF’s five-member Committee of Experts, chaired by Dr Eduardo Praselj, recommended funding for 13 of the 26 applications submitted this year.

The recommended allocation for these 13 projects, which was approved at a ministerial meeting of the Group of 77 in late September, totaled $435,000.

“It is South-South cooperation at its best – without going into high level diplomatic stuff – and directly involving field actors.” -- Dr Eduardo Praselj.

The approved projects include: an E-commerce development programme for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from developing countries; capacity-building on management and utilization of solar energy resources for improving living conditions in rural areas; bamboo development assessment for Asia and Africa under China’s “One Belt, One Road” Initiative; research on economic diversification of land-locked developing countries; and cooperation for intellectual property and productive transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean, among others.

Over the years, three priority areas have received about 70 percent of total support from PGTF: namely technical cooperation, food and agriculture, and trade.

Other areas include: consulting services, training and other activities relating to technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC); technology; energy; information exchange and dissemination; industrialization; health; raw materials and finance.

In an interview with IPS, Dr Praselj said PGTF-approved projects have benefited a large number of developing countries, as well as institutions and peoples within these countries.

So far, 125 developing countries have been direct participants in and/or beneficiaries of PGTF-funded projects, while all 134 member countries of the Group of 77 have been collective beneficiaries of PGTF-funded projects carried out by a large number of regional or interregional institutions and organizations of the South.

These institutions, which have also co-financed multiple projects, include the Latin American Economic System (SELA), the Caribbean Council of Science and Technology, the Third World Network, Mercosur Economic Research Network, the Islamic Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Inter Press Service news agency, and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Dr Praselj said the projects approved involve sharing knowledge and experience. “It is South-South cooperation at its best – without going into high level diplomatic stuff – and directly involving field actors.”

He singled out several projects where developing countries cooperated to resolve common problems, including battling animal diseases and also micro credit entrepreneurship led by women in Islamic countries.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, he said, a number of countries were working on projects on sugar cane by-products. In Africa, there were small scale hydro power and solar energy projects (and also how to better cultivate maize and rice).

A coalition of six countries – Afghanistan, Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Palestine – received funding to battle animal diseases affecting cattle, goats and sheep (with the danger of some these diseases being transmitted to humans).

He said the PGTF has also approved projects in Latin America and the Caribbean supporting poor farmers, with no managerial capacities or bargaining powers to market their products.

He described the PGTF as “healthy, transparent, efficient and low cost”.  He highlighted that the Fund has been receiving a steady flow of well-prepared project proposals, the input for PGTF activities. “The better the raw material, the better the product,” said Dr Praselj.

He pointed out that PGTF approved projects are geared towards all 134 members of the Group of 77, the largest single coalition of developing countries.

These countries include the poorest of the world’s poor, including the least developed countries (LDCs), land-locked developing countries (LLDC) and small island developing states (SIDS).

Asked if priority is given to any special group of developing countries, he said: “There is no special window,” pointing out that applicants include governments, universities, international institutions, think tanks and regional, sub regional and inter-regional bodies.

He said 90 percent of the 278 approved projects are in full implementation within their specific deadlines.

The PGTF was established in 1983, in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution 38/201, with an initial core capital of $5.0 million, which was increased to $7.0 million, with $1.0 million each in magnanimous contributions from two member countries: Venezuela in 2004 and Oman in 2015.

The PGTF, which is described as an “endowment fund”, is managed by the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

In keeping with guidelines for its utilization, only interest accruing on the Fund could be used to support projects so as to preserve intact the $7.0 million core capital.

Dr Praselj said the Committee discusses and agrees on investment strategy with the UNDP Treasury. The paramount consideration for investing PGTF resources is preservation of the capital while striving to achieve the highest possible return.

“The higher the risk, the higher the rewards,” he said, “But you will have to strike a balance. You cannot be smarter than the market.”

As of now, 27 developing countries have made multiple contributions to PGTF. They include: South Africa (fourteen separate contributions, the highest to date);  Algeria (thirteen contributions); China, and Trinidad and Tobago (ten contributions each); Venezuela (eight contributions); Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (seven contributions); Indonesia (six contributions); Argentina and Peru (five contributions each); Islamic Republic of Iran, Qatar,Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay (four contributions each); Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Chile, Cyprus, Egypt, Kuwait, and Thailand (three contributions each); and Brazil, Cameroon, Namibia, Pakistan, Philippines, and Viet Nam (two contributions each).

The PGTF Committee has invited other countries to follow these “encouraging initiatives.”

And in January, Thailand, the current chair of the G77, pledged $520,000.

The deadline for the submission of project proposals for next year is 30 April 2017. More information can be found on the PGTF website.

The original version of this story appeared on the G77 News Wire

]]> 0
Development as Human Right: An Unfulfilled Promise to Billions Wed, 28 Sep 2016 23:12:54 +0000 an IPS Correspondent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the commemoration event for the 30th anniversary of Declaration on Right to Development. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the commemoration event for the 30th anniversary of Declaration on Right to Development. Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

By an IPS Correspondent

As the United Nations commemorated the 30th anniversary of the “Right to Development”, the Group of 77 (G77) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) expressed strong collective support for one of the basic human rights described as a key element in the implementation of the UN’s post-2015 development agenda.

“Development as a human right is still an unfulfilled promise for billions of people,” said a joint statement issued September 22 by two of the largest economic and political groupings at the United Nations.

The 133-member G77 (joined by China) and the 120-member NAM said 30 years ago, “we recognized the human person as the central subject of the development process and  therefore development policy should make the human being the main participant and beneficiary of development.”  And it placed people at the center of development while demanding equal opportunities and equitable distribution of economic resources.

Since then, said the joint statement, the international community has embraced the concept of “people-centred” development.

At the same time, it has recognized that, despite continuous efforts on the part of the international community, “the gap between developed and developing countries remains unacceptably wide, that most of the developing countries continue to face difficulties in participating in the globalization process and that many risk being marginalized and effectively excluded from its benefits.”

The resolution on the ‘Declaration on the Right to Development’ was adopted at the 97th plenary meeting of the General Assembly back in December 1986.

Addressing a high level meeting of the General Assembly commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Right to Development on September 22, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said despite great strides forward, developing countries still struggle with the diversification of their economies, international trade, macroeconomic and fiscal issues and ensuring equitable and sustainable frameworks for the use of natural resources.

There are more least developed countries (LDCs) now than in 1986. Even among middle-income countries, few are on paths that can ensure sustained, sustainable and equitable growth and poverty eradication.

Developed countries also face new challenges, such as rising inequality and financial crises, he said.  “We have new prospects for realizing the right to development, thanks to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and SDG 17 on strengthening the means of implementation and revitalizing the global partnership, together with the Addis Ababa Action Agenda.”

"it is an opportune time to demonstrate and reiterate our unequivocal commitment to the right to development, in particular the need to strive for greater acceptance, operationalization and the realization of this right at the international level.”

The 2030 Agenda explicitly recognizes the Declaration of the Right to Development and reflects its spirit. Its emphasis on equality, participation, empowerment and ensuring that no one is left behind, echoes the definition of the right to development as “an inalienable human right”.

It recognizes, like the Declaration, that each country has primary responsibility for its own economic and social development while affirming that international cooperation and partnership are essential to ensure implementation.

The 2030 Agenda has unprecedented potential to fulfil the aspirations that motivated the Declaration on the Right to Development, and that remain critical to this day.  “Let us celebrate the Declaration for its past – and more importantly for the promise it holds for the future,” Ban declared.

The President of the General Assembly Peter Thomson told the high level meeting that  many of the commitments on the UN’s post-2015 development agenda mirror duties arising from the Declaration on the Right to Development.

It includes a duty on each government to put the well-being of the entire population, and of all individuals, at the heart of their policies and strategies. This includes by ensuring their free and meaningful participation in development efforts and decision-making process, and in the distribution of the resulting benefits.

It includes the duty to remove structural obstacles and to address both historical and contemporary inequities that are holding back developing countries, he noted.

And it includes the need for international cooperation in support of those countries that remain in vulnerable situations – whether they be the least developed countries; those affected by conflict and instability; or those struggling to adapt to the impacts of climate changes, Thomson told delegates.

“As we mark this Anniversary, let us recognize that if we are to realize the Right to Development, we must do so together; working in responsible and ethical partnerships between governments, the UN system, civil society, the private sector and others.”

Addressing the high level meeting, the European Union’s (EU) Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrindis, said: “We wish to reiterate our support for the right to development, as based on the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights as outlined in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the multidimensional nature of development strategies and the role of individuals as the central subjects of the development process.”

He pointed out that the EU is fully committed to a rights-based approach to development, encompassing all human rights, including the right to development. The right to development requires the full realisation of civil and political rights, together with economic, social and cultural rights, and a mix of policies, creating an enabling environment for individuals, involving a wide range of actors, at all levels.

“We emphasise that the primary responsibility for ensuring that the right to development is realised is one owed by States to their citizens. We must recognize that divergent views in the understanding of the right to development remain.”

But he re-stated the EU position that it is not in favour of the elaboration of an international legal standard of a binding nature “as we do not believe that this is the appropriate mechanism to realise the right to development.”

With its universal applicability and its importance in shaping development priorities, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will open up new avenues to integrate human rights into global and national policies in both developed and developing countries over the next 15 years, he added.

Meanwhile, in its joint statement, the G77 and NAM said the Right to Development is crucial to the three agreements reached last year: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development (FfD) and the Paris Climate Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which have vowed to “leave no one behind.”

“There is no doubt that in order for us to reach that goal, the right to development must be central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development taking into account countries and peoples who face specific challenges, in particular, African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing States as well as specific challenges that many middle-income countries face, as well as countries facing conflict and post-conflict situations, humanitarian emergencies, the effects of climate change and global pandemics.”

The statement also said “We must take resolute steps to eliminate the massive and flagrant violations of human rights of peoples and human beings affected by situations such as those resulting from apartheid, all forms of racism and racial discrimination, colonialism, foreign domination and occupation, aggression, foreign interference and threats against national sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity, threats of war and refusal to recognize the fundamental right of peoples to self-determination.”

According to the statement, the 30th Anniversary coincided with the first year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  “So it is an opportune time to demonstrate and reiterate our unequivocal commitment to the right to development, in particular the need to strive for greater acceptance, operationalization and the realization of this right at the international level.”

“We must continue our efforts also, to mainstream this right in our work at the national and regional level and in the United Nations, particularly in the Human Rights mechanisms, as well as international financial and multilateral trading systems in the context of the elaboration of their policies in line with the 2030 Agenda.”

One of the recurring themes in recent conversations and panel discussions was the understanding that the realization of the right to development is a necessity now, more than ever.  “The ambitious goals we have committed ourselves to, the massive challenges and violations of human rights caused by situations resulting from, among others, unilateral coercive measures and unfair sanctions, can only be reached and overcome if we embrace the tenets of the Declaration.”

In this regard, the statement said: “We urge all States to expand and deepen mutually benefiting cooperation with each other in promotingdevelopment and eliminating obstacles to it, in the context of promoting an effective international co-operation for the realization of the right to development, bearing in mind that lasting progress towards the implementation of the right to development requires effective development policies at the national level as well as equitable economic relations and a favorable economic environment at the international level; and to work together towards the elaboration and adoption of a Convention on the Right to Development.”

The G77 and NAM pointed out there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country to achieve sustainable development, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities as well as its own development context.

“It is our collective hope that on this auspicious 30th Anniversary of this landmark Declaration, we are rightly reminded of the work that still needs to be done to realize this fundamental right.”

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

]]> 0
Poverty Eradication Greatest Global Challenge, Say G77 Ministers Tue, 27 Sep 2016 18:18:31 +0000 an IPS Correspondent UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon talks with Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand and Chair of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77.

By an IPS Correspondent

The 133-member Group of 77 (G77), joined by China, unanimously endorsed a Ministerial Declaration strongly reiterating its support to the UN’s post-2015 development agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the Climate Change agreement.

The Declaration, which was adopted at the 40th annual meeting of G77 Foreign Ministers on September 23, reaffirmed “the overarching objective of eradication of poverty in all its forms and dimensions,” describing it as “the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”

Reiterating that poverty eradication is a central imperative of the UN’s Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Ministers emphasized “the need to address poverty in all its forms and dimensions in order to truly leave no one behind.”

The targeted deadline for the eradication of poverty worldwide is 2030.

General Prayut Chan-O-Cha (Ret), Prime Minister of Thailand and G77 chair of the Ministerial Meeting said: “This year, we have together taken the first steps in translating vision into concrete action, in line with developing countries’ needs and interests and to realize the SDGs.”

Since the start of this year, he pointed out, the Group has played an active role in implementing the 2030 Agenda through (1) negotiating a resolution on Follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the global level; (2) reviewing global agenda outcomes under the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development; (3) following-up on Financing for Development (FfD); (4) determining a global indicator framework for SDGs; (5) supporting implementation of the Agenda in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) through negotiating a political declaration for the High-Level Mid-term Review according to the Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs; and (6) strengthening cooperation among developing countries on the High-Level Meeting on South-South Cooperation.

Addressing the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised the key role played by the G77 in the adoption of both the SDGs and the Climate Change agreement last year.

The United Nations and the G-77 have an invaluable partnership, he told the Ministers. ”Together, we have made enormous progress for human rights and human dignity.”

The Ministers called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

Singling out the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development on September 29, Ban said the G-77 was also a driving force behind the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – “our truly transformative plan for the planet and all people.”

“Many G-77 countries also helped push for the adoption of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Thank you for this advocacy,” he said.

Ban pointed out that G-77 kept its distinctive name even after the membership expanded to 133 countries, joined by China (from the original 77). ”In the same way, I hope you keep the Group’s founding spirit to stand up for the countries of the South while expanding your engagement to tackle emerging threats. “

With this mix of timeless values and timely action, he declared, “we can build on our proud record and leave a better world for generations to come. Thank you for your leadership and commitment.”

40th Annual Declaration

Some of the key elements of the Declaration include the following:

The Ministers highlighted that the year 2016 marked the first year of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development towards a sustainable future. Thus, it is important to show the international community the Group’s continued unwavering commitments to further translate ambitions set out in the Agenda into real actions.

In this context, the Ministers noted that 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Ministerial Meeting of the Group of 77 which adopted in October 1967 the “Charter of Algiers”, the first platform of the G-77 calling for joint efforts by developing countries towards economic and social development, peace and prosperity.

The Ministers welcomed the progress made by Member States in their national  implementation, but stressed that implementing the 2030 Agenda at all levels requires a revitalized global partnership and the full implementation of the 17th Sustainable Development Goal, which is dedicated to this purpose.

In this context, said the Declaration, enhancing support to developing countries is fundamental, including through provision of development financial resources, transfer of technology on favorable terms including on concessional and preferential terms, enhanced international support and targeted capacity-building and promoting a rules-based and non-discriminatory multilateral trading system.

The Ministers urged the international community and relevant stakeholders to make real progress in these issues, including developing action plans to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

They appreciated the G20 2016 Summit, which took place in Hangzhou, China in September 4-5, being the first G20 Summit which took place in a developing country after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with broad participation of developing countries, including the Chair of G77, which endorsed the G20 Action Plan on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as an important contribution to the global implementation of the 2030 Agenda

The Ministers also approved the Report of the 31st Meeting of the Committee of Experts of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) and endorsed its recommendations.

The Ministers commended the Chairman of the PGTF for his continued commitment and expressed their satisfaction with the results achieved by the PGTF.

In light of the substantial decrease in the interest earnings of the Fund caused by the current world financial situation, as reported by the Chairman of the PGTF, the Ministers appealed to every Member State to make a significant contribution to the PGTF on the occasion of the UN Pledging Conference for Development Activities to be held in New York on 7 November 2016.

Thailand, ahead of the conference, made a contribution of $520,000 to the PGTF.

The Ministers noted the commemoration of the Buenos Aires Plan of Action (BAPA) + 40 to be held in 2018 which represented an opportunity to enhance the current institutional arrangements to better support South-South cooperation and promote the South-South agenda.

In this context, the Ministers strongly recommended the consolidation of existing mechanisms of South-South cooperation and called for the establishment of a United Nations specialized agency for South-South cooperation to be located in a developing country.

The Ministers underlined that the achievement of the SDGs and the 2030 Agenda will depend on enabling international environment for development, facilitating the necessary means of implementation, particularly in the areas of finance, international trade, technology and capacity-building to developing countries.

In this regard, they called for a sincere and effective follow up on global commitments of all actors, particularly developed countries.

The Declaration also said there was a dire need for development partners to meet their current official development  assistance  (ODA) commitments  and  to  upscale  these  in  support  of  the aspirations that have been set under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Fortieth Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77. Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

The Ministers reasserted that developing  countries  will  continue  to  advocate  for additional  funding  for  development  to  be  made  available,  with  North-South cooperation central to these efforts

While commending the few countries who reach the ODA target, the Ministers stressed the need to urgently address the unmet ODA commitments since North-South Cooperation is still the main channel of financing for development for developing countries.

They noted with concern that efforts and genuine will to address these issues are still lagging behind as reflected in the 2016 outcome document of the Financing for Development forum which failed to address these important issues.

The Ministers reaffirmed the paramount importance of ODA in supporting the sustainable development needs of developing countries, in particular African countries, least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, small islands developing States and the middle-income countries and countries in conflict and post-conflict situations.

In this context, developed countries must commit to fully implementing their ODA commitments in keeping with their previously made undertakings and to upscale these efforts to play a meaningful role in eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions. The Ministers called for the global partnership for development to be revitalized and reinvigorated.

The Ministers reiterated their position that South-South cooperation is a complement to, rather than a substitute for, North-South cooperation, and reaffirmed that South-South cooperation is a collective endeavour of developing countries and that, consequently, South-South cooperation deserves its own separate and independent promotion, as reaffirmed in the Nairobi outcome document.

In this context, the Ministers stressed that South-South cooperation and its agenda must be driven by the countries of the South. South-South cooperation, which is critical for developing countries, therefore requires long-term vision and a global institutional arrangement, as envisioned at the Second South Summit.

The Ministers stressed that developing countries attach importance to scaling up international tax cooperation and combating illicit financial flows in order to mobilize domestic resources for the SDGs.

The Ministers welcomed the convening of the G-77 Bangkok Roundtable on Sufficiency Economy: An Approach to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 28-29 February 2016 and the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy in Business: A G-77 Forum on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, held in Bangkok, Thailand on 1-2 June 2016.

They noted that there are different approaches, visions, models and tools available to each country to achieve sustainable development, in accordance with its national circumstances and priorities as well as its own development context.

And, in this regard, welcomed the initiative by the Kingdom of Thailand to share its development experience and promote partnership among G-77 members on implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular through applying the Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) as an approach for sustainable development that focuses on transforming the economics of exploitation into the economics of moderation, resilience and self-immunity guided by knowledge as well as ethics and moral consideration with a view to harmonizing the economic, social, environmental and cultural aspects of development.

The Ministers welcomed the fruitful and productive discussion from the interactive thematic dialogue on SEP for Sustainable Development Goals convened on the occasion of the Fortieth Annual Meeting of the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 under the leadership of the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand as chair country of the Group of 77.

They noted the various experiences and home-grown approaches to achieve the SDGs and the importance of learning and sharing of best practices including through North-South, South-South and triangular cooperation.

They recognized the SEP as a practical approach that can support the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and its universality underscored by its successful application in various development projects in a number of G-77 countries, including “SEP for SDGs Partnership”

The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of respect for the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination, in particular of peoples living under colonial or foreign occupation and other forms of alien domination, which adversely affects their social and economic development, respect for the independence of States, national sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of States, including through the use of information and communications technologies, in particular social networks, contrary to the principles of international law, for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights, enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and embodied in the international covenants on human rights, and stress that full respect for the principles and purposes enshrined in the Charter and international law inspire full commitment to multilateralism.

The Ministers reaffirmed that the right of self-determination is a primordial right that anchors the United Nations. For developing countries, it has been and continues to be a beacon of hope for all those who struggle under the weight of occupation.

In this context, in the implementation and the follow-up and review of 2030 Agenda, the international community must not forget the severe difficulties faced by peoples living under colonial and foreign occupation and strive to remove the obstacles to their full realization of the right of self-determination, which adversely affect their economic and social development and their ability to achieve and implement the sustainable development goals and to ensure that they will not be left behind.

The Ministers stressed the importance of eliminating safe havens that create incentives for transfer abroad of stolen assets and illicit financial flows. They reiterated their commitment to working to strengthen regulatory frameworks at all levels to further increase transparency and accountability of financial institutions and the corporate sector, as well as public administrations.

The Ministers reaffirmed that they would strengthen international cooperation and national institutions to combat money-laundering and financing of terrorism.

The Ministers expressed their concern over illicit financial flows and related thereto tax avoidance and evasion, corruption and money laundering, by using certain practices, with negative impacts for the world economy and, in particular, for developing countries.

They maintained that, while there is increasing recognition of the central role of tax systems in development and the importance of international cooperation on tax matters, there is still no single global inclusive forum for international tax cooperation at the intergovernmental level.  There is also not enough focus on the development dimension of these issues.

In this context, the Ministers reiterated the need to fully upgrade the United Nations Committee of Experts on International Cooperation in Tax Matters into an intergovernmental body and to provide adequate resources to the Committee to fulfill its mandate as well as increase the participation of experts of developing countries at its meetings.

This will be critical in transforming the current Committee from experts acting in their own capacity to an intergovernmental subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, with experts representing their respective Governments.

The G77 Newswire is published with the support of the G77 Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF) in partnership with Inter Press Service (IPS).

]]> 0
Global South Address Sustainable Development Challenges Sun, 25 Sep 2016 03:04:19 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Presentation by Prime Minister of Thailand Prayuth Chan-o-cha Thailand's pledged contribution to Eduardo Praselj, President of the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund for South-South Cooperation (PGTF). Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

By Tharanga Yakupitiyage

On Friday, a group of 134 developing nations, known as the Group of 77 (G77), came together for a meeting to address challenges and solutions in achieving sustainable development. In attendance were G-77 Foreign Ministers, the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General and other UN senior officials.

During the 40th Annual Meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, whose country is currently Chair of the group, highlighted the need to translate the vision of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development into concrete action in line with developing nations’ needs and interests.

“There is no one size fits all approach for development,” he told delegates.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha pointed to several resources to ensure the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including human resources.

“Human beings are full of potential and are the source of innovation and creativity. The challenge is how to tap that potential,” he said. Prime Minister Chan-o-cha looked to education and the improvement of quality of life as ways to build human capacity.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” -- Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long.

Another key challenge that arose during the meeting was ensuring equal participation of developing nations in discussions and solutions.

Prime Minister Chan-o-cha expressed his delight in being invited for the first time to the recent G20 Summit in China and called it an “opportunity” for the G77 and developing nations to be heard. However, he still stressed the need to build a global partnership within and beyond developing nations.

“Thailand, as a Chair of the Group, is working as a bridge-builder among all actors that share the same goal in creating a better world, a world without poverty,” he stated. He added that developed nations should assist G77 countries through short-term assistance and capacity building to pave the way for a long-term outcome with the group’s needs in mind.

During the meeting The Kingdom of Thailand made a contribution of 520,000 US dollars to the Perez-Guerrero Trust Fund (PGTF) for South-South Cooperation. The fund supports economic and technical cooperation among developing countries.

President of the 71st Session of the General Assembly (GA) Peter Thomson particularly underlined the importance of cooperation within the Global South.

“South-South cooperation represents the best expression of solidarity and interdependence among developing countries, and will be pivotal in complementing North-South, public and private SDG-implementation initiatives,” he told delegates in his opening address.

Thomson was Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, making him the first GA President from the Pacific Islands. Fiji is also a member of the G77.

Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long told delegates that there needs to be a “re-founding” of the multilateral system in order to increase solidarity.

“We need a UN with more voices and fewer vetoes,” he stated.

“The Global South’s cause is a universal cause for all mankind,” Long continued.

Ecuador is next in line for chairmanship of the G77 in January 2017, which marks the first time the country will assume the position.

The G77, which began with 77 nations, has since grown to include 134 member states from around the world. It has become the largest intergovernmental organisation of developing countries in the UN, allowing the Global South to express their needs and promote cooperation for development.

Both Thomson and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon noted that the G77 is an “indispensable” and “invaluable” partner of the UN.

Thailand will continue as chair of the G77 until the end of December 2016.

During the meeting Prime Minister Chan-o-cha also presented an award to G77Executive Secretary Mourad Ahmia to express appreciation for his leadership andsupport provided by the G77 Secretariat team to the Kingdom of Thailand as Chair country and to all the Member States.

]]> 1
Entrepreneurship, Job Creation Take Centre Stage at NEPAD Meet Sat, 10 Sep 2016 11:27:11 +0000 Charles Mkoka NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki fields questions from reporters at the Second Africa Rural Development Forum in Yaounde, Cameroon. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki fields questions from reporters at the Second Africa Rural Development Forum in Yaounde, Cameroon. Credit: Charles Mkoka/IPS

By Charles Mkoka
YAOUNDE, Cameroon, Sep 10 2016 (IPS)

The two-day Second Africa Rural Development Forum concluded Friday with renewed calls to economically empower young people, many of whom are leaving the resource-rich continent and migrating to places like Europe under very risky circumstances.

Opening the conference, the director of programmes implementation and communication at the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), Estherine Fotabong, reminded delegates that Africa’s high economic growth rates have not translated into high levels of employment and reductions in poverty for youth and those living in rural areas.Africa’s fight against poverty, hunger and unemployment will be won or lost in rural areas.

Fotabong observed that Africa’s fight against poverty, hunger and unemployment will be won or lost in rural areas, adding that is what frames the rural transformation strategy and agenda for the entire continent.

“This is the experience of all newly wealthy nations, as the most effective means of expanding the domestic market of their own population whose incomes and purchasing power is growing. Without a growing domestic market, in terms of ever-growing numbers of rural and urban people whose income is growing, then it is difficult to escape structural poverty through an outward looking economy,” Fotabong told a jam-packed conference at the Hilton Hotel in Yaoundé, Cameroon.

She added that Africa has deviated from standard processes of structural transformation in that it is experiencing urbanisation without manufacturing jobs.

Urbanisation should typically be a consequence of economic growth, not a lack of it. Unemployment and poverty are structural not temporary — and this is not mostly self-correcting. There is need for “big push policy interventions,” she stressed.

NEPAD’s Chief Executive Officer Ibrahim Assane Mayaki agreed. “Attaining Africa’s Agenda 2063 aspirations and goals to a large extent depends on the transformation of rural areas,” Mayaki told the audience drawn from across the continent.

Immediately after the opening ceremony, a high-level panel discussion moderated by Mayaki zoomed in on challenges regarding demographic growth, pressure on natural resources, employment creation and economic diversification in designing and implementing new development strategies for job creation in rural areas.

Cameroonian Secretary General of Livestock in the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries Jaji Manu Taiga said the government has pumped close to 100 million dollars into his ministry to revitalise the rural sector. Capacity is also being developed among youth in the fisheries sector.

“I am urging Cameroonians that are in the diaspora who wire transfers and invest their money in hotels and apartments to come back and re-think about investing in agriculture and rural development,” Taiga added.

Taiga’s words were corroborated by Ananga Messina Clémentine, Cameroonian minister in charge of rural development. Clémentine forecasted wealth creation generated from agri-business in an ambitious plan where over 5,000 youth are currently being trained in enterprise development. She said there is a ready market in the case of agro-commodities as Cameroon is surrounded by petroleum-producing countries.

“It is time we make agriculture attractive, train and sensitize all demographic groups despite gender so that they know it is profitable. They need to know issues related to market analysis, choices of where to sell their products and building entrepreneurship spirit,” she said.

Clémentine added that in order to make agro products and commodities competitive on the market, there was a need for improved value addition and use of information technology in search of diverse market accessibility. She also stressed that post-harvest losses, currently up to 40 percent, must be brought down to manageable levels, especially in crops such as cassava and cereals. She urged African women to be actively engaged in all those activities, as a part of employment of different jobs within the value chain.

Responding to a comment from the plenary on the effects of climate change on agriculture, Clémentine said that studies have shown that at least 300 hectares of forest are destroyed annually in the Congo basin as a result of bush furrowing, a cultivate and abandon form of farming. She suggested adoption of modern agriculture methods that are less damaging to the environment and to mainstream climate change in African interventions.

Philomena Chege, Deputy Director in the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya, suggested that the time is up to also consider shifting from subsistence farming to mechanization to ensure high productivity and time management on the part of youth.

“There is preference for males over women when it comes to ownership of land which results in young women being marginalized. But also there are issues of startup capital for the youth as well which makes embarking on such initiatives a challenge in most cases,” she said on the sidelines of the meeting.

Koffi Amegbeto, UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Senior Policy Officer from the Regional Office for Africa, told IPS that the kind of interventions his office is implementing include support for the formulation and implementation of policies, strategies and programmes that generate decent rural employment, especially for rural youth and women.

“Effective support has been provided to more than twenty countries in the biennium 2014-2015. In particular, FAO is assisting governments in the development of effective public private partnerships fostering youth inclusion in agriculture and in the design of youth-friendly and climate smart methodologies for technical and vocational education and training (e.g. Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) methodology),” Amegbeto told IPS.

Thanks to the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, he added, FAO launched multi-country programmes on youth employment in East and West Africa, while a third programme is geared towards supporting the NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency’s Rural Futures Programme. The programme aims to promote decent rural youth employment and entrepreneurship in agriculture and agri-business in four countries: Benin, Cameroon, Malawi and Niger.

Secondly, FAO provides policy advice, capacity development and technical support to extend the application of international labour standards in rural areas.

“The main areas of focus have been child labour prevention in agriculture, and occupational safety and health. Four countries (Cambodia, Niger, Malawi, and Tanzania) were supported with programmes to prevent child labour in agriculture with important results in terms of increased awareness and strengthened institutional capacities to prevent child labour,” he said.

Third, FAO provides support to improve information systems and knowledge on decent rural employment at national, regional and global levels.

FAO’s work in the period 2014-2015 included putting in motion the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP) in Nigeria, accompanying the Ministry of Youth, Employment and the Promotion of Civic Values in Senegal in developing a national Rural Youth Employment Policy, conducting a youth-focused value chain assessment of the small ruminant value chain in Ethiopia, and entrepreneurship skills training for vulnerable youth in Mali and Zambia.

]]> 0
Will the World’s Largest Single Market Transform Africa Fortunes? Fri, 09 Sep 2016 12:00:20 +0000 Busani Bafana Africa is not trading enough with Africa to boost economic development, but a new free trade area could change all that. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Africa is not trading enough with Africa to boost economic development, but a new free trade area could change all that. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

By Busani Bafana
BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, Sep 9 2016 (IPS)

Getting just a sliver of the global trade in goods and services worth more than 70 trillion dollars, Africans have every excuse to decide to trade among themselves.

Many argue that it is the only way to leverage trade to secure a better life for the continent’s more than a billion people who need food and jobs.The prospects of a single market are appetizing: 54 countries, over a billion people and a combined GDP in excess of 3.4 trillion dollars, nearly double the current annual value of traded goods and services in Africa.

The Africa rising narrative might be getting the much needed validation to tackle widening inequality, joblessness, generalized poverty, food and nutritional insecurity that eclipse successes in meeting some of the development targets included in the newly agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

A rich but poor Africa

The narrative of a poor Africa is about to change. That is, if Africa stands together as much as it did in fighting for its political independence. This time the fight is for a place on the global trade stage. After years of negotiations and the establishment of several free trade blocs, the signing of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) agreement targeted for December 2017 could set Africa on a new development path.

Africa has more to gain than lose in creating the CFTA, which will rival trade agreements like the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the 16-member Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Africa already has the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) signed in June 2015 combining three largest trading blocs: The East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

The three regional economic communities have a combined GDP in excess of 1.3 trillion dollars and a population of 565 million. However, the TFTA, which has been signed by 16 of the 26 member countries, is yet to be ratified to come into force, a blow for the journey to the CFTA.

In their paper on the adoption of the TFTA, Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development and Director of the Science, Technology, and Globalization Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at  Harvard University, and Francis Mangeni, COMESA Director of Trade, Customs and Monetary Affairs, view regional trade as part of a broader strategy for long-term economic transformation.

They argue that African trade integration measures combine the facilitation of free movement of goods and services, investment in infrastructure, and promotion of industrial development as part of the long-term political vision to unleash the continent’s entrepreneurial potential through regional trade culminating in the African Economic Community by 2028.

Market in Kivu, DRC. A Continental Free Trade Area could transform Africa's economic fortunes. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Market in Kivu, DRC. A Continental Free Trade Area could transform Africa’s economic fortunes. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

Global trade is an undisputed source of economic development and a decider between the rich and the poor as it facilitates wealth creation and spurs innovation in every sector.

According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, global trade is on the rise but developing countries, many in Africa, account for a small share of this global commerce. Foreign direct investment has gone up in Africa from 9 billion dollars in 2000 to 55 billion in 2014, but rich countries have benefitted more, a situation the first target of the expired Millennium Development Goal 8 sought to address through the development of an open, rule based, predictable and nondiscriminatory trading and financial system.

While an equitable trade system is a global ideal, Africa has the potential to turn the trade tide in its favour by transforming political will into action. Africa has a wide range of natural and mineral resources making beneficiation industries a viable investment option that will help cut unemployment and eliminate poverty which dog many countries in Africa.

Prospects and problems

The prospects of a single market are appetizing: 54 countries, over a billion people and a combined GDP in excess of 3.4 trillion dollars, nearly double the current annual value of traded goods and services in Africa.

“The proposed Continental Free Trade Area will expand the continent’s regional investment to West Africa which is currently not covered by the tripartite consolidation of COMESA, EAC and SADC,” Juma told IPS. “This will enlarge investment opportunities for Africans to invest across the continent. A larger continental market will also make African more attractive to foreign investors.”

Juma, who is writing a book on the CFTA to be published to coincide with signing of the agreement in 2017, believes that a larger single market will enable African factories to operate at full capacity, which will in turn stimulate greater technological innovation.

“The impact on innovation will include greater movement of skills to the continent from outside and across the continent between countries. Africans will be able to learn new skills from their foreign counterparts which will help to strengthen the continent’s technological base,” he said.

Africa has as many trade opportunities as it has obstacles to realizing the free movement of goods, services and people. One of the major obstacles to the CFTA identified by Juma is adjusting national laws and practices to enable countries to implement the agreement. Resistance will come from firms that have been previously protected from external competition. A solution, Juma is convinced, lies in balancing corrective measures with incentives.

“The agreement needs to include remedies and incentives that help countries to adjust to the new regime,” he said. “In this regard, the agreement should not be about free trade but it should also have provisions for infrastructure and industrialisation. It should be an economic development agreement, not just a free trade arrangement.”

Africans not trading with Africans

Statistics from COMESA indicate that inter-Africa trade is a paltry 12 percent compared to trade with Europe and Asia, at nearly 60 percent. At the heart of the poor intra-African trade are prohibitive national trade measures. It is easier to buy products from Europe than for African countries to sell to each other.

Trade policy harmonisation and reducing export/import duties are critical to freeing the movement of goods and people. Last month, the African Union launched the electronic Pan African passport, paving the way for free movement across borders and an important step towards a free trade zone. The passport, initially for African heads of state, foreign ministers and diplomats, will be available to African citizens by 2018.

African governments under the African Union have established the Continental Free Trade Agreement Negotiating Forum which has met several times to hammer out modalities of the continent wide free trade zone mooted in 2012. African Union Commissioner for Trade and Industry, Fatima Haram Acyl, told the first meeting of the negotiating forum in February 2016 that the Continental Free Trade Area will integrate Africa’s markets in line with the objectives and principles of the Abuja Treaty.

It remains for Africa to up investments in road, rail and air infrastructure, communications and seamless service delivery and agriculture which are disproportionate among the 54 member states creating unease as to what a single market will mean for both poor and rich economies.

Economic disparities present a hurdle Africa must overcome as many of Africa’s 54 countries are small, with populations of less than 20 million and economies under 10 billion dollars. National markets would be insufficient to justify investments as adequate supply of inputs and sufficient demand would be too expensive or out of reach that a bigger market will achieve.

The consulting firm McKinsey predicts consumer spending in Africa will rise from 860 billion dollars to 1.4 trillion by 2020, potentially lifting millions out of poverty should a single market be inaugurated.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) has calculated that the CFTA could increase intra-African trade by as much as 35 billion dollars per year over the next six years.

Concluding CFTA negotiations this year in good time for the 2017 deadline could open a new chapter in African trade and chart a new path towards economic independence and growth. The only question that remains is, will it happen?

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, observed on September 12.

]]> 0
India and China, a New Era of Strategic Partners? Thu, 08 Sep 2016 12:49:02 +0000 Neeta Lal Over the next decade, China will be home to the world's largest elderly population, while India -- because of its demographic dividend – will require jobs for the world's largest workforce. This offers both nations opportunities to work together. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

Over the next decade, China will be home to the world's largest elderly population, while India -- because of its demographic dividend – will require jobs for the world's largest workforce. This offers both nations opportunities to work together. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

By Neeta Lal
NEW DELHI, Sep 8 2016 (IPS)

Despite bilateral dissonances and an unresolved boundary issue, India and China — two of the world’s most ancient civilisations — are engaged in vigorous cooperation at various levels. The Asian neighbours’ relationship has also focussed global attention in recent years on Asia’s demographically dominant, major developing economies engaged in common concerns of poverty alleviation and national development.

As the world’s two most populous nations, making up nearly 37 percent of humanity, India and China are committed to improve the lot of their people. These complementarities offer the scope to work in synergy and strengthen ties. Over the next decade, China will be home to the world’s largest elderly population while India — because of its demographic dividend — will require jobs for the world’s largest workforce. This area offers both nations opportunities to work together.With Western economies remaining skittish, India - with its 1.25 billion people and bubbling entrepreneurial energy - offers Chinese investors enormous scope for growth.

As neighbours, China and India have also shared a long history of cultural, scientific, and economic linkages. Following a brief border war in 1962, bilateral trade and investment suffered. However, the last decade the economic relationship of the two giant nations has gained traction. And from just about 3 billion dollars in trade at the turn of the century, the countries are now eyeing 100 billion dollars worth of merchandise trade. This will mean tremendous opportunities for traders and investors in both countries.

Apart from sharing a new extroversion and enthusiasm in their economic policies, Delhi and Beijing have also tightened their economic embrace with the rest of the world. China and India are also members of the World Trade Organization, India as a founding member and China since 2001.

Analysts say that robust economic ties between China and India will also play a stellar role in one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world by 2020. Even conservative estimates suggest that, by 2020, China-India trade could surpass US-China trade.

There is a plethora of business opportunities for India and China, in sectors such as agriculture and food processing, asset management, construction and infrastructure, pharmaceuticals, electronics and information technology, and transport and logistics. The pharmaceutical sector also offers gargantuan business potential for both countries.

China also has a vast underused manufacturing capacity, plus capital surpluses in need of new markets. With Western economies remaining skittish, India – with its 1.25 billion people and bubbling entrepreneurial energy – offers Chinese investors enormous scope for growth.

India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, shares common concerns of poverty alleviation and nation-building with China. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, shares common concerns of poverty alleviation and nation-building with China. Credit: Neeta Lal/IPS

China is also seeking greater economic cooperation with India on the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor and the New Silk Route programme. Beijing could help accelerate India’s economic take-off by focusing on the key areas of manufacturing, roads, railways and industrial parks, which can form the bedrock for bilateral ties.

Beijing and New Delhi’s attempts to build a strategic and cooperative partnership while expanding trade and economic cooperation has resulted in China emerging as India’s biggest trading partner. However, a few wrinkles need to be ironed out on this front. India’s trade deficit with China has ratcheted up from 1 billion dollars in 2001-02 to 48.43 billion in 2014-15. This asymmetry has raised issues of sustainability.

However, bilateral engagements in this sphere have raised hopes of a more sustainable trade trajectory. Towards this end, the Commerce Ministries of both the countries have also signed a Five-year Development Programme for Economic and Trade Cooperation in September 2014 to lay down a medium-term roadmap for promoting balanced and sustainable development of economic and trade relations.

signs of cooperation are also visible in recent bilateral agreements inked for railway cooperation, smart cities, and skill development. Although the two countries are considered political rivals, in October 2013, China and India inked the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement. The Agreement acknowledges “the need to continue to maintain peace, stability and tranquillity along the line of actual control in the India-China border areas and to continue implementing confidence building measures in the military field along the line of actual control.”

China and India are also among 21 Asian countries to sign on to a new infrastructure investment bank — the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank — which will offer the region a counterpoint to West-dominated financial institutions like the World Bank. China and India’s combined resources and talents can power regional and global economic growth.

Despite being critical of China’s expansionist policies, and increasing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean Region and the South China Sea, India is keen on robust ties with China. As well as pursuing bilateral cooperation in areas like infrastructure, industry, communications and energy, both India and China are also forging Sino-Indian cooperation at multilateral forums like the G20, the East Asia Summit and BRICS.

The two sides have strengthened strategic dialogue on such major international issues as climate change and global action, and safeguarded the common interests of emerging markets and developing countries. Delhi and Beijing are also keen to augment cooperation in such fields as railway and industrial park construction, security, anti-terror and anti-extremism, and to expand communication and exchanges in education and tourism, and facilitate more exchanges among regional governments of both countries, and jointly safeguard their common interests as well as those of all developing countries.
Given that India and China have many shared goals and areas of convergences, a bilateral relationship premised on a balanced economic engagement, along with some inventive and bold thinking on the political front, can benefit both nations while jumpstarting an Asian revolution.

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation, observed on September 12.

]]> 0
U.S. and China Formally Join Paris Agreement in Show of Unity Sat, 03 Sep 2016 20:05:11 +0000 Guy Dinmore The joint move by the U.S. and China, which account for nearly 40 percent of global carbon emissions, paves the way for the Paris Agreement forged last December to enter into force. Credit: Bigstock

The joint move by the U.S. and China, which account for nearly 40 percent of global carbon emissions, paves the way for the Paris Agreement forged last December to enter into force. Credit: Bigstock

By Guy Dinmore
HONOLULU, Hawaii, Sep 3 2016 (IPS)

The world’s super-polluters – the United States and China – have formally joined the Paris Agreement on climate change in a symbolic show of unity.

At a ceremony in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, where China is hosting a summit of G20 industrialised nations, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping handed their documents of ratification to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.In contrast to the excitement in Honolulu among the world’s leading environmental activists and scientists, the announcement that Obama had used his executive authority to accede to the Paris Agreement was widely ignored by the major U.S. networks.

The joint move by the U.S. and China, which account for nearly 40 percent of global carbon emissions, paves the way for the Paris Agreement forged last December to enter into force, most likely by the end of the year. For the agreement to enter into effect and start to be implemented, at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions need to formally join.

The UN Secretary General praised Obama for his “inspiring” leadership. He said Obama and Xi had both been “far-sighted, bold and ambitious”.

The joint accession by the world’s biggest polluters was enthusiastically welcomed in Honolulu where the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which groups governments and NGOs, is holding a key congress that aims to chart the future path for stopping the planet’s slide into environmental ruin.

“This is a momentous event,” Xavier Sticker, France’s ambassador for the environment, said of the ratification by the U.S. and China. He told IPS it was expected to pave the way for many other countries to follow. But he cautioned that the European Union needs to accede as a bloc and that the internal complexities of national political systems could lead to delays. Belgium requires the assent of seven legislative assemblies, for example. France has already ratified but the UK has not.

Delegates at the IUCN World Conservation Congress warned that there was a risk for the European Union that the Paris Agreement implementation taskforce would be formed next month without EU involvement.

Patricia Espinosa, head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, urged IUCN delegates representing the global conservation community to lobby governments on what must be done to achieve the Paris Agreement targets on emissions and limiting the rise of global temperatures.

“We are very excited about this good news, for the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement. No one had imagined it would be this year,” she said shortly before official confirmation arrived from Hangzhou.

In contrast to the excitement in Honolulu among the world’s leading environmental activists and scientists, the announcement that Obama had used his executive authority to accede to the Paris Agreement was widely ignored by the major US networks in their news bulletins. Ironically, however, there was considerable coverage of Tropical Storm Hermine moving up the east coast of the U.S. on Labour Day weekend, possibly turning back into hurricane force, and also of Hurricane Lester brushing past Hawaii.

“We are here together because we believe that for all the challenges that we face, the growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other challenge,” Obama said in a speech in Hangzhou.

“And someday we may see this as the moment that we finally decided to save our planet,” he added. “There are no shortage of cynics who thought the agreement would not happen. But they missed two big things: The investments that we made to allow for incredible innovation in clean energy, and the strong, principled diplomacy over the course of years that we were able to see pay off in the Paris Agreement. The United States and China were central to that effort. Over the past few years, our joint leadership on climate has been one of the most significant drivers of global action,” Obama said.

Xi was reported as calling the Paris Agreement a milestone that marks the “emergence of a global government system” for climate change. “Our response to climate change bears on the future of our people and the well-being of mankind,” China’s president said.

The accession of China and the U.S. bring to 25 the number of countries to have ratified so far. Diplomatic pressure is expected to be ramped up on other major polluters, such as India and Russia.

But scientists and activists are warning that the Paris Agreement target of keeping temperature rises “well below” 2 degrees centigrade, with a soft target of 1.5 degrees, is already on its way to being breached as the world records a succession of the hottest months on record.

“What’s needed is comprehensive and urgent action now to slash emissions and build a low-carbon future,” Friends of the Earth commented.

The Paris Agreement also provides for 100 billion dollars a year in climate finance for developing countries by 2020, with a commitment to further finance in the future.

The U.S. and China have set widely differing targets on carbon emissions, because of their different stages of economic development. The U.S. plans over the next 10 years to reduce emissions by over a quarter below the level of 2005, while China says it intends to stop increasing its emissions by 2030.

]]> 0
UN Negotiations Focus on What Lies Beneath the High Seas Tue, 30 Aug 2016 01:12:15 +0000 Lyndal Rowlands 1 The Economic Partnership Agreement has never made much sense for Tanzania Tue, 16 Aug 2016 17:02:17 +0000 Benjamin W. Mkapa

Benjamin William Mkapa is a former President of Tanzania and the Chair of the South Centre Board

By Benjamin W. Mkapa
GENEVA, Aug 16 2016 (IPS)

The EPA issue has once again re-emerged when, in early July, Tanzania informed East African Community( EAC) members and the European Union (EU) that it would not be able to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between European Union (EU)  and the six EAC member states.

The European Commission reportedly proposed signature of the EAC EPA in Nairobi, on the sidelines of the 14th session of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIV).

Benjamin William Mkapa

Benjamin William Mkapa

This is a major quadrennial event where all United Nations member states negotiate guidance for UNCTAD. For the European Commission, it would have been a propitious place for a signature ceremony as it would have projected the EPA as a “trade and development” agreement to the benefit of EAC.

Nevertheless, the agreement is antithetical to Tanzania’s as well as the region’s trade and development prospects.

The EPA for Tanzania and the EAC never made sense. The maths just never added up. The costs for the country and the EAC region would have been higher than the benefits.

As a least developed country (LDC), Tanzania already enjoys the Everything but Arms (EBA) preference scheme provided by the European Union.

In other words, we can already export duty-free and quota-free to the EU market without providing the EU with similar market access terms. If we sign the EPA, we would still get the same duty-free access, but in return, we would have to open up our markets for EU exports.

The EPA is a free trade agreement. Under it, Tanzania would have to reduce to zero the tariffs on 90 per cent of all its industrial goods trade with the EU, according duty-free access for almost all the EU’s non-agricultural products into the country.

Such a high level of liberalisation vis-à-vis a very competitive partner is likely to put our existing local industries in jeopardy and discourage the development of new industries.

Research using trade data shows that Tanzania currently produces and exports on 983 tariff lines (at the HS 6 digit level.) The EU produces and exports on over 5,000 tariff lines. If the EPA were implemented, 335 of the 983 products we currently produce would be protected in the EPA’s “sensitive list,” but 648 tariff lines would be made duty-free.

So the existing industries on these 648 tariff lines would have to compete with EU’s imports without the protection of tariffs. Will these sectors survive the competition?

These 648 tariff lines include agricultural products (maize products, cotton seed oil cake); chemical products (urea, fertilisers); vehicle industry parts (tyres); medicaments; intermediate industrial products ( plastic packing material, steel, iron and aluminium articles, wires and cables); parts of machines and final industrial products (weighing machines, metal rolling mills, drilling machines, transformers, generating sets, prefabricated buildings etc); parts of machines (parts of gas turbines, parts of cranes, work-trucks, shovels, and other construction machinery, parts of machines for industrial preparation/ manufacturing of food, aircraft parts etc).

We can already export duty-free and quota-free to the EU market without providing the EU with similar market access terms. If we sign the EPA, we would still get the same duty-free access, but in return, we would have to open up our markets for EU exports
The list does not stop here. Liberalisation (zero tariffs) also applies to the many industrial sectors that Tanzania and the EAC do not yet have existing production/exports ­ about 3,102 tariff lines for Tanzania.

Statistics show that in fact, for the EAC region, the African market is the primary market for its manufactured exports. In contrast, 91% of its current trade with the EU is made up of primary commodity exports (agricultural products such as coffee, tea, spices, fruit and vegetables, fish, tobacco, hides and skins etc).

Only a minuscule 6% or about $200,000 of EAC exports to the EU is composed of manufactured goods.In contrast, of the total EAC exports to Africa, almost 50% is made up of manufactured exports – about $2.5 billion – according to 2013 ­ 2015 data. Of this, $1.5 billion are EAC country exports to other EAC countries.

These figures tell two stories: One; the importance of the African market for EAC’s aspirations to industrialise. In contrast, the EU market plays almost no role in this. Two the EAC internal market makes up 60% of EAC’s manufactured exports to Africa, i.e., the EAC regional market is extremely valuable in supporting EAC’s industrialisation efforts.

The EPA would threaten this regional industrialisation opportunity that is currently blossoming since most EU manufactured products would enter the EAC market dutyfree. Just as our manufactured products are not competitive in the EU market, even though they can be exported dutyfree, might it not be the case that when EU manufactured products can come duty-free into the EAC market, EAC manufactured products may also not sell? The EPA could in fact destroy our economic regional integration efforts.

The pains EAC has taken to build a regional market may instead help serve EU’s commercial interests by offering the EU one EAC market, rather than ensuring that that market can be accessed by our own producers.

The other area where EPA hits the heart of our industrialisation aspirations are its disciplines on export taxes. At the World Trade Organization, export taxes are completely legal.The logic of export taxes is to encourage producers to enter into value-added processing, hence encouraging diversification and the upgradation of production capacities. Developed countries themselves had used these policy tools when they were developing.

The EU has a raw materials initiative aimed at accessing non-agricultural raw materials found in other countries. According to the European Commission, ‘securing reliable and unhindered access to raw materials is important for the EU. In the EU, there are at least 30 million jobs depending on the availability of raw materials.’ In implementing this initiative, the EU has used trade agreements to discipline export taxes.

The EPA prohibits signatories from introducing new export taxes or increase existing ones. For Tanzania and the EAC region with its rich deposits of raw material, including tungsten, cobalt, tantalum etc; such disciplines in the long-run would be incongruent with our objective to industrialise and add value to our resources.

The other area of loss resulting from the EPA is tariff revenue, and the numbers are not small. Conservative estimates (assuming import growth of 0.9% year on year) show that for the EAC as a whole tariff revenue losses would amount to $251 million a year by the end of the EPA’s implementation period Cumulative tariff revenue losses would amount to USD 2.9 billion in the first 25 years of the EPA’s life.

For Tanzania, the losses based on 2013/­2014 import figures are about $71 million a year by year 25. Cumulatively, just for Tanzania, they come up to $700 million over the first 25 years.

Where is the Promised Development Aid?

EU has made many promises that the EPA would be accompanied by development assistance. Hence the EAC EPA incorporates a ‘Development Matrix’ containing a list of economic development projects for the EAC. The price tag of implementing this Development Matrix is $70 billion.

The Matrix and assistance is to be reviewed every 5 years. For the time-being, the EU has pledged to contribute a paltry $3.49 million, which translates into 0.005% of the total required funds!This is also a far cry from the tariff revenue losses the region faces ­the $251 million a year mentioned above.

The only area where the EPA is supposed to serve the interest of the EAC is by providing duty-free access to Kenya. As a non-LDC, Kenya does not have duty-free access via the EU’s EBA. Kenya’s main export item to the EU is flowers ­ just over $500,000 a year.

Without the EPA, Kenyan’s flowers would be charged a 10% customs duty. There are other Kenyan exports also ­vegetables, fruit, fish – that will face tariffs. However, the flower industry has thus far been the most vocal. Nevertheless, all in all, Kenyan exports to the EU market (including the UK) amounts to about $1.5 billion.

If no EPA is signed, the extra duties charged to Kenyan exports amounts to about $100 million a year. Is this worth signing an EPA for? — The avoidance of duties of $100 million? The tariff revenue losses as the EPA is implemented (and more tariff lines are liberalised) would be comparable.

This does not even include the tariff revenue losses of the other EAC LDCs, nor the challenges posed to domestic/ regional industries. In addition, the Brexit development is further reason for the region to pause and reconsider.

The UK is a major export market for Kenya, absorbing 28% of Kenya’s exports to the EU. This reduces the EPA’s supposed ‘benefits’ by a quarter for Kenya. There is a possible solution for Kenya ­ to apply for the EU’s Generalised System of Preferences Plus scheme (GSP+). Under this, almost all of Kenya’s current exports could enter EU duty-free including flowers and fish.

This option could be explored. Alternatively all EAC countries would do well to attempt to diversify production and exports away from primary commodities towards value-added products, and also to diversify our export destinations. Africa is a critical market for EAC’s manufactured goods. Regional integration and trade is the most promising avenue for EAC’s industrial development. The EPA would derail us from that promise.

This article was published firstly in Daily News of Tanzania

]]> 0